Hello friends. Fire up the warning klaxons. We have a baby Chateauneuf alert. It’s a term I don’t throw around lightly. You may recall that we’ve used it for only three wines previously: La Chaussynette from Mas de Boislauzon, Renjarde’s Massif d’Uchaux, and Petit Roy from Jean Royer. That those are three of our top-ten most popular import offers should tell you something.
But it gets better. Chaussy went out at [TEXT WITHHELD]; Renjarde at [TEXT WITHHELD]; Royer at [TEXT WITHHELD]. Get a load of today’s pricing:
2017 Les Vignerons d”Estezargues Cotes du Rhone Cuvee des Galets
I endeavor daily to keep the hyperbole in check. Like many of you, I read some of the other hype-monster emails sent by some of our trade-fellows, and while I appreciate the ability to get stoked about everything all the time, it’s just not my personality. Hopefully that adds extra resonance when I say: it’s time to back up the truck. [One more quick data point on that front: our wonderful staff writer Dylan Joffe is getting married next year, and of all the wines we’ve tasted so far in 2018, this is the first one that has officially been designated as wedding wine. She knows a good deal when she sees one.]
I should also mention: this is not really a $10 wine. It’s usually closer to $15. A quick wine-searcher scan shows no-one selling the ’17 yet, and Astor in NYC as the only retailer selling the ’16 (at $13.96). We’re fortunate that a) our local importer is direct-importing this into Seattle, which helps with pricing; and b) we’re committing to a metric-[bleep]-ton of this wine, which helps even more.
We tasted that 2016 vintage back in March, loved it, and went so far as to schedule it for an April 2 offer. Then things fell apart. The wine was being glass-poured all around town, and importers are loathe to sell out of a solid glass-pour, which represents count-on-it recurring revenue. So we got shut out, and reviewing my series of anguished emails from springtime only makes me more excited that we have access to the ’17.
On the access front, I should say that we have first dibs on the parcel that just landed. Our hold evaporates one week from today, so please try to get all order requests in over the course of the next week, and we’ll do our best to build in a latecomer buffer as well.
Now then, the wine itself. I’ll let the importer introduce Estezargues: Les Vignerons d’Estézargues is a co-operative in the small town of Estézargues located to the south and west of Avignon. The co-op is truly unique in the wine world. All over France the co-ops still play a very important role in the production and sale of wine. They receive grapes from members and then make wine from them in large batches from many different vineyards blended together with the focus on producing wine in quantity rather than quality. Les Vignerons d’Estézargues takes a fundamentally different approach; starting in 1995 the ten different growers in this co-op began to vinify their wine separately and make single cuvées from their best plots. On the heels of the single cuvée project, Les Vignerons d’Estézargues began to practice natural winemaking – possibly one of the only co-ops in the world to do so. They use no cultured yeasts, no filtering, no fining and no enzymes during vinification or aging and only add a small amount of SO2 at bottling.
So yeah, we’re getting a carefully coddled natural wine from the Rhone. For ten bucks. Oh, and did I mention why it’s called Cuvee des Galets? The Galets (French for pebbles, or stones) refers to the vineyards where this wine is grown, which look like this and this. You know where there are also rockpiles of Galets? Yep; Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
And like in Chateauneuf, this is Grenache-dominated, with small amounts of Syrah and Carignan rounding out the blend. It clocks in at 14% listed alc and roars out of the glass with an expressive nose full of brambly raspberry, wildflower-dotted garrigue, and hot-rock minerality. The palate is equally great. I love the wild brambly air of the sauvage here. It adds an electric edge to a core of plush wildberry fruit. My kids have been obsessed with foraging northwest berries lately – salmonberries and thimbleberries, red huckleberries and native blackberries – and the fruit profile here reminds me of my younger one’s hands after he tries (and fails) to carefully coddle the berries. There’s wonderful fruit impact and intensity here, and it’s perfectly balanced by cooling mineral tones. This is just wildly good for the price.