Cotes du Rhone, France, Red blends, Red wine

Domaine de la Solitude Côtes du Rhône 2005

Grapes: Syrah, Grenache noir, Cinsault, Carignan
Region: Côtes du Rhône, France

Living in U.S.A., with a relatively short history, I am always fascinated to find stories behind some of the oldest vineyards, kept in the family for generations. This estate is one of them.
The Domain de la Solitude is owned by one of the oldest  families originating from Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Traces of the MARTIN family are found as far back as the 15th century. Their family tree in Italy is traced even farther back, to the very old and illustrious BARBERINI family.

François BARBERINI, born in Tuscany in 1264, lived in Provence for several years. The most well known member of the family, Maffeo BARBERINI, apostolic nuncio to Paris (1604-1606), was voted Pope under the name of Urbain VIII. Two of his nephews became cardinals and part of his family came to live in Avignon.

In Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the family history records start in 1604 with Jean BARBERINI (his name was Frenchified to BARBERIN). His granddaughter, Hélène BARBERIN, married Claude MARTIN, the owner of scattered vineyards. He was also an apostolic notary and clerk for the Châteauneuf-du-Pape community.

Their grandson’s wife, Françoise DELOUME, brought in her dowry “La Solitude”, which had been in her family’s possession for some time. Remains found on the property testify to the long history of occupation of the site.

Under their son’s care, (Paul-Clair-Agapet MARTIN) the estate experienced a blossoming expansion. he left behind a very precious journal with a wealth of information regarding vine cultivation, its cost and results.  He was capable to sell his winem, named “La Solitude” all the way to England at times, when the name of Châteauneuf-du-Pape didn’t even exist. The family owns labels dating from this period as well as bills of lading from the port of Marseilles.

Isn’t it fascinating? What a rich family history. The current generation, Paule Jacob who married Pierre Lancon are now taking care of the property.  The family owns close to 50 ha of vineyards, situated predominantly in the Gard region. The most of their vineyards are planted with red varieties, mostly Grenache and Syrah, but they also grow Cinsault, Mouvèdre  and about 5ha are planted with white varieties.

Although the family’s flag ship wine is their outstanding Châteauneuf-du-Pape, when I first tasted this Côtes du Rhône, it took my breath away. And I wasn’t the only one. This unbelievable gem, that at the time cost about $ 8.00 a bottle, was superb, rich, full of character, spicy and almost as good as their collectible Châteauneuf-du-Pape!

I remember the noises in the tasting room. The owner of the company, I worked for at that time, (who discovered this property and imported it directly to U.S.A.), had a very satisfied smile on his face.

“So you think you can sell this?” – he asked us.

“How many do we have?” one of the most experienced sales guys answered with another question.

“We got in about 80 cases to start with,” our owner replied.

“Let me make few phone calls and it’s going to be gone at the end of the day!”

Why do I tell you all this? Because there weren’t too many wines that would get this kind of attention among professionals, throughout my wine career. We have tasted some of the best wines of the world and one’s palate gets easily spoiled. When you come across something as good as this wine, for under 10 bucks, that’s a bottle you can’t miss!

Even today, when this Côtes du Rhône costs about $ 13.00- $ 15.00, it’s an incredible steal for the money. I was lucky to discover this wine at one of the wine shops in CT for about $ 13.99 and was anxious to re-taste it after a long time.

Tasting notes:
Dark ruby color, beautiful aroma of dark cherries, ripe plums or blackberries.
On the palate this medium body red offers notes of ripe dark fruit with spice notes of cloves, black pepper and cinnamon. Bright fruit and freshness, pleasantly balanced with acidity made it age well and pair great with variety of foods.

It is also delicious on its own, with just aged cheeses and crackers. This red offers you a long finish with silky tannins and lovely dark fruit flavors. Big but not opulent, still my favorite from many Côtes du Rhône reds I tried. Great wine to drink with your summer barbeque and grilling!

Dry – Off dry – Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: about $ 14.00

Ideal food pairing:
Bison burgers with Cabernet Onions, Shortcut drunken Chili, Flank steak fajitas, Shish kebab with eggplant hash, Lamb burgers with relish mayo, Beef Bourguignon, Beef Chorizo

Cotes du Rhone, France, Red blends, Red wine, Rhône

E. Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône 2006

Winemaker: Philippe Guigal
Grape: 50% Syrah,40% Grenache,10% Mourvèdre
Region: Côtes-du-Rhône, France

The Guigal domain was founded in 1946 by Etienne Guigal in the ancient village of Ampuis, home of the wines of the Côte-Rôtie.

Walking through these vineyards (some over 2400 years old), there are still small terraced walls that were characteristic of the Roman period.When Etienne, who made wine for total of 67 vintages, was left blind after bad illness, his young son Marcel took over from his father. Under his wise management, the family estate extended by buying out Vidal-Fleury in 1984.

In 2000, the Guigals purchased the Jean-Louis GRIPPAT estate in Saint-Joseph and Hermitage as well as the Domaine de VALLOUIT in Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage.

His son Phelippe, running the estate today together with his parents Bernadette and Marcel, is the third generation of the family owned and run business. Their estate now covers over 45 hectares of vineyards, located throughout the most attractive terroires of Cotes du Rhône.

The large selection of highest quality Rhône sites allows family Guigal to produce some of the finest wines of the Cotes du Rhône. Each of their vineyards has its own unique terroire, history, soil, elevation and it’s planted with different grape varietals. Some of the vines in Côte-Rôtie, Côte Brune (exclusively Syrah) and Côte Blonde were originally planted over 24 centuries ago by the Romans.

In their breathtaking ancient headquarters, Château d’Ampuis, (built in 15th – 16th centuries), family Guigal also took on a cooperage of traditional oak barrels. Their cooper produces about 3 barrels per day.

The 2006 E. Guigal Cotes du Rhône Red was sourced from low yielded family vineyards,35 years old vines on average. The blended juice was left soaking on the skins for a long time and underwent temperature controlled fermentation. Wine then aged for 18 months in oak.

Tasting notes:
One of the finest Côtes-du-Rhônes I had in a really long time! Beautiful bright ruby color and fresh and generous aroma of cherries and red berries. More delicate then most CDR wines (some of them are quite robust) . Very elegant and clean red wine of medium to full body (it grows as it’s opening up), fruity on the palate with a light hints of spice. Velvety tannins, well balanced acidity with generous, long finish.
I loved it! This wine will be a great match to various of different foods.

– Off dry- Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: under $ 14.00

Ideal food pairing:
Easy pork chops with onions and peppers, Pistachio crusted rack of lamb, Flank steak with shitakee sauce, Lamb burgers with relish mayo, Beef brisket with roasted grapes, Beef Bourguignon, aged cheeses and spicy cold cuts….