When I first tasted Domaine Pegau Cuvee Reservee Chateauneuf du Pape in the late 1980s, it was love at first sip. The major Chateauneufs in my experience were Beaucastel, Vieux Telegraphe and Clos des Papes; Pegau was one of several new Chateauneufs brought into Michigan by J.C. Mathes, a professor at the University of Michigan and a part-time wine importer. I liked all of them, but Pegau was my favorite. I bought as many bottles as I could afford and visited the estate for a tasting in 1991.
For the past decade or so, the traditionally made Cuvee Reservee has become known as one of the top wines of its appellation. It is now out of my price range, and I quit buying it with the 2000 vintage. But when I learned that Laurence Feraud, the owner and winemaker, was bringing her wines to Ann Arbor for a tasting, I was eager to drive across the state to see what is happening with current vintages.
As I expected, the 2012 Domaine Pegau Cuvee Reservee is fantastic. Beautiful ripe aromas of red fruits and spices. It's really hard to stop swirling and sniffing even when you know the flavors are yet to come. Not as funky as some previous vintages--at least at this stage. Ripe, savory flavors that expand. And will keep on expanding for many years to come. This is one of the best young Pegaus I have tasted, including the 1988, 1989 and 1990.
At $89.95 a bottle, I'm still not a buyer, but I was most interested in tasting wines with the Chateau Pegau label. These are from vineyards in Sorgue (outside the Chateauneuf du Pape appellation) that the Ferauds purchased and are producing as Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Villages. The 2012 Cotes du Rhone sells for $18.99; the Villages, for $24.99. That's a bit high for Cotes du Rhone, but they come from 50-year-old vines on soil that resembles that of Chateauneuf du Pape. Laurence Feraud chose the vineyards and makes the wine. If they are baby Chateauneufs du Pape, as some claim, they are worth the price; otherwise, they are simply high-priced Cotes du Rhones. The best way to find out is to taste them alongside the Cuvee Reservee. And they showed well in that context.
My opinion: they are baby Chateauneufs du Pape, worthy of cellaring for 8 to 10 years or longer. The aroma and flavor profiles differ from those of the Cuvee Reservee, but they offer plenty of intrigue, depth and fruit concentration. I liked the Cotes du Rhone best, but maybe that's because the Villages is less forward at this point in time. If you can't afford (or don't want to afford) a $90 bottle of wine, these are certainly worthy wines to consider.