Schist and Serine: the Cote Roties of Clusel Roch

Schist and Serine: the Cote Roties of Clusel Roch

Bonjour a tout le monde,
There is only one Cote Rotie.  The “roasted slope” of the Northern Rhone is defined by its schist soils (flaky limestone and granite), STEEP terrain, and perhaps the most savory, mineral, taut, and complex dimension of Syrah on Earth.  For a brief overview, check out this wiki:
Or is it??  In fact, it seems that the oldest variety to Cote Rotie is Serine, a smaller berried, 50% less productive, olive shaped berry with higher acidity than syrah.  It is believed that it mutated over time, acclimating to the rough terrain and climate of the region.  Its curious history is fascinating.
Today’s intro brings us to Verenay, one of the two principal red wine villages of Cote Rotie (along with Ampuis).  The northerly of the two, it hosts such Grand cru sites (there are no such things in Cote Rotie, officially, but qualitatively…) as la Vialliere, and les Grandes Places, both pictured above.  Les Grandes Places is the upper slopes on the looker’s side of the woods; lower on the hill is la Vialliere.  It was the grandfather of Gilbert Clusel that planted their 1 acre parcel of les Grandes Places; the old vine Serine there, planted in 1935, has been used to propagate ALL newly planted vines for the past 20 years; they have farmed biodynamically since the early 1990s….
Along with his wife, Brigitte Roch, and their son Guillaume, this family has continued to hone and refine their traditional sensibilities, fashioning some of the most elegant and powerful wines in the appellation.  They, like their wines, are a genuine expression of their place: son Guillaume is a physical powerhouse, stocky and cut from both working these slopes and his rugby prowess; he is a bit introverted, with a certain gentleness (especially when obeying Brigitte’s “to do” list…).  The wines emerge fostered similarly: powerful, sculpted by their soils, a bit introverted, created with love….
As a particularly sweet coincidence, my first steps with them are from the 2009 and 2010 vintage, two superlative vintages in the Northern Rhone.  2009 stands as a monumentally concentrated vintage in both fruit and structure.  2010 has an impeccable balance and finesse that I adore… has been referenced by many that not since 1990 and 1991 has the Northern Rhone experienced two back-to-back vintages of such impressive quality…..
Here is the lineup of what is in stock, all with reviews by Josh Raynolds, of Tanzer’s IWC (I respect the dude big time):

2009 Cote Rotie Petite Feuille $39: From young vine Cote Rotie, hence “little leaf”….The only bottles of Petite Feuille in the USA……
“Vivid ruby.  Aromas of candied raspberry and cherry are complemented by suave floral and Asian spice nuances.  Juicy and precise, with very good energy to its red and dark berry and bitter cherry flavors.  Tannins come on late and add shape to the sappy, violet-accented finish.  This wine is already very appealing.” 91 points

2010 Cote Rotie Petite Feuille $39
“Bright ruby-red.  High-pitched aromas of red berries and cherry, with a sexy floral overtone.  Juicy, bright and energetic, with seamless texture and assertive red fruit and spice character.  This nicely balanced wine offers excellent upfront appeal.” 90-92 points

2009 Cote Rotie Cuvee Classique $55 For you geeks out there, this is from lower Vialliere, le Champon, and le Plomb.  15% new oak, the rest 1-5 year old barrels.

“Bright ruby.  Complex, highly perfumed bouquet evokes black and blue fruit preserves, star anise and cracked pepper, with slow-building florality.  Juicy, palate-staining black raspberry and blueberry flavors are brightened by a zesty mineral quality and become sweeter with air.  Closes with a whiplash of spices and impressive length.” 92 points

2010 Cote Rotie Cuvee Classique $55 Two years elevage (time in barrel/tank)…
“(aged in about 15% new oak):  Deep ruby.  Highly perfumed bouquet of red and dark berry preserves, lavender and cracked pepper.  Spicy and lithe on the palate, showing sweet black raspberry and blueberry qualities.  Closes with good energy and cut, leaving a floral pastille note behind.” 90-92 points

2009 Cote Rotie la Vialliere $89 So that you can sleep at night, from 28-35 year old vines.
“Saturated ruby.   A perfumed, complex bouquet evokes dark berries and cherry pit, along with suave floral and spicecake qualities.  Juicy and silky in texture, offering sweet, palate-staining black raspberry and cassis flavors.  The spicy quality gains strength with air and carries through a long, seamless finish.  I find this wine highly appealing already.” 93 points

2010 Cote Rotie la Vialliere $89
“Glass-staining ruby.  Highly perfumed aromas of dark berry preserves, fruitcake, violet and incense.  Palate-staining blackberry and mulberry flavors stain the palate, with exotic floral pastille and star anise nuances adding complexity.  Finishes long, with sexy, deeply sweet dark berry liqueur and floral qualities.” 92-94 points

2009 Cote Rotie les Grandes Places $109 50% new oak, two years elevage.
“Opaque ruby.  Aromas of blackberry, cherry-cola and incense, with a spicy topnote that builds with aeration.  Rich and expansive but lively too, offering dark, bitter cherry and licorice flavors and a subtle violet pastille quality.  For a big wine this shows impressive nuance.  Closes on a floral note, with superb clarity and supple texture. ” 93 points

2010 Cote Rotie les Grandes Places $109
“Vivid ruby.  High-pitched aromas of red and dark berry preserve, potpourri and Asian spices, with an intense mineral overtone.  Juicy, sharply focused black raspberry and bitter cherry flavors stain the palate but carry no excess weight.  Finishes elegant and precise, with outstanding clarity and length.” 93-95 points

I just popped a bottle of the ’09 Classique…..Josh’s note is spot on….this shit is ridiculously good.  Intense and multifaceted nose, combining floral aromas, black/blue fruits, subtle olive savory.  In the mouth, rich and weightless at the same time, super super fine in structure, long expanding inner mouth perfume.  The floral and mineral dynamic in this young wine, its luminescence (that’s my word of the year), is spellbinding.  More subtle herbal notes emerge on the nose….this has amazing balance…….this will cruise in the cellar!!!
In any case, if you’ve never yet tried Cote Rotie, its dynamism will indeed be unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.  The amount of energy in these wines is like no other…..there is Syrah, and then there is Cote Rotie……If you’re a hardcore know-it-all geek, the purity of these wines will thrill you.  With any q’s or interests,


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