Mollydooker Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz 2016

W Blue Eyed 2016Shiraz from The Gateway, McLaren Vale, Fleurieu Zone, South Australia, Australia

100% shiraz

16.0% alcohol

Purchased:  6 April 2018  –  $60.00

Opened:  6 April 2018

els:  9.1/10

Cellar Tracker:  91

In the beginning, Australia’s entire stock of vines had to be imported from Europe and South Africa since it does not have any native grape varieties. In the early 1800s John Macarthur, established the first successful vineyards and winery near Sydney. By the early 1820s wine was being produced in sufficient quantities that the first exports were recorded in 1822.  In 1833 James Busby brought additional cuttings from Europe and introduced Shiraz to the fledgling wine industry. By the latter half of the 1800s, Australian wines were garnering world-wide attention and tasting awards.  Then the unspeakable happened. Phylloxera reached Australia around 1875 destroying a majority of vines in the country.  It would take until the 1960s before Australia moved beyond fortified wines and started producing good to great table wines again.

Wine is currently produced in all 6 six of the country’s states which are further divided up into 65 wine regions that contain over 2400 wineries.  The regions creating serious wines, though, are all located in the cooler southern states of Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, and Tasmania.

Australia, in 2016, was the 5th largest producer of wine in the world, behind the US and ahead of China, making 343 million gallons of wine or about 4% of the world-wide total.  Australia consumes about 40% of their wine or a little more than 135 million gallons and exports 60%, about 215 million gallons in 2017, and is 4th largest exporter of wine in the world.  The country exports to 126 counties but five of those countries; China, the US, the UK, Canada, and Hong Kong account for 75% of the total wine exports. China is by far the country’s largest market, sending about a 3rd of their total wine exports, by value, to their thirsty northern neighbors.

The country grows over 130 varietals with just a few accounting for the lion’s share of all grapes harvested. The red grapes Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot accounted for 85% of all grapes harvested in 2017. Shiraz contributed 47% to that years red grapes total harvest.  Chardonnay is the top white grape harvested in 2017 accounting for 42% of the total.

South Australia is the largest wine area, by acres of vines planted and wine produced, in Australia.  The temperatures vary widely over area, cool along the coast and hot in the interior. The area is consistently dry and requires irrigation almost everywhere. The area first started growing grapes and producing wine back in the 1830s.

The region had almost 190,000 acres planted in 2017, more than half of the country’s total.  The area produced over 160 million gallons of wine in 2017 and exported 135 million gallons. China-Hong Kong, the UK, the US, and Canada are South Australia’s largest export markets.

There are 7 wine zones, further divided up into 20 distinct regions in South Australia. The zones are: Barossa, Fleurieu, Mount Lofty Ranges, Far North, Limestone Coast, Lower Murray, and The Peninsulas.  The 20 regions are all recognized appellations known in the country as Australian Geographical Indications or AGIs.

McLaren Vale, 1 of the 5 regions within the Fleurieu zone, is one of two premier South Australia wine-producing regions in the country; the other being Barossa Valley. McLaren Vale’s wine history goes back at least 175 years to the time of John Reynell and Thomas Hardy and their first grape plantings in the region.  Today’s Accolade Wines traces its beginnings back to the establishment of the Thomas Hardy and Sons winery, in 1853, in Old Reynella, now a suburb of Adelaide. With its Mediterranean climate and well-drained soils, McLaren Vale has 18,000 acres planted in vines and more than 80 wineries. Its star pupil is Shiraz, accounting for 55% of all grapes grown and processed. The region also produces great wines from Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache grapes.

Australia is the second largest producer of Shiraz or its genetic French twin, Syrah, in the world, France being the first. These are dark-skinned grapes that produce wildly different flavors depending on the terroir they spring from. The cooler climate versions tend towards medium-bodied wines with higher tannins, producing flavors and aromas of pepper and tobacco.  In the hotter climates, such as McLaren Vale, the wine is fuller in body, softer in tannins with notes of leather and velvety chocolate. Ageing potential is 10-15 years.

In 2006, Sparky and Sarah Marquis established their own brand: Mollydooker, and opened their winery the next year just a few miles southwest of Adelaide and a hop, skip, and jump from the Gulf of St. Vincent in The Gateway sub-region of McLaren Vale. From the outset they have produced outstanding wines garnering high 90s ratings and wine of the year accolades, seemingly without effort. The winery includes 3 vineyards: Long Gully Road, Coppermine Road (Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road produced weed and whiskey),  and the Home Block, totaling 114 acres planted in Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

The grapes for Blue Eyed Boy were grown on all 3 of Mollydooker’s vineyards: Coppermine Road, Long Gully Road, and Home Block. The vines are growing in ancient, Snowball Earth, Pre-Cambrian to Cambrian metasediments, usually extremely weathered and kaolinized. The metasediments include various textures from siltstones to sandstones and limestones to dolostones.  The Mollydooker vineyards are situated a little over 450′ above sea level and enjoy a Mediterranean climate with growing season temperatures ranging from 55-85ºF.  Rainfall is generally less than 1.25″ per month during the growing season.

The grapes are barrel fermented and matured in American oak, 58% new and 42% one- year old.

A dark, dark purple wine with a ruby rim. Aromas of  blueberry, plum and a hint of vanilla. A full-bodied wine, well-structured, and solid tannins. Juicy, silky and smooth, with a very long finish. The high alcohol content does sneak up on you after a couple of glasses.

An outstanding wine.  My wife and I had this for dinner at the Helix Wine and Bites restaurant in Grand Forks, ND.  We shared an entrée of a fall-off-the-bone rib eye, served with baked new potatoes and fried broccoli in olive oil and garlic.

The wine with the meal was simply astounding. The wine is on the pricey side but worth it for special occasions. It is a little young to drink now, wait awhile.  It should last until 2026-2030. Decanting this wine did it a world of good.

$48.99 wine.com

Mollydooker Carnival of Love 2014

W Love 2014Shiraz from The Gateway, McLaren Vale, Fleurieu Zone, South Australia, Australia

100% shiraz

15.5-16.5% alcohol

Purchased: 14 Feb 2014 – $100.00

Opened: 14 Feb 2018

els: 9.4/10

Wine Spectator: 95

Tasting Panel: 95

Cellar Tracker: 93

Vinous: 70

In the beginning, Australia’s entire stock of vines had to be imported from Europe and South Africa since it does not have any native grape varieties. In the early 1800s John Macarthur, established the first successful vineyards and winery near Sydney. By the early 1820s wine was being produced in sufficient quantities that the first exports were recorded in 1822.  In 1833 James Busby brought additional cuttings from Europe and introduced Shiraz to the fledgling wine industry. By the latter half of the 1800s, Australian wines were garnering world-wide attention and tasting awards.  Then the unspeakable happened. Phylloxera reached Australia around 1875 destroying a majority of vines in the country.  It would take until the 1960s before Australia moved beyond fortified wines and started producing good to great table wines again.

Wine is currently produced in all 6 six of the country’s states which are further divided up into 65 wine regions that contain over 2400 wineries.  The regions creating serious wines, though, are all located in the cooler southern states of Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, and Tasmania.

Australia, in 2016, was the 5th largest producer of wine in the world, behind the US and ahead of China, making 343 million gallons of wine or about 4% of the world-wide total.  Australia consumes about 40% of their wine or a little more than 135 million gallons and exports 60%, about 215 million gallons in 2017, and is 4th largest exporter of wine in the world.  The country exports to 126 counties but five of those countries; China, the US, the UK, Canada, and Hong Kong account for 75% of the total wine exports. China is by far the country’s largest market, sending about a 3rd of their total wine exports, by value, to their thirsty northern neighbors.

The country grows over 130 varietals with just a few accounting for the lion’s share of all grapes harvested. The red grapes Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot accounted for 85% of all grapes harvested in 2017. Shiraz contributed 47% to that years red grapes total harvest.  Chardonnay is the top white grape harvested in 2017 accounting for 42% of the total.

South Australia is the largest wine area, by acres of vines planted and wine produced, in Australia.  The temperatures vary widely over area, cool along the coast and hot in the interior. The area is consistently dry and requires irrigation almost everywhere. The area first started growing grapes and producing wine back in the 1830s.

The region had almost 190,000 acres planted in 2017, more than half of the country’s total.  The area produced over 160 million gallons of wine in 2017 and exported 135 million gallons. China-Hong Kong, the UK, the US, and Canada are South Australia’s largest export markets.

There are 7 wine zones, further divided up into 20 distinct regions in South Australia. The zones are: Barossa, Fleurieu, Mount Lofty Ranges, Far North, Limestone Coast, Lower Murray, and The Peninsulas.  The 20 regions are all recognized appellations known in the country as Australian Geographical Indications or AGIs.

McLaren Vale, 1 of the 5 regions within the Fleurieu zone, is one of two premier South Australia wine-producing regions in the country; the other being Barossa Valley. McLaren Vale’s wine history goes back at least 175 years to the time of John Reynell and Thomas Hardy and their first grape plantings in the region.  Today’s Accolade Wines traces its beginnings back to the establishment of the Thomas Hardy and Sons winery, in 1853, in Old Reynella, now a suburb of Adelaide. With its Mediterranean climate and well-drained soils, McLaren Vale has 18,000 acres planted in vines and more than 80 wineries. Its star pupil is Shiraz, accounting for 55% of all grapes grown and processed. The region also produces great wines from Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache grapes.

Australia is the second largest producer of Shiraz or its genetic French twin, Syrah, in the world, France being the first. These are dark-skinned grapes that produce wildly different flavors depending on the terroir they spring from. The cooler climate versions tend towards medium-bodied wines with higher tannins, producing flavors and aromas of pepper and tobacco.  In the hotter climates, such as McLaren Vale, the wine is fuller in body, softer in tannins with notes of leather and velvety chocolate. Ageing potential is 10-15 years.

In 2006, Sparky and Sarah Marquis established their own brand: Mollydooker, and opened their winery the next year just a few miles southwest of Adelaide and a hop, skip, and jump from the Gulf of St. Vincent in The Gateway sub-region of McLaren Vale. From the outset they have produced outstanding wines garnering high 90s ratings and wine of the year accolades, seemingly without effort. The winery includes 3 vineyards: Long Gully Road, Coppermine Road (Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road produced weed and whiskey),  and the Home Block, totaling 114 acres planted in Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

The grapes are cold fermented, below 60ºF, with final fermentation occurring in oak barrels. After fermentation the wine is racked back to tanks for oxygenation. Then back to the barrel for approximately 3 months of malolactic fermentation. The final stage is to rack the wine again into different oak barrels to age some more before finding their way into the colorfully labeled bottles. Even before leaving the cellar these are well-traveled wines.

A dark, dark purple wine with a ruby rim. A bouquet of jammy berries and plums, bursting with chocolate. A very bold wine with medium tannins and acidity.  Luscious silk and velvet on the tongue. A wonderful, lasting, spicy candy finish. A parenthetical aside on the alcohol content.  The bottle states the ABV is 16.5% while the technical sheet states 15.5%.  Either one packs a wallop.

An outstanding wine.  My wife and I had this for our Valentines’ dinner at the Helix Wine and Bites restaurant in Grand Forks, ND. We started the meal off with a terrific morsel of grilled watermelon topped with a pepper spiced shrimp followed by oysters on the half shell heaped with garlic and herbs. The entrees were a medium rare rib eye and a filet of orange roughy tightly wound in herbs and spices.  The wine supremely complemented both of these main dishes. We finished off the wine with a desert of berries and milk chocolate fondue. Actually the wine ran out before we finished the desert forcing us to top off with Bailey’s and Penfolds’ port; life is hard but we try to go along with it.

The wine with the meal was simply astounding. Drink now, but should last until 2025-2029. This is still a young wine so I strongly recommended that you decant and aerate for one hour, or more, before drinking.

$68.99-99.99 wine-searcher.com

Pierre Dupond La Renjardiere Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2015

W Dupond 2015Rhone Red Blend from Southern Rhone – Cotes du Rhone, Rhone, France

60% grenache

20% syrah

10% mourvedre

10% cinsault

14.0% alcohol

Opened 17 Jan 2018

els: 8.6/10

Tastings: 88

The Cotes du Rhone wine region stretches along the Rhone River, beginning at Vienne in the north to Avignon, 125 miles to the south. The Central Massif defines the western boundary and the foothills of the Alps, the eastern boundary. The region is designated with 4 levels of distinction: at the bottom and the most basic are the Cotes du Rhone wines, this wine falls into that category, followed by 95 Cotes du Rhone-Villages, then, with another step up there are the 18 Cotes du Rhone-Named Villages and finally at the top are the 17 Crus. Cotes du Rhone wines must contain at least 40% Grenache as their main grape, followed by a minimum of 15% from the secondary grapes: Syrah and Mourvedre.  Accessory grapes, such as Cinsault, can not provide more than 30% of the total.

The La Renjardière is a 300 acre+ vineyard, just north of Chateauneuf du Pape and the city of Orange. The vineyards reside on the right bank slopes of the Rhone with soils consisting of sand, clay and limestone with round pebbles which make walking without shoes difficult, but provide a wonderful assist for drainage. The vineyard’s Mediterranean climate has growing season temperatures ranging from the high 40s at night to the low 80s °F during the day.

The wine has a dark ruby-red color with a nice garnet rim. It exhibits a medium but distinct nose of  cherry and strawberries. The tongue tells me that plums and black fruits are nearby. Tannins are easy, acidity isn’t overpowering, or in other words a balanced, mild wine with a medium to long finish, reminiscent of a young woman with small, but invitingly round breasts. The wine should be good for a few more years.

A good everyday red at a good price.  Serve with cheese, lamb, or pork.  Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.

$12.99  wine.com

Michel Gassier Cercius Rouge 2013

W Cercius 2013Rhone Red Blends from Cotes du Rhone, Rhone, France

85% grenache

15% syrah

15.5% alcohol

Opened 7 Dec 2017

els 9.0/10

RP 91

Cercius, from the Latin term for a wind between north and west, is a delightful vieilles vignes (old vine) Cotes du Rhone blend from the Plateau de Domazan, located about 8 miles west of the Avignon; the 14th century Papal seat which was then part of the Kingdom of Arles within the Holy Roman Empire.

Wine was likely grown and produced in the Rhone Valley as far back as the 6th century BC, believed to have been established by either the Greeks or Persians, with the vineyards and wineries maintained until the end of the Roman Empire in the late 5th century AD. It wasn’t until the late Middle Ages when the Avignon papacy re-established the Rhone area vineyards and wineries, mostly for their own use, beginning with Pope Clement V around 1309.  The rest, as they say, is history.

The 80-year-old plus vines are nurtured by clayey limestone soils topped with a layer of pebbles which contend with blustery, northwest winds, traveling over and down the 6000 foot peaks and slopes of the Central Massif, blowing into the  Michel Gassier’s Rhone Valley vineyards, proudly defying Mother Nature’s blustery assault at 500 feet above sea level.  The growing season climate for the area provides for hot days above 80 degrees Fahrenheit and cool nights with temperatures dipping into the mid-40s to low 50s.  Rainfall averages 2.5-4 inches per month.

The grapes are hand harvested, destemmed, allowing natural yeast fermentation in concrete tanks for 6 months.

The wine exhibits a deep ruby-red color; a wonderful aroma of lilacs, violets and sweet fruits. It’s well-balanced and full-bodied and the finish is long and satisfying.

An outstanding wine. Decant and aerate for at least one hour.

$12.99  wine.com

 

Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot 2013

W St Michelle 2013Merlot from Columbia Valley, Washington

89% merlot

11% syrah

13.5% alcohol

Opened 14 Nov 2017

els 8.7/10

Wine Enthusiast 89

Chateau Ste. Michelle, the oldest winery in Washington, traces its beginnings back to the end of the prohibition era in the mid-1930s, with the formation of the Pomerelle Co. and the National Wine Company. These two companies merged in 1954 as the American Wine Co., and in 1967 initiated a premium line of wines known as Ste. Michelle. In 1972 a group of investors bought out the American Wine Company and renamed it Ste. Michelle Vintners. In 1974 the company was bought out by Altria. In 1976 Ste. Michelle Vintners built a French style winery, about 15-20 miles northeast of Seattle, in the Woodinville Tourist District, and changed its name to Chateau Ste. Michelle.

W Columbia Gorge

Columbia River Gorge by etliebe.

Today, Chateau Ste. Michelle consists of 2 wineries, the Chateau in Woodinville which makes the company’s white wines, and its reds are made at the Canoe Ridge Estate winery in Eastern Washington.  The vineyards on the Canoe Ridge Estate were planted in 1991 with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Syrah grapes on the steep sloping, arid hills of the Columbia River Gorge. The winery followed in 1993. One interesting aspect of this vineyard is that the grape varieties are grown from their own vinifera rootstock, apparently indifferent to the phylloxera aphid.

The alluvial soils of Canoe Ridge Estate are well-drained, thick Pleistocene cobblestone, sandy silts at approximately 900 feet above sea level, deposited on top of the eroded Miocene Columbia River Basalts.  The April through September growing season sees highs of about 90 and lows of 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  Rain is sparse, averaging from 0.2 to 0.75 inches per month during the growing season.  Hard freezes during the winter months are rare.

This wine has a clear garnet to ruby color, subtle aromas of strawberry and dark berries, with a touch of vanilla. A medium body with a medium finish. The tannins are smooth and easy. A nice wine but rather unadventurous, timid even.  Best served as a sipping wine along with small berries and nuts.

A good wine. Decant and aerate for at least one hour.

$16.99 wine.com

Gerard Bertrand Grand Terroir Les Aspres 2013

W Gerard 2013Rhone Red Blends from Languedoc-Roussillon, France

50% syrah

40% mourvedre

10% grenache

14.0% alcohol

Opened 3 Nov 2017

els 9.1/10

Wine Advocate 90-92

Gerard Bertrand, living a charmed life, grew up in the vineyards of southern France, a rugby union flanker for 10 years, captain of the team in 1993-1994, winemaker, owner and manager of 13 estates in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon; not exactly a Dickens’ Pip, but one who has reached heights of achievement likely unimagined by his father, Georges.

The vineyards for this Rhone Red are located in sun setting shadows of Mont Canigou, one of the lofty peaks of the Pyrenees along the French-Spanish border, 30 miles from the Mediterranean coast. The area around the mountain is known as Les Aspres, meaning arid in Catalan, forested at higher altitudes, barren scrublands occupying the lower, flatter altitudes.

Les Aspres, officially delimited, as a red wine only, viticultural area in 2004, is a sub-region of the Cotes du Roussillon appellation, in Languedoc-Roussillon, southern France. The Les Aspres label is reserved for Roussillon’s higher-quality red wines.

The land rises gently from the Mediterranean coast in the east to the Pyrenean foothills in the west. Most wineries and vineyards are located at altitudes around 330 feet. The climate for Les Aspres is definitively Mediterranean, with long, hot, dry summers; temperatures ranging from the low 80s during the day to the low 60s, Fahrenheit, at night; delivering rains of less than one inch per month from June through August. The

W Mount Canigou

Vineyards below Mount Canigou in France. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

poor soils within Gerard Bertrand’s Les Aspres vineyards are generally Tertiary, detrital and alluvial schists, ranging in size from pebbles to silt.

 

The Syrah and Mourvedre, the primary grape varieties, along with secondary grenache, are used to produce these rich, full-flavored Les Aspres wines. The area, recently, is undergoing a ‘wine revolution’; fine wines replacing the past production of sweet table wines.

This wine has a splendid garnet-brick color. The bouquet brings forth visions of plums, prunes and cloves. The acidity and tannins are smooth producing a full-bodied wine with a long finish.  Serve with lamb. Decant and aerate for at least one hour.

$16.99 wine.com

 

Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem 2014

W Bila HautRhone Red Blends from Languedoc-Roussillon, France

Proprietary blend of syrah, grenache, and carignan

14% alcohol

els 9.2/10

Wine Advocate 92

Wilfred Wong 91

Wine Spectator 90

Occultum Lapidem, in Latin, a hidden stone, wine birthed in the valleys and terraces on the northern flanks of the Pyrenees in southern France, about 25-30 miles from Catalan Spain, and 20-25 miles from the Gulf of Lion in the Mediterranean Sea, near the small villages of Latour and Lesquerde; not far from the path of Hannibal’s army and elephants around 218 BC, marching towards the heart of the Roman Empire. The Pyrenees’ rock layers, jumbled, and thrust together in towering, reaching for the heavens, jagged waves, by the cataclysmic joining of the Iberian peninsula subducting beneath southern France, supply the building blocks for the vineyards’ difficult and cantankerous soils.  The soils, composed of gnarled gneisses, and pressured schists, both from the Devonian (maybe Precambrian gneisses), along with Jurassic chalky carbonates, impart diverse and distinctive, but obviously, as noted below, delicious and enticing flavors to the wines.

This Rhone red blend has a dark garnet color, extolling pleasant aromas of blackberries, cherries and plums, spicy and full-bodied with very balanced tannins and acidity.  Beautiful finish.

An outstanding wine.

$26.99 wine.com

Baracchi O’lillo 2014

W Baracchi OlilloTuscan Red Blend from Tuscany, Italy
25% cabernet sauvignon
25% merlot
25% sangiovese
25% syrah
14.5% alcohol by volume

els 9.0/10

James Suckling 93

Wine Spectator 90

The Baracchi winery and vineyards are located on the southern, sunny slopes of the Apennine Mountains, in the eastern central area of Tuscany, just outside the stone walls of the ancient, small city of Cortona.

Legend has it that Cortona was originally established by Noah, shortly after the great flood; falling in love with the fertile soils and natural beauty of the area. Umbrians, Etruscans, Romans, Guelphs, Medici, Italians have all called Cortona theirs. The town, at approximately 1600 feet above sea level, overlooks Lake Trasimene, the setting for one of the Roman Empires great military defeats at the hands of Hannibal in 217 BC (Carnage and Culture, The Punic Wars).  When touring the Tuscany wine region this is a required stop to cherish and savor the legends, the history, the scenery, the food, and certainly, the wine.

The Baracchi Estate, winery and vineyards, a family business since 1860, is run by Riccardo and his son Benedetto, producing some of the best wines in the region. There are 4 vineyards sitting about 1000 feet above sea level, enjoying hot days, rising to the high 80s, and cool nights dipping down to the chilly low 50s. The rains, coming roughly once a week, deliver from 1.5 to 3 inches of water per month to the thirsty vines. The soils range from sandy to clayey and chalky. The wines are aged in French oak barrels.

This red blend is a brilliant ruby-red, redolent with red and black cherries and just a whisper of black pepper.  The tannins are about as smooth as a cloudless Mediterranean sky, with an enjoyable, hearty and long finish.

An outstanding wine.

$19.99 wine.com

Arnoux et Fils Vacqueyras Seigneur de Lauris 2012

W Vacqueyras 2012Rhone Red Blends from Vacqueyras AOC, Rhone Valley, France

70% grenache

30% syrah

14.0% alcohol

Purchased:  12 July 2017 – $19.99

Opened:  29 August 2017

els:  9.0/10

Vinous:  93

Stephan Tanzer: 93-91

The Wine Advocate:  90

 

Cellar Tracker:  88

Gilbert and Gaillard:  87

France is the 2nd largest producer of wine in the world, just behind Italy and  ahead of Spain, representing about 21% of the global wine market.  The country is responsible for creating some of the most recognizable old world wines on the planet, from the bubbly Champagnes in the cool north to world-class Bordeaux along the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers to the GSMs in the warm Mediterranean south. There are 17 major wine-producing regions in the country along with another 28 smaller areas, all growing 96 varieties of predominate grapes with Merlot and Grenache the most common. Reds account for almost 70% of the 2 million plus acres planted in vines, with whites accounting for the remainder. As with the other major European wine producers, France’s vineyard acreage has been shrinking over the last couple of decades due to less demand from their home population and increased market pressures from new world producers.

The Rhone Valley wine region of southern France, extending 155 miles along  both sides of the north-south river, situated between the Massif Central to the west and the Alps to the east, produces some of the truly great red blends in the world. The wineries in this valley have practiced and perfected their craft since the Greeks came to Massilia (modern Marseille) and planted their vines in the 4th century BC. The Romans, knowing a good thing when they see it, defended Massilia from the Gaul’s in the second century BC, protecting and expanding the Rhone wine trade throughout the Mediterranean. The wines, especially from the right bank of the Rhone, have been the favorites of kings and popes since the Latin and Greek Churches parted company in 1054. In the 14th century the Latin Popes set up residency on the right bank of the Rhone at Avignon and controlled the area until the 18th century, all the while extending and perfecting the local vineyards.  In the 20th century, Rhone wineries were instrumental in codifying French laws, AOCs, to regulate the type and quality of wines produced.

Today the Rhone Valley is France’s second largest wine-producing region of over 5300 growers and producers spread over 250 communes, containing 28 appellations, and growing 27 varieties of grapes. Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre red grapes are the most common by acreage planted. In 2016 the region produced 80 million gallons and sold 372 million bottles of wine, produced from 175,000 acres of vines. More than 80% of the wine produced is red. A little less than a third of that wine is exported, mainly to the UK, Belgium, and the US.

Vacqueyras AOC, located at the foot of  Dentelles de Montmirail, is 14 miles east of the Rhone, 8-9 miles east of Orange, and 60 miles north-northwest of Marseille. The AOC sits along the left-bank of the Ouveze River, a tributary of the Rhone. Vacqueyras’ history goes back to the Romans in the 2nd century BC with first written proof of wine making recorded in the 15th century AD tax rolls. In 1937, Vacqueyras was added to the Cotes du Rhone area. In 1955, it became a Cotes du Rhone Village. In 1967, it became a named Cotes du Rhone village. Finally, in 1990, it obtained its AOC status. The area has 3500 acres of planted vines with red grapes comprising 97% of all grapes grown. Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre account for 90% of all vines planted. The area produced 12,000 gallons of wine in 2016. The soils are generally alluvial and glacial, sandy-clay with pebbles. The area enjoys a Mediterranean climate with growing season temperatures ranging from 50-80°F and rainfall ranging from 2.0-2.75″ per month.

Grenache grapes likely originated in Aragon in north central Spain. It is the 7th most commonly grown grape in the world, planted on about 455,000 acres and producing about 4% of all harvested grapes. France is the largest grower of this grape followed by Spain and is the most common grape grown in the Rhone valley. The grape is used to produce single varietals and blends. A dark-blueish, large, thick-skinned grape that produces medium to full-bodied wines high in alcohol but with medium acidity and tannins.  It is high in dark fruit and spice flavors that mellow with age.

Syrah grapes were originally thought to have originated in Persia or Syria but recent DNA analyses has shown its roots to be in Savoy, a region at the junction of France, Switzerland, and Italy, and the Ardeche region on the eastern edge of the Rhone Valley.  The grape is the 6th most grown grape in the world, planted on about 460,000 acres and producing a little more than 4% of all harvested grapes. France is the largest producer of this grape and is used to produce single varietals and blends. A small to medium-sized grape, deep purple in color, producing full-bodied wines high in alcohol and acidity with medium tannins. The wines have flavors of red and black fruits, and spice.  The wine ages well, developing aromas of leather and licorice over time.

In 1717, the Count Francois de Castellanne, de Lauris, de Vassadel, de Gerard, Chevalier marquis of Ampuis, de Lagneroux, Vacqueyras, gave Pierre Bovis, an ancestor of the Arnoux family a vineyard. Fortunately he didn’t make Pierre name the vineyard after him. Today the estate is run by Marc and Jean-Francois. Arnoux et Fils’ winery, on the right bank of the Rhone River produces it blends from low yield vineyards as prescribed by AOC rules.

The family has 100 acres of vineyards at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail, loosely translated as lacy, adorable mountains. These mountains formed from late Mesozoic to present day tectonic uplift, causing the nearly vertical placement of the originally horizontal, Late Jurassic-Oxfordian fine-grained basinal carbonates. The carbonates are the source of the poor argillaceous, limestone soil mixed with round stones  of the winery’s vineyards. The vines are more than 50 years-old. As stated above the vineyards enjoy a Mediterranean climate with growing season temperatures ranging from 50-80°F and rainfall ranging from 2.0-2.75″ per month, with the vines and soil being kept cool and dry by the strong mistral winds coming out of the northwest.

The grapes were hand-picked, partially de-stemmed, and spent 15 days fermenting in vats. The wine is then aged 18 to 24 months in oak barrels, 2/3 new and 1/3 used.  The wine is partially aged in the winery’s underground cellar for 12 to 18 months.

This wine has beautiful clear garnet hues which just beg you to enjoy outside on a Willie Nelson “Uncloudy Day“. Powerful aromas meet your nose with hints of raspberry, currant, black cherry, and prunes.  Whispers of mushrooms and cloves add to this delightful fragrance of liquid comfort. The tannins are smooth and easy, providing a nice balanced finish now and for years to come.

Enjoy while nibbling on some small chunks of pungent goat cheese or make a meal of it and grill up a rib-eye. Smother your steak with a red wine, peppercorn sauce.  Start with a tablespoon of butter, the real stuff, 2-3 tablespoons of finely chopped onions, a tablespoon of crushed peppercorns, a sloppy tablespoon of cognac (optional), a half cup of red wine, a cup of beef stock, and a quarter cup of heavy cream. Cook the butter, onions, and peppercorns over medium heat until the onions are soft, less than 10 minutes. Add in the cognac and reduce to nothing. Add the wine and the beef stock, bringing to a boil, reducing everything by 2/3. Add in the cream and allow to thicken.  Salt to taste and serve over a hot, juicy steak.

An outstanding wine at an ok price. Drink this year but likely good until 2022-2027. Decant and aerate for one hour, or more, before drinking.

$19.99 Wine.com

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