Friday, September 23, 2005

Northern Rhones vs. Southern Rhones

A Tasting at K&L Wine Merchants
Shane’s Notes

K&L billed this tasting as a Northern vs. Southern Rhone tasting, but the tasting definitely featured more Southern Rhones than Northern Rhones. To the best of our knowledge, Northern Rhones favor Syrah while the Southern Rhones rely more heavily on Grenache. We feel obliged to reveal our bias: we both prefer the more flavorful Grenache over Syrah, so it’s no surprise that we prefer Southern Rhones. Here our are notes on 8 of the 13 wines at the tasting.

2004 Costieres de Nimes, Mas Grand Plagniol Rosé, $10.99 (Southern): This Rosé is very light in color and has a rather flat flavor palate. The acidity is soft and the finish is sweet. Unfortunately, the finish displays a slightly disturbing flavor of pickle juice. It was okay but not nearly as good as our last Rosé (See “A Delightful Blush” posted on August 20, 2005).

Chateau Saint Cosme “Little James Basket Press”, $11.99 (Southern): This one was the best value of the tasting. It has a concentrated fruit burst on the palate (primarily raspberries) and shows floral notes and some tar. The finish is dry. It is very well-balanced.

2003 Vacqueyras La Bastide St. Vincent “Pavane”, $16.99 (Southern): It smells sweet and tart and has a floral, perfumey palate. It finishes dry and is well-structured. This was the second best value of the tasting.

2003 Cotes du Rhone Villages Sablet Piaugier “Tenebi”, $15.99 (Southern): This one exudes an aroma of bitter licorice. It has a nice fruit burst with a touch of anise, but all the flavors are quickly engulfed by a very dry, peppery finish. It is a little too dry and not quite tannic enough.

2003 Gigondas Montirius, $29.99 (Southern): At $30, it’s not exactly a value wine but it was my favorite wine of the tasting. It is well-structured, and the palate shows light berry flavors with a lot of pepper. Unfortunately, the palate is very tight. This one needs to age at least 10 years before it reaches its potential.

2003 Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine Grand Veneur, $24.99 (Southern): It smells jammy and has a strawberry/floral palate with a bit of graphite. It is definitely drinkable now but it could also age. We liked it, but it might be a bit overpriced.

2003 Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Les Bosquet des Papes, $34.99 (Southern): This one is undrinkable. It smells like cherries dipped in soy sauce, and the soy sauce dominates the palate. I don’t know what causes a soy sauce flavor, but I know that I certainly do not want it in my wine.

2001 St. Joseph Rouge Pierre Gaillard “Cuminaille”, $31.99 (Northern): This one is smooth and peppery with a palate that is more herbal than fruity. Jen also detected some currant notes. It was okay.

I usually find the wine tastings at the K&L in San Francisco rather pretentious, but this tasting provided some humorous moments. Two guys behind us were tasting the Rosé and were speaking in hushed tones. However, everyone stopped talking at just the right moment, and we all heard one of the guys exclaim, “This one tastes like marijuana!” I quickly checked my notes – I suppose he could have been talking about the rather bizzare pickle juice flavor on the finish, but I suspect the more likely culprit was the the flavor of his last joint still lingering in his mouth.

We also overheard a discussion in which a young lady complained, “We went to France on our honeymoon and couldn’t find any good wines.” Jen and I simultaneously laughed and cringed when we heard that statement. It will probably end up as a scene in Mondevino, Part II.


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