Wine Hotline Hits the Road: France Part III

Binny’s South Loop Wine Manager Don Sheil continues with his notes from the Rhone. Find previous entries on the Binny’s Blog here and here.

 

Domaine Saladin

 

We visit Domaine Saladin located in Saint Marcel d’Ardeche. This is a new label for Binnys, just arriving in stores a few weeks ago. Another impressive operation managed by patriarch Louis Saladin’s daughters, Elizabeth and Marie-Laurence Saladin. These ladies produce beautiful, pure, understated wines from hand picked grapes on land that has been farmed organically pretty much since the dawn of time. Meaning, they farm the same way they always have, organic before organic ever got popular. The wines are bright and remarkably restrained. The 2011 Paul, a co fermented blend of grenache and clairette blanche, shows the lift of fresh red berries with hints of citrus and spice box. The Cheyveron is also nicely balanced. The Per El (“For Her”) blanc, created by Louis for his wife who prefers white wine, is a sublime blend of 5 varietals aged in stainless steel vats.

 

Domaine Saladin

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Wine Hotline Hits the Road: France Part II

A group of Binny’s wine people traveled to the Rhone Valley in France, joined by legendary importer Peter Weygandt. Check out day one from Binny’s South Loop Wine Manager Don Sheil here. He continues to share his experience:

 

Wine Barrels

 

We spend time at Domaine Les Aphillanthes, near the village of Rasteau, with vigneron Daniel Boulle. We tasted several interesting wines – the 2011 Rasteau 1921 Cuvee is epscially good (2010 here). The name refers to the year the vines were planted – aromas of blackberry, licorice and Provencal herbs abound. The finish is long and the flavors complete across the palate.

 

Wines of Domaine Les Aphillanthes

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Wine Hotline Hits the Road: the Rhone & Southern France

Several Binny’s employees, led by Binny’s Wine Buyer Barbara Hermann, traveled to the Rhone Valley and Southern France, in search of the greatest wines the region offers. Joining them was legendary importer Peter Weygandt. Binny’s South Loop Wine Manager Don Sheil shares the experience:

 

Raymond Usseglio Vineyards

 

The business part of our journey begins when we meet Peter Weygandt, an importer of European artisan wines, in the hillside town of Chateauneuf du Pape. First stop, Domaine Raymond Usseglio, where we tour the vineyards and taste wines with Raymond’s son and heir apparent, Stephane. The impressive array of 2011 cuvees and 2012 barrel samples show the quality and care of this vigneron. Surprisingly, at least to me, the 2012 whites are amazing – lush and balanced with rich tree ripened fruit.

 

Raymond Usselgio Bottles

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An Addendum: More Rhone

   This recent post on the Binny’s Wine Blog sparked little conversations here and there – about importer styles, about winemaking techniques, about the nature of vintages, especially in the Rhone, and other geeky topics us wine nerds get into. In the comments section of that post, Bill points out that some of what I say is overly simplifying things. I think he’s right. It’s easy to invent categories so things can fit into them. But then wine – and a bunch of other things in real life that actually have nuance and complexity – don’t really fall into such neat categories. I should remember that.

   Anyway, with the topics of importers and the Rhone in my mind, I thought it would be remiss of me to fail to mention the excellent little importer Wine Adventures, owned by Steve Gaucher. If Mr Gaucher’s portfolio carries a common theme, it would have to be that of value. The Wine Adventure wines are thoughtful, complex and structured, and more often than not at breathtakingly affordable prices. Like, comically low prices. We tasted some of his stuff recently.

Wine Adventures

   Let’s start off at the top: Wine Adventures imports a good Rhone producer, Chateau Beauchene. Their 2009 Chateauneuf du Pape Grande Reserve is excellent: light, fresh fruit – more strawberries than cherries or plums – with a little spice and a good tannic frame (some of the 2007 Grande Reserve is also still available too). Its $30 price tag puts it on the value end of the Chateauneuf aisle. Still, it would be a stretch to call it a “value.” It’s a value for Chateauneuf.

   By comparison, consider the 2007 Chateau Beauchene Cotes du Rhone Premier Terroir. This is an incredible value at $12.99. It has crazy complexity for a wine at the price, with a really spicy nose and lots of tertiary notes beyond the simple, easygoing fruit of the usual Cotes du Rhone. The ’07 Premier Terroir is almost gone now, so if you see some, grab it up. By the way, the 2010 Chateau Beauchene Cotes du Rhone Rose is another really nice value – exactly what you’re looking for in a rose from the Rhone: light and refreshing grenache fruit with enough frame to keep it alive. Great stuff for a Chicago summer.

   A couple others that stood out were two reds from Portugal.

   A friend of mine came over to talk to me toward the end of the tasting, and with a purple grin, he pointed at a bottle of Beato Nuno. “What is that stuff?” he asked me. “It’s awesome!” I told him we sell it for $7.99, and he got a jaw-dropping look of disbelief. It’s crazy how good this stuff is for eight bucks. It’s packed with fruit, but balanced out with a structured tanninic backbone that leaves the impression of a bottle at least twice the price. I want to say it’s a balance of old-world texture and new-world fruit, but again, that would be missing the point. Another, also from Portugal and also $7.99, is the slightly more fresh, fruit-forward Evidencia. It’s a shocking value, full of fruit, more polished and graceful, with the tannin laid-back and classy.

   See, these are exciting values, appreciable for their nuance and complexity and defiance of categorization. Also, they’re good and theyr’e cheap.

Roundup: Rhone Red

   The 2009 vintage in Rhone has gotten a fair amount of attention, mostly in the North, but it does seem that press for a part of the Rhone works in favor of the whole region.It’s cool that the wines are now hitting and we can see what they’re all about.

   The 09′s that we tasted remind me of how the 07′s tasted back when they first arrived. The 09′s have a touch less intensity and extraction, that is they taste less like zinfandel. Rhone is one of those places where the producer, and maybe more importantly the importer, seem to leave a noticeable fingerprint that might influence the wine as much as vintage character. There’s always talk of letting the terroir show through, but imports from Kysela or Weygandt or Kacher are usually recognizable as imports from Kysela or Weygandt or Kacher, vintage to vintage.

Domaine les Aphillanthes Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Le Cros

2009 Domaine la Garrigue Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Romaine

   This starts off with a big nose of char, vanilla, grape jelly and something hotly chemical like paint that doesn’t get in the way, but is there. The palate shows plush plum and cherry fruit with a zap of acidity.

 

2009 Domaine les Aphillanthes Cotes du Rhone Vieilles Vignes

   The nose makes me smile. Bright, big fruity plum and strawberry. Great nose. Bright on the palate, and heavier than you’d expect from the nose. It’s closer to kirsch liquer with hints of Grand Marnier.

 

2009 Domaine les Aphillanthes Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Le Cros

   The nose here doesn’t catch my attention like the VV did, but this is more complex and rich on the palate. Blueberry fruit leading into a round wine with great grippy tannins and mocha. So good! A little boozy.

 

2009 Coudoulet de Beaucastel Cotes du Rhone

   Strange hotly alcoholic, with waxy lipstick notes and film processing chemicals (what? I worked at a 1-hour photo for a while). The chemical taste is absent on the palate, which is all smooth round fruit, almost syrupy, with very low tannins. Wine Spectator says “plump,” so we should go with that.

 

2009 Domaine de Cristia Chaeauneuf du Pape

   Lighter, with a thoughtful nose with spice and cedar. Thick, heavy fruit on the palate, with syrupy berry fruit and tannins that swell towards a long finish. This is good.

 

2007 Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf du Pape

   Black pepper, light green pepper, and baking spices, over raspberry fruit. This 2007 is balanced and graceful, especially compared to the young 09′s. Serious, with flowers, meat, cedar, and fruit that isn’t yet fading. Two years ago, when most 07′s were seeing release, they were primal and fruity. This delayed release has allowed for a much more thoughtful, balanced wine.

Reds of the Rhone

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