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As the Crozes Flies

There was a time, not so many years ago, that red wines from Crozes-Hermitage were pretty common in our repertoire of drinking selections here at Gang Central. These wines are usually 100% Syrah (though it is legal to include small quantities of white Roussanne or Marsanne grapes), and tend to be more reasonably priced than their prestigious northern Rhône counterparts from Hermitage, Cote-Rotie and even Cornas. Back then, our go-to choice was the Paul Jaboulet Aine Domaine de Thalabert, and when we were slumming, Jaboulet ‘s Les Jalets was a pretty good alternative. When we wanted to treat ourselves, we’d opt for one of Alain Graillot’s beauties.

For whatever reason, we gradually went more to the south for our red Rhônes, preferring the blended wines from the hotter regions. I can say that Les Jalets became a very ordinary, even somewhat boring wine, and Domaine de Thalabert showed up less and less on local retailer shelves. Actually, I can’t remember the last time I saw either of these around here, and while Graillot’s wines also seemed to dry up for a while, they are back, not only under the Alain Graillot label, but also under that of Alain’s son, Maxime, who is now in charge of making both brands. I first tried one of Maxime’s wines back in 2011, and quite liked it, so when I conducted a recent not-quite-random survey of red Rhones, I added these to the mix. For the most part, the wines are quite tasty; I also included one from Saint-Joseph as well, just because I could.

2010 Domaine des Lises Crozes-Hermitage Maxime Graillot, 13% alc., $27.99: Inky, purple garnet color; earthy, grapey, fairly ripe and intense, this just screams young Syrah, with its slightly astringent black plum and berry character. There’s some nice shades of briar-bramble here as well, and even a bit of the barnyard. Full bodied, with good structure and length. Exuberant and then some, this is already drinking very well; it gets better and better with air and will improve with cellaring. I’d like to try it again in about 5 years. Made from the oldest vines in a single vineyard near the village of Beaumont-Monteux. Find this wine

Imported by Europvin U.S.A, Van Nuys, CA

2011 Domaine des Lises Crozes-Hermitage Équinoxe Maxime Graillot, 12.5% alc., $22.99: Deep, dark garnet color, with briar-bramble setting the tone to the wine’s personality. Not quite as deep or intense as the previous selection, but there’s still a nice core of black and red plum and berry. It has a subtle floral quality to it, and a slightly green note, but that’s not a negative. Full bodied, with good structure, and while it’s drinking very well right now, it should continue to give pleasure over the next 5 years and beyond. Find this wine

Imported by Europvin U.S.A, Van Nuys, CA

2010 Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage, $31.99: Inky purple garnet, with earthy flavors and aromas of black plum, iodine, briar-bramble and a hint of the barnyard. Ripe and pungent, this is just as exuberant as the ’10 Domaine des Lises, but with more depth. Full bodied and well structured; very grapey, with lots of mineral. Pretty damned good now, but it’ll be better in 2020. This is Crozes-Hermitage the way I like it! Find this wine

Imported by Europvin U.S.A, Van Nuys, CA

2011 Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage, $31.99: Clean, dark garnet color, and even “greener” than the ’11 Équinoxe. A good core of black fruit, full bodied, with good structure, but not at all what I expect from a Graillot Crozes-Hermitage. As it opens, it gains a meaty quality that offsets the green, but I can only describe it as Graillot Lite. Not a bad wine, but not worth the price tag, either. I expected a strong wine here, and that’s not what I tasted. Stick with the 2010 vintage. Find this wine

Imported by Europvin U.S.A, Van Nuys, CA

Since we also had a bottle from another of the other “lesser” northern Rhône appellations during the same week, I figured there’d be nothing wrong with including my impressions here. As it happens, Eric and Joel Durand are anything but “lesser” producers.

2010 Eric & Joel Durand Saint-Joseph Les Coteaux, 14% alc., $31.99: Clean dark color; not nearly the exuberance as the two Équinoxe or the ’10 Graillot, this offers straightforward, old school Syrah character, and that’s by no means a bad thing. Earthy and somewhat herbaceous black plum and berry; full bodied, with good structure, this is more than just approachable, and it gets better and better with air. Good stuff here! Find this wine

Imported by AHD Vintners, Ltd., Warren, MI

Reporting from Day-twah,

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