Showing posts with label Cotes du Rhone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cotes du Rhone. Show all posts

Friday, January 31, 2020

White Wines For Winter: Côtes du Rhône Blanc

White wines are not just for summers and salads.  There are rich, full-bodied whites which are bold and warming.  They also pair beautifully with winter dishes - root vegetables, stews and herbs like fennel go particularly well with a nice, well balanced Chardonnay, for example.  I find that whites aged in oak serve me better in the winter than unoaked wines.  In fact, oak makes a white wine feels like Christmas to me.  I prefer an easy touch on the wood, however. 

Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Réserve 2018

The Perrin family heads up a French winemaking company which includes the noted Château de Beaucastel of the Rhône Valley.  The grapes for this wine were picked from vines growing between the Ouvèze and Aigues rivers.  Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier fruit was vinified in stainless steel - no oak at all - to an alcohol level of 13% abv and it retails for about $12.

This white Rhône blend shows the Viognier best, all floral and citrusy.  The tart apple notes of the Grenache Blanc play off of the savory aspect of the Roussanne and Marsanne.  The palate is mineral-laden, with citrus, peach and pear appearing.  Nice acidity, too.  These are some great grapes, and they do not disappoint. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Concrete-Aged Côtes du Rhône

There's a lovely French restaurant across from L.A.'s Pacific Design Center which serves as a great place to grab a bite and a glass of something French either before or after.  Zinqué has an open feel with lots of natural light in the daytime and a garden atmosphere all around.

They have the 2015 Domaine du Trapadis Côtes du Rhône on the menu for $13 by the glass.  I see it selling elsewhere for $38 per bottle.

The wine is made by Helen Durand, and he uses his young-vine (average age 35 years) organically farmed Grenache grapes from Rasteau and Cairanne.  He sees wine as a "photograph of an environment," a snapshot of the land, climate and cellar, taken by the hand of one person.  The wine is fermented in cement tanks with extended maceration, then aged in those tanks for 18 months.

The 2015 Trapadis Côtes du Rhône shows up dark, in the glass and on the nose.  There's an earthy, Rhône-ish barnyard funk aroma that's extremely fascinating.  The palate displays complex, dark fruit, with big notes of tar, plum and spice.  The fruit gets plenty of play in this wine due to the concrete aging, rather than oak.  The complexity does not suffer and the overall impression is extremely fresh.  The medium firm tannins do what they are supposed to, nothing more, and the wine finishes nicely.

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Monday, September 19, 2016

A Red Wine For Indian Food

Which wine to pair with Indian food is always a hot topic. There's a lot of debate on the subject, with many people, myself included, usually opting for beer. And why not? Beer is just about perfect with spicy cuisine, especially India's pale lagers like Kingfisher or Taj Mahal.

Most Indian restaurants seem to recognize the challenge of pairing wine with their food and give up. Some present a thoughtful wine list full of great choices to complement the meal. In Los Angeles, Cardamom does it that way. Sommelier Stewart Prato's choices are decidedly Francophile, and they all seem to hit the intended target in the bullseye.

On my last trip there I had a Côtes du Rhône with my lamb and spinach dish. I usually go with a white  wine at an Indian restaurant because I feel they work better with spicy food. Since this dish didn't advertise a lot of heat, I tried the red. I'm glad I did.

The 2011 Domaine de la Janasse Reserve is a Grenache-heavy blend that also includes Syrah, Carignan, Mourvedre and Cinsault. Winemaker Christophe Sabon apparently put this cuvée together especially for an importer and is available only in the U.S. It is said to better than the one he sells in France, and it costs under $20 retail.

The Janasse Reserve shows a medium-deep ruby color, and delivers aromas of bright cherry, with a touch of tar and meat. Flavors of blackberry liqueur meet earth and minerals. Tannins are low and the oak is barely noticeable, musts for an Indian food pairing.

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Cercius Côtes du Rhône 2011

This Côtes du Rhône bottling was one of the Top 12 wines for the holidays from the folks at Whole Foods Market.  The Cercius Côtes du Rhône 2011 is labeled as Vielles Vignes Red Wine.  If my high school French serves me well, that means old vines.  And old they are - over 80 years and going strong.

The vines bear Grenache (85%) and Syrah (15%) and the wine is a collaboration of winemaker Michel Gassier, Phillippe Cambie and Eric Solomon.  It is imported by Eric Solomon Selections, which stamps the words "Place Over Process" on their labeling, so it is perfect to find them poking around in the Rhône Valley.

The name of the wine tips the hat to one of the features that make the Rhône Valley unique.  "Cercius" is the Latin name for the north by northwest mistral winds that sweep through the region.

The wine looks dark purple in the glass and smells rather heavily of alcohol upon opening.  Aromas of blackberries and cassis do come through, though, and in a clean, fresh way.  The freshness continues on the palate, with a big mouthful of black cherry and licorice.  Alcohol, however, is a bit of a problem.  At 14.5%, it is higher than I would expect from the region, and it gets in the way until the wine has had plenty of time to open up.

Bottled under an artificial cork closure, Cercius has an alcohol content of 14.5% abv and is vinified and aged six months in concrete tanks.  I tried this wine on three successive nights, and it was best on the third night.  The first night it was fruity, but hindered by the heat of the alcohol.  The second night it seemed even hotter, but by the third night it had settled down and taken on a tarry note.

Here is where Cercius really shines: with food.  On the third night, feeling a little disappointed in the wine, I pulled the leftover penne Bolognese from the fridge for a midnight snack.  I had the pasta the night before with a Valpolicella, and it was great.  Now, the dish cold and stiff, the Rhône wine was an even better match for it.  At last, I really enjoyed this wine.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A French Wine Puts Oz To Shame

For a little badly needed R&R after a very tough month, Denise and I went for a tried and true escape.  We went to the movies.  Happily, the movie was playing at a theater with a wine bar attached.  As Kris Kristofferson once asked, “You been readin’ my mail?”

We were thinking of the recently passed Roger Ebert.  We both respected him greatly for his social positions, although I must admit I always agreed more with Gene Siskel when it came to movies.  While waiting for “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” the waiter/bartender in the Metallica t-shirt asked me what would make my day.  I thought an Albariño would brighten the Saturday afternoon nicely, but Metallica told me they had expended their allotment of that grape.

“Here’s another dry one,” he offered, pointing to the E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Blanc on the daily specials list.  “I don’t know how to pronounce it, but people say it’s good.”  Well, who am I to argue with people?  Eleven dollars by the glass?  Bring it on, good sir.  Congratulations on knowing your limitations, and may all your dreams be metallic.

Domaine Guigal was founded by Etienne, furthered by son Marcel and now his son, Phillippe, represents the third generation toiling in the Côte Rôtie appellation of the Rhône Valley.  The white Côtes du Rhône is a masterful blend of 55% Viognier, 20% Roussanne, 10% Clairette, 10% Marsanne and 5% Bourboulenc, all vinified in stainless steel tanks.

The 2011 vintage of this wine clearly displays the limestone and granite soil of the estate.  Wet rocks and minerals define the nose, almost to the exclusion of fruit - not that it's a bad thing.  My wife says she can smell the French sunshine in it.  I get lemon and a slight floral note on the nose and lime zest on the palate.  The acidity is quite refreshing.  I wish I had been able to have this at lunch with my calamari and scungilli salad.  Forget Oz, Guigal was the great and powerful one on this day.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Cotes-du-Rhone at L'Epicerie

L'Epicerie Cafe and Market is a good stop for a bite and a sip anytime you find yourself in the vicinity of Culver City, California.  It's right across Culver Boulevard from the Sony studios, which makes it convenient to a taping of Wheel Of Fortune or Jeopardy.

A friend of ours became the announcer for Wheel Of Fortune recently, and he finagled us a couple of VIP admissions.  He joined us afterward and we got to catch up a bit.  I've known Jim for around 20 years, but most of the contact we've had has been over a telephone or a two-way radio, so a little face time with the voice guy was welcome.  Denise gets to see him pretty regularly across the console at the Los Angeles news powerhouse, KNX 1070.

We ordered some oysters, some mushrooms, a pork belly confit, a savory crepe and maybe some other stuff, too.  It was all delicious.  So was the wine.

I opened with a Big Vine Pinot Noir 2009, a Central Coast effort combining grapes from the Arroyo Grande Valley and the Sta. Rita Hills.  Bacon on the nose mixes with dark, earthy fruit and the palate is a riot of cola, meat and cassis.  It is $10 by the glass and went very well with the garlicky mushrooms.

The oysters were nicely abetted by the Côtes-du-Rhône Maison Arnoux Vieux Clocher.  This blend of Grenache Blanc and Viognier offers floral and citrus aromas and a rather full mouthfeel with a decent level of acidity.  At $11 by the glass, it actually favored the pork belly better than it did the oysters.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010


The Pairing

This wine was purchased as a food and wine pairing experiment.  It started at the recent Artisanal L.A. show in downtown Los Angeles.  Max Lesser, owner of Morning Glory Confections, asked Denise and I to come up with a pairing involving his New Mexico Chili and Pumpkin Seed Brittle.  I had the idea of pairing it with a Roussanne because I felt the grape’s natural funkiness was a good match for the offbeat brittle ingredients.  Denise thought some goat cheese would form an unbeatable triple play.

A fortunate mistake had me pick up herb goat cheese instead of plain, but Denise felt it worked even better than she had imagined.  The mouthful of brittle, herb goat cheese and a Roussanne blend was nothing short of fantastic.  Max liked it, too.

The Roussanne blend is produced by Andre Brunel, a Châteuneuf-du-Pape producer, but these grapes are from the Côtes-du-Rhône - 50% Roussanne, 30% Grenache Blanc and 20% Clairette.  It has 13% abv and carries a price tag of $17.  The grapes are grown in the clay and limestone soil on the Rhône Valley, and the wine does not undergo malolactic fermentation.

It’s a pale yellow wine, with a nose showing a banana-meets-guava tropicality, some minerals and spices along with a vanilla note.  Full and round on the palate, the taste offers a savory tartness or zestiness of citrus, a ripping acidity - a must if you’re pairing with candy - and a lemon-lime finish with an underlying nutty flavor way in the back.

By the way, the wine also paired quite nicely with another purchase from Artisanal L.A. - the Welsh Cakes from The Welsh Baker!  They call them "Not quite a cookie, not quite a scone," and that seems a reasonably good description.  Welsh Cakes and wine make a pretty good little snack.