Tag Archives: Rhone

Domaine Lombard Grand Chêne Côtes du Rhône

Braised Impulse

Domaine Lombard 2014 “Grand Chêne” Côtes du Rhône Brézème, France

Fellow wine lovers, within the Southern Rhone Valley of France there lies a specific village known as Brézème. It’s name is derived from the French word for “braise”, in reference to the area’s baking warm weather. Brézème bears the soils of the Southern Rhone (where Grenache blends are the standard), but the climate of the Northern Rhone (where single varietal Syrah wines are the norm). This unique confluence of climate and soil makes the village one of few places in the Southern Rhone from which you can grab a 100% Syrah wine, such as those of Domaine Lombard.

Domaine Lombard 2014 “Grand Chêne” Côtes du Rhône Brézème $22.99

Decades ago, the wines of this village were nearly made extinct by phylloxera, a bug that likes to eat the vines and their roots. Sylvette Lombard was a key contributing in helping to restore Brézème, ensuring that it doesn’t disappear from the wine map for good- while also establishing Domaine Lombard’s place in winemaking history.

Domaine Lombard’s “Grand Chêne” Côtes du Rhône is sourced exclusively from the Les Chassis Vineyard, within the village of Brézème, and is 100% Syrah. It’s fairly nimble on its feet, not overly heavy, making a great red wine for warmer weather and backyard entertaining. It sees no oak treatment, rather it’s aged for 12 months in large concrete vessels, to help soften its structure and build depth of character. The nose has hints of violets, hickory, and freshly steeped tea leaves, while the smooth and medium bodied palate offers notes of cured meats and dark cherries, with a bit of blood orange and sandalwood chiming in on the background. A well balanced and classically styled Rhone red- right up my alley!

Domaine Lombard 2014 “Grand Chêne” Côtes du Rhône Brézème

Domaine Lombard 2014 “Grand Chêne” Côtes du Rhône Brézème

Click here to order the Domaine Lombard Côtes du Rhône Brézème

Region: Côtes du Rhône AOC, Southern Rhone Valley, France

Vineyard(s): Les Chassis Vineyard. Elevations as High as 900 ft, Vines as Old as 20 Years

Grape(s): 100% Syrah

Aging: 12 Months in Concrete Tanks

Drinkability: Now through 2020

Body: Medium

Drink This if you Like: Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Food Pairing: Rack of Lamb


Coral Wines Rhone White & Red

Coral Impulse

Coral Wines 2013 Rhone Style White and Rhone Style Red

Fellow wine lovers, we enjoyed a big bold Malbec with our previous feature, so now the pendulum is swinging completely to the opposite side of the spectrum with something very light and delicate. There is a brand new Washington winery called Coral Wines, with a focus on elegant wines which are fresh and minerally – something great for the Spring and Summer. An old friend of mine and former Sommelier at the Rainier Club, Christopher Chan, is just launching this new set of wines.

Coral Wines 2013 Rhone Style White $19.95

For those who are fans of Jon Meuret and his Maison Bleue Winery, this wine is actually made by him, in the style of his Metis Blanc which sells for $30. Like all of the white wines made by Jon Meuret, this one is beautiful example of a crisp and mineral Washington white wine.

A Rhone style blend of 37% Marsanne, 27% Viognier, 24% Grenache Blanc, and 12% Roussanne, it has classic notes of stone fruit, citrus, and orange blossoms on the nose, with an essence of peach, apricot, and nectarine. This white wine is aged in 100% Neutral French Oak for 7 months, making for a palate that is rich and creamy, with a medium-full bodied mouthfeel, and hints of toast and brioche bread. The finish is dry, with moderate acidity and a hint of pebble stones. Certainly a great wine with shellfish and other seafood.

Only 400 cases of the Coral Wines White were made.

Coral Wines 2013 White Wine

Coral Wines 2013 White Wine

Click here to order the Coral Wines White

Region: Columbia Valley AVA, Washington State
Vineyard: Boushey, Arthur’s, and Olsen Vineyard
Grape: 37% Marsanne, 27% Viognier, 24% Grenache Blanc, and 12% Roussanne
Aging: 100% Neutral French Oak for 7 months
Drinkability: Now through 2018
Body: Medium-Full
Alcohol: 14.2% by volume
Drink This if you Like: Rhone Style Whites, Maison Bleue Winery Metis Blanc
Food Pairings: Oysters, Cheese and Nuts, Grilled Prawns
Production: 400 cases

Coral Wines 2013 Rhone Style Red $22.95

The Coral Wines Rhone Style Red is, again, made by Jon Meuret of Maison Bleue Winery. This is similar to his Metis Rouge GSM, which is a Southern Rhone Style red blend typically going for $40. Once more, a wine with a very light touch, it approached the softness of a Pinot Noir. A blend of 56% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 14% Mourvèdre, the fruit is harvested from top vineyards in the Yakima and Walla Walla Valleys such as Boushey, Olsen, and Pepper Bridge. Aged in 100% Neutral French oak 12 months, there is no new oak on this red, so there are no qualities of heaviness. This is a great red for a sunny day on the patio; you can even drink it with a slight chill.

In the glass, the color is a very light ruby hue, again, much like a Pinot Noir. The nose demonstrates pretty aromas of rose petals and candied cherries, with hints of herbs de Provence. The delicate palate is medium-light in body, showing notes of juicy raspberries and red cherries, hints of bramble bush, thyme, and spice, leading to a finish of crushed rocks with a bit of grip in the end.

Only 200 cases of the Coral Wines Red were made.

Coral Wines 2013 Red Wine

Coral Wines 2013 Red Wine

Click here to order the Coral Wines Red

Region: Columbia Valley
Vineyard: Boushey, Olsen, Pepper Bridge, and others
Grape: 56% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 14% Mourvèdre
Aging: 100% Neutral French oak 12 months
Drinkability: Now through 2019
Body: Medium-Light
Alcohol: 14.5% by volume
Drink This if you Like: Southern Rhone Reds, Maison Bleue Winery Metis Rouge
Food Pairings: Grilled Veggies, Pork, Wild Boar Ragu
Production: 200 cases



Robert Ramsay: Cinsault Impulse

Robert Ramsay Cellars 2012 Cinsault

Fellow wine lovers, welcome back. I’m excited to be sending you our first Impulse Wine offering of the new year. Last year was an outstanding one, with lots of amazing wines shared. Many of the wines we featured here on Impulse in 2014 went on to be recognized by national wine writers, win big awards, and gain high scores. The plan to 2015… to keep on offering some of the best boutique and most up-and-coming wines we can find!

The wines of Robert Ramsay Cellars were among the first ten features we did, in year one of Impulse back in 2013, and they have been among our favorites ever since.

Robert Ramsay Cellars 2012 Cinsault $27.99 (Regularly $32)

Today we have something completely off the beaten path, a lesser known Rhone grape called Cinsault, which is often used in the red blends of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It’s a grape which Robert Ramsay Cellars has typically used in their “Par la Mer” red blend- a wine we featured previously- and now they’ve bottled it solo for the first time. This is one of the only single varietal Cinsault I’ve ever tried, and I’m very pleased to have had the opportunity. The grape tends to like plenty of warmth, in order to ripen properly, so it’s no surprise to see it bottled on its own from the idyllic 2012 vintage.

The profile of Cinsault is, perhaps, somewhere between its sibling grapes Grenache and Mourvedre. It has a nice kick of earth and spice, with lots of wild berry character. Exhibiting notes of strawberry fruit leather and juicy raspberries, backed up by notes of black and white peppercorn, the wine opens up really nicely over the course of a few hours. It’s smooth, and medium bodied, with virtually no tannins, and dense with layers of flavor as one might expect from the blockbuster 2012 vintage. The fruit is harvested from the McKinley Springs Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills of Eastern Washington, which is quickly becoming well known for growing Rhone varieties.

Robert Ramsay 12 Cinsault

Robert Ramsay 12 Cinsault

Only 203 cases were made, and we have just 5 cases available to offer on Impulse.

Click here to order the Robert Ramsay Cinsault

Region: Horse Heaven Hills, Washington State
Vineyard: McKinley Springs
Grape: 94% Cinsault and 6% Syrah
Aging: 18 months in 20% new French Puncheons (larger 500L barrel)
Drinkability Now through 2018
Body: Medium
Drink if You Like: Rhone Wines, Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache
Food Pairings: Lamb Satay, Grilled Pork
Production: 203 cases
Availability: 5 cases



Betz 2012 La Cote Rousse & Besoleil

Betz Family Impulse

Fellow wine lovers, I’ve mentioned here and there that Washington’s 2012 vintage is looking like a showstopper, based on the few wines I’ve tasted thus far. Betz Family Winery recently premiered their 2012’s, and they’re a clear example of just how good the wines of this vintage can be. Winemaker Bob Betz says, “After two years of challenging harvests… 2012 was brilliant right from the start”, stating that the wines are comparable to the the highly coveted 2007 vintage.

Jeb Dunnuck, of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, sampled them back in June and proclaimed them to be, “easily some of the greatest wines I’ve tasted from this estate to date. While these wines always have considerable structure and focused profiles, these 2012 have an extra dimension of depth and texture, and should not be missed!”

Tight allocation this year, as Betz has provided us just a case each of the following two wines. Word got early, and I ended up parting with 2 bottles of each already, so we’re down to just 10 bottles each of the La Cote Rousse Syrah, and the Besoleil Grenache.

Betz Family Winery 2012 La Cote Rousse Syrah $58.99

Often I lean toward the soft spoken nature of the La Serenne Syrah, this year however my hands down favorite is the La Cote Rousse. Powerful and dense, this wine’s quiet strength easily makes it my favorite vintage of La Cote Rousse in recent memory. Showcasing full body alongside firm yet polished tannins, the 2012 La Cote Rousse sets the standard for Red Mountain Syrah, obliging all others towards aspirations for this level of complexity and expressiveness of terroir.

Still youthful, closed up tight, it definitely needs to be cellared for a while, and will benefit from decanting. It’s deep and dark with inky blackberry, stewed plums, violets, black olives, and ripe blueberries. Bob refers to it as, “the sturdiest of our three 2012 Syrahs and its concentration and sheer power will easily support a decade or two in your cellar.”

Jeb Dunnuck gives it an impressive 95 points. I have just 10 bottles, and they’re available first come, first serve.

Click here to order the Betz La Cote Rousse Syrah
Betz Family Winery 2012 La Cote Rousse and Besoleil
Region: Red Mountain
Vineyards: 65% Ciel du Cheval, 35% Ranch at the End of the Road
Grape: 100% Syrah
Aging: 100% French Oak Barrels
Drinkability: 2015 through 2023, decanting recommended
Body: Full
Alcohol: 14.2% by volume
Drink This if you Like: Saint Joseph, Hermitage
Press: Robert Parker 95 pts.
Food Pairings: Grilled Game
Availability: 10 bottles

Betz Family Winery 2012 Besoleil Grenache $47.99

A shining example, not only of the stupendous 2012 vintage, but also of why Washington State is getting national acclaim for our Rhone style wines. No counoise in this year’s blend, as Bob felt it lacked the depth of character he was looking for, Besoleil features 50% Grenache, 20% Cinsault, 15% Mourvedre, and 15% Syrah, aged in 100% neutral French oak.

It’s starts with notes of herbs de provence and black raspberries, moves into tellicherry peppercorn flavors and notes of scorched earth, and finished big with a taste of black cherry. A beautiful wine that can use some cellar time to open up.

Jeb Dunnuck wrote for the Wine Advocate, “it has fantastic density and depth, with medium to full-bodied richness, beautiful freshness and classic Grenache-driven aromas and flavors… Already hard to resist, it should evolve gracefully for over a decade.”

It received a 94 point score from Jeb, which definitely puts it among the highest scoring Grenache blends from Washington State.

I have just 10 bottles, and they are available on a first come first serve basis.

Click here to order the Betz Besoleil Grenache

Region: Columbia Valley, Washington State
Grapes: 50 % Grenache 20% Cinsault 15% Mourvedre 15% Syrah
Aging: 100% Neutral French Oak
Drinkability: Now through 2021
Body: Medium
Alcohol: 14.7% by volume
Drink This if you Like: Chateauneuf-du-Pape
Press: 94 points RP
Food Pairings: Jerk chicken, pork tenderloin, beef stew
Availability: 10 bottles



Bonny Doon 2010 “Le Pousseur” Syrah

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Randall Grahm, one of the most enigmatic wine minds of our time. He’s part mad scientist, part poet, and just an all around great winemaker.

He likes to poke the occasional fun at the “establishment”, in fact, the theme of his whole winery is a jab at chateauneuf-du-Pape’s arcane and UFO paranoid laws. There they have an old time decree on their official books, strictly forbidding the use of flying saucers and flying cigars (blimps) within the area. At least their hearts were in the right place, given that they passed these laws in order to protect their vineyards from the unknowable negative effects that may result from visiting UFO’s.
Here’s a small translated version of what was decreed.

“The Mayor of Chateauneuf-du-Pape decrees:Article 1. – The overflight, the landing and the takeoff of aircraft known as flying saucers or flying cigars, whatever their nationality is, are prohibited on the territory of the community.Article 2. – Any aircraft, known as flying saucer or flying cigar, which should land on the territory of the community will be immediately held in custody.”

Bonny Doon 2008 ‘le Pousseur’ Syrah $22.99 (Regularly $26)
Central Coast, CA

The infamous FLYING CIGAR!

The infamous FLYING CIGAR!

Bonny Doon’s Syrah is planted using vine cuttings taken from the famous Chapoutier vineyards in the Cote Rotie. Even though his wine labels are a bit mocking of the Rhone, Randall Grahm does have a lot of respect and admiration for their wines, and his Pousseur Syrah could be tasted against the best of them. It delivers lots of smoky tobacco notes, a mouth watering meatiness, and aromatic black pepper, all balanced with great acidity. I could go on telling you more about the wine, but Randall Grahm is an absolute master wordsmith, so I’ll let him tell the story for himself.

“…syrah is deeply and elementally feminine-is perfumed elegance. Enchanting and  captivating rather than overpowering, it disarms by its strangeness… One will wander the world till the end of one’s days, its sublime, haunting fragrance gradually displacing all thoughts and memories, including the knowledge of one’s own name… Initially very closed when you first meet them. Air (and time) lures them out of their protective cocoon. Nose of anise, raw meat, bacon fat, leather, plum, and wet stone. In the mouth, what is most noteworthy is the texture – sleek, almost oily. Then there is the enormously savory, umami-intensive, almost saline aspect of the wine. Palpable acidity, medium tannins and discreet fruitiness evocative of confiture of fraises de bois.

The 2010 vintage was incredibly cool (in every sense), producing among the most “classic” expressions of syrah that I have ever observed in California (at very discreet levels of alcohol. Certainly the most expressive vintage and possibly finest vintage of Pousseur we have produced to date. Our ’10 Syrah “Le Pousseur” is named for an alchemist and trickster, but is withal an incredibly accessible wine, great by the glass but also a felicitous partner to all manner of roasted meats, poultry, game, wild mushrooms, and well aged cheeses.”

I couldn’t have said it any better
Only 5 cases are available, so get before it’s snatched up by UFO!

Click here to order this wine

Alleromb 2012 Sauv Blanc, 2010 Grenache Blend & 2010 Grenache

Hi everyone, just a reminder that if you’ve ordered wine any time after June 12th, your account is now set up in such a way that you can conveniently order via email. All you have to do is reply to this email with a “I’ll take 6 bottles of the Syrah” or whichever wine you’d like. Please be specific about which wine, and please include your full name.

Aryn Morell is one of the most ambitious young winemakers in Washington, having moved here in 2007 from California, where he worked closely with some of Napa’s $500+ per bottle winemakers. With his background in the elite world of impossible to obtain, and beyond impossible to afford “cult” Napa wines, he has his eyes set squarely on shattering the ceiling at the top of iconic Washington wines.

For the past six years he’s been making the very stylish Tenor Wines, as well as Matthews Winery and Gard Vintners, while working on his own special project behind the scenes. Finally ready, his Alleromb Wines are being made available, and I had the fortune of being in the very small group of tasters present at the official release party. I spoke with many of the other attendees and the response was sensational, with the whole lot nearly sold out by the end.

Referred to as “luxurious” by wine reviewer Chris Nishiwaki of 425 Magazine, Alleromb is something of a must-have for the wine collector with a firm sense of one-upsmanship. A trophy on the mantel for those who seek bragging rights, with a quip of “You haven’t had those wines yet? Well, I have two cases in my cellar… Neener Neener!”

Alleromb 2012 Sauvignon Blanc
La Reyna Blanca Vineyard, Columbia Valley

This up and coming vineyard is in Frenchman Hills area and is planted with what the French call the “musqué” clone of Sauvignon Blanc. As the name suggests, this well liked variation of Sauv Blanc is known for having exceptional aromatics and is far less prone to having green, vegetal, flavors. This is vital given that these vines are planted at a cool 1,640 feet, making them some of the highest plots in the region. This wine is dry with ripe notes of apples, pineapples, lemons, and guava. There’s also a smokey, flinty, note which I often enjoy in finer French Sauvignon Blanc. It’s fermented and aged three and a half months in 57% new French oak barrel, 12% once used French oak, and 31% Stainless steel, receiving the best of all three worlds with weight, nuance, and purity.

180 cases
12 bottles available, first come first serve

Aryn is most proud of his red wines which are fermented in special, open top, 500 Liter French oak barrels known as “puncheons”. A true believer in the ageability of his wines, he’s insists that we should wait at least another five to ten years before drinking them. I’ve no doubt that the wines will only get more complex with time, but I won’t tip Aryn off if you choose to pop them open sooner rather than later.

Alleromb 2010 Red Wine 77% Grenache, 23% Syrah

This is a Grenache grown from the highly prized Tablas Creek clones, which trace their origin back to the the famed Château de Beaucastel in Châteauneuf du Pape, where Grenache is king. Arguably, it’s the advent of this clone which is giving rise to the Grenache renaissance in both Washington and California. This is a really elegant wine with notes of rose petals, orange peel, and Herbes de Provence. There are also denser notes of black pepper, ripe cherries and chocolate ganache, but the wine never comes off heavy or unbalanced. Unfiltered and pure, this blend is smooth on the palate, with a very polished tannin structure.

Fermented and aged 21 months in 50% new French oak barrels 50% once used French oak
110 cases produced
10 bottles available

Alleromb 2010 Scarline Vineyard Syrah

Featured here is the Joseph Phelps clone of Syrah, which is known to have deep flavors of black fruits and a plush mouthfeel. The wine shows silent strength, leading with the fennis of vanilla, toasted spices and framboise, then climaxing with the brawn of blackberries and cherries, smoked meats, and cocoa nibs. It’s big, full, and juicy with earthy tobacco qualities resulting from the 15% stem inclusion in the fermentation. Syrah is not often revered for its acidity, but the Alleromb delivers a balanced structure that will allow it to age for several years.

Fermented and aged 21 months in 100% new French oak
165 cases made
6 bottles available