2012 Chateau de la Gardine, Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
This old school Chateauneuf by Chateau de la Gardine was the almost unrivaled star of a Rhone blind tasting that featured more than a few stars from the region, even in a mediocre vintage, it was strutting it’s stuff with the best, a gorgeous wine and a stellar performance for a winery and wine that gets often overlooked. The estate, in the hands of Gaston Brunel, a famous négociant, who acquired the Château de la Gardine in Châteauneuf du Pape in 1945 brought the property to it’s current fame now is run by his two sons, Patrick and Maxime with the help of their wives Eve and Maryse and their children Marie-Odile and Philippe, that later getting more and more involved and seemingly bringing an era of heightened quality and expectations, while the mentioned Eve Brunel directs the winemaking itself. The Château de la Gardine estate spreads over some 52 ha of vineyards 90% red grapes and a tiny amount of white and is uniquely set within a forested area. The terroir here is varied with some bits having the classic galets, the large river stones, along with limestone, sand and clay structures helping make these wines complex, well built and with a finessed elegance, with vines, farmed using organic methods, that average between 40 to 60 years of age. The winemaking is simple and traditional and in this red 65% Grenache Noir, 15% Mourvedre, 15% Syrah and 5% Muscardin was used, all de-stemmed and from all hand harvested fruit that was sorted with extreme care, the Syrah got several picks to balance the wine and add to the aromatics, it was fermented in stainless steel and raised 60% in vat and 40% in 1 to 6 year old barrique for up to 14 months. The 2012 is surprisingly perfumed with a lovely dark flowers, violet led floral attack along with hints of dusty spices and cherry confit leading to a full bodied, but graceful palate of boysenberry, plum, strawberry and dense kirsch with added touches of salted licorice, wild mint, pepper, earthy stones, graphite, cedar and incense. The texture, fine ripe tannins and lift really play amazing roles here giving this Chateauneuf it’s charm and old world character, it paired well with homemade spicy lamb meatballs and was sublime on it’s own, it might just be peaking right now, it is hard to see why you’d wait longer, but it should live nicely for another 5 years.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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