At Domaine Fondreche, winemaker Sebastien Vicenti makes an opulent, opaque purple, mostly Syrah cuvee called Persia. It’s audacious and downright concentrated, smashing conventional wisdom for what is thought possible to be produced in the Ventoux, an appellation that flanks and gets its name from Mount Ventoux. In the shadow of the mountain, particularly areas south and west, temperatures tend to be cooler than other parts of the Southern Rhone. Sebastien Vicenti exploits this cooler climate to his advantage, making deeply concentrated wines that retain nerve and tension in the finish. Sebastien makes another cuvee called Nadal that is Grenache-based, which I have tended to favor(and have raved about before) up until this past Tuesday when I had my first taste of the 2009 Persia. Now that is what I call powerful juice! It has notes of oak, from its year in a combination of small barrel and large cask, that is in complete balance with the power of the Syrah fruit. Lots of spice and tangy black berry fruits dominate the flavor spectrum. I may not want to pop the cork on this one during the heat of summer, but now that there is a chill in the air, the 2009 Persia is just the kind of bone-warming, soul-stirring red I want to linger over in front of a warm hearth.

Sebastien has long ago embraced Biodynamics and organic farming; he is part of a wellspring of winemakers who firmly believe in the health and vitality of the soil. I’ve been privileged to follow Sebastien’s evolution as a winemaker over the past 15 years. It’s clear to me that now, even with his “level-entry” cuvee Fayard,his wines have elevated to a category that rivals the most famous and prestigious Rhone appellations. And though his wines can be delicious young, the potential for aging is there, especially so for the Persia.


It didn’t take me long to figure out that a newWine Advocate review of Rhones had beenissued as the phone calls and emails poured in this week. Domaine Fondreche garnered a slew of big points, for the 2010 vintage that, except for the Fayard, won’t arrive until next year. So you’ll have to go back a year to see that Fondreche’s 2009 Persiareceived the same smoking 93 points as did their 2010.

I’ve got leg of lamb defrosting in my fridge that I plan making into plov (or pilaf) on Sunday. With any luck I might get in a bit of football but more than likely I’ll be taking a hike with the girl and the dog so that the husband can watch his dose of action without interruption. And furthermore, with any luck, I’ll have a glass of the 2009 Persia to match up with my steamy bowl of spiced rice and gamey lamb…this will more than make up for any loss of game watching, n’est pas?

Anya Balistreri