Proprietor Joel Saurel, backed up by the inimtable Philippe Cambie as his consultant, has transformed this estate into one of the greatest in Gigondas, rivalling the two top producers, Yves Gras’ Santa Duc and Louis Barruol’s Saint Cosme.
— Robert Parker Jr, The Wine Advocate
 

Domaine Saint-Damien is run by Joel and Amie Saurel.  The Saurel family had been tending vineyards for four generations, dating back to 1821, and until recently selling all of the grapes to negociants. In 1996 Joel resumed producing wine at the estate and in 1998 they brought on consulting winemaker Philippe Cambie. Vinification is classic with wines being made in large old cement tanks and aged in either the tanks or Large old foudres for the Gigondas.

Today the estate is comprised of 42 acres of vineyards of which 30 are in Gigondas.  The vines are an average age of 50 years and are very low yielding. The wines of Gigondas are bottled according to individual terroir (particularly soil type) known as the Saint Damien Trilogy.

2015 Gigondas Rose
80% Cinsault  20% Syrah Made mostly from old Cinsault vines planted in 1970. Very floral and rich. Brilliant orange-pink. Fresh red berries, orange zest, pungent flowers and white pepper on the intensely perfumed nose. Juicy and mineral-driven on the palate, offering sappy raspberry and bitter cherry flavors and a touch of blood orange. Shows excellent focus and vivacity on the long, mineral-laced finish, which leaves a juicy red berry note behind. 91” Vinous Media, May 2016

2017 Côtes du Rhône Vieilles Vignes Plan de Dieu
80% Grenache, 15% Carignan, 5% Mourvèdre This wine is sourced from the lower terraced parcels of the Plan de Dieu lieu-dit, in the commune of Violès. The Grenache and Carignan vines are over 60 years old and the Mourvèdre 30 years. The wine is fermented for 30 days in concrete vats before 8 months of aging (again in concrete). The wine is bottled without fining or filtration. “Full-bodied, rich and concentrated, the 2017 Cotes du Rhone Villages Plan de Dieu Vieilles Vignes looks even better than the 2016. Garrigue, violets and licorice notes mark the black cherry fruit as something far beyond ordinary. Impressive.” (91-93) points, The Wine Advocate, Sept 2018

2015 Gigondas Vieilles Vignes           750ml + 1500ml
80% Grenache (1964), 20% Mourvèdre (1977)  “Dark ruby. Aromas and flavors of ripe red and blue fruits pick up floral and peppery spice nuances as the wine opens up. Smooth and expansive on the palate, showing very good depth as well as energy and spicy back-end lift. The gently gripping, very persistent finish leaves behind hints of candied flowers and licorice. (91-93)” Vinous Media, September 2017

 2015 Gigondas Les Souteyrades
80% Grenache (1948), 20% Mourvèdre (1977) “Like the La Louisiane, the 2015 Gigondas les Souteyrades spent a year in foudres prior to bottling. It a similar blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre, but grown on north-facing gray clays. There's more pepper and herb here, still wonderfully ripe raspberries but less chocolate. Full-bodied, it's still silky and refined, with tremendous length on the finish. 94” Robertparker.com, November 2017

2015 Gigondas La Louisanne
80% Grenache (1942), 15% Mourvèdre (1977), 5% Syrah + Cinsault (1951) “My pick of the cuvées in 2015 is the 2015 Gigondas La Louisiane, a blend of 80% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre and the rest Cinsault and Syrah. From south-facing slopes of red clay and sand, this shows incredible detail in its aromas of garrigue and raspberries, then folds in richer notes of dark chocolate. This is full-bodied and velvety in feel, with just a hint of warmth on the finish. It should drink well for a decade, possibly longer. 95” Robertparker.com, Nov 2017

2016 Gigondas Vieilles Vignes           1500ml
80% Grenache (1964), 20% Mourvèdre (1977)  “More flattering and easier to drink than the La Louisiane at this stage, the 2016 Gigondas Classique Vieilles Vignes is a blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre, all aged in foudres. Hints of mocha and caramel add sweet richness to the ripe black cherry flavors and notes of mushroom, chocolate and licorice. Full-bodied, creamy textured and richly concentrated, it's long and velvety on the finish. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 93” The Wine Advocate, August 2018

 2016 Gigondas Les Souteyrades
80% Grenache (1948), 20% Mourvèdre (1977) “A blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre grown on north-facing gray clays, the 2016 Gigondas les Souteyrades has closed down since bottling and now looks was if it will need short-term cellaring to bounce back. It's full-bodied, rich and tannic, with peppery notes accenting the intense raspberry and stone fruit flavors that come to the fore on the finish, always a good sign for the future. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 95” The Wine Advocate, August 2018

2016 Gigondas La Louisanne
80% Grenache (1942), 15% Mourvèdre (1977), 5% Syrah + Cinsault (1951) “The 2016 Gigondas La Louisiane is looking a bit more structured and tannic than it did last year. It's full-bodied, rich and creamy across the mid-palate, then firms up adding hints of licorice and chocolate along the way. It does have the ripe stone fruit and berry notes to sustain it over time, so give it a couple of years (maybe even four or five) to relax and unwind that tightness on the finish. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 94” The Wine Advocate, August 2018

2017 Gigondas Vieilles Vignes           750ml
”The 2017 Gigondas Classique Vieilles Vignes needs more time in foudre to shed/round its considerable tannins. Subtle notes of dried spices and lavender-heavy garrigue accent black cherries in this full-bodied effort that ends with a hint of licorice. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. (91-93)” It's always interesting to note the dynamics at small family-run estates. This was the first time the young Romain Saurel handled my visit on his own, as his parents had always been present on previous occasions. It's clear that they're still on hand in case he needs guidance, but he is increasingly taking charge of the estate, which remains an important benchmark within the Gigondas appellation. All of the wines I tasted at the domaine were outstanding, and it is something to say that there is not a dog in the lineup. Most of the wines are made only in large, old foudres, which helps preserve the exceptional fruit quality coming from this estate. It's also worth pointing out that the 2017s look to be just as good. "I think it's a great vintage of vins de garde," said Romain. The Wine Advocate, Sept 2018