Rhone and Rhone Varieties

(sampled at the 1998 Boston Wine Expo)


These notes are from the main floor of the February 1998 Boston Wine Expo, and include all of the wines I sampled which were from the Rhone region of France or made with grape varieties used in that region. There are also separate notes from the Edmund St. John Durell Vineyard Syrah vertical tasting and seminar. Wines are listed in alphabetical order by producer.

WHITES:

Alban Roussanne Edna Valley Alban Estate Vineyard '95--overblown oak flavors, with a bit of peach. Seemed lean and not particularly concentrated. If you like oak, you 'll like this more than I did. Too bad, because I would like to encourage the production of Roussanne.
B-

Alban Viognier Central Coast '96--Big floral nose, with plenty of peaches, grapefruit and stone on the palate. Medium length finish, but clean, and not flabby like many Viogniers.
A-

Joseph Phelps Viognier Vin du Mistral '96--lush nose, with some oak and steely peach flavors on the palate. Seems a bit fat, with a somewhat short finish, but still quite nice for a CA Viognier.
B+

Preston Vineyards Marsanne Dry Creek Valley '95--Flabby flavors of straw and peach. Not my favorite grape variety.
C+

Preston Vineyards Viognier Dry Creek Valley Barrel Fermented '96--nice nose of flowers with plenty of juicy peach fruit on the palate, along with a creamy mouthfeel. Long finish with generous peach and pear flavors.
B+

REDS:

Allendale Hunter River Valley Matthew Shiraz '96--Modest plum flavors with plenty of oak. Smooth mouthfeel, but a bit tart on the cherry-laced finish.
B

Cline Cotes d'Oakley '96--I liked this better than some previous versions (though I never tried the '95). The oak creates a nice frame for the balanced dark fruit flavors. Generally, I am not Cline's biggest fan, but I liked this one. Another good value.
B+

Cline Carignane Ancient Vines '95--Oak and chocolate dominate the aromas, with more oak, chocolate and dark fruits on the tongue. A bit coarse, but not bad at all for Carignane.
B

Edmunds St. John Les Cotes Sauvage '95--dill weed nose with some dill and plum flavors. Seemed a bit green to me, but an OK quaff, I guess.
B-

Edmunds St. John Syrah California '95--big plum and pepper nose which doesn't quite deliver in the mouth. A bit tart and leaner than I would expect given the nose. Medium finish with good tannins.
B

Edmunds St. John Syrah Durell Vineyard '95--tasted this twice--once on the main floor, and once in a the vertical tasting seminar. This note is from the main floor, so I wasn't able to spend as much time with this glass. Big nose of leather, spice and plum. Delivers the big plum and leathery, meaty flavors on the palate, and finishes with plum and firm tannins.
A-

Hardy's Nottage Hill Shiraz-Cabernet SE Australia '95--Oak dominates here, and there really isn't enough fruit to back it up.
B-

Jade Mountain La Provincale '96--A blend of 70% Mourvedre, 30% Syrah. Goes down easy, with generous flavors of leather, meat and dark fruit. I don't think I'd hold this too long, but it is nice now.
B+

Jade Mountain Mourvedre California '95--Meat, tar and leather dominate the flavors, and there are some big tannins here. I think this will improve quite a bit with a few years in the bottle.
B+

Jade Mountain Syrah '95--Slightly tart cherry flavors and big tannins. OK, but nothing special.
B

Leasingham Shiraz Clare Valley '95--some oak, some plum, but a bit tart. Not outstanding, but decent.
B

McGuigan Brothers Shiraz Millenium Bin 2000 (missing vintage)--Generous aromas of cherries and flowers framed by oak. The dark cherry and plum fruit continues in the mouth, along withsome leather and meat. A classy Shiraz at a very good price.
A-

Thomas Mitchelton Shiraz SE Australia '96--Smoothly integrated oak and fruit flavors with a long finish. Generous dark fruit.
B+

Thomas Mitchelton Shiraz Golburn Valley '95--Big 'n' oaky, with an emphasis on the oaky. Vanilla and wood dominate, but there is some good fruit underneath it all.
B

Preston Vineyards Faux Dry Creek Valley '95--A Rhone-style blend of 32% Mourvedre, 27% Syrah, 18% Carignane, 13% Cinsault and 10% Grenache. Smells like cherries and leather, with generous plum and cherry flavors. Medium tannins and a clean fruit-laden finish. A good deal for an everyday wine.
B+

Qupe Syrah Central Coast '96--Spicy cherry and plum flavors and smells. Seems a bit hollow in the middle though. Still a nice, easy drinking Syrah.
B+

Qupe Los Olivos Cuvee '96--A Rhone-style blend of 44% Syrah, 44% Mourvedre, and 12% Grenache. Soft round plum flavors. A wine to drink now. A bit less complex and intense than I would like.
B

Qupe Syrah Bien Nacido Reserve '96--Seems to have a shy, closed nose right now. Plenty of fruit on the tongue, though, with generous plum and black cherry flavors, along with a touch of eucalyptus. I think that this one will repay some short-term cellaring, but not as long as some previous years.
B+

Qupe Syrah Bien Nacido Hillside Select '95--This was under the table...so I'm glad I was able to convince Bob Lindquist that I was worth a sip. One of my favorite Syrahs (and wines) of the Expo. Nose of oak, plum and pencil shavings. Big, lush leather and plum palate with a very long complex finish of plum, dried cherry, and leather, with smooth but firm tannins. Nicely balanced, and quite intense.
A

Domaine Raspail-Ay Gigondas '95--Finally, a wine which is actually from the Rhone... This struck me as being big, forward and fruity for a Rhone--sort of California-esque. Lots of plum flavor and big tannins. If you like 'em subtle and restrained, you won't like this as much as I did.
B+

Renwood Syrah Amador '94--Seems unbalanced, with a lot of alcohol on the nose. Nice plum flavors in the mouth, but a bit hot going down. I can taste the Amador heat in this wine, but where's the Syrah fruit to balance it?
B-

Shooting Star Syrah Lake County '95--Oak aromas come first, but then you notice the fruit and violets. Plum flavors with modest tannins. I was surprised by how good it was, and it should be a good value.
B+

Wyndham Estate Bin 555 Shiraz SE Australia '96--soft, fresh and abundantly fruity. Not complex, but a good wine to drink now.
B


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Copyright 1998,1999 Marcel Lachenmann. All rights reserved.