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Posts Tagged ‘Côtes du Rhône’

Domaine Gramenon is one of the most respected producers in the Rhône. In his book on the wines of the Rhône valley, Robert Parker classified Gramenon in the same category as Beaucastel and Fonsalette.

In 1998, owner Phillipe Laurent nearly doubled the area of his vineyards by purchasing some 50 acres in Vinsobres. A year later, he died in a tragic accident and his wife decided to sell some 35 acres the Perrin brothers at Beaucastel.

Michelle Aubery-Laurent and her son Maxim-François continue to make wines in a pretty natural way, with sulphur dioxide used just at assemblage. Their vineyards are farmed organically, and they never filter or fine their wines.

Their wines are not very well-known in the United States as they are available on a limited basis, though it seems they are starting to get more attention.  Someone familiar with their wines from years ago recently told me they made some rather odd wines. He had not had any of their wines in a number of years. I poured him some of the 2008s from Domaine Gramenon and he seemed to like them and say these were not the wines that he remembered. I originally found Gramenon’s wines through Kermit Lynch’s newsletter. He described them as a pure expression of biodynamically farmed, old vine fruit with knock-out flavors tempered by a core of strong minerality. My first vintage of the Sierra du Sud was the 2007. I think I paid $28-32 a bottle. The 2009 can be found for about $22 a bottle.

The Sierra du Sud is 100% Syrah, half aged for seven months in old oak. Like the 2007, it is very deep, dark inky ruby in color, with bright aromatics of red and dark fruit and some earth and bubble gum. It explodes in your mouth with black currant, plum and more bubble gum. This is even more approachable than the 2007, perhaps just a bit more ripe as well. The 2008s had a bit of funk and a little more going on — which is not to say I didn’t like the 2008s, as I do consider myself to be pro-funk when it comes to wine. The 2009 might be a bit less complex — just pure, unadulterated fruit — definitely in the quaffable and fun category. 13.5% alcohol. Imported by Kermit Lynch.

More wines from Domaine Gramenon:
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Les Laurentides Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Côtes du Rhône Blanc Vie on y Est 2008
Domaine Gramenon Ceps Centenaires La Mémé 2000

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Marie and Marcel run Domaine Richaud, with Marcel as winemaker and Marie as manager. Marcel makes some wonderful wines, mostly of the little known village appellation Cairanne. Many consider him one of the top 2 or 3 producers in the appellation. His estate is made up of plots inherited from his parents as well as rented parcels, so some grapes are sold to the local co-op or to négociants. The wines are made in the vineyard by pruning short, never using synthetic fertilizers, keeping the average age of the vines over 25 years old and keeping yields low. His wines are made in large capacity cement vats, each varietal is vinified separately and blended some 8 months later. The wines are not frequently racked and are not fined or filtered.

Richaud’s wines are said to be very popular in France, selling out almost immediately after release. I have read that sales at the estate’s tasting room account for the majority of all sales (though I find that difficult to believe).  On a trip to Paris last September, we went to dinner at Le Gorille Blanc on our first night. They had Richaud’s ’07 Galets by the glass. I took that as a sign that it would be a great meal — and it was (a wine list can often tell you a great deal about a restaurant).

In the United States, it takes a little bit of work to find his wines. Chambers Street in New York is one of the best bets (they currently offer the ’05 l’Ebrescade and the ’08 Galets) or K&L on the left coast, but I have also been pleasantly surprised to find some of his wine at Arrowine in Northern Virginia. Recently, I was very pleased to see Richaud’s ’06 Cairanne at Ripple in DC (and reasonably priced at $40 and change a bottle).

The 2007 Cairanne is a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Carignan. 70% is aged in cement tanks, the rest in barriques, some of them new. Deep, dark purple in color. Aromatics of black cherry, violet and some garrigue. Ripe, juicy dark fruit on the palate. Velvety, but with a bit of chew. A wee bit of a brawler this one, weighing in at 15% alcohol. Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections. Recommended, though if memory serves I slightly prefer the ’06…

Other wines from Domaine Richaud:
Domaine Richaud l’Ebrescade 2005
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Terres de Galets 2007
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne 2006

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Marie and Marcel run Domaine Richaud, with Marcel as winemaker and Marie as manager. Marcel makes some wonderful wines, mostly of the little known village appellation Cairanne. Many consider him one of the top 2 or 3 producers in the appellation. His estate is made up of plots inherited from his parents as well as rented parcels, so some grapes are sold to the local co-op or to négociants. The wines are made in the vineyard by pruning short, never using synthetic fertilizers, keeping the average age of the vines over 25 years old and keeping yields low. His wines are made in large capacity cement vats, each varietal is vinified separately and blended some 8 months later. The wines are not frequently racked and are not fined or filtered.

Richaud’s wines are said to be very popular in France, selling out almost immediately after release. I have read that sales at the estate’s tasting room account for the majority of all sales (though I find that difficult to believe).  On a trip to Paris last September, we went to dinner at Le Gorille Blanc on our first night. They had Richaud’s ’07 Galets by the glass. I took that as a sign that it would be a great meal — and it was (a wine list can actually tell you a great deal about a restaurant). In the United States, it takes a little bit of work to find his wines. Chambers Street Wines in New York is one of the best bets, but I have also been pleasantly surprised to find some of his wine at Arrowine in Northern Virginia.

The 2006 Cairanne is a blend of 36% Grenache, 38% Mourvèdre, 18% Syrah and 8% Carignan. 70% is aged in cement tanks, the rest in barriques, some of them new. Deep purple in color. Aromatics of black cherry, violet and bubble gum with some garrigue, herb and spice.  Lots of ripe fruit on the palate — black cherry, black raspberry with a little  asphalt and cassis. Soft, smooth and velvety in the mouth. 14.5% alcohol. Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections. Another example of why Richaud produces some of my favorite wines in the $25 and under category from the Rhône valley, along with Domaine Gramenon and Les Aphillanthes. Recommended.

Other wines from Domaine Richaud:
Domaine Richaud l’Ebrescade 2005
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Terres de Galets

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Marie and Marcel run Domaine Richaud, with Marcel as winemaker and Marie as manager. Marcel makes some wonderful wines, mostly of the little known village appellation Cairanne. Many consider him one of the top 2 or 3 producers in the appellation. His estate is made up of plots inherited from his parents as well as rented parcels, so some grapes are sold to the local co-op or to négociants. The wines are made in the vineyard by pruning short, never using synthetic fertilizers, keeping the average age of the vines over 25 years old and keeping yields low. His wines are made in large capacity cement vats, each varietal is vinified separately and blended some 8 months later. The wines are not frequently racked and are not fined or filtered.

Richaud’s wines are said to be very popular in France, selling out almost immediately after release. I have read that sales at the estate’s tasting room account for the majority of all sales (though I find that difficult to believe).  On a trip to Paris in September, we went to dinner at Le Gorille Blanc on our first night and I was more than a little excited to see his ’07 Galets offered by the glass.  In the United States it takes a little bit of work to find his wines — and the l’Ebrescade is one of the more difficult given total production is around 400-450 cases. I have only found the ’05 l’Ebrescade at the little shop of treasures otherwise known as Chambers Street Wines.

The l’Ebrescade is Richaud’s top wine, with an average vine age of 45 years — grown on clay and limestone soils. It is a blend of 37% Grenache, 28% Syrah and 35% Mourvèdre. The l’Ebrescade is aged in barriques or demi-muids. Dark red fruit, violet, soy sauce, rare meat and hint of bubble gum on the nose. The aromatics remind me of Domaine Gramenon wines in that they have a just a touch of grape Bubblicious on the nose. Also, like the wines from Domaine Gramenon, Richaud’s wines express a purity of fruit. Loaded with pure dark red and blue fruit, earth and licorice with some meaty and smokey nuances. Dense and rich, balanced and precise. Solid acidity, structure and finish. 14.5% alcohol. Imported by Louis/Dressner. Strongly recommended. I drank this over the course of three evenings. I thought it showed best on day 2 and would certainly decant prior to serving.

All of Richaud’s wines would be on my list of top wines for the year. Other wines would include the 2007 Domaine Gramenon Sierra du Sud and La Segasse, the 2005 Basetti from Edmunds St John, the wines of Ariana Occhipinti and a number of 2007 Rhônes.

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IMG_1689What makes Daniel Boulle so special, in my opinion, is his absolute perfection in growing. His yields are minute and the fruit is perfect. ~Peter Weygandt

As I wrote in a recent post, there is a fantastic new wine store in DC. Weygandt Wines is owned by Peter Weygandt and Todd Ross. Peter Weygandt has been an importer of wines for 20 years with Weygandt Metzler. I went back to the store for another visit yesterday and was surprised to see Peter Weygandt at the store. I was even more surprised by how friendly and personable he was. Peter chatted with me about the store and helped me pick out some wines — he was extremely approachable, modest, sincere and generous with his time and knowledge. It was a real delight to spend some time with him.

I’ve tasted a few of the wines I purchased from Weygandt Wines. My favorites were both from Les Aphillanthes. There are a number of cuvées produced at Les Aphillanthes. I selected three of the cuvées from the six of seven wines from Les Asphillanthes.

The “Cuvée des Galets” is a blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 20% Mourvedre, from yields of only 20-22 hl/ha (less than half of what he is allowed to produce). Bright ruby red. The Grenache really shines on the nose. Cherry, strawberry and violet wrapped in meaty, gamey and peppery notes. On the palate, black cherry, strawberry and cranberry with pepper, herbs and bacon fat. Structured with silky, chalk-edged tannins — and a little chewy. Solid finish. 14.5% alcohol.

Perhaps even better than the Galets is the “Cuvée 3 Cepages” of equal parts Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Darker ruby in color with cherry and violet with some cassis, pepper and garrigue.  On the palate, cherry and dried cranberry with licorice, rare meat, earthy and floral notes. The 3 Cepages has a bit more impact with a little more acidity and tannins than the Galets — as well as a more pronounced and persistent finish. 14.5% alcohol.

Both wines would be on my list of favorite Côtes du Rhônes from 2007. Strongly recommended.

About Les Aphillanthes
Prior to 1999, Daniel Boulle and his wife Helene sold all of their fruit the local co-operative. Friends and colleagues saw that his fruit was of superb quality, and convinced Daniel and Helen it deserved to be bottled as it stood, rather than absorbed into the wines of the local co-op. Domaine Les Aphillanthes was born and today is a rising star of the southern Rhône.

Boulle sees himself as a vigneron rather than a winemaker and he applies minimal intervention in the winery. Recently Boulle has introduced biodynamic practices to the vineyard. Boulle was encouraged in this new practice not by contact with other followers of biodynamic principles, but by a success in treating his own son’s eczema using natural medical products which Boulle likens to a biodynamic approach. In the winery, Boulle transports the wine using gravity feed, and ferments in concrete vats. The wines are bottled without filtration.

Favorites from Côtes du Rhône 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 Richaud Côtes du Rhône-Villages-Cairanne
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Terres de Galets
Escaravailles Côtes du Rhône

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IMG_1664As I have written before, Domaine Gramenon is one of the most respected producers in the Rhône. In Robert Parker’s book on the wines of the Rhône valley, he classified Gramenon in the same category as Beaucastel and Fonsalette.

In 1998, owner Phillipe Laurent nearly doubled the area of his vineyards by purchasing some 50 acres in Vinsobres. A year later, he died in a tragic accident and his wife decided to sell some 35 acres the Perrin brothers at Beaucastel. Today, Michelle Aubery-Laurent and her son Maxim-François continue to make wines in a pretty natural way, with sulphur dioxide used just at assemblage. Their vineyards are farmed organically, and they never filter or fine their wines.

Their wines are not very well known in the United States as they are available on a limited basis. I found Gramenon’s wines through Kermit Lynch’s newsletter. He described them as a pure expression of biodynamically farmed, old vine fruit with knock-out fruit flavors tempered by a core of strong minerality.

The Côtes du Rhône Blanc Vie on y Est 2008 is 100% Viognier from 25 year old vines. Aromatics of peach, tangerine and honeysuckle with mineral notes and a touch of smoke. On the palate, apricot, apple, pear and limestone. Complex, but there is also a persistent underlying, distinct note that is difficult to describe but seems to be characteristic of all of Gramenon’s wines. Good minerality and richness, but also elegant. Nicely textured with soft acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Imported by Kermit Lynch.

I thought this was yet another great wine from Domaine Gramenon. All of their wines are strongly recommended, but the Sierra du Sud and La Sagesse from the 07 vintage are stand outs in my opinion.

Other wines from Domaine Gramenon:
Domaine Gramenon Sierra du Sud 2007
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Les Laurentides Côtes du Rhône 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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