A Taste of Red Wines produced from Rhone VarietiesBy
2014 Sucette Grenache–here is a standout Grenache from superstar Master Sommelier Richard Betts, certainly worthy enough to measure others by. It is lush, lavish & ripe, yet still remarkably transparent, delicious & surprisingly UN-heavy. Richard selected this parcel of 90 year old vines….own rooted in the sandy soils of Vine Vale (Barossa Valley)—because of the sand & the old vines, both reminiscent of Chateau Rayas of the southern Rhone Valley of France, in addition to the vines being grown in the wild & therefore completely feral. 20 to 40% stems. Basket press. Aged in OLD oak
2011 Sella & Mosca Cannonau de Sardegna Riserva–made only in select vintages. 100% Cannonau, 2 to 3 years in old Slavonia oak. There is much discussion about whether the Cannonau grape variety is in fact Grenache or a descendent & even some who think Grenache is a descendent of Cannonau. I’ll leave that to the scientists & wine geek patrol. I think this Sardinian red offers SENSATIONAL VALUE, which is why we put it in this flight with lots of Grenache like qualities, done in a VERY delicious, rustic, food friendly, “country” style of red wine.
2014 Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras–This is undoubtedly one of our favorite Grenache based wine blends, because of its wild/feral edge & soulfulness, in spite of what many wine professionals would say are winemaking “flaws”. That’s is probably why this wine is still so reasonably prices, especially considering the quality & soulfulness the wine innately has. “All of Serge’s seventeen hectares rest on the great Plateau des Garrigues, where red clay, limestone, and the famous galets roulés, or rounded stones, impart a terrific intensity and depth to the wines. Given the aridity of the soil, the vines here are naturally prone to lower yields—this gives the wines their concentration and power. That Serge has been farming organically for years but has never sought certification says something about his philosophy. He is not looking to impress; only to make the best wines he possibly can. 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre & Cinsault. Hand harvested, de-stemmed, wild yeast in cement cuvees & 6 months in old foudres. Bottled unfiltered, unfined”. We are huge fans!
2011 Gramercy Cellars “L’Idiot du Village”--Gramercy is the project of superstar Master Sommelier, Greg Harrington. FYI–Greg used to be the wine director for all of the Emeril Lagasse restaurants & the Wolfgang Puck empire. His highly lauded Washington based winery specializes in Syrah, but also produces a very noteworthy Mourvedre based red shown here. Greg has told me that he feels this grape variety has huge potential in his neck of the woods & we have seen quite the improvement with each vintage he releases. The 91 point rated 2011 “L’Idiot du Village is 90% Mourvedre, 5% each Syrah & Cinsault. The fruit comes from eastern Washington—Olsen (near Red Mountain) & Alder Ridge (Horse Heaven). Roughly 50% whole cluster (dependent on the vintage) & aged for 15 months in old oak. Typically 200 to 350 case production.
2014 Domaine de la Tour de Bon–We decided then to compare the Washington grown Mourvedre with one from the Bandol appellation of Provence, France. “Domaine de la Tour du Bon rests peacefully atop a limestone plateau in Le Brûlat du Castellet, in the northwestern corner of the A.O.C. Bandol. Nestled beneath the mountains to the North, it is a bastion of tranquility, an oasis on the Mediterranean surrounded by beautiful gardens and vineyards The Hocquard family has been farming this land since 1968, though this has been a full-time farm since 1925. Today, Agnès Henry runs the show. Independent, finally set her mind to making them on her own, she hit her stride, crafting wines with power and precision, but also finesse and charm. The domaine is situated at an altitude of 150 meters above sea-level—a high point on this coastal appellation where maritime breezes cool the arid climate. Fourteen hectares of red earth, clay, sand, and gravel rest upon sturdy limestone bedrock. Brow-beating excavation and focused determination alone have built these vineyards. 55% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 5% Carignan. de-stemmed. Traditional vinification with indigenous yeasts. age in foudres for 18 months“.
CARIGNANE–We are increasingly more & more intrigued with old vine Carignane & what it has to offer. It started way back when with Californian old vine bottling we discovered here & there over the years. We then became huge fans of bottlings back in the 1980’s we had from Domaine Fontsainte of Corbieres. In our continual search for noteworthy bottlings, here are 3 fabulous, interesting Carignane based red wines that will shed new light on what this grape variety has to offer.
2015 Neyers “Sage Canyon Cuvee”–I always refer to this very special & unique bottling as a homage to the wines of Maxime Magnon (see below). The 2015 is 45% Carignan (vines are 140 years-old), 25% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre and 15% Syrah—heritage/heirloom, foot stomped, wild yeast fermented & then aged in old Oak. Absolutely delicious!!!!!!
2012 Leon Barral Faugères “Jadis”–I believe Didier Barral took over the domaine with the 1993 vintage & as he converted the vineyards & winemaking to a very fanatical uber au naturale mind set, quite candidly there were quite a few of rough patches along the ways. In addition, he relied a lot of the Syrah grape variety as the core for his various bottlings…..with one specific showpiece which was Mourvedre dominated. Somewhere along the way, his appreciation for old vine Carignane grew & so it is thankfully today. We love the deliciousness it brings to the otherwise wild, feral, intriguingly rustic, earthy, core of his wines. “Deep in the heart of the Languedoc, in the Faugères appellation just outside the hamlet of Lenthéric, Domaine Léon Barral is a beacon of revolutionary winegrowing. 50% Carignan, 30% Syrah, 20% Grenache, biodynamically farmed, hand harvested. de-stemmed, however whole clusters are also used. No SO2 is added. vinified in gravity-fed, cement cuves with natural yeasts. lightly pressed with an old, wooden, vertical, basket press. aged for 24 to 26 months in barrel (10% new oak)“.
2014 Maxime Magnon “Rozeta”–Maxime is yet another one of the “young guns” of southern France changing the “game” both in the vineyard, the winemaking & his belief in old vine Carignane. While he produces a few different bottlings, his Rozeta cuvee is typically our favorite, because of its wonderful perfume, vinosity & supreme deliciousmess. “Maxime Magnon is part of one of the most revolutionary wine movements in France. He was fortunate to have purchased some prime parcels of old vines from abandoned plots and rents his cellar—a garagiste if ever there was one. He farms nine parcels over eleven hectares, with steep vineyards that reach high altitudes, and manages it all on his own. Maxime is part of the new wave of passionate viticulteurs who cultivate their vines with the utmost respect for nature and the soil. He’s certified organic, but also incorporates biodynamic practices into his vineyard management. Most of Maxime’s vineyard land is comprised of schist and limestone subsoils in the sub-appellation Hautes Corbières, bordering Fitou to the South. This is incredibly tough terrain to farm in, as there is virtually no top-soil, just pure rock and garrigue. The Corbières “Rozeta” is a blend of these two district terroirs. This blend is particularly unique, from 50 to 60 year old vine Carignan vineyards that are dispersed with numerous varietals of older vines, namely Grenache Gris, Macabou, and Terret, which are all picked and fermented together—a true field blend of the old school. Grapes from field blend are picked and fermented together & aged in old Burgundian barrels from a producer in Chassagne-Montrachet“.
2014 Mollydooker “Blue Eyed Boy”–a lavish, opulent, highly lauded Australian “fruit bomb” in all its glory! The fruit comes from McLaren Vale–Coppermine Road, Long Gully Road & Mollydooker Home vineyards…& Joppich vineyard of Langhorne Creek. Sustainably Grown. Barrel fermented and matured in 100% American oak—70% new; 30% one year old.
2014 Anthill Farms Syrah “Sonoma Coast”–Grown out on the true Sonoma Coast near Annapolis & crafted by a trio of Pinot Maestros. The core comes from 2 main vineyards–Campbell Ranch is a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, near the tiny town of Annapolis, and is farmed by Steve Campbell. At approximately 750 feet above sea level, it sits right at the boundary of the marine layer, ensuring that the cool, coastal climate delays ripening well beyond the warmer vineyards to the east. The two-decade-old vines grow on sandy, low-vigor Goldridge soil, which helps reduce yields to near two tons per acre. The Peters Vineyard Syrah–Randy Peters farms this vineyard outside of Sebastopol in western Sonoma County. The southern slopes of these hills form the northern edge of the Petaluma Gap, which rushes cool, marine air from the Pacific Ocean inland. These Syrah and interplanted Viognier vines, which Randy put in for us just a few years ago, occupy less than an acre at the lowest edge of this cool, foggy vineyard. The entire block produced just above three tons of fruit. I am sure there is fruit from other vineyards blended in too.
2013 Chateau Fontanes Pic St Loup “La Petite Sérine”–Here is an absolutely thrilling, new wine discovery. The conventional Old School thought in the northern Rhone Valley of France is the appreciation of the La Petite Sérine, a selection of the Syrah grape variety made famous by iconic Syrah masters such as Marius Gentaz of Cote Rotie, Chave at hermitage & Noel Verset at Cornas. Here is the results of some cuttings, planted down in the Pict St Loup appellations southern France–organically & biodynamically farmed, & hand-harvested. 60% de-stemmed, wild yeast fermentation in cement tanks, aged in cement tank and foudre that have aged 2, 3, and 4 wines for 3 to 6 months & bottled unfiltered, unfined,
2009 Clape Cornas–One of the “Hall of Fame”, true stalwarts of northern Rhone valley Syrah. “The Clapes farm only eight hectares, the challenge presented by the rough, tightly stacked terrace vineyards of Cornas is largely enough to handle by anybody’s standards. The dicey precipices make using any machinery in the vineyards impossible. All work must be done by hand. There are no official rules to their viticultural methodology—they work the old-fashioned way, by instinct, feeling, and common sense. The vineyards sit on granite subsoil, behind the village, with optimal sun exposure. They farm a number of prime parcels, including Reynards, La Côte, Geynale, Tézier, Petite Côte, Les Mazards, Patou, Pied La Vigne, Chaillot, and Sabarotte, the latter purchased from Cornas legend Noël Verset. Whole grape clusters are fermented with natural yeasts in open air cement cuves with punch-downs or pump-overs twice a day over 12 days. Malolactic fermentation occurs in foudre. Then, aged for 22 months in 6 or 12 hl-foudres”. Now, this is Syrah–soulful, profound & worth searching out to taste.