On the Trail

On the Slopes of Côte-Rotie

Keith Mabry

Earlier this year, I added the buying duties for Loire Valley wines to an already full plate of Rhône and French Regional responsibilities and set out for a grand expedition through France. It was an exciting opportunity, as many of my favorite whites and reds in the world come from the communes outside of Bordeaux and Burgundy. After a recent two-week journey beginning in the Rhône Valley and finishing in the Loire, there is much to discuss. One of our great new finds this year came from our visit to Christophe Billon in Côte-Rotie. Residing in the lieu-dit of Côte Rozier, Billon has flown under the radar for far too long. In 1991, while working at Guigal, Christophe and his wife Maryline began their winemaking side project by planting their own plots . He eventually left Guigal in 2008 to dedicate his full time to those estate vineyards. Christophe now makes three different Côte-Roties along with an entry-level syrah, viognier and a beautiful Condrieu. When we visited, he took us on a little cellar tour, climbing up and down barrels to pull tasting samples with his wine thief.

His 2015 Christophe Billon “Les Elotins” Côte-Rotie (currently available to pre-order for $44.99) will bottle in September. The fruit all comes from their Côte Brune vineyard. The wine has a gorgeous core of concentrated cherry fruit. Persistent on the palate, it finishes with a panoply of baking spices. The 2015 Christophe Billon “Côte Rozier” Côte-Rotie (also a pre-order at $59.99) is the first vintage this wine has been bottled as a single lieu-dit (designated vineyard site). It is everything one could hope for in a Côte-Rotie with its aromas of grilled meats and crushed rocks. The wine is superbly complex but will require a little patience with its firmtannins.  We finished the round of 2015s with a peek at the 2015 Christophe Billon “La Brocarde” Côte-Rotie (pre-order $69.99)Coming from his most select parcel in Côte Brune, the young tannic structure was present but it could not conceal the aromas of blueberry, potpourri and leather. It was highly expressive and an exceptional way to finish this round. We left the cellar incredibly smitten with the Billon wines and we cannot stress enough that it’s time to get on board before this train leaves the station.

-Keith Mabry