DAY FOUR | Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Tain l’Hermitage
Our final morning in the South greeted us with perfect azure skies and a stiff breeze. After coffee and emails in the courtyard, we departed the house for our first visit. The first domaine sits on a hill at the eastern edge of the appellation, and by the time we reached the chateau the wind had become noticeable and steady. The winemaker smiled as she greeted us; “a petit mistral this morning,” she said, crediting the wind with keeping their grapes healthy and mold-free all year long.
Our second tasting was in downtown Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a family winery with whom we’ve worked for over a decade. The new generation of winemaker has maintained her parents lofty reputation, and the wines are just as good as ever. A fresh, seductive, perfumed white 2015 CDP was a highlight.
We stopped for lunch and wifi in the town’s central Square, and then headed north to the northern border of the appellation. Our final tasting of the Southern Rhône was with a new producer making dark, rich, tannic CDPs and interesting Côtes du Rhônes aged for 2 years before release. We’ve struggled mightily to winnow down our favorite producers this trip so far, and today’s tastings made nothing simpler. A good problem to have, I suppose, but a tricky one nonetheless.
We drove an hour and a half north to Tain l’Hermitage, a city at the foot of the famous Hill of Hermitage. We tasted a sample of a wine we found our first night at dinner in Séguret — just as good as we remembered — and then headed off to dinner. Our restaurant, called Le Quai, was perched on a terrace overlooking the Rhône River and the suspension bridge linking Tournon-sur-Rhône to Tain l’Hermitage. The sun set around 9:15, and we enjoyed our meal thoroughly, watching as the light crept up the steep hillsides across the river.
Tomorrow the north — inky syrah, perfumy whites, and then a last long drive further north to Burgundy.