The southern Rhone valley is home to Grenache-dominant blends, and it's Châteauneuf-du-Pape where these wild strawberry, white pepper-spiced, and gamey reds reach their apex. The perfect exposition and drainage from vineyards perched high on the hill in Châteauneuf-du-Pape make for the most thrilling and age-worthy wines of the entire southern Rhone.
The style of CdP has been one of ever-growing power and ripeness. The hot temperatures here have a tendency to give these blends roasted fruit notes. The prominent gallet river stones have a large role in this, as they absorb daytime heat and reverberate it upward to the hanging clusters even through the night. This is where sand enters the equation.
Rare pockets of sand-dominant parcels give a decidedly different quality to the wines - one marked by elegance, racy structure, and a more quiet purity, void of any sense of stewed or baked fruits. And, in these small zones few producers have garnered more respect and praise than Laurent Charvin.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2016 Domaine Charvin Chateauneuf du Pape & 2017 Côtes du Rhone Le Poutet.
* The appellation originally received its name when Pope John XXII relocated in 1309 from Rome to Avignon and constructed "the new home of the pope", or Châteauneuf-du-Pape. At this time the wines of Burgundy were more likely served to the pontiff, but things quickly changed when the pope familiarized himself with the Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah blends from Avignon's most revered hillside vineyards.
Laurent Charvin took over this 6th generation domaine in 1990 and that's when the magic truly started. Unlike most producers, Laurent chose whole cluster fermentation and has stuck with bottling only one Châteauneuf-du-Pape - no reserve, no spéciale cuvée, no old-vine bottling. Why should an estate's hallmark wine suffer by taking the best components out to bottle on its own? So, the sole CdP bottling here is always a masterpiece year in, year out. But, 2016 is simply a dream year for the southern Rhône, and not since 2010 have we seen something this pitch-perfect.
The domaine is located in the northwest of the appellation. With sandy soils and northern exposure (mitigating the sun's influence), the wines here take on a different quality than is the norm in CdP.
Farming of these 60-year-old average vines is organic, with a blend usually of 85% Grenache, 5% Mourvèdre, 5% Syrah, and 5% Vaccarèse. The wines are fermented with stems and aged in concrete tanks. This approach to elévage works really well to preserve brightness and verve in the wines that otherwise may easily fall by the waist side.
Laurent's wines are seamless, spicy, and posses an elusive purity not often found in CdP. They always show of dark raspberry, asian spices, with smokey and wild floral notes. These are absolutely singular expressions Châteauneuf-du-Pape and each release quickly sells out from importer Weygandt-Metzler. Quantities are very limited.
I'm going to keep this one very brief today. Outside of 1854-planted Mission vines, no wine is more American than old vine Zinfandel. And no winery's work with the variety has a better track record of aging than Ridge Vineyards' Geyserville & Lytton Springs cuvées.
Today, I'm very happy to offer a deep range of back-vintages from both revered sites. Quantities are very limited and wines are not available online.Please give me your desired order and I will do my best to accommodate.
Current release Ridge Geyserville & Lytton Springs are staples at my Thanksgiving table each year, but I have not been lucky enough to open an aged example alongside the turkey. Though, I've already made my personal selection from below for my trip back home to Maryland for this year's festivities.
As a descriptor, "Burgundian" has its advocates and detractors. I've always felt comfortable using it for certain traits I find in wines. But, there's no place the word gets tossed around more freely (or appropriately) than when I'm in Beaune hanging out with friends and being introduced to new wines. It was during France's World Cup semifinal match televised outside at Bar du Square in Beaune where the greatest revelation of my month in France came to fruition.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2016 Domaine Gallety Côte du Vivarais Rouge for $26 per bottle, and down to $23.83 on 6 bottles or more.
A long time winemaker friend named Felix from Rully suggested Domaine Gallety as we ordered plates of charcuterie, cheese, and the most delicious tarte flambée of the trip. Gallety is a 50/50 Rhone blend of Grenache and Syrah from a high altitude setting within the northern section of the greater Southern Rhone Valley. I was surprised the proud Burgundian wanted to order a Rhone wine. He was surprised I had no idea who Domaine Gallety was. Kermit Lynch had been importing them into the US unbeknownst to me for a short time.
As the bottle was brought to the picnic table heads turned toward Felix with a showering of approval. THIS was the kind of Southern Rhone wine that belonged at a table in Beaune. Now, "Wines of Place" is the foundation for my selections, in that wines taste like they can only have been born of one place, not many. What does Gallety taste like? Well, everything you can expect from the specifics of THIS place.The higher altitude setting in this northern part of the region endows Grenache with a more fresh strawberry note vs. the more jammy side of things found further south. The Syrah brings a more savory side of the purple hued fruits and adds in some black pepper, violets, and roasted meat elements. In the end, the flavor profile matches the setting as if you had conjured the experience in your mind before first sip.
Onto "Burgundian": Gallety is situated in the Côtes du Vivarais, which was officially awarded A.O.C. status in 1999. As compared to the more recognized Côtes du Rhone appellation located across the river, Vivarais sits on the west and sees a cooler and much longer growing season. Without the afternoon exposure to direct sun and its heat, the wines here always maintain a lighter and more elegant, mineral-driven sensibility as compared to their neighbors on the other bank of the river. With the 50/50 blend and the central location, Gallety's rouge fits a perfect middle ground between the styles of the southern (Grenache-dominant) and northern rhone valley (100% Syrah).
More on "Burgundian": Alain Gallety and his son David-Alexandre are avid travelers, constantly visiting domaines throughout the county to learn and apply techniques to refine their work each year. Organic viticulture was adopted in the early 80's (rare for these parts), and top-loading gravity-fed tanks were installed to ensure freshness and integrity of fruit would be the cornerstone of the house style. The Gallety's also use Burgundian barrels for aging (another rarity here) as they believe the element of finesse they deliver is perfectly suited to this rocky limestone and clay terroir. Here, the very most rocky parcels have been selected for plantings - so rocky that they are only able to be worked by a draft horse.
As Thanksgiving is approaching I always find Rhone wines to be a perfect fit. But truth be told, my palate has shifted dramatically over the last 15 years from the inky, bombastic, melted licorice tone toward the more graceful, understated, and terroir-driven realm. At going down under $24 per bottle, there's no wine from the Southern Rhone I can recommend with more enthusiasm today than Domaine Gallety.
Ethereal and Côtes du Rhone does not really fit, let's be real. Sun-soaked blends based on Grenache have long provided those plum and strawberry jam-inflected wines long lusted for their fleshy and hedonistic traits. A hint of white pepper and game can bring complexity that separates these from other notable value competitors, but acid-driven these are not. Having said all that, Clos du Mont-Olivet has long stood out for me as the ideal destination for palates that crave a necessary lift and brightness to the CdR category.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2016 Clos du Mont-Olivet Côtes du Rhone Cuvée Vieilles Vignes for $26 per bottle, and down to $24.33/btl on 6-packs.
First thing first: 2016 is the real deal - hype is valid in the southern Rhone. We're now out of the Parker-dominated spell where vintages like 2007 gained so much attention, yet proved their lack of acidity and freshness would ultimately be their undoing as those Châteauneuf du Papes rested in dark corners of cellars, unwinding into alcohol-dominated monstrosities. Were there successes? Of course. But, overwhelmingly that lauded vintage has proved best to be drunk in years past.
Unlike the 100% Syrahs of the Northern Rhone, the southern Grenache-dominant blends largely show up for work on day one and provide serious pleasure. There are examples of mesmerizing, aged Châteauneuf du Pape from the likes of Henri Bonneau, Chateau Rayas, Vieux Télégraphe, and Clos du Mont Olivet (such as the 1985 we offered earlier this year). But, largely, this region's strength is in its youth. One of the reasons Grenache is supplemented by more hearty varieties here is because it's prone to oxidation and naturally produces rather high ripeness levels leading to higher alcohols - each of these greatly inhibit a wines ability age gracefully and retain freshness. OK, back to Mont-Olivet.
Côtes du Rhone's immediacy is its strength, and Clos du Mont-Olivet has long stood as a leading figure in the more understated and elegant section of the category. Freshness is the leading sensibility at Mont-Olivet. This special Vieilles Vignes cuvée comes from vines planted in the 1950's in lieu-dits Montueil and La Levade. The blend is 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, and 10% Carignan. 2016 has it all because there is simply no shortcoming to be found: Ripeness, structure, energy - everything's in ideal balance.
This special bottling always has concentration coming from these old vines, but it's the grace and refinement that leads it to rival Châteauneuf du Papes. In 2016 it's simply the single greatest overachiever of the valley, and I've created special 6-pack pricing today to make planning for Thanksgiving and the rest of the winter an easy choice.