While the southern part of the Rhône Valley enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate, the Northern Rhône features more of a continental climate with harsh winters but warm summers and the ever present Mistral wind. This climate produces arguably some of the finest Syrah based wines in the world and is considered by some scholars to be one of the first areas of Syrah cultivation.
The next stop on the trip was a visit to Domaine Rossiers in the Côte-Rôtie.
In English, Côte-Rôtie loosely translates to "the roasted slope". It's easy to see why viticulture is so difficult in this area of steep, "roasted" banks on the Rhône river. The vineyards, some of the oldest in France, have been pretty much carved into the mountainside on terraces (not unlike port country in the Douro and parts of the Mosel in Germany) and at insane gradients. Most are so steep that all work has to be done strictly by hand and in some cases pulley systems are in use (again, much like areas of Germany). This steep land along the southern bank of the river has just the right exposure to the sun, allowing the grapes in this climate to fully ripen. Much like Burgundy, if you want to make wine in the Côte-Rôtie, you'll have to inherit the land.
Domaine de Rosiers is located in the heart of Ampuis and is owned and managed by the young Maxime Gourdain, who has recently taken over the estate from his uncle, Louis Drevon. The property consists of some 19 acres broken into 28 parcels, with plots located on the coveted hill of Ampuis and in the famed Rozier vineyard. All the wines produced here are stunning, marked by a striking balance of pure muscle paired with complexity and grace.
It's tremendously exciting to find a new producer in the Côte-Rôtie. Almost all of the producers both large and small have been scooped up by the national importers and distributors. We currently have a couple of selections from Domaine Rosiers in stock and more on the way.
With Maxime Gourdain in his tasting room.
Next week, part two of the Northern Rhône in hunt of Syrah and a visit with Domaine Mucyn.