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Rhone Valley Wines w/ Jo-Ann Ross

We had Jo-Ann Ross in the house talking us through a bang-up lineup of southern Rhone wines; two whites and two reds that showcase why the Rhone Valley is a paradise for the grapevine, a blessing to enophiles everywhere, and unequivocally one of the world's greatest wine regions.

Domaine de Fondreche Ventoux Blanc 2017

From organically grown vines on north and west facing slopes of Mont Ventoux, cool sites well suited to white wine production in this very sunny locale, this is one of the freshest white wines you'll find from the southern Rhone Valley. An un-oaked blend of 30% Grenache blanc, 30% Clairette, 30% Roussanne and 10% Rolle (aka Vermentino, Pigato, Favorita...), harvested at night to preserve acidity, it is focused on fruit (fresh peach, green melon, citrus...) but subtle notes of herbs and flowers provide nice diversions and the finish is tart and crisp, with beautiful stony and saline nuances. It would be great alongside simply baked white fish with citrus or various arthropods of the sea.

Saladin Cotes du Rhone Blanc 'Per El' 2016

The Saladin family has never used synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides; they have always cultivated their land with organic methods. While never heavy or ponderous, their white wine is an example of the richer and more exotically flavored white wines of the Rhone Valley. A blend of Marsanne, Bourboulenc, Viognier, Roussanne, Clairette and Grenache Blanc, one might say it splits the difference between Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc and Condrieu, and competes on the same level as those more vaunted wines at half (a third, a quarter...) the price. In the 2016 vintage it is a huge success. Spicy and floral, with beautiful flavors of candied citrus and fresh stone fruits so pure and resounding, it is a true delight. Supple and textured on the palate, it is almost full-bodied but remains fresh and vivacious through the long finish. This stuff is gorgeous and a real value in the category of serious white wine from the Rhone Valley. It doesn't need to age, but it should evolve nicely for at least a few more years.

Chateau Valcombe Ventoux Rouge 'Les Hauts de Valcombe' 2015

We poured this wine blind one Friday and it was a massive hit! It is an organically grown blend of Grenache and Syrah from Chateau de Valcombe's north-facing vineyards. They are looking to make a fresh and easy drinking style, and they hit it out of the park in 2015. Super juicy, verging on being jammy, it has lots of cherry and plum flavors backed up by hints of spice and wild herbs. Soft tannins and gentle acids make for a plush and inviting style that is sure to please a wide variety of wine lovers. This is the kind of wine that has given the southern Rhone the reputation as the source of some of the world's very best everyday wines.

Saint-Damien Gigondas 'La Louisiane' 2015

Decadent. Sensational. Monumental. This wine is GOOD. From biodynamically cultivated old vines on south-facing slopes with soils of red clay and sand, this blend of 80% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre and the rest Syrah and Cinsault is fermented in concrete tanks and raised in a large (50 hectoliter) cask. Incredibly aromatic, with notes of raspberry, kirsch, plums, cured meat, dark chocolate and too many spices and herbs to list... it is about as complex, sensual and exotic as wine gets. Thick, full-bodied and veritably velvety, it coats the palate with layers of flavor, finishing intense and very lengthy. Hard to say how long this wine will last, but another 10 years in a good cellar should see it in very fine form. Enjoy it today with spicy grilled lamb, boeuf en daube or a rich dark lentil dish.

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