2011 Famille Bieler “Lou Ven Tou” Cotes du Ventoux (Grenache Blend)

Hello friends. By happy accident, I got to taste today’s wine blind. I had run out of the warehouse for an undoubtedly very important reason (the stuffed bagel from Sodo Deli waits for no man!) and missed the pouring of this bottle.

When I returned, there was a very pleasant looking glass of anonymous red wine sitting on the tasting table, so I wiped the cream cheese out of my moustache and dug in.

The nose: brambly raspberry fruit dusted with spicy harissa, forest aromas, and a zesty/savory tomato-paste kicker. The palate: a total mouth-coater, with terrific balance between fruits and savories, all around a hot-rock mineral core. Lush, rich, concentrated, and intense.

Gigondas, I thought? Vaqueyras? Or maybe a really nice Washington Grenache, flirting with old world character?

Then Matt told me what it was:

Blind tasting is a humbling game, but this kind of humbling, I like. Because for me, this is a wine that I would pay entry-level Gigondas pricing for ($20-$30). But instead it costs one measly sawbuck. (Many thanks to the recent KUOW spring pledge drive for teaching me a host of synonyms for the ten-dollar bill.)

So then it was of course the race to the computer to learn why something this good costs this little, and the more I learned about this project, the less surprising the QPR became.

Charles Bieler is not a stranger to Washingtonians. He has been partnered with Charles Smith of K Vintners fame since 2010 in the Charles & Charles label. You know: these guys.

But before he got involved making wine in our fair state, M. Bieler was working with his father Philippe on Chateau Routas in Provence. Founded by Philippe in 1992, the Chateau was sold in 2005, and soon after the sale of Routas, Bieler Pere et Fils was founded. That label has made a killing mostly through its lovely Provence Rosé, but they have also introduced a new project: Lou Ven Tou.

The name is a play on the pronunciation of Le Ventoux, the AOC where this wine comes from. The vineyards are planted near Le Barroux, on the western slopes of Mont Ventoux (location here), at elevations ranging from 400-1500 feet. We’re essentially at the intersection of the Southern Rhone and Provence. It’s Grenache country, and that dominates the 2011, at 84% of the blend.  Most of the remainder (13%) is Syrah, rounded out with dashes of Cinsault and Carignan.

The vines are fifty years old and give extremely low natural yields, which helps explain the wine’s intensity and concentration. I’m not sure how anyone makes money selling wine from fifty-year-old vines five thousand miles away for $10, but I’m not complaining. This is the summer BBQ red, without question, and if you want to bring it to someone else’s party, the packaging belies the price point.

Raised entirely in Nomblot concrete to avoid even a hint of wood influence, this is all about the pure Provencal fruit. If we can’t all visit Provence this summer, at least we’ll have this wine. First come first served up to 60 bottles, and the wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

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