The tour was followed by an incredible tasting of 11 wines, with the last two being the very famous La Mouline from the Cote Blonde and La Turque from the Cote Brune. They were both 2004 vintage and excellent. The La Mouline included 11% viognier with the syrah. It was filled with dark berries, elegance, complexity and a slight perfumed note. The La Turque was dark, brooding, with coffee, tea and dark chocolate notes. It was 7% viognier. Both had great balance with huge tannins, good acid, and a long finish. They fit their namesakes well – with the ancient legend of the Cote Rotie hills being owned by a man who had two beautiful daughters – one a blond and the other a brunette. The lighter colored hill was names for the blond and said to produce lighter, more fruit forward wines to match her sunny nature. Whereas the darker soiled hillside was name for the brunette and produces more complex and deeper flavors to fit the quieter nature of the brunette. (see video)
Most Cote Rotie wines are a mix of both Cote Brune and Cote Blond, but in exceptional vintages they will make the famous single vineyard wines which sell for over 100 Euros. This vintage was $120E. All of the wines were delightful, but these two stole the show. I also enjoyed the 04 Cote Rotie Chat. D’Ampuis, the 03 Cote Rotie, and 05 Crozes-Hermitage, and a beautiful 2006 Contrieu. The latter was 100% Viognier with a honeysuckle nose, honey palate, viscous with a long finish and refreshing acidity. Really lovely.
Next step was Domaine Ogier, a small winery run by son Stephane and father Michel. Stephane was kind enough to provide a tour of the complete cellar, a tasting, and then take me to lunch at the excellent Restaurant Caves du Vigerons on the main street in Ampuis. It was wonderful to visit a small winery and listen to Stephane’s passion about his wine. The family has 11 hectares, including Cote Rotie, Condrieu and some excellent Vin de Pays which are borderline with the AOC. Stephane’s wine is such high quality that he sells out within a month or two of release. He also consistently receives high scores from Parker.
We tasted many 2007’s out of barrel and the vintage is wonderful – very concentrated with lush berry flavors. They lost a portion of the fruit to bad weather, but what they did harvest was high quality. Stephane also sells his single vineyard Cote Rotie for $120Euros a bottle.
At lunch we tasted 4 current wines – beginning with an excellent 2006 Viognier which was highly perfumed with honeysuckle and pear, soft and creamy from the ML, but not over blown and fat like some can get. We also had his excellent 2006 Syrah Vin de Pays which are fruit-forward, international in style and very approachable. They sell quite well in fine restaurants throughout France. My favorite was his 2005 Cote Rotie which was 60% Brune and 40% Blonde and showed in the wine. It was “big” and concentrated, and I loved the rich complex flavors of dark berries, spice, pepper, and a little game on the finish. Unfortunately, he is sold out, but there is still some left in fine wine shops around the world.
Lunch at the restaurant made it impossible for me to eat the rest of the day. We started with a salad with ham and warm chevre. The main course was a melt-in-your-mouth leg of lamb with haricots, petite potatoes, and mushrooms. This was followed by warm chocolate brownie and ice cream, plus coffee. Wow!
Last stop was George Vernay in Condrieu where I was hoping to taste some more Viognier before heading back, but they were sold out. Driving back I decided to stop in Lyon. I managed to find the “old city,” but then got helplessly lost. There was also no parking to be found and it started to rain. Deciding this was a sign, I headed back to my apartment, stopping for a few items at the store. Since I was so full from lunch, tonight’s dinner was mushroom soup, cheese, and a glass of Clairette de Die. This is another wine from the Northern Rhone which I’ve never tasted before. I bought the Jaillance which is a top producer in Die (south of Hermitage) and it was only $6 Euros. It is a sweet sparkling wine made of muscat and clairette – very similar to Asti Spumante – and very enjoyable! A good way to end a great day of Northern Rhone wine-tasting.