Category Archives: Rhone

Why can’t natty wine haters happen upon a bottle like this?

Brought back this natty red from Paris (in March from our honeymoon) it was in the 10€ range. Acquired it at the famous natural wine bar/restaurant Le Verre Volé which is as pretentious as it sounds. Our waiter was an absolute pain in le derriere, typical of what I expect from Parisians, not from vine hugging naturalists. However, there was another guy there who was much more laid back, and recommended this bottle to take back Stateside.

2010 La Chapelle, Deuxieme Tour, Cotes du Rhone

2010 La Chapelle, Deuxieme Tour, Cotes du Rhone

2010 La Deuxieme Tour La Chapelle
White pepper on the nose, raspberry fruit and strawberry starburst, some licorice a pleasant tipple, light and elegant, not too lengthy of a finish.

I waited quite a few months to open this guy up, because I didn’t want to upset those traveling natural wine gods. Admittedly, there was a weird back taste, in the beginning, ironically kind of chemical, but after a bunch of swirling (and 30 odd minutes) it went away.

When you think about the price, this wine was very good value. Unpretentious, easy drinking…not bad but fairly one dimensional.
If this wine was here in California, for 10 bucks, I’d buy it again.

What this wine reminds though, is the bottle doesn’t always have to be the focal point at the table. At least not on a lazy Sunday night roast….I think this is forgotten sometimes.
There is a place in this world for easy going wine…don’t forget it.

You have to check out their site by the way

Insane gravity fed winery design…something out of my university essays, in fact.

Winery on an Acid Trip

Winery on an acid trip
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Some wines of late

Here’s a few wines that have stood out recently.


Villemade, Hervé – 2010 Cheverney, La Bodice. A natural Chardonnay we brought back with us from Paris. Crisp, ripe and fresh. Was in the 12 euro range, acquired at Le Verre Volé


Pierre Péters, NV (i think) Grand Cru, Blanc de Blanc. A wedding gift from some friends and a lovely Chardonnay at that! Champers how I like it…fresh green apple flavor with a hint of creaminess, some stone fruit as well, long lasting finish. Not sure on the price


Piedrasassi, PS Syrah 2010 (I think) – I always seem to be talking about this place. Didn’t write a tasting note for this but remember I really enjoyed it…think it was in the $18 area (but was given as a sample) seriously worth a plunge….Winehound in SB carries it or drop by their place in the Ghetto.


Alain Graillot, 2009 Crozes Hermitage
Had this wine at the end of a large meal. Was absolutely perfect in every way…again no tasting note. But I really remember the ripeness of the berry fruit mixed with that great Syrah spiciness. Think strawberries with a dusting of cracked black pepper. If any fault at all it was our own for trying the stuff in its adolescence, the wine has a good 10-15 years in it. Had this at Bacchus a tiny wine bar on Hyde, in Russian Hill – $75 (ouch, but damn good)

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Wine to rough it with

Destination Sequoia.

As excited as I was to see the land of the tree giants I was equally as excited to to try a couple of wines I’d been holding on to…

Tin Barn Vineyards, a winery up in Sonoma, was kind enough to send me a bottle of their 2006 Coryelle Fields Vineyard Syrah.  The grapes are sourced from a vineyard near Jenner – I have yet to go there but from what I hear the vineyard is up a dirt track and planted on a fairly element exposed spot. Sounds great to me!

Tin Barn Syrah 2006 Coryelle Fields Vineyard

Tin Barn Syrah 2006 Coryelle Fields Vineyard

As for the Syrah the nose is full of dark berry fruit and spice but where this wine excels is its take on earthy Rhône.  We’re not talking dank Gigondas here, but for something out of California there is a lot of earthiness, soil even, and plenty of smokey savoury bacon, flavors.  Basically, a perfect wine for sitting around a campfire.

Tin Barn Syrah is available at the winery for $25 or you can go order it off their site

Giant Sequoia

Giant Sequoia

Mini Clubman in a Sequoia
Mini Clubman in a Sequoia
Another wine that made the trek northward was a very fine bottle of 2007 Rey Syrah.  Rey is the second label of the garagiste duo Chris and Deanna King.  They make their wine up in Lompoc under their main nomenclature De Su Propia Cosecha.
2007 Rey Syrah - Great with steak

2007 Rey Syrah - Great with steak

Rey has mostly Syrah in it but there’s a bit of Grenache and even less Cab.  Immediately on the nose you get hit of fresh bluberries as well as fresh aniseed and licorice.  The palate is crunchy with just enough tannin to roughin’ up your inner cheek.  This wine is very nice and very affordable at only $19.

2007 Rey Syrah

2007 Rey Syrah

If you live in SB I believe Winehound carries it, if not they can probably get it for you. It’s worth a note too that DSP has just been awarded 92 points for both their Grenache blend and Roussanne…worthy of a look.

A meadow near "End of the Road" in the Kings Canyon

A meadow near "End of the Road" in the Kings Canyon

As for Sequioa, even with spending a week there, we only touched the surface as it were.  We will definitely be going back again soon.

Adieu for now.

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Lindquist – The Next Generation

Had a quick dash in my local wine shop The Winehound the other day looking for a bottle I had heard about.

Apparently, the famous Bob Lindquist of Qupé fame has a son who makes Rhônes too!

I later found out Ethan has been making wine for a while now, and I must say the current vintage available of Ethan Santa Barbara County, Syrah 2008, did not disappoint.

In fact it was (as we finished it that night) a very smooth drinking bevy indeed.  On the nose was a blend of peppery spices, hints of wild thyme and blackberry jam while the palate was very juicy with boysenberry and some tannin grip.  Think a bunch of crushed berries wrapped in suede.

Ethan Santa Barbara County Syrah 2008

I forgot the exact price but think it’s in the $21 range…and I would wholeheartedly suggest going out and finding some.

Also, poker fans Ethan and his brother have gone “all in” with another project of high-end Rhônes called No Limits Wine.
I believe they are only days/weeks from launching

So, ante up if you’re interested and let’s hope they aren’t bluffing.

You can also find Ethan wines at the Qupé tasting room in Los Olivos, 2963 Grand Avenue.

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A Tale of Two Foxens

It was the best of wines, it was nowhere near the worst of wines.

As I set out on my first trip to the Santa Ynez Valley, since moving back, my sites were set on Foxen, always a favourite of mine.-

I hadn’t been there for a good 12 years and the last time was en route to Hollister Ranch, with a dinghy strapped to the roof of a truck.  For surfers, we were definitely high brow with our beverages.

Jump to 2010 and the Foxen shack is still standing.  A small cabin quite literally on the side of the road, with an even smaller bar, proves that old California charm might be all that is needed to present your wine.

Look for this sign when heading up Foxen Cyn Rd

The shack, or how it is now marketed, foxen 7200 only carries Bordeaux varietals and one “Super Tuscan” all labelled with this new brand.

At foxen 7200, my favourite was the 2007 Grassini Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon for $36 concentrated berry fruit, some liquorice, and overall medium tannin mouthfeel.

New look

But Bordeaux was not what I came for…the very well known Pinot Noir and Rhone varietals that made the winery famous are being poured at the spick and span new winery and tasting room up the road.

The “new” Foxen is most definitely where the good stuff is being poured.  The tasting room does not come close to the charm of the shack, but pleasant nonetheless and I believe solar powered.  The Burgundy and Rhône varietals are what made this place famous and I was far more satisfied with the range of wines tasted here.

From a vineyard of super high yields

Here are my favs:

The 2007 Rosé of Mourvèdre was a pleasant surprise.  This might actually be the first Mourvèdre Rose I’ve ever tasted…and a welcome relief to the usual safe Syrah.  It’s a dry rose and full of freshly washed red berry flavours, very crisp and refreshing.  Perhaps steep for $25.

The 2008 Mourvèdre from Williamson-Doré Vineyard was very close to being the wine of the day.  In fact, if they sold it in regular sized bottles and my accountant wasn’t tasting with me, I would have bought the guy.  Great concentration on the nose, lots of blackberry aromas and a very smooth palate.  Well worth the$80 asked and only available in magnum.  Highly recommended

The 2008 Syrah from Tinaquaic Vineyard was far and beyond my favourite wine of all.  Full of lovely chocolate aromas and again some fresh berries, this impressed at first sniff.  The palate too was soft and velvety with hints of spice and boysenberries, $46 and a happy purchase.

The best of times.

I must applaud Foxen for the marketing savvy here.  If you haven’t been to Foxen for a while, you will have no idea of the new winery…and just head straight to the shack.  If you feel curious to taste the other wines, they are only 2 minutes away.

To encourage tasting at both, Foxen has a deal where you can pay $12 and try three wines at each tasting room.  Otherwise it’s $10 at each for five wines.

Foxen Winery & Vineyard
7600 Foxen Canyon Road
Santa Maria, CA 93454
Phone: (805) 937-4251
FAX: (805) 937-0415

foxen 7200
7200 Foxen Canyon Road
Santa Maria, CA 93454
Phone: (805) 937-4251



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you mus”t” try this red (with pasta)

Some banter this morning with @browners on his open ox cheek ravioli got me thinking about the wine I tried this past weekend – the 2007 Mus ‘T’ red from Domaine de la Graveirette – the duo would have gone perfectly together!

Domaine de la Graveirette, Mus ‘T’ 2007

It’s just something about tomato sauce (and cooked cherry tomatoes too) that go so well with Southern Rhône Syrah/Grenache blends. The ox cheek is just a plus.
Actually, this wine could go with an array of tomato and meat based Italian dishes, lasagne or even spag bol for instance.

The wine itself isn’t majorly complex but rather light and easy with fragrant berry fruit, some spice and a smooth palate. And it’s just light enough to make it refreshing in a glass, by itself.

Domaine de la Graveirette is available at Caviste for £8.95

The wine was kindly sent to me by newly established Carte Blanche Wines

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Rhone Gang – making wines you can’t refuse

Have you heard of the Rhône Gang? No? It’s probably because they are still underground, peddling their wares to mob bosses across the land.  Or most-likely because they are just recently being launched in the UK.
I ran into them two years ago at Vinisud.  Then, they were talented, Rhône winemakers trying to promote themselves en force, only at the begining of their underworld rulings.

The Rhone Gang - during their more innocent times

Now, things have changed. Individually, the wines are still excellent and have been recognised by some very influential wine writers on both sides of the pond.  But even better, and what sets them apart from other winery alliances (the Douro Boys for instance) is the Rhône Gang are making wine under their own Rhône Gang label, and it’s good.  Recently, Jason Haynes of Flint Wines (the Gang’s UK affiliation), made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, to come and try the wines, reviews are below.

During their un-steady younger years. Sadly, Pencil-head Eddie (on the far left) died tragically in a hose-pipe incident

I’ve also heard on good authority, that  Wanted 2006 is one of the most popular wines at the newly opened Galvin La Chapelle and that no strong arm tactics were used to get it a listing.

With this combination of good wine, creative labels and quirky website, the Rhône Gang is destined to be a hit in the next decade.

The Gangsters are comprised of the wineries – Avitus, Ch de Montfaucon, Ch Pesquié and Ch de St Cosme

Hold Up 2007

The Rhône Gang £9.95  Pinot Noir/Grenache Flint Wines –  0207 582 2500

WTF. A Pinot/Grenache (70/30) blend from the Rhône?!?! Something we might see from Australia but France…JAMAIS!!

This wine throws away all those ‘France can’t compete with new world innovation’ accusations out with the spit-bucket. Pinot is sourced from Burgundy and Grenache from S.Rhône, as most of you might know, two completely separate areas on the French wine map. Sure we see Shiraz-Cabernet blends from Australia and there are Pinot blends from Chile.  In France, it’s sacrilege to openly blend wine with that from other regions (I say openly, because lots of wineries do it illegaly).

Fragrant, savoury, cherry (Pinot) nose and juicy red berry (Grenache) on the palate, backed by soft tannins. A very nice, every day drinking wine.

Wanted 2006

The Rhône Gang £23.50 Grenache/Syrah.Mourvèdre/Carignan/Cinsault and Cournoise
Flint Wines – 0207 582 2500

Heavy, rich nose that is full of fruit and gushing with blackberries. It tastes just as good as it smells and is actually kind of savoury with rich, concentrated berry flavours…all that and perfectly balanced.

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