Back to my comfort zone: a Cabernet Franc from Bourgueil. The producer is Domaine de la Butte, which was acquired in 2002 by Jacky Blot according to the blog Jim's Loire. Apparently Jacky Blot had previously produced only white and rosé wines, though judging from this bottle, he's doing great work with his reds as well.
The Domaine de la Butte 2006 Les Perrières is one of four cuveés that Blot produces. The basic bottling is Le Pied de la Butte, which comes from the portion of the vineyard with the lowest quality. Les Perriéres, meanwhile, is a notch above Le Pied de la Butte, but a notch below Le Haut de la Butte in the pecking order. The best section of the vineyards produces Mi Pente. If you're interested, the above link to Jim's Loire provides significantly more information on the exposure and soil that define each of these sites in the vineyard. But the context here is most important: this is a mid-priced, mid-level wine. Anyone can make a great wine for $50 per bottle buying top fruit, selling off barrels of wine in bulk that didn't turn out as desired, and hiring expensive consultants, but it's the really excellent producers who can put together a worthwhile wine in the $15-$25 range.
I must admit, the flavor profile and aromatics of this wine are exactly what I like in just about any wine. There's a certainly clarity and purity of fruit expression on the palate, yet the bouquet offers a variety of aromas that make you think "how'd that get in the bottle?" Most prominent on the nose is a big whiff of leather. There's also a bit of tar as well as some sweeter notes of blackberry and tobacco. One is hard pressed to find any hint of herbaceousness here, which is somewhat disappointing in the context of a Loire Cab Franc. But the funky elements provide the desired complexity, preventing the wine from being entirely fruit driven like some ripe Loire reds can be.
There's a certain New World quality to the sweetly berried palate. There also seems to be a hint of oak flavor that adds a little astringency to the finish, yet nicely rounds out the wine as a whole. The finish has a very intense dark chocolate and coffee component, which I've also tended to find more often in California wines based on Bordeaux varietals with a fair amount of oak influence. What makes this work so well, though, is the contrast of the sweeter fruit with the bitterness on the finish. It's absolutely delicious. The body, acidity and tannins are all moderate at this point making this an enjoyable wine to drink in its relative youth.
This is a wine with a heart of darkness. Dark fruit, dark smells, and dark flavors. Yet there's also a degree of refined elegance to it. It's not rustic, nor is it a bruising wine that envelops the drinker with power. It's an excellent wine that's also a superb value, and certainly suggests Domaine de la Butte is a producer to seek out in the future.
Price: $22 from Wine Library