Besides the name (les Calades means "the rocks" so presumably the vines grow in rocky soil), this wine and the Clos Saint Jean Vin de Pays below have much in common. They're both deep and dark with noticeable browning (more than you'd expect from a six-year-old wine). There's also a slightly roasted note in the aroma of each wine. All of these traits I would attribute to the 2003 vintage, which has never been my favorite. It was one of the warmest growing seasons in recent memory in France, producing very ripe, fat wines that were appealing young but have since lost some of their charm--at least for me. There are many respected critics who disagree and think highly of this vintage.
The alcohol levels are fairly modest (13.5% for the Clos Saint Jean and 14% for the Monardiere) and the roasted note on the nose is somewhat pleasant. The brownish tint, however, makes me think these wines will not keep much longer. Fortunately I have only a few 2003s left. And this Vacqueyras is still very good. Predominant smells are dark--licorice, black earth, smokey meat and stones--all very much in the Vacqueyras mode. Underneath is a core of bright red berries--ripe almost to the point of being candied and very concentrated. These same qualities come forth on the palate; a strong fruit presence, front to back, along with the trademark Vacqueyras personality. It's 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah, but the structure is what you might expect of a Syrah- rather than Grenache-dominated wine. Not tannic but firm. The more I drink, the more I come back for that lovely core of red fruit--candied cherries on a black rock. Just enough earthy minerals to make you realize this is serious stuff.
My previous experience with Monardiere's Vacqueyras Les Calades were the 2000 and 2001 vintages. I enjoyed these even more, but, alas, they're all gone. Of course, I'm looking forward to the 2005 and 2007.