Full Pull Early James

Hello friends. Normally we offer Louis Barroul’s Little James Basket Press in mid-winter, but I’m afraid that might not work this year. The excitement over the 2015 vintage in the Rhone (southern especially) is pushing sales in a scary direction, and I don’t want our list members to miss out. Always a great value, Little James moves into ridiculous territory when its main ingredient is a great vintage like 2015.

[Note: we’ll also use this as a chance to reoffer the Little James Blanc, which is a terrific $10 summer sipper.]

NV Saint Cosme Little James Basket Press (2016 bottling)
Another exciting recent development with Saint Cosme is that winemaker Louis Barroul came to town for the first time in nearly a decade, and I got to meet the man over a lovely lunch put on by Saint Cosme’s local importer. The focus of that lunch was Cosme’s series of exquisite single-vineyard Gigondas, but the real focus, for me, was getting to listen to Louis talk. Over the years of selling his wines, I’ve loved the way he writes about his bottles. No surprise: the in-person version didn’t disappoint. Some sample quotes:

[on how chemistry can only get you so far]: “Numbers are numbers; practice is practice; soul is soul.”

[on why winemakers should avoid making much of their own imprint on their wines]: “People pass away. The vines, the soil: they remain.”

[on his winemaking philosophy]: “You want to express an idea of a wine’s origin, of its soul. That’s what’s interesting.”

It was a 120-minute treat of me listening and nodding and thinking I’d pretty much write about any wine this man wants to make. It’s clear that Louis is a man who has thought long and hard not just about what he is doing with Saint Cosme, but *why*, and that makes such a difference. We can all of course support whichever wineries and winemakers we want, but I also want to say: in a trade pockmarked with bullshit artists, Louis Barroul is 100% the genuine article, without question worthy of support from anyone who cares about this beverage we treasure.

Okay: didactics over. Back to wine. Louis began Little James as a solera project in 1999. It’s a NV (non-vintage) bottling, and each bottle contains about 50% of the most recent vintage (in this case – woot woot! – 2015), and 50% from the solera, which at this point contains juice from every vintage from 1999 to 2014. It gets the Vin de France designation, because it contains juice from the Cosme Grenache holdings in the Southern Rhone as well as the Languedoc.

As we all know, there is a surfeit of serious bottles in the wine world. This is not intended to be one of them. The label shows the playfulness at the heart of Little James, but what are we to do when a wine intended for playfulness turns out to sneakily contain a little seriousness? I suppose the answer is to enjoy it however we want. Little James can be enjoyed for the sheer pleasure it brings, the lovely pure expression of briar-berry Grenache. But there is undeniable complexity here (having a small proportion of juice that is 17 years old doesn’t hurt), and if you want to take your time with this bottle and pay attention, you’ll be rewarded handsomely. This James pours into the glass inky black blood-red, and leaps out of the glass with an expressive nose of brambly raspberry and tayberry, black olive, and loads of wonderful herbes de provence. The palate offers intensity and energy, a wonderful combination of fruit and savory elements, and a pleasingly rustic chewy finish. This is without question the most successful bottling of Little James I’ve tasted (and I’ve now tasted seven of them), and really is a wonderful expression of Grenache at a very silly price.

Here is Louis on this particular James: [TEXT WITHHELD].

2014 Saint Cosme Little James Basket Press Blanc
Originally offered Feb 5, 2016. Excerpts from the original: Barroul always offers insightful notes on his wines. Here’s an example:[TEXT WITHHELD].

Louis is right, both that Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier are uncommon blending partners, and also that he manages to make a good marriage of the two grapes. To me, this drinks like Viognier with an acid injection. The Sauvignon Blanc seems to influence the texture in a major way (adding brightness and lift via a sturdy acid spine) but not so much the aroma and flavor, which is very much Viognier. Honeysuckle, orange peel, peach, fresh ginger; it’s all there, as is Viognier’s lovely inner-mouth perfume. Another sneaky charmer from the Little James lineup.

Please limit order requests to 48 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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