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This morning we introduced you to our new favorite value in Saint-Joseph from Christophe Pichon. That appellation has long been a deal, though prices have crept up, which is why we love the Pichon price tag. But, Côte-Rôtie is a different story altogether. These super-steep vineyards that careen into the Rhône River below have long been prized for powerhouse wines that today can easily command three- or four-figure prices. This special terroir translates into a glass full of wonderfully beguiling aromatics that are an almost paradoxical blend of fresh flowers and smoky meat. And wine lovers will pay handsomely for that. However, with today’s discovery you can have the full spectrum of Côte-Rôtie magic for just $65, less than some producers now charge for Saint-Joseph. But here’s the catch, we have just a few cases to offer. So you know the drill…act fast!
The Northern Rhône Valley is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in France. Hundreds of years ago, both Bordeaux and Burgundy would purchase Rhône wines to ramp up their own somewhat light, often underripe wines. Of course, the region fell on hard times in the 20th century, but that has changed significantly in the past few decades. Superstars like Gentaz and Verset are now impossible to find (and sadly, both domaines are long gone), but a new generation of talented winemakers has been receiving universal praise from the press. Christophe Pichon is both very talented and, with his sons now joining him, he has the next generation on board, too. Yet somehow, his estate, covering 16 hectares in Saint-Joseph, Côte-Rôtie, Cornas and Condrieu, still flies under the radar. The good news is that this means pricing has changed little in the past decade, making his whole range some of the very best values in classic Northern Rhône wine.
The Pichon estate is straightforward and traditional, using mostly old-school methods of farming and winemaking with a few “modern” upgrades. The fruit for Pichon’s “Promesse” cuvée comes from a couple of parcels with about two-thirds hailing from the excellent cru of Rozier, which borders the über-famous “La Landonne.” Pichon considers any vine younger than 55 years “young,” and those are what he uses for “Promesse.” In the cellar the fruit is de-stemmed and undergoes a long, cool fermentation for about 28 days. The wine is then racked into barrique barrels, about 40% new, and aged for 14 months before being bottled.
Côte-Rôtie translates as “roasted slope” given the intense sunshine the vineyards receive during the peak summer months. But in a great vintage like 2019, the heat was tempered by the steep slopes and the proximity to the river. The soils are solid schist, rocky and jagged, and the vineyard work is precarious. The reward to harnessing this special terroir is a truly distinct, and wonderfully wild, wine experience. If you want to open a bottle soon I would recommend a decant of at least one hour. Serve at 60-65 degrees in a Bordeaux stem and all the glorious goods of Côte-Rôtie will arrive: Black cherries, red plums, forest berries, smoked meat, earthy minerals, violets, roses, and of course a lingering bite of cracked peppercorns. I can’t think of a better wine to serve alongside a grilled rack of lamb. “Promesse” is meant to be consumed on the younger side, but with the structure and elegance of 2019 in play, this will also be a fun wine to cellar for 10-plus years, if you can get enough. We have just a few cases, so don’t wait to pounce!
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