(I'm surprised no-one has responded sooner)
Welcome to the boards!
This is a great place to learn.
There are many of us who are big fans of Chateauneuf du Pape, especially those with proper age. Vieux Telegraphe is definitely a favorite, and 1998 was a great vintage for CdP in general. The flavors you describe are often found in aged Chateauneuf du Pape, along with notes of game and "garrigue" which is a French term that implies notes of lavender, thyme, and earthy notes of the underbrush that grows naturally on the hillsides of Provence and the Rhone valley.
If you are looking for other great CdP to try, I would point you to Domaine Pegau. The Cuvee Reservee is in the same price range as the VT La Crau, and always an excellent wine. Pegau also has a Cuvee Laurence, which is a bit more expensive and definitely on the earthy side, but well worth it. Other CdP's I highly recommend include Domaine Charvin (incredible aromatics), Vieux Donjon (usually needs some age), Bois de Boursin (drinks great at a younger age), and Clos des Papes (frequent flyer on the Wine Spectator Top-100 list). I am also a fan of Eddie Ferraud (a controversial pick, more Burgundian profile).
Also, don't forget that many Cotes du Rhone and some of the less famous villages (Vacqueyras, Seguret, Rasteau, Laudun, Cairanne, etc.) of the Southern Rhone make wines with essentially the same formula of Chateauneuf du Pape--a blend usually dominated by Grenache, but also usually with significant amounts of Mourvedre and Syrah. Condoulet de Beaucastel is a great Cotes du Rhone, for example. Anything made by Domaine Pegau, or its proprietor Laurence Ferraud, is highly recommended. Domaine L'Espigouette makes very nice wines from Rasteau and Vacqueyras. I also am a fan of Clos des Oratoire St. Martin. There are a lot of cheap Cotes du Rhone you can find in the $5-$15 range, which make great wines for Tuesdays, picnics, or when you want to cook with half a bottle of wine and drink the rest. At that price, exploring is not very risky, and often yields great rewards.
I will say that there is one characteristic of the Southern Rhone which I find unattractive, and that is a tendency toward the pruney, raisiny, stewed-fruit notes which you sometimes get. Chateau Beaucastel is a highly acclaimed wine that often fits this profile, and is often not my favorite for this reason. As it ages, those flavors often integrate better, and become less conspicuous in the better wines. Also, some Southern Rhone wines tend to be a little hot on the finish due to high EtOH levels which are not well-balanced. I find both characteristics often in wines from Gigondas, so that is one village I tend to avoid.