Friday, March 21, 2008

Domaine Sainte Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2000

Domaine Sainte Anne is not a typical Cotes du Rhone Villages. At eight years of age, when many CDR Villages have faded away, this wine is still not showing its best--although its lovely fruit-oriented flavors are hard to resist right now.

The color is a deep, dark crimson with good saturation. The aroma and flavors are bursting with fresh fruit--raspberries and blueberries in full cream. Ripe Syrah is showing but so is Grenache. There's a menthol-like fragrance--more like vanilla and honey than anything green or herbal. The palate feel is full bodied but not thick or heavy, and it's silky smooth, coating the tongue with ripe fruit flavors. At this stage, the 2000 CDR Villages is very similar to the 2005 Sainte Anne Cotes du Rhone. Both are delicious, but I know from experience that there's more to come in the way of depth and complexity.

Winemaker Alain Steinmaier thinks of Sainte Anne as "an intermediary wine between Gigondas and Chateauneuf-du-Pape." In terms of quality, I agree, although it is better than many wines from either of these appellations. In terms of style and personality, though, it is a unique expression of Grenache and Syrah. The CDR Villages is 60 percent Grenache, 30 percent Syrah, 10 percent Cinsault and Mourvedre from vines 20 to 30 years of age situated on a high wind-swept plateau. The wine is raised in concrete vats--no new oak--and the vanilla/honey/resin character comes from whole bunch fermentation with stems--a practice Steinmaier uses only when the stems are ripe and of good quality.

Outside of Michigan, New York state and Seattle, Domaine Sainte Anne wines are hard to find. And that's fine with me. If everyone knew how good they are, they would be even harder to find...and more expensive.

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