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We're proud to offer new arrivals from two unique estates in the Northern Rhône that are producing outstanding wines of terroir through old-fashioned vinifications and long-time organic and Biodynamic farming. (Wines arrive Wednesday, 7/22)
Directly above the town of Condrieu, just north of the Coteau de Vernon (across the Arbuel river) are the dramatic almost unworkable steep slopes of the Côte Bonnette. Here, Isabelle Guiller and her husband Henri Montabonnet, who had grown organic fruits and vegetables since 1970, created the Clos de la Bonnette. They carefully replanted abandoned vineyards that had never seen chemical treatments and made their first wines in 2009. Organic work on the côteaux is incredibly difficult - as horse or tractor work on the steep, narrow terraces is impossible the family adapted an artisanal tool that enables them to plow slightly without breaking the structure of the ground and preserving the life of the soil. Treatments against mildew are totally natural with minimal use of copper sulfate. This is certainly among the best farming in the Northern Rhone.
The estate's principal wine is the Condrieu "Legende Bonnetta" from their oldest vines grown on the "Côte Bonnette." While possessing the fine aromatics of Condrieu terroir in vineyards such as "Coteau Vernon" and "Chery," the wine shows more structure and depth than is normally found in even the best Condrieu and should ideally be cellared a few years before drinking - the wine is highly recommended! The domain makes a Vin de Pays Syrah that is extraordinary in 2018 - 2/3 from 40 to 70 year-old vines above Côte-Rôtie "Tartaras" on schist and clay soils over granit, 1/3 from below Côte-Rôtie "Tupin" on alluvial soils. It's really a beautiful wine, showing the lush ripeness of the 2018 vintage but retaining the bright subtle fruit of a good Côte-Rôtie. Also on offer today is a new version of their VDP "Cisselande" a delicious Syrah from the South, made with organic grapes grown by a friend in Suzette, near Beaume-de-Venise - and coming soon are two Côte-Rôties from tiny parcels in organic farming in "Tupin" and "Prenelle."
Our last shipment from Véronique and Philippe Grenier at the Domaine des Amphores in Chavanay sold out almost immediately, and it's no wonder, as these are delicious, honest wines of terroir from the Northern Rhône at very reasonable prices! Certified organic since their beginning in 1992, and since 2016 all the wines are Demeter certified for Biodynamic farming as well. The 2018s here are sensational wines with vibrant fruit framed in fresh acidity which will provide fabulous current drinking, and the Saint-Josephs and Condrieu will benefit from medium-term cellaring as well. New and noteworthy in this shipment: The 2018 Saint-Joseph Rouge "Les Mesanges" made from 40 to 50 year-old Syrah vines on biotite granite soils in the vineyards of "Pecher" and "Vauturerie" at Chavanay, 30 - 40% whole cluster, aged 18 months in 600 liter barrels; the 2019 Vin de France "Mornen Noir" - a grape apparently native to the area between the Rhone and Loire rivers south of Lyon, the Greniers and a few other growers in Chavanay are once again making wine from this ancient variety. Possibly related to Chasselas and/or Mondeuse, the grapes yield a bright vibrant wine with black fruit flavors and low alcohol. There are 60 bottles of this rare juice available for the US, guaranteed to stump your Master Somm friends in a blind tasting; the 2019 IGP Syrah des Collines Rhodaniennes - perhaps even better than the voluptuous 2018, this vintage shows a bit more concentration and structure due to lower yields, while retaining the beautiful freshness always found in this cuvée.
It's a great pleasure to work with the hard-working Grenier family whose wines are a delicious expression of their granit-based terroirs and their superb organic/biodynamic farming!
From 100% Syrah in Chavanay, just outside the Saint-Joseph zone, tended organically since planting, in the early 90's, and now Biodynamic as well. The 2019 "Les Iris" Syrah is similar to the exuberant 2018 but perhaps a bit brighter and with a bit more concentration and depth. The wine shows cool aromas of blackberry and blueberry with hints of stone, mint, smoke and violet, quite fresh and pretty. The palate is dense and elegant, with cool acidity and well-structured blackberry and black raspberry fruit, with a fresh earthy finish with mineral, citrus and ripe red and black fruit flavors. Terrific length and depth for a wine at this price. This is a very versatile wine to serve cool with grilled chicken, pork and full-flavored cheeses or to sip by itself, slightly chilled. It's an authentic and delicious wine and a great value! David Lillie
And now for something completely different... While tasting at Domaine des Amphores with Philippe and Véronique Grenier last winter we noticed a small barrel with "Mornen Noir" scrawled on the front in chalk. A grape apparently native to the area between the Rhone and Loire rivers south of Lyon, it had been grown by Philippe's grandfather Louis - now the Greniers and a few other growers in Chavanay are once again making wine from this ancient variety. Possibly related to Chasselas and/or Mondeuse, the grapes yield a bright vibrant wine with black fruit flavors and low alcohol. The 2019 is quite Syrah-like showing vibrant aromas of blackberry and blueberry with violet and stone. The palate is a bit lighter than a Syrah, and very mineral, with bright flavors of blackberry and red currant that blend nicely with earth, licorice and stone flavors in the sapid finish. Beautiful wine! We've just received 60 more bottles of this rare juice, guaranteed to stump your sommelier friends in a blind tasting. David Lillie
"Les Mesanges" is a cuvée of Saint-Joseph made from 40 to 50 year-old organic Syrah vines on biotite granite soils in the vineyards of "Pecher" and "Vauturerie" at Chavanay, 30 - 40% whole cluster, aged 18 months in 600 liter barrels, 25% new, 75% 5 to 8 year-old. This is the most structured and age-worthy of the Domaine des Amphores Saint-Josephs and is a lusher more forward wine than usual in this excellent vintage. The 2018 will benefit from a few years of aging, and needs a bit of time open if drinking now, then shows generous aromas of ripe blueberries, smoked green olive and thyme and is generally brimming with energy and life. As in 2015, the palate is ripe and supple with black fruit liqueur, menthol, spice, earth and mineral flavors, quite intense but very bright, lifted by firm acidity, really showing the Biodynamic farming. It has terrific persistence and freshness and was a perfect companion to roast chicken and summer squash. This will drink beautifully over the next 15 years. SE/DL
Clos de la Bonnette makes this lovely 100% Syrah using grapes from a young organic grower in Suzette, near Beaumes-de-Venise. The vines are about 40 years-old, grown on clay/limestone soils, the juice is vinified with light extraction and aged in old barrels. The 2019 Cisselande has a dark purple robe. This is perfumed with effusive aromas of violets, pastilles, cassis, bramble, game on the nose. The palate is black-fruited, concentrated, and displays fine-grained tannins. Fine sappy flavors of blackberry, plum skin, and a dark core of savory minerality. This has fine length and shows an excellent amount of complexity and detail for this level and is enthusiastically recommended. John McIlwain
The Clos de la Bonnette is a young estate, having reclaimed ancient vineyards and producing their first wines in 2009. This is a beautiful Condrieu from granit soils on the Côte Bonnette, always in organic farming and produced with minimal SO2. The wine showed elegant, complex aromas and a dense, silky palate when tasted last winter - here is Livingstone-Learmonth's assessment: "firm yellow robe; the bouquet is reserved, lying in wait, gives a low-key air of glazed fruits, cooked lemon, apricot, has depth and mystery. The palate is wide, robust, charged with ample matter, centres on cooked pear, a note of apricot, and vanilla pod from the oak. It’s notably substantial on the second half, has a red wine physique. It’s a Condrieu of authority, better with some age under its belt than young, say at five to six years’ old." This young wine should be decanted if possible or cellar 3 - 5 years before drinking.
We love Condrieu, but Viognier from other regions can often be cloying and uninteresting. This example from the Grenier family in Chavanay, however, is elegant and outstanding. It comes from Viognier vines just south of the Condrieu AOC, always tended organically, certified since 2002, and Biodynamic since 2016. Like stepping into the sunshine, this wine is a bedazzlement of friut and floral tones. Yellow flowers, white blossom, honeysuckle, apricot, peach, canteloupe and underripe pineapple, with slight hints of almond, citrus and lemon peel all playing on the alluring nose of this wine. There is a unctuousness on the palate that is beautifully balanced by a lively acidity. The finish introduces a hint of fresh cut hay and that particular late summer evening light. A lovely Viognier and a great value! Oskar Kostecki
Domaine des Amphores, a long-time organic and now Biodynamic estate in Chavanay, just south of Condrieu, produces excellent Saint-Josephs as well as red and white Vin de Pays. "Detour" is made from Roussanne, Clairette and Marsanne - it's a delicious Northern Rhone wine and one of the best values in the store. The 2018 is ripe, round and beautifully balanced with aromas of apricot, almond, lemon, hay and stone - the palate is supple and elegant with stone fruits, anise and mineral flavors, finishing with ripe white fruits and saline minerals. Delicious by itself or with fish or chicken in sauce and mild cheeses. This great value will open up nicely over the next few years and is highly recommended! David Lillie
From Veronique, Philippe and Remi Grenier at Domaine des Amphores, certified organic and Biodynamic. 80% Roussanne, 20% Marsanne on granite soils in "Le Monteillet" at 300 metres altitude. Bright gold/bronze color, subtle aromas of hay, apricot, white peach, citrus peel, melon and wet stone. The palate is ripe and elegant with stone fruits and mineral flavors, textured and earthy, finishing with floral white peach and minerals. Serve with a full-flavored ceviche, fish in sauce, white meats, goat cheeses... Lovely wine! David Lillie
The white wines of Philippe and Véronique Grenier at Domaine des Amphores have become particularly successful over the past few years, as their son Remi, now the winemaker at Chateau Grillet, has been helping out. The vineyards have been farmed organically since their inception and are now certified biodynamic as well. The 2018 Condrieu "La Côte" has a delicate and compelling aroma of fresh pear, apricot skin, soft white flowers like baby's breath, and something that makes me think of moss growing on a wet stone. The palate is incredibly luscious and rounded with a slightly bitter almond skin on the finish. The richness of this full-bodied white will make it an excellent pair for more powerfully flavored dishes, but I also fully enjoyed it complimenting a creamy crab pizza with fresh herbs. Michelle DeWyngaert
(From young vines, planted in the 90's, always organic, and from parcels of old vines, converted to organic, in Chavanay, below Condrieu) Philippe and Veronique Grenier have always farmed organically and now they are certified Biodynamic as well, bringing the quality even higher at this wonderful small estate. 50% de-stemmed, aged 50% in vat, 50% in 2 to 10 year-old demi-muid and foudre. The 2018 shows a deep red/black color with elegant high-toned floral blackberry, black raspberry and black olive aromas with hints of earth, citrus and coffee. The palate is balanced and well-structured with blackberry and black plum , finishing with black fruits, earth and firm tannins. With aeration the finish broadens with elegant black fruit liqueur, licorice, coffee and black olive. This lovely Saint-Joseph will accompany lamb shank, pork stews and grilled meats - this is quite delicious now, best 2022 - 2030+ it's a beautiful wine and a great value. David Lillie
The Clos de la Bonnette VDP Syrah is 2/3 from 40 to 70 year-old vines above Côte-Rôtie "Tartaras" on schist and clay soils over granit, 1/3 from below Côte-Rôtie "Tupin" on alluvial soils. This is an extraordinary Vin de Pays that impressed us enormously when tasted last winter, showing the lush ripeness of the 2018 vintage but retaining the bright subtle fruit of a good Côte-Rôtie. The aromas are floral, with pretty red fruits and earth, the palate is dense but bright with raspberry and cherry fruit with a very mineral core in the long elegant finish. This will drink beautifully over the next five years, only ten cases for the US. David Lillie