2004 Domaine Combier Crozes-Hermitage

Domaine Combier Crozes-Hermitage

Laurent Combier's grandparents were fruit farmers in the Ardeche, the rugged department to the west of the northern Rhone. In the 1930s, they moved to La Roche du Glun, a hamlet that sits on an island between the left and right banks of the Rhone, near Tain L'Hermitage. The family took over 15 acres, 10 of which were planted to vines in the walled-in plot called Clos des Grives. In the late 1940s, when the French government was building the railway connecting Paris to the Rhone region, the Combiers made their living by supplying the railway workers with apricots and a little homemade wine. Laurent's father became the estate manager in 1962. By then, the rail link was complete, but he realized that he could turn an excellent profit exclusively by growing and selling the estate's fruit. M. Combier began to buy more parcels. A few years later, the Combier estate once again proved to be a magnet for a regional construction project: A proposed canal would run through the little island on the Rhone, and literally cut the Combiers' house in two. Laurent's father moved the family to the right bank of the Rhone, close to Le Clos des Grives.

Laurent CombierLaurent grew up in the organic fruit business, tending the apricots, peaches, and 40 different varieties of pears. But his passion was wine. In 1977, at the age of 23, he found an apprenticeship at the famous Domaine Ott in Bandol, then he moved up the Rhone to Chateauneuf-du-Pape. During the 1980s, Crozes-Hermitage had a decidedly mixed reputation, to the extent that it even had one. Only a handful of small producers were making excellent wines under their own label. But when Laurent returned home, he truly understood the potential of his Syrah. Beginning with only 10 acres of vines, he built a state-of-the-art cellar in 1990 and set out to make a name for himself. Since Laurent's hand-harvested, low-yielding fruit was of such a high caliber, even his first vintages were outstanding. Very quickly, he built a reputation for producing subtle wines that slowly reveal layer upon layer of sweet fruit, velvety tannins, and freshness and acidity.

The 2004 growing season was a welcome change from the inferno of the previous summer. Because of the comparatively cool temperature and fine weather, growers were able to harvest their grapes later, when they had reached optimal maturity. Laurent's low-yielding 2004 Crozes-Hermitage is the perfect example of the terrific season. His Crozes-Hermitage (100% Syrah) is elegant and aromatic with a flavor profile characterized by plums, blackberries, and spices, and a silky rich texture. Drink now-2012.