2009 Santa Duc Cotes du Rhône Les Vieilles Vignes

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 8:18 PM

There is just something about Santa Duc’s Cotes du Rhônes. In the hands of winemaker Yves Gras, Grenache is elevated to the grand heights of sensory pleasure. For my palate, the taste of ripe, plush Grenache is as comforting as falling into a down-filled overstuffed sofa. With the 2009 Cotes du Rhône Les Vieilles Vignes, Yves augments that cushy, juicy Grenache fruit with elements of white pepper, fragrant forest-floor herb notes, and a seamless finish. It is a lovely drink for evenings that are constructed around simple foods and animated conversations that go long into the night. When you have the urge to tuck in, curl up on the couch, and savor a glass of something yummy, I strongly suggest reaching for Santa Duc’s 2009 Les Vieilles Vignes. 
Domaine Santa Duc has long been recognized for stellar Gigondas and Cotes du Rhônes. In the 1997 edition of Wines of the Rhone Valley, Robert Parker Jr. wrote, “Santa Duc has become not only an important estate in Gigondas…but also a noteworthy producer of high-quality Cotes du Rhone…” I can assure you that in the 15 years since this publication was written, Yves has not been resting on his laurels and in fact is making even better wine today. Back in the late 80’s, Yves took over from his father who had been selling the fruit from their domaine to local negociants. This was common practice back then, but Yves had someithing else in mind for Santa Duc. With his unwavering work in the vineyard and cellar, becoming certified organic as of 2012, Santa Duc has yielded consistently exceptional wine over the years. It certainly hasn’t hurt that the Rhône has been blessed with a string of quality vintages either. However I’d like to point out as testament to Yves’ winemaking prowess that in the disastrous 2002 vintage, when most of the Rhône’s wine production was obliterated by torrential rains and floods, Yves managed to salvage his grapes and make, ok I’ll try not to exaggerate, very good wine. No small feat. The 2009 Les Vieilles Vignes is a selection of vines over 50 years old from primarily Villages-level vineyards, Yves’ own designation for calling it “old vines”. Grenache dominates, with the remainder Syrah, Mourvedre and the other usual Rhone suspects. Other than that, not much else to note – it really is all about the ripe fruit.Today, Wine House customers seemed ready to get busy in the kitchen. I heard about menus featuring roast duck, herb-crusted pork loin and, my favorite, a pork shoulder brined over night to be cooked on a rotisserie attachment over a grill. And what do all these mouth-watering dishes have in common? They’d all be great with the 2009 Les Vieilles Vignes from Santa Duc, c’est vrai! 
Last Saturday I rushed home to celebrate Mardi Gras, Russian-style. That’s right, we had buckwheat blini with all sorts of preserved and salted fish. As we were catching up on things, my brother commented that he expects to read something about our feast in my next write-up, but I explained it would be difficult since this is one of the few meals where wine just doesn’t work, it’s strictly vodka with blini. What could I do? Well, my brother then went on to say that he likes to keep the Dirty Dozen write-up on top of the wine fridge he keeps in the dining room. That way when he’s sent to grab a bottle for dinner, he can call back, “what’s cooking?” and then try to find what best matches the food pairing suggestion written at the end of each Dirty Dozen wine description. Now that’s a helpful tip I can share. Thanks big brother! —Anya Balistreri

2007 Cotes du Rhone: Gigondas in Disguise

Monday, January 18, 2010 2:50 PM

2007 Cotes du Rhone: Gigondas in Disguise

2007 Domaine Santa Duc Cotes du Rhone Vieilles Vignes

2007 Domaine Santa Duc Cotes du Rhone Vieilles Vignes

Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Rhone;
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$14.02 per bottle with case discount. Website will NOT reflect discounted price, but we will apply it when we process your order.
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I’m such a “bottle half full” guy that every January I am awash in optimism. This year is no exception. We are soon to be visited by a plethora of favorite musical acts, my Betterment Campaign is still going strong, and I am confident that in spite of my current state of blockage, I will bust out some quality lyrics for the growing list of songs I have written recently. If that’s not enough, how ’bout some new wines to taste?Oh yes, David’s in France on his annual tasting trip, and we are all anxiously awaiting to hear of his discoveries. Ah, but before we march further into the year, let me tell you about a wine that surreptitiously popped in last month.


We’ve always been big fans of the wines from Domaine Santa Duc, in factI’ve written about them before. To me, winemaker Yves Gras makes some of the most complex and interesting wines in the southern Rhone. They are spicy and intense, yet elegant enough to allow for all the complexities to parade around your palate. If you’ve heard or read anything about 2007 in the Rhone Valley, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that we received several phone calls from many a customer asking to buy the 2007 Santa Duc’s on pre-arrival. We still have a tiny bit of Gras’ 2007 Gigondas and Gigondas “Prestige des Hautes Garrigues”, but in a vintage like 2007, one doesn’t necessarily need to pony over that kind of dough to get something special. I recently overheard David chatting with a long-time customer about the vintage, and though he agrees it is a spectacular one for the upper crust wines, it is truly a, his words, “Cotes du Rhone vintage”. If you think about it, it makes a ton of sense. Ideal weather and old vines. Hmmm, that rings a bell. The 2007 Domaine Santa Duc Cotes du Rhone “Vieilles Vignes” could very well be one of those upper crust wines in disguise! Crafted with 70% Grenache, 25% Syrah, and 5% Mourvedre, it is technically a Cotes du Rhone Villages wine as the grapes come from the best designated villages of the appellation (Rasteau, Vacqueyras, Seguret, and Rouaix). It shows plenty of muscle, amazing fruit, it speaks of a place, and has that quintessential Santa Duc cracked pepper thing. Sure the Chateauneufs and Gigondas received tons of praise, and rightfully so; but if you like red Rhone wines, you owe it to yourself to have a stash of 2007 Cotes du Rhones! I can easily see this wine lasting 5-10 years if cellared properly.


So, having some 2007 Cotes du Rhone tucked away in the cellar is just another reason to look forward to the new year ahead. Another great thing that is happening, thanks to many of you, is the ramping up of our web presence. For over two years now, we’ve been blogging. Well sort of. Our blog site has been merely an archive for many of the emails we send out. Not any more. Our new kid on the block, Emily Crichton has already posted two blog-only entries, has threatened to post more, and has inspired me to follow suit. So, so much to look forward to. – Peter Zavialoff


Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about 2007 Rhone wines, renewed optimism, ideas for song lyrics, our blog, or the thrashing of Sunderland: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net

I’ll Take Terroir for $13.17, Alex

Monday, February 2, 2009 4:07 PM


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Many of we self-described “terroirists” in the wine world thrill to recognize certain aromas, flavors or textures as expressions of one specific site and microclimate. This can be contentious. Can we really taste place? When the rockiness, pepper and garrigue seem to transport us to Chateauneuf du Pape, the tart apple, peach and slate of Graacher Himmelreich lead us to believe we’re slurping up the slate-rich soil of the site, the dark brambly fruits of Dry Creek Zinfandel cause us to gaze in our minds over the centennarian vines of the Lytton Springs Vineyard, what does it mean? Is it all in our heads? Maybe. After all, I have no doubt of the existence of various vinous neuroses. For instance, I am so sensitive to and fearful of cork taint that I think I might “psych” myself into thinking a wine is corked when maybe it’s not. But you’re not my shrink, so I’ll get back to the point, whatever it is. Seriously though, I do believe in wine’s ability to specifically evoke place in a manner that no other agricultural product can, and I simply can’t believe it’s coincidental that wines grown and vinified with utmost care and respect for their place can consistently and transparently express in smell, taste and texture a specific site.


So, we have this guy Yves Gras. He’s one of the most talented young winemakers in Gigondas. He owns one of the finest high-elevation vineyards in all of Gigondas, Les Hautes Garrigues, and one dare say his Gigondas Prestige des Hautes Garrigues demonstrates an immediately recognizable terroir as it positively reeks of garrigue, and the well-drained, perilously rocky soil of the site gives the texture a deep and unmistakable mineral backbone. There is no doubt that Monsieur Gras is deeply committed to letting this terroir speak.

But, then he goes and makes this Cotes du Rhone bottling “Les Quatre Terres” (The Four Lands). Yep, you guessed it, so called because it combines fruit from four different areas of the Southern Rhone! Seems like the antithesis of terroir expression, right? How will this jingle-jangle of fruit from Vacqueyras, Roaix, Seguret and Rasteau possibly speak with a clear, unified voice? Well, somehow, it does so admirably, and this highlights Gras’ crack skills as winemaker and blender, a bonus to his commitment and care in tending his vines.

I think what Gras does here, obviously rather than capture a specific site in aroma and flavor, is to create a colorful composite of the overall spirit of Southern Rhone wines – generous ripe fruit, that certain peppery je ne sais quoi, wild herbs baking in the sun, a certain heady generosity, and a pleasant rusticity appropriate to the region’s hearty cuisine (it certainly did the trick with some simply grilled lamb chops laced with rosemary last night). It also gives a clear representation of how the region’s primary grapes – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault alchemically combine to captivate many of us wine drinkers and keep us coming back for more. Now that our whacked out January summer has appeared to have come to an end, the palpable warm Rhone sunlight will warm your belly and soul to create a warm smile of satisfaction. And that it’s a steal at only $15.49 per bottle (that’s $13.17 by the case, folks!), you will have all the more reason to smile. – Patrick Mitten

A Tale of Two Currencies

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 7:46 PM

A Trip Back In Time: $1.19 per Euro

Ah, the good ol’ days. We’ve all heard about ’em, we’ve all talked about ’em, but the story’s the same, you can’t go back. Or can you? The Euro, which recently hit a 12 month low versus the dollar, appears to be headed back in an unfavorable direction. Too bad we can’t act like currency traders and hedge our future wine purchases with locked-in exchange rates. Wait a sec. What if we already have?

A couple of weeks ago, I was helping a customer in the white Burgundy section of our shop. She wanted my opinion as to which of two Chassagne Montrachets would be the better buy. One, from 2006, was a village Chassagne that drinks well any day of the week. The other, a 2003 premier cru from the same producer was, astonishingly, the same price! She inquired as to how that could come to be. I immediately stated that the main reason was the exchange rate. When these 2003’s were purchased, the Euro was only worth $1.19. So, of course, she bought the premier cru.

That, of course, led me to ponder, “What other wines do we still have in stock that were purchased with a stronger dollar?” I waded through several when, all of a sudden, it hit me. The2003 Gigondas from Santa Duc, which was massive upon release, has been resting in bottle and is now just entering its “I’m ready to drink” window.

If there is one Rhone producer that stands out for me, it has to be Domaine Santa Duc. I love Rhone reds in general, so I don’t discriminate, but I do appreciate some producers to the extreme. At the Cotes du Rhone level, the Santa Duc wines combine a wealth of rich fruit, fresh herbs, earth and mineral, and a pinch of the garrigue. All that adds up to a super sensory wine tasting experience every time I tee up one of Yves Gras’ wines. And that’s in the any night wine price range. The 2003 Gigondas falls into the special wine category. When it was released, it exhibited an explosive fruit profile backed up by firm, chewy tannins and peppery spice. These days, that fruit is settling down gracefully, and the tannins are mellowing, allowing this still very youthful wine to begin to strut it’s stuff. If you decant it for an hour or so, you will find a plethora of nuance in its aromatic profile. Pepper (Santa Duc does pepper very well), black tea, forest floor, blackberry, a hint of leather, black olive, and it goes and goes. It’s good to go tonight, or it can last for another 10 years if properly cellared.

We all can go on and on about all the great stuff that once was, but is now past. We can’t turn back the hands of time. We’re just left with the memories. Do you remember when a Euro was $1.19? Well, in the case of the 2003 Santa Duc Gigondas, it is again!!!Peter Zavialoff


Tasting Notes

I wish I could taste wine like this all the time. It has a vibrant, deep ruby color. Its aromatics are alive with dark berry fruit, cracked pepper, forest floor, and a hint of leather. It is expansive on the palate, which allows the harmony of its structure to appear front and center. Its finish is much like a cable car slowly climbing Hyde St., it takes its time and says farewell with grace. – PZ

Also this from The Wine Advocate #163, February 2006: “As for the 2003 Gigondas, its dense plum/purple hue is accompanied by a rich, sweet nose of creme de cassis, licorice, underbrush, and black truffles. Deep, full-bodied, and pure, with sweet tannin and excellent concentration, it can be drunk now or cellared for 10-15 years.-90 points”

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