2011 Saint Cosme, Cote-Rotie
It’s been ten years since we’ve put a Cote-Rotie in this club. Bear put the 1997 Guigal Brune et Blonde in the October 2003 Spec Club, back when it was only $47. Single vineyard Cote-Roties like that one are now well out of the price range for this club, and require even more time in the cellar. The market for these kind of wines has slowed radically since the great vintages of 1997 through 2000, and fewer distributors bring them into our area. But it’s not a surprise that we should choose a Cote-Rotie from Louis Barruel’s iconic winery, Saint Cosme, since they make some of the most accessible, lovely wines in the Rhone Valley, from their everyday Little James table wine through their high end wines from the most acclaimed villages. The winery itself dates from the fourteenth century but consists of only 15 acres of old vines in Gigondas. Since 1997 Louis has been buying fruit from other small estates around the Rhone Valley and making what he calls his “Negociant-Vigneron wines, fermented at the original estate and transported in cask to his winery in Gigondas. Contrary to what you would expect, this wine is not Syrah, but is 100% Serine, an obscure and very old grape that still grows in a few places in the northern Rhone. The grapes are sourced from two very different sites: “Le Plomb,” the highest site in Cote Rotie, and “La Viaillère,” a rocky site lower on the “roasted slope” (English for Cote Rotie). Despite the unusual grape, the wine shows the flavors of classic Cote Rotie: “soot, bacon, violet, graphite, cold ash, ancient roses, liquorish,” as the winery describes it. While it’s already showing lovely fruit, this unfiltered wine will reward your patience. Give it ten years in your cellar and prepare to be amazed. It is $65 and very limited.
2013 Hamilton Russell Vineyards, Chardonnay
Hamilton Russell was founded in 1975 by Tim Hamilton Russell, chairman of one of South Africa’s leading advertising conglomerates. It is located in the cool, maritime Walker Bay area, in a beautiful valley behind the old fishing village of Hermanus. It is quite a distance away from the rest of the South African wine industry, as the most southerly wine estate in South Africa and the closest one to the sea. (It should also be noted that it was the leading force in the movement to pay black workers in cash wages instead of wines.) As noted on the label, the shale soils of the area have proven themselves to be particularly suitable for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. With their wines rising in international prominence after the end of apartheid, Hamilton Russell has continuously sought to improve, by planting better clones, buying the latest equipment, and even by constructing their own oak barrels. While we have carried small amounts of this beautiful Chardonnay for quite a few years, it does get a little neglected over in the South African section. It’s barrel fermented and aged on its lees for nine months, producing a wine that is quite dry and minerally, with a long, zesty finish. It has often been described as a cross between a Chassagne-Montrachet and an elite Sonoma Coast Chard, and we found that quite appropriate. White Burgundy fans in particular will not be disappointed, particularly with the price: $29.75. Already quite complex, it will continue to develop over the next five years. The winery recommends it as a particularly good match for hard cheeses, particularly parmesan or cheddar cheese, or seared scallops. The 2013 vintage is quite limited, since all the major wine scribes gave it 93 points, although we can get a bit more from the distributor.