2013 Crozes-Hermitage “Petite Ruche” Blanc 2013 – As I wrote above, I am not a big buyer of Rhone wines so I do not know the vintages very well. On the nose, this wine had a bit of tropical fruit (I noted that it had similar characteristics to some of the cooler Mark Ryan Viognier wines), some white flowers, and some citrus (maybe grapefruit). On the palate, there was good balance and acidity. There was a bit of white pepper, some citrus fruit rind, along with the fruits and flowers noted on the nose. The wine had a medium body with a medium finish. For the price (around $20), I would say this was a great wine.
2012 Hermitage “Chante Alouette” – This wine was very interesting to me. It is 100% Marsanne which I had never had before (I have had Marsanne before, but not on its own). My initial impression was that this wine was very good. I noted that it seemed to have seen some new oak (which other people in the group also noted). However, the Chapoutier website states that the wine has only seen neutral oak (which appears odd considering my guess would have been 10-15% of new oak). On the nose, there were definitely some nuts (almonds and walnuts), maybe some apple and pear (others described this as quince), and some warm spices. The palate was similar to the nose with an emphasis on the nutty component (I described it as almond peal/dust taste) and a bit of hay. The wine was medium-full bodied, had very good acidity, a very long finish, and was very rich. This was unlike any white wine that I have ever had. Overall, I really liked it and I would recommend it if you do not mind paying over 100$.
2011 Chateauneuf-du-Pape “La Bernardine” – This wine was definitely young and needed some time to mellow out. I prefer my CDP to have some age on it. This wine was quite closed. I am not sure how long the wine was opened before we arrived, but they could certainly have opened it earlier than they did. On the nose, there was some black pepper, some dark fruits, some licorice, maybe some roasted coffee, and warm spiced. On the palate, I got more fruits than on the nose but the fruits were a mixture of red and dark fruits. More specifically, I got some raspberries, red cherries, red currant, plum, maybe some red pepper, and warm spices again (some said cinnamon but I could not put my finger on the exact spice). This was not what I have come to expect from CDP. The abnormally high use of Grenache in this wine may explain the discrepancy. I could not detect any oak in the wine. Overall, I thought that this was a decent wine but I prefer other producers for CDP (Beaucastel) for similar prices.
2011 Hermitage “Monier de la Sizeranne” – This wine was the major reason I attended the tasting in the first place. Since I had recently come back from a week in Walla Walla, I wanted to compare Syrah from France to some of the best Washington State Syrah. There was a striking difference between what I tasted in Walla Walla and this Hermitage wine. Do not get me wrong: I was expecting a difference but these were definitely more different than expected. I have tasted wines that resembled their old world counterparts quite closely, but it was not the case here.
Much like the CDP, this wine was quite closed. Given that the tasting organizers are trying to convince us to buy these wines, I am amazed that they are not being more careful in trying to show these wines at their best. For future reference, these wines should probably be opened a few hours before the event (or maybe double decanted). On the nose, it seemed this wine had seen some new oak (it is not clear from the website’s description if it was indeed the case), some red fruits, and maybe some earth/stone. The nose also showed a bit of funk (not sure how else to describe it). On the palate, I got some dried meats (might have been where the funk on the nose was coming from), some spice, some red and dark fruits (raspberry and blackberry), and savory herbs (rosemary?). The wine was very elegant with round tannins and a good amount of acidity. Overall, I thought that this was a great wine and I would not hesitate to buy it despite its 120$ price tag.