Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Domaine Sainte Anne, Cotes du Rhone Villages Cuvee Notre Dame des Cellettes, 2000

Alain Steinmaier, the winemaker at Domaine Sainte Anne, raises his wines in a very reductive environment of cement tanks. And those familiar with the estate know that all of his wines, from the simple Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Villages, age beautifully over at least a decade. Soren Gudiksen, a Southern Rhone "wine lover from Denmark" who publishes the excellent website points out that vintages of the Notre Dame and Saint Gervais cuvees going back to 1986 are available at the winery.

Notre Dame des Cellettes is a blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre--the same as the regular Cotes du Rhone Villages but from some of the estate's oldest and best vines. When I tasted it alongside the 1994 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape it was clearly not a Chateauneuf (although a similar blend) but a wine of comparable quality. The color was a deep, deep crimson with almost no bricking, and the aromas were intensely fruity and still youthful. All of the Sainte Anne wines have a unique honey/resin quality when they are young that would be hard to miss in a blind tasting. This starts to integrate at about age 10 or 12, and this wine shows a hint of honey/resin that is just beginning to fold into the deeper smells and flavors of Grenache and Syrah. Red and blue berries, spice and a hint of tobacco (as opposed to the black pepper that is more typical of most Southern Rhones). The pungent spiciness of Mourvedre is just starting to peek its head out, and it gives the wine a ripe, laid back quality similar to a Volnay or a well aged cru Beaujolais. The wine has good concentration, but the tannins are ripe and unobtrusive. A very good wine that will only get better in the decade ahead.

When this 2000 was released, the Notre Dame cuvee sold for about $12; today it's $18 to $20 and I am still a buyer.

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