- Rating: 95 out of 100
- Tasting Fee: $0
- Accepts Reservations: Yes
- Reservation Required: false
Although you hear about the sublime character and quality of Cote Rotie wines, you may not have had one before. And even if you have, it was likely from Guigal or another large producer such as Chapoutier. Even I have never had Cote Rotie wines from a small producer before this tasting. And as luck would have it, I struck gold in Rhone 2 Vallees. Not because their wines scored 100 points in a magazine, but because the wines expressed the terroir well, they were approachable, they were affordable, and their producer was one of the nicest people I have met. Did I mention that I was also staying at their hotel? If Guigal is the reason you visit Cote Rotie, you must make sure to stay here overnight.
I found it odd that as much as I’d heard about Cote Rotie wines, it would be so difficult to plan a few days in the region. There weren’t many hotels to choose from and not that many wineries to contact for tastings (many had outdated or non-functional websites). But since I had heard so much about the region in my wine classes and have had more than a few impressive wines from Guigal before, I decided to book a room in the area for a few days and make it work. My stay may not have worked out in the way I had hoped, but thanks to Rhone 2 Vallees, I still made some great memories.
As you can see from the picture above, Cote Rotie is a gorgeous area. It just does not have the visibility, tourism, or infrastructure of a place like Hermitage or Chateauneuf-du-Pape. And with a single producer owning most of the land / purchasing most of the grapes (Guigal), there aren’t many producers that can afford a dedicated tasting room, especially when it would remain empty most of the time. I hope that this changes for the Ampuis area, but also would not want added attention to change what makes Cote Rotie unique.
After arriving by train on the outskirts of town, searching the internet for a taxi in the areai, and calling it, I arrived at my hotel Le Domaine Des Vignes, ready to taste some wines. Because the hotel was a working winery, I was given windows when they would be available to check me in. After spending the day walking around the area and taking many pictures, I checked in and proceeded to ask about wine tourism in the area. After receiving the briefing about town (many people were on their summer vacations and there weren’t many places open to begin with), I asked for a tasting and they obliged.
I need to call out here the amazing service they provided. Pascal drove me to and from dinner in Vienne (15-20 minute drive by car), drove me into the mountains to look at the vineyards (which is when most of my best pictures were taken), and even drove me to my next hotel (I decided to stay at Le Beau Rivage for a night). So even though the hotel room seemed pricey compared to Alsace, I guarantee I saved 50 Euros from his driving alone. And it’s hard to put a price on waking up in the morning and seeing the sun come over the hills of Cote Rotie from just outside my window. Just gorgeous…
I cannot forget to talk about the wines! Because although I didn’t taste at three different places a day as I did in other towns, I did have multiple glasses of wine from here. Sometimes, you need a break when on vacation. For me, that was enjoying a book and the view from my balcony, just soaking in the place, and taking a respite from constantly evaluating wineries each day, haha. To the wines!
- 2016 Viognier (10€)
- Can I just say that a bottle of Viognier for 10€ is absurd. And having one from anywhere near Condrieu at that price is basically highway robbery? On the nose, pear and yellow apple are the first things that come to mind. The wine was served very chilled, so the nose was a little more closed than normal, but it accentuated the acidity that felt just right for the hot summer day outside. When enjoying the wine at a warmer temperature, the palate intensifies but remains firmly in the ripe fruit category and doesn’t present with any candied character. This Viognier is milder compared to top Condrieus, but that also makes it easier to have more than a single glass.
- 2016 Etincelle (10€)
- 100% Marsanne. This was served warmer than I take most white wines, but even so, the nose is just explosive and made me question if it was really Marsanne… Dried tropical fruit, such as pineapple and mango, overwhelm the senses with peach and other stonefruit chipping in. This wine had medium(-) acidity, but serving the wine at a colder temperature may help. The finish was relatively short, the palate was medium(-) in intensity and seemed weak when compared to the nose. Still, a Marsanne at 10€ - where else could you find that?
- 2016 Cinsault Rouge (7€)
- 100% Cinsault. In many of its renditions, Cinsault is either blended with other grapes or served as a Rose. It’s much rarer to see it as a full-fledged, varietal red wine. Pronounced aromas of roast beef covered in black pepper (that garrigue character is awesome). The palate is considerably lighter in intensity and the body is medium(-), making this an easy drinking wine that teases your nose, but doesn’t quite follow through on the palate. Presented with medium acid and tannin, this has the weight and some features of Pinot Noir with just a different category of flavors. Again, a 7€ wine of which you can enjoy multiple glasses in a single sitting is just bonkers. I couldn’t find it on their website which means they must have sold out - and I am not surprised, only sad that I couldn’t get a case.
- 2015 Syrah No 9 (10€)
- 100% Syrah - the grapes used for this wine are from St. Julien-en-St. Albon, which is the southernmost edge of the northern Rhone Valley. Similar to the Cinsault, there is a pronounced garrigue character on the nose, except this wine has a deeper/concentrated nose and the black pepper is slightly more integrated. Continuing on that, the wine has medium(+) tannin and acid with some biodynamic/animal fur character on the finish. The palate is also terroir driven with fruit playing a secondary role. A good starter example of Northern Rhone Syrahs. And at 10€ a bottle!! Please…
- 2015 Cote Rotie (29€)
- Like all Cote Roties, the cost of the land/taxes, the cost of the manual labor to work the vines, and the relatively small harvest per hectare of land directly contributes to higher prices when compared to wines from other AOCs in the area (e.g. St. Joseph). And if you have had a great Cote Rotie, you know it’s worth it. This wine has a well-integrated nose of bright cranberry, black pepper and garrigue. It has higher acid and tannin than the Syrah No 9 and still needs some time to round out the palate. Still, the flavor integration is already very good and is a great example of what Cote Rotie is. The finish goes on for 30 seconds with the garrigue and black pepper not biting too hard. Also, you won’t find Cote Rotie for under 30€ anywhere outside the town…
Before visiting Cote Rotie, you need to do several things. 1) Make sure to have a reservation for Guigal ahead of time (I failed here); 2) Stay for no more than 2 days / 1 night if you are looking to try lots of different wines on your trip; 3) Make sure to stay at Le Domaine Des Vignes when you do visit. I will likely return following those three recommendations above, but I can also imagine myself writing my memoirs here and enjoying great, affordable glasses of this wine, staring out of my window… I highly recommend visiting on your way to south to Hermitage! Cheers!!
Rating: 95 out of 100