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

All recipes paired with wine, Beef, Ground meat, Summer Grilling

Bison Burgers with Cabernet Onions and Wisconsin Cheddar

Photo: K.J.Koskin

This recipe was send to me by one of my friends, food and wine lover Ken. I have yet to make it, but the recipe sounds delicious. If you make it first, please let me know how you liked it!


2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 cups sliced onions (about 2)
3/4 cup Cabernet Sauvignon or other dry red wine
1 pound ground bison (buffalo)
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
4 organic hamburger buns
6 ounces sliced Wisconsin white cheddar cheese
Dijon mustard
1 small head of escarole, leaves separated

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy medium skillet over medium- high heat. Add onions, sprinkle with salt, and sauté until tender and golden brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and continue to sauté until very tender and well browned, about 15 minutes longer. Add wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cool, cover, and chill.
Preheat broiler. Gently mix meat and next 3 ingredients in large bowl. Shape into four 1/2-inch-thick patties. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Sprinkle burgers with salt and pepper; add to skillet. Cook until well browned, about 2 minutes per side for medium-rare.

Open buns and arrange, cut side up, on rimmed baking sheet. Place cheese slices on bun tops. Broil until cheese melts and bottom halves are lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Spread bottom halves with mustard. Top each with a few escarole leaves, then burger. Spoon onions atop burgers, dividing equally. Cover with bun tops; press lightly.

Makes 4 servings

Bison meat is very lean and is best served rare or medium-rare.

Wine pairing suggestion:
Time for a big, juicy red, the caramelized onions in wine, I would even pick some more fruity reds, like Grenache, Shiraz, Mouvedre – all of it above combined in GSM blends like Cotes du Rhône’s wines. A great example is Domaine de la Solitude Cotes du Rhône – one of the oldest family in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

But also their “entry” red wine, called simply Solitude de Cotes du Rhône, is a great bottle of rich, Grenache based fruity blend, for much less money than the King of the Rhône wines.