Top Rated Sabon 2014 Châteauneuf du Pape and More!

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Didier Négron and Hélène at the gates of Domaine Roger Sabon

We hadn’t intended to offer the 2014 Domaine Roger Sabon Châteauneuf du Pape so soon, but their glowing reviews in the October 15, 2016 issue of the ‘Wine Spectator’ forced our hand. Ranging from a 92/100 for ‘Les Olivets’ to a 95/100 for the vaunted ‘Le Secret des Sabon’, the wine world will be sure to snap up these treasures in no time. We wanted to make sure that our Members would not be disappointed, so here they are.

Domaine Roger Sabon

Domaine Roger Sabon came into being in 1952 when the family vineyards were split into three distinct entities (the other two being Domaine Chante-Cigale and Clos Mont Olivet). Robert M. Parker, Jr., who awarded their 1988 vintage a perfect 100 rating, the first Châteauneuf du Pape so honoured, had this to say about Domaine Roger Sabon. “This estate has been at the top of its game for many years and any partisan of Rhône Valley wines (especially the southern Rhône) who has not yet tried a wine from Domaine Roger Sabon should make every effort to do so. They produce four separate Châteauneuf du Pape cuvées at this 42-acre estate run by the large Sabon family, in this case, Jean-Jacques (deceased), Julien, Gilbert and Denis (Note: the helm has been turned over to the succeeding and equally capable generation - Didier Négron, Delphine and Julien Sabon). They own 15 parcels spread throughout the appellation, most of them concentrated in the western and eastern sectors north of the village.

Moi with Delphine Sabon and Didier Négron
This estate has been making exceptionally high-quality wines for years, but recent vintages seem to have risen to a new level of quality. Moreover, Sabon’s wines have not yet been discovered by the masses, so prices are surprisingly reasonable. Readers should be also be aware that Roger Sabon produces a very delicious Côtes du Rhône and Lirac from vineyards holding those appellations.”                                                     

The domaine occupies about seventeen hectares of prime vineyards in some of the best sites of Châteauneuf - Les Cabrières, La Crau, Courthezon and Nalys, and all with "galets roulés" the sizeable white stones that soak up the sun and release the warmth to the vines at night. The vines are a minimum age of 50 years, with 90-year-old vines for the Cuvée Prestige. They are mainly Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvèdre, but Muscardin, Terret, Vaccarèse and Counoise are also included in their Cuvée Prestige. All of the grapes have been totally destemmed since the 1997 vintage. Fermentation takes place in small cement vats and small stainless steel cuves, with pumping over and a cuvaison that lasts for 20 days at temperatures between 30° and 34°. The wine is matured in foudres and used barriques, and receives neither fining nor filtration.

The Domaine Roger Sabon Wines on Offer

We are delighted to offer you the Sabons’ four red Châteauneuf du Pape from the 2014 vintage - ‘Les Olivets’, ‘Réserve’, ‘Prestige’ and ‘Le Secret des Sabon’. Each comes in six or twelve-bottle cases. Why not try them all, along with the 2015 Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc ‘Renaissance’ in the Sabon Super Sampler? The reds also come in magnum format – three magnums to the case or, as a special treat, one of each of the first three in the Sabon Magnum Sampler. To really complicate things, we’ve been able to get the ‘Les Olivets’ in half-bottles, 12 to the case.

We also have the 2015 Rhône By Roger Sabon and 2015 Lirac By Roger Sabon for your drinking pleasure. 2015 in the southern Rhône was a simply fantastic vintage.

While the winery has been generous to us, quantities are strictly limited. So please order early to avoid disappointment. These wines are being offered at very favourable prices – consider that a 2013 Château de Beaucastel, rated 91-93 by Josh Raynolds, International Wine Cellar, Jan./Feb. currently sells at the LCBO for $89.95 the bottle!  The last day to order these fine wines will be Friday, September 30th.

The following tasting notes and ratings are by James Molesworth of the ‘Wine Spectator’ October 15, 2016 issue – note the prices he suggests for these wines compared to ours … and his are in $US!!). Mr. Molesworth is highly respected by the Southern Rhône vignerons. I have tried all of these wines and attest that his assessments and tasting notes fairly represent these Sabon wines.  

2015 Rhône By Roger Sabon – 14.5% Alc./Vol.
$22/$132 for 6
$21/252 for 12
The 2015 Rhône By Roger Sabon is a truly superb Côtes du Rhône. It is made from 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah and 10% Cinsault. The grapes were destemmed and hand sorted. It is a brick red colour with pure aromas of raspberries, ripe cherries, garrigue, Provençal spices and minerals. It is well-balanced with silky tannins and lots of red and black fruit flavours – it is very elegant! Medium to full-bodied, it will go perfectly with grilled meats, barbeques and charcuterie. It is ready to drink now and will continue to do so for another four to five years. Order your 6 bottles or 12 bottles of delicious Southern Rhône now.

2015 Lirac By Roger Sabon – 14.5% Alc./Vol.   
$27/$162 for 6
$26/$312 for 12
Robert Parker noted that Domaine Roger Sabon is one of only five “Excellent” Lirac producers. He goes on to say, “A sleepy village next to Tavel, Lirac appears to be emerging from the shadows of oblivion. More and more of the top estates are producing better and better wines.”

The 2015 Lirac By Roger Sabon is made from 70% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre and 5% Carignan. Aged in stainless steel, this lovely, dark ruby wine exhibits zesty aromas of sweet raspberries, blackberries and garrigue with a hint of pepper and tobacco. The red and black fruit persist in the mouth. It is elegantly complex, very long with a beautiful smooth tannic structure. It will go wonderfully with roasts and wild game. This needs a bit of time in the decanter before consuming. It will keep happily and evolve nicely over the next seven years or so. This is a wonderful wine and a fine example of the best of the southern Rhône. Order your 6 bottles or 12 bottles of splendid Lirac now.


2015 Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc ‘Renaissance’ – 14.0% Alc./Vol.
$52/$312 for 6
$51/$612 for 12
Made from 50% Roussanne and completed with Clairette, Bourboulenc and Grenache Blanc, this beauty offers up aromas of honeysuckle, pears, peaches and fresh flowers that seem to leap from the glass. It is a full-bodied stunner, crisp, clean, subtle and elegant that sees no oak. This wine is meant to be drunk young – over the next year or two.

“Plump in feel, with enticing star fruit, white peach, shortbread and verbena notes melding together. A light salted butter edge on the finish adds length and cut. This opens wonderfully in the glass. Drink now through 2018. 92/100 ($49US) – James Molesworth, the ‘Wine Spectator’

If you like white Châteauneuf du Pape, you’ll love the 2015 ‘Renaissance from Domaine Roger Sabon. It simply doesn’t get much better than this one.

Order your 6 bottles or 12 bottles of outstanding Ch9 Blanc now.


2014 Châteauneuf du Pape ‘Les Olivets’ – 14.5% Alc./Vol.
$44/$264 for 6
$43/516 for 12
Magnums
$100/$300 for 3
Half Bottles
$25/$300 for 12
 ‘Les Olivets’ comes from an 8.5 hectare plot of vines averaging 45 to 65 years of age. It is made from 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah and 10% Cinsault and is aged in oak foudres for six to eight months.

“A violet hint gives way quickly to a core of lightly steeped plum and raspberry fruit, all inlaid with a single mesquite note. Echos of smoldering tobacco leaf and juniper check in on the finish. Shows good range. Best from 2017 through 2024. 92/100 ($45US)” – James Molesworth, the ‘Wine Spectator’

And, it is less than half the LCBO price of a bottle of 2013 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape! Order your six 750ml Bottles, twelve 750ml Bottles, Magnums; or Half-Bottles of this really good Châteauneuf now.


2014 Châteauneuf du Pape ‘Réserve’ – 14.5% Alc./Vol.
$53/$318 for 6
$52/$624 for 12
Magnums
$120/$360 for 3
The ‘Réserve’ comes from a small three hectare piece of land with vines averaging sixty-five to eighty years of age. It is made from 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre and is aged for twelve months in oak barrels ranging from two to four years of age.

“A gorgeous beam of dark blackberry and raspberry coulis flavors streams through, inlaid with dried anise, black tea and graphite notes. The long finish is velvety and defined. Hard to put aside, but this will blossom even more with cellaring.  Best from 2017 through 2029. 93/100 ($55US)” – James Molesworth, the ‘Wine Spectator’

I would give this marvellous Châteauneuf a couple of years before broaching and expect it to evolve wonderfully for the next ten years or so. Order your six 750ml Bottles, twelve 750ml Bottles, or your Magnums now.


2014 Châteauneuf du Pape ‘Prestige’ – 14.5% Alc./Vol.  
$76/$456 for 6
$75/$900 for 12
Magnums
$170/$510 for 3
Grenache is the predominant grape in the blend (70%) and is joined by 20% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre – all from vines averaging one hundred years of age. It was matured in 40 hectolitre barrels and in oak casks for 16 to 18 months.

“Ripe, silky and refined with a fine-grained structure that lets the perfumed notes of raspberry, cherry and plum preserves glide along. Light alder and black tea details impart nuance to the finish. Suave and sneakily long. Drink now through 2029. 93/100 ($80US) – James Molesworth, the ‘Wine Spectator’

Medium to full-bodied, pure and lively with clean, classical aromas and flavours, it will drink beautifully over the next twelve to fifteen years. Order your six 750ml Bottles, twelve 750ml Bottles, or your Magnums now.


2014 Châteauneuf du Pape ‘Le Secret des Sabon’ – 15.0% Alc./Vol.
$216/ $1,296 for 6
$215/$2,580 for 12
Magnums
$450/$1,350 for 3
This extraordinary Châteauneuf du Pape is sourced from vines that are over one hundred years old and is produced only in very good years in very small quantities – truly a collector’s treasure.

“Gorgeous with dense yet silky and refined layers of raspberry, cherry and plum coulis stretching out over notes of shiso leaf, dried anise and lightly singed alder. Still tight through the finish, revealing a buried iron edge. Let this unfurl fully in the cellar. Best from 2018 through 2029.” 95/100 ($225US) — James Molesworth, the ‘Wine Spectator’

Order your Order your six 750ml Bottles, twelve 750ml Bottles, or your Magnums of a Châteauneuf du Pape treasure now.


Sabon Super Sampler 
$81/$486 for 6
What a veritable treasure trove of fine Châteauneuf du Pape this is … two bottles the 2014 ‘Les Olivets’ along with single bottles of the 2015 ‘Renaissance’ Blanc, 2014 ‘Réserve’, 2014 ‘Prestige’ and 2014 ‘Le Secret des Sabon’. This would be a great gift for connoisseurs, a terrific start to a wine collection or simply a wonderful way to enjoy some very, very good Châteauneuf du Pape. Order your splendid six-pack now.

2014 Châteauneuf Magnum Sampler
$130/$390 for 3
Talk about a party in a carton! You get one magnum each of the 2014 ‘Les Olivets’, ‘Réserve’ and ‘Prestige’ Châteauneuf du Pape from Domaine Roger Sabon.  Order your large formats of delectable Châteauneuf du Pape now.

SADLY WINDING DOWN AFTER ALL THESE YEARS!

It is with more than a little sadness that Hélène and I are informing  you that we have decided to greatly curtail our wine importing business, including the Arthur’s Cellar Wine Club. This is after more than ten years of successful operation and over 5,000 individual orders worth more than $2 million on behalf of our Members and Restaurants.

Why? Simply because we can no longer bear dealing with the LCBO. You might remember that we suspended operations for six months a year or so ago when  LCBO Private Ordering introduced a new operating system. We anticipated chaos and were not disappointed. However, we also hoped that in time the new system would settle in and the LCBO folks would learn to work effectively with it. On that count we were totally wrong. Not only have things not improved, they have gotten progressively worse. I am not going to bore you with all of the wretched details, but if you are interested, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to explain further.

LCBO Private Ordering’s systems and operating procedures are extremely complex and inflexible. The way we do business does not fit neatly into their way of doing things. Their senior management have worked heroically with us to make things work, but to no avail. We thank them for their efforts.

Dealing with our wineries and wine club Members has been a delightful experience and we are going to really miss that part of our endeavours.

So, What’s Next?

We are going to proceed with four more regular wine club offerings. First, as soon as we receive needed information from the winery, will be Les Cuvées du Firmament followed by Champagne Forget-Brimont, Domaine Chabrier Fils and finally Domaine Palon. And that will be the end of our regular operations.

We are going to retain just four wineries – Domaine Roger Sabon, Domaine Palon, Domaine Giuliani and Champagne Forget-Brimont and will offer them once a year to our wine club and Le Sélect Bistro.

I am going to continue writing my book about our vinous experiences (excerpts of the first seven chapters can be found at ‘Gentleman’s Portion’), intensify my struggles to learn French and read more with the not inconsiderable amount of time thus freed up. And, Hélène and I intend to travel more frequently for longer periods and spend more time with our granddaughter and granddog.

Thank you all for your gracious support; it has been a most wonderful experience.


What’s Up with Hélène’s Tours de Provence?!

http://www.arthursellers.com/images/ofclip_image014.jpgWe had a wonderful stay at the castle – Hélène and Jim did an amazing job of organizing everything. The company, the tours, the food and, of course the wine were all outstanding. We would love to do it again and see all the places we missed.”   Bruce –Vancouver, B.C., 2014

A number of wine club members and guests from previous years have asked when Hélène’s next Tour de Provence will occur. Here’s the scoop.

For a variety of reasons, Hélène isn’t able to pre-book a tour on spec any more. However, she would be delighted to organize and lead a tour if ten to twelve people got together and asked her to do so. The beauty of this is that they could choose the time of year for their Provençal explorations and she could tailor the tour to match the group’s specific preferences.

Hélène has been conducting her small, intimate tours to southern France for the past eleven years. Her extensive knowledge of Provence, superb organizational skills, eye to detail and winning personality makes these adventures truly remarkable.

Her usual home base for the week is Le Château de Goult, a lavishly restored 14th Century castle in the hilltop town of Goult in the Luberon (Peter Mayle country). Each day brings a different nearby destination ranging from village markets to vineyard tours and boat rides on the Mediterranean. Dinners at the Château feature wines from local purveyors to Arthur’s Cellar.

My husband and I have never been on an organized tour for travel before. Our experience with Hélène and Jim has left us excited to do it again. Provence is beautiful and full of history but without Hélène guiding us to all the right spots and taking care of all the details we would never have discovered most of them. The stay in the chateau was a highlight and set the stage for much laughter, delicious meals and easy connection with the other guests. Jim with his expertise in wine kept us informed and in good ‘spirits’. If you have always wanted to explore Provence, this is definitely the way to do it; a trip of lifetime!   Susi and Steve –White Rock, B.C., 2014

What a great way to celebrate a special occasion or stage a get-together with old friends and family.  Please contact Hélène for all the delicious details. We’d love to create a Tour de Provence just for you.

Hélène with her Tour de Provence 2015 guests


Winery Updates

There have been several changes to our supplier line-up over the past couple of years and I thought I should bring you up-to-date.


Château Saint Jacques d’Albas

Our old friend Graham Nutter decided that he requires bigger and better distribution for his wines in Ontario. We are very sad to see him leave our fold. His were the first wines we featured when we began our wine club over ten years ago. Since then we have, on behalf of the wine club, placed eighteen orders for over 5,000 bottles of wine with Château Saint Jacques d’Albas. I know that many of you have come to enjoy Graham’s wines. They might continue to be available in Ontario. Please contact Graham for more information.

No need to despair over the loss of this fine Minervois winery. We have another that is equally as good, Les Cuvées du Firmament and we will be featuring them next month.


Château des Gimarets

This is a strange one. Eric and Nathalie Boyer approached us a couple of years ago asking if we would represent their excellent winery located in the Moulin-à-Vent region of Beaujolais. We tried some samples here, visited them at their winery and decided to give it a go, knowing orders would be limited. We offered their wines on two occasions to limited response. Imagine our surprise when they informed us that they were going with another agent who had secured a listing for them at Vintages! The kicker was that they sold it to the LCBO for less than half the price they sold it to us. “A distress sale,” they said. But why not to us so we could have passed along the savings (and built up brand image) to our Members and offered it to Vintages as well? Oh well, such is the world of wine. We are unlikely to look for a replacement in Beaujolais.


Château Romanin

This well-known biodynamic winery is located literally in the Alpilles (tiny mountains) outside of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in southern France. It was recommended to us by our old friend Christian Esparza who operates a wonderful wine emporium in Saint-Rémy. We struggled to generate sales for a few years but kept trying. Then the winery switched marketing managers. We were unable to establish a decent business relationship with the replacement, so decided to terminate our representation. However, something good came of the association. Jean-Jacques Quinsac of Le Sélect Bistro visited our booth when we represented Château Romanin at a trade show. Since then we have supplied this excellent restaurant with many of our wines.


Domaine des Les Terres de Velle

This one really hurts! We had a long and pleasant relationship with Sophie and Fabrice Laronze, first when they worked with Alex Gamble at Maison Alex Gamble and then when they started their own winery in the Côtes de Beaune in Burgundy. They make very, very good wine, but Burgundies are expensive and the Laronze’s were forced to significantly hike their prices due to scant harvests. This predictably resulted in very small order quantities from our members which in turn rendered the association unviable.


Domaine Vincent Stoeffler

Scan0005Several years ago when we asked a sommelier at a restaurant in Strasburg to recommend an up-and-coming Alsatian winery, he immediately pronounced, “Domaine Vincent Stoeffler.” So we visited the winery and were smitten by Vincent Stoeffler’s Pinot Gris, Rieslings and Gewurztraminers. Unfortunately, it turned out that they were too unctuous (oily) for Canadian tastes and, as the result, repeat orders were disappointing. Regrettably, we had to terminate our dealings with them.


The 2015 Vintage in Southern France
We spent some time in southern France this past May sampling many young, fresh 2015 wines from the area (it is truly a selfless task we perform on behalf of our wine club Members), some recently bottled and others from tanks and casks. They were generally terrific – both reds and whites. The 2015 growing season had been close to ideal (hot in July and part of August with little rain) and harvesting was a bit earlier than usual under favourable conditions. Last fall, during the vendange, I had predicted that 2015 was going to be a very good year for Grenache and it turned out I was right. But, to my surprise, the Syrah turned proved to be every bit as good if not better. In that these are the two principle grapes for the reds from southern France, the resulting wines are very, very good, not unlike those of 2009 at this stage of their development. My two 2015 favourites were the Domaine Palon Vacqueyras and the Domaine Roger Sabon Châteauneuf du Pape ‘Prestige’.

Important Note
The LCBO is the only entity authorized to sell beverage alcohol in Ontario. Arthur Sellers & Company and Arthur’s Cellar Wine Club do not sell or markup beverage alcohol, but rather, arrange for customers to purchase it from the LCBO. Our prices indicated above and on our website include the LCBO sale price plus a fee to cover the cost of sourcing, handling and marketing the wine. The LCBO’s sale prices are available on request.

LCBO Delivery Notices!

The LCBO has started to mail out delivery notices to all our Members who order wine. This notice is being sent when the wine has arrived from overseas and has been cleared for delivery by the LCBO. The form letter is two sided, one with the numeric details of the transaction and the other with pick-up instructions. Please note - the pick-up instructions do not apply to our Members.

Why?

First, they instruct our Member to pick up the wine at the LCBO’s warehouse loading docks at 33 Freeland Street in Toronto. Our Members don’t have to do this – we either cause the wine to be sent to an LCBO retail store that is conveniently located near our Member or we personally deliver the wine.

Second, they infer that our Members owe them for the wine and warn that they will be penalized if the wine is not picked up within a prescribed period of time. Our Members have already paid for their wine and don’t owe any additional money. We look after payment for them.

Please disregard these form letters when you receive them.

We have requested that the LCBO either correct the message or not send it at all. We also asked that they send the message electronically (they have the e-mail addresses of everyone who orders) to save money and be environmentally responsible. They have thanked us for our suggestions and we hope they will act on them.

Why is the LCBO sending out these notices?

When we inquired, we were told that this has always been their procedure; they just haven’t been following it.

We can surmise that it is in response to last year’s ruling by the Information and Privacy Commission of Ontario (IPC) ruling that the LCBO stop taking personal information from wine club customers. In a subsequent Ontario Superior Court of Justice appeal hearing, the case was remitted back to the IPC for reconsideration, i.e., the LCBO and the other involved parties were told to work out their issues between themselves. A key point in the ruling was, “it is not clear whether the IPC actually made a clear or consistent finding on the issue of whether the LCBO's customer is the club or the club member.” Since then, the LCBO has been determined to make certain that we are all fully aware that it is they who control the customer relationship when it comes to the purchase of beverage alcohol in the Province of Ontario.

To reinforce this point, they have instructed us to prominently post the following wherever we display our prices:

The LCBO is the only entity authorized to sell beverage alcohol in Ontario. Arthur Sellers & Company and Arthur’s Cellar Wine Club do not sell or markup beverage alcohol, but rather, arrange for customers to purchase it from the LCBO. Our prices indicated above and on our website include the LCBO sale price plus a fee to cover the cost of sourcing, handling and marketing the wine. The LCBO’s sale prices are available on request.

If you have any comments for the LCBO, please address them to Margaret Plant, Supervisor, Private Ordering (margaret.plant@lcbo.com) and copy Archie Karanxha, Acting Manager, Specialty Services (arqile.karanxha@lcbo.com) and Geoff Allaire, General Manager Operations, Toronto Retail Service Centre, Vintages Warehouse (geoff.allaire@lcbo.com).

All this reminds me of a very old joke. It seems that a little devil was involved in a most unfortunate tangle with one of Toronto’s Red Rockets that resulted in his tail being severed. He was rushed to the Toronto General Hospital but was refused admission. The ER receptionist explained, “I am afraid you will have to take him to the LCBO ... they are the only ones in Ontario allowed to retail spirits.”


Kate joins the team!
We are delighted to announce that our eldest daughter Kate (shown here with a bottle of Penfolds Grange from her birth year!) has officially joined the Arthur Sellers & Company team. She is an avid wine enthusiast with a very fine palate and is renowned for her frequent thirsty assaults on Arthur’s Cellar. Kate will be assisting us with the day-to-day operation of our wine club and will introduce our fine wines to her market demographic (recognizing that this old tippler needs a little help marketing to the younger aficionados of the fruit of the vine). Please join us in welcoming Kate to our wonderful world of wine.

Where’s My Wine??
Generally, it will take three to four months from the time you order your wine till it is delivered. To find out where your next treasure is on its long journey from Europe, just click on Delivery Status in the side bar to the left. We update it regularly.

About our website

Our web site will grow and change as we respond to the needs and preferences of our members. We appreciate the time you take to tell us about how we can improve our web site, and invite you to pass your comments and suggestions along to us. Click here to send us an e-mail and let us know what you think.