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Rhone Zone Spotlight: 2010 Clos Saint Michel CDP

“If you only drink the same wines that everyone else is drinking, then you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” ~ A wise Vino-Sapien

You're now traveling to another wine country destination, a destination not only of sight and sound but of the vine; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of export. That's the signpost up ahead — your next stop, the Rhone Zone. —Rod Serling

Isn't that how Mr. Serling introduced the second season of the Twilight Zone??  For some a timeless show which [in many respects] was way ahead of its time. It was a show which made many take pause and perhaps even some thought about this mortal-coil that we all tread upon. Okay yes, I took some artistic license with the opening monologue [so sue me], but I did so with the best of intentions.

The intent, if ever so briefly, to transport you to another time and place. One you may have no doubt heard of before, but one you may not have had that much experience with on a regular basis. The boundaries of export, meaning as a serious wine shopping kinda guy, I don't see as much vino from the Rhone Zone as I would like to see in the US wine marketplace [with a few exceptions of course]. But when you do have a chance explore, do so with reckless abandon, it's a vast and luscious wine landscape. One which will richly reward you both now and in the future. 



The Rhone Zone: This is one area of France which is fast becoming one of my all-time favorite regions and not just for the red wines either. Because I find the white wines from this exciting region to be every bit as fantastic as the reds. It can be thought of as split up; with south and north, each has its own climate and interesting topography.

The North: It's hilly, is influenced by a turbulent, strong wind, called the Mistral and according to their strict wine laws, there a good number of the northern appellations that can ONLY be planted with Syrah. Within the borders of the North, you have the Cote Rotie, where up to 20% of the Syrah can be juiced with Viognier [syrah-perfume]. They also have a super-star[think Jerry Maguire] within its borders, named the Hermitage home to some of the world's most beautiful wines, where bacon fat and pepper aromas are coaxed from steep hillsides.

It's also home to some big red monsters who lie in wait in the Coronas appellation, dark, rich, brooding wines who bite at the heels of their neighbor in Crozes-Hermitage. A region which produces a lighter more subtle style of vino, where rich raspberry, earthiness, and silky tannins dominate the more value-oriented red wines from the north.

The South: Is by contrast to the north, considered the "flat-lands." The weather there tends to be much warmer, and the vineyards rise out of landscape typically covered by some strange stones called "galets" which make a significant contribution to the "uniqueness" and exceptional quality to Southern Rhone wines. 


The Southern Rhone is home to the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape [new castle of the pope]. These wines typically are GSM blends but can be blended with up to 13 different grapes, but Grenache is the kingpin grape here. This is the place you will find bottles brandishing a lavish Coat of Arms just above the label, indicating that these wines are Estate grown. They also have a super-star in their midst, known as Chateau de Beaucastel.

The Murkey Middle Lands: This is the place where you have a blending of both regions, known to many as Cotes du Rhone encompassing the dual Rhone's most extensive production areas, producing a broad range and styles of wine. While the Villages designation on the bottle will typically mean, the wines lean toward a higher quality standard.

If you've never taken a visit to the Rhone-Zone, as I like to call it; then folks this is your ticket to ride. It's a style of wine that will come out, shake your hand and you'll become fast friends. It will leave you wondering why you had not met sooner. Even the garden variety wine-twirler will get this wines easy going and easy to get along with personality. Most times you'll find this is a style of wine that's easy as a Sunday morning and is also easy to please even the fussiest wine snob.

You'll find in this wine, a style which makes food pairing choices so easy and wonderfully fun. I can't imagine too many things that would not pair well with this remarkably well-made wine from a stellar vintage. In this blend you'll be greeted by forty percent Grenache, which blazes the trail like an elephant through the tall grass, followed by equal percentages of Mourvedre and Syrah. This delightful blend expressing vibrant blueberries, blackberries, olives and a meatiness which are caressed by underbrush tones; this wine is both complete and delightfully sophisticated at the same time.

This wine from Clos Saint Michel, CDP has everything the average vino-sapien is looking for via earthy, mineral-driven nuances, [you literally taste the vineyard dust] light, engaging aromatics which draw you in for the first slurp. A food friendly wine with a gentle verve of dark and red fruits pulsing through its soul. After the first splash, you're enthusiastically greeted by a generous nose; freshly picked blueberries, wildflowers and a hint of black olives. A dense ruby to simmering blackberry color core, expanding to a slightly paler rim. This wine is seamless, finely knit tannins, effortlessly woven into the fabric of this southern Rhone stunner and while it's not inexpensive, it's well worth the price of admission. Until next time folks here's to exploration, slurp long and prosper cheers! 





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