Champs Pentus – Faugères, France

This one starts with a ripe, bright explosion of cherries and blackberries on the nose, rounding out with some grassy notes.  The fruit fades into tree bark, woody/mossy scents and flavors, with just the right amount of tannin to back it up.  This is how I imagine the wet woods tasting when you wake early from your tent on a camping trip.  The finish is short, but clean, with a faint saltiness and a whisper of the original cherry bomb.  Stylistically, the bright and medium-to-light body isn’t really my favorite, but if it were I would consider this more than worth the price-tag.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Champs Pentus 2013
  • Winery: Frédérico Brouca
  • Region: Faugères
  • Country: France
  • Varietals: 40% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 30% Carignan
  • Price: $23
  • Where to Buy: S&R Liquors
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Le Canon du Maréchal 2014 – Cotes Catalanes, France

This wine was gifted to me and proves that sometimes you just get lucky.  I will admit to being a fan of dry muscats, which, incidentally I have only ever found in the French Catalunya region.  The golden, straw color of the pour barely hints at the bursting fresh melon, stone fruit pits, apricot, and passion fruit that explode on the nose and palate.  An interesting heaviness to the mid-palate, with a tight vanilla-like finish.  Luscious and delicious, I’d buy this one again . . . even if I didn’t buy it the first time.

  • Rating: Everyday White
  • Name: Le Canon de Maréchal 2014
  • Winery: Domaine Cazes
  • Region: Cotes Catalanes
  • Country: France
  • Varietals: 40% Muscat d’Alexandre; 40% Muscat de Petit Grains; 20% Viognier
  • Price: ??
  • Where to Buy: ??

 

Gilles Barge Cote Blonde 2013 – Cote-Rotie, France

So Georges dos Santos explained to me that Cotes Blonde is an indication that the winery chose only the best of the best fruits to produce a selection.  I have to take his word for that, and you should too.  Red fruits and thyme (yes, thyme) on the nose.  Light peppery notes, more red fruit, and a strong tannin finish.  I could have let this one lay down for a while – wish I’d known (OK, 2013, I should have known, but was too excited and jet-lagged to think about it please stop picking on me, thanks).  Spice, white pepper, and green herbs on the finish.  A lovely full bodied wine that, yet again, belies France’s reputation for almost exclusively producing finesse wines.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Gilles Barge Cote Blonde 2013
  • Winery: Gilles Barge
  • Region: Cote-Rotie
  • Country: France
  • Varietals: Rhone blend, certainly including Syrah?
  • Price: 50 Euros
  • Where to Buy: Antic Wines, Lyon, France

Arenes Sauvages 2010 – Cornas, France 

Another Georges dos Santos selection.  Complex, intense nose of roses, vanilla, old wood, and fig.  An acidic kick to the front of the palate, with more wood, intense florals, with a hint of cocoa.  I find myself reaching for the name of a flavor that just eludes me.  Tannins come in with hints of slate and red fruits, in a deep, powerful attack.  Just wow.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Arénes Sauvages 2010, plot selection
  • Winery: La Cave de Tain
  • Region: Cornas
  • Country: France
  • Varietals: Syrah
  • Price: 30 Euros
  • Where to Buy: Antic Wines, Lyon, France

 

Emmanuel Darnaud 2014– Crozes-Hermitage, France

So here’s a wine I was not going to review.  I picked this up on Georges’ recommendation, from Antic Wine.  Georges is, in a word, the man.  I talk about Georges more in the Antic Wine entry, but much of what you need to know about Georges you can pick up from the way he marked this bottle in the photo.  antic-pricingWhen I first opened this wine, I shouldn’t have.  But I came back the next day and found that she is a delicious beauty of blackberry pie, cherry tart, autumn leaves, moss, and dusty dried flowers, with a perfectly balanced tannic closing, to boot.  Wow.  I haven’t had a French wine do this for me in a while.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Emmanuel Darnaud 2014 Crozes-Hermitage
  • Winery: Emmanuel Darnaud
  • Region: Crozes-Hermitage
  • Country: France
  • Varietals: ?Syrah?
  • Price: 15 Euros
  • Where to Buy: Antic Wines, Lyon, France

Antic Wine, Lyon, France

I stumbled upon this place a few times, always finding the doors securely locked and the lights out. The French; they hate money. Or at least that’s what I had come to think over the course of a month spent locked out of every service or shop imagineable by the time the class I was teaching at the University let out around 6pm each day.

Antic Pricing.JPG
Georges has a great sense of humor to match his sense of taste.

I finally got lucky one night while meandering around the old town: Georges dos Santos, the owner, happened to be inside, doors open, drinking wine with a friend. Georges was welcoming, engaging, and funny as hell. His pal, the owner of ultra-luxury brand Zilli, was also fun and friendly, poking fun at his own label. Amen. Georges and I had a nice chat, he got a sense of what I was into, and he started pulling wines from his shelves, including the tough-to-get Clos Signadore from Corsica. That bottle came with a nice story of what he had to do to get his hands on a few cases.

I’m sure that with enough time, Georges and I could find plenty to disagree on. Of the things we have discussed, we mostly see eye-to-eye: Washington wine (glad they like it), Empordá (the style keeps on changing), Portuguese table wine (great to explore), Virginia (no thanks). The list goes on. Thus far, Georges has turned me on to six different wines I would not have otherwise encountered. The results, for me, range from “incredible value” to “holy holy!!” The second time I visited Georges he actually remembered me from the prior year. Since I’m not particularly difficult, I’d say he has an eye for his clientele. All told, I highly suggest paying Georges a visit if you find yourself in Lyon.

Antic Wine, 18 Rue du Boeuf, 69005 Lyon, France

Clos Signadore – Patrimonio, Corsica

The crispness of apples with cherries, grass, and a dank cocoa note.  More dried cherries, musty walnuts, moss, and vanilla on the front end.  Powerful tannins come in with pepper, red fruits, and an echo of cocoa and cinnamon.  This is a wine with a story:  I picked this up from Georges dos Santos of Anti Wines in Lyon, France.  Georges is an interesting character, a real personality that styles himself as “the flying sommelier” which, as far as I can tell, is pretty accurate.  According to Georges, after a few glasses, he had to plead and cajole his way into getting his hands on just a few cases of this wine.  Apparently, the Corsicans prefer to consume it all at home, the world be damned!  If you can place hands on a bottle, I suggest you do so.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Clos Signadore
  • Winery: Christophe Ferrandis, Clos Signadore
  • Region: Patrimonio
  • Country: Corsica
  • Varietals: Nielluccio
  • Price: 40 Euros
  • Where to Buy: Antic Wines, Lyon, France

Whispering Angel 2015 – Cotes de Provence, France

Fresh grassy nose with hints of strawberries and lemons.  A fresh hit of acidity greets the fore-palate.  Cantaloupe and grass blend with soft strawberry notes so faint, you could call them a whisper.  The finish closes with soft tannins and faint citrus notes.  The whole affair is over quickly, like a summer fling, leaving only a hint of ever being there.  This is a great, easy-drinking little rosé for spring and summer.

  • Rating: Everyday White
  • Name: Whispering Angel 2015
  • Winery: Caves d’Esclans
  • Region: Cotes de Provence
  • Country: France
  • Varietals: Grenache, Rolle, and Cinsault
  • Price: $18
  • Where to Buy: Calvert Woodley Wines & Spirits

One Block 2014 Muscat Sec – Cotes Catalanes, France

“Muscat, you say?” (Eyebrow cocked in a full-blown look of suspicion.) “A Brit making wine in the South of France, with a Kiwi no less?”

I’ll fully admit to being suspicious of this one. But it’s an excellent wine. Nathan agreed to the point that we actually saved some for his wife to try later – perhaps that should be its own category: So Good We Restrained Ourselves (SGWRO). I stumbled upon this one at a wine festival in Catalonia in May of 2015. Jonathan (a Brit) and his Kiwi wife Rachel form a stellar partnership at their winery near Perpignan, France. Technically part of Catalonia (the border-spanning cultural region, not the autonomous political region in Spain), Trouillas is in the undervalued (according to Jonathan and Rachel) Roussillon region of France and all the grapes used in Treloar wines are estate-grown.

There’s an interesting back-story to the winery. The couple met while working in finance on Wall Street. After losing some friends in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the couple saved up some cash and said to hell with it. John took a degree in winemaking from Lincoln University in New Zealand, then finished brief residencies at a couple of Kiwi wineries before heading to their own plot in the South of France.

The back-story should give a few hints as to the fruit notes you can expect in their dry Muscat. It’s definitely a summery drinking wine that I would happily substitute any time the occasion called for a Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, Rueda-Verdejo, Albariño, or just plain excellent crisp, dry white. I can’t wait for their wines to be available in the US and am truly lamenting the bottle I left behind in Barcelona.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name:  One Block 2014 Muscat Sec 
  • Winery: Domaine Treloar
  • Region: Cotes Catalanes
  • Country: France
  • Varietals: 100% Muscat Petits Grains
  • Price: N/A
  • Where to Buy: N/A

Chateau Pas du Cerf Cotes de Provence 2012 – Provence, France

A nice slate and herb nose, with a slight cheese-rind mustiness that works just right. Deep garnet coloring and medium to light body. Light white pepper and gentle juiciness come on early with a hint of grassiness. Cherries, brisk red fruits, plum and bright acidity blends well with the ease of structure and nearly non-existent tannins. This is an excellent light red when you’re not feeling like the usual punch in the mouth reds that I favor. Just the right amount of character – I don’t tend toward French wines, but I’m glad we got this one. Picked this one up at La Petite Jurassienne (56 Rue de la Buffa) cheese shop in Nice, France. I have no idea whether it’s available in the US or at what price.

  • Rating: Everyday Reds
  • Name: Cotes de Provence 2012
  • Winery: Chateau Pas du Cerf 
  • Region: Provence
  • Country: France
  • Varietals: N/A
  • Price: N/A
  • Where to Buy: La Petite Jurassienne, 56 Rue de la Buffa, Nice, France