Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Balance of the Blend: Vietti Castiglione

What It Takes to Make the Vietti Barolo Castiglione

By Eric Guido

What does it take for a producer of Barolo to decide that it’s more important to create one great wine to please the majority of collectors, at a tremendous price, versus creating five single-vineyard Cru Barolo that they could charge 3-4 times as much for and easily sell?

Passion? Tradition? Responsibility? Love for the region and for their family?  I’m of the opinion that when it comes to Luca Currado of the Vietti winery, each of these reasons come into play.

As Luca talks about Barolo, Piedmont and all that has come before him in this region, he speaks with such love, excitement and reverence, that it becomes easy to understand why the Vietti Barolo Castiglione continues to be produced.  To this day, it is one of the greatest examples of traditional Barolo, as well as being priced remarkably fair and able to stand proud next to many of the top wines of the region.  It’s because of this that I feel compelled to be an advocate of both the wine and the winery, to make sure that people know just how much goes into producing it.  However, there’s another reason as well, and that reason is that I also feel it’s my duty to make sure that Barolo lovers really do understand the benefit of having the Barolo Castiglione in their own cellars.

The first thing to understand is that Luca is determined to make Vietti’s flagship wine the best Barolo that he can in every vintage.  And don’t fool yourself.  The flagship of this house is not the multiple 100-point-scoring Ravera, the classic Rocche with its amazingly long track record, the Lazzarito from one of the region’s “hottest” locals, or the Brunate, with its famous location and name.  No, the flagship at Vietti is the Castiglione.

In order to make Castiglione the best that it can be, Luca looks to a collection of single vineyards,  He could easily vinify and bottle each of these on their own, however, he chooses to instead blend into one Barolo, the Castiglione.  This doesn’t mean that all of the fruit is picked and added to massive tanks and barrels, like many other producers would do.  Instead, Luca chooses to raise the fruit from each of these parcels like it would one day be a single-vineyard bottling of Barolo.  Each one receives unique care and upbringing through the aging process.  It is only after the refinement in large neutral barrels that Vietti begins the blending process and completes the Castiglione.

Recently, I was granted an amazing opportunity to taste through the different vineyards that will produce the 2016 Barolo Castiglione--hold onto your seats, because 2016 is going to blow your minds.

The 2016 Barolo Vintage

Just to provide a bit of background on the year, as I’ve been tasting 2016s from barrel now for the past two years, it’s a vintage that may outperform the best of the last three decades.  The vintage doesn’t require a producer to express their own excitement over it as you taste, because from the moment you put your nose to the glass, or take that first sip, the importance of 2016 becomes apparent.  

The 2016 vintage was one of the longest growing seasons on record, with an early start in the late winter due to drier and warmer conditions than usual.  Budbreak took place in early March, yet as the season continued, it became cooler that usual, hence slowing down the maturation.  Summer brought long dry days with moderate temperatures, which was followed by a mild and dry September.  The result was that picking for Barolo began late on October 5th (in Brunate) and ended on the 25th in Ravera.  The fruit was healthy and abundant with ripe tannins and balanced acidities.  As for Luca Currado, he believes it may be the greatest collection of wines he’s ever produced, including the Castiglione.

Back to the Castiglione

As I’ve mentioned, the Castiglione is a traditional blend of vineyards. In 2016, those vineyards included Ravera (Novello), Teodoro (Serralunga), Scaronne (Castiglione), Rocchettevino (La Morra), Bricco Fiasco (Castiglione), and a mix (due to the small size of the parcels) of Mosconi and Le Coste (Monforte).  In each year, Luca will use as much or as little of these barrels that’s necessary to create the perfect blend of the Barolo Castiglione.

However, before today, I was never been able to taste each of these wines separately, all while hearing Luca’s comments on each of them.  Of course, with Ravera, I’ve had the chance to taste this when barrel-tasting with Luca.  Keep in mind that Vietti is able to fill three large, neutral botti with their production from Ravera; it’s one of their largest holdings.  From those three barrels, only one makes the cut for the single-vineyard, while the rest can go on to be added to the Castiglione.  While visiting with Luca in Piedmont, I’ve been able to taste from all three of those barrels, and I can’t tell you how hard it must be for the Vietti winery to decide which one will be the “Cru” and which will go into the blend, because they are all sublime. 

That said, one of the most eye-opening bottles on this day came from a little-known vineyard in Serralunga, named Teodoro.  It was the vibrancy of the fruit, remarkably pretty florals and exotic nature of the wine that first caught my attention.  However, what sealed the deal was Luca’s explanation of how the wine is made.  Apparently, Teodoro is one of the few vineyards in Barolo that produces fruit that benefits from whole-cluster fermentation.  This is a practice that isn’t often used in the region, simply because the character of the grape and terroir doesn’t lend well to it.  Most of us know that one of the region’s most highly regarded wines today (Burlotto Monvigliero) is made with whole-clusters.  However, that location, with its sandy soils and cool climate, is a perfect example of one terroir that does benefit from it.  Apparently, so does Teodoro, and since Luca is always willing to experiment, he found the perfect mix by leaving 60% of the stems intact.  What’s more, we were able to taste two different bottlings of Teodoro, one made “traditionally” and one left in barrel for only 18 months, which is a much older tradition from the early 20th century.  Comparing these two wines was fascinating.

Granted, this is just the tip of the iceberg, as the completed 2016 Castiglione is not assembled and ready to taste, but I can tell you that I’d be happy with a Barolo made from any one of the components we tasted.  That said, with the blending prowess of Luca Currado to make the final decisions, I’m extremely excited to see what the end result will be.

The Blend Component Tasting

All wines were barrel samples that had been bottled for this event.  Also, my opinions of what each component lends to the blend are my own, and I’m sure Luca has his own thoughts on the matter.

L35 Ravera di Novello - This is a wine that I have tasted from barrel and loved each time. Here I found a dark and exotic expression, showing wild berry fruit with notes of purple florals, crushed stone minerality and sweet spice. On the palate, it was smooth, displaying pure red berry fruit in a lifted expression with saline-minerals, showing a tactile mix of acid and tannin that saturated the senses all the way through its dark fruit finish, leaving hints of balsamic spice. I see this as the core of the blend, and the soul. (94-96 points)

L44 2016 Teodoro (Serralunga) - The 2016 Teodoro was absolutely gorgeous on the nose, with an array of wild red berries, rosy florals, earth, and hints of savory herbs, as the wine continued to open in the glass, becoming more Burgundian, lifted and refined.  On the palate, I found a soft expression, with tantalizing acidity paving the way for fresh red fruits, inner florals and grippy tannins.  The finish was medium in length, resonating on red fruits and florals. The Teodoro is a relatively recent acquisition, and likely what has given the Castiglione its recent boost of aromatic complexity. (92-94 points)

L20 2016 Scarrone (Castiglione) - This is another wine that I’ve tasted in the past, and as before, one I wish that Luca would consider bottling one day on its own.  The nose was remarkably pretty, bursting with an intense expression of red fruits.  Raspberry, strawberry and cranberry seemed to all come together as a sweet dusting of spice, minerals and red florals filled the senses.  On the palate, I found silky textures, which were offset by saturating red berry and sweet spices, kept in check by a wash of grippy young tannin, which lasted throughout the long finish.  I can only imagine what this might taste like in twenty years, and I doubt I will ever find out. That said, the Castiglione would miss the addition of Scaronne, as I see this as the spice in the blend. (93-95 points)

L41 2016 Rocchettevino (La Morra) - Here I found a floral expression with rosy red berry fruit complemented by dusty sweet spice, and minerality, creating an exotic and feminine expression.  On the palate, soft, enveloping textures gave way to seductive dark, ripe red fruits with a grounding wash of brisk acidity to balance them out beautifully.  Hints of tannin emerged on the long, dark fruit finish, yet all in all, this is a wine of texture and very easy to like.  I think it goes without saying that the Rocchettevino levels out the structure, giving Castiglione its silky presence on the palate.  (91-94 points)

L39 2016 Mosconi and Le Coste (Monforte) - The nose was dark and woodsy, showing a mix of sweet herbal and floral tones, offset by woodland berries and hints of moist earth.  On the palate, I found silky textures, yet restrained by a web of complex tannin with mineral underpinnings, as dark red fruits fought to make an appearance.  The finish was medium in length, showing the wine’s power and drying its dark red fruits.  This is certainly the backbone of Castiglione, and it is sure to lend the structure necessary to mature. (90-93 points)

L43 2016 Bricco Fiasco (Castiglione) - The nose was dark and rich, with a mix of brown spices, crushed red berries, and earthy minerality, yet with time, it became prettier, more floral and gained a note of sweet spice.  On the palate, I found a feminine expression, with silky, lifted textures giving way to mineral-encased, crunchy black fruits, echos of dark florals and spice.  The finish was long, as fine tannin mounted, slowly drying the wine’s fruit and leaving an expression of power.  I find this to be the iron fist that comfortably fits into the Castiglione’s velvet glove.  Gorgeous. (93-95 points)

** Addition after tasting the final bottled 2016 Castiglione Barolo on 5-12-2019 **

2016 Vietti Barolo Castiglione - The nose on the 2016 Castiglione is stunningly dark and alluring, as it draws me closer to the glass. Here I'm finding notes of crushed strawberry, with wild herbs, orange-spiced tea, smoke, licorice, and hints of white pepper. Its silky textures flood the senses with a mix of ripe red and blue fruits along with sweet herb tones, which are complimented by zesty acids and saturating minerality. Yet through it all, fine tannins slowly mount with each sip, leading to a structured finale, as mineral-infused sweet cherry resonates amidst hints of tobacco and cedary spice. (94 points)

On a side note, and a bit of a treat

As Luca had explained, the Teodoro vineyard is one of the few locations within Barolo where the harvested Nebbiolo benefits from whole-cluster fermentation.  He also went on the explain that what we all consider traditional only depends on how far back into history that we are looking, and that he is often looking further back to consider everything that came before.  Thinking along these lines, Luca looked to a time before the first World War, a time when your average Barolo producer would only have one large barrel in their cellar, which was used to collect all of their fruit, ferment it, and age it.  What this meant is that with the next harvest, the barrel would have to be emptied so that they could use it for the next harvest--meaning that Barolo of the early 20th century was only aged 12 months before being bottled.

As time went on and the region began to recover from the second World War, producers began to add more barrels to their cellars when possible, but at the time, the region was still quite poor.  It was during this period that the aging of Barolo in barrel moved from 12 to 18 months.  With this in mind, and while tasting his whole-cluster fermented Teodoro, Luca decided that he would experiment by aging part of his Teodoro fruit for only 18 months, to see if it would benefit the wine.  Luca’s thought is that, one day, we may see more Barolo aged for less time in wood.  Sort of a “what was old is new again” approach.  Luckily for all of us at this tasting, he brought a sample.

L1861 2016 Teodoro (Whole-cluster 60%, aged in Neutral barrels 18 months)
- The nose was remarkably pretty and spicy, showing intense layers of sweet herbs, rosy florals, and crushed stone minerality, before giving way to dark red berry tones with hints of pepper, dried orange peel and hints of new leather.  On the palate, I found silky textures offset by a vibrant wave of acidity, as zesty red berry fruits with floral and peppery underpinnings washed across the senses, leaving hints of tannin and spice in their wake.  The finish was long with a twang of acid tapering off to reveal dried red fruits and hints of fine tannin.  This is something like I’ve never tasted before from Barolo, and it’s an expression of Nebbiolo that I would absolutely seek out if available on the market. (92-94 points)


Maps borrowed from Barolo MGA by Alessandro Masnaghetti

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Touring Vintages of the Southern Rhone

Exploring A Love-Hate-Love Relationship at The VIP Table

I’ve Always Wanted to Love the Southern Rhone

For the longest time, you could say that I had a love-hate relationship with the Southern Rhone.  

Love, in that I wanted to love it.  I tried very hard to.  I would avidly delve into articles from The Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator, covering the Southern Rhone, talking about its history, its climate, its people, its soil and the descriptions of the wine.  As I read, I became more enamored with the region, because with each descriptor, as I imagined the world that these wines came from, I couldn’t help but believe that I would truly love them.  So I bought into the hype over the 2005 vintage, and again in 2007; yet when I first tasted the wines, I must admit that I didn’t completely understand.  These didn’t speak to me the way they spoke to the critics of that time.  

Of course, the first thought was that I needed to allow them to mature in my cellar, and so I buried them deep.  Then came 2009 and 2010, again with the same result. Somewhere along the way, a good friend organized a 1998 tasting (reportedly a great vintage), and I was overjoyed to attend.  I saw it as my chance to get a better idea of the aging curve on these wines, and what I should expect from the maturing vintages in my cellar.  Unfortunately, I left that tasting unimpressed, as most of the wines came across as tired, soupy and over the hill.

What was I missing?

It took quite a bit of time and a lot of trial and error, but in only the last few years, I finally started to understand why I was having so many problems with the Southern Rhone.  It was really a three-part issue.  

One was the style that many of the producers were seeking in the late ‘90s and into the 2000s.  You see, the man that was most responsible for bringing the region the fame that it was enjoying was Robert Parker, and many of the producers literally changed their winemaking styles to better fit his palate.  They pushed ripeness to the extreme and began to limit the use of the traditional mix of Rhone varieties in their blends.  As a result, a large selection of prestige wines appeared on the market, which in most cases took advantage of the choice parcels of old-vine Grenache from each vineyard and pushed them to the edge of over-ripeness.  The problem with this is that the mix of Rhone varieties used in a traditional blend were often the reason that winemakers were able to make good, balanced wines in most vintages.

Speaking of which, the second issue was vintage.  For one thing, it was almost impossible to get all of the different publications to agree on which vintages were better than the others.  However, what became very clear to me was that I found the most pleasurable drinking from what many critics considered the “off” vintages.  Years that were not necessarily bad, but not the blockbusters that years like 2007 and 2005 were.  You can imagine that a warm vintage, mixed with old vines in a hot climate, would make high-alcohol reds that tipped the scales of ripeness.

Lastly, there was the drinking window.  Somewhere along the path of wine and wine writers becoming part of our pop culture, it was decided that the ability to age a wine over a long period of time was an indicator of how good that wine was.  And so, a review would be posted about a current vintage Châteauneuf du Pape, and the recommended date to start drinking the wine would be no less than ten years down the road.  What’s more, many of these reviews would lead you to believe that there wasn’t nearly as much pleasure in enjoying them in their youth--which, with the Rhone, would be a huge mistake.  Is it a better experience? Not necessarily, but it’s a different experience, and you’re missing out if you don’t taste them young.

In the end, what I came to realize is that I preferred most Châteauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Rasteau (and a host of others) starting around their fifth year of life, and through their twelfth.  This is not to say that many of these wines won’t mature past that date, but it must be a structured vintage and a producer who made a wine to age.  I also realized that I do prefer the vintages that didn’t receive the hype, such as 2004, 2006, and 2012.  Even a year like 2014, where many winemakers added an extra dose of Mouvedere, really brought a unique and truly enjoyable aspect to the vintage.

As for the warmer years, in my opinion, it’s a matter of preference.  A good example can be found on when reading member notes on the 2007 Clos des Papes, a wine that is either loved or hated depending on the palate.  My best advice is to better understand your vintages before jumping in.  I recently found an excellent guide to Southern Rhone vintages that was published by Jeb Dunnuck at which has greatly increased my enjoyment of these wines.

My Inspiration

As for my inspiration to start tasting these again and ultimately write this piece, it was the combination of the 2015 and 2016 vintages, which have shown me that the region has made huge strides away from the high-octane wines of the last decade.  There’s a balance and vibrancy that I hadn’t seen before, leaving me very excited to see what’s coming next.  I’m officially back to collecting wines of the Southern Rhone, and I recommend that it’s time to check in on your own stocks and pay attention to the vintages in the market today.

Below you’ll find notes from my recent exploration of wines in my cellar, along with back vintages that I’ve placed on my radar.  I tried to focus on what I liked instead of listing the wines that fell flat.  The villages of Châteaunuef du Pape and Gigondas get the most love here, basically due to my own tastes and what was available to taste.  If you’re not familiar with Gigondas, the wines are spectacular, produced through a very similar blend and aging process as CdP, yet most have a minerality, purple floral tinge and sweet spiciness that I adore.  They also mature wonderfully in the cellar.

On to the Tasting Notes

2003 -- The Jury Is Out

I’m hesitant to jump into too many 2003s, as I’ve always thought of this as a very warm year for France.  However, it always pays to think about your favorite producers before the vintage, and so an opportunity to taste a mature Caillou Les Quartz could not be passed up. It was pretty special too.

Le Clos du Caillou Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine du Caillou Les Quartz 2003 - The bouquet was completely mature, yet in a beautiful place, showing dried florals mixed with dusty black earth, as notes of plum, fig and raisin came forward in a sweetly spiced and almost confectionary expression, yet not quite; instead, it swayed more toward the balsamic spectrum. On the palate, I found silky textures on a light-medium bodied frame, creating a hovering effect, as notes of dried black cherry, bitter balsamic spice, moist earth, and hints of Chambord gave way to dried inner floral tones. The entire experience remained incredibly fresh in its maturity, as the acidity here was in perfect balance, going into a long finish, showing saturating dried strawberry, plum, and a slightly porty spiciness. (93 points)

2004 - Fresh as a Daisy

This is a vintage that Jeb Dunnuck recently turned me onto.  I doubt I could explain it better than him: “The 2004s are fully mature and have fresh, vibrant, mid-weight profiles. Given their higher acids, these wines will certainly continue to keep in cold cellars, but there is no upside.” Jeb Dunnuck

Domaine de la Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Chaupin 2004 - The first thing I noticed was the unexpectedly dark ruby color from this fourteen-year-old Chaupin, which ran from its core to the rim. On the nose, I found an inviting mix of rich cherry compote, brown spices, tobacco leaf and hints of dusty earth. It was velvety and rich on the palate, yet it maintained a wonderfully fresh personality, as the wine seemed to glide effortlessly across the senses, showing notes of sweet blackberry, fig, lavender, violets and milk chocolate. Its tannins were fully resolved, yet the acidity remained perfectly balanced, enveloped by the wine’s body, creating an amazing textural experience. The finish was shorter than I’d hoped, with the slightest sensation of heat, yet still displaying a flurry of purple florals and dark fruits before tapering off. The ‘04 Chaupin is fully mature, yet showing no sign of decline. That said, I wouldn’t wait much longer on any bottles still in the cellar. (92 points) 

Le Clos du Caillou Châteauneuf-du-Pape Reserve le Clos du Caillou 2004 - The nose was dark, rich... intense, with a display of wood smoke overlaying ripe black cherry and raspberry fruit, with peppery spice, green olive, animal musk, crushed stone, and savory herbs. On the palate, I found velvety textures with spicy dark red fruits, yet lifted by vibrant acidity as a mix of savory spice, wild herbs and saline-minerality coated the senses. Its finish was long, dark and spicy, as saturating black raspberry and spice gave way to an herbal-balsamic twang with lingering minerality. Everything was perfectly in place here, balanced, and so youthful. Nowhere did I find the sweet fruit that early tasting notes spoke of; instead this was a savory and animalistic wine of amazing depth. (94 points)

2006 - Always Charming

This should have been the vintage that tipped me off early to my preference for the under-the-radar years, as I fondly remember quickly working through half a case of Janasse Chaupin.  The 2006s are wonderfully textured wines with dark fruit and usually a wild herbal note.  They are fully mature and worth seeking out.

Domaine Giraud Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée les Grenaches de Pierre 2006 - The nose was incredibly dark, rich and earthy, showing baked plum, crushed black cherry, balsamic wood, sweet tobacco, classic garrigue, hints of animal musk and moist soil tones. On the palate, I found a silky Autumnal expression, complemented by ripe blackberry, cherry and plum, with black licorice, sweet spice, more balsamics, hints of coffee rind, brown spice, minerals and hints of mushroom. The finish was long, with zesty spice and residual acids making the mouth water, as saturating black cherry and minerals lingered long. This is a full-throttle, fruit-forward and massively textural wine, yet it maintains amazing balance. (93 points)

Château de Saint-Cosme Gigondas Les Claux 2006 - At twelve years old and from a vintage that flew well under the radar, the '06 Les Claux showed a complex bouquet of crushed blackberry in brown sugar, with spiced orange, wood smoke, savory dried meats, provencal herbs, white pepper and a hint of exotic dark florals. On the palate, I found soft, velvety textures, lifted by a burst of bright acidity, as vibrant black fruits, spice and minerals splashed across the senses, soaked in a sheen of liquid violet florals, with a savory, salty meatiness left in its wake. The finish was wonderfully long and mouthwatering, resonating of smoked meats, saline-minerals, tart black fruits and lingering purple florals, with hints of tannin still tugging at the palate, yet almost completely resolved. Wow, just wow! (94 points)

2007 -- Love ‘em or Hate ‘em

I think it’s amusing that of the two 2007s I recently had, I scored them very high, because I really didn’t expect to like them so much.  However, as I stated above, you need to know what you’re getting into, and if you’re looking for structure, freshness and verve, 2007 is not your thing.  Expect intense, ripe dark fruits, with velvety textures.  However, the wines that achieved balance in the vintage are remarkable.

Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2007 - Upon pop and pour, this was a massive beast of a Châteauneuf du Pape with an intensely sweet and deeply pitched fruit-forward bouquet, massive textures and a hint of heat on the finish. However, after an hour of being left open in bottle, things changed drastically. The nose showed a mix of crushed blackberry, raspberry and fig, with violet pastille accents, crushed stone, sweet dusty minerals, mint, hints of undergrowth and animal musk. On the palate, I found silky, almost-creamy textures lifted by brisk acidity, as a wave of vibrant dark fruit swept across the senses, leaving notes of spicy red berries, savory herbs, minerals and blue inner florals in its wake. The finish was wonderfully long and fresh, as hints of tannin settled on the side palate, and remnants of black fruit, minerals and savory herbs lingered on. The balance here is remarkable, especially for the vintage. (95 points)

Le Clos du Caillou Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine du Caillou Les Quartz 2007 - The 2007 Quartz is absolutely a wine for the hedonist, yet we all need to treat ourselves from time to time. The nose was incredible, showing a mature mix of both savory and sweet, leading off with a burst of balsamic-soaked black cherry, crushed blackberry, licorice and brown sugar, as notes of rubbed sage, allspice, plum sauce and dark earth mixed to form a heady yet wonderfully enjoyable bouquet. On the palate, silky textures displaying velvety weight flooded the senses with notes of overripe plum, black cherry, cinnamon, saline-minerals, sweet tobacco and inner floral tones. The finish was long with a bitter twang of spiced orange, rosemary, sage, dried cherries and lasting savory minerals. (95 points)

2011 - Sunkissed and Singing

I can’t say that the below wine is necessarily the best representation of the vintage, it’s essentially an under-the-radar Rayas.  However, what I can say is that the best 2011s take the warmth and ripeness of the vintage and match it with radiant personalities and energy.  Again, know what you’re getting into, and expect these wines to be racy and ripe.

Château des Tours Côtes du Rhône 2011 - Another incredible performance from the 2011 Château des Tours Côtes du Rhône, with a wonderful bouquet of fresh ripe strawberry complemented by exotic florals, sweet-and-savory herbs, crushed seashell minerality, hints of rose, pepper and undergrowth. On the palate, it was wonderfully fresh, vibrant and fleshy, with silky textures contrasting zesty acidity, as sweet, floral-laced strawberry and spice swept across the senses with a hint of green stems, yet in the best possible way. The finish was long, as hints of mineral-soaked tannin tugged gently at the senses, while lingering cherry and strawberry tones, a twang of zesty acid, and wood smoke remained. What a gorgeous wine, and I'm so happy to have half a case left in the cellar. (94 points)

2012 -- Firing On All Cylinders 

Here we find wines that possess a fresh personality over pliant fruit with balanced acidity.  The result is that 2012 is a vintage that remains firmly on my radar.  Consider me a buyer.

Domaine Giraud Châteauneuf-du-Pape Tradition 2012 - The nose was dark, showing spicy blackberry, crushed black cherry, balsamics, white pepper, and smoky minerality, with a note of garigue. On the palate, it was velvety smooth, displaying notes of black raspberry, as savory meatiness and spice flooded the senses, along with zesty acidity and saturating saline-minerality. The finish was medium-long, resonating on savory cherry, a twang of wild herbs, and lingering fine tannin. Who doesn't love this wine? (92 points)

Domaine de la Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Chaupin 2012 - The nose was dark with depths of ripe red and black fruits, black tea, crushed raspberry, and a hint of licorice. On the palate, I found soft textures, yet it was energetic and lifted with inner florals and sweet black-toned fruits. The finish was fresh, soft, and remarkably pretty, leaning more toward grace than power. (92 points)

Domaine Bois de Boursan Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée des Félix 2012 - The nose was dark and intense with crushed raspberry, cherry, sweet florals, hints of lavender, and clove. On the palate, I found silky textures offset by intense dark red fruits, where the textures were almost oily yet offset by chewy, cheek-pucking tannin. It finished on dark, spicy fruits with a hint of bitter herbs. There's so much going on in this glass, and there is a tremendous amount of depth to its fruit--yet it is structured and balanced. (94 points)

2013 -- A Mixed Bag 

I remember tasting many of the 2013s upon release and finding them to be concentrated yet taut, without the dimensions of better vintages.  It remains a year that I seldom recommend.

Domaine de la Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes 2013 - The nose was dark and intense with crushed raspberry, fresh herbs, soil tones and hints of undergrowth. On the palate, I found a fresh expression offset by saturating red fruits, with sweet minerality, a bump of acidity, and fine tannin. It finished tense, youthfully structured and restrained. I’m not sure what to make of the 2013 at this point in its evolution; only time will tell. (92 points)

Domaine des Bosquets Gigondas La Colline 2013 - The nose was dark, rich and layered with blackberry and plum giving way to savory spices, and raw red meat, with hints of violet florals, lavender, and crushed stone. On the palate, I found creamy textures, yet it was finessed and lifted with violet floral-tinged tart black fruits, savory spice, and caking minerality, as zesty acidity created a bump of energetic trust toward the finale. The finish was medium in length, resonating on blackberry and lingering minerals, with lasting inner florals. Be warned that upon pop and pour, the La Colline was far less interesting. (92 points)