When I first saw this wine on the shelf at Sam's (now Binny's) in Chicago, it was priced as a Cotes du Rhone--about $10 a bottle. I tried a bottle first, then quickly went back for more. Apparently, other consumers did the same because the price quickly escalated, and current vintages of this old vine CDR sell for $25 and up. The vineyards lie just outside the Chateauneuf du Pape appellation and have virtually the same soil and micro-climate. North Berkeley Imports sees that the best lots are delivered to them, produced traditionally and without fining or filtering. Even at $25, it is a good value, and this bottle demonstrates that it ages at least as well as most Chateauneufs.
The color is a medium deep crimson. Very traditional Southern Rhone smells and flavors--dark cherries, thyme, black pepper and, initially, some barnyard. I don't think this is brett; it is much more pleasant and soon becomes integrated with the fruit. It is rather part of the warm, spicy flavor profile of old vine Mourvedre and Carignan. Strong, persistent flavors; savory rather than sweet. This could easily be mistaken for a Bois du Boursan Chateauneuf du Pape--a high compliment indeed.