It’s feels almost like every night is “Open That Bottle Night.” That’s the yearly event on the final Saturday of February where we are all urged to open that bottle because why not?
With so many people working at home (if they are working at all), every day seems like Saturday and any day you may lose your sense of smell, sense of taste, or worse to the dreaded COVID-19.
So why not reach deep into the cellar and pull out a special bottle of wine? Or two?
And meet me (virtually) in the northern Rhône with other #winophiles where I’m drinking wines from the Saint-Joseph AOC!
Northern Rhone Wines
- 2014 Nicolas Badel “Montrond” Syrah Saint-Joseph, France SRP $40
- 2012 Coursodon “Le Paradis Saint Pierre” Syrah Saint-Joseph SRP $80
- Arugula salad
- Eggplant Parmesan
- Rack of lamb
The Rhône river defines the region and long served as a transportation corridor. Originating in Alpine glaciers, it flows through the valley to the Mediterranean. The Greeks first planted vines here.
Today in the northern part of the Rhône wine region, it’s all about syrah while in the south, grenache dominates the vineyards, for example, in Chateauneuf-du-Pape or Rasteau. In the northern Rhône, the narrow valley is steep on both sides with a semi-continental climate.
Located on the 45th parallel in the northern Rhone valley with both continental and Mediterranean climate stretching 50km long, the Saint-Joseph appellation is known for its powerful and elegant Syrah with 87% of the wines produced red and 13% white. Plantings on steep granitic slopes, originally by the Greeks and later maintained by the Romans, ensure good sun and drainage.
Before going by the name Saint-Joseph, a vineyard located between Tournon and Mauves, the area went by Mauves which was referenced by Hugo’s Les Misérables: “My brother offered him some of that good Mauves wine.”
In 1956, the area of 1300 hectares was officially recognised as an AOC. It connects Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie in the north with Saint-Péray and Cornas in the south.
Winemaker Nicolas Badel grew up in the Rhone and at first pursued engineering but the vineyards called and he answered. After studying wine at school and working in other people’s vineyards, in 1999 he acquired his own and began immediately on an organic path that has led him to biodynamic practices today.
At first Nicolas sold his grapes to the local coop but In 2010, he began bottling his own wines which feature a Roman coin on the label, one of several artifacts found while Nicolas worked the vineyards surrounded by scrubby woodland.
Montrond is one of two single-vineyard wines Nicolas produces from the Saint-Joseph appellation. The Montrond syrah is grown at 300m overlooking the Rhone in pebbly, granitic soil near the village of Limony while Les Mourrays is 48-year-old vines.
Color: Medium bodied, deep color, garnet with a pale coral rim
Nose: Florals, a bit of flinty funk, light sulphuric tones, blue fruit, pepper, earth and herbs. As it opens up the funk dissipates and the blueberry fruit comes forward plus PLENTY OF PEPPER!
Palate: Tart and bright, clean, light and lively, lots of black pepper towards the back of the palate, limestone soils, it’s like the sea the chalk and salinity. Very, very, dry. The tannins are present. Like the skins and seeds of the fruit, rather than oak. I got a soft fresh rose petal finish, but Sue couldn’t get beyond the black pepper at the back of the palate. Seriously lots of black pepper, and over a day or two, the pepper becomes more prevalent.
Pairing: This wine turns cheese into chocolate! Nice with the cranberry stilton bringing out perfumed notes. Fantastic with the wine soaked goat cheese; it is different than when paired to the big bold cheeses which it likes as well. This pairing is light and creamy, with a fantastic earthy musk. Loves the rosemary in the lamb marinade and a solid pairing with the eggplant parmigiana.
Sue: “In my mind, Syrah is not what I would normally think to pair with Italian food. However, it loves the the fruitiness of the tomato, the creaminess of the cheese and the grilled taste from the eggplant. Eggplant parmigiana is definitely a recipe to keep in mind if you have a French Syrah.”
I can’t believe that I was able to get a wine like this — amazing, expressive, certified organic with biodynamic practices — at this price. What a find for $17!
2012 Coursodon “Le Paradis Saint Pierre” Syrah Saint-Joseph, France 13.4% ALC SRP $80; on sale at Winehouse LA $39
In contrast to Nicolas Badel, Jérôme Coursodon. represents a fifth generation of wine growers in Saint-Joseph, working beside his father since 1998, and today serves as winemaker. His philosophy? “It is the sum of small details that makes the difference.”
Further, Jérôme Coursodon says that “Making wine is a constant thinking. My tastes, my feelings, my impressions and my palate have evolved with time. Nowadays, I tend to produce generous, powerful and elegant wines. This might be due to the fact that I am now a father and I feel “wiser”. I feel like producing wine with more volume, more precision, aerial and enchanting wines to the detriment of more discreet wines. I consider that my wines are pure, precise, straight and mineral.”
Jérôme Coursodon makes “Wines with a soul and made with grapes with character.”
While not certified organic, all work is done by hand. According to the website, because of the rugged terrain, “we cannot use machines in the vineyards therefore only men or horses are able to wander in the steep slopes.” Decomposed granite soils allow “the vines roots to sneak up deeply into the granite.”
This wine is made from old vines from the vineyard, and winemaker Jérôme Coursodon considers “this wine as the “Hermitage” of the Estate. Indeed, a few millions of years ago, the Hermitage, the steeply slopes of the Saint-Joseph plot and “le Paradis” plot in Mauves were as one. This was a long time before that the Rhône bounded the right bank with the Ardèche and the left bank with the Drôme. For many generations, men shape those hillsides so difficult to work. As wine-growers we need to play a part which consists in sublimating, showing and making people discover this great treasure that nature gave us, our terroir”. Robert Parker is also a fan; he gave the 2010 97 points.
Color: Dense, difficult to see through, unfined, unfiltered, a bit cloudy, maroon drapes with a brickish rim.
Nose: Big, bold, smokey, hickory grilled meat, earth and mint like rosemary, lavender, fresh rose petals. Very engaging nose.
It is so nice I could drown in this scent.
With the lamb, the nose has more red and black licorice. Fascinating!
Palate: I found this wine to be meaty, like lasagne is meaty. It is rich. It is smooth like clay from the front of the palate to the finish. Everything is so integrated together in this wine. The fruit, the black pepper, the earth, the clay, the herbal notes, they are all mingling together so perfectly. Tannins on the tip of the tongue; overall a savory wine.
Pairing: Great with creamy sharp cheeses; Red Leischster, Sharp Irish cheddar, aged gouda and creamy blue. When we had the blue cheese and the wine, we both wanted the best quality burger and blue with this wine. Fantastic with the grilled lamb. It loves the rosemary, marinade, and spices of the rub. The grill char is great with the wine. The wine also loved the eggplant parmesan. Lamb has a particular texture which goes very nicely with these wines.
While certainly this wine could age for another ten years, I’m glad we opened it now. It was really interesting to compare the two. I’m so grateful to “back then” me for buying both f them and to Winehouse LA for encouraging me when i asked about them.
And while I am an optimist, I think during this current time of the covid-19 pandemic, we should ask ourselves:
what are we waiting for?
let’s drink up the good stuff!
And at least for me, I’m dreaming of travel to France… I’m hoping to get to Bordeaux to compete for the World Wine Tasting Championship in 2020 and then to the Rhone in 2021 — if not sooner!
See what the other #winophiles wrote about this month:
- Cindy from Grape Experience writes Strength and Power Meet Balance and Elegance in Syrah from the Northern Rhone.
- Wendy from A Day In The Life On The Farm presents To Syrah with Love.
- Lauren from Swirling Dervish explores Old World Syrah from the Northern Rhone: 2016 Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage.
- Jeff from Food Wine Click offers A View of Northern Rhone’s Saint Joseph through Three Wines.
- Linda from My Full Wine Glass posts Crozes-Hermitage: A Gateway to Northern Rhône Wine.
- Jill from L’Ocassion asks What’s the Difference Between France’s Northern Rhône and Southern Rhône Valleys?
- Here on Wine Predator I write In These Times, Drink from Deep in The Cellar: Two from Northern Rhone’s St Joseph’s.
- Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles is Finding Connections in the Northern Rhône.
- Susannah from Avvinare writes about Virtually Visiting Crozes-Hermitage Through Chapoutier’s Wine.
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures With Camilla pairs Chicken Chasseur + Guigal Crozes-Hermitage 2016.
- Nicole at Somm’s Table serves A Simple Spring Lamb Feast with Maison Nicolas Perrin Crozes-Hermitage.
- Jane from Always Ravenous pours A Taste of Hermitage Marsanne.
- Martin from Enoflyz Wine Blog suggests Looking For Value in Northern Rhône? Look For Crozes-Hermitage!
- Lynn from Savor The Harvest goes Exploring Treasures of the Northern Rhone.
Terri from Our Good Life sings Hey Syrah, Syrah, Whatever Will Be, Will Be.
- Our host, Rupal on Syrah Queen is Exploring Côte-Rôtie –Syrahs With A Twist.
Join us on Saturday April 18 2020 8am Pacific time LIVE (or anytime) for our Northern Rhône Twitter Chat by following the hashtag #winophiles and these questions:
- 11:00 am ET
Q1 Welcome to the #Winophiles Northern Rhône chat. Where are you tweeting from? Introduce yourself, share a link to your blog. Visitors and Wineries too!
- 11:05 am ET
Q2 Are you a Northern Rhône wine fan, or was this a new region for you? #Winophiles
- 11:10am ET
Q3 What’s your general impression of Northern Rhône wines, white and red? Did your choices today match up with your previous experience or were they different? #Winophiles
- 11:15am ET
Q4 Which Northern Rhône Village/Cru did you choose to focus on this month? Do you have a favorite Cru? Pick one to tell us about #Winophiles
- 11:20 am ET
Q5 Did you turn up anything interesting in your research on Northern Rhône for your post? #Winophiles
- 11:25 am ET
Q6 Tell us about the wines you picked?? #Winophiles
- 11:30 am ET
Q7 What was your food pairing choice for your Northern Rhône wine? What were your thoughts before the pairing? #Winophiles
- 11:35am ET
Q8 Your thoughts on your Northern Rhône pairing, success or failure?? #Winophiles
- 11:40am ET
Q9 Tell us about your thoughts on Northern Rhône after our event? Do you have any advice for when to serve Northern Rhône wine? #Winophiles
- 11:45am ET
Q10 Have you ever visited Northern Rhône? Experiences or dreams? #Winophiles
- 11:50am ET
Q11 Do you have a favorite producer/producers in this region? #Winophiles
- 11:55am ET
Q12 Do you have any final thoughts or new questions for the group? #Winophiles
- 11:59am ET
Thanks for joining #Winophiles Please join us next month as we explore Cru Beaujolais with Cindy Lowe Rynning
- 12:00pm ET
Thanks you for joining the #Winophiles to chat about Northern Rhône. Enjoy the weekend! Cheers!!