Happy Grenache Day to you all !!!

Some people complain that ‘there is a holiday for everything’ nowadays – but I think a holiday and a celebration is a wonderful thing – any time at all.    In this case, a group called the Grenache Symposium (their mission: promote grenache-based wines) has declared September 24 to be “International Grenache Day”.   My response: Let’s Celebrate!

The Grenache grape has Spanish origins and is commonly referred to as Alicante, Cannonau, Garnacha, and Grenache noir.   It is traditionally found in regions like Rioja, Priorat, Rhône, Sardinia, and in modern times some very successful Grenache wines have come from Australia and California.   Grenache is a popular blending grape because of its big fruit and relatively low tannins – just grab a bottle of Chateaufeuf du Pape and you will no doubt enjoy the high Grenache content blended with smaller amounts of the other 12 legal grape varieties of that famous Southern Rhone region in France.

Tonight I hope to open a bottle of a Chateauneuf du Pape, or maybe a South Australian new world Grenache blend – when I do, I will toast all those who make these wonderful wines, and I will think of all the other people enjoying a Grenache at the same moment!  Good Fun!

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Special wine for Tuesday Tasting at Braddock’s 22Feb11

This week at Braddock’s (http://www.braddocksrestaurant.com/events/) we are fortunate to have made another deep dive into their wine cellar to fine the 2005 Coudoulet de Beaucastel Côtes du Rhône.   This will be available by the glass (very unusual!) so that we may all taste the results of this historically significant vintage.   Robert Parker rated the Southern Rhone 2005 Vintage 95pts and ageworthy – so this Cotes du Rhone wine should be right and ready to drink with good balance.   The wine is made from grapes grown very close to the uber-famous Châteauneuf du Pape region, so it stands to reason that the soil and weather and grapes of this area must be very similar to the ‘big brother’ Châteauneuf du Pape wines – please join us if you can!

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Domaine Paul Autard Cotes-du-Rhone 2009

Jean-Paul Autard www.paulautard.com is not an old man, but he has a wealth of wine-making experience since taking over the family wine operation at age 17.   This domaine produces a range of wines including many award winning, highly sought after wines (Autard’s 1998 Chateauneuf du Pape “Cote Ronde” scored an impressive 97 pts from the Wine Spectator).    On a recent visit, Jean-Paul Autard took a few minutes away from his very busy time to speak with us.  Early October is at the end of the exhausting harvest and during the middle of the wine-making process that lasts several weeks, and we could tell that Jean-Paul and his wine-makers were visibly tired, despite their weariness, they were still very gracious toward us Americans.   While Autard’s Chateauneuf wines are the most impressive and famous, Autard’s Cotes-du-Rhone is far less expensive, more accessible and more widely available in the USA, so for the moment we will focus on the Cotes-du-Rhone.   I’ve been impressed with this wine in past vintages and the just-released 2009 vintage continues the trend.   The 2009 Domaine Paul Autard Cotes du Rhone blends 70% Grenache – 15% Syrah – 15% Counoise (the latter is a relatively rare grape, used mainly for blending in small amounts… it adds a slight pepperiness to the wine), and presents itself as bright and vibrant – which nicely expresses the exceptionally hot 2009 vintage – not as hot as the record breaking levels of 2003, but despite the 2009 growing season starting rather wet, by mid-summer 2009 featured 24 days above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.   One can virtually taste the hot weather in the wine as the bright fruit flavors burst with blackberry and plum fruits and finish with well balanced grip.  Overall this 2009 Domaine Paul Autard Cotes du Rhone punches above its weight, making the roughly $15 price tag a big bargain for a fine Rhone Wine.   If you can find it, buy some and drink them over the next 1-3 years.

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Domaine de la Solitude Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2007 – Big Wine!

This wine is not at all small.   The 2007 Southern Rhone vintage was a big one across the board and this wine is no exception.   The exceptional aspect of this wine is the value to the consumer at this price point.  For people with a taste for a truly big wine at an affordable price (compared to other Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines which commonly sell for more than $50), this Domaine de la Solitude (at approximately $45) will not disappoint.   As a note about Domaine de la Solitude – while much has been made of the overall 2007 vintages for Châteauneuf wines, I have tasted the less expensive Cotes du Rhone wines from this maker and feel comfortable purchasing them as an everyday wine for myself no matter the reports on the overall vintages – sometimes the vineyard and winemaker are more important than the vineyard (at least to me!).   The Lancon family has been in the Southern Rhone for over 700 years, with the earliest relations having moved to Avignon in 1264 to serve the Pope.   The wine label shows family history elements including three bees (said to be a medieval family weapon), the hats of two bishops and a pope, and a medal, said to be from service to Napoleon at Waterloo.   Current generations of the Lancon family, Jean and Michel Lancon carry on the wine making traditions with great care, and Michel’s son Florent Lancon is taking some responsibility as well.

This wine, like many Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, is dark purple and nearly opaque, indicating a very dense wine to come.  The blend of this vintage is reported to be 55% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre, a typical Southern Rhone blend.   If not decanted and allowed to breathe a while, there is alcohol on the nose, mixed with more pleasant berry and herb notes.  After some breathing however, the wine opens up – flavors are dense and virtually explode on the palate with broad layers of spicy fig, plum and raspberry, even hints of herby, savory meat.   The mouth feel is intense yet very smooth, savory and luscious with a finish that stays a long time.  It is always a treat to find a wine of this much power but with finesse as well – if you can find it, I am sure you will enjoy it.

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