I’ve been lucky enough to win a place in the prize draw for the wine buyers tour of the Rhône with Marcel Orford-Williams. We’re currently on Day 2, heading to Gigondas. We’ve been enjoying a Jeep safari through the vineyards in Vinesobres with the Jaumes family. Phenomenal. More to report soon, with pictures!
How fantastic! Hope you’re having a fab time (how could you not?!!). Do report back to the languishing masses
Wow, a dream! Cant wait to see the pics !
On our way to the Northern Rhône, so a good time to write down what we’ve been doing.
After a most pleasant journey on the Eurostar from St. Pancras to Avignon, we travelled to our hotel in Bédoin.
Then we were quickly off to our first destination, Domaine Le Clos Des Cazaux. The owners, the Archimbaud-Vache family, are one of the oldest families in Vacqueyras, dating back to 1791. The property is currently run by brothers Jean-Michel and Frederic Vache, and gets its name from when it was owned by the Knights Templar. The family were involved in the classification of the term Cotes-du-Rhône in 1936, and began making wine under this appellation, as well as Gigondas in 1954. The Vacqueyras vineyards are sun traps where the grapes ripen two weeks earlier than the cooler Gigondas sites. The vineyards are maintained entirely by hand, including 100% hand harvesting and a yearly ‘green harvest’, resulting in a high level of quality assurance. The combination of the wines being vinified in concrete tanks and the hot climate creates ones with fresh fruit flavours as well as body and power. It is therefore understandable that the Society’s Exhibition Vacqueyras is made by Clos des Cazaux.
Jean-Michel is a fantastic host with an infectious passion for his wine making vocation. It was an absolute privilege to be given a tour of the vineyards and to experience some of the produce. I was particularly impressed by Jean-Michel’s dedication to producing only wines with which he is 100% happy. Quality checks mean less sulphites and less headaches the next day! The sulphites are practically non-existent in these wines. We were taken to dinner that evening in a local restaurant with wonderful food and wines pairings from this estate.
I will take your marks into my notebook regarding wine tours, and hopefully soon I will be abel to do some of it. It sounds like a very well planed tour, and look how nice all your pictures came out.
We began the day with a trip to Vinsobres to visit Domaine Jaume, which celebrated its centenary in 2005, and has been supplying the Wine Society with Côtes-du-Rhône since 1981. The domaine is based in Vinsobres, a beautiful hillside village in the southern part of the valley. The Jaumes have worked hard to achieved the cru status for Vinsobres. The climate here is interesting because there is particular potential for the syrah grape. In addition, the Jaumes have vineyards high above the village which inspired the name for another of their cuvées - Vinsobres Altitude 420.
Brothers Pascal and Richard Jaume are highly committed individuals who have dedicated their lives to producing enjoyable and approachable wines with a smooth, round and satisfying style.
There is a strong sense of family and community when we arrive at the Domaine. Because the weather conditions have been suitable we are taken on a jeep safari tour of the vineyards. This involves the use of the three World War Two jeeps, including one that dates from 1942 and was left by the American army after the war. They have been well preserved by the Jaume family because they are one of the best ways to see and reach the more challengingly located vineyards. This was a fantastic way to get a real feel for the terroir. One of the most memorable highlights of this part of the tour was the strong fragrance of lavender that permeated the air around the vineyards. At one point we were surrounded by fields of purple, together with swarms of honey bees journeying to and from their hives, busily creating another fantastic local produce.
Pascal and Richard then invited us for a tasting followed by lunch in one of the wine storage areas. Highlights for me included my introduction to the Society’s Côte-du-Rhône, which is one of the most fruity, balanced and quaffable red wines that I’ve had the pleasure of sampling. Good to know that these can be bought in five litre bags for bigger gatherings, or just after a long week! We also sampled the delicious Clos de Echalas, the Altitude 420, as well as being gifted a with a bottle of Reference.
In the evening, we traveled to Gigondas to meet and be hosted by Pierre Perrin of the family most famous for their Château de Beaucastel from Châteaunuef-du-Pape. This wonderful evening began with a Paul Roger champagne reception in the village, next to the Michelin-starred restaurant owned by the Perrins. We then walked to the family’s Domaine du Clos des Tourelles, a newly renovated five hundred year old building, where we were treated to a tasting menu, put on by the house’s private chef. A highlight for me was the tortellino and black truffle, paired with a 1990 Château de Beaucastel. Superb! We finished with a tour of one of the most to-die-for cellars that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. A great end to a fantastic day.
Awesome, fantastic notes and photos.
Not jealous at all…
A fantastic summary, and geez! What a memorable adventure!
Wow! That’s a day and a half. What memories to have.
Wow ! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and photos, what a wonderful experience that must have been.
If only my laptop had smell-o-vision !
On Wednesday we travelled to the Northern Rhône, making the Hotel Le Pavillon de L’Ermitage in Tain-l’Hermitage our base. This hotel has been newly renovated and and belongs to the Chapoutier House.
We began by visiting the Vineum of Jaboulet for a tasting and lunch. The house of Paul Jaboulet Aîné started as a family firm in the early nineteenth century by Antoine Jaboulet. He had twin sons who expanded the business, but it was to the elder (aîné) brother that the business was named, giving the full title of the firm. Skip a few generations to brothers Louis and Jean who made first contact with the Wine Society over forty years ago. Among the first wines bought by the Society would have been the great La Chapelle 1961. A succession of tragedies within the family during the 1990s put the business in financial peril, and the entire family business was sold to the Franco-Swiss financier, Jean-Jacques Frey, owner of Château La Lagune in Bordeaux and the Champagne house Billecart-Salmon. His daughter, Caroline Frey, is in charge of winemaking, and the combination of her skills and the Frey’s considerable wealth have allowed Jaboulet to invest in new cellars and increase their vineyard portfolio. The wines have therefore improved from the challenging days following the tragedies in the 1990s but it’s early days for the new regime. Jaboulet owns 22 hectares of Hermitage, a little less than Chapoutier. La Chapelle is made from a blend of syrah grapes from six vineyards on the hill, making it a brand rather than a vineyard in its own right. La Chapelle takes its name from the the little chapel on the Hermitage hill, owned by Jaboulet, an eighteenth century authentic replica of the original hermitage chapel dedicated to St. Christopher, patron saint of travellers. According to the legend, the knight Gaspard de Stérimberg returned home wounded in 1224 from the Albigensian Crusade and was given permission by the Queen of France to build a small refuge to recover in, where he remained living as a hermit. He dedicated a chapel to St. Christopher in thanksgiving for his safe journey back from the crusade. A more affordable alternative to La Chapelle is the Crozes-Hermitage from the Thalabert vineyard. In addition, Jaboulet also has some fantastic wines from Cornas as well as in the Southern Rhône, including the Society’s Exhibition Cairanne.
More to follow…
This thread really is fantastic. Thank you!
At Vineum, our hosts, Charlène and Benoît, guided as through a fantastic selection of wines, starting with the whites: a 100% Marsanne 2017 Saint-Péray Les Sauvagères. This is a fantastic fresh wine with a beautiful straw yellow colour and yellow fruit aromas. Delicious and a great starter! We were lucky to have Charlène with us because she is not only a native of Saint-Péray but also one of the principal winemakers for the Domaine. Her enthusiasm and pride for her product shone through her description of this and the other wines. She highlighted the fact that all their Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage vineyards have been managed biodynamically since 2017.
We then sampled the Crozes-Hermitage ‘La Mule Blanche’ 2017, 50% Marsanne and 50% Roussanne grapes. This wine had a gentle toasted scent with a hint of melon. This was combined with a subtle taste of pineapple, citrus and crème brûlée. Yum.
Then onto the Hermitage ‘Le Chevalier de Sterimberg’ 2017. This is 70% Marsanne and 30% Roussanne. No La Chapelle Blanc was made in 2017, so this is the top white wine or this vintage. Citrus, honey, pineapple and a hint of stone/ pencil shavings on the nose.
We went on to sample ‘Les Grands Amandiers’ from Condrieu 2016. This is 100% Viognier grape. The scents of lychees, orange blossom and peach are prominent. Great acidity!
On to the reds…
Pierre Aiguille 2017 from Gigondas: 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre.
Ruby red with powerful nose that reveals black fruits and spicy, toasty notes. Best enjoyed within ten years.
Les Jalets 2016 from Crozes-Hermitage: 100% Syrah.
Ruby and a little purple with a nose that reveals small red fruits and a touch of liquorice. Best enjoyed from five to ten years. The 2015 and 2016 are available on the Wine Society List at £16 a bottle.
Domaine de Thalabert 2013 from Crozes-Hermitage: 100% Syrah.
Dark berries and peppery spices on the nose, smoky on the palate with liquorice and cracked pepper. Best enjoyed from eight to twenty years. One of my favourites! Yum!
Domaine de Thalabert 2016 from Crozes-Hermitage: 100% Syrah.
As above but with additional olive aromas. This one is special and is usually available through the En Primeur offers. The 2014 is available on the Society List at £23 a bottle. On my wish list!
Domaine de Saint-Pierre 2011 from Cornas: 100% Syrah.
Full-bodied, rich and textured, with classic creme de cassis, raspberry, liquorice and vanilla aromas and flavours. Best enjoyed from five to twenty years.
Les Pierrelles 2015 from Côte Rôtie: 100% Syrah.
A big floral edge in its sappy, green olive and black cherry aromas and flavours. Needs a bit more time in bottle. Best enjoyed in about five to fifteen years.
Onto something special…
La Maison Bleue 2015, Hermitage: 100% Syrah.
This is a new cuvée that replaced the Petit Chapelle. Full-bodied dark fruits, toasted bread and spice. Much more ‘in-your-face’ than the more structured La Chapelle. Best enjoyed from ten to twenty-five years. One of my favourites!
La Chapelle 2011, Hermitage: 100% Syrah from very old vines; goblet pruning on stakes. This is the Domaine’s flagship wine. Dark fruits, stone, graphite, chocolate aromas and flavours. Rich and full-bodied with polished tannins on the palate. Delicious. Best enjoyed within ten to forty years. Wow!
We enjoyed the 2006 vintage of La Chapelle during our lunch at Vineum. It was phenomenal but could happily be cellared for another decade to reveal its full potential. The lunch was fantastic. Highlights included the cod ceviche and the veal.
Charlène and Benoît then took us out in the baking heat to see the vineyards. We began by being taken around La Maison Bleue. A part of the vineyard has been cleared of vines and the ground is being allowed to rest for several years before new vines are planted. We were the taken to the top of the Hermitage hill to see La Chapelle itself. This is the best place in the Rhône for photos. What a fantastic experience! A big thank you to Charlène and Benoît.
It was now time to cross the Rhône to Saint Joseph.
To be continued…
Going green with this latest post!
Great notes and photos, thanks!
Good to hear the note on the 2015 La Maison Bleue as have 12 of those slumbering in storage…will have to hold off on withdrawing for a few more years!
Also - looks like magnums of the 2006 La Chapelle currently listed by TWS just in case anyone is tempted based on that review:
I have been carefully nurturing my magnum of Hermitage La Chapelle 1985 given to me by (the late) Gerard Jaboulet when he received my wife and I in 1989 for a visit and tasting. Thinks, I ought to open it before long. Thanks for all the memories revealed in this thread.
What a trip
We crossed the Rhône to visit one of the vineyards that belongs to Domaine Jean-Louis Chave in the Saint-Joseph appellation, Clos Florentin. The Domaine is most famous for its Hermitage wine, but Marcel wanted us to experience some of the best that Saint-Jospeh can offer, for comparison and contrast purposes. Having enjoyed quite a few wines already, I was hoping my tasting ability wasn’t too badly affected.
Domaine Jean-Louis Chave can trace its origins back to 1481 and the family come from the village of Lemps in the Ardèche, the location of the Chaves’ first vineyards. Chave is the fourth biggest landowner of Hermitage, after Chapoutier, the Tain Co-operative and Jaboulet. They produce the Society’s Exhibition Hermitage, which is made from the surplus parcels of wine from eight of the different vineyards located on Hermitage. Some very high quality wine!
The Wine Society has had dealings with two generations of Chaves. Gèrard made some of the greatest Hermitage ever, including the 1978 and 1990 vintages. His son, Jean-Louis, took over during the 90s, having to deal with some more challenging wine years. Never one to sit on his laurels, Jean-Louis realised that making great Hermitage wasn’t enough of a challenge and therefore founded a successful nègoce house, producing Côtes-du-Rhône and Saint-Joseph.
The cellars In Chave’s headquarters have expanded to three sites, including the estate that was owned by their friends, the Florentin family. This includes Clos l’Arbelestrier which Jean-Louis is busy replanting and reorganising.
Saint-Jospeh is where Jean-Louis is focussing his attention currently with the exciting project of recreating vineyards at the ancestral site in Lemps. These were never replanted after the destruction caused by phylloxera due to the cost of such an enterprise and the manpower required. Over the last ten years, though, the process of regeneration has begun: the land has been cleared of trees and shrubs, ploughed, and the dry stone walls are being rebuilt. Only then can planting begin. Hopefully, we’ll see some amazing wines being produced from these sites in the near future.
The first thing I noticed when we arrived at the Clos Florentin was the relaxed family atmosphere. Jean-Louis and his wife greeted us, as their two children played in the vineyard with their chocolate Labrador. We were given a tour of the beautiful vineyard, that felt more like a picturesque walled garden, complete with summer house and fountains! The Clos Florentin was initially planted by monks in the 15th century. It has been harvested and bottled continuously since then. Chave acquired the property in 2009.
Now, on to the wines…
J.L. Chave Sélection Saint- Joseph Blanc “Circa” 2017
100% Roussanne. Pale yellow-gold. A highly perfumed nose of candied fig, sweet orange, floral notes, toasted nuts. Good citrus acidity. Delicious on a warm afternoon.
J.L. Chave Sélection Saint- Joseph Rouge “Offerus” 2016
100% Syrah. Intense, with a stone/ graphite edge and dark fruit. Dried anise, fruitcake and tea flavours. Special.
Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Saint-Joseph Rouge 2016
100% Syrah. Floral, peppery, dark fruit, stone, spices and dark chocolate. Fabulous.
Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Saint-Joseph Rouge “Clos Florentin” 2016
100% Syrah from a single vineyard with eighty year old vines. Notes of blackberries, pepper, and flowery spice, silky tannins. Several of us commented that it was almost as if you could taste the floral pollen from the vineyard in the wine. Phenomenal. I felt very privileged to drink the wine in the vineyard that produced the grapes.
A fantastic experience at Domaine Chave. Now on to Domaine Pierre Gonon…