Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Rhone Valley vs. Paso Robles...

Wines of the night. Missing Seven Angels 'Chosen One'
Last month, the Goddess of Wine was challenged to compare Bordeaux to Paso; this month the challenge was the Rhone Valley vs. Paso. It was fun!

The Rhône Valley was created during the last ice age as the Rhône Glacier carved its way south through what is now France. Today, the Rhône River begins in the Alps and meanders for 505 miles to the Mediterranean Sea.

THE NORTHERN RHONE is only 40 miles long and is responsible for a tiny 4-5% of all the wines from the region. The climate is ‘Continental’ – hot summers, cold winters and precipitation throughout the year. Probably the most notable feature is the steepness of the hillsides. The vineyards are terraced to keep the soil from eroding, retain the warmth of the sun and make life a little easier for the vineyard workers! 

This is the birthplace of modern Syrah and where many wine lovers find it reaches its height of expression – full bodied, savory, and elegant.

THE SOUTHERN RHONE - As the Rhône River progresses southward, the valley widens and the climate changes. The region is distinctly more ‘Provençal’ with a Mediterranean influence in culture and climate. The summers are long and warm and the winters are mild; rainfall is less than in the north and the famous Mistral Wind is a major player. Another unique characteristic of these wines are the nuances of garrigue – the wild resinous herbs that cover the landscape.

If Syrah is the big boy of the North, Grenache is the King in the South and forms the foundation of the area’s popular blends. You’ll also encounter Mourvedre, Cinsault, Counoise, Carignan, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Clairette, Bourboulenc, and more.

Here are the wines we tasted:

Wine #1 – 2017 Ferraton Pere & Fils, Samorëns”, Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc, France – 60% Grenache Blanc/40% Clairette Blanche. Grown in mainly clay-limestone soils; fermentation temperatures are controlled, and there is no malolactic conversion. Bright, pale gold color. Aromas of white flowers and stone fruits lead to a nicely balanced, slightly tropical palate. The Clairette brings freshness and the Grenache Blanc creates body and softness.

Wine #2 – 2017 Copia Vineyards White Wine, Willow Creek District, Paso Robles – 85% Grenache Blanc/15% Viognier. Compostella & Denner Vineyards, 100% destemmed. Fermented and aged 6 months in neutral French oak. 14.8% Alc. 95 cases made. Owners Varinder Sahi and Anita Kothari first visited Paso Robles in the winter of 2015 as part of an educational tour, and decided they had to be there to make wine. Currently producing 450 cases of wine using sourced fruit, mostly Rhône inspired and from the Willow Creek and Adelaida Districts, and Edna Valley.

Wine #3 – 2017 Michel Chapoutier, Les Vignes de Bila Haut Rosé, IGP Pays d’Oc, France – While not actually in the Southern Rhone, we liked this wine enough to fudge the borders of the region. Medium-intensity salmon in color, this wine has an aromatic nose of red plum, rose petal, strawberry, orange-citrus peel and blossom. On the palate the dry, medium-bodied rosé presents bright, fruit-and-floral flavors suggested on the nose, supported by medium acidity and additional notes of lemon citrus. Pays d’Oc is the IGP title for red, white and rosé wines that are made in a large area on the southern coast of France. The area for the IGP corresponds roughly to the Languedoc-Roussillon wine region – one of the largest winegrowing areas in France.

Wine #4 – 2018 Ranchero Cellars ‘Galaxie’ Rosé, Paso Robles – 100% Carignane. Amy Butler is making some amazing Rhone-style wines with fruit sourced in Paso. Winemaker’s notes: With its pinkish melon color and citrusy nose, this wine sets itself apart from fruit-punch rosés and sweet blushes. It’s tinged with aromas of heirloom melon, lemongrass and lush mandarin. Carignan expresses itself here with a surprising zestiness and crushed white raspberry on the palate. The sophisticated finish shows a grippy texture with a lingering note of hibiscus flower.

Wine #5 – 2015 Ferraton Père et Fils "Les Calendes" Crozes-Hermitage, France – 92-94 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: The 2015 Crozes Hermitage Les Calendes (100% Syrah, destemmed and aged in concrete) offers lots of graphite and minerality, as well as full-bodied richness, a thick, unctuous texture, present tannin and a great finish. Again, the value here is about as good as it gets. At the moment, all of the Crozes Hermitage releases share a lot of similarities, but I’m sure they’ll show more singular characters with additional time in barrel. The quality (and number of cuvées) from this estate continues to soar, and this is easily the finest lineup up of wines I’ve tasted from this team. (JD) (12/2016)

Wine #6 – 2014 MCV Syrah, Paso Robles – Extremely ripe and approachable on the nose, this lush bottling shows lots of barrel-derived scents, from caramel, vanilla, and pound cake to brown sugar and maple. It's soft and luscious with caramel-laced dessert qualities on the palate, certain to make a strong impression, albeit it with noticeable sweetness. Winemaker Matt Villard has been making wines – concentrating on Petite Sirah – for several years now, and I think there is a significant percentage of Petite Sirah in this wine.

Wine #7 - 2016 Domaine Condorcet Cru du Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France – 60% Grenache/20% Syrah/15% Cinsault/5% Mourvèdre. Intense, deep ruby color. Complex nose, notes of ripe red fruits and sweet spices. On the palate, spicy notes of licorice, pepper, cinnamon, plus dark fruit. Fine tannins end on a long and elegant finish. Aged in concrete. OMG.

Wine #8 – 2015 Seven Angels Cellars “Chosen One”, Paso Robles – 55% Mourvedre/29% Grenache/16% Syrah. 28 months in (50% new) French and Russian Oak. Nose of ripe berries and spice.  Flavors suggest ripe dark cherries and a hint of cedar.  A smooth finish. 14.3% Alcohol / 167 Cases

Interestingly, this group of tasters - most of whom drink mainly Paso region wines - were uniformly impressed with the French wines, and agreed that, while all the wines showed extremely well, the Rhone took the night.

Thanks to all who participated! Next month we'll taste some Spanish varieties! Save the date - August 12th at 7 PM! Hope to see you there!


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