I am interrupting my regularly scheduled Spring Mountain program to share with you some photos that I took last night at dinner. San Francisco based importer Charles Neal was hosting Jean-Marc and Sophie Autran from Domaine de Piaugier located in the Cotes du Rhone village of Sablet. The two vignerons are on a “north american” tour, visiting several key markets and meeting with their importers (including Charles) and various clients.
While Charles plated up a delicious multi-course dinner, Sophie briefed us on the various vineyard sites and terrior of Sablet..
After our Sablet seminar, we rolled up our sleeves and got the party started..
Slow braised pork, roasted sweet and creamer potatos, swiss chard..
And the lineup below!!
One of the more unusual wines was Piaugier’s 2007 “Ténébi” a Rhone red comprised of 100% counoise. What makes this wine so unique? Counoise, while relatively known and planted in the southern Rhone Valley, is virutally always used as a blending grape, and in very small percentages to boot. However Jean-Marc and Sophie are so enamored with this late ripening (and hearty) varietal that they decided to vinify and bottle it solo. Says Jean-Marc, “In 1990, I visited Beaucastel and I tasted their counoise in barrels and I thought that was extraordinary and since I had some planted and had time to kill in 1991, I decided to bottle the Ténébi and it turned out even better than I thought it would!”
The Autran’s first official bottling of Ténébi was in 1991, and since then they have never looked back. And I think that they are definitely onto something good here. I have had multiple vintages of this wine and always thoroughly enjoyed its deep plum, spice and anise flavored nuances. In fact, I have a bottle of 1998 Ténébi still waiting to be opened! It is definitely a Rhone worth seeking out. As it is a late ripening varietal, counoise can better handle heat and higher temperatures than traditional Rhone varietals like syrah or even grenache. Is it possible that as the Rhone Valley experiences increasingly warmer vintages that we might see more new plantings of the odd little duck known as counoise?
Please check out “les photos” to find out what other fun wines we enjoyed chez Charles!