The granite soil at Domaine Louis Cheze

The Rhone has been captivating my palate for the better part of 6 months, particularly wines from Cornas and Saint Joseph. Much of the Cornas that was available in the Connecticut market as been stashed in the cellars of smart collectors - it was a good move. I'm not certain when we'll see another round of excellent Cornas enter the market. All is not lost. There are small pockets of wine from the Saint Joseph region that are available if you know where to look.

Like the wines from Cornas, the wines of Saint Joseph are rather distinctive. They tend to display bright fruit with herbal cores, soft textures, bright acidity and solid mineral tones. They are unlike any syrah you will find from other regions in the world. Once you learn the flavors of Saint Joseph, picking one out of a blind tasting is a relatively easy task. Much of this can be attributed to the gravel soils from which they grow.

I rarely pay attention to sales pitch emails this early in the year. They are generally filled with close out offers for junk wine in an effort to spark January numbers. But an email on Friday caught my attention so I stole the subject line. It
simply stated, "This is Saint Joseph". A friend of mine was touting the quality of Louis Cheze's "Caroline" Saint Joseph as "textbook". I've tasted this wine on numerous occasions and you know what, this friend of mine is so very right.

Louis Cheze makes classic wines that typify northern Saint-Joseph, with elegance, fruit, and minerality. The Caroline Cuvee is named after his daughter, born in 1986, and embodies the purest expression of Syrah from the Northern Rhone. It comes from vines aged 40 to 45 years old, with the additional benefit of low yields. Aged in 50% new oak, the wine releases an intense nose of berries and fruit flavors, with a lingering, floral-tinged finish.

I'm taking two cases for the family cellar. We'll use them now through 2016 when in need of a wine for afternoon charcuterie, early evening pre-dinner sipping, fall afternoons in the back yard, duck confit or classic cassoulet. I'll admit it's a little rich for some of these occasions, but sometimes it's nice to live a little 1%.

2010 Louis Cheze "Caroline" Saint Joseph

$45 per bottle, $486 per case
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