The Rhone Valley

A Map!




90 Sizeranne Chapoutier Hermitage
It must have been pretty good but that was a long time ago. The only thing I remember is the bottle being rung up for the wrong year and costing only $30 instead of $42. (9/96) Wish I could control that:

Checker: "Can I see some identification, please?"
Me: "This DRC will only be $30 today."
Checker: "Yes. And please take some complimentary Chiclets with you. Move along."


90 Sorrel Hermitage

Nose of no. 2 pine in a lumber warehouse. Smooth, balanced, lots of fruit, nice finish. It seems pretty open and accessible now. I would think it’s at or near the plateau stage (now to 2002+). $30 2/98

(2) A nice middle-aged syrah. Nice floral nose. Such great flavor. Even if a tiny bit out of balance (ie. tannins > fruit), the wine will have been worth it. Cannot wait much longer for the tannins to change as the fruit may run out. 12/00 $30 (now-2002).


90 Guigal Hermitage
Wonderful nose of port. Lots of sediment (one big clump typical of syrah).* Great balance. Great finish. A really delicious wine. Worth every penny of $50. Must allow several hours to breath. 9/98

* Only big time wine reviewers, like myself, spend more time describing the sediment than the wine.

(2) Wonderful again. I didn’t get the nose of port, but the wine had been opened for several hours before I sampled it. Full bodied, great flavors. I didn’t get to focus on it so much this time due to giant, menacing spiders. 11/98


94 Ferraton Hermitage Cuvee de Miaux
The nose is nice and peppery, if a bit muted. The extraction and tannins are appropriate, but the late palate is a total let down. It’s either going to open up into something much better in a few years, or it isn’t. I hope it’s just playing hard to get, cause I didn’t get much out of this wine. The $38 price tag is ludicriss. 9/99

(2) I still have one more bottle of this left, which I will now be pouring down the drain. 1/01


95 Rémizières Hermitage Cuvee Emile

Strong. Great glycerol. Nice bouquet and good finish. Only problem is the flavor itself is not all that good to me. It’s not bad, but it’s just not terribly enjoyable. Would drink next one ? 5 years 7/02

95 Cave de Tain L’Hermitage
I forgot to write anything, and now it’s like, months later. I think I thought it was worth about what I paid. $24 3/02

95 Chapoutier Hermitage Sizeranne
No rush. Solid fruit and tannin there. And pepper. Hold another five before retrying. 6/05 [spiked]

(2) Tight, but good. would drink again in 2-3 years and expect it to improve over 7-10+. Strong dirty violet flavor we expect from Syrah. Still a hint of cinnamon/pepper but moving more toward the pure violet flavor at this point. 1/06

(3) Nice nose. Good flavor. Could probably still improve another several years. 7/06


99 Columbier Hermitage

Nose: cherry Ludens / mid: soft, smooth, a bit hot / finish: medium $43 6/05


99 Greffières Hermitage Vallouix

Nose: pepper/jam / mid: smooth, medium, pepper / finish: medium-long $62 6/05




White Hermitage





93 Louis Belle Crozes-Hermitage
Dry, plenty of fruit. Finish with only a mild degree of unpleasantness. Aside: What the hell are my neighbors doing out there? It looks like they’re digging for truffles. Anyway, it was a decent value at $14 5/98

91 Crozes-Combier Crozes-Hermitage
The wine was made for drinking at exactly 6 years of age, just like that Kiss song, "You were made for loving me, baby, and I was made for loving you. Oooooh." Enjoyable. Slightly non-existent finish. Nose of wedding flowers. One particular sip caused me to think of anchovies. $16 3/97

96 Tardieu-Laurent Crozes-Hermitage
Despite a nice nose, good concentration and very nice balance/structure there just isn’t enough flavor, and the finish is too much pepper and sour. The finish really is unpleasant, actually. $24 (worth $15) 8/00 Best now - 2004

97 Rémizières Crozes-Hermitage                

Nice nose of lavender and a little bit of rosemary.  Delicious forward fruit.  Finish slightly tannic but otherwise fine. Really a decent Crozes-Hermitage for $25 (worth $30) I think best from 2002-2010 (Parker says 2000-2020, 90-93) 2/01



 Cote Rôtie

78 Guigal Cote Rôtie

I thought it was delicious and structurally flawless.  My friend said it was flawless, but over the hill—that the fruit had faded considerably since trying it five years ago.  I need more friends like this. Cost: N/A  7/05


97 Jamet Cote Rôtie
Peppery, fruity. Can definitely taste the Syrah. Finish is thin, but overall it’s not bad. Has enough going on to justify not killing myself for having bought two other bottles. $56 2/04




90 Chapoutier ‘Deschants’
Parker says ‘it resembles a mini-Hermitage in its richness and complexity.’ He must be referring to the little outhouse found in the back of most hermitages. Oh, I’m just kidding, there actually is syrah flavor here, it’s just hidden behind a thick layer of Chapoutier. It has that ruddy, brown color (not the usual violet of syrah). It’s very tight at first, but eventually , the wall comes down, and pieces appear on college campuses with humble plaquards. The body does justify Parker’s 20 hectare/liter hype, but the finish is a short, bumpy ride on a dirt road. It’s at least half as good as a $40 hermitage at $20 1/99

96 Tardieu-Laurent
Cinnamon. And that’s two cinnamon syrahs in a row (after the CdTH Cornas). Maybe I’ve been [going around] with a cinnamon stick shoved up my nose the past two weeks unawares. Tangy, cloves too. Some structure there. ?4-5 more years. Medium fruit, some tannins, good balance. I’m not ready to jump on the T-L bandwagon based on this S-J alone. Good wine but no bargain at $25 6/99


White Saint-Joseph


95 Izeras Y. Cuilleron (Marsanne)

Sir Parker: "...citrusy, pineapple-scented nose, gobs of fruit, medium to full body, and a clean, refreshing finish with just enough acidity to provide zest and vibrancy. Drink it over the next year. Last tasted 6/96."

CB: Still plenty of body, good structure. Very tart and dry. Agree with Parker’s note I do, but the fruit is not forward enough to get too excited about. Slightly unpleasant anise flavor fades with time. Parker wants you too drink now, but why can’t we let the fruit evolve a few more years? If it will not improve, then I would find something with more pineapple for my $20, like 5 fresh Hawaiian pineapples (now - whenever they start turning brown and squishy. 5/99

Tom Clancy: And then the submarine hatch opened revealing some very lovely Châteauneuf-du-Papes. And this made for an excellent device with which to...



95 Cave de Tain L’Hermitage
Nice little nose of cinnammon/cloves, which fades after a while. Not much body, fairly simple, not much fruit. Pleasant drink but losing my interest after two hours. Price $18. Worth $15 5/99





89 Monpertuis Chateauneuf du Pape Tradition
This wine was impressive. It was packed, concentrated and delicious after a lot of air. $38 2/98

(2) Very thick tannic shell. Firm and unyielding like Madelaine Albright. Lots of fruit as well (plums?). Very young, needs several more years to be ready. Drinks well even on day 3 due to its solid infrastructure. 2/99
(3) What was I thinking? Needs another 5 years or 5 hours at least! I hate myself. 2/00
(4) Delicious. Mouth-filling. Very strong fruit. Needs a lot of air. Continued to evolve and mellow over many hours. Couldn’t test 2nd day because it was gone. 7/02
(5) Good fruit but no rush. Keep waiting. Try again in five? 6/05

(6) Still not fully evolved. Fair amount of complexity and enough fruit to satisfy the id as well. Will continue to watch these evolve. Worth ?$40 9/05

            (7) Amazingly, this wine is still backward, and somewhat earthy. Remains promising. Try again in 4-5 years.


90 Guigal Chateauneuf du Pape

Standard. Terroir. Nothing spectacular, but worth the price. Still holding strong at 8 years, but unlikely to improve much (especially now). But what do I know. $25 11/98

(2) Nice berry nose and palate. Full body. Smooth middle, but finishes a bit sour. $25 (worth $19). Drink now-2005. 5/00 (96)


90 Clos du Mont-Olivet Chateauneuf du Pape
Very full bodied. Rough around the edges. Still young enough to enlist. Mild distaste on the back of tongue test.* Typical CDP terroir. Still compelling enough to drink the whole bottle. There’s something about Grenache! $18 6/98
* The true test of a wine is whether you can tilt your head back and let the wine coat the base of your tongue and throat. Does it loiter or linger? The longer you can do this, the longer you look like an idiot.

93 Chateau de la Gardine Chateauneuf du Pape
Pine needles. Dry. Too young. Not as interesting as the 89 Monpertuis. “Cabbages, knickers-that bird’s not got a beak!” $35 2/99

95 Chateau de la Gardine Chateauneuf du Pape
Strong, standard CDP. Was good, but tannins aggressive and might be better in 5-10 yrs. Cost $25 (worth $32). 6/05


95 Coulon et Fils Chateauneuf du Pape ‘Boisrenard’
Described as having an international-style by the Wine Spectator [voluptuous, seductive, violet, cassis, toast and chocolate, sweet and long, harmonious tannins. Puke now - 2002]. I love it when the Wine Spectator reviews Carmen Electra, who I’ve always said is a bit of a ‘boisrenard’. However obliged to scoff at the "gentrification" of traditional wines, I must admit it was pretty damn delicious. $40 9/98

96 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape ‘La Crau’
Medium bodied (not very concentrated). Very pleasant but ordinary flavor (nothing exciting going on). Definitely Chateauneuf du Pape ‘terroir’ flavor. "...and nothing else." $26 11/98


98 Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape

Nose closed (it did actually have a particular smell, but I will keep it to myself in order to spare you, the reader). You can immediately taste the good flavor here but before long, a sheer wall of tannins. From that point, it’s tannins tannins tannins. I want to think this wine will turn out to be really delicious in, say, another 7-10 or more years. But that’s because I bought it. $42 7/05

98 Monpertuis Chateauneuf du Pape Tradition

Delicious. Hold another 5 years minimum $43 8/04

(2) Same as Pegau only not quite as much of a tannic monster.  Also has very good, solid CDP flavor. Try again in 5-6 years. $44 7/05


98 Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape

Medium body, but huge fruit that expands on the palate. This is really concentrated stuff and should drink well from now to whenever Parker says. $40 (worth all of it) 10/00

(2) Good flavor. Drinking fine, but still strong. Good road ahead. 5/02

(3) Still tastes exactly like it did when it was born, a baby whelk. This is purple ink, people. If you think purple ink is worth $90/bottle, then by all means, buy six of them, from me. $40 (worth $50; costs $90 now; please, too one-dimensional) 9/05


98 Les Cailloux Chateauneuf du Pape

Finish so abrupt shocking. I’ve never had a wine with such a short finish. Can this change with cellaring? Anyway, the fruit is nice. It’s concentrated like purple ink and falls between the Avril and the Beaucastel in power. But given the finish, I would go with some different 98’s. A word about terroir. Where is it? In all the 98’s I’ve had, the fruit is so intense and forward that these wines don’t remind me at all of the terroir I had just assumed was in every South Rhone. These wines are so fruity, it’s almost like Australia or Napa product. Remarkable. But don’t buy this one. $32. 1/01

98 Guigal Chateauneuf du Pape
This is almost identical to my memory of the 98 Paul Avril Chateauneuf du Pape. It’s like a baby version of the 98 Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape. A steal at $25. 12/00

01 Boursan Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Felix

Nose of Band-aid. Smooth, long finish, very tannic. So young. How does Parker know this is 95 pts. We’ll see. $55 8/05


00 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape

Nose: twig / mid: tannins more aggressive / medium, tannic / needs time $43 6/05


01 Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf du Pape

Nose okay. Less fruit forward (fruit backward/closed down). Concentrated. Very tannic. Requires faith. $43 8/05


01 Avril Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape

Nose: Band-Aid / mid: hot fruit, ?thinning in mid-palate / short-medium finish / needs time $55 6/05


03 Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf du Pape

Good nose. Strong, tannic. Concentrated. Deliciously fruit forward. Love the flavor. Reminds me a lot of some of the 98 CDPs when they first came out. $52 8/05

            03 Chateau Fortia Chateauneuf du Pape

Good nose. Strong, tannic. Concentrated. Something about the flavor not exactly to my taste (versus other 03’s I’ve tasted.). $40 8/05

(2) Still very concentrated. Smoothly structured but you can feel the gentle yet abundant tannins. Flavor seems more acceptable to me now (whether this is real or just that I’ve been drinking a lot of swill lately?) $40 11/06


03 Cristia Renaissance Chateauneuf du Pape

Nose of 38 cherries (the number, not the year). No, it’s not exactly cherry. Maybe cherry Lambic. Good concentration. Medium body. Not a monster anything but solid flavor. Very good balance. Plenty of tannins. Nice finish. Would buy more if I didn’t already have way too many 03 South Rhône. I like the flavor of this one perhaps a little more than the 03 Vieux Donjon CDP. 11/05


03 Vatican Sixtine Chateauneuf du Pape

Nose of cinnamon > berry. Middle with good concentration, but flavor still the spice > berry. Finish smooth. I will be curious to see what happens to this cinnamon flavor (which I’ve seen more often in Gigondas and St. Joseph. And so I’ll wait. $55 12/05


03 Milliere Chateauneuf du Pape

Had next to the Vatican Sixtine, nose much subdued and fruit not as concentrated. But the flavor is classic CDP earthberry. And the wine still seems a good value at $33. Drink now – 2010 (I should think). 12/05


03 Domaine Roger Sabon Châteauneuf du Pape les Olivets

Wine Advocate #163 (Feb 2006)

The 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Olivets has a dark plum/garnet color and a big, sweet, spicy, earthy nose with hints of Provencal herbs, tapenade, pepper, and spicy black cherries and currants. It is soft, round, and ideal for drinking over the next 6-7 years.” Rating: 88 points Drink 2006-2013

Wine Advocate #156 (Dec 2004)

The 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Olivets performed beautifully in this vintage. A classic Provencal red, it offers a dark ruby/garnet color as well as peppery notes of garrigue, new saddle leather, black cherries, plums, and figs, medium to full body, a supple texture, and loads of glycerin and fruit. This seductive effort can be drunk upon release or cellared for 7-10 years.  Rating: (89-91) Drink 2004-2014

I would agree with these comments. 3/06



Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc


98 Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc
Very light on palate, abrupt ledge as middle palate skips right into finish, which is short but without fault. Now – 2010 ? or longer – I have no idea? $43 8/04

04 Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc
Hints of pineapple, lychee and Dead Sea spice (person who is trying to sell you this wine). Metallic, straw, grassy knoll (person who is worried about this wine). Flint and tart acids prevail. (Gunpowder cleaning solution, malolactic death.) This wine will develop nicely over the next 7 to 10 years. (This wine, if it escapes the bottle, will first kill you in your sleep. Then it will find and kill the rest of your family. Then it will hijack a plane to Bermuda, where it will establish a puppet government, from which it will hatch its plan for complete and total 90% world domination (10% Marsanne)). The only reason to buy this wine is damn curiosity. What will it be like in ten years? No, I really have to know. $37 12/05





90 Les Pallieres

Earth. Hold another 3-5 years. Perhaps even a port-like nose and mid-palate. A bit too much acid. Rough around edges, but willing to put in a good day’s work. Ample, compelling, ever-undervalued Grenache. $20 6/99

98 Trignon Gigondas
Pepper.* Very concentrated, for a $20 wine. Right now, the tannins dominate. Maybe it will be better 2002-2004, but I can’t be sure. It reminded me of the flavor of the Abadia Retuerta, Sardon del Duero. I thought I had brilliantly pinned the common influence of Grenache on these two wines. But then I read the label of the Ribera and it mentioned Tempranillo, merlot, and Malbec?, but didn’t say nothing about Garnacha (Grenache). So either they’re telling big fat lies over there in the Duero, which I wouldn’t rule out, or the similarity is for some another reason. $20 12/00

98 Santa-Duc Gigondas
Very strong flavor. Spicy. Probably could have aged many more years. Not exactly to my liking though, but this could be subjective. $36 1/03


* By the way, don’t EVER, I repeat EVER breathe pepper up your nose. It looks like a lot of fun in cartoons, but I’m telling you it’s not. It is true that you will sneeze, but what they neglect to mention in cartoons is that it burns like all hell and continues to make you sneeze way past the commercial break. You will also be wise not to light matches in between your friend’s toes while he’s sleeping, for a gag.


98 Cayron Gigondas

Extremely earthy “Gigondas” (for lack of a better term) flavor. If you like that flavor (and you’d know what I’m talking about if you did), then you’re in business. Wait another 5-10 years probably because this wine still has a strong concentration of fruit and tannins. $18 Worth (if you like the flavor and hit it in the window, then worth $28; otherwise, $18) 7/06







00 Domaine de la Mordorée Lirac
What the hell do you suppose Lirac means? Anyway, strong, floral, good, but perhaps a little unbalanced–will that change? What grape is Lirac? I bet it’s a blend with predominance of Grenache? What do you think? $28. Worth $25. 4/05


03 Jaume Lirac Close de Sixte 


“The debut release from an old vineyard, the 2003 Lirac Clos de Sixte (a 600-case blend of 50% Grenache, 35% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre) is an impressive effort that comes close to the brilliant Lirac made at Domaine de la Mordorée. A dense purple color is followed by scents of flowers, terrific fruit intensity, full body, and a chewy, long, heady finish. With a seamless integration of acidity, tannin, and alcohol, this intense, voluptuous Lirac should be consumed over the next 5-7 years, although it may last even longer.” – Parker


Agree. At least 5-7, more like 10+ yrs. $24 (worth $32, at least) 7/05



Cotes du Rhone

90 La Pialade Côtes-du-Rhone

Simple, strong Grenache (et al) nose and flavor. Lots of fruit but no elegance or finish. Like most Cotes du Rhone, this is a wine for drinking in mass quantities. I think it will keep several more years without fading. Definitely more character and impact than an equally priced K-J. $10 2/99

(2) Tannic/earthy/delicious. Great for $11. 3/00
(3) Tannic/earthy/not so delicious. Perhaps the party is over. 12/00


02 Monpertuis Côtes-du-Rhone
Ok, so I’m kind of having one of those weeks where it takes about a bottle to realize I’ve begun. I don’t remember much about this bottle other than at some point early on, it occurred to me she might be a little too floral, for some. $16 1/05

03 Saint Cosme Côtes-du-Rhone (white)
Sharp, decent structure for price. There is fruit and maybe it would be better in a couple years, but right now, it’s just not really showing much. $17 5/05

98 Aphillanthes Côtes-du-Rhone Villages VV

Good. Earthy. Not bad, but I’m not so sure about a $20 CDR. Either get a good $30 CDP or a $15 CDR. I don’t see the need for this middle ground. 5/03

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