JJF 2017 – Saint-Joseph, France

So I asked the guy working the counter for Georges at Antic Wines for a St. Joseph that is ready to drink now.  Wines from this small appellation tend to be built for laying down for a bit and, thus, in spite of ample fruit, can burn your palate out with tannin.  I followed instructions and opened the bottle about an hour in advance.  I poured out and sipped a glass out of curiosity and to give the wine an opportunity to breath since I was stuck in a hotel room overlooking one of Lyon’s big dining streets.  There’s plenty of characteristic cherry and strawberry on the nose and, at least after breathing a bit, the fruit and mild acid kick on the front end is just perfect.  With some vanilla and leather and echoes of the tannins that make most St. Josephs perfect for aging, this wine is light on complexity, but finishes just as strongly as it starts.  It went perfectly with the porco preto sausage I had hauled from Lisbon with me – a fantastic afternoon snack before hitting the bouchons. Though the price stretches the bounds of our “everyday” category, it’s a steal for the pricey St. Joseph appellation.

P. du Roy Grand Cru 1999 – Bordeaux, France

Deep dark and concentrated strawberry, moss, and old leaves on the nose.  Cotton candy and bananas as it opens up.  You read that right.  Wow.  Violets, red berries, cocoa, faint vanilla on the front palate, fading to florals and cocoa bitterness.  Sleek and elegant.  Looong finish.  We decanted this and drank it over the course of an hour.  A really lovely bottle worth the wait.  I picked this one up during my first visit to Bordeaux, in Saint- Emilion after a fun tour around the very generous tasting table of the shop Bordeaux Classique.

  • Rating: Stunning
  • Name: P. du Roy Grand Cru
  • Winery: P. du Roy, Saint-Émilion
  • Region: Bordeaux
  • Country: France
  • Varietals: Guessing Merlot plus – ask Danielle & Richard Dubois
  • Price: $50 (roughly)
  • Where to Buy: Bordeaux Classique

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

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