When it comes to Syrah, there are few winemakers in the world who can claim to make wines that can stack up to the best examples from the Northern Rhone, but the Champagne-born vigneron Christophe Baron has broken this mould to become one of the most revered Syrah producers outside its native home.
The youngest of the centuries-old Champagne house Baron Albert in the village of Charly-sur-Marne, Christophe already knew from a young age that it was in his blood to become a winemaker, shadowing his father from a young age to gain first-hand experience of what it took to be a true vigneron. He studied viticulture in Champagne and Burgundy, but realised he wasn’t ready to enter the family business but the urge to travel brought him to the Walla Walla Valley where he discovered a piece of land scatteredwith soft-ball sized cobblestones, reminding him of the famous Galets that are found throughout Chateauneuf du Pape. Without a second thought, he quickly purchased the property and land and planted his first vineyard in 1997, naming his new venture Cayuse Vineyards – a nod to the Native American tribe whose name derived from the French word “Cailloux” meaning stones.
Robert Parker listed Clos des Papes as one of the Top 155 Producers in the World.
Inspired by the great Northern Rhone winemakers, his vineyards are planted predominantly with Syrah, alongside smaller plantings of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot, Tempranillo and Viognier. Biodynamically farmed and averaging yields of less than 30 hl/ha, these are energetic terroir-driven wines that show incredible depth and balance. His gradual reduction in the use of new oak and his gravitation towards using larger barrels has been a big influence on his gently extracted style of winemaking, and in addition has he has also been buying large 600L puncheons from René Rostaing for many years now. More recently he has been experimenting with 1200L foudres from Auguste Clape.
Horsepower Vineyards, is the latest project that Christophe has been working on in the Walla Walla Valley, with its name inspired by the draft of horses that work the vines. Though this concept is hardly new, Horsepower is the first winery to farm its vineyards with horses exclusively. Since its inaugural vintage in 2011, their wines have sold out year on year with a long waiting list for those unable to receive allocations.
"It boasts a cool, fresh nose of strawberries, cola and tree bark, yet it's full-bodied and tannic on the palate."
WA96 by Joe Czerwinski
2017 Clos des Papes • Chateauneuf du Pape
He blends grapes from his different plots to co-ferment in large vats, after which he then re-blends in to large 20-55 hectoliter wooden foudres (casks) to mature for 15 months. New or small barrels are never used, “I like the oak to make an indirect impact – I only want tannins from the grape skins not even the pips and certainly not the stalks” says Avril. And though it may not be widely known, this domaine has been buying corks from the same producer in Portugal ever since 1926!
The wines are no doubt enticing, garnering great praise from many publications and critics such as Wine Spectator who awarded their 2005 vintage as “Wine of the Year”, stating that “in the Southern Rhône's recent trio of great vintages starting with 2003, no other Châteauneuf-du-Pape domaine has produced better wines than Clos des Papes”. But the accolades don’t stop there, as Robert Parker followed on to pronounce the 2007 vintage “the greatest Chateauneuf du Pape made since 1978 and 1990”.
We at Ginsberg+Chan are extremely proud to be the exclusive distributors of Clos des Papes, and with good volumes of both red and white back vintages too, we can ensure you a wide range of drinking windows for your cellar.
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