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Department 66: Taking Old Vine Grenache To The Extreme

15 Oct

Ten years after buying vineyards in Maury, France (the Roussillon appellation), winemaker Dave Phinney’s release of his latest venture, called Department 66 , has finally hit the USA. These are wines that don’t taste like Phinney’s previous winemaking undertakings; to his admission they are small cluster, tiny yield (only one-half ton per acre!!) and most of the vines are from 60-100 years of age- which delivers a concentrated mouthful of flavor! 

I can hear you thinking: ok JvB, let’s get to the wines! And away we go…

Department 66’s “Fragile” 2017 Rosé of Grenache, with small amounts of Syrah and Carignan. Maury, France. 15% ABV, SRP $18/bottle.

Color is pale pink with just a hint of orange. The nose is of fresh spring strawberries. The palate is a pleasing shot of young, tart strawberry up front, showing bright acidity with a hint of bitterness on the back palate. Heat sings across the top palate from the high ABV, which I only noticed because I was looking for it- others won’t mind, as the tongue is too busy enjoying the dancing red berries and tangerine rind on the front palate. I poured this for several neighbors who, like myself, were simply enchanted by the wine on their very first sip. Best served cold due to the high ABV.

This is the rosé you didn’t think you were going to love until it hits your mouth. It is so “not Provence” that I want to call it an Anti-Rosé. If you like grenache (aka garnacha) and GSM blends, your mouth just might thank you. It is a delicious, decidedly different approach to a different peak, with an entirely different view of what it means to be a rosé. 

 

 

 

 

Department 66’s “Others” 2015 Grenache (with Carignan, Syrah and Mourvèdre) Catalan Red Wine Blend; Maury, France. 15.2% ABV, SRP $25/bottle.

 

Color is a dark, opaque magenta. The nose offers juicy red plum and chrysanthemum. On the palate, a mixture of dark fruit: cassis, black plum, blueberry with blackberry jam with a touch of forest floor. On the extended finish there are notes of floral herbs, oak, saddle leather, granite, and schist. A monster mouthful of juice that wants to run down your mouth like berries so plum they explode on contact.  

This is a big, full-bodied grenache that is best served just under room temperature and is perfect for smoked and grilled meats, or other powerful flavors that will stand up to bold tannin and structure.  Cabrales cheese, spicy sausage, or savory dishes with heavy sauces could be alternate pairings. The Spanish influence is quite apparent, and if tasted blind I would have suggested Northern Spain, not France. This wine possesses big and bold flavors in a way that juicy California blends have never imagined. 

 

Dave tells his story of Dept. 66 here: 

 

Dave Phinney’s wines have mesmerized me since my first taste of The Prisoner many years ago. He plays by his own set of rules, making delightful wines outside of the standards of the big winemakers, and without corporate constraint. Department 66 is a decidedly different beast, by Phinney’s own admission. He has matured, learned, and this is a new venture, seemingly a personal aspiration. I am fascinated to see what Phinney does next! 

 

To find out more about these wines, click on: https://www.department66.com/

 

#WIYG? Share with me! 

 

à votre santé!

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5 Lesser-Known Gems of Burgundy to Find & Drink NOW!

8 May

Don’t be confused when you see “Bourgogne” on the label. In English, that translates to Burgundy.

Burgundy is the region from which some of the world’s most expensive AND most-prized wines originate, but you can also drink gorgeous, world-class wines for $15-30, what we like to think of as a “daily” drink, as opposed to a weekend or special occasion wine. Because with a tiny bit of knowledge and research, you can drink affordable Burgundy any day of the week that you want to!

Last week I shared five reasons to drink the wines of Bourgogne. Now, here are five lesser-known gems of Burgundy, each a delightful and affordable example of her tremendous terroir and the skilled winemaking from the 84 AOCs that are represented within her five winemaking regions.

 

Simonnet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé, Chablis AOC 12% ABV, SRP $ 14.95

 

This sparkling wine is delicate & aromatic, made from 100% pinot noir grapes. The color is pale salmon. The nose offers rose petals, carnation, and raspberry. On the palate: quite dry, raspberry and cranberry flavors are dominant, which shifts to a long, tart, and satisfying finish with hints of clay and limestone. Small, moderate bubbles provide a relaxed yet robust mouthfeel. You will absolutely ask for more! This sparkling wine drinks beautifully and equally as well as wines that cost twice as much- affordable enough to drink any day of the week, but your mouth will think it’s a holiday!

An interesting fact: this sparkling has bolstered sales in the USA over the last several years, increasing marketshare by more than 10% last season alone. At this price, why not?

 

 

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons 2015; 12.5% ABV, Street price @ $29/bottle.

Color is pale gold, like a warm early morning ray of sunshine. The nose is delightfully balanced with citrus, lemon rind, wildflowers and fresh cut grass.  On the palate, white stone fruit and citrus blend: peach, pear, lemon- with plenty of chalky limestone minerality with a great acidity that provides both a delightful sense of  freshness, and a the potential to age and mature gracefully to enjoy years down the road. Made from 100% chardonnay grapes that are hand picked, hand sorted, and eight months spent on the lees, entirely in stainless. This domaine has been entirely organic since 2004, which allows more expression, delicacy of flavor and minerality. A premier cru at $30?  I’m in.


 

 

 

 

Maison Chanzy Rully En Rosey 2016 by  Jean -Baptiste Jessiaume; ABV 13%, SRP 24.99

This is among the lesser-known appellations of Burgundy that offer tremendous value of quality wines from Bourgogne at reasonable prices! A delightful, oaked chardonnay, this wine spends six months in oak- two to three in new French oak and three-to four months in neutral oak barrels to have the perfect blend of gentle influence and balance. Color is warm afternoon sunshine, with a nose of a saline seashore with lemon rind and vanilla bean. On the palate, moderate citrus, forward, nice acidity, moderate mouthfeel- this wine is ready to be an apéritif or to accompany seafood, oysters, clams, mussels or escargots, and just as easily with enough acidity and body to pair with dried meats, cheeses, or with steak tartare or carpaccio.  A quick search showed many of my favorite wine stores already carry this under-the-radar, strong value Burgundy. Try this for your table, and then you’ll buy more for your cellar!

 

 

 

Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise Les Claveaux 2016 12.5% ABV, SRP $21.99

 

This wine is organically-grown.  Color is medium ruby. The nose is a touch earthy, with rose, dried cherries, potting soil, dried herbs, & black currant. The palate features quite linear fruit with high acidity. It is heavy on the stone fruits, and chock full of minerality with clay, limestone, and a touch of silica. Overall a very nice structure with gentle tannins. Quite delicate, and a pretty wine to enjoy. In Bourgogne, they call this wine “gourmand” which doesn’t really translate accurately to English, but is quite a compliment over there. Some would call this wine feminine, I call it delicious and delightful!

 

 

 

 

 

and last but not least:

Domain Bart, Fixin, Marsannay-la-Côte 2015, 13% ABV, SRP 29.95.

Color is a luxurious deep ruby, while the nose shows eucalyptus, black cherry, and red currants. On the palate, there is bright raspberry and voluptuous cherry, with a beautiful and long finish, on which there were notes of flint, currants, and clay. I could easily pair this classic Burgundian pint noir with a fish (with a savory  or spicy sauce, perhaps), fowl, mushrooms, or delicate red meats.

This northern Côte-de-Nuits is clean and beautiful, showing old-world and age-worthy qualities. This lesser-known appellation is ideal for entry-level prices into Burgundy from a top quality estate- so raise your hands, who want entry-level pricing? (We ALL do, right?) Well, I found this quite quickly (first try!) at Astor Wine & Spirits.

 

Fixin is a northen Côte-de-nuits AOC.

 

 

 

 

Who else is ready for a glass of Bourgogne?

à votre santé!

 

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