A couple of weeks ago one of the biggest, interesting and most fun tastings in the Golden State was held in Paso Robles, California. Every year, and over the course of a few days, the Hospices Du Rhone has hosted winemakers the world over who make Rhone and Rhone style wines.
Grenache, syrah, mourvedre, picpoul? All of these varietals and then some were showcased at the HdR. In addition to a grand tasting where Rhone-heads have the opportunity to taste hundreds of wines from Santa Barbara to South Africa, the event co-ordinates a series of panel discussions and seminars on viticulture, winemaking and other relevant topics related to all things Rhone.
As you can imagine, the week of HdR brought many winemakers from all over the world to the California coast. The place where it all started, the Rhone Valley in France, brought its big guns over to represent. Lucky me, as most of these folks took the time out of their busy schedule to touch down in San Francisco, stop by K&L and introduce us to their latest releases.
The first group to drop by included Vincent Maurel, Phillipe Cambie and Francois Villard. Vincent’s family domaine is none other than Clos Saint Jean in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. While the winery has been producing wine for over a century, in the last decade, this modest property has shot to Rhone superstardom, producing a range of several cuvees that have garnered immense praise by journalists (yes, 100 points) as well as Rhone connoisseurs.
How did this happen? Hard work, meticulous attention to detail, and the help of Philippe Cambie (holding the CNP book) are the answer. Philippe is a veritable Rhone superstar, and one busy guy. As a consulting oenologist, Philippe has worked with or advised close to 50 domaines throughout the Southern Rhone Valley. One of his latest projects, is also his very own.
From some of the very best fruit sources that the southern Rhone has to offer, Phillipe produces a limited range of wines with one common theme. Grenache is King! Grenache is Philippe’s passion, so whether it be a CNP (Chateauneuf-du-Pape) or a Gigondas, this generous varietal always assumes a dominant presence in the wines. Like the Roman god Jupiter as well as the largest planet in our solar system, so Grenache reigns. For Philippe, the “halos” of Jupiter represent the appellations that best showcase Grenache.
Approximately 90 minutes north of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, one enters a land where “la Syrah” is queen! The northern Rhone is unquestionably the benchmark for syrah. Great syrah in fact. Guigal’s La, La’s? Chave Hermitage? Clape Cornas. Yep, this is their stomping (planting) ground.
When one speaks of top guns of the Northern Rhone, Francois Villard’s name is included on the list. Dynamic, curious, and passionate, Francois produces a range of impeccably made, yet elegant wines that really speak of where they are from. In addition to his work in Condrieu, Cote Rotie and St. Peray, Francois is also involved in producing a limited range of California Rhone style wines with Dave Miner under the name “La Diligence”. This guy can’t sit still!
Merci beaucoup pour la visite!
Next: Nicolas Jaboulet