This is my favorite Cotes du Rhone, gaining the edge over Grand Prieur and Vieux Chene mainly because it's so consistent and keeps so well. Over the last six months, I have had the 1998, 1999, 2004, 2005 and now the 2000, and all have exhibited the same youthful personality.
The nose is classic Sainte Anne CDR--blueberries and cream, ripe cherries, vanilla and a hint of Provencal olives and herbs. Vanilla is ordinarily a trait that comes from new oak, but that is not the case here. Sainte Anne's wines are all made traditionally, and the vanilla character probably comes from use of stems in whole bunch fermentation. This wine is fruit friendly, ripe and silky from front to back. None of the fire of Garnacha de Fuego but lots of ripe berry Grenache charm. This wine drinks so well that it's easy to underestimate its power, depth and potential. At eight years of age, it's not even thinking about growing old.
Sainte Anne's Cotes du Rhone Villages is even better, with greater subtlety and complexity. And the special cuvees--Notre Dame des Cellettes and Saint Gervais--are worth a special search. Unfortunately Sainte Anne is imported into only a few states--mainly Michigan and the Pacific Northwest. The price is low enough ($8.99 for the CDR) that these rank as "hush hush" wines.