Posts Tagged ‘Marsanne’

img_1008This wine is a blend of 80 percent Marsanne (structure and length) and 20 percent Roussanne (roundness and aromatics) from vines that average 40 years in age. Long before it was sold as Saint Joseph, the wine from this renowned parcel was sold as Vin des Oliviers. The wine is produced by brothers Pierre and Jean Gonon, who work their 9 hectares of vines situated around Mauves, Tournon and St Jean de Muzols, birthplace of the appellation St Joseph.

The soils are fertilized only with their own composts and plowed for aeration. Only natural treatments are used in the vineyard and yields are kept very low by short pruning and green harvesting in July. Grapes are harvested only by hand and fermentation takes place only in the presence of indigenous yeasts. The brothers don’t follow the current trend toward single vineyard bottlings at the expense of the “entry level” cuvées, instead the Gonon brothers uphold the best virtues of the appellation system and draw from all of their historic parcels, each lending a distinct character, to craft only a single white and a single red Saint Joseph cuvée.

Production of the Pierre Gonon Blanc is about 900 cases. It is golden straw in color. Apple, apricot, lemon peel and cut hay on the nose. Stone fruits, pomelo grapefruit, almond and a touch of tangerine and fennel. Stoney minerality, creamy, rich and a bit fat — unctuous with beautiful glycerin-viscosity. Well-balanced with soft but lingering acidity and a prolonged finish. The richness and lowish acidity help make this age gracefully and have been put in the same class as the rich styled White Burgundies from the Côtes de Beaune. At $30 a bottle, this wine is not inexpensive especially given the current economic situation. But it is a lot wine for the money and a really lovely bottle of wine. The last white wine I enjoyed this much was the Pierre Gaillard Condrieu.

I purchased this wine from Chambers Street Wines. They focus on organic, natural and biodynamic wines. I have been a long time fan and ordered from them on a fairly regular basis over the last few years. Since I was in New York, I figured it was worth a visit to their store. Chambers Street may have the largest inventory of Louis/Dressner Selections in the United States, so that alone is worth the trip. They also have some hard to find small producers — and they obviously take a lot of care in selecting which wines they carry. They carry a hard to find producer from the Rhône — Domaine Richaud. Always a good supply of wines from Catherine & Pierre Breton, Pierre Gonon, Sylvie Esmonin…and the list goes on.

I really enjoyed visiting the store and chatting with John, one of their wine merchants. He spent a good 30-40 minutes with me. He was friendly, helpful, enthusiastic and knowledgeable — and I greatly appreciated the attention. A great store and a great wine, true highlights from my week.


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A Rhône-style white blend from Barrel 27 — 42% Viognier, 34% Roussanne and 24% Marsanne . All of the fruit comes from French Camp Vineyard in Paso Robles. The wine is a joint effort of winemakers McPrice Meyers and Russel From.

Meyers and From have their own, independent labels as well, Mac’s McPrice Myers Wine Company, and Russell’s Herman Story Wines Both produce Rhone varietal wines, focusing on Syrah, Grenache, Viognier and Roussanne.

Deep golden straw in color. An aromatic nose with honey, floral notes, lemongrass, wet stone and a touch of butterscotch and watercress. On the palate, lemonheads, citrus zest, honey, wet limestone, butter, cured ham — and there is something in the flavor profile that reminds me of Lillet Blanc. Good viscosity and weight with a silky, lush and oily mouthfeel. It is listed at 15.1% percent alcohol — and it certainly is a bit too present for my tastes. There is a lot of nice fruit, some flab and structure, but it’s just a bit too much for my palate.

I am sure there are those that will like this wine. I certainly had hopes given that it is a white Rhône blend from Paso Robles, and while there were many characteristics I liked quite a bit, but I think McPrice and Russel both had their foot on the accelerator. I would stop short of recommending the wine, but would note it is a very good value. I have seen this wine priced at a couple of places at around $15 a bottle, it may retail at about $18.

About McPrice Myers
McPrice Myers began his career working for specialty food retailers and grocery stores, giving him the opportunity to taste a lot of wine. In wine he found a passion and started dreaming of the day when he would make his own wine.

He started working harvests in Paso Robles, learning the trade and making the contacts that would lay the groundwork for the point at which he would eventually make his own wine. In 2002, Myers contracted enough fruit to make 250 cases of Santa Barbara County Syrah.

Read review of McPrice Myers Grenache L’ange 2005.

About Russell From
Russell got his start in wine while attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s Agriculture program. Intending to become a farm equipment magnate, Russell began working at wineries mostly because they were hiring, but it wasn’t long before he ‘got the bug’ and began a serious study of winemaking. It wouldn’t be long before he met Mac Myers, and after several discussions, appropriate amounts of wine, and a punch-up or two, Barrel 27 was born to the wordsn“Each bottle of this wine represents a dream realized by two friends.”

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Chateau Grande Cassagne is a small estate run by the Dardé brothers (Laurent and Benoît). The property is near the village of Saint-Gilles. The Dardé brothers produce very good Rhone-style wines at value prices. Their wines are hand-made and the fruit is hand-farmed and organically-grown. Their first vintage was in 1988 and their wines have been imported by Robert Kacher since 1994.

The Cuvée Cassanus is a blend of 60% Roussanne and 40% Marsanne. 80% is stainless steel fermented and 20% is done in French oak barriques. Golden straw in color. White flower, citrus, melon and a touch of honey aromatics. Green apple with pear, lemon, green olive and limestone on the palate. It is a little flabby, but shows good richness and minerality. Very food friendly.

I bought this on sale at Calvert Woodley for $6.99 a bottle. Note that this wine sells at $8.99 on sale in the store, but is available at the sale price of $6.99 on their website.

The wine normally retails at $10-11 a bottle. At $10 a bottle this is a good value, but at under $7, it is one of the top 10 white wine values I have encountered this year.

It is often difficult to find something serviceable at under $7 a bottle, but I actually would have called this a value play at $10 a bottle — and would not have been surprised (or disappointed) to have learned I paid $13 a bottle. Not a bad little quaffer this one….

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Pax Mahle is considered to be an ultratraditionalist. “We take a very pure approach,” explains Mahle, “one that was more commonplace 100 years ago in France than it is today.”

That approach includes organic farming, foot-crushing the grapes, natural fermentations and absolutely no fining or filtering. He contends that his style of winemaking is really without a style.

It is also worth noting that their approach to customer service is a throwback to another era as well. Everyone I have ever interacted with has been very personable, genuine and helpful. They also sent me a handwritten and thoughtful thank you note after I had ordered my wine.

Mahle used to work as a wine buyer at Dean & DeLuca. After tasting a few thousand wines for his job at D&D, he became convinced that the cool coastal vineyards of northern California could produce his beloved Rhône style of nuanced, layered Syrah.

He might have been on to something as he seems to be developing quite a following. A couple of years ago a special five-case lot of his 2004 Pax Wine Cellars Syrah sold for an auction-high $18,000 at the Paso Robles Hospice du Rhône benefit.

Pax has produced a Rousssane in previous vintages, but this is their first Marsanne/Roussane/Viognier release.

Light, golden straw in color and a little cloudy in the glass. Pear, apple with soft white flower and wet stone on the nose. Pear, honey, vanilla, pepper, buttered almond and wet cement one the palate — pronounced minerality with creamy acidity and a lingering finish. Oak is there for structure, but it is also very subtle. More appealing as the wine continues to open through the course of the evening.

Had I not known it was from California, I might have guessed this wine was from the the Rhône valley — proof that he doesn’t just produce Rhône-like Syrahs.

Certainly not a value, but a great bottle of wine. I wish I could afford to drink Pax wines on a more regular basis as I would put them on my short list best producers in California.


44 % Roussanne / 38% Marsanne / 18% Viognier
10 % new French Oak
13.5 % Alc by Vol
165 cases produced

Other wines from Pax:
Pax Syrah Sonoma Hillsides Russian River Valley 2006

Other recommended California Rhône whites:
Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas Blanc 2006
Melville Estate Verna’s Viognier 2007
McPrice Myers Viognier Larner Vineyard 2006
L’Aventure Roussanne 2006

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images-1.jpgThis really is a can’t miss wine to pair with seafood or asian cuisine — I tend to get excited about any wine with Viognier/Marsanne/Roussanne components — as they tend to have substance on the palate and aromatic and exotic on the nose as well. The finest expressions do not need food or any additional elements as they are almost too perfect to pair with anything else.

This wine was an exception for me — it is not as aromatic as I expected — and I certainly would not have pegged it as having VMR components — I would have thought it was a NZ Sauvignon Blanc — very crisp with great acidity……not exactly what I expected or hoped for — but this is a great choice to pair with seafood or any spicy or salty asian cuisine — it would really stand up to most foods that might be a bit of challenge.

You can hide a wine’s flaws by serving it at a lower temperature than usual — and I would serve this on the colder side of chilled — not that it is flawed, but with this wine it simply brings out the best attributes of both the wine and the food.

A great choice to enhance some foods that might not be very food friendly — or even make a good meal much better.

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