Robert Parker 100
A desert island wine (as is just about any top vintage of the cuvee) and a gorgeous showing, the 2003 Cote Rotie la Mouline is drinking beautifully, yet is still young, loaded with fruit, and possesses over-the-top richness. Giving up notions of plum, liquid flowers, potpourri and smoked meats, this puppy is full-bodied, massive and layered on the palate, with a stacked mid-palate, thrilling amounts of texture, and a blockbuster-styled finish. There’s nothing classic about it, but it’s still as good as it gets. One of the reference point estates for top quality wines in the world today, the family-run Guigal operation was created in 1946 by Etienne Guigal. Today, Etienne’s son, Marcel, and his son, Philippe, are firmly in control here, and are without a doubt producing some of the most singular, sought-after wines in the world. Due to the size of this tasting, I’ll keep my comments short, but the incredible quality coming from this operation is astounding, and a tasting here is always one of the highlights of any trip through the region. Furthermore, while a lot is said about the extended oak aging regime here, I don’t know anyone who tastes mature examples of these wines on a regular basis that still has any doubts about the genius going on here. In short, these single-vineyard (and their blends as well) Cote Roties are some of the greatest wines money can buy. For this tasting (which, with the Guigals, is always a large one!), we focused on their Saint Joseph Vignes des Hospice release, and then three of their Cote Roties, starting with the classic Brune et Blonde, then the Chateau d’Ampuis, and finishing with their single-vineyard La Mouline. Stepping up over the Brune et Blonde, the Cote Rotie Chateau d’Ampuis is named after the Chateau d’Ampuis estate (which lies in the town of Ampuis, along the Rhone River, and was purchased by the Guigal’s in 1995). It is a blend of their top estate vineyards. Coming from La Garde, Le Clos, Grande-Plantee, Pommiere, Pavillon, Le Moulin and La Viria, it spends close to four years in new French oak (handled just like the single-vineyard releases) and there are roughly 30,000 bottles produced in each vintage. While the single-vineyard releases get all the buzz, this is isn’t far behind in quality, especially in recent vintages, and can represent an incredible value. We finished the tasting with a vertical of La Mouline. One of the three single-vineyard Cote Roties produced, this cuvee comes all from the La Mouline lieu-dit that’s located in the more western (close to the middle actually) side of appellation. For simplicity’s sake, you could say it’s in the Cote Blonde part of the region, but in reality, Cote Rotie is much more complex and diverse. Due to its exposure, this vineyard is always the first of the three single-vineyards to be harvest, and also contains some of the oldest vines on the estate. Fermented using pump-overs (as opposed to punch-downs for the La Torque and submersion cap on the La Landonne), it’s cofermented with varying degrees of Viognier, which, in most vintages, ends up being about 10% of the blend. Like the Chateau d’Ampuis and the other two single-vineyard releases, it sees close to four years in 100% new French oak, of which every trace integrates after a few years in bottle. It’s always the most approachable of the single-vineyard releases, and is ready to drink at an earlier stage. For example, the 1999 La Mouline is gloriously mature, while the 1989 La Torque is still an infant. Nevertheless, as the 1978 reviewed here attests to, it has no problem evolving for decades (although I don’t recommend holding bottles that long). In short, this was a flight of Cote Roties I’ll not forget anytime soon! Importer: Vintus Wines, Pleasantville, NY; tel. (914) 769-3000
Saturated ruby. Superripe dark berry and cherry aromas, with an intense violet accent and a hint of minerals. Remarkably dense and packed with cherry and dark berry flavors, but with an energetic lift of acidity arriving on the back. Gets sweeter with air, taking on wild strawberry and raspberry qualities. Finishes with fine, dusty tannins and a fresh kick of raspberry. These 2003s are slated to be bottled in February of 2007.