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What's new in iJamming!...
Mon, Nov 25, 2002
iJamming! Wino/Muso:
"New world wines are just too techno for me."
Featured wine region 3:
Featured wine region 4:
Featured wine region 2:
The Geography
The Villages
Featured vine:
Finally, a worthy rival to Chardonnay.

Now with updated reviews
Featured wine region 1:
Featured wine web site:
What wine fans and music devotees have in common.
Featured wino: TIMO MAAS
Featured party wine:
CLINE's Cotes d'Oakley
And how Cline does it
Featured wine web site: VIGNOBLES BRUNIER
The full iJamming! Contents
The iJamming! featured
Being a dedicated multi-tasker, I was checking out the sites for some of the labels and artists featured on Free Activation Vol 2 while listening to said album and also reading responses to a query I had made about Chateauneu-du-Pape's Le Vieux Telegraph on the Wine Lovers Discussion Group Forum. When someone pointed me towards the home page of Le Vieux Telegraph's producer Daniel Brunier, I blithely followed the link and went back to writing my brief record review. As music came up on my computer I assumed I was listening to one of the electronica artists from Sweet Mother or GoodVibes or Ubiquity Recordings, all of whose web sites had loaded music immediately upon entering their home page. Only when I switched back to Netscape did I find that I was actually at Bruniers' Flash-heavy but beautifully understated site, listening to some ambient-world-gypsy musical offering as a series of heavenly black and white photographs ran through the wine-making process, from gnarled vines at winter through the ripening stage, the picking, the fermenting and the blending. It wasn't too big a leap of imagination to picture myself back in the Rhône valley. I could almost feel the summer sun on my skin, smell the ripening grapes in the air and taste the wine in its home domaine. (The picture below, cribbed from the site, shows a Châteauneuf wine barrel from the 95 vintage.)

Brunier is a serious vigneron, dedicated to the wine artisan's concept of "terroir" (which in this family's case means organic farming, a lack of chemcials, no irrigation and minmum fining and filtratin). And his web site is serious too, brooking no fancy gimmicks or press quotes. But it's also endearing, unpretentious, meticulously written in English as well as native French, and gives far more information on each of the domaine's dozen wines than you could hope of getting from any other resource material.

The top Le Vieux Telegraphe from Châteauneuf du Pape - also known as "La Crau" for that particular terroir - carries a suggested retail price of around $40; as befits a producer who follows his own pace and not that of a booming market, the 1998s are only hitting the stores now, even as some consumers have already begun eyeing the 99s. Given that there are 17,000 cases of the stuff, the wine ought to be readily available. And it is, though its reputation as one of the best of an exceptional vintage has not stopped occasional price-gouging: Zachy's, a store I occasinally buy from online when it prices sensibly, is selling the 98 for an astronomical $75, but I ended up finding a bottle for the more appropriate $42 at Vintage Cellars, a small, user friendly store on Smith Street in Brooklyn (just down the road from Halcyon). This being somewhat beyond my everyday budget, I'm going to hold it for a few years until it's at its best, so no tasting notes from me. But people that I trust, on online discussion boards like the Wine Lovers Discussion Group as well as reviewers like Robert Parker and Steve Tanzer, unanimously consider it one of the best examples from the appelation. The secondary Vieux Telegraph Wine, Mas De Papes, is more widely available and at a far more secondary price of around $20-25. By Brunier's ready admission on the site, "output varies," but in good years like 98 and 99, you're not taking too much of a risk.

Nearly fifteen years ago, Brunier took over the Châteauneuf du Pape estate Domaine La Roquette, whose wines have rapidly gained in prestige as a result. Though I've yet to see the 98s on market, my local odd-ball store, Sterling, has a whole stock of the highly regarded 1995s at $22. The advantage if you come accross this kind of bargain is that the wines will be at their best much sooner, but although one bottle opened at a wine dinner revealed a typically Provencal earthy garrigue nose and a lot of depth, it also suggested that it was a little 'closed' right now. I'm going to give the other one I bought another year or two.

In 1998, Brunier in partership with importer Kermit Lynch bought the estate Les Pallieres in neighboring Gigondas, a favorite appelation of mine since seeing its beauties first hand and also because its wine can pack Châteauneuf du Pape style flavor into bottlings sometimes half the price. Not in Les Pallieres' case however; the 1998 bottling, the first fruits of Bruniers' involvement, just hit the stores at a rather terrifying $29, this despite the fact that the partnership took over the estate too late to cut the high yields and ended up selling off half the grapes. Parker and Tanzer have held back their praise accoridngly, rating the wine in the mid-high 80s, a respectable score but not justification of the price. The Wine Spectator, which is often out of whack in such scenarios, rates Les Pallieres a whopping 92pts and stuck it in their top 100 wines of the year 2000. Other people I trust have told me it's not up to much. I'll pass.

Finally if all these prices seem a little excessive - and I know they do - then be aware that Bruienier also makes a Vin de Pays de Vaucluse (a 'country' wine from a region just outsdie the Côtes du Rhone) entitled le Pigeoulet. Available as a red and rose, it should make great drinking at a great price if you can find it. I've never come across it.

So what to drink while listening to Free Activation? I'd go for Brunier's 98 Mas de Papes or Roquette, even though I haven't tried them. No, to be honest, I'd cheat. Open a Côtes du Rhône for half the price, enjoy the warming music and immerse yourself in the beauty of the imagery from Brunier's web site; it might be just the push you need to encourage you to invest in a Chateauneuf du Pape somewhere down the line. And if it doesn't, you're still none the worse off.

Other recommended Châteauneuf du Pape web sites. . .
Domaine de la Solitude
Jean-Pierre Boisson (who is also the mayor of Chateauneuf-du-Pape!).
Domaine de Beaurenard

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