2003 Domaine La Roquète: Finally, A Worthy Successor (or, Look Out for Specials from Trader Joe’s)

5 Nov

There are a few great things about law school.  Sure, it’s a lot of work; sure, there are always things one can be doing; and sure, there’s stress, etc., etc., etc.; but many times it beats having a job.

For instance, my last class got out 20 minutes early today.  After coming home from school, I lounged about for a brief and wonderful spell in bed, reading parts of Master and Commander and listening to Van Morrison.  This was at around 2 pm–which would be just past my old lunch hour at LegalZoom.  I got out of bed, studied a bit, tidied up the apartment a bit, and decided to go to Trader Joe’s to restock on some essentials.

There was a very light rain–a sprinkling, actually–and just enough light to cast shadows on the leaves of the trees lining L Street.  I got to Trader Joe’s, selected my items (more polenta-in-a-tube, by the way), and was heading to the checkstand when I saw, out of the corner of my eye, cases of this wine:

la-roqueteIt was on sale for $13.99.  Big deal.  That’s actually kind of expensive for Trader Joe’s, I thought.  But there was a sign–oh, those darned signs!–that said this was a special selection, that there were only a few cases (420 bottles total) at this store, that the normal retail was at least $26.00, and that it was 70% grenache, 20% syrah, and 10% mourvedre.  I happen to like combinations of grenache, syrah, and mourvedre–I immediately think cold weather red, which is a good thing in my book.

But I was torn.  It was a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and man, those Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines are usually like… $50+.  How good could a Chateauneuf that’s on sale at Trader Joe’s in Washington, DC for $13.99 be?

I picked up a bottle and looked at the label more closely.  Cool label, heavy bottle, with a deep punt (indentation at the bottom).  I saw the names “Frédéric & Daniel Brunier” on the lower edge of the label.  For some reason that didn’t come to me till later, the name “Brunier” rang a bell.

I decided: why not?  I hadn’t bought a bottle for a while, and it was only $13.99.

I’m glad I did.

Reading online, this wine got rave reviews.  And then:

The 79-acre Domaine la Roquete was acquired by the Brunier family of Vieux Telegraphe in 1986. Its modern labeling belies its dense, huge, packed fruit and tannins that suggest classic Chateauneuf-du-Pape. But there are also great perfumes in the wood and herbal characters. Will age over many years.
93 Points

Roger Voss, Wine Enthusiast, December 31, 2005

Vieux Telegraphe?!?  They’re like the kings of Chateauneuf-du-Pape!

I couldn’t wait for my roommate to come home from work (haha, that stiff).  I opened the bottle and poured out a bit in a glass.  Dusky, the color of a reddish-purple plum, yet light.  (Strange.)  I swirled it around and took a sniff.  Mmmm!  I detected prune, anise in the nose.  I took a sip.  Substantial body (this wine is unfiltered).  A little bit closed at first, but prune, licorice/anise, spice.

Then my roommate came home.  The fun thing about my roommate and I is that we wax poetic about the virtues of good wine, not only talking about flavors but holistic sensory and metaphorical sensations.  One of the reasons I started to get more serious about wine was an evening we shared–with a few of our RA friends–over a bottle of L’esprit du Silene.  He pointed out that the Silene was like “a thornbush,” which made perfect sense.

I suppose in a way that evening shaped much of how I view wine, and has informed my taste of what a “comfort wine” or “safety blanket wine” is for me.  Rustic, big, bold, nice tannins, dark fruit.  Unfortunately, the L’esprit du Silene has been sold out from every store in the Bay Area for a few years now, but I think we’ve got a worthy substitute.

The Domaine La Roquète is a substantial, substantial wine.  It doesn’t mess around.  Prune, licorice, spice in the mouth.  The mouthfeel is smooth and dense.  It fills the whole mouth, it “builds a fort,” as my roommate said.  “It’s like oak, like a wood frame,” he continued.  We pondered this observation for a while.  Yes!  It’s like a crate of plums–the crate made from really old wood, the kind that’s white and weathered with age–if the whole crate (plums, crate, and all) had been crushed and made into wine.

The finish, however, is what really distinguishes this wine.  Very VERY long–I had my last sip a few minutes ago and I can still detect the different elements playing on my tongue and the rest of my mouth.  The finish changes–first the primary flavors previously described, then secondary flavors of caramel and cola.

This is a terrific wine.  Now I must go: we’re going to Trader Joe’s and getting six bottles to get us through the winter!

[ UPDATE: We just came back from Trader Joe’s–with 9 more bottles.  I also managed to persuade a lady in that section to buy three bottles of it, too.  Hurry up and go to the TJ’s on 25th and L–seems like this wine will be gone in a week! ]


7 Responses to “2003 Domaine La Roquète: Finally, A Worthy Successor (or, Look Out for Specials from Trader Joe’s)”

  1. James November 6, 2008 at 11:00 am #

    Save me a bottle! Can I get this at TJ’s in CA?

  2. Shea November 6, 2008 at 11:55 am #

    Nice, I didn’t realize the Brunier’s owned this Domaine. Very interesting. I will have to seek this out. I doubt I’ll find it for $13.99 though! And that’s an amazing price considering VT goes for $80 here (I’m guessing probably at least $50 down in the US if you can find them).

  3. vinicultured November 6, 2008 at 5:38 pm #


    I’ll be sure to bust open a bottle upon your arrival here in DC.


    Yeah, I’ve never had Vieux Telegraphe because it’s way out of my price range. =( I got another recommendation of a decently-priced red: the 2007 Le Pigoulet de Brunier. It should be around the same price as the La Roquete.

    Alas–wine begets the thirst for yet more wine. It’d be nice if I were already being paid a lawyer’s salary!

  4. Shea November 7, 2008 at 10:56 am #

    Just to confirm you got a great deal, I saw the Roquete yesterday here in BC for $46.

  5. vinicultured November 7, 2008 at 2:35 pm #

    Yikes! God bless America!

  6. Shea November 8, 2008 at 2:25 pm #

    Apparently I’ve tasted this before, at the VT luncheon I went to. Here are the notes I took:

    Domaine la Roquete 1998 Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge

    Another excellent pairing with the salmon, this Domaine produces a gamey, earthy, old-world wine that reminds me of certain Tuscan flavours. I have never tried this Domaine before, but I will certainly seek it out in the future. My only criticism is that the flavours, while good, are more typical old world and the wine lacks the finesse of the next three bottlings (being the VT ‘La Crau’ CDP’s from 1994 and 1999 – heady company).

    Very Good


  1. How Do You Cook YOUR Steak: or, Helping Alex Recover from the National Half-Marathon with Filet Mignon and the 2001 Arrowood “Le Beau Melange” Syrah « Vinicultured: A Wine Blog - March 23, 2009

    […] for our tastes.  It reminded me of one of my favorite wines–the Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Domaine La Roquete.  However, THAT wine, being from Southern France, was made primarily of grenache, while the […]

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