2007 Domaine Cheze Saint-Joseph Rouge Cuvee Ro-Ree
It was a battle between father and son -- a question of who would blink first.
There may be no winegrower in the northern Rhone who is more respected for his work in the vineyards, and the road he took to winemaking stardom, than Louis Cheze. Cheze parlayed a father-son dispute into a Northern Rhone jewel. He did it the hard way. First, by breaking ranks with his father. Then by spending countless hours on a tractor or with a pick in hand.
On our visit to the tiny hamlet of Limony, we asked the guy who has proven that he can make excellent wine in the most difficult vintages, "How was 2007?" He leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms behind his head and smiled. "If every vintage was like 2007, my father would have been bottling his own wine years ago and we never would have fought."
The 2007 St. Joseph "Ro-Ree" is a picture of Syrah purity. Deep violet in color with a delicious kernel of purple/cassis fruit, this is one of the great bargains of the Northern Rhone in a vintage that has been the subject of more journalistic superlatives than anything in France since the 2005 Bordeaux.
But there's something unusual about Louis Cheze that makes this wine doubly enticing. He belongs to a rare breed of French winemaker who likes making wine much more than he likes selling it. The result? Louis' wines are a bargain hunter's delight. We called Louis last week to tell him that the 2006s received high praise (91-92 points) in the Wine Spectator (the '06s are delicious and should be searched out, but just don't have the pizazz of the gorgeous 2007s). Louis listened politely, but we knew we were boring him. He hadn't seen the Spectator reviews and probably, didn't really care.
When Father and Son Butt Heads
When Louis Cheze joined his father at the small 10-acre family estate in the back hills of the St. Joseph appellation, few producers were bottling their own wine. Cheze "pere" was President of the local grape cooperative, and that's where he sold all his Syrah -- for a pittance. Cheze "fils" was attached to the land, already had begun farming meticulously, experimenting, learning from the elite growers of the region. It didn't take long before Louis and his father started butting heads. Why work as he did when his pristine Syrah was being dumped into fermenters with the poorly farmed fruit of his neighbors?
When Louis broke ranks and began bottling on his own, father and son stopped talking. Louis continued to work with the winegrowers of the northern Rhone and was finally professionally adopted by George Vernay, the man who singlehandedly made the Viognier of Condrieu into one of the most coveted white wines in the world.
Tasting Notes from the WineAccess Travel Log
"Deep purple color. Lush cassis-like nose with hints of violets. Firm, tight kernel of purple fruit. Finely layered and tightly knit, the kind of Syrah that will slowly shed its structure revealing the richness underneath. Firm, fine finish. Long. Drink now for its primary purple fruit structure or age for up to seven years."