• The Legend of Sand & Stones:  Charvin Châteauneuf-du-Pape

    The Legend of Sand & Stones: Charvin Châteauneuf-du-Pape

    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.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Aged Thanksgiving Treats:  Ridge Geyserville & Lytton Springs

    Aged Thanksgiving Treats: Ridge Geyserville & Lytton Springs

    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.



    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Côtes du Rhone at its Most Ethereal:  Clos du Mont-Olivet Vieilles Vignes

    Côtes du Rhone at its Most Ethereal: Clos du Mont-Olivet Vieilles Vignes

    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 LevadeThe 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.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen