Marquiliani's pale copper-hued, diamond-cut rosé from Corsica is one of our most highly anticipated rosé releases each year. The native Sciaccarellu grape is grown here on decomposed granite terraces a couple of miles from the Mediterranean, just below the towering 8,000 foot Mount Renosu, ensuring cool breezes to balance out the island's hot summer temperatures.
Here, every single grape grown is destined to be rosé. Vin de Corse Rosé shows the domaine's more incisive, linear style of rosé. The smaller production Rosé de Pauline is a touch broader on the palate but counter-intuitively paler in color than the Vin de Corse. Even with Syrah's more prominent role here, this is rosé at its most featherweight and saline-driven.
Anne Almaric tends these minuscule two hectares of vines, which her family took over in the 1950s. There was a 20-year span where this centuries old domaine was abandoned, and Anne's father was the first to plant Sciaccarellu on the eastern side of the island. Anne's background in agricultural chemistry lends a keen eye toward viticulture, and the vines have prospered under her watch.
Santa Barbara's cool-climate wines have growingly become one of my obsessions. For me, the most integral name in the array of labels is Sashi Moorman. His Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gamay are among my favorites, but his first label, Piedrasassi, offers downright delicious and complex reflections of Syrah.
Piedrasassi harnesses savory, bright, and superior aromatics while never shying away from the innately luscious qualities that define California Syrah. These wines nail the roasted meat, violet, and black pepper trifecta at each price point. Though, the single vineyard-designate bottlings from Bien Nacido and Rim Rock best exemplify how California Syrah can continually develop `in the bottle over many years.
Sashi vinifies and ages as naturally as possible, excluding sulfur at fermentation and only utilizing native yeasts. Whole cluster inclusion and aging in larger 500-liter barrels ensure the lively, crushed rock virtues that make Northern Rhone Syrah so unique aren't lost here in Santa Barbara.
Guillaume Gilles in Cornas continues to raise the bar each vintage. A visit with him in July 2018 was a great opportunity to learn more about the young vigneron who highlights Northern Rhone's new generation. Gilles trained under Jean-Louis Chave and the now retired Cornas legend, Robert Michel.
Gilles leases 2.5 hectares of the famed Chaillot Vineyard from Michel. His traditional approach means zero de-stemming, aging in large neutral barrels, and no fining or filtering. If Michel's wines were known for their uncommon transparency and light-handed touch, Gilles is darker, ferocious, and packed with concentration. Still, they have that undeniable sense of pure granite and 100% whole cluster.
Since Thierry Allemand's Cornas wines easily fetch for $250+ per bottle, I've set my eyes on today's more under-the-radar producers. There's simply no producer more deserving of attention than Guillaume Gilles. That quintessential combination of roasted meats, violets, blackberries, smoke, black pepper, and scorched earth that Cornas derives its name from is always front and center.
The secret is out on this tiny jewel of a domaine in Côte Rôtie. With less than 165 cases produced annually, Chambeyron-Manin is small-production on a wildly different scale. They farm just 0.5 hectares of a rare clone of Syrah named Serine in the decomposed granite, iron-rich soils of the Côte Brune.
Chambeyron-Manin's expression of Serine harnesses the dark and feral characteristics of the Côte Brune, featuring smoke, bacon fat, crushed rocks, dark plum, black pepper, and black olive notes. Even with all the brawn and scorched earth elements, it's still the violet and lavender that speaks to this slice of the most sensual Syrah on the globe.
Like many domaines here, the Chambeyron-Manin family has historically produced and sold meats, cheeses, and vegetables. The minuscule plot of vines they have, located behind their home, only supplement their main work operating Les Jardins de la Côte-Rôtie. Tasting their wine for the first time, it's hard to imagine they would devote their lives to anything except ramping up production and getting it into as many hands as possible. Alas, half a hectare is all there is, and I'm so fortunate to have been introduced to this tiny jewel.
Since 1481, there have been 16 generations of unbroken lineage at the Chave estate along the Rhone River's towering granite slopes. When we look closely at the birthplace of Syrah, there's no name more respected than that of Jean-Louis Chave.
Jean-Louis Chave joined his father Gérard in 1992 after completing his studies in enology at UC Davis. Once home, his primary mission was to re-plant the steep slopes of Saint Joseph—the same hillside where the domaine first began, but the vineyards laid fallow since the 19th century when phylloxera decimated them. Jean-Louis knew these treacherously steep hillsides in Saint Joseph were capable of producing a magnificent yet value-conscious alternative to Hermitage.
Saint-Joseph's boundaries have expanded immensely since the appellation gained AOC status in 1956, but Chave's choice parcels still represent the best and most serious terroir. Here, there's an underlying mineral component that provides the backbone to their wines, and it's this definition that allows them to age effortlessly. Examples of Saint Joseph from the late 1990s have floored me with their sense of vivacity, freshness, and regal structure.
It's been nearly three decades since these terraces were re-built by hand, and vines were re-planted among traditional échalas stakes. Today, the results are stunning wines that remind us the root of Rhone's success comes from hands-on work and attention to detail, something the Chave family has personified for hundreds of years.