2006 MIQUETTES St. Jo -- Please keep the discussion on topic. Off topic posts will be moved or deleted.
When a new Northern Rhone wine of significance is uncovered it'soneof the most exciting escapades for me and for our customerbase. Mostof you know, the Northern Rhone is where my heart liesbut I have becomeincreasingly disenfranchised by modern techniques,over-oaking and prices thathave become out of reach. Guigal new releasesfor$800-1000? Come on.
This wine will right the ship quickly and it is well on its waytoestablishing a new focal-area of the Rhone.
Stifled by the box around him at the Coop in Tain l'Hermitage,PaulEsteve had a dream - to make the best Cote Rotie. Not secondfiddleto Guigal or the young upstarts, but the very best. The winewouldbleed its terroir (not its oak) and be as concentrated as Rostaingwithoutthe modern techniques. He wanted to make a traditional winethatsmelled and tasted of the purest Syrah but also one that would be freshandclean.
After searching for vineyard land to buy, it was apparent that Cote Rotiewasimpossible - the land is just too expensive. A discussion withafriend led him to search in a pocket deep within the southern reachesofSaint Joseph, across from Hermitage and above Cornas (not in thenortherlyreaches where Saint Joseph tends to be much lighter). Ithas beenknown for years that this area (south of Arras and above Tournon) hasthechance to be a new appellation, apart from Saint Joseph proper, as thewinesare more akin to a combination of Cote Rotie and Cornas, not themorefeminine wines that Saint Joseph has become synonymous with. Thisis one of the most exciting areas of the Northern Rhone and Paul Esteveknewit. When the a tiny property became available high aboveSecheras,a site that mimicked his favored terroir in Cote Rotie, hedidn't hesitate. Domaine des Miquettes was born and thefirst vintage was only two vintagesago.
One of the keys to Cote Rotie is the slight crook in the Rhone riverthatturns to the northeast at Ampuis. This gives the entire Cote amoresoutherly exposure than just down the road where the Rhone isnearlyperpendicular to the east/west axis for dozens ofmiles. Paul's vineyard has a similar southerly face nearSecheras and thiswas one of the keys to his giddy discovery. Withonly 3 hectares towork with in one of the more special little hamlets in theNorth, thisproperty is at nearly 1500 ft above the Rhone in thehills. Itcaptures the best of both worlds - the southern intensitymore akin toCornas, but the cooling high-altitude exposure that gives hiswine a CoteRotie essence and low alcohol. Great terroir cannot beinvented andPaul Esteve knows how lucky he is.
2006 is a slightly deeper sibling of 1991 in the Northern Rhone (one ofthistaster's favorite individual vintages) and my fondness formany2006s gives me reason to hope for the future - that the Northern Rhonecanstill produce the perfumed, regal, medium-weight and even exotic winesthatmade this region unlike any other in the world. Vintages like2003have their fans but I will take 2006 every year if I could.
Miquettes' top cuvee, labeled simply as Saint Joseph, is goingtoreach to places that Rhone enthusiasts rarely findanymore. Produced with 100% organic methods and whole clusterfermentation, nothing isadded or taken away. The natural yeasts on the grapesand in the wineryprovide the jump-start to fermentation regardless of howlong ittakes. This vineyard is so high in elevation that the Syrahripensinto mid October without over-ripeness - a very good thing fordeepconcentration without any heaviness. He separates the grapesandputs 50-80% through a traditional vinification and the remainder throughaspecial technique that looks like carbonic but it is done in anaturalway. These grapes are then added little by little tothetraditional vat until the expression is one he believes best representsthevintage. In 2006, the wine almost made itself.
The 2006 Miquettes is a gorgeous wine. It smells and tastes of moltenbedrock,ore and perfume de Syrah (a heavenly compote of cured bacon, smoke,whitepepper and soil) - all in a Margaux-like feminine package that is farricherthan the 13.0% alcohol may suggest. It is already layeredandcomplex in the way the best Cote Rotie jumps out at you and takes yoursoul bythe hand, suggesting this sport is not just about the everyday -there areindeed special occasion wines. Medium bodied but full on the palatelikeCornas, this is why some of the finest grapes are grown at thehighestelevations - the fresh and clean aromatics and regal structure cannotcome atthe lower levels due to more heat and less of a temperature swing fromday tonight (Miquettes can be 85-90 degrees by day and 45-55 at night - aperfectcombination for aromatic complexity and acidity). Stillwound-up onitself (it was just bottled), this wine will continue to unfurlover the next12-24 months and glide along, up and down and over the slope ofevolutionthroughout the next decade or more.
Paul Esteve believes his 2006 is every bit as good as Cote Rotie or Cornasbuthe wanted to price the wine slightly under both of them to give thisemergingsector of Saint Joseph a niche in the market. Idon'tthink he needs a niche - this wine would sell at any priceand there was so littleproduced that he could have doubled the tariffwithout a blink.
One of the more important finds of 2008 so far.
EXTREMELY LIMITED (remember, he only has 3 hectares)
2006 Domaine des Miquettes Saint Joseph-
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