Robert Parker 89
Aromas of lilacs, crushed rocks, blue and red fruits and a gamy, earthy scent emerge from the dark ruby-hued, medium-bodied 2008 Cote Rotie La Mordoree (604 cases produced). It is complex aromatically, but seems to fall off on the palate. Nevertheless, it is a fine effort for a 2008. Drink it over the next 7-8 years. Other extraordinary efforts readers should be watching for include the 2009 Bila Haut Lesquerde, a Syrah dominated wine that I scored in the upper-90s. Equally as profound, but made from a completely different blend is the Bila Haut Cotes du Roussillon Villages La Tour de France, which is a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah. Both of these offerings are as remarkable as wine can be. From Australia, some wines to take note of include the Domaine Tournon 2009 Shiraz (or Syrah), an outstanding red sold at a fair price, and his single vineyard offerings the 2009 Shiraz Shays’ Flat and the 2009 Shiraz Landsborough, both extraordinary, mid-90 point Syrahs from Victoria. Also, readers should not forget his 2009 La Pleiade M45, a Syrah from the Cambrian soils of Heathcote. An Australian wine that flirts with perfection, which I had never tasted before, is the 2009 Shiraz One Shot from Beechworth, which is like a liqueur of blueberries and raspberries intermixed with graphite, tar and minerality. Other stunning offerings from Domaine Terlato and Chapoutier include the 2009 Shiraz Malakoff (rated 92-94) and the 2009 Shiraz L Block (rated 93-95+). Last, but not least, Michel Chapoutier has entered the Portuguese wine arena, producing two extraordinary wines from a 5-hectare parcel in the Douro. The 2009 Touriga Nacional (rated 94-96) comes from pure schist soils. It reveals incredible floral notes intermixed with sweet blueberry, black raspberry and cassis. As amazing as it is, it may be surpassed by the 2009 Touriga Nacional Pinteivera from Pinhao. It is undeniably the single greatest red Portuguese wine I have ever tasted. It, too, is from schist soils. Both of these wines are remarkable efforts from what may be the world’s leading, irreverent genius in winemaking and winemaking philosophy. And one more thing about the remarkable Michel Chapoutier, he now has property in Alsace, Domaine Schieferkopf. I tasted a 2009 Riesling (rated 89), 2009 Riesling Buehl (rated 93), and 2009 Riesling Fels (rated 94). All are very dry, crisp, medium to full-bodied Rieslings from the Andlau sector of northern Alsace. These remarkable whites come from schist soils and Chapoutier has again demonstrated his Midas touch with a completely different varietal. Michel Chapoutier is firmly convinced that 2009 is the greatest vintage in his lifetime, which means 2009 surpasses 2003 (he made some great wines in that unusual vintage), 1999, 1990 and 1989 (his debut vintage after taking over the firm). These wines are all produced by bio-dynamically farmed vineyards. Moreover, there is no chaptalization or acidification, and as Michel Chapoutier says, he wants to capture each vintage in photographic detail. It is also important to recognize Chapoutier’s life philosophy, which, rather than being obsessed with correcting one’s faults, is dedicated to capitalizing on one’s strengths. For all of his charm and bravado, Chapoutier is the quintessential man of the soil, a true terroiriste dedicated to producing the most vivid, natural and unadulterated expressions of the many different vineyards with which he works. While 2009 was a perfect year of extraordinary concentration as well as freshness, the 2008 vintage experienced huge rainstorms on September 5, 6 and 8. However, Chapoutier argues that while his bio-dynamically farmed vineyards suffered from some dilution, they had no sanitary problems like many other estates endured. Certainly his 2008s appear to be among the strongest efforts in a disappointing vintage in the Northern Rhone. One expects Chapoutier to excel with his four Hermitage vineyards (Le Pavillon, l’Ermite, Le Meal and Les Greffieux). Tasting through the 2009s reinforces the belief that this is one of the all-time great vintages for the entire Northern Rhone Valley. It couldn’t happen at a better time. While certain 2003s are great, there really hasn’t been an overall consistently profound vintage in the Northern Rhone since 1990. Connoisseurs should be stocking up on the single vineyard offerings, both white and red, which are spectacular. Michel Chapoutier makes a bevy of other wines that merit a few notes because they are so good. Even though they are not from my areas of responsibilities, I thought I would mention a few that stood out when I tasted with him. Like an itinerant genius, Chapoutier has projects in Australia, Portugal and southern France. I and my colleague David Schildknecht have written about his exquisite offerings from the Cotes du Roussillon under the label Domaine de Bila Haut, and his partnership with the Laughton family for his Agly Brothers Cotes du Roussillon rouge. These wines all merit attention from consumers. Importer: Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, IL; tel. (847) 604-8900
Anticipated maturity: 2011-2019
Vivid purple. Pungent, high-toned aromas of black raspberry, cherry-cola, spices and herbs. Juicy, smoky and spicy, with smoothly integrated acidity giving an impression of energy to its sweet dark berry flavors. Finishes brisk, with good bite and lingering spiciness.
Quite farmyardy on the nose, but there is better fruit clarity on the palate. Cracked black pepper and bitter chocolate with a furry, grippy tannic finish. Seems a little suppressed overall. (RH)
Anticipated maturity: 2012-2018