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Continuing the theme of last Monday's email, we offer recent arrivals from two remarkable, over-achieving estates. Both domaines produce delicious wines for everyday enjoyment that offer sensational value through long-time organic and biodynamic farming, natural vinifications and their shared commitment to their living soils and vibrant, expressive wines.
Véronique and Philippe Grenier at Domaine des Amphores are located on the hillsides of Chavanay, just south of Condrieu, where they produce Saint-Joseph red and white, a lovely Condrieu and delicious Vins de Pays that are sensational values. Organic since their beginning in 1992, they now practice biodynamic farming as well. During our recent visit, Philippe took great pride in showing us the vines and discussing their health and vigor and the benefits of biodynamic farming for their wines. Although the reds here are supple and delicious, it is the whites perhaps that stand out, grown on granite terroirs in and around Condrieu. Their 2014 Condrieu "La Cote," 2015 Saint-Joseph Blanc "Altitude 300" and the 2015 Vins de Pays "les Iris" (Viognier) and "Detour" (Roussanne, Marsanne and Clairette) are all simply delicious and deserve your attention. The commitment and enthusiasm of Véronique and Philippe is inspirational, and typical of the hundreds of small estates around France who quietly produce wonderful organic wines at moderate prices.
Domaine Stephane Guion, Bourgueil: The wines of Stephane Guion have been great favorites of ours for many years, offering a uniquely earthy and mineral style of Cabernet Franc from his beautiful vineyards in Bourgueil, in organic farming since 1965! Stephane's plowing regimen contributes to a low soil PH, which translates into mineral acids in the wine, framing the lively red fruits, giving the impression of "tasting" the limestone terroir. These are great food wines that develop in the bottle for days after opening and which age beautifully for 20 years or more. Just arrived are two of the finest wines Stephane has produced - the delicious and ageworthy 2014 Cuvee Prestige and the ripe, supple and "gouleyant" 2015 Cuvee Domaine. This is the last shipment of these two sensational wines - we will certainly be stocking up and we suggest you do the same...
Since its inception in 1992, Philippe and Véronique Grenier have practiced organic farming on their tiny estate in Chavanay, in the AOC Saint-Joseph just south of Condrieu. Their 2015 "Altitude 300" is a beautiful white Saint-Joseph made from 80% Roussanne and 20% Marsanne. The lovely aromas show the Roussanne, with hay, stone, pear, almond, brown spice and lime-flower. The palate is ripe, round and balanced showing stone, peach, apricot, citrus and dried herbs — really pretty, with saline acidity and white fruits lingering in the finish. This is an outstanding northern Rhone white to drink over the next 5 to 8 years and a superb value!
"Les Iris" is made from organically tended Viognier vines just south of the Condrieu AOC. The 2015 is elegant and balanced with a powerful minerality. Pale lemon in the glass, the nose offers opulent aromas of peaches, nutmeg, and cut lime flowers. Creamy flavors of peach, touches of brown spice, and lemon zest develop into more tropical notes of mango, tangerine, and stone on the long finish. Forget what you think you know about Viognier and pair this one with chicken, fish or mild cheeses this summer. Amanda Bowman
"Detour" is made from a blend of Roussane, Marsanne and Clairette from the Northern Rhone. The aromas are layered with white peach, nectarine and a hint of baking spice. The palate is supple and round with ample flavors of peach skin, ripe apricot, and zesty citrus balanced by a wonderful brightness and mineral quality from the Clairette. This wine was still delicious after being open for three days - not that we expect there to be too many half-finished bottles this vintage! Amanda Bowman
"Les Mesanges" is a cuvée from organic grapes grown on the best terroir at Domaine des Amphores, aged 18 months in 600 liter barrels. This needs some aeration, then shows high-toned aromas of red-currant, blackberry, spice, violets, licorice and stone with a touch of oak. The palate is a bit tight and very mineral with dense blackberry, boysenberry, spice and earth with firm acidity. Finishes with saline acids, red fruits, and hints of licorice, anise and stone. Elegant, balanced and subtle, this will need 3 to 5 years of aging to drink at its best, or drink now, opening well in advance and decanting.
(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 have added biodynamic methods as well, bringing the quality even higher at this wonderful small estate. The 2015 Saint-Joseph shows a lovely melange of blackberry, black cherry and blueberry aromas with violet, rose, roast meat and earth. The palate is dense and complex with earth and mineral notes framing ripe black fruits with licorice citrus and spice. The finish is long with earthy black fruits and mineral flavors. This is a lovely combination of ripe complex fruits with earth and minerals, making it a superb food wine with a variety of grilled and roast meats, North African cuisine and full-flavored cheeses, not to mention "Caillottes." Winner of the 2015 CSW Best Value in Saint-Joseph!
From 100% Syrah in Chavanay, just outside the Saint-Joseph zone, tended organically since planting. The Amphores Syrah "les Iris" shows lovely blackberry and blueberry aromas with citrus and floral notes. The palate is light and refreshing with very pretty fruit - the flavors of Northern Rhone Syrah in a bright ready-to-drink style. This will be a great accompaniment to grilled foods and picnics, served quite cool.
This is another beautiful wine from the shy and affable Stephane Guion who is quietly making some of the best wines in Bourgueil. His 2015 Cuvèe Domaine is from young (15 to 40 year-old) vines on clay/limestone terroir in Benais and is one of the finest he has made, certainly equaling the delicious 2014 in a riper style. The wine shows aromas of blackberry confit, dark chocolate and violets - very deep and ripe but still bright with ripe raspberry and earthy hints as well. The palate is medium-bodied and fresh with firm acidity and chalky, saline mineral flavors framing the ripe red and black fruits, which continue in the long earthy finish. Drink now, served cool, with grilled chicken and pork, charcuterie, green vegetables and mild cheeses, or hold 5 to 8 years for a velvety mature experience. This is a beautiful wine that transcends its price and at 12% alcohol shows that ripeness, even in a vintage like 2015, can be achieved without high alcohol. Thanks to Stephane Guion!
From 40 to 80 year-old vines on clay over limestone soils around Benais in Bourgueil. Certified organic since 1965! By now the great work of Stephane Guion needs no introduction to CSW customers, but the quality of his 2014 Cuvée Prestige deserves special attention. The wine is perfectly balanced, with the high acidity and mineral content always present in Stephane's wines framed by precisely ripe and supple fruit with depth and elegance. The aromas show raspberry and blackberry liqueur with hints of dark chocolate, earth and licorice, ripe but bright. Supple, ripe berry fruits on the palate with fine tannins and citrusy acids, deep and intense but forward and delicious now. This wine will drink beautifully over the next 20 years or longer and is highly recommended.
From 80 year-old vines in "Petits Monts" and "Grand Monts" towards the top of the slope above Benais, facing roughly south-west, clay over Turonien limestone (tuffeau, craie micacée). This is the terroir giving the most elegant and age-worthy Bourgueils. 18 month elevage ; 40% in cuve inox, 20% in one new 400 liter barrel, 20% in one-year and 20% in two-year old barrels, assembled two months before bottling. Tasted in February 2016, the wine was fairly closed and tight, with deep, pure black fruits and perfect balance. This will be a sensational mature wine, best to wait eight to ten years, or more, then drink until 2040.
Domaine des Amphores has a small, steep hillside parcel in Condrieu, organic since 2002 and now farmed with biodynamic methods as well. The 2014 Condrieu, 100% Viognier of course, shows elegant aromas of white peach and apricot with crushed stone and mineral notes. The palate is balanced and round with delicate flavors of white fruits, flowers and stone. The wine shows lovely freshness with saline minerals in the finish. Really a delightful wine and a great value in Condrieu!