Author:  M.A. de la Mata


1989 Hermitage "Vin de Paille", Jean Louis Chave. A very expensive half-bottle I must write. However, it is worth it. It has all these peach, figs, almond and floral flavors that give it an identity similar to the regular Hermitage Blanc. The only differences are, other than $120.00 and 375 ml, that the "Vin de Paille" is richly sweet and timeless. This wine will stick around forever. It is only made from grapes grown in excellent vintages, thus is rare. Chave only makes a few cases of this wine (3 bt per case).

1991 Hermitage Blanc, Jean Louis Chave. The white is not for the faint-hearted. It is rich, floral, offering deep and complex flavors of sun-dried apricot and azalea, with a spicy and minty finish. This is another wine that you can start enjoying in the next couple of years and beyond year 2000.

NV Cuvee St. Pierre Blanc, Mommessin. This is the white wine half of the previously reviewed Red. It is light and refreshing with light creamy tonalities and a clean finish. At $6.99 for 1 liter of this wine, it is a real bargain!

1994 Cotes du Rhone Rose, Guigal ($9.99). Bitter and fruitless.  Not recommended.

1995 Ch Pierre Bise, Papin Chevalier, Coteaux du Layon Chaume ($18.00-$20.00 / 375 ml)(Dessert Wine, 8/97).  Unknown grape composition, fermentation, and aging. 12% Alc. By Volume, 375 ml.  Spicy and sweet aromas with hints of dried figs.  The aromas continue in the palate, with added florality, unctuosity and a touch of clove.  Very pleasant long finish.  Best with peach flambe.  VHR.


1985 Hermitage Rouge, JL Chave, France ($??)  Another potent wine with a clean appeal and feel in the palate.  It offered a tremendous amount of bing cherry flavors and spicy vanilla, almost cinnamon-like.  It was not quite ready to drink.  We finished the paella with this wine.  I must add that this wine was a gift from Chrish Peel.  I promised to drink it with him, but he has not called lately, so I did not know if he was still alive…

1986 Cornas, Delas, Rhone. Ready to drink, peaking now. It was a delicious, ready to enjoy vino, fully open in the aromas and palate. It offered a roasted coffee bean nose, with a ripe fruit, caramel, coffee and casis finish. Drink it over the next few months.

1988 St. Joseph, Domaine de Cheffieux, Northern Rhone ($??).  100% Syrah, unknown wood aging period.  Fully open and aromatic with plentiful spicy and earthy/ripe flavors.  Cedary, hermitage-like character toward the end of the palate and finish.  Highly Recommended.  Try it with Fillet Mignon.

1988 Cornas Cuvee "C" , Marcel Juge, Rhone. An exemplary well-aged Cornas with an opulent earthy nose and a palate of ripe cherry with mineral and earthy notes. It will age well for another 3-5 years, although it is ready now.

1988 Chateauneuf du Pape, Domaine Les Gallets, Rhone ($??).  Southern Rhone grape blend of unknown specifics.  Nice nose and palate with robust flavors of raspberry and earthy tones.  The finish is clean, long and persistently providing an earthy and fruity feel.  Pork.

1990 Chateau de la Gardine, Chateauneuf de Pape. It is earthy, medium to heavy body, dominated by spice and black fruit flavors with a long finish. I must add that this wine is a great match for meats, and roasts.

1991 Hermitage Rouge, J.L. Chave (11/94). This is a wine made by one of the foremost producers in Rhone. It is a bit restrained in the nose, but plentiful for the taste buds...Deep, complex and stunning. Some rating watchers love the wines, but shy away because "the 1992 vintage did not receive high marks from the press". Never-the-less; 1) trust your palate above ratings, & 2) a good wine maker makes good wines irrespective of the vintage ratings...

1991 Hermitage Rouge, Jean Louis Chave (12/95). This red exhibits, in its youth, gripping flavors of blackberry, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice, with tannins to boot and a long finish. Please, please, wait at least 9 years before opening the second bottle.

1991 Hermitage Rouge, J.L. Chave ($65.99), progress report (3/97).  100% Syrah, 24 months in new French oak barrels.  The wine is barely beginning to unwind.  At las reviewed, its aromas were equivalent to those you  get from a wet rock.  After open for three days, however, it offers a myriad of  dense aromas along the line of cedar, spice and dried figs.  The aromas follow in the palate with fullness, richly textured layers of chewy raspberry, black pepper,   tobacco and others.  It is quite young, but getting there.  Wait another 7 years.  Highly recommended.

1992 Cotes du Rhone, Domaine St. Roch, Rhone. Here is your last chance to stock up. It has more punch that the color suggests. It is spicy and fruity with balanced acidity and velvety tannins

1992 St. Joseph, Colombo, Rhone (8/95). The best way to describe this Rhone wine is as rich and exuberant, chewy and with a lasting bing cherry bouquet. Tannin is a bit more present than in the Syrah, but time will undoubtedly tame this wine. Try after 1999.

1992 St. Joseph, Colombo ($24.99), progress report(3/97).  100% Syrah, 12 month in French oak.  This is a heavier style of the so called "lighter" St. Joseph wines.  It is truly in character for the origin with bountiful Syrah fruit aromas and flavors.  It is a notch above the regular Cotes du Rhone since it has a very nice limpidity and elegance that ends in a long and delicately cherry flavor.  Beef, lamb.  Highly recommended.

1992 Cornas "Terre Brulee"Jean-Luc Colombo - 50 year-old vines (6/94). Although, according to the ratings, 1992 was not one of Cornas shining stars vintage-wise, this wine still is worthy of your attention. It offers typical Rhone Valley aromas and flavors of earthy and spicy raspberry with fine tannin and elegantly balanced alcohol and acidity contents. The finish is impeccable and long lasting. I would recommend this wine with grilled meats. Try it in 3 to 5 years.

1992 Cornas "Terre Brulee" 50 yr. Old vines, Colombo (11/95). A bit restrained in the nose (due to its youth) but hinting to earthy and mineral tones with a rose blossom character. In the palate it is expansive leading to a complex and lasting finish. Best with beef dishes and hearty meals. Try after year 2000.

1992 Cornas "Terres Brulees", Colombo ($34.99)(3/97).  100% Syrah, 14 month in French oak.  This wine defines the term "earthy".  From aromas to finish, you get intense ripe berries and earthy tones, with a mid-palate weight and thoroughness that fulfills your needs for a dense and complex Northern Rhone wine.  Beef.  Highly recommended.

1992 Ch Val Joanis, Cotes de Luberon Red. Quite a different style than what people are used to in our area, yet very enticing. It is made with Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre grapes. No wood aging and 6 months aging in the bottle before release. It is made in the Luberon region, Southern France. I found this wine to be exotic, deliciously chewy, with bountiful fruit, layered flavors and well perfumed in the palate. Plenty of spicy and tobacco flavors make this one boldly erotic red wine.

1993 Cotes du Rhone, Domaine St. Roch (11/95). 1993 was not a particularly good vintage for Rhone. This wine, although less fruity than the 1992, still holds the Rhone character and the ease to drink of lower priced Rhones. A good Rhone "starter" wine for every day drinking.

1993 Syrah, Domaine de la Thou, VDP, Languedoc (8/94). This is a rich Midi-South-West French Syrah (100%). It offers opulent aromas, extraction, and palate feel. It is richly textured to deliver bountiful fruit in the style that has made Languendoc worldly known.

1993 Syrah, Domaine de la Thou Syrah, Languedoc (11/95). This is a full-bodied varietal with good concentration, fat palate feel, full of plum, spice and raspberry flavors. It will improve over the next 2 years. Still young, tannin are firm.

1993 Syrah, Ch La Thou, Languedoc ($16.99)(7/96).  100% Syrah, no wood aging.  This deep-Southeastern French wine is a mouth full of Syrah character with intense cherry flavors and cassis.  It is still a bit tannic, but well balanced, and with a lasting finish (4+ minutes!) of bing cherry.  Beef, roasted duck.

1994 Cotes du Rhone, Mommessin, Rhone.. A nice, in your face, very fruity nose- and palate-wise Rhone red. It is generously filled with cherry-raspberry flavors and an added spicy medium length finish (a very good value.)

1995 Cotes du Rhone Reserve, La Vielle Ferme. It was a nice surprise. It is an up-front wine with plenty of fruit, spice and weight. The only significant flaw that I could notice was that the alcohol was rather evident in the finish thus killing all fruit flavor and leaving an ether-like impression, but with food this wine should be very good.

1994 Cotes du Rhone 100% Syrah, Jean Luc Colombo, Rhone ($16.99).  As the label says, 100% Syrah, with 12 months in French oak barrels.  Spicy nose, with bountiful raspberry and cherry flavors.  It follows in the palate with more of the same, plus a hint of tobacco and a touch of earthy/terroir flavors that continue on to a long finish.  It has high acidity at this point.  That fact together with the weight,  inkyness of its color and the somewhat closed-in nose and plate, will warrant this wine to be aged.

1994 Merlot VDP, Quancard, Bordeaux/Languedoc ($7.99).  100% Merlot, no wood aging.  This fine Merlot is the result of a selection of blends.  In March of 1995, my friend Jean Rene Bauhuaud from Cheval Qauncard asked me what were the main trends in the U.S.  I gave him a bottle of my Blackstone Merlot, and said "can you make something like this and keep the price so it is below $10.00 on the shelf?  A few months went by and he answered with six different blends.  He said he could do most of everything except the wood aging in order to keep the price reasonable.  The blend chosen by me has arrived.  It is light, fruity, well balanced and perfectly in character with spicy red fruit flavors and a medium, and very pleasant finish.  Caramelized pork and Portabello mushrooms, tandoori dishes.

1995 Domaine de la Solitude Cotes du Rhone, Lancon, Rhone ($9.99).  Syrah, Grenache, Carignane, no wood aging.  This is a fantastic wine with a peculiar label.  It is made by the five century-old wine making family of Lancon, owners of the Domaine de la Solitude (you may recognize the name from the classy Chateauneuf du Pape currently in the market).  It offers a concentrated nose of cherry and raspberry with a hint of spice and earthiness.  These same aromas follow through in the palate with even more concentration, although not heavy in body.  The finish is long and clean with significant lasting cherry impressions.  Roasted duck.

1995 Domain Richeaume, Cotes de Provence ($11.99).  Another Summer Rose quaff with good balance, effusively fruity, spicy lasting finish. Recommended.

NV Cuvee Saint Pierre Red, Mommessin.. It is not vintaged, yet it has good character and it is affordable. It is made with Pinot Noir, Grenache, Carignane, and Mourvedre, all typical of Southern France, and without wood nor bottle aging. An everyday quaff (as wine snobs call it) that will please just about everyone. No, it is not profound nor complex, neither are the $5.99 that you will shell out for this nice red.