One of the gems of the northern Rhone valley of France is the appellation of Côte-Rôtie. Meaning "roasted slope," it is a relatively small growing area, consisting of small, difficult to farm terraces. As the name would imply, it is a very, very warm place to grow grapes.
Only red wines are produced in Côte-Rôtie, but are composed of up to 20 percent of the white grape Viognier, along with the red grape Syrah. They are among the richest and longest lived wines of France.
For the first time, tasters brought three different vintages of the same wine. While these wines displayed many of the same dark characteristics, they were also very distinct.
Hartwell and Josephine deserve praise for being the evening's guest tasters, as well as for winning second and third prizes.
First Place: Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde 1999. Containing 5% Viognier, this looked and smelled thicker than the rest, having aromas of cherries, sweet vermouth, ruby port, dust, holiday spices, white pepper, and herbs. On the palate, tasters noted blackberries, black cherries, cherry coke, smoke, oak, and bacon fat. Prominent tannins on the finish. Well balanced. Andy decided that "this one went to finishing school". Received 28 points. Ali's bottle. About $56.
Second Place: Clusel-Roch Côte-Rôtie 2003. Displaying a perfumed nose of cola, oak, cedar, cloves, licorice, cardamom, lily, caramel, chestnut honey, roast beef, tube roses, and violets. Andy detected "minor fecalness". Unfiltered, and full-bodied, with a structured, tannic, mouth-coating texture. Tasting of black pepper, dust, and ink. Ali noted that it had "a slightly violent quality". Received 22 points. Josephine's bottle. About $45.
Third Place: Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde 2001. Exhibited fungus and mold scents, which reminded Andy of "grandma's basement". Others noted grass, rose petals, bell pepper, and twigs. Jo felt it was reminiscent of "wet concrete", "wet bark", and "Channel #19". Tasted of anise, apple-cinnamon, tobacco, and shoe leather. Lighter in texture than some of the others, with higher acidity. Received 18 points. Hart's bottle. About $44.
Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde 1998. Not unpleasant scents of new rubber glove, saw dust, black licorice, urine, and venison. Jo found "a little bit of poopiness". Hart noted aromas of "diaper", and felt it had a good texture. Chewy, with plums, prunes, dates, pepper, vanilla, and smoke. Pleasant, and showed softness. Received 10 points. David's bottle. About $60.
Guy Bernard Côte-Rôtie 2001. Possessing aromas of buttery omelet, dirty sponge, bananas, smoke, dark chocolate, iris, wet stone, burnt toast, hints of black cherry, raisin, and lavender. Hart noted that it "clings to your tongue more". Inky, dark, and having flavors of black licorice, but overall less complex than the rest. Decent attack, but has a hollow mid-palate. Received 6 points. Kristin's bottle. About $48.
Joel Champet Côte-Rôtie La Vialliere 2001. Tasters had the most to say about this one, with descriptions like, "dirty diaper" (Jo), "dirty rubber ball" (Andy), and "frat house on a Sunday morning" (Ali). Hart felt that "it smells like someone tried to clean up after something", while Kristin decided that is was "atrocious". Ali added, "smells like an old hippie", with Hart commenting that it "morphed from diaper to litter box". Tasting flat, with a dusty, spicy quality, along with wet cardboard and licorice. Thin in texture, and finishing sour. No points. Andy's bottle. About $50.