Thursday, October 7, 2010

Southern France vs. Santa Barbara Rhones at EBW

Local wine shop East Beach Wine hosted a tasting of Rhone blends from Southern France and Santa Barbara County recently with wines in the $15 to $30 range. So nothing super cheap, but nothing really high end, either. I won't mince words: France dominated the tasting. There weren't any bad wines, but the French wines had that elusive structure and complexity to complement the fruit. And, amusingly, the only really Bretty wine was a California one.

Here's the lineup with my guesses and the reveal:

Wine #1: Kirsch, cherry jam, wet dirt smoked meat, fairly fresh
Guess: Inexpensive French wine, mostly Grenache
Actual: Guigal 2006 Cotes du Rhone, $16, 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre

Wine #2: Dark fruit, meaty, vanilla, spice, sweeter, some heat
Guess: California, Syrah and Grenache, probably Beckmen Cuvee le Bec
Actual: Beckmen 2008 Santa Barbara County Cuvee le Bec, $18, 51% Grenache, 27% Syrah, 16% Mourvèdre, 6% Counoise

Wine #3: Eucalyptus, smokey, more tannic, earth driven, minerality
Guess: French, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre (in that order)
Actual: Chateau La Rouque 2008 Pic St. Loup Rouge, $18, 65% Grenache, 25% Syrah and 15%, Mourvèdre

Wine #4: Reductive/funky, toe jam, fruit up front, herbs on finish
Guess: California, Grenache
Actual: Qupe 2008 Santa Ynez Valley Los Olives Cuvee, $21, 53% Syrah, 25% Grenache and 22% Mourvedre

Wine #5: Funky, animal sweat, medicinal, sweet, hot, less structure
Guess: California, Syrah with Grenache and Mourvedre
Actual: Kunin 2005 Pape Star, $24, 50% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre and 25% Syrah

Wine #6: Garrigue, lavender, eucalyptus, tannic, sweet fruit then tannins clamp down, bitter chocolate
Guess: French, Syrah then Grenache
Actual: Perrin & Fils 2007 Vinsobres Cotes du Rhone Villages Les Cornuds, $29, 50% Syrah and 50% Grenache

I guess I did well in some respects, not so well in others. Guessing the county of origin, good. Even got one wine completely right as I'd tasted it before. But figuring out the blend was only sporadically on target.

As for the wines, Santa Barbara County did poorly. Wines #6 and #3, the Perrin Les Cornuds and the Chateau La Roque Rouge, were clear favorites, with #4, the Qupe Los Olivos Cuvee coming in a distant 3rd. The Qupe probably was a bit young given that it seemed reductive, so that didn't help it out much. But the other two California wines just lacked structure and the Kunin Pape Star was borderline flawed depending on how much Brett you can tolerate. Chateau La Roque has been a favorite on this blog, and the 2008 base-level blend was as good as the several different wines I tried from the 2007 vintage. Great value producer.


Jeff said...

Funny that only the California wine was bretty...that must make your typical California Vintner really freak out, what with it being a "flaw" and all. I've had that Perrin wine before, but I've had the 06. It was pretty good. I also picked up a bottle of that Pic St Loup the other day, and I'm excited to taste it.

Cabfrancophile said...

The funny thing is Brett with the sweet fruit and soft structure is kind of gross to me. Drier, firmer French wines seem to be OK with Brett. Maybe it's a combinatorial tasting effect, or maybe it's a different strain. Either way, CA wines are better off without it because they just seem more medicinal than anything else. It's actually pretty surprising how many CA wines have this Brett, though usually it's smaller producers with less clinical winemaking that K-J or Gallo.

The Les Cornuds just seemed to really shine at that tasting. Maybe that's the effect of a great vintage. Great terroirs are consistent and maybe even get too ripe when it's very sunny. Decent terroirs need a kick from nature. Maybe Parker is right on 2007 in the Rhone at least at the level I drink. At any rate, the Les Cornuds had plenty of structure and fruit which for me is a recipe for success. CA wines really don't seem to get to this level until $30+ which is unfortunate.