2015 Emmanuel Darnaud Crozes Hermitage Au Fil Du Temps – 96 Jeb Dunnuck

King of Crozes!


Last night, we took some much deserved time out from our unending work and worries to enjoy one of the very finest bottles in the store. With so much going for it – being from one of the greatest vintages in modern history for the Northern Rhone, 2015, for one – I knew we were in for a thrill ride. Pulling the cork at 4:00 pm, it would take until nearly three hours later – 7:00 pm! – before this nearly perfect wine unfolded to reveal all its beauty and power.

The wine I’m introducing is none other than Emmanuel Darnaud’s otherworldly Crozes Hermitage. Easily a wine I would taste and present alongside some of the greatest Northern Rhone selections offered by Chave, Clape or Chapoutier, Darnaud’s Croze Hermitage hit the scene in 2001, making this amazing winemaker a rising star – perhaps a newcomer to most folks who are very serious about their wines.

Today, however, Darnaud’s star has fully risen; this is a superstar domaine fully capable of holding its own again the very best. Emmanuel’s secrets to success are actually quite straightforward – low yields, hand harvesting, single vineyard fermentation, an emphasis on terroir, de-stemming and fairly long macerations – but what sets him apart (the reason for such ethereal wines) are his plots.

Emmanuel Darnaud’s very first parcel was a pristine plot, no larger than 4 acres, which was leased to him by his father in law, the great Hermitage producer Bernard Faurie. The rest was up to Darnaud, and he made the most it. By the arrival of the string of perfect vintages – 2015, 16, 17 & 2018 – Darnaud was in full control, bottling wines of a lifetime.

One taste of his 2015 Crozes Hermitage from the single vineyard Au Fil Du Temps will open your eyes and blow away your palate!

Easily worth $75, available at Park Street Wine Cellars for less than $45!

Possibly the wine of the appellation and a true “wow” wine, the 2015 Crozes-Hermitage Au Fil Du Temps offers sensational notes of cassis, toasted spice, vanilla and blackberry jam. Full-bodied, concentrated and polished, with perfect balance, it’s a gorgeous, seamless beauty that ranks with the finest Crozes-Hermitage I’ve ever tasted. It should be capable of lasting for 10-15 years.

One of the up and coming superstars is unquestionably Emmanuel Darnaud, who leapt onto the scene in 2001. He produces three terrific Crozes-Hermitages as well as an excellent Saint Joseph.  — 96 points, Jeb Dunnuck


2016 Andre Brunel Chateauneuf du Pape Les Cailloux

                 2016 — Best Yet!


Another Gem direct from the soon to be released collection at Park Street Wine Cellars.

Another advantage to purchasing this Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate 96 point rockstar Chateauneuf du Pape from us is that we buy direct, saving you some serious coin!

Lowest price on https://www.wine-searcher.com/ ?


Our price? $44.99!

Buying direct has its advantages.

And that’s not even factoring in the case discounts!!

Xavier Vignon Does It Again – Chateauneuf la Reserve VII IX X – An All Time Favorite!

Xavier Vignon - One of Chateauneufs Finest!

                             Xavier Vignon – One of Chateauneufs Finest!

Regular readers of these pages are no stranger to the stunning wines being produced by Xavier Vignon. As one of the top two leading consultants in the Rhone (Cambie the other), Xavier has established a flawless reputation working with such luminaries as Marcoux, Grand Veneur, Raymond Usseglio and others. Through these relationships, he has gained access to incredibly pristine parcels of very old vine plantings across the valley (especially in Chateauneuf) where he works with centenarian vines of Grenache and Syrah as well as 75-85 year old plots of multiple other varieties.

For his Reserve lines, Xavier hand picks his top barrels of Anonyme from his favorite vintages, blending them in perfect proportions to reach an insanely delicious cuvee that rewrites the books on Chateauneuf du Pape. Every detail is there – these are not Frankenstein wines – from the textbook terroir and Provençal notes to the ethereal depth of fruit we fans of the region’s very finest expect. In addition, you have Xavier’s unmatched depth of talent in blending. You can taste the aspect of each vintage he utilizes in the blends. These are truly magical wines.

My personal shipment of the Reserve VII IX X arrived three weeks ago and after ample down time to allow it to recover from shipment, I finally cracked a bottle. To say that I concur with my favorite critic on all things Rhone Valley – Jeb Dunnuck – is putting it lightly. My final 5 bottles will be hidden in the cellar for some very special events…

NV Xavier Vins • Chateauneuf du Pape la Reserve VII IX X

While I reviewed this NV Châteauneuf du Pape La Reserve VII IX X (a blend from the 2007, 2009 and 2010 vintages) last year, I was able to taste it again this go around, and it still blew me away. Fabulously full-bodied and decadent, with loads of lavender, incense, black raspberry and cured-meat nuances, it’s still youthful and vibrant, with notable freshness and purity. Enjoy this brilliant wine through 2028.

Consulting at a number of top estates (Marcoux, Grand Veneur, Raymond Usseglio, etc.), Xavier Vignon (along with Philippe Cambie) is one of the leading oenologists in the Southern Rhone – and you only need to taste his own negociant wines to understand why. I was blown away by these current and new releases. Across the board they showed beautifully made profiles, with not only loads of fruit and texture, but superb balance and classic Southern Rhone characters. In fact, each of the wines showed what I think of as textbook characteristics of the terroirs from which they come. In addition, the prices remain remarkably low, and these wines are a treasure trove for the savvy buyer.

96 points – Jeb Dunnuck, Wine Advocate

ERIC & JOËL DURAND – Rock Stars of Cornas – Hottest Wines of the Region

                               Cornas Rock Stars


Brothers Eric and Joel Durand are precise, authoritative artisans. Perhaps you’ve heard that from professionals such as Jancis Robinson, who, after the most exhaustive, comprehensive tasting of the region’s wines I’ve discovered (vintages spanning 1972 to 1991, multiple Crus, every major estate you can imagine) swooned for the Durand Brothers. Speaking of the Durands’ youngest cuvee at that time, Jancis Robinson reported:

“The wine is testament to some very fine, sensitive winemaking with lots of fruit in the middle to compensate for well-managed tannins.”

That started the ball rolling for the young artisans – European sommeliers couldn’t get enough – and soon the world was calling.

Approaching the Durand vineyards, one cannot help but be awestruck. You wonder how these guys ever mustered the strength – the stamina – to rework these treacherous, crumbling hillsides. After assuming the family estate in 1991, they began reworking their vineyards, but not the vines – not just yet – they had to first secure the terraces which supported their family’s old Syrah vines. One by one, rock by rock and parcel by parcel they rebuilt the terraces on their steeply sloping hillside vineyards – the only method to secure their incredible vineyards and save their Syrah from literally sliding into the valley.

From there, the brothers designed the most intricate trellising system I’ve ever witnessed. Zig-zagging their way up the granitic slopes of the Cornas hills, the vines in each of the Durands’ oldest parcels grow upwards, arching at the top, forming an upside down “U”, reaching the vine adjacent.

                                        Durand Vineyards

This work on the terraces as well as the wildly imaginative trellising spanned nearly 20 years; when I witnessed it, I was taken aback. Words cannot do justice.

Three unique, beautifully individual as well as incredibly limited cuvees (low yields are a given in this environment) are now offered by the brothers. Their soils change as you move gradually up the Cornas slope; silt laden deposits give way to pure granite, which then changes to migmatite (granitic components within metamorphic surroundings). Complexity; awe-inspiring; mind-changing – you have never tasted Cornas quite like this…

Take my advice; seek out the trio of their top offers (Prémices, Empreintes and Confidence). That’s the only way you will truly understand the minute differences and striking, individual personalities of each of these treasures of time, place, mono-varietal, and human endeavor.

If you’re curious where to locate, leave me a reply…

Domaine du Clos des Fees – Hervé Bizeul’s Ethereal Cuvee le Clos des Fees

View from one of many old vine sites sourced by Hervé Bizeul

View from one of many old vine sites sourced by Hervé Bizeul

Among my most lasting memories of the Roussillon (France’s deep south-west at the border with Spain) was a visit to the region in the early 1990s. My host – pedal to the metal in his classic Citroen – zigzagged us up a seemingly abandoned, steeply angled road as we headed to the summit of a vineyard-capped mountain off the coast, near Port-Vendres.

Suddenly, he slammed on his brakes, summoning me to exit the car. Not quite to the summit, he said we’d made about 2,000 feet elevation, bringing my attention to the crumbling limestone slopes adjacent.

Dangling from the crumbling rock were the roots of vines from several meters above. The scree-covered slopes, eroded from years of wind-swept conditions were now exposing the roots of numerous vines. Yet these ancient roots had somehow remained burrowed into the mountain, their eventual source of nourishment seemingly dozens of meters below. Over the decades – battling every scourge from Mother Nature – these roots of time survived; life support for the ancient bush vines of multiple varieties covering the mountain above us.

These are the types of ancient vines and soils which comprise one fraction of the many complex parts that come together, resulting in some of the greatest wines now being made in the Roussillon. I’ve made this trip many additional times, searching for greatness.

I’m here to say that I’ve found it; and it resides at Domaine du Clos des Fees. Hervé Bizeul works with the most important terroirs on earth, every one of them available to him in the Roussillon. Tasting the fruits of his labor will utterly impress even the most seasoned tasters.

This is the kind of wine you want – it deserves discovery – and you’re going to be talking about it for years.

2012 Domaine du Clos des Fees Cotes du Roussillon Villages le Clos des Fees

My favorite of the lineup, the 2012 Côtes du Roussillon Villages Le Clos des Fées is a sensational effort that’s most likely the wine of the vintage. Made from 50% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 20% Carignan and the rest Mourvèdre that was aged 16 months in roughly 60% new French oak, it’s a classic, structured, age-worthy Roussillon that exhibits lots of blackberry and cassis fruit, smoked herbs, licorice and scorched earth. Full-bodied and concentrated, yet light on its feel, with a firm, focused finish, give it 2-3 years and enjoy bottles through 2027. There are few wines from the Roussillon I’d rather have in my cellar.

97 points – Wine Advocate (JD)

Hunt this one down; tell me what you think…

Updates from The Greats – Donelan Family Wines


Donelan Family Wines

If you have plans for being in the Sonoma area in early August, add this event to your itinerary, NOW.

For ME, when it comes to selecting the top 5 or so greatest experiences my palate has enjoyed, considering wines from America, there will simply not be a better offer to come our way this year. For true Syrah aficionados, Grenache fanatics or lovers of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Hermitage, Donelan Family Wines (formerly known as Pax) bottles the most expressive, sublime, powerful and hedonistic single-vineyard-designated and blended wines of this generation.

I have been drinking and collecting these exquisite wines for many vintages now. I encourage you to do the same.

Donelan Summer 2010 Open House and current offers:

via Donelan Summer 2010 Open House.



Donelan Family (PAX)

If price alone predicates your daily “quaffer” selections, vinously speaking, then perhaps this collection will fall somewhere outside your comfort zone. But for ME, when it comes to selecting the top 5 or so greatest experiences my palate has enjoyed, considering wines from America, there will simply not be a better offer to come our way this year. For true Syrah aficionados, Grenache fanatics or lovers of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Hermitage, Donelan Family Wines (formerly known as Pax) bottles the most expressive, sublime, powerful and hedonistic single-vineyard-designated and blended wines of this generation.

I have been drinking and collecting these exquisite wines for many vintages now. I encourage you to do the same.

A Very Special Offer of Pax & Donelan Verticals.

Enkidu – Russian River Meets Ampuis

So I found myself at the conclusion of a highly satisfying wine tasting last week, the final wine at which was a staggering St.-Joseph from the estate of Cuilleron in the Northern Rhone. The guests at my event and I had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves during our intimate gathering together at Bistro des Amis and I had excused myself to assist a new client with a wine purchase. Inviting my guests to finish off any wines remaining in the half-full bottles while I was other-wise occupied resulted – quite naturally – in the IMMEDIATE draining of the juice left in the Cuilleron bottle. “What ever am I to drink as I pull orders and do paper-work tonight”, I happily thought upon my return.

Then I remembered the wine I had recently ear-marked for this week’s Wine-of-the-Week!

I gathered up my things, headed back to the wine shop and immediately plunged my trusty wine key into another bottle of this staggering (or at the very least stunning) bottle of Russian River Valley Syrah. YES, it absolutely holds its ground after drinking a $90 bottle of 95 point rated Northern Rhone Syrah! Doubt me? Don’t buy it, please! Leave it for me – this is my latest daily drinker. I’ve already drank 3 bottles and it’s only been here a week.

OK, so perhaps you’d like a bit of background…

The “old fella” behind the project known as Enkidu is Philip Staehle. I affectionately refer to him as I do because he’s been around this business longer than I have. In fact, he’s made Sonoma his professional hang-out since I was just a lad in this business. So deeply rooted in the vineyards of the Russian River is ol’ Staehle that it’s no wonder that another “old man” of the business, Parker, immediately announced to the world that the wines of Enkidu are not to be missed:

Robert Parker reviewed Enkidu’s wines in 2007 and 2008. He was extremely complimentary both years:

“This impressive new producer has turned out some attractive reds that merit serious attention.”­

Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (Aug 2007)

“These wines continue to impress me as elegant examples of Rhone Ranger blends.” ­

Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (Aug 2008)

And so it is with great pleasure that I offer to you (before I drink it all) my allocation of the great Enkidu 2005:

2005 Enkidu Syrah Odyssey Vineyard Russian River Valley
Enkidu Wine
Syrah Dry Red Table Wine
Russian River Valley, Sonoma, North Coast, California, USA

Review by Cepage Noir
E*Newsletter Winter 2008
Rating: 92
“An Outstanding wine worth your serious attention that will impress and offer memorable drinking experiences.”
Drink: 2008 – 2018

“An absolutely opaque, black, ruby purple robe sets the taster up for one of the most memorable and deeply complex Syrahs of the entire vintage, certainly of the Russian River appellation. Mirroring the aromatics of Northern Rhone super Syrahs from Cote Rotie, this 2005 Odyssey offers nuances of roasted meats, captivating charcoal / graphite, black berry pie, toasted bread / pain grille’ and buckets of decadent fruits allied to deeply complex French Oak. The flavors are captivating to echo the aromas and caress the palate to include the deep black berry and smoky French Oak flavors. Tasted after a near-triple digit Northern Rhone, this was that wine’s equal. Stunning, just stunning.”
– Cepage Noir

for details regarding availability and pricing, contact me at the shop…

All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier
2439 Times BLVD
Houston, TX 77005

Windswept 90 Pointer Rounds out the Series

Hello again folks,

Part III of this series is actually a dual pronged effort; combining my efforts to hear the voice of “The People” with my desire to recapture for you our travels through the windswept back-roads of France’s deep South.  Our wine today combines the full, rich and exciting flavors so many of you required in your survey responses with not only the price point we all seek, but a real sense of adventure as well.  What’s more, it was a resounding success at last evening’s wine tasting, very nearly coming in first place just behind a wine costing nearly 3 times its price! 

The road we travel to discover this sun drenched region, known as Minervois, is well travelled in these pages.  Known as the Autoroute du Soleil, we travelled this road from Avignon through Ventoux and Montpellier, turning west as the Route now changes to the A9.  The massive Mount Ventoux, all 6,500 intimidating feet of it, has faded in the rear view mirror and the land, as we speed towards the walled city of Carcassonne, begins to resemble the winding, dusty roads outside Austin; a sort of Texas hill country if you will.

Minervois was recognized by the French appellation committee and singled out for elevation to its own designated region on February 15th 1985.  Prior to that time, this vast region of nearly 40,000 acres, a region that spans not 1, but two full departments, or “states” as we call them, the Aude and the Herault, had been known simply as another portion of the mammoth Coteaux du Languedoc.  The efforts of a handful of highly gifted and dedicated growers, however, catapulted this hot and aired region to its new-found “place in the sun”.

My first encounter with just such a forward thinking wine maker in this new Minervois came in the mid-1990’s as I travelled the South in search of treasures of the value nature.  I had heard tales of plantings of Syrah and Grenache in these hills and valleys and my interest was to taste as many of the reputed best as possible.  With road map, French translation dictionary and legal pad in my hand, I was headed into the 95 degree day.

Today’s offer, this fabulous unoaked blend from the young and strapping Laurent Coustal at Chateau Sainte Eulalie, represents the passion that not only he (Laurent) holds for the wines of Minervois, but the pride that these people of this young region carry with them as they show the world their wines.  This cuvee from Laurent comes from a single hill, a hill called La Liviniere; a hillside considered the heart of Minervois for its ability to craft grapes of truly superior quality.  A hillside vineyard often denoted on the more expensive offerings from this region, La Liviniere’s soil is rich with a deep layer of limestone; perfect for the maturing of complex Syrah and Grenache.

When you taste this seemingly humble wine from the proud Laurent, humble in that its cost is just so darn affordable, you should remember the rolling hills and perfect sunshine that combine to favor organic production for Sainte Eulalie’s wines.  The vineyard consists of absolutely zero top soil, is constantly blown dry by swirling winds and further benefits by Laurent’s firm dedication to ever-increasing work towards biodynamics.  This is pure, natural and “of the Earth” wine, and the purity one encounters in the flavors and depth of complexity – never mind the price – truly sets this estate apart from the crowd.

But you wouldn’t have it any other way from me, now would you?

2007 Chateau Sainte Eulalie Minervois
Chateau Sainte Eulalie
15% Syrah, 45% Grenache, 40% 85 year-old Carignan Dry Red table wine
Minervois, Languedoc Roussillon, France

Review by Cepage Noir
E*Newsletter Winter 2009
Rating: 90
“An Outstanding wine worth your serious attention that will impress and offer memorable drinking experiences.”
Drink: 2008 – 2013

        “Another exciting experience, and an appellation that this taster has considerable tasting prowess with, Eulalie exemplifies not only the cutting edge techniques of today’s young superstar wine-makers, but the perfection you’re reading about regarding this 2007 vintage for the regions from Avignon to Carcassonne.  Just a gorgeous aromatic display unfolds from the glass of this amazing over-achiever.  An alluring combination of blue and red fruits on the aromas and palate combine with an almost buttery texture to offer a lip-smacking, gulp-able, yet utterly serious drinking profile.  This is simply a total turn on and a joy a to drink!”
                — Cepage Noir 

just a few cases remain after the successful results from last night’s event…

do get your orders in soon!

offered for a mere $15 per bottle (I said it was underpriced!)

or a dandy $156 for a case of 12 (WOW!)

95 Point Vintage Yields Part II in The Series: Your Voice is Heard

Hello again folks,

Part II of this week’s series, a series dedicated to “Listening to The People”, now takes direct aim at satisfying the palates of the Cabernet and “Cabernet Blends” lovers.  This particular category registered second place by only the narrowest of margins in our survey of a couple weeks ago, so addressing your desires for value Cabernets / Blends became my focus while meeting with suppliers these past several days.  Interestingly, finding THESE types of wines in that magic price point so many folks are searching for today was easier, but the selections came with caveats in the vast majority of cases.

I’ll explain.  Cabernet Sauvignon, in all its glory and all its various forms and blends – be it labelled on its own, dubbed a Meritage from the West Coast in homage to the wines of Medoc, hailing from any of the many appellations of Bordeaux, or from any of dozens of countries from Australia to Chile to Africa and back again – has been the most powerful and successful wine category for as long as I’ve been in the wine business (indeed for as long as wine as been marketed).  Carving out market share in this dastardly competitive sector requires serious savvy – and decent wine-making doesn’t hurt either. 

Let’s address that first point, one of savvy when marketing your Cabernet / Blend.  The major suppliers, distributors, wineries, importers and such that I am forced to play ball with in my antiquated, monopoly driven 3-tiered market state are some of the most powerful companies on the Planet.  Through consolidation and the building of literally thousands of multi-thousand square foot liquor stores in the state, the place where I attempt to discover hand crafted and terroir driven wines feels like a vinous waste-land on most days. 

These giants of the liquor industry own the rights to most major as well as “individualistic” Cabernets.  So to even have an opportunity to sample one, I as an independent merchant will be forced to accept one of the mass-marketed / plonk brands represented by these same suppliers.  To paraphrase, if I wish to offer my ever-dwindling base of clients a wine such as Harlan, and I use that one strictly as an example, a stack of somebody’s “Coastal Cabernet” will be demanded in a prominent corner of my wine shop.  That’s the wine business in my town, and there’s nothing I can do about it.  They call themselves “savvy marketers”.

But once in awhile, once in blue moon as I say, my Dorothy takes care of me.  Dorothy is my pet name for one of my suppliers – and she works for THE big boys.  She really takes my interests to heart and she absolutely reminds me of a scene right out of The Wizard of Oz.  You can imagine the red slippers every time she walks in.  She sells me Dunn “on the sly”, brought me an allocation of Loring for literally half the cost of what the mega-mall of liquor was buying it for; in short, she protects us.  And with today’s offer, a Blend that takes my palate and mind through a tunnel of Mediterranean as well as New World sensations, she has once again brought us a wine that not only rocks my charts, but is priced like never before, too.

This is McLaren Vale, a Valley town roughly 30 miles south of Adelaide, on the Gulf of St. Vincent.  Nearly 50 boutique, family-owned and operated wineries call this beautiful region their home and they describe their climate as almost “Mediterranean” in style.  The great Cabernet does very well here, as do the Shiraz, Merlot and a host of other grape types, offering the interested explorer wine types ranging from dry whites to “port-like” wines of the fortified nature.  Today’s blend, from the very famous folks at Scarpantoni, brings together Cabernet with Shiraz and Merlot from one of the greatest vintages Southern Australia has recorded in decades, 2002.  The good folks here suggested, upon release, this wine age for “up to 8 years” before consumption, to allow for integration.  Now that I’ve tasted it with just nearly that suggested bottle age, folks, look out – this is one delicious bottle of wine!

Thanks “Dorothy”, you’ve done it again!

2002 Scarpantoni “School Block”
Scarpantoni Estate Wines
60% Shiraz, 30% Cabernet, 10% Merlot Dry Red Table Wine
McLaren Vale, South Australia, Australia

Review by Cepage Noir
E*Newsletter Winter 2009
Rating: 89 points
Excellent wine with all the qualities expected of a near-outstanding rated wine.”
Drink: 2009 – 2012

        “A deep, opaque color, bricking at the rim, indicating a wine reaching its window of drinkability.  A big, brooding nose, soaring from the glass and offering buckets of decadent black fruits, molasses, black and white pepper, jam and even some wild marmalade nuances, all allied to an almost chicory-like oak frame that is just fabulous to smell.  The palate has lost its baby fat and now offers the sweetest, most subtle red berry fruits that are captivating with 30 minutes of air.  We have jam, berries and vanilla, with the youthful oak now integrated to offer a decadent yet harmonious and cocoa infused flavor profile.  Once a tannic and oaky wine, this is now integrated, polished and quite the drinker.  Just delicious.  Think lamb, think duck.”
                — Cepage Noir

Cabernet fans, fans of full-bodied Blends, Aussie drinkers: this is for you!

Normally about a $25 bottle of wine…

But coming out this week at only $18 per btl!

Think you might want a case?  How about $15 per btl on orders of 12 bottles or more?!

If your account is current, you may order via email, or by calling 713-524-9144…