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Jay Labrador

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WTN: Guigals

by Jay Labrador » Mon Jan 21, 2013 4:48 am

Notes from dinner at Wil's last night.

I arrived a bit late but was pleased to see the preparations were well made. Bottles had been opened and the contents decanted to let the wines breathe. This was to be an all Guigal event, at least as far as the dry reds were concerned. While waiting for some other guests we enjoyed some Champagne Foliage Extra Brut NV. I had never heard of this champagne before but some research on the internet implies this is from a Russian owned house. The vineyard is certified organic and the wine is composed of 60% Chardonnay from the Cotes des Blancs with the balance equally divided between Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Lively, about medium weight and very dry. This has good length but the finish has a hint of bitterness. It’s a pretty good champagne and manages to be refreshing without being too lemony or acidic.

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Champagne Foliage Extra Brut NV by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

Our first red was Guigal’s Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde 2004. 96% Syrah 4% Viognier, the Brune refers to the northern dark schist slope while the Blonde is a reference to the light granite soil of the southern slope. It is also said that the slopes are named after the daughters of a local lord, one of whom had brown hair, the other blond. The wine is quite dark and has a very woodsy nose reminiscent of cedar and old cupboards. This is still quite firm despite the three hour decanting. Spicy and dry, the palate also exhibits some of the woodiness found on the nose. A good wine but overshadowed b the next one.

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Guigal Cote Rotie 2004 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

The second red was the Guigal Hermitage 2005. This was even darker than the Cote Rotie. This is very youthful. This is mostly black fruit like plums and cherries. It’s a rich, full, fleshy wine. The oak is not quite integrated as it sticks out and gives off some vanilla character. Again, 3 hours in the decanter but this seems to have hardly budged. Very good, although tending to “International” in style, this has a long life ahead of it. Good to drink now but with plenty of upside. I thought this paired nicely with the sweet, fried Chinese sausage and smoked baby-back ribs from a small barbecue joint near the Valle Verde Country Club called Smokeout. I thought the ribs were great – fall off the bone tender with a sweet/tangy sauce and a hint of smoke.

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Guigal Hermitage 2005 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

Our last red was one of Guigal’s top wines, Chateau d’Ampuis Cote Rotie 2004. This wine is named after the Chateau that serves as the headquarters of Guigal. In this vintage, the blend was 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier. This had a creamy texture although I found it a touch acidic. The oak is discernible but not obtrusive. There’s some prune and mushroom on the palate as well as some blackcurrant. Better than the Brune et Blonde but I still preferred the Hermitage.

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Guigal Chateau d'Ampuis Cote Rotie 2004 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

For dessert we had a half bottle of Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas 1991 Vintage Port. Very fragrant. Grape jelly and sweet spices. Grapey, with a little coffee and bittersweet chocolate mixed in. Fully mature. Not all that sweet and a little short on the finish but still, an enjoyable way to end.

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Taylor's Vintage Port Quinta de Vargellas 1991 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

Many thanks to Wil for the unexpected but most welcome call. Let’s do this again soon!
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Tom Troiano

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Re: WTN: Guigals

by Tom Troiano » Mon Jan 21, 2013 3:37 pm

Jay/All,

I have a a fair amount of experience with older (pre 1998) "regular" Guigal Cote Rotie and the La Las, but not much experience with the Ch. d Ampius. Recently I had a bottle of 2000 Guigal Cote Rotie that I thought was really boring. My question is this, given that many who supplied fruit to Guigal in the 70s and 80s, for example, now may make their own wines do you think the Ch. d Ampius of today is more similar in quality to the regular Cote Rotie of 25 years ago and the regular Cote Rotie is significantly less quality than 25 years ago? I really can't remember seeing anything really positive about the regular Cote Rotie lately.
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Re: WTN: Guigals

by Jay Labrador » Mon Jan 21, 2013 10:10 pm

Hi Tom,

I hope someone can address your question. I don't think I've had any Guigal pre 1998 so I'm not in a position to offer an opinion. I do have a friend who has a lot of experience with Guigals. I'll pass this on to him and see what he says.

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Re: WTN: Guigals

by David M. Bueker » Mon Jan 21, 2013 10:38 pm

2000 is pretty boring (with a few exceptions) in the Northern Rhone. I have enjoyed later Guigals, but fashion is moving away from the style.
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Re: WTN: Guigals

by Robert Helms » Tue Jan 22, 2013 11:38 am

Tom,

My own opinion is that the Guigal base Cote-Rotie was never that interesting a wine after they discovered that they could make a lot more money with the La-Las. For a long time (possibly continuing to this day), getting an allocation of La-Las meant agreeing to buy significant quantities of both the Cotes du Rhone and the base Cote-Rotie. So certain UK wine merchants were always offering deals on the Cotes du Rhone and the Cote-Rotie. So I tend to put the Guigal Cote-Rotie in the same quality bracket as the Jaboulet Jumelles, i.e., pretty far down the Cote-Rotie pecking order.

The Chateau d'Ampuis was supposed to fit in the gap between the quality of the La-Las and the base and compete with Ogier and Jamet and similar. I have a couple of bottles of the 1999 but haven't had a bottle in at least five years.

Regards,

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Re: WTN: Guigals

by Tom Troiano » Tue Jan 22, 2013 11:54 am

Robert Helms wrote: The Chateau d'Ampuis was supposed to fit in the gap between the quality of the La-Las and the base


Thanks! That is kinda what I thought but I don't have a lot of experience with the d'Ampius. I guess I should buy some.

Going forward I'm ignoring the "base". When I hit the lottery there will be more La Las.

Thanks!
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Re: WTN: Guigals

by David M. Bueker » Tue Jan 22, 2013 12:06 pm

Not sure what time frame people are referring to with thier criticism of the Brune et Blonde. The '95 was stunning a couple of years ago. The '99 is still young but very interesting. I have had the 2001, and it's good but much too young.
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Re: WTN: Guigals

by Mark Lipton » Tue Jan 22, 2013 4:39 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:Not sure what time frame people are referring to with thier criticism of the Brune et Blonde. The '95 was stunning a couple of years ago. The '99 is still young but very interesting. I have had the 2001, and it's good but much too young.


The Brune et Blonde is the only Guigal Cote-Rotie that I've enjoyed (the others being too big and oaky). I am told by voices that I trust, including the redoubtable JLL, that even the La-Las do in time return to more typicity but I haven't had one with enough cellar time to be able to observe that firsthand and, on my budget, likely never will. The '85 Brune et Blonde, on the other hand, still has a fond place in my memory.

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Re: WTN: Guigals

by Hoke » Tue Jan 22, 2013 5:00 pm

Did a tour of vineyards and cellar last year, with extensive tasting, and the La-Las are still formidable. The oak presence is still characteristic in the BetB; the vintages I tasted still had that bombastic black fruit glossed with oak; if anything they were showing more forward and "California" fruit when young, but still chunky and blocky in the CR style.

My takeaway is that the runaway success of Guigal has allowed them to streamline and robotocize their internal operations significantly, along with expanding their cellaring space, improving their barrel regimen (and thereby continuing the oak influence) and being able to "craft" or mold their wines they way they wish them to go.

It has been something of a challenge over the years because in developing their supplier vineyards, which they were good at assisting and husbanding and educating to improve quality, those suppliers would often be able to break out on their own, so other sources were constantly being developed. The Guigal family has been as good for the Rhone as the Rhone has been for the Guigals.

I'd say the Guigals were pretty much forced by business ideas to "lock in" their style, with the Brune et Blonde being the bread and butter, the La-Las being the halo generator and the Ampuis able to go in whatever direction they wished...along with spurring incredible growth in the volume moneymakers of the CdR, the white, the red and the rose bottlings.

So while they might no longer be the stratospheric producers, the stars, they once were, they are still solid, dependable, reliable, and occasionally brilliant, northern Rhone syrah producers. (And it's interesting, isn't it, that for someone so closely identified with the Cote Rotie, they are so consistently good at producing shockingly good Hermitage wines?
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Re: WTN: Guigals

by Tom Troiano » Tue Jan 22, 2013 6:22 pm

Hoke,

Thanks!!!!! Great stuff.
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Re: WTN: Guigals

by Tom Troiano » Tue Jan 22, 2013 6:26 pm

Mark Lipton wrote: The '85 Brune et Blonde, on the other hand, still has a fond place in my memory.


That's my problem!!! The '85 and '78 Guigal CR BeB were so great that I just can't get excited about the one's I've tasted recently.

Of course, at this point, my memory of those wines may be (is likely) imperfect.
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Re: WTN: Guigals

by Bill Spohn » Wed Jan 23, 2013 4:17 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:Not sure what time frame people are referring to with thier criticism of the Brune et Blonde. The '95 was stunning a couple of years ago. The '99 is still young but very interesting. I have had the 2001, and it's good but much too young.


Had the 95 B&B recently and it still drinks very well.

I regard the Ampuis as an attempt to create another mid range above the B&B and below the Lala territory to flog more wine, and not a completely successful one. In a way it reminds me of the CNduP producers that divert their best grapes to a De Capo, to the detriment of the regular wine, and I often wish they'd just get on with making the best wine they can at a price more people could afford.
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Re: WTN: Guigals

by Hoke » Wed Jan 23, 2013 4:32 pm

I often wish they'd just get on with making the best wine they can at a price more people could afford.


Yahbut, the trouble is when you shift from making wine to making money, that goes out the window in favor of a 'business model' and increasing shareholder value and "not leaving any money on the table".

If everybody thinks it is affordable, you're not charging enough for it. You're not maximizing your your profit potential, dude. :lol:
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Re: WTN: Guigals

by David M. Bueker » Wed Jan 23, 2013 4:46 pm

I would not compare Pegau (maker of Da Capo) to Guigal. Tasting several vintages of Da Capo it's the really overripe grapes that seem to get into that wine. I find regular Pegau to still be consistently excellent. The 2000 is drinking exceedingly well right now.
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Re: WTN: Guigals

by Bill Spohn » Wed Jan 23, 2013 5:02 pm

In that specific case, Laurence is culling the 'best' grapes and I don't know if she is looking for ripeness per se or if she just thinks that those grapes are as good as it gets, but either way, it means that they won't be going into the regular wine that year. That the regular wine is still good is nice, but what would it be like if there was no culling taking place? In good vintages, maybe not much different. In lesser vintages that just make it over the threshold where the decision is to make the special cuvee, the effect of culling can be more crucial to the quality of the regular wine.

I have noticed instances in other producers where I think the regular wines were significantly better than they would have been in years where no reserve wine was made (Caymus comes to mind), although it is always hard to tell for sure.
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Re: WTN: Guigals

by Tom Troiano » Wed Jan 23, 2013 5:25 pm

I guess I have one more question. Is the Ch. d'Ampius made 100% from grapes that Guigal grows (Estate?) versus the BeB where they may/do purchase fruit or do they both include purchased fruit?
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Re: WTN: Guigals

by Bill Spohn » Wed Jan 23, 2013 5:31 pm

Tom Troiano wrote:I guess I have one more question. Is the Ch. d'Ampius made 100% from grapes that Guigal grows (Estate?) versus the BeB where they may/do purchase fruit or do they both include purchased fruit?


From their site - d'Ampuis =
7 exceptional terroirs : Le Clos "Côte Blonde", La Garde "Côte Blonde", La Grande Plantée "Côte Blonde", La Pommière "Côte Brune", Le Pavillon Rouge "Côte Brune". Le Moulin "Côte Brune" La Viria "Côte Brune"


B&B =
Soil type
Plots on steep slopes Côte Blonde : Silicone limestone soil Côte Brune : soil rich in iron oxyde


So they are 'stealing' from the B&B areas, I believe.
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Re: WTN: Guigals

by David M. Bueker » Wed Jan 23, 2013 5:40 pm

Wow, when I taste Da Capo it sure does not seem like the "best" grapes.
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Re: WTN: Guigals

by Bill Spohn » Wed Jan 23, 2013 5:47 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:Wow, when I taste Da Capo it sure does not seem like the "best" grapes.


It isn't SUPPOSED to seem like the best grapes to you. It is sufficient that it seems like the best grapes, and wine, to the Mage of Moncton, because that will sell far more bottles than if you and I just liked it.
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Re: WTN: Guigals

by David M. Bueker » Wed Jan 23, 2013 6:08 pm

Bill Spohn wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:Wow, when I taste Da Capo it sure does not seem like the "best" grapes.


It isn't SUPPOSED to seem like the best grapes to you. It is sufficient that it seems like the best grapes, and wine, to the Mage of Moncton, because that will sell far more bottles than if you and I just liked it.


So the beauty of this is that you are getting to my obtuse point. By taking out some of the really ripe, attorney-friendly grapes, she is making a somewhat lighter wine that might appeal to actual drinkers, instead of scorers. Might be considered a method to combat global warming effects in wine!
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Re: WTN: Guigals

by Bill Spohn » Wed Jan 23, 2013 6:10 pm

But wouldn't it be interesting to know where her palate lies - with RP or with the people that like the regular cuvee?
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Re: WTN: Guigals

by Mark Lipton » Wed Jan 23, 2013 6:11 pm

Bill Spohn wrote:In that specific case, Laurence is culling the 'best' grapes and I don't know if she is looking for ripeness per se or if she just thinks that those grapes are as good as it gets, but either way, it means that they won't be going into the regular wine that year. That the regular wine is still good is nice, but what would it be like if there was no culling taking place? In good vintages, maybe not much different. In lesser vintages that just make it over the threshold where the decision is to make the special cuvee, the effect of culling can be more crucial to the quality of the regular wine.

I have noticed instances in other producers where I think the regular wines were significantly better than they would have been in years where no reserve wine was made (Caymus comes to mind), although it is always hard to tell for sure.


Bill,
I understand the argument that you are making and agree with it in general, but I also agree that it's less true for Pegau than most. Da Capo has been made a total of 5 times: in '98, '00, '03, '07 and '10. Noteworthy that she didn't make one in '99, '01 or '05, all of which are regarded as "very good" or "excellent" years in CNdP. Since they also have made a Cuvée Laurence from what might be a special cull, it's possible that the Da Capo simply comes at the expense of the Cuvée Laurence (I dunno). The pattern I see in the years she does make Da Capo is that they are both hot and low acid years, perhaps resulting in grapes that have more surmaturité than she likes. If we look at RMP scores for those years, we find that four of the Da Capo vintages ('98, '00, '07 and '10) get his highest scores (97-98), but the remaining Da Capo year ('03) gets a score (90) lower than those in years ('01 and '05) in which Da Capo wasn't made, suggesting that something other than nominal "excellence" governs the choice.

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Re: WTN: Guigals

by Bill Spohn » Wed Jan 23, 2013 6:27 pm

Interesting analysis Mark. I guess by choosing De Capo, the first premium version that sprang to mind, I conditioned the path of this thread thereafter.

I'm a big fan of Cuvee Laurence myself, they are supple tasty wines without tons of concentration but without the excessive sweetness and ripeness (to my palate) that the Reserve has in some vintages. But then I am a fan of fairly traditional producers, though I am often seduced by Pegau into adding some for the cellar.
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Re: WTN: Guigals

by Mark Lipton » Thu Jan 24, 2013 1:15 am

Bill Spohn wrote:Interesting analysis Mark. I guess by choosing De Capo, the first premium version that sprang to mind, I conditioned the path of this thread thereafter.

I'm a big fan of Cuvee Laurence myself, they are supple tasty wines without tons of concentration but without the excessive sweetness and ripeness (to my palate) that the Reserve has in some vintages. But then I am a fan of fairly traditional producers, though I am often seduced by Pegau into adding some for the cellar.


Alas, I never see the Cuvée Laurence in our market (nor the Da Capo). I would still rank Pegau among the traditionalists, though, especially now in these Cambie-ridden years. The ranks have dwindled substantially, with Clos des Papes, Vieux Donjon and Clos du Mont-Olivet falling under the sway of the Evil Empire. For me these days it's Pegau, Vieux Telegraphe, Beaucastel and Charvin. La Nerthe, Bosquet des Papes and Marcoux I haven't had in ages so can't judge as to whether they've strayed from the fold of traditionalism.

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