Wine Club Dirt – January 2017

This month Club Dirt explores two distinct personalities, representing some of the best wine to come out of the Northern and Southern areas of the Rhone Valley.

From the semi-continental climate in the North where the only allowable red grape is Syrah, our focus will be on a wine from Crozes-Hermitage, the Northern Rhone’s largest appellation. Perhaps you are more familiar with its neighbor Hermitage, the famous, and much smaller appellation that can demand eye-popping prices. These two regions are often confused with one another, but Crozes-Hermitage can offer incredible wines at a fraction of the cost. The soils here are full of pebbles, granite, clay and sand – this, coupled with the West-facing, flatter slopes makes for a more accessible version of Syrah.

In the Southern Rhone where the climate is much warmer and Mediterranean, red wines can also include Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan, and Mourvedre in addition to Syrah.  For Club Dirt we have a selection from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, perhaps the Southern Rhone’s most revered appellation. Earning its name when the Pope moved from Rome to the Rhone city of Avignon in the early 1300s. The Chateauneuf-du-Pape region is known for producing meticulously crafted blends primarily made up of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre (or “GSM” for you wine nerds). The distinct terroir of Chateauneuf is due in large part to the “Galets” or large pebbles that cover the surface of the clay soils. The stones absorb heat during the day, and help to keep retain moisture in the hotter months, making for a unique and effective layer of protection.


2014, Crozes Hermitage Classique, Yann Chave – $29.99/btl

Nicole and Bernard Chave planted their first grapevines in the 1970’s alongside cherry and apricot trees. Their small hectare of vines soon blossomed into a full-fledged winery, and in 2001 their son Yann took over operations.  Yann and Bernard now work together to create some of the truest expressions of Syrah in Crozes-Hermitage, if not the entire Northern Rhone.

In the “Classique” three different terroirs make up this cuvee as it utilizes village vines from Mercurol, La Roche de Glun, and Pont de l’Isère. Among these, the average vine age is at least 20 years, and all fruit is harvested by hand. This Syrah offers up bright aromatics of violets, plums, geraniums, black currants and thyme. It’s dark and a bit savory on the palate with notes of black fruit, spice box, juniper, wild herbs, and wet clay. The finish stretches languidly on the palate with wild berry acidity and cedar tannin. It wishes to be partnered up with game meats. If you can get your hands on some venison try this recipe for Marinated Venison Steaks. Or, try it with some Whole Roasted Duck.
2014, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge “Telegramme”, Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe – $39.99/btl

Quite simply, The Brunier family and their Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe are legendary. Their history dates back to 1898 with a stony, plateaued vineyard called “La Crau” which sits high on a hill – so high that a telegraph tower was constructed to send telegraph messages from Marseilles to Paris, thus prompting the name “Vieux Telegraphe.”

The “Telegramme” bottling was something of a happy accident. In 2002 flooding around the La Crau vineyard forced the Brunier’s to improvise, as most of the fruit reserved for the best of the best bottles was unusable.  Instead of scrapping the entire harvest, they decided to make a new, less expensive and more accessible label called “Telegramme.”

This wine is easy to enjoy in its youth as it expresses an incredible freshness, and the 2014 vintage is no exception. On the nose there are notes of cherry, red cranberry and herbs. Despite a whiff of alcohol, which you would expect from a 14.5% wine, it is very well integrated on the palate as tart red fruits, a bit of clove and soft well-integrated tannins round out the glass. Very accessible and easy to drink, almost a bit too easy! Rhone reds and lamb are a natural pairing. Maybe a little less expected, is partnering this Grenache-based red with a dish that has Moroccan flavors. Try this recipe for Lamb Tagine.