Sunday Dinner – Grenache Noir

Man what a day… I mean seriously, an entire day of sitting on the couch watching House of Cards.  If that doesn’t merit a good dinner and a beautiful bottle of wine than I don’t know what does ;).  Yes, thats right… ALL DAY, ALL DAY watching House of Cards.  Lyon has turned from cold to freezing… this California girl is FREEZING.  So we stayed indoors all day, caught up on our good American TV series, and then rewarded ourselves with a wonderful meal.  What was our wonderful meal… Sunday dinnerPorterhouse Steak with a smoked paprika mayonnaise accompanied by Domaine Ogier Côtes du Rhône Le Temps est Venu.  This wine is a base of grenache noir and syrah.  Let’s talk grenache noir a little bit…

Grenache Noir is a grape with a sugar content… HIGH sugar contact equals HIGH alcohol content.  Therefore it often ends up having high alcohol content and less fruit taste.  The winemaker has a difficult job of keeping the alcohol level down, while simultaneously converting all the sugar to alcohol.  Not easy.  Most often it is blended with other grapes of a lower sugar content and therefore a lower alcohol content.  When made as a single varietal, often times, because of the high sugar content it is a wine that works very well as a late harvest or sweet wine.

Le Temps est Venu is a bright fruit, strawberries and tart cherries with higher alcohol and mild tannins.  For me it is difficult to drink all by itself, but explodes with the right food.  For Sunday dinner, I choose to pair this wine with a very flavorful piece of steak as well as a mild fat sauce in the smoked paprika mayonnaise.  What I did, was cut a little bit the hot alcohol of the grenache noir and made it mild with the addition of the fat.  Together, they made for a wonderful winter dinner!!

Nothing like some morning drinking!

A little midmorning drinking is just what the doctor ordered!  Yesterday, some American friends and I started our day off at Domaine Ogier in the Côte Rôtie.  Domaine Ogier is a family run winery with 15 different parcels of land within the AOC Côte Rôtie region.  They also produce some wines in St. Joseph, Condrieu and the Collines Rhodaniennes.  We started with an amazing barrel tastings of the 2012 vintage.  Barrel tastings are fun because you can get a hint of what the next years vintage will look like, but at the same time experience the ‘before’ aspect of wine as it develops.

In barrel number one, we tasted a 100% syrah from a non-AOC of Côte du Rhône called La Rosine.  This small single vineyard wine comes from a the southern tip of the Côte Rôtie area, outside the border of the AOC Côte Rôtie- unfortunately.  We then tasted beside it the 2011 vintage La Rosine that had been in bottle just 6 months.  What a contrast!  Barrel TastingTasting notes:  La Rosine 2012 from the barrel was bright fruits and cherries, light tannins with a stark finish mid-palate, but at the same time feminine and great potential for age.  La Rosine 2011 from the bottle was mature and floral, with the same bright fruits, but this time the finish was longer.

In barrel number two, the winemaker gave us a preview of the Côte Blonde single vineyard wines…  Followed by barrel number three tasting of a Côte Brune single vineyard wine.  Now, a little background…  Côte Rôtie is split into two sides- the northern part generally referred to as the Côte Brune and the southern part generally as the Côte Blonde.  As the stories goes, these were the two hair colors of the founder of Côte Rôtie’s daughters.  The blonde being young, feminine and for early drinking.  The brune being firmer, long lasting, head strong.  Now, as a brune myself… that is a pretty good description :).

Tasting notes:  Côte Blonde was full of floral notes, roses most of all- ironically smelled a lot like my wedding bouquet, it was fruity and pleasant, easy going.  The Côte Brune was robust, full of spices and tannins (just like us brunes of the world)!

After that the wine flowed…

 Beginning of the vertical photo (9)Normal Wednesday MorningThe winemaker took us through all the blends of Côte Rôtie, St. Joseph and some outside the AOC near Vienne wines he produced.  By the end we had tasted 6 different red wines ALL the same varietal- 100% syrah, yet no two bottles were alike.  It is an amazing tribute to the notion of terroir in France.

However, the winner of the tastings was…

La Belle HeleneThe Côte Rôtie single vineyard, La Belle Hélène 2009.  This domaine has 15 different parcels of Côte Rôtie that normally are blended to create their Côte Rôtie bottle, however in an exceptional year the wine maker will choose to do a single vineyard bottle.  And thank goodness he did!  She was rounded, full bodied, fruit forward with spices that just tickled the back of my throat.  It was almost a shame to drink it so young.  It needs another 6-10 years before it is really shining!

Oh, what a wonderful morning… 🙂