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Archive for the ‘Value Pick’ Category

Domaine Pierre de la Grange is considered one of the best domaines of the Nantais, a region that marks the most northwestern point of all France’s vineyards. Pierre and his wife Monique are the seventh generation (the family has owned the property for more than 200 years) to run Domaine Pierre de la Grange, though their wines are more likely to be found listed under Luneau-Papin or even Pierre Luneau, than under the estate’s true name. They have approximately 40 hectares of vines, with 38 hectares planted to Melon de Bourgogne and the remaining 2 hectares committed to red varieties. The vineyards are situated in Le Landreau, Vallet and La Chapelle Heulin, about 20 kilometres from Nantes itself. The vines average forty-five years although some are over seventy.

There is a broad and varied range of cuvées produced at Luneau-Papin, which in many cases reflect vineyard or terroir of origin. The leading cuvées are the L d’Or (a weighty expression of Melon de Bourgogne) and the Semper Excelsior Clos des Noëlles.

L d’Or is sourced from vines more than 45 years old grown on granite and mica terroirs in Vallet, one of the Sèvre et Maine communes. The vines are cared for along the lines of lutte raisonnée, and are nourished with just a little organic manure. The fruit is harvested by hand, pressed using pneumatic equipment, and the juice is then allowed to settle before a four week temperature-controlled fermentation by indigenous yeasts, regulated to 20ºC. There is also a warmer macération pelliculaire, a period of skin contact, at 30ºC. The wine is then stored sur lie for nine months before bottling.

The nose is a bit reserved with some citrus, mineral and floral notes. It’s a bit more revealing on the palate. Stony minerality with citrus, orchard fruit and some creamy almond notes. Rich and broad, good acidity and complexity.  A great example of what some age can do with Muscadet — and I wouldn’t hesitate to sit on this for another 5-7 years (or more). Recommended and an outstanding value at $22 a bottle. 12% alcohol. Imported by Louis/Dressner.

Related posts:
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Le L d’Or 2005
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Excelsior 2005
Pepiere Muscadet Sevre et Maine “3″ 2005
Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Granite de Clisson 2007
Domaine de la Pépière “Vieilles Vignes” Clos des Briords Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2007
Michel Brégeon Muscadet Sevre et Maine 2002

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Angel Lopez and his family founded this winery in 2002 after spending years in the nursery business in Valdeorras. D.O.Valdeorras (Apellation of Origin or Designation of Origin), the second oldest in Galicia and recognized since 1945. Native to the region, the Lopez family supplied a majority of the wineries with their vines and have been on the forefront of Valdeorras’ reborn interest in the Godello varietal. Godello was one of the original varietals grown in the region by the Romans over two thousand years ago, since then the grape has slowly drifted toward obscurity until newer winemakers in the area decided to resurrect this unique varietal that is native to Valdeorras.

The family farms a total of 10 hectares comprised of several different vineyard sites all located in the area around the winery at A Rua. The parcels have varying exposures and elevations but share slate soils and the Godello grape as a unifying element. As the most in-land part of Galicia, Valdeorras enjoys warmer days than most of the region but still benefits from the cool air traveling along the river Sil. A Coroa’s vineyard plots are up on the hillsides (mostly around 500m elevation) rather than near the valley floor where it can get very hot in the summer, with temperatures at times exceeding 40 degrees Celsius. Vines average some 15 years of age.

All the vineyards are hand harvested. Viticulture is sustainable with a minimal amount of herbicides and pesticides used (the winery is transitioning to being fully organic). All the parcels are fermented using indigenous yeast and at low temperatures to extract maximum aromas and flavors. The wines are then aged on the lees for 6 months and a blend is made from the best lots to create A Coroa.

Golden straw in color. Stone and orchard fruit, citrus, white flower and mineral aromatics. On the palate, zesty and zippy citrus with honeydew and green apple — with a hint of thyme and a solid mineral core. Great acidity and grip with a long finish. 13.5% alcohol. Imported by De Maison Selections. I have seen this as low as $16 and as high as $21 a bottle. It takes a little bit of work to locate but it’s worth the effort.

I recently wrote about another Godello, Adega O Casal Novo Godello 2007 — which I really enjoyed and I thought this was as good if not even better. Strongly recommended.

Related post:
Adega O Casal Novo Godello 2007

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Adega O Casal was founded in 2000 by five partners sharing the ideal of capturing the true varietal and optimum expression of the indigenous Godello and Mencía grapes. Starting with inherited family plots at high elevation near the village of Rubía, vineyard area has gradually expanded to the current six hectares. Viticulture is meticulous, seeking low yields. For a number of years, winemaking (though technically advanced) was conducted in a garage in Rubia. A new winery was expected to be ready for the 2008 harvest.

Godello is a white variety of wine grape found in northwestern Spain, in particular Galicia. The Gouveio found in northern Portugal is thought to be the same grape variety. Godello produces some of the best white wines in Spain and yields the best results in Valdeorras. Valdeorras is a beautiful region in Galicia with some 43 wineries and about 1,400 hectares under vine. Valdeorras is 100 miles inland — the terrain is mountainous, the roots of the vines burrow deep into the rock-hard ground, clinging to the steep slopes and leaching minerals from the slate-based soil. The stresses created by this harsh landscape give Godello from Valdeorras its distinctive character.

Spain has been getting a lot of press and attention as a provider of value white wine and Godello is one of my favorites at the moment. There are some that are a little thin — and would encourage selecting from those that don’t see any oak. The Casal Novo is a great example of quality Godello that can be found at $19 a bottle. It shows pronounced floral and fruit on the nose, with notes of orange blossom and wildflowers, stone fruits, melon and minerals. Peach, pear and citrus on the palette with a touch of honey. Great purity of fruit. Lots of minerality with zippy acidity and lengthy, bracing finish. 12.5% alcohol. Imported by Classical Wines. Recommended.

Related post:
A Coroa Godello 2008

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Domaine Pierre de la Grange is considered one of the best of the Nantais, a region that marks the most northwestern point of all France’s vineyards. Pierre and his wife Monique are the seventh generation of to run Domaine Pierre de la Grange, though their wines are more likely to be found listed under Luneau-Papin or even Pierre Luneau, than under the estate’s true name.

They have approximately 40 hectares of vines, with 38 hectares planted to Melon de Bourgogne and the remaining 2 hectares committed to red varieties. The vineyards are situated in Le Landreau, Vallet and La Chapelle Heulin, about 20 kilometres from Nantes itself. The vines average forty-five years although some are well into their seventh decade.

There is a broad and varied range of cuvées produced at Luneau-Papin, which in many cases reflect vineyard or terroir of origin. The leading cuvées are the L d’Or and the Semper Excelsior Clos des Noëlles. I wrote about the Excelsior a couple of weeks back. Not a very expressive nose, but thought what it brought in flavor more than made up for whatever it lacked in aromatics.

The L d’Or is more aromatic with citrus and mineral notes. It is also a little more ripe on the palate. Citrus, orchard fruit with mineral flavors and a some herbs. Good weight and acidity.  This was very good as well, but for me the Excelsior had an ethereal quality that really captured my attention. Still, the L d’Or certainly delivers and I would certainly recommend it — and would not be surprised if many preferred it over the Excelsior. These wines are still young and have a lot of life, so it will be very interesting to see how they show in another 3-4 years. Given the quality of the wine, this is also a very good value at $18 a bottle. 12% alcohol. Imported by Louis/Dressner.

Related post:
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Excelsior 2005
Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Granite de Clisson 2007
Domaine de la Pépière “Vieilles Vignes” Clos des Briords Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2007

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I made a few wine resolutions for 2010. One of them was to drink more Muscadet.

Muscadet has always been the perfect pairing with oysters, so I usually will order it in a restaurant since I don’t shuck many oysters at home. However, Muscadet is not only for pairing for oysters. It is a very versatile food wine. The low alcohol doesn’t overwhelm and the wine’s acidity makes it a great pairing for many rich dishes — and certainly a great pairing for most seafood. Muscadet often is a very good value play as well.

Beyond the virtues of the grape, there are some very talented winemakers from the appellation as well. No survey of Muscadet would be complete without experiencing the wines from Domaine de la Pépière, home to Marc Ollivier. This particular bottle is a very-old-vine cuvée of Muscadet from a single-plot vineyard in schist, the Clos des Briords. These are among the oldest vines in his estate (planted in 1930) and all the vineyards are from original stock. Ollivier is the only grower in the Muscadet who does not have a single clonal selection in his vineyards.

Ollivier takes his time in the vineyard and the cellar. Ripening is slower, and the longer hang-time before harvest allows for optimal maturity.  He hand harvests (also a rarity in the region), uses natural yeasts, waits for the wine to finish and bottles with a very light filtration. Because of the soil and greater concentration achieved with old vines, the Clos des Briords is a more powerful wine that most Muscadets. It is very mineral and quite austere in its youth, rather than fruity and light. Over a few months, or even years, if one can wait for it, it develops much complexity in aromatics and structure.

Aromatics of apple, citrus and saline. Great precision on the palate with sharp acidity. Loaded with citrus and crushed rock with some orchard fruit. Briney, stoney and chalky. A tremendous value at $16-$17 a bottle. 12% alcohol. Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.

Also interesting to note, that Joe Dressner tweeted on January 30 —  Finished Tasting in Muscadet. Marc Olliver thinks 2009 is best he has made — I will certainly be on the look out for the 2009s.

Related post:
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Excelsior 2005
Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Granite de Clisson 2007

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Last night I wanted some comfort — but I didn’t want to make the effort to try and put comfort on a plate. It was a long week and I didn’t have the energy. So I went downstairs and tried to find the best bet in a bottle. I opted for the Beaumont from Catherine and Pierre Breton. I have never had a wine from them that I didn’t enjoy and the 04 Beaumont delivered it in spades. Deep purple in color. Instant satisfaction from aromatics of dark fruit, violet, earth, black olive with smoke, herbs and some funk. Ripe, velvety and textured on the palate. A interesting mash of black and green — black cherry, blackcurrant and black olive with green olive, green vegetable, tobacco leaf and herbs.

A lot of wine and comfort at $13 a bottle. Strongly recommended. Imported by Kermit Lynch.

The 2005 Breton Beaumont was an LA Times pick of the week.

Other wines from Catherine & Pierre Breton:
Catherine & Pierre Breton Bourgueil Les Perrières 2005
Catherine & Pierre Breton Bourgueil Nuits d’Ivresse, 2004
Charles Joguet

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Shaya is a joint project among Jorge Ordonez, Enrique Busto and the Gil family of Jumilla. Their Verdejo is produced from very old low yielding vines whose average age is between 75 and 112 years old.

Spain has an appellation system for wine like France and Italy with the main classification of quality wine is Denominación de Origen (DO). Rueda gained DO status in 1980, the first DO to be approved in the Castilla y León region. While Sauvignon Blanc and Viura can also be used, only wines produced with at least 50 percent Verdejo are permitted to be labeled Rueda. For the Rueda Superior designation, at least 85 percent must be Verdejo. Sauvignon Blanc became an authorized variety for the Rueda DO in 1985. In fact, the importance of this grape is underscored by the fact that it has its own appellation, Rueda Sauvignon, which has to be 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc.

Shaya’s Verdejo is light yellowish gold in color. Stonefruit with tropical fruit and citrus on the nose. On the palate, orchard fruit, melon, tropical and citrus notes with a litte white pepper and spice. Vibrant acidity with a clean finish. Very approachable and quaffable. I thought this was very good and a excellent value at $12 a bottle.

Related post:
Bodega Ángel Rodríguez Martinsancho Verdejo Rueda DO 2008

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Spain has an appellation system for wine like France and Italy with the main classification of quality wine is Denominación de Origen (DO). Rueda gained DO status in 1980, the first DO to be approved in the Castilla y León region. While Sauvignon Blanc and Viura can also be used, only wines produced with at least 50 percent Verdejo are permitted to be labeled Rueda. For the Rueda Superior designation, at least 85 percent must be Verdejo. Sauvignon Blanc became an authorized variety for the Rueda DO in 1985. In fact, the importance of this grape is underscored by the fact that it has its own appellation, Rueda Sauvignon, which has to be 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc.

Ángel Rodríguez Leal is said to produce the best wine in Rueda, Martinsancho.  I have only tasted a handful of wines from Martinsancho, but I can say this Rueda is excellent and can certainly imagine it being the best. Ángel Rodríguez is credited with preserving and reviving Rueda’s indigenous Verdejo grape.  In the early 1970s, there arose a push to rip out Verdejo completely. Martinsancho, a vineyard of ancient Verdejo vines that had been in Ángel’s family since 1784 and he refused to uproot them. Rodríguez went further and regrafted his other vineyards from the Martinsancho cuttings. As a result of his efforts, he is credited with having saved Verdejo. Today, the origins of most of the Verdejo vineyards in Rueda can be traced back to Martinsancho cuttings. Ángel Rodríguez’s efforts have even been recognized by King Juan Carlos.

Aromatics of pear, stone fruit, white flowers and honey. On the palate, stone and orchard fruit with some citrus, a burst of tropical fruit (papaya, mango) and loaded with salty minerality. Very approachable and food friendly, not to mention an outstanding value at $16 a bottle. A very unique and distinctive wine. 13% alcohol. Imported by Sole Agents.

This would be on my list of top Spanish white wines of the year, along with the Viñedos de Ithaca Odysseus Garnacha Blanca Priorat 2008 and the Viñedos de Ithaca Odysseus Pedro Ximénez 2008. Strongly recommended.

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Another wine from Weygandt Wines, the new wine store in DC featuring importer Peter Weygandt’s portfolio. One of the great things about the store is that they taste wines every day. They usually taste the same half dozen or so wines for the week, but last Saturday they tweeted that they tasting some different wines than earlier in the week.  The Morgon from Bouland caught my eye and so I decided to stop by given that it was Saturday and Peter Weygandt might also be at the store (which he was).

I tasted the wine at the store and picked up a couple of bottles to bring home. The 2008 Daniel Bouland Morgon Vieilles Vignes is 100% Gamay made from 60 to 90 year-old vines grown on granitic soils that are rich in iron and manganese. Daniel Bouland is considered one of the traditionalists in Beaujolais, careful hand-harvesting, very low yields and wild yeast fermentations help create a complex and ageworthy Morgon (5 to 15 years is recommended by the estate).

Dark ruby color — with a shade of black olive, but transparent. Nose of strawberry and cherry with some earthy and floral notes. On the palate, loaded with cherry, strawberry and raspberry as well as some cranberry, earth, and crushed asphalt. This might be a serious Beaujolais, but it is also ranks very high in quaffability. Lightly fined and unfiltered. 13% alcohol. Recommended and a very good value at $20 a bottle, not to mention a solid choice for Thanksgiving.

More Thanksgiving picks:
Arianna Occhipinti Il Frappato Sicilia IGT 2006
Jean & Agnes Foillard — Morgon Cuvée Corcelette Vieille Vigne 2007
Occhipinti SP68 Rosso Vittoria 2008
Rhys Alesia Sonoma Coast Chileno Vally Pinot Noir 2006 (or any Pinot from Rhys)
Passopisciaro Sicily IGT 2005
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône 2007
Clos Saint-Jean Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2005 (or one of the great CdPs from 07)
Les Aphillanthes Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Terres de Galets 2007
Edmunds St. John Rocks & Gravel 2005
Cheverny Le Petit Chambord Domaine Francois Cazin 2007
André Perret Saint Jospeh 2007
Domaine Ricard Cuvee Les Trois Chênes 2008
Tablas Creek Vineyard Côtes de Tablas Blanc 2008
Mas des Bressades Roussanne-Viognier 2007
Mourges du Gres Terre d’Argence Blanc 2007

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IMG_1694I learned late yesterday that Silvia Puig was pouring her wines at a dinner at Tallula in Northern Virginia last night. It wasn’t enough notice for me to make it and regretted not being able to attend.  Tonight, I came home and attempted to remedy the situation by opening a bottle of their Akyles.

The Akyles is a blend of 40% Garnatxa Negra & Peluda (Peluda is a variant of the Garnatxa grape so-called because the underside of the leaves have a hairy or “peluda” appearance) 45% Carinyena  and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Vinification is done directly into 400 liter French oak casks with the skins, so that the never-ending stirring can be accomplished during fermentation with native yeast in order to get the rich tannins and color from the grapes.  Aged in the same barrels once topped off for 10-12 months.

Beautiful dark ruby in color. The nose is a packed with dark cherry and currant, violet and rose with a little vanilla, orange and cola. The color and the nose suggest another dense and extracted red wine from Priorat (not to mention weighing in at 15% alcohol), but this is actually quite graceful, finessed, supple and balanced. That all being said, there is a lot of fruit (dark and baked berry) with some fig, olive, green vegetable and vanilla. Nice minerality. Expansive with a big finish.

I was really impressed with the Odysseus Garnacha Blanca Priorat 2008, but this is a winner as well. Recommended — and a good value at $22 a bottle. Imported by Vinos Unico.

About Viñedos de Ithaca
The father and daughter team of Joseph and Silvia Puig named their winery Odysseus in honor of the Greeks who first brought vines to Spain. Odysseus makes Garnacha Tinta based reds, as virtually all of the producers in Priorat, but they have attracted the most attention for their Garnacha Blanca.

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IMG_1657Château Pesquié is one of the Côtes du Ventoux’s top  and most storied estates. There is evidence of vine cultivation at Château Pesquié that dates to two thousand years. In the early 1970’s, Odette & René Bastide, bought Château Pesquié from an heir of the famous Provençal writer, Alphonse Daudet. They were wine pioneers of sorts, as the Appellation Côtes du Ventoux was not created until 1973. Today, the vines average 35 to 40 years of age — and the oldest are over 100 years of age.

In the mid-1980’s, Edith & Paul Chaudière (René & Odette’s daughter and son-in-law), gave up their medical careers to take over the family estate. To prepare for their change in profession, they studied for and passed the Consultant Sommelier exams at the “Université du Vin” in Suze-La-Rousse and prepared a thesis on terroir selection. They went on several research trips to other wine regions (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Napa Valley, Oregon…) and completed their academic preparation with vocational training at the wine institute in Orange, where Paul’s father, Charles Chaudière, was an oenology professor.

Once completed with their studies, they set up the Château Pesquié cellars in 1989 and carried out their first vinifications in 1990 (for the previous twenty years, the grapes grown on the estate were taken to two cooperative wineries). At the time, the Appellation had fewer than 10 independent cellars. In 2003, Paul & Edith’s two sons, Alexandre & Frédéric, and their cousin Renaud, took over the Domaine. Today, Château Pesquié is considered one of the leading estates in the Appellation of Côtes du Ventoux and the southern Rhône Valley.

The 2007 Terrasses Rouge is a custom cuvée created for importer Eric Solomon, made from 70 % Grenache and 30 % Syrah (with some traces of Carignan and Cinsault), one-third is aged in small barrels and the rest in foudre and tank. Ruby red in color with aromatics of raspberry, pepper, violet and garrigue (with a hint of alcohol and green leaves/stems). On the palate, bright raspberry with black cherry with a bit of licorice, leather and earth. Medium weight with solid balance and depth — perhaps a bit simple, but good purity of fruit. 14% alcohol. This is another great example of the quality of the 2007 vintage in the southern Rhône and a steal at $11 a bottle.  Recommended.

Other Côtes du Rhônes from the 07 vintage:
Domaine Gramenon Sierra du Sud 2007
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Les Laurentides Côtes du Rhône 2007
Côtes du Rhône Maxime-François Laurent Il Fait Soif 2007
Escaravailles Côtes du Rhônes (2007 & 2008)
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Terres de Galets 2007
Domaine Depeyre Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2007
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Terres de Galets 2007
Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2007
Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2007
Domaine de l’Oratoire Saint-Martin Côtes du Rhône-Villages Cairanne “Haut Coustias” Blanc 2007

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IMG_1274Updated on October 1, 2009 with notes on the Escaravailles Côtes du Rhône Le Ponce Blanc 2008.

Domaine des Escaravailles belongs to the Ferran family for three generations. It was brought by Gilles Ferran’s Grandfather, Jean-Louis Ferran in 1953. He called his new estate “Escaravailles,” the Occitan word for beetles and nickname for the black-robed monks of the area’s hill-perched Catholic monasteries in centuries past.

The great advantage of the Escaravailles’ terroir is being located at a high altitude (820 feet above sea level) with steep slopes. These conditions are fundamental for the quality of the wine as the slope facilitates drainage and exposure, the clay subsoil preserves some water and the altitude provides an important range in temperatures between the day and the night.

The winery spreads out over 99 acres on Rasteau and 62 acres on Cairanne, Villedieu and Saint Roman. The use of chemicals is minimal and the soils are worked mechanically all year round. Harvest is done manually with two sortings (one the vine and the other upon delivery to the cellar). The grapes are totally destemmed, vinifiyed and aged in a cellar semi underground situated on the heights of Rasteau. Annual production is currently 300,000 bottles / 25,000 cases.

Up until the late 1990s, Escaravailles was considered good, but not great. In 1999, Gilles Ferran took control of the estate. Gilles is an educated enologist from Montpellier and had assisted his father for 10 years. Gilles Ferran is the 3th generation at the domain. At the wine university, he was classmates with Philippe Cambie (Clos St. Jean, Clos du Caillou, Pegau, countless others).

When he took control, Ferran enlisted the services of the Cambie to help craft the wines and the results have been immediate and superb. Cambie directed them to drop fruit,  limit yields, get the Grenache plants into balance and wait to harvest until ripeness is optimal regardless of the risk. Ferran took Cambie for his word and followed each suggestion, but on occasion challenged Cambie. Eventually, the relationship grew into one of Cambie’s closest, with each friend pushing the other. The results of this partnership are undeniable. Robert Parker raved about the ’06s from Escaravailles, citing them in his “World’s Greatest Wine Values.” The 2007s might be even better.

Escaravailles Côtes du Rhône Cuvée Les Sablieres 2007
One example of the results, a terrific Côtes du Rhône called “Les Sablieres.” This is a blend of 70% Grenache (40 years old), 30% Syrah (30 years old). The Grenache and Syrah are vinified in separate cement tanks. The Grenache really shines with beautiful and bright cherry, raspberry, strawberry with some earthniness and pepper on the palate. Ripe, but not overdone and medium bodied. Textured, focused and intense, but also extremely well balanced.

It is a great value and a really beautiful bottle of wine. You could told me this cost twice as much and I would not have been surprised or disappointed. Certainly one my favorites of the 07 Côtes du Rhônes I have tasted this year.

This was only $12 a bottle at Wine Exchange. 14% alcohol. I thought this was tremendous at the price point and strongly recommended.

Escaravailles Côtes du Rhône Les Antimagnes 2007
The Les Antimagnes is also an amazing value, priced at about $14-$15 a bottle. It is a blend of 70% Grenache (60 years old), 30% Syrah (30 years old). The Grenache and Syrah are vinified in separate cement tanks.

Similar to the Les Sablieres, it showcases the Grenache component. On the nose, ripe raspberry, kirsch with a touch of bubble gum and licorice. On the palate, loaded with dark red fruit — black cherry, raspberry and blackberry with some meaty notes, earthiness and pepper. This is a bigger wine and weighs in at 15% alcohol.  I thought the Les Sablieres showed a bit more restraint, was more food friendly and had better balance. That being said, this is another very good value and also recommended.

Escaravailles Côtes du Rhône Le Ponce Blanc 2008
This wine is a blend of 40% Rousanne, 40% Marsanne, 10% Grenache and 10% Clairette. I was excited about the blend also considering my experience with their other wines from Escaravailles. This is another solid effort. Aromatics of stone fruit, green apple, stone fruit and some floral components. On the palate, pear and apple with some lingering tangerine and pineapple. Crisp and rich, but perhaps a bit hollow in the mid-palate.

I didn’t feel the need to run out and buy more of this (like I was with the the Cuvée Les Sablieres) but I won’t hesitate to open another bottle. An enjoyable and food-friendly bottle of wine, not to mention a great value at $13-14.

The wines are imported by Jeff Welburn Selections.

Favorite Côtes du Rhônes 2007
Domaine Gramenon Sierra du Sud
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône
Domaine Gramenon Les Laurentides Côtes du Rhône
Les Aphillanthes Côtes du Rhône
Domaine Alary Cairanne La Font d’Estevenas
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône-Villages-Cairanne
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Terres de Galets
Escaravailles Côtes du Rhône

Other Côtes du Rhônes from the 07 vintage:
Côtes du Rhône Maxime-François Laurent Il Fait Soif 2007
Domaine Depeyre Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2007
Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2007
Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2007

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IMG_1374Tablas Creek Vineyard was founded by the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and Robert Haas, the longtime importer and founder of Vineyard Brands. Tablas Creek is dedicated to the production of wines made from Rhône grape varietals. All of their wines are made with grapes from their 120-acre certified organic estate vineyard.

Tablas Creek called the 2007 vintage the best to date — and so I was excited about the Côtes de Tablas Rouge given that I am generally a big fan of their wines. The 2007 Côtes de Tablas is 50% Grenache with equal parts Syrah and Counoise.  All of the varietals were fermented in stainless steel with the use of native yeasts: the Syrah in open-top fermenters, punched down manually, and the other varietals in closed fermenters with pump-over aeration. After pressing, the wines were racked, blended, aged for a year in 1200-gallon French oak foudres, and then bottled in February 2009. The wines underwent a light filtration before bottling.

On the nose, raspberry and cherry with some strawberry rhubarb and peppered bacon. On the palate, cherry with raspberry and some red licorice, a little leather with herbaceousness, pepper and mineral undertones — good backbone with ripe tannins and soft edges. The Grenache really shines and while this is juicy, it is not overdone, is very well balanced and actually a bit restrained. This is the best Côtes de Tablas from last three vintages and a great bargain at under $18 a bottle. 14.8% alcohol. Strongly recommended.

Other wines from Tablas Creek:
Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas Rouge 2006
Tablas Creek Grenache Blanc 2006
Côtes de Tablas Creek Vermentino 2008
Tablas Creek Vineyard Côtes de Tablas Blanc 2006

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IMG_1321Chapoutier has a long history of wine production in the Rhone Valley. Chapoutier was established in 1808 by Polydor Chapoutier. The firm was passed from father to son and in the mid-twentieth century Max Chapoutier was at the helm. In 1977, Max retired, and responsibility for managing the family business was passed to his sons, Michel and Marc. Marc continued to manage the business and distribution and Michel took on the responsibility for the vineyards and cellar. With Michel came many changes that resulted in improvements to overall quality and reputation.

As is the case with many top winemakers Michel Chapoutier believes that great wine is made in the vineyard, not in the cellar, and so it is here that some of the most dramatic changes were made. Michel favors lower yields and launched a crusade against chemicals, fertilizers and sprays.  He adopted biodynamic and organic farming techniques in his estate vineyards, harvesting grapes by hand and using only natural yeasts to produce unfiltered wines.

Overall, the Chapoutier style is intended to be approachable young, but with the structure to age. Chapoutier’s style that has been criticized is the use of oak. Michel in fact reduced the period of aging in oak from two years to eighteen months, but of the barrels used up to one third are new, which can make for a very oaky impact on the wine.

Chapoutier owns plots that occupy a significant proportion of the hill of Hermitage, in a number of vineyards, including Les Bessards, Greffieux, Chapelle, Méal, Muret and Chante-Alouette. From these plots come a number of red and white Hermitage cuvées. In addition, Chapoutier owns vines in Cote Rotie – source of La Mordorée and Les Bécasses, Crozes Hermitage – source of the excellent Les Varoniéres as well as Les Meysonniers, St Joseph – source of red and white Les Granits cuvées. Most other wines of the northern Rhone are made from purchased fruit. Outside the northern Rhone, Chapoutier also own the Bernadine vineyard in Chateauneuf du Pape. Chapoutier also has a presence in Tricastin, Provence, Roussillon and even Australia in the form of Mount Benson wine.

Michel Chapoutier Domaine Bila-Haut Cotes du Roussillon 2007
Michel Chapoutier Domaine Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem 2007

These wines are from the Chapoutier’s operation in Roussillon, under the direction of winemaker Gilles Troullier. The Cotes du Roussillon and the Occultum Lapidem are blends of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. The Syrah in both of the wines is a higher percentage than most of the wines from Roussillon. The grapes are manually harvested and 100% destemmed. For the Cotes du Roussillon, the ageing takes place in vats, while the Occultum Lapidem is matured 50% in barrel and 50% in tank. Both wines were very good and quite similar. Deep red garnet in color. Compote of dark fruits, violets with some graphite, resin and earthiness on the nose. Lots of dark fruit on the palate with dark cherry, blackberry with some tar, black olive and graphite.  Sweet, meaty tannins with good accidity and focus. 

The Occultum Lapidem was certainly the bigger of the two wines — more dense, dark and concentrated, rich/lush, intense and profound (and 14.5% alcohol vs. 14%). The oak was also a differentiator. I liked both wines and thought they were very good values ($12 and $18 a bottle), but I have to give a nod to the Cotes du Roussillon. Imported by HB Wine Merchants.

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