Calgary Wine Life: Paul Jaboulet Aine Tasting with Adrien Laurent @ Calgary Petroleum Club, Part II

2 05 2018

By Raymond Lamontagne

To read Part I of this epic tasting write up, click here.

IMG_1356I was attempting to pace myself until the second half of this tasting, wishing to avoid palate fatigue and endeavoring to preserve a fresh mindset for the crown jewels near the end. That delicious St.-Joseph in particular made this sort of patience challenging. I glance to the end of the written materials and there’s even a dessert wine to close things out. Wow. We did move quickly and this was a good thing. There was just enough time to analyze and enjoy some brief discussion about each wine. Part II begins with the “roasted slope”, peaks on Hermitage hill (the big reason we are all here!), and ends in … Beaumes de Venise?! Read on, faithful.

2015 Cote Rotie Domaine des Pierrelles (~$123)

Cote Rotie could serve as the centrepiece in a tasting such as this, and no one in the know would complain much. An appellation short on geographical landmass but long on excitement, some of the steepest viticultural slopes in France are found here, so much so that the region became moribund in the 1970s: The back-breaking labour required did not provide sufficient economic returns. Eventually the folly in this view was recognized once and for all. The vineyards are angled so as to maximize the ripening effects of the sun (thus the moniker), although the wines are not baked in what is still a rather stark and harsh climate, instead evidencing a sublime savoury perfume. These grapes hail from a 1.5 ha biodynamic plot in Cote Blonde, known for graceful wines suitable for early consumption (relatively speaking). The vines are 40+ years old and are rooted in soils composed of mica-schist and dusty old exposures of iron oxide.

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The nose on this beauty is a spike of ripe red and black cherries with a halo of basalt, star anise, and basketball rubber, and lest complexity somehow be a concern, a further dusting of bark and lichens. There is some approachable juiciness on the palate, but more palpable power than the St.-Joseph that came before (spurned husband or no), with the fruits conjuring up some medicinal wolfberry (better known as Goji) along with the crowd pleasing cherry from the nose. This is silky smooth, nigh-seamless despite all the disparate elements. I have a “holy s$%t” moment when I realize I’m also getting legitimate rhubarb aromas, like those I expect to get in a gosh darn cold climate Pinot. Or maybe its just the stemmy aromatic side of green and black olives. Upon reflection, its certainly that … But its also rhubarb. Whoa. Will wonders never cease.

94 points

2015 Cornas Domaine de Saint Pierre (~$107)

Cornas, the southernmost of the northern Rhone appellations, is naturally the warmest as well. Cornas maintains a reputation for producing the most bold and tannic of the northern Rhone wines, although there was a shift in the 1980s toward the softer and more accessible. Biodynamic farming of a 3.9 ha plot at 400 metres elevation plus 40+ year old vines equals  a comfortable stylistic balance between tradition and modernity.

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There is much concentration here and that is my initial impression, big ripe blackberries and figs, but also more delicate red fruits underneath, raspberries and strawberries. The wine is only part bruiser … It also has a deft, slick charm. There’s that darn Frey elegance again! Where the spicy nose on the St.-Joseph was quintessential black pepper, this is all green cardamom pods. Think juicy red plums floating in masala chai. Black liquorice pastels, iron ore, and even a hint of medicinal leech bloodiness emerge mid-palate, a system of checks and balances against the possibility that this might be TOO “modern”. Delightful.

93 points

2015 Hermitage La Maison Bleue ($97)

If Syrah has a spiritual home, it might just be Hermitage hill. Once fetching higher prices than first growth Bordeaux (and also blended in to add extra structure to the former until the mid-19th century!), Hermitage is one of the world’s truly great wines. The appellation is tiny, and circumscribed as it is by Crozes-Hermitage, it cannot grow and thus risk dilution of quality. Although winemaking can never completely escape the advance of modernity, which after all can be used for good or evil, Hermitage does not change much. It endures, while retaining a deserved aura of longevity, power, and rarity…IMG_1346Which makes this bottle all the more compelling. Grapes for La Maison Bleue are obtained primarily from the biodynamically farmed Rocoules section of the Hermitage hill, which is composed of a much higher percentage of silica sand compared to the less fertile granite and limestone soil of the western Bessards and Le Meal, the main sources for La Chapelle. The result is soft and approachable compared to the gargantuan La Chapelle. Adrien is nevertheless careful to explain that this is no “second label”. Indeed, I am greeted with generous wafts of black liquorice, both earthy root and those pipe-shaped candies, and the monastic incense from several of the earlier wines is back full force. I get a pinch of saffron crocus, a thyme and oregano herbaceous character, and even some of that Syrah weirdness I love so much, in this case recalling wet hair or even latex. Still, this is Hermitage that aims to please and placate. The palate is a tidal wave of soft, silky tannins that leaves plump black plums and sweet cherries in its wake. Bright, perky, and check out that ridiculous steal of a price point.

92 points

2013/2015 Hermitage La Chapelle (~$254/~$313)

Here we go. We launch into the 100-pointer. Perhaps that’s the “royal we”. Was I was supposed to try the 2013 first? Oops. I cannot recall and it doesn’t matter. What I do recall with great fidelity was that the 2015 greets one’s nose with pungent sandalwood incense, Memphis BBQ (singed meat, spice rub, and tangy sauce: the entire package), and some sweaty funk. Deep, dark sultry purple fruits (blackberries, plums, currants) make a histrionic entrance, only to be zipped into some sort of extradimensional space mid-palate, likely to emerge years later as some sort of trans-vinous deity. The fruits are replaced by floral, smoky oolong tea with creamer, rare beef just starting to boil in a coriander-laden broth, and a zap of rock salt. The finish is a hedonistic puff of cherry/vanilla/Tonka bean pipe tobacco. Have I mentioned this finish? It is truly eternal. How can an Hermitage this young have a finish this long?! What will happen in 30 years time?! Mesmerizing.

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I regain my composure and proceed to the 2013. Perhaps answers can be found here. This is certainly yielding some good stuff: Dried potpourri flowers, blueberries and blackberries that were riding shotgun on a smoked whole pig, black and white peppercorns, fresh tilled earth, and a little road tar and sweet coal oil. The fruits are drying out but the precision is still there. This is fiercely peppery and powerful, but these authoritative elements are complemented by a discreet classy perfume. I taste back to the 2015, and conclude that while the 2013 is splendid, there is truly something special in the newer vintage. Cognitive dissonance sets in … What, am I supposed to just follow Parker and give it 100 points? How does that look? I hate you, point system. I love you, Hermitage.

95 points/98 points

2014 Muscat Beaumes de Venise (~$25)

Time for dessert. We find ourselves in the southern Rhone now, and Jaboulet’s take on this style is 100% Muscat a Petit Grains from loess heavy clay-limestone soils, vignified in steel tanks. This is a gloriously tasty fortified finale after all those big reds, with fresh yellow flowers (buttercup, dandelion), mango, Honeycomb cereal, and candied pears figuratively bursting on the nose, and a rich juicy palate that recalls apricot and peach syrups, key lime pie (including the graham cracker crust), and fresh nutmeg or mace. Fresh acidity expertly balances the luscious sweetness. We started with elegance, and we close with elegance. I have covered some opulent tastings on this blog. This was truly one for the ages.

92 points      

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