Tramps Like Us, Baby We Were Born To Rhone (Jan. 12, 2018)

Syrah  - my fourth favorite grape
Syrah is my fourth favorite grape. Well, actually it's almost tied with Chardonnay for third place; Chardonnay broke ahead because of Champagne. Riesling and Pinot Noir won the two top seeds.

This was one night where we not only had a theme - but, hey!, everyone stuck to it. We didn't bother with too much variety, though. Except for the Israeli representative, we held firm to our love for the North Rhone.

Carmel, Kayumi, Syrah, 2006

The Kayumi hails back from the days when everyone thought Syrah would be the next great thing in Israel. Which isn’t quite how it turned out. Syrah never sold as well as Cabernet, and, recently, other varieties have successfully courted the hipster crowd. Anyway, this is a nicely mature Israeli red, not breathtaking, but with enough winey nuances to keep you interested.

Pierre Gonon, Saint Joseph, 2014

Gonon, as the textbooks and just about every Rhone lover will tell you, is the star of Saint Joseph. The best twenty dollar wine I've ever drunk was the Gonon second red wine, a Syrah VDP. This bottle captures the deep, beautiful mystery of the North Rhone: the olive tapenade, the meat, the lithe fruit whose power never overwhelms. The complexity is good enough in its own right, but that evocative mystery is the Gonon's strong suit.

Yves Cuilleron, Saint Joseph, Les Serines, 1999

1999 was a great vintage in the North Rhône but some things just weren’t meant to last this long. I remember how suave and juicy this was at its youth, now all that's left is an oaky cask for a tombstone.

Bonnefound, Cote Rotie, les Rochains, 2013

An indifferent Côte Rotie, a little overripe, a little too oaky. Maybe we caught it at a bad phase, because the internet claims "the wine is aged in 25% new, 400 liter barrels for up to 20 months before bottling" (les Rochains is also right next to famed la Landonne, as if to add insult to injury). The internet also claims "this can be difficult to find as the production is limited to an average of 300 cases per vintage". Thanks for trying so hard, Ido, you really shouldn't have.

Levet, Côte Rotie, La Chavaroche, 2011

The real Côte Rotie deal at last. As good as the Gonon was, this shows why the Côte Rotie is such a highly regarded gem of an AOC. What we have here is bacon and pepper carried to a very balanced free floating extreme. Still, there’s oak in the drying finish and I’d call it five years from its window.

Delas, Hermitage, Domaine des Tourettes, 2010

Pepper and oak, young. I stopped here, possibly grand on another night, but I must say it’s not the best Hermitage I’ve ever had.

Gaston Chiquet, Valee de la Marne, Millésime Or, Premier Cru, Brut, 2007

Ripe and sweet, more so than previous vintages I've had, but for all that, very sexy with palate etching chalk and a whiff of mushrooms.