2011 Domaine Bernard Levet, Cote-Rotie, Les Journaries, Northern Rhone, France.
I love the old school rawness, purity and earthy charms of the Bernard Levet wines, these mostly whole cluster Syrah offerings deliver array of stemmy accented flavors with blue and black fruits, peppery spices, touches of game, camphor/graphite and pretty violets, these are wines that get better and better with every sip and every year more in bottle. The domaine does just hree Côte-Rôtie(s) which are hand made by Levet family in their cellars in Ampuis, the region’s most famous village in the Northern Rhone. The Bernard Levet winery, founded in 1929 is run now by Bernard Levet’s daughter Agnès, who I met for the first time a few years back in a special Rosenthal trade tasting in San Francisco, though who’s wines I’ve been a fan of for many years, these Cote-Rotie bottlings are enthusiast jewels that are more in Jamet vein rather than the ultra ripe and polished Guigal style with chewy tannins and benefit from time and best enjoyed with hearty cuisine, they are also solid performers in difficult vintages with 2011 and 2013 being exceptional years for this small family estate, I in particular love this 2011 Les Journaries, which really is an awesome dark purple wine that has great complexity, depth and a near perfect balance between the sweet fruit and meaty funk. Agnes Levet, according to importer Neal Rosenthal, has inherited her parents love for vineyard work, that she herself hand tends in their steep parcels and has an obsession for traditional winemaking in the cellar. This producer is certainly one to discover for those that love the savory and crunchy stem influenced Syrahs, they go fantastic with winter inspired food choices, like Lamb, grilled meats and or wild mushroom dishes.

The 2011 Bernard Levet Les Journaries is filled with personality with blueberry, boysenberry, damson plum and kirsch layers along with peppercorns, tapenade, licorice as well as subtle wood and iron (mineral) notes, it is the most evolved at release of Levet lineup and impresses for its presence in the glass and its authentic transparency. The Les Journaries comes from one of the world’s greatest Syrah vineyards, it is a cuvée from grapes harvested from old vines in the “La Landonne” lieu-dit and its steepest terraces, all which are set on the granite and schist soils that gives this Cote-Rotie it’s pedigree and personality. The Levet Les Journaries is 100% Syrah, with no co-ferment of Viognier and was close 60% whole bunches that was gently pressed and saw a super long maceration (almost a month) in epoxy lined concrete vats using Levet’s own selected yeast for primary fermentation before being racked to large neutral 600L French oak “demi-muid” casks where it was aged for a full 24 months. The Levet’s have a stellar collection of plots in both Cote Brune, with darker soils, where this wine comes from and the Cote Blonde with its lighter hued soils with small plots in Chavaroche, Landonne, Font Jean, Les Craies, Mollard and Moulin, a favored site that is just below the fabled La Turque. When Agnes’ father took over the estate in 1983 he really made a splash and brought the domaine into the spotlight with a string of great wines, which I can only dream about trying, but I highly recommend the latest releases from 2008 to 2015, that I’ve had the privilege to sample, all of which are well worth searching out, especially this 2011 and the 2015s, though I am hearing 2016 and 2017 are even better, though patience will rewarded on the later boldly structured wines.
($70 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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