A Harlan Estate Alum’s Hyper-Focus in Châteauneuf
Winemaker Claire Fabre interned at Napa’s Harlan Estate. She poured everything she learned about making world-class wine into this Vieux Donjon, and we’re not the only ones to notice. This 2014 Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf-du-Pape earned 92-94 points from Vinous, which called it “sweet, seamless and broad on the palate,” and “rich, but vibrant.” Couple that with praise from Jancis Robinson MW who notes that the estate “follows the Clos des Papes model of being based right in the village and not wasting any wine on a special cuvée,” and has praised past vintages for its “richness,” and “flattering life.” This 2014 was crafted from 37 prime acres of Châteauneuf-du-Pape terroir, where 50- to 100-year-old vines thrive in sandy, well-draining soils. The result is a vibrant, concentrated expression of Châteauneuf teeming with richness and layers of red fruit, dried herb and savory flavors. Don’t miss out.
There are no roadside signs directing you to Le Vieux Donjon — a “bastillon of traditional Châteauneuf du Pape,” according to Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. The estate is owned and directed by Claire Fabre and her brother François MIchel. Theirs is one of the only remaining domaines that produces a single red Châteauneuf-du-Pape and that’s it — no uber expensive “Special Cuvées” at three times the price.
Claire grew up working at Vieux Donjon both in the vineyards and cellar with her mother and father. Vintage after vintage on the estate, Claire gleaned the truths of what makes the terroir of Châteauneuf so special. Growing up on the domaine coupled with spending time abroad employed at Napa Valley’s Harlan Estate, Claire has become a fully rounded winemaker and in 2013 took over all winemaking responsibilities from her father.
Today, she manages roughly 45 acres of organically farmed vineyards of Vieux Donjon where one-third of the vines are over 100 years old. Additional vines planted in Le Pied Long, Bois de Boursan, Le Mourre de Gaud, Champigne and Cabrieres sites throughout Châteauneuf lend structure to the final cuvée. The family also owns vines planted in sandy soils a stone’s throw from Chateau Rayas — and if you’re familiar with the heavy round heat-absorbing “galet” of Châteauneuf, you’d understand that’s not too far.
The region’s 2014 low-yielding vintage narrowed Claire’s already strict grape-sourcing focus even further. The 2014 Le Vieux Donjon’s brilliance highlights her ability to discover fruit at their apex regardless of harvest size. Elegant, complex, and seamless, this is Châteauneuf-du-Pape in its purest form.
- Wine Access Wine Team