Here are some notes, mostly on '05 Rhone reds. Southern Rhone wines are not my favorite wines. Never have been. Nevertheless, it really seems like many folks in the region, in CdP in particular, are going down the path of over-ripe, simple, fruity, hot (high alcohol) wines that I wouldn't want to drink on their own, and certainly not with food. For an interesting post on the same topic, click here (make sure to read the comments as well). Anyway, it is a mixed bag here - some winners and some duds.
2005 Domaine la Garrigue Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Romaine - This is importer Eric Solomon's very profitable custom cuvee for the States. It's supposedly declassified Vacqueyras from very old vines (Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah). In the past I have enjoyed this wine. It has always been a Cotes du Rhone with good meaty savor, that tasted honest and, for $12 or so you could do a lot worse. Well this year, there are some unresolved tannins and a really sharp astringency on the finish. In the midst of this imbalance, some dark cherry fruit and cough syrup flavors sneak in there. A truly unpleasant wine, this.
2004 Gigondas Raspail-Ay Reserve - Bright red fruits on the nose. After opening up for a few hours, the wine revealed a bit more: plums and some rose petals. On the palate the wine is all crunchy cherries, with excellent purity, texture and energy. No surprise that I find this to be a better balanced, more interesting wine than any other in this line-up, given the cooler '04 vintage and the fact that winemakers in Gigondas seem not be as easily given to the temptation of making over-extracted wines for the export market. I'd give this wine another 5 years, though 7 would probably be more ideal.
2005 Alain Corcia Chateauneuf du Pape 'Patricia' - A pretty, perfume of mixed dark fruits leads to more of the same on the palate. An enjoyable lighter style of CdP for this ripe vintage.
2005 Ollivier Hillaire Chateauneuf du Pape - Here is a CdP that is rich and just fruity enough for the fruit sluts, but elegant, balanced and lively enough for people who want a balanced Grenache based wine to go with food. This is CdP of the blackberry and licorice stylee, with a slightly soft, creamy vanilla aspect towards the finish. May be too much for some - for me, it works. 8 years would be ideal for this one to come around.
2005 Ollivier Hillaire 'Le Petits Pieds D'Armand' - Blackberry jam. Hot. Brutish. For $30 less I'd go for the basic CdP above, but some other folks who tried it really enjoyed this 100% Grenache wine. They of the non-hyper critical wine geek, happy to be there tasting mold.
2005 Vieilles Julienne CdP - This one could be even worse. Yep, this could be the nadir of the line-up. I'm sorry, this wine is way too smooth, creamy, dumbed down and hot to be remotely interesting. There is very little spice, no floral aspects, no licorice, no gamey savor. And I don't see these notes ever emerging from this wine.
2005 Vincent Paris Cornas 'Granit 30' - OK, things are now getting better. The northern Rhone is an area where I have limited tasting experience, but plan to rectify the situation by tasting a lot more of the wines. They are generally more my style: lower in alcohol, greater in aromatic nuance, more subtle in their fruit flavors. Blueberry and plums, charred embers, white flowers, white pepper and mixed Indian spices come together on this beautfiul nose. On the palate, there is a bright, huckleberry quality, and though it is still tightly wound and a bit over-laden with sulphur, it should shape up really nicely and be a charmer in another 3 or so years.
2005 Bernard Burgaud Cote Rotie - This wine was just nearly impossible to taste. So tight. Nevertheless, there was great acidity and a gorgeous, velvety texture. Apparently the wine is aged 15-18 months in barrique, mostly new. Hmm...nonetheless, I think this Cote Rotie might become pretty interesting with a decade or so of bottle age. But then again, my experience with Cote Rotie is so limited. Someone please chime in and give me some insight here on the northern Rhone tip. I'd appreciate it.