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Perhaps August is not when we think most about Rhône Valley wines, but these recent arrivals are such terrific wines, and such great values, that you should consider them for your late summer cookouts, and for cellaring as well.
Just arrived from Domaine Rousset in Crôzes-Hermitage are their 2014 reds including their sensational single-vineyard cuvée, Les Picaudières. Recommended to us by Jean Gonon, the Roussets have perhaps the best terroir in Crôzes and the 2014 Les Picaudières is a gorgeous wine that will cellar beautifully for fifteen years or more. Happily, in this lovely vintage it also shows lush, complex, relatively forward fruit making it superb for early drinking as well. And please don't overlook the oustanding value of the Rousset "regular" Crôzes-Hermitage and their classic, well-structured Saint-Joseph.
Domaine Barou in Saint-Joseph - Marie-Agnes and Emmanuel Barou produce one of the world's greatest values, their Vin du Pays Collines Rhodaniennes Marsanne, from vines just outside the Saint-Joseph zone. The grapes are carefully sorted and 80% destemmed, with a 12 hour maceration on the skins followed by fermentation and aging in 4 to 5 year-old barriques. The resulting wine is complex, unusual, and simply delicious, especially at $11.99! We are also especially fond of the Barou 2014 Saint-Joseph Rouge, perhaps the best they have ever produced, and a sensational value.
For many years now we've been working with the great father and son team of Guy and Thomas Jullien at La Ferme Saint-Martin in Beaumes-de-Venise. One of the first estates in the southern Rhone to practice organic farming and low-sulfur vinifications, their high-altitude vineyards produce complex, powerful reds that retain freshness and balance as well as a full-bodied white and a fabulous rosé. Just arrived is their small production of Côtes du Rhône Rouge "Les Romanins." This blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault is wonderfully supple and delicious but with enough weight and structure to accompany steaks, chops, burgers and anything grilled. Only 25 cases for the US, and it's $11.99!
The Barou family family makes delicious wines, and grows cherries and apricots on their mixed-use organic estate in Charnas, in the northern section of the AOC Saint-Joseph. Their 2015 Vin de Pays Marsanne is a simply superb everyday wine! Light bronze/gold color. Aromas of almond, lime-flower, honeysuckle, lemon peel and hay, really quite pretty. Ripe stone fruits on the palate, primarily peach and dried pear with lemon, spice and saline mineral flavors with good balancing acidity in the long finish. Serve this lovely wine with chicken, full-flavored fish, mild cheeses and Asian foods. This is a unique and delicious wine and an extraordinary value - highly recommended!
From 40 year-old Syrah vines in Charnay, just outside the Saint-Joseph AOC, on living soils tended organically for forty years by Marie-Agnès and Emmanuel Barou. Plowing by tractor or weeding by hand on the steep slopes. Hand-harvested, wild-yeast fermentations, aging one year in 4 to 5 year-old barrels. The 2014 "Vernes" shows lush raspberry and blueberry fruit with hints of musk, violet, citrus and spice, really pretty and fresh. Black and red fruits on the palate with pepper, smoke and saline minerals with bright acidity in the finish. This is rounder and more forward than the 2013 - really a classy Syrah showing the granite soils and great farming — enjoy over the next few years, served cool. This wine is simply delicious and a sensational value!
Domaine Barou has been organic since the 1970s and also produces cherries, apricots and peaches. The Saint-Joseph vines are in Limony, on thin granite soils. Shallow plowing ("griffage") is done in the summer, with rye and clover growing between the rows in winter. The grapes are 80% de-stemmed, fermentations are with wild yeasts, aging is primarily in old barrels. The 2014 Saint-Joseph "Un Autre Monde" is astonishingly pretty with lush, deep aromas of blackberry liqueur, dark chocolate, blueberry and raspberry, warm earth and musk - you get the idea! The palate shows black fruits, firm acidity and mineral flavors with hints of cocoa, licorice and mint, supple and cool with a lovely finish of black fruits and minerals. Perhaps the best Saint-Joseph yet from Emmanuel and Marie-Agnes Barou - drink over the next three to five years, simply delicious!
From hillside vineyards in Erome, Gervans and Crozes, mostly granite with some limestone/clay, average age 45 years, aged 30% in foudre, 70% in one to 7 year-old burgundy barrels. This is no "ordinary" Crozes-Hermitage, but a real wine of terroir from great vineyard sites, all on hillsides. The 2014 is aromatically beautiful with complex aromas of red currant, blueberry, violet, musk and citrus. The palate is softer than in the very structured 2013 vintage, showing red and black fruit liqueur lifted by citrusy acids and finishing with nice mineral flavors, floral notes and supple fruit. This is a very pretty Crozes to drink over the next 5 years, and a great value!
From a one-half hectare parcel of 60 year-old vines in "Les Rivoires" on the lower slope in Tournon, sandy granite soils. Aged 12 months, 30% foudre, 70% 2 to 5 year-old barrels. This "serious" Saint-Joseph shows lush, bright aromas of blackberry liqueur, with blueberry, violet, citrus, spice and roast meats. The palate is a bit tight and quite elegant with red currant, blackberry and blueberry fruit with firm acidity and mineral flavors. This is an elegant, earthy and well-structured Saint-Joseph that will age beautifully - best probably 2021 to 2030, decant if drinking now.
Les Picaudières is perhaps the best vineyard in Crozes-Hermitage, formerly owned by Raymond Roure. It's a steep slope of granite terraces, isolated in an oak forest facing due south and protected from the wind. (In the opinion of Livingston-Learmonth in "Wines of the Northern Rhône" wine from Les Picaudières is "certainly better" than many Hermitage from the eastern part of the hill.) The vines range from 20 to 80 years-old. The grapes are hand-harvested and mostly de-stemmed. The wine ages 16 months, 40% in foudre, 60% in burgundy barrels, new to 5 year-old. 2014 is another excellent vintage at Domaine Rousset thanks to the great vineyard and cellar work of Stephane and his father Robert. The 2014 Les Picaudières shows deep pure aromas of blackberry, black cherry and red currant with hints of violets, earth and licorice, a bit riper and more forward than the 2013. The palate is dense and well-structured with black fruits, mint and saline minerals, but soft enough to be absolutely delicious as a young wine. This is a serious wine of terroir - a very elegant Crozes that should be decanted if drunk now, best 2020 to 2030+.
Guy Jullien at the Ferme Saint-Martin is one of the pioneers of organic and natural winemaking in the southern Rhône, and his great work continues under his son Thomas. Made from hand-harvested young vines of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault, the 2015 "Romanins" has deep, complex aromas of crushed blackberries with citrus, floral, spice and earthy notes. The palate shows deep, round red and black fruits, but remains balanced and pretty, with bright acidity, good length and lovely fruit lingering in the finish. This lovely, great value Côtes-du-Rhône will be perfect with a stew or steak, or anything grilled. Serve slightly chilled. (Bottled with minimal SO2, not fined or filtered.)
Guy and Thomas Jullien at la Ferme Saint Martin are making some of the finest wines in the Southern Rhone on their organic estate in Suzette, near Beaumes de Venise. One of their best wines, the Cuvée Saint Martin is made with 85% Grenache from 60 to 105 year-old vines grown on clay over limestone (Triassic) soils. Deep red/black color. Fabulous aromas of black fruits with animal, garrigue and floral notes with lovely freshness and hints of blueberry and mint. The palate is ripe, elegant and supple, backed by firm acidity with black fruits, spice and a long cool finish. Carafe if drinking now or hold a few years and drink till 2025. Fabulous value!
A lovely rosé of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault grown in the Ventoux by Guy and Thomas Jullien at their beautiful organic estate in Suzette, above Beaume-de-Venise. The grapes are hand-harvested, fermented with only wild yeasts and the wine is bottled with minimal SO2. Very subtle, pretty peach/raspberry aromas with citrus and spice. Beautiful palate with firm acidity and mineral flavors with hints of red currant, raspberry, peach and brown spice, with good density and length. This is a real wine of terroir, showing more mineral than fruit, which should open up nicely with aeration or a few months in bottle. A fabulous value!
Guy and Thomas Jullien make a small quantity of fascinating and delicious white Cotes du Rhône on their organic estate in Suzette, on the slopes of the Dentelles near Beaumes-de-Venise. "Le Blanc" is made from 45% Clairette, 45% Roussanne and 10% Grenache Blanc grown at high altitude on clay/limestone soils, vinified with some skin contact and with minimal SO2. This complex, full-bodied wine is a light gold color with aromas of yellow fruits, dried flowers, anise, lemon zest and spice. The palate is very earthy and mineral with notes of apricot, citrus, caramel, tea and spice. The finish is long with white fruits, citrus peel and mineral flavors. Decant or open in advance. This extraordinary wine will accompany cheeses, poultry and pork dishes, fish in sauce and Asian foods.