Hooray For Vacqueyras!

I am on a brief French wine kick right now. I was running around yesterday and popped into a local wine shop to search out another twenty dollar and under. I decided to stay in the Rhone Valley because I wanted to see what the other appellations had to offer in this price range. This shop wasn’t as informative and interactive as Astor. It had these kiosk scanners that told you everything about the wine from varietals to tasting notes and food pairings. That is all well and good but what happened to human contact. If you have a computer telling you everything you don’t have the privilege of going back after a wonderful find and thanking your wine merchant for the suggestion and may you please suggest one for this evening. Anyway, what I am saying is that no one came up to me and asked me if I had any questions and there seemed to be a low staff count save for someone putting up wine and ignoring me and someone on their lunch break talking loudly on the phone about their friend’s significant other’s infidelity. I was on my own save for Mr. Hendrix in the speakers griping about love and cross-town traffic.
I strolled pass the Bordeaux that I will tackle one day and the rose of Provence. I gazed pass the Languedoc and headed straight for the Rhone. I grabbed a Gigondas and scanned the label under the trippy red lights of the computer…. then scanned the label again…again. Nothing. I was having some high-tech trouble with lunch-break-staffer right behind me munchin’ and yappin’ and not helpin’. I was a bit pressed for time so I put the Gigondas down and grabbed a Vacqueyras. Scan…scan…scan. Nothing. Maybe I was doing something wrong. I looked at the bottle and something in me said take it. Don’t worry about it, the voice said. This is what it’s like to be adventurous in wine. If no one is helping you then you are experiencing what the majority of wine buyers feel in a wine shop. A shot in the dark. Ok, I said to myself. Just one last try. I found inventory-stocking-staffer and asked if she had tried this wine and if not what the blend, if any was in the wine. I gave her the bottle, she looked at it puzzlingly and said she had never tried it and did not know the blend, if any, but the computer would know. She scanned the wine successfully (how did she do that) and sure enough tasting notes and food pairings appeared along with some other facts. As we both stared at the screen I asked if she could find the varietals. She could not. I looked a little closer and saw “granache” (sigh of relief). Ok, I got the varietal. Let’s do it. I left with my new bottle of Vacqueyras feeling excited and a little disappointed in the kiosk technology. “…Cross town traffic. So hard to get through to you.” (Hendrix)
Sorry about the rant. I am not a very negative person I was just a little taken back. I love talking about wine. And if I can enjoy a conversation with someone about the wine in question then I feel more confident about my purchase. Whether it is a hit or miss doesn’t matter so much as the enthusiasm of the merchant. Please let me know if I am way over sensitive or not.
Anyway, Back to the point of this post. Wine. The bottle I purchased was a 2003 Domaine La Garrigue from the Vacqueyras A.O.C. The computer said one hundred percent granache but after tasting it there might some syrah and a little mouverde in there. The wines from this appellation are predominantly granache (I believe the AOC laws state that there must be at least fifty percent granache but I am not totally sure) with syrah, mouverde and cinsaut rounding out the mix. I spent twenty bucks on this wine.
Angus, Gal and I popped the bottle and began the initial evaluation. The color was nice and deep. The wine clung to the glass walls nicely showing that it was full but not too big. The first nose was really pleasant and made me realize what I loved about the wines from this part of the world. The alcohol burned off quickly and Angus and I agreed that the aromas coming off that first sniff were mushrooms and soil. Not together but separate aromas. You could pick them out and distinguish them from each other. We swirled and sniffed a couple more times before sipping and everything in the glass started to come together. For me there is nothing like sitting back after a long day or night of work and just enjoying the evolution of a wine in the glass. Gal piped in just before we tried the wine saying he was getting raw meat with a bit of citrus. To my surprise when I stuck my down in there one more time I knew what he was talking about. The mushroom aroma was intermingling with the fruit and thickening up the nose wonderfully. That citrus was playing around with a slight note of mint. I had a good feeling about this Vacqueyras.
The sips came. Our faces crinkled and our eyebrows rose on high. And when I looked up from my glass there was an expression of genuine satisfaction on all of our faces. The palate had a nice and solid tannin structure that was very approachable. The fruit and alcohol along with the acidity settled in together at a calm pace and allowed us to enjoy a mild yet prominent finish. Gal mentioned that the finish was actually a little short but we all agreed that was a good thing. It added to the smoothness of this wine. On the second nose all that citrus and mint had melded into some very comfortable herbal notes along with what Gal described as wheat and dried fruits. And there was something else going on in the glass that we couldn’t quite place right away. There was savory thing happening here. Almost like a smokiness and then Angus hit it on the nose. Bacon. The fruit and the tannin came together to give a mild smoky bacon smell. Really nice.
This was a great wine for twenty bucks. The Rhone just keeps me coming back. The intensity of the tannins increased a bit as it opened up but the fruit was so well balanced and intertwined with the body that it was a welcome addition of strength to round it all out. If you are looking for a smooth medium to full body wine to pair with some sort of pork tenderloin dish with some kind of earthy bean or mushroom salad this is it. It is a great wine for fall seasonal dishes. I also just realized that this is a 2003. This vintage was the one with the deadly heat wave in France and it looks like the wines of the Rhone made out just fine. This is my second stab at the Rhone and I am one happy wine geek. If my spontaneity doesn’t get the best of me I will be writing about a Gigondas next. Cheers! Oh and by the way, if you grab this bottle know that it also pairs well with Jimi Hendrix.


8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by mikeyrad on November 17, 2006 at 11:15 pm

    Hi EVWG,

    Half the fun of going to a wine store is talking to the staff about the wines that they carry. They should should not only be familiar with their stock but also enthusiastic about sharing their opinions and knowledge with their customers.

    Have you been to Moore Brothers @ 33 E 20th? They only carry European wines (French, Italian, German/Austrian) and the staff really seems to know their stuff. I bought a few bottles there including a yummy Cru Beaujolais that I’ll be serving for Thanksgiving.


  2. Posted by Victoria on November 18, 2006 at 4:20 pm

    You are making me thirsty… I will have to find this bottle and try it myself.
    Just wanted to point out a good winestore for you in the city as well, with great, friendly, knowlegeble staff. For me this is very important! Last time we were in the city we went to Chelsea Wine Vault and got some help to pick out a case of wine to ship nome to Sacramento, Ca. Great store with a nice selection ol international and local wines. And most important of all. Nice, helpful staff that enjoyed talking wine with us and came with new exciting suggestions…


  3. Posted by EVWG on November 18, 2006 at 5:07 pm

    I have not been to The Chelsea Wine Vault in a long time. Actually It has been over a few of years. Last time I was there I was just learning about wine and felt overwhlemed. I bought a bottle based on a recomendation but can’t remeber which one. Thanks for reminding me of them. I really want to see that place again with new eyes. Moore Brothers I hear is awesome. I will check that out too. OOOOHHHH Cru Beaujolais. That sounds so good. Ok it looks like i might loose my Rhone focus.


  4. Posted by victoria on November 19, 2006 at 4:15 am

    Well, check it out again. I am far from a wine pro. I just really enjoy the red juice (and white every now and then)… By the way. I checked out Max Brenner’s web site tonight. Wow, it looks like a dangerous place for a chocoholic like me. You will have to keep me updated when you go there. I will be back in NYC for our yearly trip next summer and just might have to go there if it is a fantastic as it sounds.


  5. Posted by EVWG on November 19, 2006 at 3:37 pm

    It is scary how amazing that place smells upon entrance. I mean it is all there. Every form chocolate can possibly served or made into seems to be there. It would be fun actually to get a sampler of his chocolates and pair them with the bubblies of the world. Champagne, cava, prosecco, Asti. I think I just came up with a fun post. I just have to make sure the next day is a gym day.



  6. Posted by winemonkey on November 20, 2006 at 5:57 am

    Dude, I’ve been on a brief french wine kick since the ’90s. 🙂


  7. Posted by Italian Wine Guy® on November 20, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    thanks for the recent comment

    here’s a follow up , this time for “consultants”

    couldnt find your email on your blog

    also; lost my link on yours?



  8. Posted by Anonymous on May 16, 2007 at 11:58 am

    Enjoyed reading about the Vacqeyras, as i am spending a week about 2 miles down the road from there in June. Bottles of fabulous wine for less than $5. Jealous yet?


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