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Tasting Notes

June 03, 1993|DAN BERGER

1990 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape ($20)--Remarkably complete wine, dark and complex, but with less of the "inky" character of some vintages of the past. Loads of cherry and cranberry fruit with a hint of smoke. Marvelous and a good buy. 1991 Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage ($16)--All Syrah and powerfully made with earthy green peppercorn scents. Packed with flavor. 1990 Jaboulet St.-Joseph ($20)--Black pepper and cassis, loads of complex spiced elements and a generous, mouth-filling finish. Needs at least five more years to smooth out. 1991 Jaboulet Hermitage ($25)--Coffee, tar and herbal notes complement deep black cherry and spice notes. A big, pleasing wine that will reward patience. 1991 Jaboulet Hermitage "La Chappelle" ($42)--From one of the great vineyards in the Rhone Valley, an earthy, tarry and peppery complexity, giving lift to deeply rich cassis-like fruit. Another 10 to 20 years would not hurt this baby. 1990 Chapoutier Cotes du Rhone ($12)--Stylish, classic Rhone flavors in a lighter-styled wine that still offers hints of black and green pepper. 1990 Chapoutier Chateauneuf-du-Pape "La Bernardine" ($25)--All Grenache, yet not a light wine. Aromas of cranberry, tobacco and earth, and a hint of orange peel in the finish. 1990 Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage ($20)--Huge, beefy wine that might have been rustic were it not for the use of superior winemaking techniques. The aroma is mainly violets and pepper. Good value. 1990 Chapoutier Cote-Rotie ($40)--Powerful, very complex wine with hints of raspberry, black pepper, olives and herbs. Huge, complete. 1990 Chapoutier Hermitage "Sizeranne" ($45)--Powerful with huge black cherry, truffle, earth and tar notes. Still a baby, needing at least a decade to show its finesse. 1990 Guigal Cotes-du-Rhone ($11)--Perfectly honed, lighter-styled wine of Rhone breeding, with pepper, herbs and spice. Not as long-lived as some, but a good value. Other wines in the Rhone style I have found excellent include 1990 Pignan from Chateau Rayas ($22); 1990 Crozes-Hermitage from Graillot ($15), and two California wines, 1990 Jade Mountain Syrah ($22) and 1991 Phelps "Le Mistral" ($13).

Dare to Be Rhone For three vintages, the famed Rhone Valley red wine Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe was made differently for just one U.S. importer. The Brunier family, which owned the winery, feared American consumers would not accept sediment in the bottom of bottles of their wine, and in 1979 they began to filter their wines for the American market. (This is a common practice of French winemakers when dealing with the American market.) But when Berkeley-based wine importer Kermit Lynch visited the property in 1982, he pointed out that filtration could strip a wine of some of its character. After a long and intense argument, Lynch persuaded the Brunier family to leave Lynch's shipment of Vieux Telegraphe--and only his--unfiltered. Other clients would continue to get filtered wine. Daniel Brunier, son of the owner, said the dual treatment lasted for 1982, 1983 and 1984 wines. After that, starting in 1985, the family was convinced that Lynch was right and began releasing all of their red wine without filtration.

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