Advertisements

Tag Archives: French Wine

Exploring the Rhône through a Wine Glass

During the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference, we were introduced to the wines of Cariñena, Spain. Predominantly Garnahca based wines, we were instantly in love. As we enjoyed the flavors of these wines, we began to yearn to explore other regions noted for their Garnacha wines. Perhaps the most famous of these regions is the Rhône Valley in France. There, as in most of the wine world, this fantastic and versatile red grape is known as Grenache.

The Rhône Valley is in the southeast of France. It is one of the oldest grape growing regions in the world, with viticulture documented as early as the 4th century B.C. The valley runs some 150 miles in a north-south direction, and as such, encompassess a wide variety of soil and growing conditions. The Rhône Valley can generally be divided into the Northern and the Southern. In the Northern Rhône, Syrah is king, with the wines generally dominated by this grape. Village (and wine) names such as Côte-Rôtie, Condrieu, Crozes-Hermitage, and Hermitage may be familiar to you, as these are some of the more famous Syrah regions in France.

12x16-France-Rhone-wine-map2

Credit: WineFolly.com

In the Southern Rhône Valley, the wines are most often blends, with Grenache playing the lead role, usually supported by such cast of characters as Syrah and Mourvèdre. These wines are commonly known as GSM. In addition to reds, the Rhone Valley also produces some stunning white wines, from Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne grapes. While we’ve had Grenache and Viognier wines before, including GSM and Viognier from the Rhône Valley, we wanted to deliberately dive into some fine Southern Rhône Valley wines to explore and get to know the region as well as the wine.

The more well-known villages in the Southern Rhône are Côtes du Rhône, a rather generic term for wines from this area, Côtes du Rhône Villages – denoting a more specific identity of place and quality, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, and what is arguably the most famous and best quality Southern Rhône region, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. There are many other villages worth exploring, but we wanted to focus on the most famous and prolific for now.

The Southern Rhône is a Mediterranean climate, as one might expect in the South of France. Long, warm summers and mild winters provide ideal growing conditions for Grenache. In addition, the Mistral winds, blowing up to 60 miles per hour, some 150 days per year, provide cooling and drying to the tight, fungus-prone Grenache grape clusters. Hold on to your hat, to be sure, but appreciate those high winds for the effect they have on this cherished wine!

Before we dive into the wines, allow us to share another little tidbit from history. The famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape is roughly translated to “New Castle of the Pope.” In 14th century, the papacy moved from Rome to Avignon, a village along the Rhône River near the southern end of the valley. Apparently the Popes enjoyed the tranquility of French countryside! In 1317, Pope John XXII had a summer residence built at what is now Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Although construction was not completed until 1333, a year before Pope John XXII’s death, the name remains and the wines from this region remain coveted for their quality.

With our interest in Southern Rhône wines, we were pleased to receive the following bottles as media samples. Tasting through these wines, we were transported to the South of France in each glass. Though we have not yet been in person, the Rhône Valley is definitely high on our list of places to visit.

Now, on to the wines!

The wines below are media samples. All thoughts, opinions, and notes are our own. No other compensation was received.

Ogier Côtes du Rhône Artesis Blanc 2016


Golden color in the glass. Aromas of white flower, light straw, and tropical fruit. In the palate, there are flavors of lemon and grapefruit, with hints of mango, and soft floral and herbal notes rounding out the mouth. Soft, full mouthfeel with vibrant acidity. The finish is medium with pleasing notes of citrus, tropical fruit, and floral. Excellent pairing with grilled sea bass and rosemary quinoa.

Ogier Côtes du Rhône Artesis 2016

Deep, rich purple color. We decanted for about an hour before serving. On the nose, luscious aromas of blueberry, raspberry, and plum with spicy notes. On the palate, blackberry, black cherry, blueberry, and plum, with black pepper, baking spice, and vanilla. Notes of milk chocolate as the finish develops, ending with spicy black fruit. The mouthfeel and tannins are incredibly soft, round, and smooth, with medium acidity. We paired this with, of all things, carne asada tacos with a radish-cilantro salsa, and it was sublime. A truly amazing Côtes du Rhône.

Ogier Gigondas Dentellis 2014

Deep ruby color. Decanted for about an hour and pleasing aromas of raspberry, bramble, and black pepper. On the palate, there are flavors of cherry, red currant, cranberry, raspberry, and spice. At mid palate mineral and crushed granite notes emerge, along with hints of milk chocolate and black pepper. Medium body with mild tannins and acidity. We paired this with grilled Ahi tuna steaks, and the combination was amazing! The spice in the wine really enhanced the flavor of the tuna. This is a truly amazing wine!

Ogier Châteauneuf-du-Pape Reine Jeanne 2014

They call this the wine of kings, king of wines for a very good reason. Rich, complex, and delicious. Cherry red color with brick rim. Aromas of chocolate covered cherry, licorice, and smoke. On the palate there are flavors of black cherry, ripe raspberry, tobacco, licorice, cloves and other baking spice, and smoky notes. Tannins are firm but smooth, and ample acidity perfect for food pairing. We had this with grilled rib eye cooked medium rare, and it was heavenly perfection. Long, spicy finish with abundant red fruit and milk chocolate. Please may I have another?

As you can tell, we were very impressed with the wines of the Southern Rhône Valley. If you’d like to travel to the Rhône in a wine glass, head to your local wine shop and get yourself some of these amazing wines today!

Cheers

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael
  • Photo Credits, unless otherwise noted: Kent Reynolds

References:

Advertisements

Review: Famille Sadel Vacqueyras 2015

The Sadel family is passionate about fine wine. Famille Sadel founder and president Alexandre Sadel established Vin Sadel in Bordeaux in 2014, and has since expanded to the Rhône Valley in southern France. The first family estate is located in Saint Émilion, the famous right bank village in Bordeaux, known for world class Merlot-based red blends. Moving south, the Sadel family chose Vacqueyras, in the Rhône Valley, to produce their next line of wines. This multi-generation wine producing family believes that making great wine takes skill, but is also an art form. We couldn’t agree more! The family approach to wine making is based on three fundamental principles:

“First, we select each plot and each grape variety. Then, our Cellar Manager collaborates for each cuvée at the birth of a new masterpiece, the assembly of which guarantees the complexity. Finally, each vintage is vinified, then elevated with patience and compassion.” – Vin Sadel Website

Understanding the importance of terroir in the winemaking process, and the unique identity of each plot of vines, the family selects the finest grapes each year for use in their wines. Their goal is to achieve excellence in each vintage, that is consistent year after year. This is achieved by the knowledge of each vineyard plot, and the great care that goes into tending those vines.

The Vin Sadel portfolio is broad and impressive. They range from bold Bordeaux Rouge wines, like the Montagne Saint-Émilion, composed of 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Merlot, to a crisp Bordeaux Blanc, a 100% Sauvignon Blanc white wine. There are Rhône Valley reds and whites from Côtes du Rhône,  and reds from Vacqueyras, and Gigondas. Rounding out the selections are a Rosé de Provence and, in collaboration with a Burgundian winegrower, a Macon-Villages Chardonnay.

With an impressive lineup like this, when we were given the opportunity to sample the Famille Sadel Vacqueyras, there was no hesitation in our gladly accepting!

The wine presented here is a media sample, offered for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. No other compensation was received.

Famille Sadel Vacqueyras 2015

lrg_dsc00042

A traditional GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) Rhône blend. Pours brick red, then fills the decanter with a deep, rich, burgundy color. Initial aromas burst from the bottle with ripe blackberry, black cherry, with a bouquet of fresh cut lavender. As it opens up in the decanter, raspberry and mineral notes emerge. On the palate, bright flavors of raspberry, bing cherry, and blueberry, with licorice, tobacco, smoke, and mineral. Layers of depth and structure mingle with medium, firm tannins and bright, lively acidity. The finish lingers long with red fruit, spice, and chocolate. Excellent food-pairing wine, great with grilled chicken thighs and corn on the cob.

Though relatively young, especially in French winemaking terms, Famille Sadel in making a very positive impression and is gaining in popularity. Their Vacqueyras certainly impressed us! Not widely available yet in the United States – they only recently began distribution here – be sure to look for their labels. If you just can’t wait, and happen to be in Paris, you can stop by their wine shop, Maison Givas, located at 6 rue Vauvilliers, 75001 Paris.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds, with creative inspiration from Robyn Raphael

Holiday Bubbles for January Birthdays

Oh, those pesky January birthdays. They are always overshadowed by the holiday season that precedes them. Family and friends are partied out from New Year’s Eve, Christmas, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, and other holidays that span from November through the first of January. The earlier in the month, the worse it is.

Robyn and I are both January babies. My birthday falls mid-month, while Robyn’s is at the beginning, just days after New Year’s Day. When I was a kid, my birthday was always disappointing. Sure, my parents tried to make it special. I had parties, outings to pizza parlors, and all the usual kid-birthday adventures. Nevertheless, the general rule was, toys and cool stuff on Christmas; socks, pants, and shirts on my birthday. What self-respecting 8 year old kid looks forward to a new pair of jeans?

As Robyn recounts, family birthday dinners were the norm, but parties not so much. With an early January birthday, school was still out for the winter holiday, so she missed out on the schoolroom buzz and excitement. So often her friends were out of town or otherwise spending the post-holiday season with their families.

So, what do you do when you have a January birthday? How do you compensate for living in the shadow of such major, resource-depleting holidays? You celebrate your birthday for six to eight weeks, starting with Thanksgiving! When fortune shone on us, and we were offered samples of four sparkling wines this past fall, we knew exactly what to do. As we popped the corks throughout the season, we toasted and celebrated our upcoming birthdays.

As you can see from the photos, we didn’t just limit ourselves to birthday celebrations on the high holidays. Some of the nights, we were more spontaneous and busted out the birthday bubbles with a mid-week meal.

We hope you enjoy sharing our birthday celebrations in the images below. The wines were samples. We received no other compensation. All opinions and review notes are our own.

For our first birthday celebration, we opened a Paul Cheneau Cava Reserva Blanc de Blancs Brut, and paired it with sautéed cilantro-lime shrimp and a spinach salad for a mid-week meal.

 

 

CheneauReservaBrutBOTSLIDER

Paul Cheneau Cava Reserva Blanc de Blancs Brut

Golden color in the flute. Vigorous tiny bubbles tickle the nose. Aromas of apricot, yeast, and nutty notes. Flavors of pear, yellow apple, almond, and hints of tangerine and pineapple with soft vanilla notes on the finish. Super dry and crisp; a very refreshing Cava that paired very well with sautéed cilantro-lime shrimp and a spinach salad with bacon-vinegar dressing.

When we opened the second bottle, a Valdo Prosecco Brut, Christmas season was in full swing. The halls were decked, the Christmas music playing, and it was finally cold enough in NorCal to light a fire in the fireplace. Time for wrapping gifts, and popping some bubbles!

 

ValdoBrutProseccoBOTSLIDERt

Valdo Prosecco Brut

Bright golden color. A steady stream on tiny bubbles rises to the rim. Aromas of ripe apricot and tangerine. On the palate there are flavors of apricot, pear, apple, and hints of citrus, along with notes of yeast and almond. Lively acidity makes this quite refreshing and light. A perfect pairing with gift wrapping, whether Christmas or January birthday gifts.

On Christmas day, it was time for something French. My parents were visiting, and loved the idea of combining Christmas and birthday, and celebrating with a lovely Rosé sparkler. (Wait, maybe they just thought it would get them out of buying me a birthday present.) To honor the day, and to get the celebration started, we popped the cork on a Côte Mas Cremant De Limoux Brut Rosé St. Hilaire.

 

CoteMasCremantRoseBOTSLIDER

Côte Mas Cremant De Limoux Brut Rosé St. Hilaire

Salmon color in the glass. An abundance of tiny bubbles flow from the bottle and carry on in the glass. Aromas of strawberry and rose petals. On the palate there are flavors of raspberry, strawberry, red currant, and cotton candy. Creamy mouthfeel and bright acidity lead to a crisp, bright, red-fruit finish. Perfect with Christmas toasts, or birthday celebrations.

With Christmas behind us, our sights now turned to New Year’s Eve. International Champagne Day. Naturally, we’d want to ring in 2018 with genuine champagne, right? Wrong! Robyn’s birthday was just days away, and we decided to save the bubbles from the most famous sparkling region in the world for her special day. Instead, we headed over to our local wine shop and picked up a domestic brut to toast the New Year.

Finally, the time came to celebrate a January birthday on its actual day. Dinner reservations at a local, romantic restaurant made, we chilled a bottle of Barons de Rothschild Champagne Brut to bring with us and toast to another year of life. The hostess was kind enough hold our champagne we stopped in the bar for a pre-birthday-dinner cocktail.

img_0638

When we took our seats at our dining table, our bottle was waiting for us in an ice bucket. Our server expertly released the cork, and also did double-duty as birthday photographer!

img_1993

BDR_Brut_Bottle

Barons de Rothschild Champagne Brut

Golden straw color. Soft fruit aromas of floral, apricot and pear. On the palate there are flavors of yellow apple, Bartlett pear, apricot, and cream. Bright acidity and vigorous bubbles liven the tongue. The finish is stone fruit with hints of elderflower, almond, and cream. The perfect sparkler to celebrate a January birthday!

The champagne was the perfect accompaniment to our evening, and it was excellent with my seared-scallop risotto. To end the evening, the pastry chef even wrote “Happy Birthday” in chocolate on the plate with our crème brulee.

img_0649

Do you have a January birthday? Let us know in the comments how you like to celebrate to ensure your day isn’t lost in the holiday fervor.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds & Robyn Raphael