Shana Speaks Wine

Wine Journalist, Copywriter, and Marketing Consultant

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Filtering by Category: "cote du rhone"

Return of the Rhone

The Rhone tasting calendar has been pretty quiet this fall.  Budget cuts?  An effect of the impending global wine shortage? (I'm not kidding, read about it in this Huffington Post article). Whatever the reason, there hasn't been a huge promotional push this season and I only conducted one tasting.  But, here are three for your Rhone portfolio.  Try them before France runs out of wine.

E. Guigal Cote du Rhone Blanc, 2011 (approx $15)  - The sole white in the tasting smelled of golden delicious apple, lemon zest and a hibiscus note to add a floral intrigue to the nose. On the palate, the citrus fruits, particularly line, brought a zesty freshness to the round and lush orchard.  Medium bodied and noticeably acidic, this wine brought something interesting to each sip.

Delas Saint-Esprit Cote du Rhone, 2011 (approx $13) - Sometimes simple is good.  Case in point: this easy, uncomplicated red. Bright strawberry and cherry were dominant right away, but a bit of white pepper gave it a spicy edge that kept it from being a total juice bomb. The body was on the lighter side but moderate acidity kept it in check.  There was a ping of bing cherry on the finish, just for fun.  This was very easy drinking and was light enough to be a good summer red (file that away!).  Food need not apply.

Famille Perrin Cote du Rhone Village, 2010 (approx. $14) - This last red was a fun contrast to the Delas.  Immediately, you could tell a difference in the fruit - tighter, small berried fruits, such as blackberry, were dominant on the nose, as opposed to the cheery cherries on the other. Earth and animal came through in a big way, along with some vegetal funkiness, and black pepper added a kick to the profile. On the palate, the tannins were much more prominent than in the Delas, as well as the acidity. There was almost a chewiness to the wine, but wasn't quite chewy as it was still a medium body rather than uber-full. 

Keep tasting, friends...

How to Soothe Technology Woes

I have big aspirations. Huge. Holiday break means time to conquer all those niggling tasks and projects that I never seem to get to during the week (dry cleaning, I'm looking at you) and a large chunk of them are technology related: transferring pictures and files from the old Dell to the Mac, updating software, etc. In addition, I'm developing the Shana Speaks Wine webpage (you heard it here first!) as well as working on an upcoming event.

But, as it seems to go with all things tech, things are gonna get ugly before they get better. After a phone session with an Apple technician that left my laptop (and my mood) in worse condition than when I began, it felt like the right time to try a Cote du Rhone that I recently brought home.

Parallele 45 Cotes du Rhone 2010
On the nose, this 60% Grenache/40% Syrah blend showcased traditional notes of black cherry, raspberry and green and red bell peppers, along with some red licorice. The first sip was a little tannic and astringent, but mellowed out after a few minutes in the glass. Sipping through, the same flavor profiles from the nose were present on the palate, but there was much more black pepper and spiciness on the tongue. It was more medium-bodied than other Cote du Rhones but by no means was full-bodied. This is a great value wine and a solid choice for a weeknight or whenever you just want something to soothe an irritated mood.

Au Revoir, Cote du Rhone

Jack o' lanterns are making space for poinsettas on porches, candy canes, not halloween candy, are the treats of choice and piles of leaves will soon be replaced with mounds of snow. Fall is bowing to the imminent approach of winter, as are the Cote du Rhone tastings.  As evident from previous blog posts, fall's calendar was filled with pourings from the region but in anticipation of the holidays,  the end of November brought the end of these events for the season.  However, a few gems were showcased in this final round.  Feel free to find inspiration for your holiday meal.

Gallician Costieres de Nimes Prestige 2010
Does the name ring a bell?  It should, as I poured the 2011 rose from this winemaker in part 1 of 24 Hours of Cote du Rhone.  Like its younger, pinker sibling, the nose had ripe berries of cherry, raspberry and strawberry, but this one also found blueberry and a bit of earth in it. The palate had the same fruit flavors but the spiciness of Syrah came through.  Overall, it was very round and smooth and its easy drinking, straightforward style is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Well played, Gallician.

E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone 2009
The same bright berries in the Gallician came through but then a hint of plum appeared on the nose, along with shades of earth and spice. The savory tones announced themselves more prominently on the palate, partnered with a vegetal bit of green pepper.  This red had more pronounced tannins and a fuller (but not full, it's still a Cote du Rhone, after all) body.  Although this one was enjoyable, I think it needs a bit of food to help it shine.

Domaine Les Goubert Beaumes de Venise 2009
Like Chateauneuf  du Pape?  Don't want to waste a good bottle on your crazy aunt and uncle? This neighboring region is a great alternative.  With black cherry and plum on the nose, this was first a juicy hit on the palate but then the earth and tobacco came storming through, balanced with well-integrated tannins.  Soil and a bit of meaty gaminess made you feel like you running through a farm, but the enlivening black pepper and black cherry again came through for a delicious finish.

Time to go dig out my snow boots....

The Home Depot of Tasting Flights

In general, I'm not very DIY.   I'm in awe of the Etsy culture and the general level of skill many people possess when it comes to crafting.  Woodwork, jewelry making, print making - definitely not my forte.  The expansion of store chains like Lowes and Home Depot has me confounded.  Home renovation projects?  Forget it.

However,  one of our favorite neighborhood bars offers various tasting flights that rotate on themes throughout the year.  Even better?  They offer all their wines by the glass as a "taste" pour, which lets me build my own tasting flights. Now THIS is definitely something I can create.  Am I feeling like I want to dig deeper into New World whites?  I can build a flight for that!

Side observation: In general, flights are built around a tasting of three different wines.   I find it rather funny and also ponder why,  given the opportunity to build my own flight, I stay within the psychological constraints of three tastes, even though the options are limitless. However, I'm not aware of any standards regarding the number of flights I order (I jest, I jest).

On this visit, I didn't have any particular agenda in mind and built my flights based on whatever looked intriguing:

Flight #1
Dirler-Cade,"Cuvee Vielles Vignes" Sylvaner, Alsace, France, 2010 -  Strong notes of minerality, slate, pear and citrus announced themselves on the nose and followed through on the palate.  Refreshing amounts of acid gave this opener some zing. This was a great start to the flight.

Cantina Ericina, "Erice," Nero D'Avola, Sicily, Italy, 2009 - Blueberry and other berry fruits came through, along with earth and black pepper spice.  Tobacco notes  finished off this medium bodied southern Italian red.  I think this one will really shine with a little bit of aging.

Cadence, "Coda," Bordeaux Blend, Red Mountain, Washington, 2009 - Concentrated with deep berry fruits and intensely earthy, this was definitely a heavy-hitter. Along with all the soil,  black cherry and almost Robitussin-like notes came through on the lengthy finish.  I'm fascinated that  this blend came from Washington State and wish I had a French Bordeaux for a compare-and-contrast exercise.

Flight #2 
Jean-Philippe Fichet, Bourgogne Aligote, France, 2011 - Aligote is a minor player in the Burgundian landscape and is often used to produce sparkling wines rather than flat wines.  Seeing one on the menu definitely piqued by interest.   Slate, minerals and citrus all shone in the palate.  It was actually reminiscent of the Domaine Faiveley Montagny I wrote about previously and although there was something a bit simpler about the Aligote, it was still highly enjoyable.

Katogi Averoff, Thessaly, Xinomavro, Greece, 2007 -  Red berries were countered with twiggy notes and a little bit of ash, but the berries flowed throughout the entire sip.   Medium body with a bit of acidity, this showcased how Greek wines are truly evolving in quality.

Mourre du Tendre, "Classique," Rhone Blend, Cote du Rhone, France  2005 - Still on a Cote du Rhone kick, I had to add one to the flight.  It was a classic Rhone with blueberry, raspberry and plum fruits. Earthiness and green pepper  rounded out this medium-bodied, easy drinking wine.

Lingot-Martin Cerdon de Bugey, Savoie, France, N.V.   This one was actually part of my boyfriend's flight, but I couldn't resist writing a note about it. This sparkling wine was a ruby color and rich, mousse-y bubbles were in the Champagne style of sparkling wines.  What immediately came to mind?  Yep, Ruinart Rose. On the palate, however, this was a completely different wine.  It was akin to eating a basket of raspberries and instead of finishing dry, a fruit sweetness lingered.  I see this as a good apertif to a meal.

Keep sipping....

24 Hours of Cote du Rhone - Part 2

On Saturday morning, the chateau moved us to a master suite and once we settled into our new space, I took a brisk walk around the vineyard before chatting with the locals over a lovely pre-dinner aperitif.

Or, in reality-speak, power was restored downtown and we were able to return to our apartment.  It was a bit chilly and the fridge was a little smelly, but it felt great to be back in our place.   I also fit in a quick workout, a valiant effort to counteract my weeklong diet of pizza, french fries and halloween candy, all which had been washed down with copious amounts of wine. I then dashed back uptown for the second Cote du Rhone tasting of the weekend.

The day was extraordinarily busy in the shop.  Downtown refugees were coming in to buy presents for their host friends, tourists in town for the aborted marathon were looking to soothe their frustrations and everyone in general just seemed to want a drink to help them relax from the stressful week.  As a result, we ran through the two red tasting bottles very quickly.  Eager to capitalize on the traffic, we opened replacements bottles, which gave the opportunity to do a side-by-side tasting, a Battle of the Wines, if you will. 

The Rhone Blend Showdown

L'Ermitage 2010 (note:  due to the rapid pace at which we went through this, I wasn't able to record all the pertinent information about this wine, but will try to seek it out and update this post when I do) -  Vinified with grenache/syrah/mouvedre/carignan, this was the first blend we opened. Raspberry, ripe cherry, blueberry, green and black pepper shone through on nose.  The same notes repeated on the palate, with a bit of earth and soil making an appearance.  Like many Cote du Rhones, this was a lighter bodied red, easy to drink on its own but could definitely hold its own against lighter chicken and pasta dishes. 

Chateau D'Aiguevelle Cote Du Rhone 2010 - For the most part, it was similar to its predecessor in its aromas and initial flavor notes on the palate, but was more astringent and showed more prominent tannins.  There was something a little immature about this one and my preference fell to the L’Ermitage for a Rhone blend. 

WINNER - L'Ermitage

The Syrah Smackdown
Francois De Tournon Saint Joseph Delas 2009 - This 100% Syrah was primarily driven by pepper, earthiness and spiciness. Fruit was more of a secondary player; plum and black cherry comingled with the classic syrah qualities on the nose.  Upon the first couple sips, the pitted fruits lent a round juiciness to this wine but bell pepper, tar and tobacco fought for prominence. No doubt about it, this wine was bone dry. Factor that in with the lively tannins and a medium plus body and we were drinking big wine.  I’m interested to see how this one will age. 

Domaine des Grands Chemins Croze Hermitage Delas 2009 - Another 100% Syrah, this one showcased the same classic syrah characteristics of earth and spice.  Upon first reveal, many of its qualities echoed the St Joseph, but after a couple of sips, it felt more astringent and the tannins didn’t feel as well integrated as the other.  Still a big wine, it may be more enjoyable with a meal, but I think the St. Joseph took the medal in this match.

WINNER:  Francois De Tournon Saint Joseph Delas 2009

We also poured one white that day:
Domaine La Fond Roc-Epine Lirac 2010
This grenache blanc, marsanne and viognier blend was golden apple, pear, and honeycomb on the nose. First sips revealed the same orchard fruits balanced with citrus; however, the honey was nonexistent on palate and this medium-bodied wine finished very dry. I love when a wine surprises me and what I detect in aromas belies what I taste.

Eventually the event, and thus, the Cote du Rhone vacation, was over.  However, it was a wonderful feeling to be able to return home, not only physically but with the psychological reassurance that life could start getting back to normal.