The beauty of the Northern Rhone, especially on the gloomy, cold, rainy day I visited in March, is definitely in the wines! This time of year the rocky bones of the incredibly steep vineyards look like a black and white photo, with the schist and granite that form the spine and character of the wines laid bare. In the cellar of Patrick Jasmin, however, the clarity and elegance of his wines and the warm, welcoming hospitality he and his wife Arlette exude dispels the chill pretty quickly.
Patrick is the fourth generation to run the Domaine, with great grandfather Alexandre arriving from Champagne around 1900 to become a Chef at the Chateau D'Ampuis. He purchased some vineyards and was bottling wine as early as 1909. His son Georges took over and lived a long and hearty life, passing away in 1987 at the ripe old age of 83. Son Robert took over from there and ran the property until his tragic death in 1999 when he was hit by a car during a shooting trip. Enter Patrick, who up until this point was mainly involved in motocross racing, becoming French National Champion in his specialty of "Kart-Cross" in 2000. He took over in the cellars and gave up the traveling motocross life in 2002 to solely concentrate on family and Domaine. A big burly guy, Patrick looks tough enough to man-handle a motocross bike, but in the cellar he is at home among the casks and barrels, a bit of humor and subtle wit obvious below the sturdy exterior.
The Domaine owns or rents about 5.3 ha of vines, in 11 plots in eight lieux-dits both in the north and southern part of the appellations providing a nice balance between schist and granite soils. This range of sites offers not only a balance of different soils, but also of exposure with the higher parcels cooler parcels ripening later and bringing freshness and acidity, the early ripening parcels adding ripeness, weight and fruit to the mix. There is viognier in the mix, between 4-6% with the actual amount varying by vintage. The average vine age is about 25 years, with some parcels planted in the 1960's and some 60+ year old vines in Les Moutonnes and Cote Baudin.
The winemaking is pretty straight forward, 20-22 days of vinification, all de-stemmed since 1996, cap submerged with wooden boards, and the cap sometime broken up by foot, and occasionally a saignee to concentrate the wines a bit. Part of the wine is matured in 228 liter casks, part in 590 liter demi-muids. There is no formula for new oak, around 20% being the average. No fining, and a light filtration are used. Bottling after about 18 months, sometimes in several runs but not sure if this is still true.
Domaine Robert Jasmin Cote Rotie 2007. Absolutely beautiful! An elegant, classy, excellent example of what I love about Cote Rotie. A nose of sweet dark fruits, hint of coffee or espresso, tobacco and dark earth that brings to mind images of the steep hills where these wines were born. Complex, still youthful and firm, this has loads of promise. This is a selection of the best lots from the parcels scattered throughout his holdings, and Patrick pointed out another advantage besides the diversity of soil and terroir is that in years when there is hail he often will only have several sites affected, sparing the rest. Great effort in a great vintage, I love the elegance and balance of the Jasmin style - more about finesse than power or sheer volume, this wine will definitely find a place in my cellar! To purchase the 2007 click here 56 Degree Wine
We also were treated to a preview of the Cote Rotie 2008, leaner, tighter, more focused and less opulent that the 2007, it nevertheless has elegance, purity, and good depth. We also tasted the 2009. Deep dark saturated. Loads of fruit power, ripe tannins and excellent structure underneath - Wow!! Best vintage he has ever seen! Finally a taste of the Cote Rotie 2001. Patrick bought back from a private cellar (he sold all of his!) at 2x the release price from collector in town. Just beginning to show secondary aromas of earth cool elegance tobacco. Lovely sweet earth, leather, tobacco, warm red and dark fruits, silky, almost Burgundian in wieght - Beautiful. Could go another 5-10. References for this post include John Livingston-Learmonth's "The Wines of the Northern Rhone" and "Rhone Renaissance" by Remington Norman, excellent sources if you want to learn a little more about this fantastic region.