2010 Domaine de la Citadelle Gouverneur Saint Auban Rouge
 
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'96 Dom Under A Plantain Tree A Foggy Handshake and a Second Bottle of Dom Pérignon 1996

Back then, who knew? Each day, we wrote 700 words about a bottle we'd uncovered during our cellar hopping trips. We attached a photo, taken with a cheap digital camera, then fired off an email hoping someone might read it. But, as we didn't yet know our audience, the juiciest parts of those travel-log entries were edited out. Not any more.

Two years ago, we struck gold in southern France. Just as Robert Parker called the wines of the 2010 vintage in the Rhône some of the greatest in 35 years, we'd beat many to the punch. By the time The Wine Advocate's scores hit the web — raining 98-point pixie dust on the top estates of the appellation — we'd secured 2010 Châteuaneuf-du-Pape allocations from Beaucastel, Vaudieu, Tardieu-Laurent and Xavier Vignon.

Why were we so sure of ourselves? In late 2011, we stole our way into a tasting to which we've never been invited. The attendees were journalists and wine writers, critics who would join Parker in sending the 2010 market into orbit. We dressed the part: tweed jackets, button-down shirts, khakis. We crashed that private party, jotting down tasting notes that would guide our early purchases.

There were over 125 bottles presented in a two-day marathon, featuring almost every top cellar name. The tasters had little time for small talk. We smelled, swirled and sipped, then rattled out adjectives on MacBook keyboards. If Day #1 was entirely dedicated to the extraordinary 2010 Châteauneuf-du-Papes, Day #2 stretched into the village's satellite appellations. In the waning hours of the second afternoon, we finally got our hands on one of the most talked-about wines of the trip — Alexis Rousset-Rouard's monumental Gouverneurs. That mesmerizing 2010 — drawn from a patchwork quilt of 46 calcareous parcels perched on steep hillsides below the fortified village of Ménerbes — stole the afternoon thunder.

We approached Alexis immediately after the tasting, hoping to coax a few pallets out of him. Rousset-Rouard couldn't have been more charming, more polite — or more resolute. While his neighbors in Châteauneuf were riding the critical waves, selling their 2010s to the highest bidders, Domaine de la Citadelle had yet to release its 2008 Gouverneurs! "If you're still interested," Alexis offered, "get back to me at the end of 2013."

Two weeks ago, we made the drive from Montpellier to the Luberon, and then made a beeline for Ménerbes. The 2010 Domaine de la Citadelle Gouverneurs, tasted on a warm winter day under an old chestnut tree, was just as we remembered it: Deepest ruby to the edge, locked in suspended animation, the wild-berry aromas remain wonderfully primary, a luscious mix of crushed raspberry preserves, redcurrant and sweet herbes de Provence. Rich, juicy and marvelously vibrant on the attack, we blew through one bottle before Alexis uncorked a second. An hour later, as we moved inside, it was time to go for the kill. So we went for the bubbles.

Much has been written over the last 400 years about a Benedictine monk named Dom Pérignon. Since the inaugural vintage of 1921 — first released in 1936 — no Champagne has loosened more tongues at the bargaining table than DP. So it was that night in Ménerbes that two bottles of 1996 Dom Pérignon (one a touch oxidized, the second absolutely pristine) helped us land the most stupefying bargain of the great 2010 vintage in the southern Rhône.

The following morning, we had the purchase order emailed to Domaine de la Citadelle. Alexis called an hour later, first telling us that he felt like someone had taken a two-by-four to the left side of his head. Then he added that his memory was foggy. He didn't recall our handshake, or the terms of the agreement consummated over bottle #2. We were sympathetic: There's nothing quite like the vice-like grip of a Champagne hangover. Still we held our ground, helping to explain the inexplicable numbers on the buy box above.



Tasting Notes

2010 Domaine de la Citadelle Gouverneur Saint Auban Rouge
"Deepest ruby to the edge, locked in suspended animation, the wild-berry aromas remain wonderfully primary, a luscious mix of crushed raspberry preserves, redcurrant and sweet herbes de Provence. Rich, juicy and marvelously vibrant on the attack, at once lush, juicy and taut, the finish is bright and vibrant, arguing eloquently for 1-2 decades of cellar slumber. Phenomenal effort from Alexis Rousset-Rouard."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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