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A Late Arrival

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Cavallotto

Our first annual late night BYO Barolo party was one of those nights where every wine seemed to fire on all cylinders, and it set the bar for every party since. It was three years ago and the who’s who of the Los Angeles wine scene filed through the secret/not-so-secret passage and into the back room of Terroni, one of the city’s best Italian restaurants. The word got around and a slew of Italian wine importers and even the old guard came out for the show. Every producer from anyone’s list of top twenty Barolos found their way into the room that night. There were numerous vintages of the undisputed kings of the region: the Conterno clans, both Mascarellos, the Burlotto families from Verduno, the Rinaldis (the great and the less great), Giacosa, Vietti, Brovia mags. You name it, they were there. The decibels rose from DJ Nahchey’s mix as the room filled and began to spill into the main dining room and into the back parking lot. An hour in, you could hardly make your way through to the long, heavy wooden tables, pushed against the red brick wall, covered with a growing metropolis of Barolo bottles.
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2011 Chateauneuf? Bring it on…

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2011 Vieille Julienne Chateauneuf-du-Pape

2011 Vieille Julienne Chateauneuf-du-Pape

I just pulled the corks on these 2011 Chateauneufs from Vieille Julienne. They are being shown in LA today with Jean Paul Daumen, the man at VJ. He’ll be here until Sunday. These two wines are so beautiful. Clearly, 2011 is an overlooked vintage. It’s never ceases to amaze me how the critical press kowtows to the bigger, more powerful vintages –like 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012 – and somewhat neglects a gorgeous vintage like 2011.

Jean Paul discussing the 2011s and 2010s with me.

Jean Paul discussing the 2011s and 2010s with me.

Last year in France, Jean Paul asked me what I thought about his 2011s, in comparison to the 2010s. For me, it was a no-brainer. For JP, the same. He said that the producers of C-n-P were already dropping their prices because they knew they were not going to get the same level of scores as their ’09 and ’10 counterparts, despite the overall success the vignerons, appellation-wide, think they have in bottle. I told him, after tasting the 2011s over an hour or so, that they were nuts to drop the prices so drastically. They dropped them about 30% across the board –so did JP. He felt pushed into it by the movement, so he followed suit. I appreciate how impressive the 2010s are, but four times out of five, I would drink the 2011 vintage over the 2010s, especially in a hot climate area like Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Honestly, I’m always waiting for vintages like this so I can enjoy Chateauneuf again – it’s the kind of vintage for drinkers that like their Southern Rhone wines with a more modest amount of alcohol, matched with the beauty of the high-toned red fruits and flowers of Grenache. These are the moments when Grenache really shines to me… That is the complaint these days: too much alcohol, too much power –no? Well, here it is, 2011 Chateauneuf, a vintage of beauty. It’s surrounded by 2012, 2010 and 2009 (not to mention 2007!), all of which were much more ripe vintages (2008, which can be more on the lean/harsh side, is tough but quite good when it is from a great producer). If you follow the track record of CnP in the last decade, it seems that an elegant and beautiful vintage like 2011 is more rare than these monster vintages that flare their VA, alcohol, aldehydes, “inner-animal” and excessive “use of force.”

If, like us, you are sick of being bulled over by these “tour de force” Chateauneufs, this vintage (from most producers, not just VJ) is a vintage that will help you rediscover the merits of one of France’s most treasured appellations. -tv