On March 18, 2008, before heading up to Burgundy, myself and two other business colleagues stopped by Cornas to visit Domaine Dumien-Serrette. Before leaving for France, my wife had warned me that I was not packing warm enough clothing for the trip. Sure enough, the spring jacket I brought along was near useless in the windy, 30 degree weather we encountered in the northern Rhone. After some chilly introductions at the front door of the family home in the center of town, we walked down a narrow road and entered the winery. The first piece of equipment to greet us was a giant wooden press. I had assumed that the press, like at most wineries, was there just for decoration. Gilbert explained, much to my surprise, that this was the current press for the winery. The estates entire production fit into one room, which was small. Used barrrels (2-15 years old) lined each wall, and the wine contained in each was a fragrant mix of black olives and dark fruits. In the mouth, these opaque wines were beautifully elegant with soft tannins.
The following notes were taken during our visit to the estate:
1-Cornas, 2007 (barrel sample) – Nice, deep color. Black fruits on the nose and in the mouth. Long, penetrating flavors.
2- Cornas, 2006 – Black color. Silky and long in the mouth. Excellent wine.
3- Cornas, 2005 – Black color. Elegant, pure nose. Black fruits in the mouth with big, firm tannins. A really nice wine with excellent concentration.
4- Cornas, 2004 – More aromatic then the preceeding wines. A little funky. The flavors are not as ripe and the wine is a little short on the finish, but still very good.
5- Cornas, 2003 – Super ripe on the nose with some alcohol coming through. Very good wine, but typical of the vintage.
6- Cornas, 1997 – Complex, mature nose. The flavors are mellow in the mouth and the wine’s texture is very elegant.
7- Cornas, 1991 – The wine’s appearance reveals some bricking on the rim. Very animalistic on the nose. Rich on the palate with sweet fruit. Still alive and fresh tasting.
We said goodbye to Monsieur Serrette and headed north to Saint Joseph. Before leaving for France, I had dreamed of descending on Cornas and finding Noel Verset’s lost soul brother. Gilbert Serrette is certainly spiritually connected to Verset, but their wines are different. Serrette’s wines are fruitier and not as earthy as the ones made by Verset, but they both show more elegance than those of Clape and Allemand. I am afraid to say it, but the ultra traditional style of wine made by Noel Verset is probably gone for good. Even the wine made by a traditionally minded producer like Serrette does not taste as old school as those bottled by Verset. That said, I am happy to report that I found a small vignernon tucked away in the Northern Rhone making traditionally styled, elegant Cornas.