Hello friends. More than a year ago, we offered a lovely little Luberon Syrah from Val Joanis. Recently, our import partner let me know that they and Joanis had decided to part ways, and they wanted to give us dibs on the remaining stock, since we had been staunch supporters of the brand. “Also,” he added, “you guys have been reordering this wine constantly.”
I checked our records, and that was indeed an accurate statement. After our big initial order in February 2015, we brought in 10 bottles on March 5, 22 bottles on June 9, 4 bottles on July 21, 6 bottles on August 11, 6 bottles on September 1, and so on and so on. That, my friends, is the pattern of a popular wine. Because if there are a dozen folks going out of their way to request reorders of a wine, there are probably a hundred who also love the wine but just haven’t gotten around to reordering it.
Or at least I hope so, because I bought every last bottle remaining in Seattle. In addition to this being last call on Joanis Syrah, we also bought out all their remaining Roussanne, which would be a wonderful white to have around all spring and summer. See below the Syrah for that one.
I love offers like this one, where I taste a fabulous wine that I know nothing about, then have to fall deep down the research rabbit hole to understand why it’s as good as it is. This landed in my glass at the end of a long day of tasting (I know: tough life), where I was grumpier than normal and less inclined to like whatever I was tasting. To say it cut through the clutter of the day would be an understatement. I’m just going to transcribe my note directly from my notebook:
super umami; FUNKY; loads of briney olives; lots of brackish seashore notes (kelp and sea salt); blackberry fruit; terrific salinity on 13.5%-alc palate mixed w/ brambly fruit and loads of continuing savories; has a sense of funkiness that lovers of Wash. Syrah will appreciate; unfashionable AOC = well priced; this is Washington meets Crozes!
I was excited by the wine. As you can tell. And I was also excited to dig into why it was so compelling. Let’s begin with the AOC: Luberon. There are all these incredible values to be found on the outskirts of the Rhone Valley. We’ve previously dug up Lou Ven Tou and Lou Bar Rou from Cotes du Ventoux, and Domaine des Rozets from Grignan-les-Adhemar. Now we can add Cotes du Luberon to the list as well.
As you can see from Joanis’ location, we’re in a transition zone here between the Rhone and Provence. You may recall there was a time when no one had heard of Gigondas and Vacqueyras, and so those regions produced terrific values. I’d argue that places like Ventoux and Luberon are now stepping up and occupying that value space. The regions are still uneven, but that’s okay: as you know, we don’t mind tasting through a lot of dreck to find the gems.
This particular gem has a terrific back-story, too. The Joanis estate has a long history. How long is a little unclear, but it appeared in a land register in 1575 with the exact same boundaries it has today. The 1800s and early 1900s were not kind to the estate, which was overgrown by forest in 1977 when the current owner (Jean-Louis Chancel) purchased it. But evidence of vineyards and olive groves was scattered throughout the estate, and Chancel proceeded to embark on a twenty-year rehabilitation project, in the end planting out 186 hectares of vineyards (and some olive trees as well). He also built a winery on the property inspired by the architecture of the Dominican Order, along with gardens so beautiful that they were named among the “Notable Gardens of France” by the French Ministry of Culture (here’s just one picture of the gardens). Sounds like a place we should probably all aim to visit.
And then there are the vineyards. Here’s what the winery says: During the Quaternary Era, erosion phenomena caused the appearance of broad deposits of limestone and gravel, forming an exceptionally favorable soil. The vineyard spreads over the hills, at altitudes from 280 meters (945 feet) to 499 meters (1637 feet) at its highest point. And more to the point, here is what the vineyard looks like, a thick layer of pebble stones above anything resembling “soil.” Many of the wines produced in this region are Grenache-based, as you’d expect from the southern Rhone, but Val Joanis’ estate vineyards are planted predominantly to Syrah. And thank goodness for that, because this is one savory-wonderful expression of Syrah, priced like a midweek house wine but with enough complexity to serve on special occasions.
Please limit order requests to 12 bottles of each wine, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines are both in the warehouse and ready for immediate pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.