name is famous in the region of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but it's the Perrin
brothers at Beaucastel who garner much of the attention for the region.
The Roger Perrin winery is a simple building, not a grand manor or
chateau. While the other Perrin's get all the fame and
attention from critics such as Robert Parker for their
"Beaucastel" wine, I've dubbed this Perrin's estate as "No
Roger Perrin domaine had been run by Luc Perrin. Sadly, Luc had been battling
cancer the past couple of years and passed away in August of 2010.
His wines have been routinely
good. They began bottling wine in the 1969 vintage, but the Perrins have
been growing grapes since the early 1900s. There are about 40-something
hectares of vines presently. About 15.5 hectares are in Châteauneuf-du-Pape,
20 are in the Côtes du Rhône and 7 are simply "vin de
Grenache is the predominant grape. There are various varieties, though,
planted throughout Perrin's holdings.
Perrin makes a range of wines. We've had delicious white and red Côtes du
Rhône wines and currently have his elegant and refined 2013 Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
It is drinkable now and will cellar well. The vintage is not one which
produced huge, deep wine, but there's a refinement to this wine which will
satisfy most tasters, save for those who've grown accustomed to 15+% alcohol
California wines. For those tasters, this will taste "light."
been fortunate to visit Perrin's estate a couple of times. The first time
he asked if we wanted to taste an older wine. Of course, "no" is
not in my lexicon, so Luc went off to find an unlabeled bottle. He opened
it and poured the wine, not telling us the vintage, but insisting we try to
guess. I took a sniff of its magnificent, truffley bouquet and a few
seconds later blurted out "1978!" It was, indeed, the 1978.
my second visit to this estate, we tasted all sorts of tank and barrel
samples. Again, Perrin asked if we'd like to try an older bottle. I
swirled the wine, inhaling the lovely bouquet and thought it's the 1981.
Perrin started talking about the vintage, noting "it was not particularly
fine..." I didn't want to be thrown off the track, so I said "I
think this is the 1981." Bingo!
Lucky guesses for me!!!
Anyway, Luc Perrin made delicious wine and his importer adds an honest mark-up,
so this wine arrives at an attractive price for consumers. The 2013
is a medium-bodied wine and it's quite drinkable now. It is not the
alcoholic fruit bomb so highly prized by some of the critics. Nor is
it out of balance and hugely tannic and astringent.
The Cotes du Rhone Blanc is a winner...It's got a healthy percentage of
Viognier, along with Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Marsanne. We have the
Luc passed away in late 2010...so we were unsure as to what
direction the domaine would take. Would the family sell off the
property? Or what?
We were most pleasantly surprised to visit in the Spring of 2011 and meet Luc's
It seems Veronique is an enologist in her own right and she
founded a prominent wine lab in the northern Rhone Valley many years ago.
She's well-respected by numerous prominent winemakers and she has taken over
running the family domaine in the southern Rhone.
Of course we're so sad about Luc, but it is great to see the winery and
vineyards are in the hands of a capable manager.
Currently in stock: 2013 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge $37.99
2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 375ml bottles Sold Out
2015 Cotes du Rhone Blanc $14.99
The late Luc Perrin in 2008...Nice hat!
This is a
very well-run estate featuring vineyards in the Tavel and Lirac
When we first visited the estate some years ago, we were driven around the
Tavel appellation by the very enthusiastic Christian Amido. He passed
away not long ago, but his spirit lives on as the winery is run by his
daughter, grand-daughter Amandine and Amandine's beau, winemaker Antoine
Amido was especially proud of their vineyards and the rather rugged terroir
from which his wines were born.
We've been especially fond of the Amido Tavel Rosé, a dry, deep
Grenache Rose and we've enjoyed the challenge of helping taste various
tanks in the winter to assemble just the 'right' blend.
Tavel was the first appellation in France for a rosé wine and it still
remains the "top dog" for many connoisseurs of pink wine.
It was supposedly a favorite of Louis XIV in the late 1600s and Philip
"Le Bel" in the late 1200s and early 1300s...and here we are,
centuries later and still finding Tavel to be a worthy wine.
We currently have the 2015 Tavel in stock and it's delicious! Lots
of berry notes and ripe, fresh fruits. Dry. Of course.
Amido also produces a really lovely Lirac. Old vine Grenache is
the base of this wine, with Syrah and Mourvèdre. It's bottled
without being wood aged and the wine displays lots of fruit, berry and
spice notes. It's usually a good value and hard to beat in the range
of Southern Rhône reds...
Currently in stock: 2015 Tavel Rosé $14.99
2014 Lirac $15.99
Antoine, importer Charles Neal and Amandine.
vigneron from Burgundy was vacationing in Provence some years ago and was
biking around the southern Rhône with his grand-kids.
He was enchanted by this property and ended up purchasing it as a vacation
home. Hard to believe if one lived in Burgundy, they'd want to
leave, but perhaps one does tire of drinking great Chardonnay and Pinot
Today the La Cabotte estate is run by Marie-Pierre d'Ardhuy-Plumet
together with her husband Eric Plumet.
We visited the estate a number of years ago and found the wines to be
perfectly standard and well-made, if a bit unexciting. We've noticed
a dramatic improvement in the wines over the past few vintages and the
past few vintages have been truly "serious."
The Grenache in the 2014 vintage contributes a wonderful berry
note and a mild spice tone. We understand there's a small percentage of
Syrah here and perhaps Cinsault and Carignane.
Whatever the blend, they've nailed it and you'll have trouble finding a more
soulful ten-buck bottle of red wine. Don't miss this, as it's a good
follow-up to the well-received previous 9 or 10 vintages.
Currently in stock: 2014 LA CABOTTE Côtes du Rhône
CAVE DE CHANTE PERDRIX
Verzier family has lived in the Northern Rhone village (if you want to
call it a village) of Chavanay since the early 1800s. Their estate
should not be confused with the Southern Rhone Chante Perdrix in
It's run by Philippe Verzier, a 40+ year old fellow who qualifies, in our
view, as an "old timer." That's because he's been making
wine for more than half his life, vinifying his first crop in 1988!
Philippe's father had cultivated the property using organic farming
principles, not as a selling point, but simply because he felt that was
the best way to grow grapes. Dad also grew grain and fruit (aside
from grapes) and sold his Syrah to a local grower's cooperative. Philippe's
Pop, though, passed away suddenly as a result of a heart attack and so
Verzier found himself suddenly confronted with the impending 1988
harvest. What to do? Sell the grapes to the co-op or make
He chose the latter route and today the domain has holdings in Condrieu,
St. Joseph and a patch of Syrah just outside the St. Joseph appellation
which takes a "Vin de Pays" designation.
Philippe Verzier in the cellar...
On a visit to the cellar many years ago, I saw a funny-looking wine tank
and inquired about its contents. Philippe said it was merely a
"Vin de Pays," coming from vineyards he owned which were near
the cellar, but outside the delimited area of Saint-Joseph. We had a
taste and it was a lovely, fruity, simple wine. It was a bit like
Beaujolais, but had the character of Syrah.
Monsieur Verzier's importer brings us some most vintages. We
currently have the 2010, a deeply-colored wine teeming with berry fruit
and some of the green olive-like notes of youthful Northern Rhone
Syrah. We are able to offer it for a price less than cru
Beaujolais. In tasting numerous California Syrahs from small
wineries, we've found few which capture the character of the Rhone
Valley...and none the price of this baby. Don't except a wine of
Cote-Rotie complexity, but if you appreciate the character of Syrah from
Cote-Rotie, Hermitage, Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage and you're
capable of enjoying a simple, easy-drinkin' version, you might be
pleasantly surprised by what you find here. We currently have
the 2010 vintage and it's delicious!
is a tremendous appellation and a very prestigious wine these
days. Years ago, hardly anyone outside of the Northern Rhone paid
any attention to Condrieu and its lovely wines made of the Viognier
Philippe actually lives just above his Condrieu vineyards and he produces
a tiny amount of a rather nice example. The sub-soil is granite, in
case you're taking notes.
We have a few other bottlings in the shop in which the oak barrels play a
great role, but Verzier's wine, though a percentage is matured in wood,
tastes purely of the grape.
The 2010 just arrived and it's dry and nicely crisp. It's not as big
a Viognier as those with all the wood, but still displays good varietal
character. If you're having some prawns, crab or lobster, this might
be just the ticket!
2009 Saint-Joseph is exceptional and worthy of comparison with
names such as Graillot, Combier, Gonon and the like. It's a fine
bottle of Syrah, coming from 20 year old vines. He de-stems about
70% of the fruit, leaving some stems in the fermentation tank. The
wine is dark in color and has a wonderfully Syrah-like fragrance with
notes of blackberries, herbs, underbrush and some spice. It's a
great partner for lamb, duck or well-seasoned stews, etc.
Currently in stock: 2010 CHANTE-PERDRIX Vin de Pays
SYRAH Sold Out
2009 CHANTE-PERDRIX Saint Joseph "Empreinte" Sold Out
2010 CHANTE-PERDRIX Condrieu "Authentique" Sold Out
DOMAINE DU JONCIER
so many French wineries which claim to have a history dating back several
centuries, the Joncier estate is fairly new.
It was founded in the 1960s by Pierre Roussel and today his daughter Marine
runs the place. Winemaking wasn't in her blood, though,
initially. She actually worked as a graphic artist before finally
deciding her creative talents might be put to good use by managing the
family vineyard and cellar in the Southern Rhone town of Lirac.
We found her 2010 Lirac, dubbed "Le Classique" to be, well,
classic. It's a terrific blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre with a
dollop of Cinsault and Carignan. The wine is fairly dark in color and
the Southern Rhone spice notes are a delight showing berries, a touch of
pepper and a faintly earthy note.
If dinner features some sort of lamb dish, this will be a fine
Currently in stock: 2010 DOMAINE DU JONCIER LIRAC$21.99
DOMAINE du PEGAU
We had a memorable visit with the charming Laurence
Feraud, stopping in unannounced one
warm spring afternoon. This 32 acre property has parcels in three different areas of
Châteauneuf-du-Pape, with many old vines, some dating back to the turn of the century.
The winemaking is very traditional. They don't use much sulfur and they
supposedly do not fine nor filter their wines. The wines are matured in old, huge
wooden vats or foudres. Though the property is rather old and Monsieur
Feraud has been making wines for years, they used to sell most of the production to
With the help of his daughter, Pegau now bottles its own production.
We have had many vintages of Pegau and find the wines to be consistently good.
The "normal" bottling of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is often our favorite.
The special bottlings, such as Cuvée Laurence, are bigger, more
intense and alcoholic wines. Showy? Sure. Better? Not necessarily.
The 2012 regular bottling is medium-full bodied Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
We've encountered a mildly spicy quality in this wine and there's a faintly
gamey note, too. It's the sort of wine which pairs handsomely with
lamb or duck. Decanting it and allowing it to breathe for an hour or
two is a good idea.
Currently in stock: 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape
(list $90) Sale $74.99
CHATEAU DE LA GARDINE
by the Brunel family. Chateau de la Gardine had long been brought to the Bay Area by an
old-time San Francisco importer. Now they have a national import
company working with their wines.
I always thought the bottle to be curious...it's not the
typical Châteauneuf-du-Pape bottle, but similarly it is embossed and comes in a very
odd-shaped flagon. These don't fit easily on a wine rack or stack in a display box,
bottle-on-bottle. Anyway, it's what's inside which counts and they usually have done a
pretty nice job. The wine which gets the attention of those needing to pay more attention
is called Cuvée des Generations, a higher alcohol red which sees all new oak. The
so-called "normal" wine is made to drink
The Brunels do not vinify the various
red varietals separately, instead harvesting the vineyard by "maturity". When
"it's" ready, the grapes, de-stemmed for the most part, go into the
crusher/de-stemmer and are fermented. The Brunels seem to prefer a wine with a more
supple, softer, silkier texture. However, they employ a technique of extended maceration,
sometimes as long as three weeks!
We currently have the 2012 vintage. This seems to be
"typical" Chateau de la Gardine...mildly spicy, berryish and with
a nice hint of pepper and ripe fruit. It's got lots of spice notes and
is fairly big. Very fine and it ought to cellar nicely for another 5-10
They make a special bottling in selected vintages called
"Generations." This is a wine matured in small, new French
oak barrels, so it's fairly woodsy and cedary at this stage. It will
be interesting to watch this wine mature over the next decade, or
2012 Chateauneuf-du-Pape $44.99
acres property is owned by Yves Cheron. You'll see the "Montmirail"
name on a number of Gigondas estates and this is done to keep American wine
drinkers thoroughly confused. This estate's wines, though,
arrive at a reasonable price and the several vintages we've had in the
shop have routinely been popular enough that we see customers start with
one bottle and return for 6.
Inside the cellar.
The spectacular Dentelles de Montmirail.
The pebbly soil allows for good drainage and forces the root
system of the vine to plunge deep into the earth.
Making a blend.
This bottling is named "Les DeuxJuliettes," after
the daughters named Juliette of Monsieur Cheron and importer Charles
Neal. Old vine Grenache (if 40-50 year old vines qualify for this
designation) accounts for 80% of the blend. The balance is 15% Syrah
and 5% Mourvèdre. The current vintage, 2013, is exceptionally drinkable,
showing lots of typical berry and spice notes.
Medium-full-bodied. It will cellar well for another 3-5 years (at
least), but it's so good now...we're not waiting!
The 2010 Vacqueyras is the "usual" Yves Cheron wine: supple
tannins and a medium-bodied red with some dark fruits and a hint of berry
and spice. It's not a complex Rhone wine, but it is a satisfying
accompaniment to stews, daubes, grilled lamb, etc.
Currently in stock: 2013 Gigondas "Les Deux Juliettes"
2010 Vacqueyras $18.99
DOMAINE LE SANG DES CAILLOUX
Sang des Cailloux estate was a small domaine run by the Ricard
brothers. In 1979, Serge Ferigoule was hired to help in
the vineyards and cellar and he ended up taking over the domaine in
A new cellar was built in 2001 and many experts view this
property as a reference point for the Vacqueyras appellation.
The vineyards have long been cultivated in an environmentally-friendly
fashion and they recently obtained certification as a
The winemaking is rather traditional and low-tech. No fining or
filtering for the red wines, which are matured, typically, in puncheons
and large wood tanks. If you're looking for modern Rhone wine with a
lot of cedary oak, this ain't the place!
Monsieur Ferigoule names his wines after one of his three daughters.
The 2009 "traditional" bottling is called Azalaïs. The
wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% split between Mourvèdre
and Cinsault. It's a fairly hefty red and one which compares
favorably to a lot of more costly Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines.
The 2009 is drinkable now with well-seasoned meats, especially.
Using a lots of "herbes de Provence" seasoning with lamb will
make for a memorable food and wine pairing. But this vintage can
probably be cellared nicely for another 5-10 years, so setting a few
bottles aside for further development would be a good idea.
Currently in stock: 2009 SANG DES CAILLOUX Vacqueyras $28.99 (last
Cave de Rasteau was founded in 1925, making it one of the oldest grower's
cooperative cellars in the Rhône Valley.
The town of Rasteau produces really exceptional Côtes du Rhône wines and
we've found, thanks to our friend Valerie Aigron (she now works in the
export department of the winery) a really nice, simply, satisfying and
The 2014 Côtes du Rhône under their "Ortas" label is deep in
color and displays lots of berries and spice. Grenache based and the
wine shows the berry and spice of Grenache. The wine is not especially
complex, being easy-to-drink and not requiring much cellaring.
This is a nice wine to pair with lamb, whether you're grilling chops or
braising shanks, here's a lovely accompaniment. While local vintners
here in California are proud to offer Grenache-based blends for $20-$50,
here's the real thing for a mere ten bucks.
Valerie Aigron, formerly of the Cave de Rasteau
Currently in stock: 2014 ORTAS CÔTES DU
RHONE SALE $9.99