• Bona Fide Cornas:  Domaine Auguste Clape 1988-2016

    Bona Fide Cornas: Domaine Auguste Clape 1988-2016

    Last July's visit through the Northern Rhone anxiously started in Burgundy when I hit the road at dawn on my birthday and drove south. Short on sleep from the night's festivities, but the anticipation for the next chapter on the tour was all the fuel I needed. First stop: Domaine Auguste Clape.

    Today, I'm happy to offer wines from the legendary Cornas family, stretching from 1988 to 2016.

    Finding adequate words to place Auguste Clape into the context of Northern Rhone's history is difficult. Eric Asimov does a much better job. Of course, being the original producer in Cornas to bottle under his own label is a notch on the belt. And, having worked exclusively by hand on these treacherously steep terraces is another. Sadly, the day after my visit with his son Pierre-Marie, Auguste Clape passed away at 93. 

    No domaine founded in the birthplace of Syrah captures the soul of its appellation like Clape has with Cornas. Having started with a domaine bottling in 1955 and having stopped all négociant sales in 1968, Auguste Clape is a pioneer of the Rhone joined in ranks with names like Verset, Trollat, and Juge. 

    Clape's 5.5 hectares of vines in Cornas cover over 10 parcels, such as Reynard and Chaillot from Allemand fame, as well as Nöel Verset's cherished, 
    Sabarotte. This dizzying array of Cornas terroir plays a huge role in the success that's spanned so many decades here. The wines are produced in the most traditional fashion with 100% whole cluster fermentation and aging in old barrels, with the two Cornas cuvées seeing 22 months in large foudre.

    The style of the domaine has always been one that's pushed for maximum ripeness, choosing to pick at the last moment before the ominous fall rains begin. This style of fruit-forward Cornas coming from porous granite soils endow the wines with tremendous structure, but with a pleasurable side of lusciousness. Unlike Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, the argument is often made that of the Big 3, Cornas offers an up-front approachability thanks to its southern and warm amphitheater setting. However, the typical savage scorched earth quality where Cornas derives its name is the foundation of the wines from this fabled domaine.

    Tasting through each parcel and visiting the vines with Pierre-Marie was a window into a time long ago. Methods and settings have remained unaltered. There hadn't been rain for some time, and just maintaining footing on these steep slopes was a challenge, as both of us used a grasp on the échelas stakes for support.

    In the cellar, tasting 2017 in foudre back through bottles from the 90's was a great lesson in the transformation of the wines. The highlight may have been that 2017 barrel sample of the isolated 80-yr-old, 1.2 hectare Reynard parcel. A concentrated and chiseled beast from the robust 2017 Northern Rhone vintage.


    Côtes du Rhone is 100% Syrah from 30-50-yr-old vines. 100% whole cluster fermented. Aged 6 months in cement, and another 6 months in foudre. 2% is comprised of free fun juice from young vine Cornas.

    Cornas is sourced from 30-60 yr-old vines. 100% whole cluster fermented. Aged 22 months in 6 or 22 hl-foudres.

    Cornas Renaissance is sourced from younger vines. Fermentation and aging is the same as the Cornas.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Rockstar Realized:  2016 Guillaume Gilles Cornas

    Rockstar Realized: 2016 Guillaume Gilles Cornas

    There's no producer in the Northern Rhone that continues to raise the bar each vintage like Guillaume Gilles. His 2008 was a showstopper for me at the time of release, impressing for an authenticity of Syrah that grabbed ahold of me immediately - the kind that's romantically spoken of, but rarely found in bottle.

    Savage, spicy, purple-hued, and filled with crushed granite, Gilles' Syrah from the famed Chaillot vineyard encapsulates everything that habitually points me to Cornas. Last July's visit with Guillaume was a great opportunity to learn more about the young vigneron who highlights this new generation. 

    Today, I'm happy to offer the 2016 Guillaume Gilles Cornas for $87 per bottle, complete with special pricing on vertical packs.

    Guillaume trained under Jean-Louis Chave and the now-retired Cornas legend, Robert Michel. If Michel's wines were known for their uncommon transparency and light-handed touch, Gilles are darker, more ferocious, and packed with a concentration that's quite different. However, like Robert Michel, the soul of the wines from Gilles are founded on a sense of place that's undoubtedly pure granite and 100% whole cluster fermentation - just the way we like our Cornas!

    Personally, falling hard for the wines of 
    Thierry Allemand have set my eyes continually toward today's more under-the-radar producers. Allemand's 2016's will easily fetch $250+ per bottle - at less than half the price there's simply no producer deserving of more attention now than Guillaume Gilles. 

    Today, Gilles farms just 2.5 hectares, working by hand the famed Chaillot vineyard (pictured below) that he leased from Robert Michel. His traditional approach means zero de-stemming, aging in large neutral barrels, and no fining or filtering. That quintessential combination of roasted meats, violets, blackberries, smoke, black pepper, and the granitic "scorched earth" that Cornas derives its name from is always front and center.

    One of the secret wines in the range that only sees 30 cases arrive to the US annually is his Les Peyrouses VDF, which was served last at our tasting.
     Les Peyrouses is a small parcel containing vines planted over 100 years ago. Unlike the granitic soils of the terraced slopes of Cornas above, this lower portion is planted on sandy and clay soils scattered with the iconic galet stones from the plain of the river. Peyrouses is akin to the more rustic country cousin of Gilles' Cornas cuvée - But, these extremely old vines create an intensely concentrated wine that leads Guillaume to pour as the finalé during visits.

    And, for the first time I'm able to offer Gilles' Cornas "Nouvelle R". 
    The name comes from the vineyard Les Rieux, situated at a very high altitude in Cornas at 450 meters above the amphitheater. The soil here is very unusual, a white granite. Prior to the 21st century nobody had planted vines here, fearing they would not ripen properly. Of course, warming temperatures have winemakers everywhere looking for higher altitude land. At 12.5% alcohol this was a stunner when I tasted with Guillaume, and his mentor Robert Michel remarked this is what Cornas used to taste like in the 70's and 80's when alcohol levels were more modest.

    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Northern Rhône Syrah: There Will Be Scrolling

    Northern Rhône Syrah: There Will Be Scrolling

    Today's list is deep on the main appellations of the Northern Rhône Valley. If you're crazy for Syrah like me, you'll find something to hit every mark and every occasion. Supreme values like Xavier Gerard's Côte Rôtie is still gaining traction in the US as a new import. Hervé Souhaut and Jean-Michel Stephan approach Syrah like their mentor Marcel Lapierre did Gamay. And, old gems turned new with 1991 Gentaz-Dervieux Côte Rôtie and now 2016 Hommage à Gentaz-Dervieux from Rene Rostaing.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Bona Fide Cornas: Domaine Auguste Clape 1988-2016

    Bona Fide Cornas: Domaine Auguste Clape 1988-2016

    After I finished up a great birthday dinner with friends in Meursault, I packed my bags and prepared for the 6am departure for Cornas. Leaving eight days of Burgundy in my rear view was difficult, but the upcoming appointments in the Northern Rhone Valley had enthusiasm sky high. First stop: Domaine Auguste Clape.

    Today, I'm happy to offer wines from the legendary Cornas family, stretching from 1988 to 2016.

    Finding adequate words to place Auguste Clape into the context of Northern Rhone's history is difficult. Eric Asimov does a much better job. Of course, being the original producer in Cornas to bottle under his own label is a notch on the belt. And, having worked exclusively by hand on these treacherously steep terraces is another. Sadly, the day after my visit with his son Pierre-Marie, Auguste Clape passed away at 93. 

    No domaine founded in the birthplace of Syrah captures the soul of its appellation like Clape has with Cornas. Having started with a domaine bottling in 1955 and having stopped all négociant sales in 1968, Auguste Clape is a pioneer of the Rhone joined in ranks with names like Verset, Trollat, and Juge. 

    Clape's 5.5 hectares of vines in Cornas cover over 10 parcels, such as Reynard and Chaillot from Allemand fame, as well as Nöel Verset's cherished, 
    Sabarotte. This dizzying array of Cornas terroir plays a huge role in the success that's spanned so many decades here. The wines are produced in the most traditional fashion with 100% whole cluster fermentation and aging in old barrels, with the two Cornas cuvées seeing 22 months in large foudre.

    The style of the domaine has always been one that's pushed for maximum ripeness, choosing to pick at the last moment before the ominous fall rains begin. This style of fruit-forward Cornas coming from porous granite soils endow the wines with tremendous structure, but with a pleasurable side of lusciousness. Unlike Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, the argument is often made that of the Big 3, Cornas offers an up-front approachability thanks to its southern and warm amphitheater setting. However, the typical savage scorched earth quality where Cornas derives its name is the foundation of the wines from this fabled domaine.

    Tasting through each parcel and visiting the vines with Pierre-Marie was a window into a time long ago. Methods and settings have remained unaltered. There hadn't been rain for some time, and just maintaining footing on these steep slopes was a challenge, as both of us used a grasp on the échelas stakes for support.

    In the cellar, tasting 2017 in foudre back through bottles from the 90's was a great lesson in the transformation of the wines. The highlight may have been that 2017 barrel sample of the isoloted 80-yr-old, 1.2 hectare Reynard parcel. A concentrated and chiseled beast from the robust 2017 Northern Rhone vintage.


    Côtes du Rhone is 100% Syrah from 30-50-yr-old vines. 100% whole cluster fermented. Aged 6 months in cement, and another 6 months in foudre. 2% is comprised of free-run juice from young vine Cornas.

    Cornas is sourced from 30-60 yr-old vines. 100% whole cluster fermented. Aged 22 months in 6 or 22 hl-foudres.

    Cornas Reinassance is sourced from younger vines. Fermentation and aging is the same as the Cornas.


    8x 2016 Clape Côtes du Rhone
    $49 per bottle.

    6x 2015 Clape Côtes du Rhône
    $49 per bottle.

    7x 2014 Clape Côtes du Rhône
    $46 per bottle.

    7x 2015 Clape Cornas Renaissance
    $99 per bottle.

    4x 2000 Clape Cornas
    $227 per bottle.

    4x 1999 Clape Cornas
    $299 per bottle.

    5x 1995 Clape Côtes du Rhone
    $135 per bottle. (Pre Arrival)

    1x 1989 Clape Cornas
    $579 per bottle.

    1x 1988 Clape Cornas
    $579 per bottle.
    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Century Mark Secret Syrah: 2015 Gilles Les Peyrouses Vin de France

    Century Mark Secret Syrah: 2015 Gilles Les Peyrouses Vin de France

    I've sung the praises of Guillaume Gilles for some time now. While the 2015 Cornas release marked a turning point for the domaine where quantities were allocated due to overflow of demand, I've been able to sneak in what's actually the rarest wine of the domaine, coming from the very oldest vines. The Les Peyrouses sees about 30 cases arrive to the US each year, and although this 100% Syrah carries a humble Vin de France label, it's actually poured after the Cornas when Guillaume tastes with visitors. 

    Today, I'm very happy to offer the rarest of the monumental 2015's from Guillaume Gilles, the Les Peyrouses for $58 per bottle.


    Les Peyrouses is a small parcel containing vines planted over 100 years ago. Unlike the granitic soils of the terraced slopes of Cornas above, this lower portion is planted on sandy and clay soils scattered with the iconic galet stones from the plain of the river. Peyrouses is akin to the more rustic country cousin of Gilles' Cornas cuvée - But, these extremely old vines create an intensely concentrated wine that leads Guillaume to pour as the finalé during visits. 

    There's no producer in the Northern Rhone that continues to raise the bar each vintage like Guillaume Gilles. His 2008 was a showstopper for me at the time of release, impressing for an authenticity of Syrah that grabbed ahold of me immediately. In his 2015's, all of those savage Syrah character traits show an impact like I've never seen before: smokey bacon, cardamom, licorice, black olive tapenade, and black cherry fruit make up the core of the Les Peyrouses.

    The 2015 sees 75% whole cluster fermentation, with aging split between neutral 600-liter and 400-liter casks. As is the standard with Gilles' Syrah this is bottled unfined and unfiltered.


    Guillaume trained under Jean-Louis Chave and the now-retired Cornas legend, Robert Michel. Today he farms just 2.5 hectares with Les Peyrouses accounting for the smallest parcel. The amount imported rose over the years from 3 cases to now about 30 for the entire US. If you love traditional Northern Rhone Syrah this is one secret old-vine cuvée from the region's brightest young start not to be missed!

    24x 2015 Guillaume Gilles Les Peyrouses VDF
    $58 per bottle.

    Also available:

    55x 2015 Guillaume Gilles Cornas
    $83 per bottle.

    3x 2015 Guillaume Gilles Cornas 1.5L
    $179 per bottle.

    6x 2014 Guillaume Gilles Cornas
    $74 per bottle.

    7x 2013 Guillaume Gilles Cornas
    $74 per bottle.


    2x 2008 Guillaume Gilles Cornas 1.5L
    $169 per bottle.
    Posted by Max Kogod