As a wine writer, one of the most exciting things is to taste wines from producers that am unfamiliar with, and that I have no bias or previous information for. Coming to a wine with a fresh perspective gives me to ability to focus on what I taste, and feel, vs what I remember or think I should expect. Enter Domaine Montirius. This small, family run vineyard is a relatively recent entry in to the Rhône; founded 26 years ago by Eric and Christine Saurel, it is now a true family business. Certified bio-dynamic since 1999, the Saurels are dedicated to pursuing balance in the vineyard, and in the wines, and to find the perfect expression of the land in those wines. In the practice of biodynamics, it’s important to “observe, feel, listen to and taste, repeatedly, and to act on different clues in the environment. The idiosyncrasies of Mother Nature create a natural rhythm to the winemaking process. The 2011 Montirius Mineral Vacqueyras is an unusual blend of 50% Bouboulenc, 25% Grenache Blanc, and 25% Roussane. You might be wondering about Bouboulenc, as its one of the more obscure white Rhône varietals. It’s a hearty grape, and tends to resist weather and pests, but s a forgotten variety for the most part until the Surels re-planted it in 1994. A late ripener, it requires patience and tenderness, but yields a minerality and brightness. The grapes were hand harvested and fermented whole cluster. Aged without oak, there is a texturally intense fresh white wine. Strong notes of ginger and grapefruit peel, with tropical mango and green apple to follow. The palate is reminiscent of a baked apple, with the spice cabinet making a bold appearance. This wine is perfect for meatier fish, chicken, and even pork. When I first tasted this wine, I anticipated the retail at $35+. Even at that price, I think there is excellent QPR. However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn it is only $22! This is a wine to run out and stock up on, as it will certainly be my summer sipper as we slip in to warmer weather. Thank you to the Teuwen Communications team for helpng me find the undiscovered and unusual Rhône Valley wines!
It’s Thursday, and I”m back in Paso Robles for Hospice du Rhone, the annual extravaganza showcasing the 22 Rhone Varietals from around the world. Since the first event didn’t kick off until that evening, we had some free time to visit a few favorite wineries – starting with Tablas Creek. Tablas Creek Vineyard was founded in 1989, as a partnership between the Perrin family of Chatau de Beaucastel and Rover Hass, who founded Vineyard Brands. Having a shared vision of creating Rhone wines in California,they set about creating a New World Rhone house. Today, Robert’s son Jason showed us around he property which boasts a spanking new tasting room, complete with cork floors (can I have some in MY house? Seriously noise cancelling comfort at its best) and several tasting areas that are easiy divdied up for differnet groups, or opened up for a community feeling. The first wines of Tablas Creek were created in 1997 when the Estate Winery was completed. On this day, we toured the property, examined the new tasting room, and…well, drank some wine. With a wet wet wet 2010-11 growing season under way, Tablas – and most of Paso Robles- has seen a lot of rain. In a place where a typical year sees 28 inches of rain, so far (and this was in April) they have seen 36 inches. Tablas Creek is dry farmed, and with this kind of rain and whacky snow, sleet and frost, there has been some damage to the vines recently. Fortunately, most of the crop was saved, and there will be wine to show for it. What will this year’s weather do? Who knows. Stay tuned, I’ll take up the cause and go taste the wines every season. I’m a giver that way. Each parcel on the property is hand picked to ripeness, meanng that there might be several passes on a row before all the bunches are harvested. Another highlight of Tablas is that they use 100% Native Yeast, and do not innocolate with commerical yeastes. It’s my personal belief that this gives much more character to a wine, and lets the fruit develop the beauty of the juice without overmanipulating it and turning it in to a Frankenwine. Our first taste on the warm spring day was the 2010 Verminto. It was bright and crisp, with lot fo honey and stone fruit. The minerals clung to the glass with a burst of tangerine that I just love. A new line for Tablas Creek is the Patelin de Tables. Launcehd in 2010, the white is based on Grenache Blanc, (see my passion ofr this wine HERE), and the red is based on Syrah. This is a ncie counterpart to the Esprit de Beaucastel line, which are based on Roussanne and Mouvedre. The Patelin de Tables Blanc had crisp pears, and green apple and was fresh and bright. I loved this wine, and could easily sip this on the patio for days. Next up the 2010 Côtes de Tablas Blanc, […]