Tasting wine: Spicy reds from the Rhône Valley

Sometimes I feel like I’m delivering the weather report when I write this column. Often, what I drink is dictated by how I am physically feeling. Hot weather equals riesling. Cool, crisp fall weather makes me want pinot noir.

This cold, damp weather brings a whole host ofwine to mind, but more than anything else I’ve been craving spicy red wines from the Rhône Valley.

The level of alcohol often found in these wines is enough to make even the coldest fish heat up. However, the deep fruity, earthy flavors with a peppery kick suggest an almost comforting feeling of warmth even without the ethanol.

Syrah is the only grape allowed in the northern Rhône as it is generally too cold there for grenache and the others that populate the southern Rhône. Most, though not all, wines from the southern Rhône are blends. Sometimes white grapes are used to make the red wines in both the northern and southern Rhône.

To narrow down the field today, I’m sticking to wines from the southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône, the largest and most amorphous appellation.

Feraud-Brunel Côtes du Rhône, 2005: This is a partnership between two of Châteauneuf du Pape’s greatest producers, Laurence Feraud of Domaine Pegau and André Brunel of Les Cailloux. It has been 10 years since they first teamed up, creating wines from purchased fruit made in several southern Rhône appellations. This Côtes du Rhône has good intensity, though not as much as Gramenon’s wines, with white pepper, a hint of tobacco and floral aromatics.

Suggested retail: $16.99

Domaine Gramenon Côtes du Rhône, “La Segasse,” 2006: Philippe Laurent purchased vineyards in the southern end of the Rhône Valley in 1979, and until 1990 sold all of his fruit to other producers. Perhaps it was the great vintage that changed his mind, but in this year he made his first wine — at least, commercially. Philippe died in 1999, but his widow, Michelle, has carried on, taking Côtes du Rhône to new heights. All the Gramenon wines are pretty high end, at least for the Côtes du Rhône appellation, but there is no doubt that they are worth it. Made entirely from grenache, “La Segasse” is full-bodied yet has velvety tannins filled out by profound berry fruit, a conglomerate of spice and earthy underpinnings.

Suggested retail: $29.99

Joseph Swan “Côtes du Rosa,” 2005: OK, I’m, throwing in a curve ball here. I tasted this wine the other day and was absolutely amazed at how much it reminded me of Vacqueras, a grenache-dominated southern Rhône appellation. Joseph Swan, in the Russian River, is best known for zinfandel and pinot noir but works with other varietals as well. Although the exact blend in this wine is a highly guarded secret, it is similar to the blend found in many southern Rhône wines of grenache, syrah, etc. Medium-bodied with red berries, rose petals and white pepper, this is a charmer.

Suggested retail: $20

Pamela S. Busch is the wine director and proprietor of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen

in San Francisco.

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

School board members Gabriela Lopez (left) and Alison Collins (right) say they have been the subject of frequent hateful, racist and sexist attacks during their time on the school board. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F Examiner)
Angered by Lowell decision, SFUSD grad targets school board members with violent imagery

Facebook page depicts two women of color on board with swastikas and x-marks on their faces

Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, a former school board member, said it was ‘ridiculous’ that the school district did not yet have a plan to reopen. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Supervisors demand SFUSD set a timeline for reopening

Pressure grows on district to resume in-person learning as The City’s COVID-19 case count goes down

“Tenet,” the new Christopher Nolan film starring John David Washington, is showing at the drive-in in Concord. (Courtesy Warner Bros.)
Drive-ins are popping up all over the Bay Area

There are pandemic-era options for movie lovers who want to watch outdoors

The San Francisco International Arts Festival will present performances this weekend outdoors at Fort Mason, including on the Parade Ground, Eucalyptus Grove and Black Point Battery. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF International Arts Festival wins health department approval for weekend performances

Rules allow no more than 50 people at outdoor Fort Mason performances

In this handout image provided by the California Department of Corrections, convicted murderer Scott Peterson poses for a mug shot March 17, 2005 in San Quentin, California. Judge Alfred A. Delucchi sentenced Peterson to death March 16 for murdering his wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn child. (California Department of Corrections via Getty Images/TNS)
Prosecutors to retry penalty phase of Scott Peterson trial

2003 discovery of Laci Peterson’s body led to sensational high-profile murder trial of husband

Most Read