Vive la France au-dessous des dollars tenty!

Ok. It is time for me to re focus. I have been all over the place with these posts. I have gone from the highest end to the lowest end starting with the long post about Stag’s Leap and ending with my third installment of the Trader Joe’s experiment. I must admit I have strayed a bit from the everyday twenty dollars and under values. Well, people I am back on track and in a very exciting way. Thank you for being so patient. I was walking down Fourth Street yesterday on my way back from running some errands and as I began to cross Lafayette Street I felt this pull. It was almost magnetic. This force, if you will, held me there on the corner for a moment and I turned to the left to see what was calling me and there it was. Astor Wine and Spirits. My old friend in a new place.
I love what they have done with the new location and when I really think about it I have been to a lot of wine shops in this city scouring for values and there are a select few that I feel have a great staff. Astor is at the top of that list. What I love about this place is that you are not browsing more than five minutes and there is someone strolling up to greet you with a smile and ask if you need any help. Now this may happen anywhere but here the staff is on your level. And with the selection being so huge and varied with regions and prices it is a good place to get a smile and some sound advice.
I have been buying and drinking and writing about a lot of South American and Spanish wine. I have an obsession with these wines that continues to this day but I thought it was time to broaden my horizons. It was time to challenge myself in an area I am really not too familiar with. France. I know France on the surface and have always been under the impression that I wouldn’t be able to find a good deal because you really need to know your producers and if you are not careful you could spend a pretty penny on something less than stellar. That is, of course, unless you trust your wine merchant. If this is the case then you’re golden. And even if they miss a hit here and there you have developed a relationship that will last.
This is important to me because the last two attempts I took at French red wine were misses. I went to little wine shops in the city that I had heard had great boutique selections and trusted the merchants right away buying wines based on recommendations. I hate to say it but of the seven or eight bottles of wine I bought only one or two were really good. The others weren’t bad but there was something missing. So I stayed away from France for a while. And yesterday when I was roaming the aisles of Astor I found myself in the Rhone section. Man, am I glad I ended up there.
Just as I explained above, I wasn’t there five minutes when an employee came up and asked me if I needed any help. Yes, I said and explained my French dilemma. I said that if I was going to take a chance on a valued French wine I figure I would start in the Rhone. I love the grapes in the area (syrah, granache, cinsaut and mouverde) and I wanted to dig through there first. I asked him if he could recommend a Rhone that was under twenty bucks that he enjoyed. He had an immediate answer and it was in my hands in seconds. I checked the price tag and smiled; fifteen bucks. Nice. Because this guy was so confident in his decision I couldn’t help but take the chance. I thanked him and off I went quite excited and a bit nervous about exploring this new focus of mine.
The wine is a northern Rhone Valley one hundred percent syrah from the Cornas AOC. It is estate bottled by Domaine Alian Voge and is a 2004. The title of the wine is “Les Peyrouses.” I am not sure what that means but I am looking into it. And after a little research I found out that this wine was ready to drink.
Gal, David, and myself popped this Rhone with a couple of industry acquaintances and dove right in. I could tell right away on the first nose that this was going to be a great wine. It was a bit tight but the alcohol was burning off quickly to reveal really nice concentrated cherry aromas with a nice smokiness on top. As I swirled and sniffed and swirled and sniffed that smokiness became more pronounced and mingled with the cherry to form a kind of slight bacon aroma. Oh this was going to be good. We took our first sips and all looked at each other with genuine satisfaction. This was an awesome wine. The palate was very approachable with that fruit settling into the background making room for the prominent yet balanced tannin structure. Everything was in balance. Is this what I can expect from more under-twenty-dollar-French Rhone wines? I don’t know but I am definitely going back to Astor and continuing this journey. What made this wine so awesome for me was that it was powerful but subtle at the same time. The tannins were there the entire time keeping the smoky cherries in check and even show a little bit of licorice on the nose. It was an amazing balance.
As we finished the wine everything was still in harmony. Grilled meats? Oh yeah. Cheese? Oh yeah. This wine will compliment both. But also it was nice just sitting back and enjoying it. If you are going to a dinner party this holiday season please consider this one. It is a home run and people will go nuts over it. It is one of those wines that can please a crowd. Meaning that It doesn’t have too much of one thing. I am on my way to the store to take another chance on France. Vive la France au-dessous des dollars tenty.


9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Dr. Brightside on November 12, 2006 at 2:33 am

    I enjoyed this wine as well, bought it at the Chelsea Wine Shop. I did think it lacked a little fruit and a little high in tannins, but to each their own.

    I saw another tasting of this on a wine/food blog worth checking out, I think it was Sept posting


  2. Posted by ann on November 13, 2006 at 2:30 pm

    hey evwg, that’s great!
    i’m not a wine “person” but i’m a wine lover and i was stuck in a massive spain/new world wine-rut about 2 years ago, they began feeling too big.

    i was craving rusticity (whatever that means) and was convinced by a staffmember at astor to jump into french wines, and i really haven’t turned back!
    i’ve developed a seriously unhealthy addiction to 2003 languedoc reds.
    luckily they’re almost always under $20. enjoy your new explorations! so fun!


  3. Posted by EVWG on November 13, 2006 at 3:54 pm

    I’m so in. I can’t wait to write about the next one I tried from Vacqueyras.


  4. Posted by Benjamin Bicais on November 14, 2006 at 8:37 pm

    Hey evwg, thanks for the informative and very thorough post. Cornas is a great Appellation in the Rhone not only for its high quality, full bodied wines, but also for its values. It looks like you have found a winner with this wine, I will definitely look for it. I have heard the argument that Cornas is a little on the rustic side, but I think that these wines have a real sense of place and honesty to them. As you say, letting them breathe for a while will open them up and take their “edge” off a bit.


  5. Posted by EVWG on November 15, 2006 at 5:20 pm

    Man you hit it on the head. “…sense of place and honesty to them.” That is what is so seductive about these wines. More and more I am searching out those wines.


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