Wines To Drink Now: RHONE RANGERS

saint_cosme_cotes_du_rhone_rouge_2012To me the most useful notes are on the wines I can walk into a store and buy right now. These are available wines that go with the kinds of food I’m eating at that time of year. With our current dose of cold weather, I’ve been eating my share of braised meats. Since nothing goes better with braised meat than the Rhone blends, here are several of my favorites selected from the Rhone Range. Being an equal opportunity imbiber, these picks represent France (the Rhone), Spain (the origin of Grenache), Australia (G-S-M anyone?), and the USA (Paso Robles is the New Rhone Range). Prices range from everyday to the top of the weekend range but all these picks offer a great bang for the buck at their respective price points. And all of these are wines I have drunk (as opposed to just tasted) in the last month.

SAINT COSME, Cotes du Rhone, 2012 ($12.99)
A ripe 14.5% alcohol, 100% Syrah fermented and aged in a mix of concrete and stainless steel tanks at the winery in Gigondas.    Red-purple in color with well-formed legs; dry, medium full-bodied with balanced acidity and medium-chewy phenolics.  Supple, fresh, juicy, mostly black fruit Cotes du Rhone offering notes of coffee and black pepper and a hint of garrigue. Easy to drink and like. Rich, warming, satisfying. Great everyday red to go with braised meats and other cool weather favorites. BS: 90+.CabasseDASablet

Domaine de CABASSE “Les Deux Anges”, Cotes du Rhone Villages – Sablet, 2012 ($11.39)
A 13% alcohol  blend of 70% Grenache, 27% Syrah, and 3% Carignan fermented and aged in a mix of concrete and stainless steel tanks.      Red-violet in color with well-formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with balanced acidity and medium-chewy phenolics.  Spicy fresh, lovely elegant, dark red cherry berry (even strawberry) fruit with spice and mineral and just a bit of garrigue. Pure, precise, pretty. YUM. Great wine for cooler weather and the braised and roasted meats that go with it. BS: 90+.

gr174CASA GRAN del SIURANA (Castillo Perelada) GR-174, Priorat, 2012 ($14.99)
A 15% alcohol blend of 40% Grenache, 30% Carignan, and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 5 months in all oak French barrels (no new barrels).   Sensory: Purple red in color with well formed legs; dry, full-bodied with softly balanced acidity and medium chewy phenolics.  Rich but bright dark red and some black fruit. Supple feel. Rich in the mouth. Juicy and supple but still shows the graphite and a bit of garrigue. Utterly delicious. BS: 92.

StrapperYALUMBA “The Strapper” Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre (GSM), Barossa, 2011 ($17.99)
A 14.1% alcohol blend of 48% Grenache, 47% Shiraz, 5% Mataro picked separately and fermented in small batches – some in oak vats and some in stainless steel – and then aged in a mixture of all seasoned large oak vats, small oak vats, puncheons, and smaller oak barrels, to allow the wines to develop without the influence of a lot of new oak. Made to be suitable for vegans and vegetarians.     Sensory: Purple-red in color with well-formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly-balanced acidity; medium-chewy phenolics.  Supple and rich but still lively. Dark red spicy raspberry and strawberry fruit. Some earth and notes of black and white pepper with a hint of black fruit in the background. YUM. Satisfying and delicious. The Mourvedre is there more as texture than flavor. Perfect with a braise or a barbecue. Or a movie night snuggle on the couch. BS: 91. (In Australian horse racing parlance, the “strapper” is the person who tacks up – straps the saddle on –  the horse.)

TresVioletCALCAREOUS Tres Violet, Paso Robles, 2009 ($33.59)
A 15.4% alcohol blend of 36% Mourvedre, 34% Syrah, and 30% Grenache (all cropped under 2 tons per acre) aged 28 months in all French oak barrels (50% new).     Purple-violet in color with well formed legs; dry, full-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and medium-chewy phenolics.  Rich and Rhoney. Hits the “Paso sweet spot” as well as anything. Yes there is Violet to go with the juicy, almost sweet, succulent red and black fruit. Has a nice mix of earth and spice and floral. Elegant and perfumed. YUM! A party in the mouth. BS: 93.

CalcareousMooseCALCAREOUS “The Moose,” Paso Robles, 2010 ($33.99)
A 15.4% alcohol blend of 89% Syrah and 11% Petite Verdot aged 28 months in all French oak barrels; (55% new).   Rich purple in color with well formed legs; dry, full-bodied with fresh enough acidity and chewy phenolics.  Supple and delicious. Fine mix of bright but darker, still juicy fruit with dusty earth and supple sweet oak. Rollicking big red with exuberant fruit and a lovely fresh perfume. Yum. BS: 92.

PLEASE check the EVENTS PAGE for the annual 2011 CRU CLASSÉ BORDEAUX TASTING on January 21st at the Crystal Ballroom at the Rice.

WINE of the WEEK – Domaine CABIRAU La Bonte des Amis Grenache, VdP Cotes Catalanes, 2007

From the personal 13.5 acre Roussilon domaine owned by Hand Picked Selections founder and president Dan Kravitz. Located in the village of Maury, it is planted entirely to Grenache and is comprised of 12 almost-contiguous parcels on a high stony hill just below the old Cathar fortress of Queribus. 10 acres are planted with 20-25 year-old vines, with the remaining vines averaging more than 60 years old. This cuvee is named “LA BONTÉ DES AMIS” (“the kindness of friends”) after Kravitz’ friends Pascal Dieunidou and Jacques Castany (of Domaine de l’Edre), who vinified this old-vines Grenache.

Domaine CABIRAU “La Bonte des Amis” Grenache, VdP Cotes Catalanes, 2007
Tech Note: 14.5% Alcohol. 100% old-vine (over 60 years) Grenache farmed at 1.07 tons per acre and fermented for 35 days on skins with 2 punchdowns daily. It was aged in Concrete tanks and saw no oak. (If this wine included 20% Syrah and 10% other non-Grenache traditional varieties – Carignan, Cinsault, Mourvedre, etc. – it could be labeled Cotes de Roussillon but, as it does not, must be labeled Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes.)    Sensory Note: Medium purple in color with well formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with balanced acidity and moderately chewy phenolics. Supple, lively fresh juicy ripe Grenache with lots of black and some red fruit. Offers some garrigue, black pepper, and earth with just enough rusticity.    Bear Note: This is perfect with such wintery foods as praised lamb shanks or beef short ribs and rich stews from beef (such as Bouef Bourguignon), lamb, game, or fowl. It also pairs well with a rich, developed Bolognaise sauce. For summer use, serve it cooler with a mixed grill. BS: 94. ($26.00)