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

Domaine Paul Autard 2013 Côtes du Rhône – Rhone, France

IMG_5237I love Rhône varietals, but I honestly don’t drink a lot of Côtes du Rhône wines. Inspired by a recent podcast of the 3 Wine Guys devoted to grenache/garnacha, I decided to start my get-to-know-better exploration of these coveted French beauties. This wine really set a high bar, even though it’s not a Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The nose explodes with fruit and flowers straight out of the bottle. I honestly could have just smelled this baby for 20 minutes without tasting it. But I was a little rushed, so I dove right in. Multiple layers on this. Dried cherries, tobacco, spiced plums, with a gorgeous finish that lingers for at least 10-15 seconds. Light oak – just enough and not too much. Picked it up at Chevy Chase Supermarket for $18. Extremely recommended. A-

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name:  Côtes du Rhône 2013
  • Winery: Domaine Paul Autard
  • Region: Rhone
  • Country: French
  • Varietals: 85% Grenache, 15% Syrah
  • Price: $18
  • Where to Buy: Chevy Chase Supermarket, 8531 Connecticut Ave, Chevy Chase, MD 20815