Unless you’re a wine nerd, you probably won’t recognize the gentlemen in this photograph. On the left is Jérôme R. Quiot, the owner of several estates in France, including Domaine du Vieux Lazaret, Domaine Houchart and Château du Trignon. On the right is Josh Miles, my friend and wine rep from Martin Scott Wines.
Yesterday my staff and I had the pleasure of welcoming Jérôme to L’Ecole to speak about his wines. I spend a good deal of time around French folks because of my job and Jérôme is one of the more charming ones I’ve encountered, saying things like, “You can probably tell from my accent that I’m not from around here.” Now this might not sound terribly charming to you, but I’m the type of person who enjoys popsicle stick jokes. The important thing here is that he makes some darn good wine.
The Quiot family has been making wine since 1748 (they’re now on the 11th generation) and Jérôme works closely with his wife Genevieve, his daughter Florence and his son Jean-Baptiste. Jérôme explained to me that he honors his family’s working relationship by putting out the Domaine du Vieux Lazaret Cuvée Exceptional Red. It’s not made in every vintage and it’s based on certain barrel selections in the cellar, but what makes it exceptional is that his whole family has to sit down and agree on it. His wife doesn’t care much for barrel aging, his daughter likes floral, expressive wines, his son wants robust wines and he said his own vote doesn’t count for much.
Here are some highlights from the tasting:
From Domaine Houchart:
1. Blanc 2008. Mainly Clairette with some Rolle (this is the same as the Italian Vermentino). Vibrant, lively and persistant with notes of citrus, white peach, cantaloupe and minerals.
2. Rosé 2008. Mostly Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah with a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon. A perfect example of why dry rosé is so good. If you don’t drink it, you should – it’s food and wallet friendly and goes down easy (especially when consumed outdoors). This one was salmon colored with notes of strawberries, raspberries and orange peel with a crisp, but round mouthfeel.
3. Rouge 2006. Grenache, Carignan, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. A great summer red. It was structured, but not too tanic with cherries and a healthy dose of spice.
The label design on the Domaine Houchart bottles was inspired by a dress that Jérôme’s grandmother wore. It was crinoline (usually a combination of horse-hair and cotton or linen) with a corset-style top. He told me to picture Gone with the Wind.
From Château du Trignon:
1. Rasteau 2005. Mostly Grenache with a touch of Mourvèdre. Fresh and lively with ripe berries. Undertones of herbs, spices and wood. With Rhône wines, you’ll often hear people talking about herbes de Provence – things like basil, fennel, lavender, marjoram, rosemary, sage, savory and thyme. This may seem obnoxious to you, but it really is possible to smell and/or taste these things in wine. Take a whiff through your spice cabinet and file a little smell memory for yourself and the next time you have a wine from southern France, see if you detect any spice.
2. Gigondas 2005. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault. Stewed fruits, cloves and coffee notes. Fresh, yet powerful (think tannin structure).
The Quiot family began farming the Trignon property in 1986 and have refined and expanded the property as well as installed a wine cellar that operates primarily by letting gravity do the work.
From Domaine du Vieux Lazaret:
1. Châteauneuf-du-Pape (CDP) Blanc 2007. Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc (Josh thinks this would make a fine name for a dog; I agree), Roussanne and Clairette. My favorite from the day. Round, full, slightly nutty with peaches, white flowers and lemon. Only a touch of barrel aging, so the fruit really comes through.
2. CDP Rouge 2006. The 13 varietals allowed by law, with a majority of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cinsault. Only 15% was aged in barrel, so you get a lot of deep red and black fruits as well as some sweet baking spices.
CDP (shat-toe-NOOF-duh-pop) means the “Pope’s new castle”. In the 14th century, the papal court moved from Rome to Avignon. Domaine du Vieux Lazaret is here and it’s the family’s oldest holdings. The name refers to a former hospital that was used to quarantine and treat patients during the major epidemics of the 17th and 18th centuries. The plagues killed 30% of the population (and we were worried about swine flu). People had to spend 40 days in seclusion before entering the village.
Jérôme explained this was a good way to deal with the situation because after 40 days you were either fine or dead.