Epic Vintage, a Visionary Master: 2015 Northern Rhone from Yves Cuilleron
WINE TASTING Fri. March 9, 4-6pm with Michael Kane, Rosenthal Imports
WINE TASTING Sat. March 10, 1-5pm with Eric Broege, VINTAGES
“It takes a particularly sharp-minded visionary to watch over the 50 hectares of vineyards Yves now controls and to keep the quality as dazzlingly high and unfailingly consistent as he does. With this duo of vintages 2015 -2016, we see a master operating at the peak of his powers, and these wines unquestionably represent the finest offerings we have ever had from Yves Cuilleron. In fact, we stand at the crossroads of a period of exceptional quality for the northern Rhône in general as the duo of 2015/2016 vintages appear to rival in grandeur the exquisite twin vintages of 1989 and 1990.” – Rosenthal Imports
“Yves believes 2015 to be the greatest vintage he has ever made (his first being 1987). Not only was nature kind enough to provide the optimal conditions for a harvest both healthy and plentiful, but it was Yves’ first vintage vinified and aged in his incredible new winery—a large, optimally equipped facility that allows him to work with the utmost sensitivity to each wine’s particular needs. Indeed, Cuilleron’s 2015 red wines possess a combination of power and elegance that represents a new height for the domaine. These are wines of profound intensity yet striking harmony, solidly built wines enrobed in perfectly luscious fruit, each one promising years of positive development.” — Rosenthal
“Since I like Syrah that’s powerful and expressive, 2015 is a fantastic vintage where nature basically made the wine,” Yves Cuilleron told me. He pointed out that ’15 is “an extremely unique year because it’s like a mix of the best qualities of the best vintages of the last 30 years: healthy ripe fruit, concentration, aromatic expression, harmony of tannins and fruit, structure and a healthy crop.” It’s rare in a producer’s lifetime, he went on, that nature is “so generous in all the important departments of winemaking.” –Yves Cuilleron, as told to Vinous
2016 YVES CUILLERON Saint-Joseph Blanc “Le Lombard” V.V. $40
“Lombard” is pure Marsanne from 55-year-old vines planted on the slopes of the Côte de Verlieu, fermented and aged in various oak vessels. This 2016 offers a big, assertive, saline nose bursting with fresh almonds and quince. A higher presence of granite in the soils here manifests in the wine’s deeply dense and stony core, and the sappy, viscous palate turns bright and clean on the lengthy finish.
2016 YVES CUILLERON Saint-Joseph Blanc “Digue” $45
“Digue” is a highly granitic lieu-dit with due-south exposition from which Cuilleron produces this impressive pure Roussanne Saint-Joseph. An undeniably rich wine, the 2016 nonetheless maintains a surprising level of acidity, which balances the vivacious, multi-layered flavors as well as the profound minerality of the wine.
2016 YVES CUILLERON Condrieu “La Petite Côte” $60
Made from a variety of southeast-exposed, muscovite-rich, terraced vineyards overlooking the village of Chavanay. Fermented and aged 40% in foudres and 60% in used barrels, the 2016 showcases Yves’s skilled hand with Viognier. Classic varietal notes of ripe peach and apricot stop just short of exotic on the smoke-tinged, assertively stony nose, and the luscious palate offers plenty of acidity and not a trace of heat. A true classic that sets the standard for Condrieu.
2015 YVES CUILLERON Saint-Joseph Rouge “Les Pierres Sèches” $35
Always a sweet spot for value, typicity, and deliciousness, “Pierres Sèches” especially shines in 2015. Produced from a variety of parcels in the sandy, muscovite-inflected granite soils of Chavanay, it was fermented with 30% of its stems, and spent 16 mos. in used barrels. Dense, yet lifted, it balances ripe smokiness with a lovely purple-flower element, and again the tannins are buffered entirely by the wine’s generous and supple fruit.
2015 YVES CUILLERON Cornas “Le Village” $55
Cuilleron produces “Le Village” from holdings in the vineyards of “Reynard” and “La Côte” in the prime swath of the Cornas appellation. This 2015’s deep, dark color hints at its ultimate intensity, but the nose offers exuberant, exotic incense and violet notes that beautifully offset a rich smoked-meat and mineral core. The palate is full and fleshy, with well-rounded tannins and a long, fresh finish
2015 YVES CUILLERON Côte-Rôtie “Madinière” $75
The “Madinière” cuvée—named after a Rhône tributary—is pure Syrah from the northernmost reaches of Côte-Rôtie. The direct but complex nose reaches high-toned notes with a pronounced spice element and a hint of smokiness. Firm, yet refined on the palate, with a vigorous interplay of fruit, acid, and tannin on a sinewy frame. This is a multi-dimensional Côte-Rôtie that will develop beautifully in bottle.
2016 YVES CUILLERON “Roussillière” Blanc Liquoreux Botrytisé 500ml $30
An unorthodox wine that is not allowed to bear a vintage, “Roussillière” is nonetheless always from a single harvest of very late-picked, botrytised Roussanne, Marsanne, and Viognier from Cuilleron’s vineyards in Chavanay. This release offers an enormous nose of orange blossom, musk, and honey. Its thick, viscous palate displays a balancing acidity that prevents it from going over the top, and a pretty white-flower note lingers on the finish.
Also available, not in March 9-10 tasting:
2015 YVES CUILLERON Condrieu “Vernon” $125 (white)
“Expansive orange, honeydew melon and violet aromas show outstanding clarity and minerally lift. Silky and taut on entry, then fleshier in the midpalate, offering vivid citrus and pit fruit and ginger flavors complemented by subtle anise and vanilla qualities. Finishes with strong mineral cut and excellent focus, leaving a suave floral note behind. 94 pts.” – Vinous
History of the Domaine: The Cuilleron family domaine, located in Chavanay was founded in 1920. Yves Cuilleron’s grandfather was the first to bottle wine commercially in 1947. Yves assumed full ownership and direction of the domaine in 1987 and has built an entirely new facility while acquiring additional vineyards. The domaine is now significantly larger in scope with 52 ha of vineyards over multiple appellations, including Condrieu, Saint Joseph Rouge and Blanc, Cote Rotie, Saint Péray and a series of Vin de Pays from the Collines Rhodaniennes. A large majority of the vineyards are set on terraces which makes most mechanization impossible. Thus, much of the vineyard work and harvesting continues to be done by hand.