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Del Mar California may be about as far as anywhere from the town of Montpeyroux, France, but as far as I'm concerned, Montpeyroux and the wines of Sylvain Fadat, and Domaine d'Aupilhac is only as far as my cellar is.
Last night as part of the dual birthday celebrations of Castella Banfi's National Accounts Representative Rita DeLillo and long time wine pal Rick Caras, I pulled out a sampling of the d'Aupilhac wines to showcase what Sylvain has been doing all these years. Rick, along with winepal Ray McKewon both have visited Aupilhac and taken part in some memorable dinners with Sylvain and Desiree, so the wines are not strangers to them.
We opened the night with the 2010 Aupilhac Rose, a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan and Cinsault. Unlike the bone dry rose's from Tavel or Bandol, the Aupilhac is a big rose, loaded with bright strawberry and raspberry flavors. It's a wine and not an aperitif, but that was how we approached it, as right behind it came the 2004 and 2005 Les Cocalieres Blancs. Talk about difference. The 05 was a deep golden color, that at first blush you would have taken for maderization. But it wasn't. It just looked that way. The blend of Roussanne 25%, Marsanne 25%, Rolle (Vermantino) 25% and Grenache blanc 25% was rich and silky, perfect with crab cakes the size of hamburgers. In many ways it was like a Napa Valley Chardonnay while the 04 Les Cocalieres Blancs was a polar opposite in color and flavor. It was steely, crisp and angular, but yet, it possesed the kind of flavor and style that a well made Chablis would offer.
Next up from Aupilhac was a trio of 2002, 2005 and 2006 Coteaux du Languedoc Montpeyroux AOC reds. Of the three, the 2002 was head and shoulders the favorite. It was and continues to be a shining example of great winemaking. Jammy fruit flavors about, while the silky and fresh structure of the wines serves as a backdrop for the herb and spices from the Garrigue that make Languedoc wines so special. While the 05 and 06 were both very good, the 02 took the flight hands down.
We followed up with what may have been the two best wines of Aupilhac ever served side by side that were exported to the USA. The 1998 Les Plos de Baumes and the 2004 La Boda. Sadly, Sylvain only made Les Plos for a few years, and unfortunately for collectors who like wines of in the Napa Valley trophy category, there isn't a lot of it left. The Les Plos was "delightful", showing that Bordeaux varieties can do very well in the Languedoc when in the hands of a talented winemaker. The 04 La Boda, which is a combination of grapes from both the Cocalieres and Aupilhac terroirs was a head turner too. Easily as rich as the 2003 Screaming Eagle Cab, the sensual side of La Boda was most evident as it's restrained power and grace and encased in a velvety rich wine made it stand out so well. Ripe black grapes, rich blueberry and black raspberry and a hint of wild cherry all came through. The good news is neither of these wines is in any rush to be drunk up. They are both very youthful examples of wines that will easily live another five years or more.
The last flight of Aupilhacs were the reds from Sylvain's youngest vineyard. I have had the good fortune to have been with Sylvain a few weks after he purchased the land and over time have watched this empty part of the Languedoc get cleared of the boulders and rocks, some of which are on the back wall of the Aupilhac Gites that I helped name as Maison des Cocalieres (and suggested the use of the rocks for the wall.)
The vineyard holds an even more sentimental memory, as back in 2007 I was married there to my now ex-wife in what was the party of all parties (watch the video which stars the vineyard and Sylvain along with a cameo from Willi's Wine Bar founder Mark Williamson), but my love for the vineyard goes back before that year and the wines the vineyard can produce.
The 2001 Les Cocalieres was the first of the reds from the vineyard and last night perhaps the best. To call it an ethereal wine would not give it its just due. It was mre than that. I have not had a bottle of this in many years and almost forgot that I owned some, but have to admit that it may rival any of the best wines to ever come out of the Languedoc, including the wines of La Grange de Peres which is not far over the hill. The elegant blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre is like a well woven and knitted fabric. Not too much of one or the other, but a wine in harmony. The 2007 showed the same bones but is in need of time, while the 03, 04, 05 and 06 wines are moving along at a pace to be drunk over the next ten years. My view on these wines is to find a reason, heck, an excuse to open them as they just go so well with venison and beef.
Fortuately in a few weeks I'll be at Vinisud the every other year wine trade event just outside of Montpelleier, in Lattes, France where I'll be able to enjoy more of the excellent wines of Domaine d'Aupilhac and some 2500 other winemakers starting on February 21st.