Awm on the road in Europe Part 1: Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Rhône Valley, France

I just returned from a buying trip to France and Germany hunting the best in value and quality for our customers here in the Mountains. I’m delighted to report that the 2015 vintage in Europe is shaping up to be a very memorable one.  Tasting barrel samples in the Rhone and Burgundy showed wines that have beautiful ripe fruit and the right amount of structure to balance that opulent fruit.

First stop, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and a visit with Vigneron Guillaume Gonnet. Guillaume is the owner and winemaker of the iconic Font de Michelle, a property that has been in his family for three generations.  His vineyards are on the southern edge of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, parked right between Vieux Télégraphe and parcels owned by Michel Chapoutier.  Not a bad neighborhood!  The combination of perfect exposure and the radiant warmth of the stones (gallets) ensure perfect ripeness in his fruit.    The photo to the right shows Guillaume in his “Bel Ami” vineyards. The 2013 “Bel Ami” features a blend of  70% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre, 10% Syrah, 7% Blend of Cinsault, Terret, Counoise, and Muscardin  and a 3% blend of Clairette, Roussanne, and Bourboulenc.  The “Bel Ami” is part of a series of special bottlings that Guilaume does exclusively for our friend Craig Baker.

Guilaume is a super meticulous producer and all of his parcels are hand picked and the fruit is carefully hand sorted.  Although not certified, he is essentially an organic producer.  He doesn’t use any commercial yeasts or enzymes and his reds are not filtered. We currently have a supply of the 2013 “Bel Ami” Châteauneuf-du-Pape and two of his excellent Rosés are due in a couple of weeks.  Compared to his neighbor’s wines, the “Bel Ami” Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a steal at $42.99.  Thanks to the still stronger dollar, his Tavel will be under $20 and his Côtes du Rhône should be somewhere around $12 or so. This is a property to keep an eye on, for certain!