Showing posts with label syrah. Show all posts
Showing posts with label syrah. Show all posts

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  • Saturday, November 2, 2019

San Gregorio Manga del Brujo 2006 (Spain) - Wine Review



wine review is something I pulled out from my cellar that was purchased more than 10 years ago from the LCBO VINTAGES Release. The tasting note that was published in magazine suggested this would drink well to 2020, so here we are, in 2019. Let's see how this Spanish red wine is tasting tonight...

San Gregorio Manga del Brujo 2006 (88+ pts)

Tasting Note:

SAN GREGORIO MANGA DEL BRUJO 2006 - DO Calatayud, Spain (#015073) (XD) - $17.95
This red wine is a blend of 65% old vines Garnacha, 15% Syrah, 15% Tempranillo, and 5% Monastrell/Mazuelo that was aged for 5 months in new and used oak barrels and bottled unfiltered. Deep garnet colour. The generous nose is full of savoury, earthy, and wet forest floor aromas with hints of dried berry and floral notes. It is medium+ bodied and quite savoury on the palate with more wet forest floor, earthy and savoury characters along with sweet cherry, rose floral, sweet spice, and dried berry flavours. The fruit is fairly dried out at this stage, with tannins offering a grippy textured mouthfeel. Acids are still quite juicy. Very good length on the savoury-earthy, dried berry/floral finish. A treat to drink now if you still have a bottle. Score: 88+ pts


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  • Saturday, October 26, 2019

Chronic Cellars Purple Paradise 2017 (California) - Wine Review

Want something for your Halloween party? You might want to look at tonight's red wine review that is sure to please your guests with it's Halloween-themed label. It just arrived at the LCBO and is widely available across Ontario, just in time for Halloween festivities.

It is produced by Chronic Cellars, a California winery that came together in 2004 when brothers Josh and Jake Beckett combined their winemaking skills with their wit and humour to turn an idea into reality using two tons of the best – or 'chronic' – grapes to make killer wine.

The Beckett brothers grew up in a wine family in Paso Robles and helped by washing barrels, punching down fermenting grapes, and working the bottling line. It was only natural that one day they would make their own wine.

Chronic Cellars' philosophy is to use the best, or 'chronic', grapes to make seriously good wine for people who don’t take themselves too seriously. They have partnered with neighbours and friends in Paso Robles to build an network of growers, allowing Josh to select the grapes he wants for all of his custom, intriguing blends, including this Purple Paradise. The labels are created by Joe Kalionzes, a childhood friend and artist whose style and graphic linocuts perfectly capture their double-take vision for the brand.

While the label of this wine and it's well-timed arrival in Ontario evokes images of Halloween, the vision for Purple Paradise actually appeared when they were in their own paradise - Mexico. Purple represents the juice, while Paradise represents how you feel when drinking it. Sit back, relax, and float away to your own paradise.

Chronic Cellars Purple Paradise 2017 (85 pts)

Tasting Note:

CHRONIC CELLARS PURPLE PARADISE 2017 - Paso Robles, California, USA (#012011) (D) - $21.95
This blend of 78% Zinfandel, 9% Petite Sirah, 7% Syrah, and 6% Grenache has a fresh, aromatic nose of cherries, spice, strawberry, and a touch brambly, surrounded by vanilla and cocoa notes. The full-bodied palate is confected with sweet spice and vanilla, followed by blueberry, cherry, and strawberry flavours. Acids are fresh and balanced, while tannins are supple with a touch of textural grip. Good length on the finish with sweet vanillin oak and some earthy characters. Crafted for mass appeal. Score: 85 pts


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  • Wednesday, October 23, 2019

M. Chapoutier Domaine de Bila-Haut L'Esquerda 2018 (Roussillon) - Wine Review

wine review is this lovely red wine from the highly-acclaimed house of M. Chapoutier. While this is the 2018 vintage, the 2017 vintage will arrive on shelves at the LCBO as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

The story of M. Chapoutier begins in 1808, when Calvet et Compagnie was created in the Rue de l’Hermitage in Tain. In 1855, ownership was transferred to Octave Calvet and Frédéric Vogelgesang until it was purchased by Rodolphe Delépine in 1883. The Chapoutier name enters in 1897, when Marius Chapoutier joined forces with Rodolphe Delépine to found the company Delépine et Chapoutier. After Delépine retires in 1922, the company is renamed to Chapoutier et Compagnie and Marius creates the new Chapoutier winery in 1929 at the foot of the Hermitage hill. After Marius' death in 1937, his son Marc takes over the family business and in 1955 changes the name to M. Chapoutier, the name it still bears today.

In 1990, winemaker Michel Chapoutier asked for and received control of the company from his grandfather Marc. At this time, he also began applying biodynamic cultivation techniques. Expanding from the Rhône Valley, Michel acquired his first estate in the Roussillon area of France in 2000.

Domaine de Bila-Haut was founded by Chapoutier in Latour-de-France and the vines of the Bila-Haut and Occultum Lapidem wines became the first expression of this terroir. Years later, the L’Esquerda red wine was created from vines near the village of Lesquerde, which is located at 350 metres altitude some 15 kilometres west of Bila-Haut. The terroir here is steep with craggy limestone, arid soil, and is battered by the Tramontane northern winds.

Michel Chapoutier has earned a reputation for producing wines that are highly representative of where they are grown - offering a true snapshot of the terroir. He is also known for being a generous person with a human approach to business, becoming the first in the industry to include braille on all of his product labels in 1996.

Today, Michel and his wife Corinne are joined by their children Mathilde and Maxime - whose names by no coincidence also start with 'M'. Together, they continue to perpetuate the tradition of the family business and philosophy by creating wines based on the concept of 'terroir', while also helping make M. Chapoutier one of the most admired brand names in French wine.

M. Chapoutier Domaine de Bila-Haut L'Esquerda 2018 (92 pts)

Tasting Note:

DOMAINE DE BILA-HAUT L'ESQUERDA 2018 - AC Côtes du Roussillon-Villages Lesquerde, Midi, France (#381020) (XD) - $27.95
This blend of mainly Syrah with Grenache and Carignan in support was aged in concrete vats for 7-8 months has a complex stream of wild dark berry, plum and garrigue aromas accented by meaty, spice, mineral, earthy, and floral characters wafting out of the glass. It is full bodied, dense, and chewy with ripe, structured, and finely-grained tannins that are a bit chalky textured. Scorched earth and touches of herbal notes join the fine aroma replays on the flavour profile, lifted by fresh, mouthwatering acidity. Mineral and scorched earth notes linger on the juicy finish, with excellent length. Has the stuffing to drink well over the next 7-8 years. Highly recommended buy. Score: 92 pts


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  • Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Cave de Roquebrun Roches Noires 2016 (Languedoc) - Wine Review

wine review is a lovely red wine from Languedoc that was featured in the LCBO VINTAGES Release and should be arriving on shelves across Ontario within a week or so.

It is produced by the co-operative cellar Cave de Roquebrun that was established in 1967 in the regional park of Haut Languedoc, 30 km northwest of Béziers and between the two regional capitals, Montpellier and Toulouse.

In Roquebrun, the mild climate with relatively arid and acidic soils combined with shale/schist allow different varietals to develop in a particular way in the appellation of Saint-Chinian. The winegrowers of Cave de Roquebrun produce mainly Syrah, Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Roussanne, Viognier and Grenache Blanc with aim of enhancing the character of their terroir. Through this commitment, the Saint-Chinian-Roquebrun appellation was created in 2004 and subsequently became recognized as a Cru of Languedoc. Cave de Roquebrun manually harvests the grapes for all of their wines by choice. However, according to the decree of 2004, it is noteworthy to know that all Saint-Chinian-Roquebrun appellation wines must be manually harvested.

Cave de Roquebrun Roches Noires 2016 (90+ pts)

Tasting Note:

CAVE DE ROQUEBRUN ROCHES NOIRES 2016 - AC Saint-Chinian-Roquebrun, Languedoc, France (#251637) (XD) - $22.95
A blend of 60% Syrah, 20% Grenache, and 20% Mourvedre that was manually harvested from the schist hills of Roquebrun and raised entirely in stainless steel tanks. The medium-high intensity nose delivers enticing aromas of blackberry, schist mineral, and spice layered on top of black pepper and meaty notes. It is medium-full bodied with nicely balanced wild berry, schist mineral, garrigue, black pepper spice, and meaty flavours. Acids are very fresh, while the juicy finish is long, meaty and peppery. Youthful tannins are chalky and quite tight at the moment. Enjoyable now with protein, but will be even better after 2-3 years of tannin integration. Drink into the mid-20's. Score: 90+ pts


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  • Thursday, September 5, 2019

Rhône Wine Tour 2018 - Costières de Nîmes (Day 3)

Costières de Nîmes - Château Mourgues du Grès Vineyard
After visits to Luberon and Ventoux, and Cairanne earlier in the week, our focused on the Costières de Nîmes appellation. This region is the southern-most wine-growing region of the Rhône Valley and exhibits a rich history and culture dating back to Greek and Roman times. In the year 280 A.D., the area was replanted with vines after the decree banning viticulture was revoked and is considered to be one of the first winegrowing regions in France. Winegrowing was further encouraged in the 17th century, and became even more important when the Canal du Midi was linked with the Rhône River in the 19th century.

The appellation was known as Costières du Gard when it was granted AOC status in 1986, and only had its name changed to Costières de Nîmes in 1989. In 2004, Costières de Nîmes was moved from Languedoc to the Rhône wine region because the wines were more reflective of the typical characteristics of Rhône than of the Languedoc. Today, Costières de Nîmes produces 8% of the wines from Rhône, of which 35% are rosé and 5% white wines. Like other Rhône AOCs, blending of at least two grape varieties is required. For rosé wines, Syrah is usually combined with either Grenache and/or Mourvedre, and sometimes Carignan and Cinsault. White wines are usually composed of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Marsanne, and sometimes Viognier, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Macabeu, and Vermentino (Rolle).

Château de Nages The day began with a visit to Château de Nages, where Tina Gassier, wife of renowned winemaker Michel Gassier, took us through some of their impressive current offerings of white and rosé wines from both Domaine Gassier and Château de Nages labels, and ranged in vintage from 2014 to 2017. They have vineyards in the northern part of the appellation featuring "galets" (i.e. pebbles) that sit atop iron-rich red clay, while some of this area is covered by a thin blanket of loess (wind-blown silt) that is very suitable for white varietals and Syrah. Their Bek Vineyard to the south, which was acquired fairly recently, has a base of chalk and “safres” layers that sit below a layer of red sandstone (iron-rich clay and sand) and is topped by “cailloutis” (pebbles from the ancient Durance River) on the higher elevations. The terroir of the Bek Vineyards changes as you move to lower elevations, with chalk and “safres” layers closer to the surface and topped with a layer of sandy-clay loam, offering freshness and salinity to the wines due to the vineyard being located at a fault line. At the lowest point of the Bek Vineyard, the alluvium soil that sits on top of the chalk and “safres” layer is rich in nutrients and limestone and offers minerality and freshness - white wine varietals are planted here. Unfortunately, due to the rainy weather, we were not able to see the vineyards, but I can imagine it would have been quite the sight.

The vineyards at Château de Nages have been passed along 4 generations, and the story begins when Joseph Torres purchased the southern Rhône estate during World War II. After the passing of Mr. Torres, his son-in-law, Alfred Gassier, begins managing the property all the while residing in Algeria with his wife. He helps his sons re-construct their lives in France, with the eldest son, Jean Gassier taking the reins and restoring farm while the second son, Roger Gassier, restored the Château and the property. Michel is the great grandson of Joseph and was asked to take over the property in 1993 when his father retired.

Today, Château de Nages has 112 hectares of vineyards. 32% of their production is devoted to rosé wines, while is 16% to white wines, making them one of the larger producers of white wines in Costières de Nîmes. Vineyards are organically farmed, and there is a commitment to protecting the ecosystem and using resources wisely. All of the wines among the half dozen we tasted were delicious, and some were downright excellent. Fortunately for us, these wines do show up in our market from time to time. However, I think I will have to make another trip out to Château de Nages to take a stroll through the vineyards.

Mas Carlot Vineyard

The second stop of the day was meeting Cyril Marès at Mas Carlot - Château Paul Blanc. Upon arriving at the winery, I thought to myself that the buildings looked rather historic. In fact, I learned that the buildings were from the 17th century, remodelled in the 19th century by the Grasset family, and fully restored by Paul Blanc a century later. Roman remains dating back to more than 2000 years old have also been found around the Mas. The visit began with a tour of the vineyards in Cyril's SUV - since it was raining on and off, and we would be able to see more of the 75 hectare property that was littered with round pebbles coloured by the red clay of the Costières, known locally as "Grès".

Cyril Marès, Mas Carlot - Château Paul Blanc After returning to the winery and getting a quick look at the tank and barrel rooms, we began tasting the wines with Cyril. Mas Carlot - Château Paul Blanc is actually the winery of Cyril's wife, Nathalie Blanc-Marès. She is an oenologist and the winemaker at Mas Carlot, and has been running the estate since 1998, following in the footsteps of her father, Paul Blanc. We didn't actually get to meet Nathalie, but Cyril tells us that she prefers to craft her wines in an elegant and fresh style, allowing the wines to express the Domaine's terroir fully. We tasted through the portfolio of whites and rosé wines (5 wines in all) and each wine was delicious and of very good quality. In 2018, Cyril Marès took over complete management of the estate and is currently moving towards organic farming.

The Marès family has a long tradition of winemaking going back centuries. Cyril was born in Nîmes and has always lived between the vineyards and orchards of his father Roger Marès. Mas des Bressades neighbours Mas Carlot and was founded by Roger in 1964. After studying agronomy, viticulture and oenology in Montpellier, Cyril went on to vinify on other continents before returning to Mas des Bressades and taking over the reins in 1996 and becoming the latest of 6 generations to make wine. At Mas des Bressades, Cyril and his small team try with passion to produce ripe and fruity wines. Today, the estate is managed by Cyril's cousin, Alix Marès. The fabulous estate terroir is comprised of Siliceous pebbles which originated from the Rhône River Basin dating back to the Quaternary era and is 6 to 15 metres thick. Roussanne is the most widely planted white varietal on the property, leading to Roussanne-dominate white wines, while the single rosé is a Grenache-led blend. After tasting the yummy wines of Mas des Bressades with Cyril at Mas Carlot, we headed out for lunch.

Cyril Marès

Hotel Restaurant Le Cours was the venue for lunch, a family hotel in Saint-Gilles that offers cultural fare in the tradition of the Camargue. It was a short drive away from Mas Carlot and Cyril joined us. I expected lunch to be on the quiet side, however, it got really interesting after Cyril pulled out 10 whites and rosés for tasting. All of the wines were from various producers in Costières de Nîmes and Cyril did his best to provide some information regarding each of the wines, along with tech sheets that came in handy. A couple of wines, one each from Domaine du Vistre and Château d'Or et de Gueules really stood out for me, and wine reviews of each are provided below.

Garlic Shrimp Entrée at Hotel Restaurant Le Cours

As for lunch, the shrimp I ordered was loaded with garlic and really delicious, but made it a bit difficult for tasting the wines and, of course, it was a little messy. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it and would highly recommend this entrée.

Château Mourgues du Grès
We visited the family-owned and -operated Château Mourgues du Grès for the only winery stop of the afternoon - and it was quite the visit! The site is located in Beaucaire on a slope in Costières de Nîmes and is a former 16th century agricultural estate of the Ursulines de Beaucaire. It takes its name from the nuns called "Mourgues" in the Provençal language, and the "Grès" which are the rounded stones found across Costières de Nîmes and give character to the wines from this region. The "grès" were transported here naturally via the River Rhône during the Ice Age. Since the weather had cleared up around here and the ground was fairly dry, owner and vigneron François Collard and his wife Anne gave us a tour of the property, which involved driving up the hill.

François and Anne Collard, Château Mourgues du Grès
The first stop along the way was an ancient Roman archaeological site that was recently discovered while planting a new vineyard. We then drove up to a plateau that featured vineyards with plenty of "grès" on the ground and were also told about Mistral (winds) that plays an important role in winegrowing. The mistral from the north is dry, while the south wind brings moisture from the sea. Together, these winds accentuate the diurnal temperature and brings freshness to the wines. We went further up the hill and got a lovely view of the vineyards below, the town of Beaucaire, and the eastern plateau facing the River Rhône. After the brief tour of the property, we headed back to the tasting room to learn more and taste their portfolio of white and rosé wines.

Of their entire production, 20% is devoted to white wines, which is fairly high among Rhône producers. Château Mourgues du Grès is a certified organic winery, being mindful and respectful of nature and the environment. Since 2015, they have not used sulphur during winemaking (a slight addition of sulphur is added at bottling to ensure stability of the wine). All six wines we tasted were delicious - 3 whites and 3 rosés - ranging in style from fresh and fruity to something more serious for gastronomie. Most of the wines also had a fine mineral element. All in all, I was very satisfied with my visit to Château Mourgues du Grès.

Château Mourgues du Grès

This concludes a fascinating day in Costières de Nîmes, an area rich in winemaking history that goes back more than two-thousand years. The fresh white wines showed fine mineral character thanks to the terroir, while the rosés wines were deliciously fresh and fruity. From here, we moved to Lirac and Tavel the following day as we toured through the southern Rhône Valley.

Tasting Notes:

Michel Gassier Lou Coucardié Blanc 2014 (90+ pts)

MICHEL GASSIER LOU COUCARDIÉ BLANC 2014 - AP Costières de Nîmes, Rhône, France (XD) - $35
Bek vineyard. Blend of 50% Roussanne, 30% Grenache Blanc, and 20% Viognier grown on galets and sandy limestone soils over beds of safres and chalk. Barrel-fermented and aged on the lees for 9 months. Medium+ intensity nose of lanolin, yellow floral, anise, and herbs. The palate is medium-to-full bodied with a nice mouthfeel and lovely aroma replays that are balanced with fresh acids. Chalky mineral notes appear mid-palate and continue through to the long finish. Score: 90+ pts

Agent: Halpern Enterprises (ON), Le Maitre de Chai (QC)

Château de Nages Vieilles Vignes Rosé 2017 (90 pts)

CHÂTEAU DE NAGES VIEILLES VIGNES ROSÉ 2017 - AP Costières de Nîmes, Rhône, France (#496919) (XD) - $20
A blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre, the nose is subtle but offers rich cherry and strawberry aromas, while the medium-full bodied palate has nice aroma replays supported by balanced, juicy acids. There's some structure to this dry rosé that has a nice, rich texture. Finish length is very good. A serious, gastronomie rosé. Score: 90 pts

Agent: Profile Wine Group (ON), LCC Vins et Spiritueux (QC)

Mas Carlot La Terre Natale 2016 (90 pts)

MAS CARLOT LA TERRE NATALE 2016 - AP Clairette de Bellegarde, Rhône, France (XD) - 10 €
Neighbouring Costières de Nîmes, this Clairette de Bellegarde appellation wine is 100% Clairette and mostly raised in concrete tanks (20% in oak). This elegant white wine has a medium+ intensity nose that is herbally with lemon oil, citrus, and stone fruits. It is medium+ bodied on the palate with fine minerally and balanced aroma replays and some fennel notes. Nicely textured with succulent acids and long finishing. Score: 90 pts

Agent: Nicholas Pearce Wines (ON)

Mas des Bressades Cuvée Excellence Blanc 2017 (89 pts)

MAS DES BRESSADES CUVÉE EXCELLENCE BLANC 2017 - AP Costières de Nîmes, Rhône, France (XD) - 12 €
70/30 Roussanne and Viognier that was barrel-fermented and aged oak for 5 months. Medium-high, wood-inflected nose of baked pear, white peach, subtle vanilla, and floral aromas. It is medium-full bodied, rounded, and richly structured with oak nicely integrated on the palate. Nice aroma replays and somewhat chalky textured. Balanced acids. Shows impressive complexity and very good finish length. Score: 89 pts

Agent: Vinexx (ON)

Domaine du Vistre Cuvée Gladiateur Rosé 2017 (88+ pts)

DOMAINE DU VISTRE CUVÉE GLADIATEUR ROSÉ 2017 - AP Costières de Nîmes, Rhône, France (XD) - 8 €
Blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah from hillside vineyards featuring sandstone and pebbles from the Rhône river, this has a medium-high intensity nose that is clean and fresh with currant, strawberry, mineral, and herbal aromas. Medium-bodied on the very clean palate with fresh acids and nicely balanced aroma replays and a long-lasting finish. Score: 88+ pts

Agent: N/A

Château d'Or et de Gueules Trassegum Blanc 2017 (88 pts)

CHÂTEAU D'OR ET DE GUEULES TRASSEGUM BLANC 2017 - AP Costières de Nîmes, Rhône, France (XD) - 14.50 €
Organic and biodynamic blend of 80% Roussanne (barrel-fermented), 10% Grenache Blanc, and 10% Rolle (Vermentino). Barrel ageing evident on the nose, along with clean fresh lemon and herbal scents. It's medium-full bodied, a touch creamy, and nicely textured on the palate with more barrel influenced and pear flavours. Balanced acids. There's some complexity on the long finish. Score: 88 pts

Agent: N/A

Château Mourgues du Grès Fleur d'Eglantine 2017 (88 pts)

CHÂTEAU MOURGUES DU GRÈS FLEUR D'EGLANTINE 2017 - AP Costières de Nîmes, Rhône, France (XD) - 7.5 €  88 pts  wine review

CHÂTEAU MOURGUES DU GRÈS GALETS ROSÉS 2017 - AP Costières de Nîmes, Rhône, France (XD) - 7.5 €
Blend of Syrah, Grenache, and 15% Mourvèdre made in the saignee method. Medium+ intensity and fruity with red berry, candied cherry and strawberry aromas. It is medium+ bodied, fresh, lively and dry with nice, fruity aroma replays and some structure. Minerally on the finish, with very good length. Score: 88 pts

Château Mourgues du Grès Galets Rosés 2017 (88 pts)Château Mourgues du Grès Capitelles Blanc 2015 (89 pts)

CHÂTEAU MOURGUES DU GRÈS CAPITELLES BLANC 2015 - AP Costières de Nîmes, Rhone, France (XD) - 16 €
Blend of old vines Grenache Blanc that grow on chalky soils (rare for this appellation), Roussanne, and Viognier, and is barrel-fermented and aged. Pours deep yellow gold and offers a medium-high intensity and slightly mature nose that is waxy with baked apple, white and yellow flowers. It is medium-full bodied and fleshy on the palate with nice aroma replays. Acids are still quite fresh and juicy. Very good length on the limestone mineral finish. Should drink well for another 5 years. Score: 89 pts

Agent: Brand New Day Wines & Spirits (ON)


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  • Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Rhône Wine Tour 2018 - Cairanne (Day 2)

Cairanne, Rhône, France

After a fine day tasting the white and rose wines from Luberon and Ventoux, our focused on Cairanne, the newest Southern Rhône Valley Cru. Cairanne was granted Côtes du Rhône status in 1953 and became a Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation in 1967. In 2008, an application was filed to the INAO to grant Cru status to Cairanne. Denis Alary, a man who I had lunch with later in the day, was a major driving force behind the push to have Cairanne elevated to Cru status. After more than 15 years of hard work, Cairanne was finally granted Cru status in 2016, beginning with the 2015 vintage.

Frédéric Alary, Domaine Oratoire Saint-Martin
It was another early start on Tuesday morning. After about half an hour of driving we arrived at our first winery of the day - Domaine Oratoire Saint-Martin. I was excited to visit this Domaine as I had done some research prior and discovered that they had some quality wines, some of which had previously been available in Ontario and Québec. The vineyards on this land have been cultivated by grape growers for 10 generations over 300 years. Today, this organic and biodynamic winery is owned by two brothers, Frédéric and François Alary.

We met Frédéric, who was unfortunately nursing a broken arm, and got a brief tour of the small production facility. It was interesting to see many different types of fermentation tanks for such a small winery - they definitely like to experiment and try different things to best express their wines and terroir. They have 25 hectares of vineyards, with 20% planted to white wine varietals - a fairly high percentage given that the average per producer is only 5%. After tasting through their wines, I can see why they produce more white wines than the average Cairanne winery. The whites showed elegance, freshness, and richness, with an ability to age well, as we discovered when we tasted the 2008 Haut Coustias Blanc (91 pts). The term "Coustias" translates into "bad earth", but for wine, this is very much a good thing. Domaine Oratoire Saint-Martin stopped producing rosé wines in 2009, as they were too heavy, so we only tasted white wines. and a few other surprise wines including a lovely 2000 Cuvée Séraphine Blanc dessert wine that was made with late harvest & dried grapes.

Domaine Oratoire Saint-Martin cellar

The second stop of the day was a short drive to Domaine Boisson, another small, family-owned and -operated winery. It was founded by current owner Bruno Boisson's great grandfather in the middle of the 19th century from 6-8 hectares of vines. In 1957, Bruno's grandfather, René, expanded the winery to 28 ha, of which 15 ha are in Cairanne. They began producing their own wines under the Domaine Boisson label in 1986. While Bruno and his father Régis Boisson produce wines using their own vision, training, and experience, vinification is supervised by highly-acclaimed oenologist Philippe Cambie. Cairanne appellation rules specify that white wines must contain at least 2 of Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Viognier, and rosés must be a blend of a minimum 50% Grenache Noir and at least 20% Syrah and/or Mourvèdre. This suits Domaine Boisson perfectly as their Cairanne vineyards have various types of soils and exposures, allowing them to create a variety of blends.

Bruno Boisson, Domaine BoissonDomaine Boisson

Domaine Boisson has 3 main types of terroir on their properties: Les Sablières - a covering of clay and sand of varying thicknesses dating from the Miocene period, supported by a subsoil of grey sand; Les Garrigues - scrublands with shallow soil of ancient flat terraces from the Quaternary period; Les Côteaux - beds of stony soil of varying thicknesses, alternating with layers of calcareous clay coloured light yellow, grey and white, and mostly south-facing. Since the weather was nice, Bruno was kind enough to take us to one of his hilltop vineyards, as well as a castle where we got a lovely view of Cairanne and the Rhône Valley. All of the wines are fermented using natural yeasts and the winery is in the process of converting to certified organic. Of their total production, 12% is white wine and 6% rosé, and we tasted everything available - 3 whites and 1 rosé.

Lunch was a short drive away at Côteaux et Fourchettes, a nicely appointed restaurant situated on the country side in Cairanne. It was a fine, hot and sunny day, so we sat outside on the patio and were joined by winemaker Caroline Moro and the one and only Denis Alary.

Denis Alary, Domaine Alary
The Alary family's involvement in viticulture and wine production dates back to 1692, during the reign of Louis XIV. Amazingly, the first agricultural land-register of Cairanne dates back to 1414, when there were 100 parcels of vineyards. Tradition and passion are key elements to tendering and maturing wines within the Alary family, with experience being passed on from one generation to the next - now spanning 10 generations. Over the years, they have learned to understand their terroir in Cairanne. Most of the vines at Domaine Alary are south-facing, with terroir consisting of white and blue clay soils on the slopes, 'Garrigues' on the lower terraces, cobbles covering underlying white and red clay on the high plateau, along with the richer soils close to the Plan de Dieu. They have been making white wines for over 150 years and currently have a total of 5 ha planted to five varietals that are always vinified separately before blending. Today, Denis Alary represents the 10th generation of the Alary family and personally manages all aspects of the Domaine with the assistance of two employees.

Mr. Alary is also an idealist who dreams of improving things and people, and is the reason why he pushed himself to accept the management position of the Cairanne Trade Union more than 20 years ago. He was a very important piece in the pursuit of Cairanne achieving Cru status and is always looking to improve. As leader of the Trade Union, he searches until he finds consensus. Thus, the rules governing Cairanne appellation white wines which specified that Clairette, Grenache Blanc, and Roussanne must make up at least 70% of the final blend will be grandfathered in until 2023 to allow grape growers the time to establish the necessary yields. Over the course of lunch, I also learned that only 5% of all wine production in Cairanne is currently devoted to white wines, but Mr. Alary expects it to increase to 10% within the next five years. Listening to Mr. Alary speak, I sensed that he is a determined man that is also patient and considerate of others. As we tasted only a few delicious wines from the Alary portfolio, a visit to the Domaine in the future would surely be a special treat.

Lunch at Côteaux et FourchettesCaroline Moro, Les Grandes Serres

Caroline Moro is the winemaker at Les Grandes Serres, a negociant firm that was founded in the Southern Rhône Valley in 1977 by Michel Picard who is an owner that is also associated with producing wine in Burgundy. The winery is based in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but they also have vineyards in Gigondas and Cairanne. Additionally, they have formed strong ties and partnerships with key players in each appellation, including a Cairanne winery and numerous wine domains in order to secure the best possible grapes.

Laure (left) and Corinne, Domaine Rabasse Charavin
After lunch, we visited Domaine Rabasse Charavin, another family-owned and -operated winery that has been passed on from generation to generation. The history begins in 1890, when Edmond Rabasse, the great grandfather of current owner Corinne Couturier, purchased a cottage and the 3 ha of land surrounding it. Around 1925, his son Marcel Rabasse took over the land and added 5 ha of vineyards and olive groves. In 1950, Jeanine Rabasse (Corinne's mother) married Abel Charavin, and together they gave this small estate a new focus on winemaking. Corinne took over the reins in 1984, and was joined by her daughter Laure in 1993. Together, they form a unique mother-daughter winemaking team that tends to 40 ha of vines, all of which are handpicked. Domaine Rabasse Charavin practices organic & sustainable winemaking, and all of the wines are vegan-friendly. 5% of their production is devoted to white wines, most of which come from Cairanne. I wasn't too familiar with the Bourboulenc varietal, but I found it interesting to learn here that this grape is more oval-shaped (instead of round), tends to spread out when it grows, and also lowers the alcohol in wine blends due to the grape's low sugar content. We didn't visit the vineyards here, but after tasting through the wines with Laure and Corinne, we stepped out onto the veranda for a lovely view of the Cairanne landscape.

Domaine Rabasse Charavin

Laurent Brusset, Domaine Brusset
The last winery visit of the day was Domaine Brusset, a family estate that was established in 1947 by the late André Brusset. Prior to founding Domaine Brusset, André had grown grapes since 1929 and was a founding member of the cooperative of Cairanne. Together with his son Daniel, and his grandson Laurent, they formed three generations of winegrowers and winemakers. The three generations combine traditional winemaking with new techniques that were introduced by each generation of winemaker. Today, the Domaine Brusset estate covers 70 ha of vines across 5 appellations, nearly 40% of which are in Cairanne. Not surprisingly, their headquarters and main production facility is also in Cairanne in the heart of the southern Côtes du Rhône valley vineyards. Less than 10% of their production is devoted to white and rosé wines. We tasted the single rosé, which represented 2% of their entire production, and both whites that were available for tasting with Laurent.

Domaine Brusset

We travelled about 1 hour to Nîmes and checked-in to Appart'City Nîmes Arènes - Appart Hôtel - a fine, modern hotel located across the vibrant Esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle and steps from the imposing Arènes de Nîmes (Roman amphitheatre). After freshening up, we were picked up by Henri-Claude Amadieu and headed out for dinner at Bistr'AU - a casual (yet, quite fine) dining spot that was located just outside the city centre.

Henri-Claude Amadieu, Pierre Amadieu
Henri-Claude is the Head of Sales at the family-owned and -operated Pierre Amadieu, a winery based in Gigondas. He is also the cousin of Pierre Amadieu and one of a number of relatives that are involved in this family winemaking business. Pierre is the grandchild of Pierre Sr. and is the head of the company. He is also a winemaker and joined by his winemaker cousin Jean-Marie, uncle Claude who runs the vineyard, and Henri-Claude's sister (Marie) who is in charge of private customers and the cellar door.

The history of this important estate began with Pierre's grandfather, the original Pierre Amadieu, as a wine grower of 7 ha of vineyards in Gigondas in 1929. They pursue the long-established family tradition of respect for the soil, landscape, and vines in order to produce wines that reflect their unique terroir. Pierre Sr. was a pioneer in the region. In 1945, he built an underground cellar two levels deep to ensure constant temperature and hygrometry, and ten years later, he purchased an old railway tunnel near Pierrelongue (Drôme) that allowed for exceptional ageing. Henri-Claude informed us that the underground cellar is now closed, but suggested that if we were to visit the winery, we might be able to get a look at the impressive cellar. In the 1950's and 60's, Pierre Sr. also practised sustainable farming with up to 1200 sheep that provided natural manure for soil fertilization and also manage cover crops. Today, Pierre seeks to improve the wines with each vintage, looking for elegance and freshness, while also working the vineyards as naturally as possible. While Pierre Amadieu is mostly known for their estate-owned wines from Gigondas, they also work with growers throughout Southern Rhône and produce fine wines from Cairanne, Ventoux, and Tavel, some of which we got to taste at this dinner. Henri-Claude brought many wines to taste, including some exciting back vintage wines that were tasting great! Wine reviews of a couple of my favourite white wines are provided below.

Lobster Chowder at Bistr'AU

After dinner, Henri-Claude was kind enough to give us a quick driving tour through the city centre of Nîmes. I was pleasantly surprised by the many historical structures found in Nîmes and I can definitely foresee myself visiting the city and spending some time here again, perhaps as a stepping stone to visiting Pierre Amadieu, an hour's drive northeast from here.

After two days of tasting white and rosé wines from Luberon, Ventoux, and Cairanne, I was very impressed with the the appellation wines. The rosé wines from Cairanne producers were pleasing, however, they were not labelled as Cairanne because they did not conform to appellation rules for rosé wines, thus, they were labelled as generic Côtes du Rhône bottles. My view of traditional whites from Southern Rhône prior to this trip consisted of blends made with Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier. However, this view was being completely shattered as Clairette and Grenache Blanc were playing very significant roles in the final blends. The quality is good, and the prices are quite affordable. I was very much looking forward to tasting the wines of Costières de Nîmes on day three.

Tasting Notes:

DOMAINE ORATOIRE SAINT-MARTIN RESERVE DE SEIGNEURS CAIRANNE BLANC 2017 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD) - 13.50 €
40% Clairette, 30% Roussanne, and 30% Grenache Blanc. Elegant, medium intensity nose is clean with lemon citrus, herbs, fennel, and grassy aromas. It is medium bodied and creamy with nice, clean aroma replays plus a fine mineral note. Clean, balanced acids and a touch warm on the long finish. Score: 89 pts

Domaine Oratoire Saint-Martin Reserve de Seigneurs Cairanne Blanc 2017 (89 pts)Domaine Oratoire Saint-Martin Haut Coustias Cairanne Blanc 2016 (90 pts)

DOMAINE ORATOIRE SAINT-MARTIN HAUT COUSTIAS CAIRANNE BLANC 2016 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD) - 19 €
From 70-90 year old vines, blend of 40% Clairette, 20% Marsanne, 20% Roussanne, and 20% Grenache Blanc. The clairette and Grenache Blanc were fermented in concrete egg, while the Marsanne and Roussane were barrel fermented. Made in a oxidative style, this has a medium-high intensity nose that's herbally and grassy, with subtle wood influence. The medium+ bodied palate is a little creamy and has a slightly leesy character, with pleasing aroma replays. It nicely balanced throughout with good acidity. The mouthfeel is rich, while the finish is long. Score: 90 pts

Agent: N/A

DOMAINE BOISSON CÔTES DU RHÔNE ROSÉ 2017 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD) - 6.20 €
50% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 20% Cinsault, and 10% Carignan made in the saignée method. Medium-high intensity nose is fresh with white peach, grapefruit, herbally and garrigue aromas. It is dry on the light-to-medium bodied with a chalky mineral texture, some structure and complexity, and herbally, raspberry aroma replays. Very good finish length. Score: 88 pts

Domaine Boisson Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2017 (88 pts)Domaine Boisson Cuvée L'Exigence Cairanne Blanc 2016 (89 pts)

DOMAINE BOISSON CUVÉE L'EXIGENCE CAIRANNE BLANC 2016 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD) - 12.10 €
Blend of 45% Roussanne, 35% Clairette, and 25% Grenache Blanc that underwent malolactic fermentation and was aged in used barrels. Medium intensity nose with apple, stone fruit, lemon citrus. Wood influence is apparent, plus nice aroma replays on the nicely balanced flavour profile. A touch creamy with grapefruit flavours mid-palate. Juicy acids. Nicely textured and elegant on the long finish. Score: 89 pts

Agent: N/A

DOMAINE ALARY L'EXCLUS D'ALARY BLANC 2017 - AOP Côtes du Rhône, France (XD)
Not Cairanne appellation because it is 100% Clairette, however, it is from 35-year-old vines in Cairanne raised in demi-muid barrels. Medium intensity nose offers lanolin, yellow flowers, and white peach aromas. Medium-bodied with crisp acids and lemon oil, herbal, and anise seed flavours. More lemony on the mid-palate. Nicely balanced with fine mineral notes lingering on the finish, with very good length. Score: 88 pts

Domaine Alary L'Exclus d'Alary Blanc 2017 (88 pts)Domaine Alary L'Estévanas Cairanne Blanc 2017 (89 pts)

DOMAINE ALARY L'ESTÉVANAS CAIRANNE BLANC 2017 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD)
Clairette and Roussanne blend. Medium+ intensity nose is fresh with white peach, lemon, yellow floral, and herbs. Nicely textured on the medium+ bodied palate with pleasing aroma replays, bright acids, and very good length on the herbally finish. Score: 89 pts

Agent: Brand New Day Wines & Spirits (ON)

Les Grandes Serres Carius Cairanne Blanc 2017 (90 pts)

LES GRANDES SERRES CARIUS CAIRANNE BLANC 2017 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD)
Mostly Bourboulenc (50%) with Clairette and Grenache Blanc completing the blend, this has lovely, fresh medium-high intensity aromas and flavour of lanolin, white flower, lemon oil and citrus. It's medium-bodied and elegant, ripe fruited, rich and rounded. Clean acids. Long, elegant finish. Aged on the lees in stainless steel and concrete tanks. Score: 90 pts

Agent: Profile Wine Group (ON)

DOMAINE RABASSE CHARAVIN CUVÉE D'ESTEVANAS CAIRANNE BLANC 2017 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD) - 21 €
Mostly Roussanne, this has a medium+ intensity and clean nose of lemon/lime, floral and herbs. It has bright acids and is somewhat structured, creamy, and very ripe with nice herbally aroma replays. Very good length on the finish. Score: 89 pts

Domaine Rabasse Charavin Cuvée d'Estevanas Cairanne Blanc 2017 (89 pts)Domaine Rabasse Charavin Rose Prune 2017 (88 pts)

DOMAINE RABASSE CHARAVIN ROSE PRUNE 2017 - AOP Côtes du Rhône, France (XD) - 9.5 €
Blend of 50% Grenache, 25% Counoise, and 25% Carignan. This has a medium+ intensity nose that's clean and fresh with raspberry, herbal, and garrigue aromas. Dry with nice fruity aroma replays and bright, fresh acids on the palate. Very good finish length. Score: 88 pts

Agent: N/A

DOMAINE BRUSSET JEANNE B. CÔTES DU RHÔNE ROSÉ 2017 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD) - 7.5 €
2% of production. Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. Medium-intensity nose is ripe and fruit with raspberry and strawberry aromas. It's medium+ bodied with a plush mouthfeel, some structure, and pleasing aroma replays plus some herbally character. There's fresh acids and a fine mineral mid-palate. Very good finish length with some chalky mineral texture. Score: 88+ pts

Domaine Brusset Jeanne B. Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2017 (88+ pts)Domaine Brusset L'Esprit de Papet Cairanne 2016 (90+ pts)

DOMAINE BRUSSET L'ESPRIT DE PAPET CAIRANNE 2016 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD) - 18 €
Meaning "spirit of grandfather", this is a blend of 40% Viognier, 40% Roussanne, 10% Clairette, and 10% Grenache Blanc was raised in oak for 18 months. Wood-influenced aromas plus baked apple, spice, herbs, and butter. It's medium-full bodied on the palate with a fine seam of acidity and touches of floral and lemon oil flavours joining the aroma profile. Creamy mid-palate and very good finish length. Score: 90+ pts

Agent: Rogers & Company (ON)

PIERRE AMADIEU CÔTES DU RHÔNE ROULEPIERRE 2017 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD) - $19.95 CAD
This 75/25 Clairette and Grenache Blanc blend has a medium intensity nose that is all mineral, lemon and herbal aromas and flavours with a lovely saline character taking the lead on the medium+ bodied palate. Fresh, fine acids and somewhat structured. Nicely elegant with a long, clean finish. Score: 89 pts

Pierre Amadieu Côtes du Rhône Roulepierre 2017 (89 pts)Pierre Amadieu Domaine Grand Romane Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2017 (89 pts)

PIERRE AMADIEU DOMAINE GRAND ROMANE CÔTES DU RHÔNE BLANC 2017 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD)
100% Clairette from vines planted in 1955, barrel-fermented and aged on the lees for 6 months, this has a subtle nose of herb, white flower and white peach. It is medium-full bodied and creamy with very nice aroma replays and juicy acids. Some woody notes arrive mid-palate and add elegance. Very good finish length. Score: 89 pts

Agent: Trilogy Wine Group (ON), Balthazard (QC)


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  • Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Xavier Vignon Ventoux 2017 (Rhône) - Wine Review

Following up on the delicious 2017 Xavier Vignon Côtes du Rhône that I enjoyed last week, red wine review is a new, lovely wine from the same producer that is also arriving as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Xavier Vins is the creation of notable renowned wine consultant Xavier Vignon. He began his work as a consultant in 1996 and over time developed a profound knowledge of terroirs in the Rhône Valley. The 34 grape harvests around the world, mentors, winegrowers' friendships, and exceptional memory have all shaped Xavier's style and identity.

He works with various domaines in the southern Rhône Valley, including Raymond Usseglio, La Nerthe, Marcoux, Gardine, Jerome Quiot, Beaurenard, Mont Redon, Maucoil, Roger Perrin, and Grand Veneur, while also developing his own, self-named brand - Xavier Vignon.

This red wine hails from Ventoux appellation, a wine region in the southern Rhône Valley that I had the pleasure of visiting last May.

Xavier Vignon Ventoux 2017 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

XAVIER VIGNON VENTOUX 2017 - AP, Rhône, France (#413211) (XD) - $16.95
Blend of 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache, and 20% Mourvèdre. The Grenache was aged in tank, while the other varietals were aged in barrel. Generous aromas offer spicy red and blackberry fruit with hints of pepper and smoky-flinty minerality. It is medium-full bodied with nicely balanced and spicy aroma replays that are supported by vibrant acidity. More minerally on the mid-palate plus touches of purple fruit. Tannins are soft, supple, and finely textured. Dark berry and mineral notes linger on the long finish. I really like the mineral aspect of this Ventoux red wine. Recommended buy. Score: 89 pts


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