Living near the beautiful vineyards of northern California, it’s easy to don blinders and focus only on the locally grown and produced wines. And these wines are so easy to love: they’re juicy, full-bodied and ooze flavors and fruit that pour effortlessly from the glass. However, being the wine buyer here at Paradise Foods, I’m always looking for something new and exciting to offer our customers. At home, I rarely crack the same bottle of wine twice in six months. Every bottle has to be an exploration of what’s behind the label. And more often than not, I find myself most interested in European wines. With all their different regions and varietals, the options are endless. France, Italy, Spain, Bordeaux, Alsace, Piemonte, Alto Adige, Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Toro; the opportunities just go on and on.
So I’m picking one region today that I feel is a serious challenge to the Californian reds: France’s southern Rhone! These wines are bold, rich, full-bodied and never shy of fruit. Sound familiar? The southern Rhone is home to one of the greatest wines in the world, Chateauneuf-de-Pape, and other wines produced in nearby villages. Always powerful, these wines ooze dark, almost black fruits, have a serious spine of tannins and acidity, and sometimes even a touch of alcohol warmth. Other flavors also permeate these wines giving them a feral note, including what is locally known as garrigue, a heady and complex mix of herbal aromatics and flavors including lavender, wild thyme, rosemary, and sage that are grown on the hillsides near the vineyards.
Chateauneufs push higher price points, but also look for other names like Lirac, Rasteau, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, or Cairanne. All these raise the bar way above the local bistro pour, Cotes du Rhone. They are intense wines that scream for bold foods, like ribs, lamb or the hearty southern French stew, cassoulet. So, if you’re looking to shake up your taste buds, swing by the French wine section at both Paradise Foods locations and check out the Rhone!
Here are some of my favorites reds:
- Domaine de Cristia 2009 Chateauneuf-de-Pape $41.99/750ml
- Domaine de la Gardettes 2008 Gigondas $24.99/750ml
- Domaine Amido 2009 Lirac $15.99/750ml
- Chateau de Montfaucon 2009 Cotes duRhone $13.99/750ml
- Domaine des Grands Bois 2009 “Cuvee Gabrielle” Cotes du Rhones $19.99/750ml
- Domaine des Travers 2009 Rasteau $13.99/375ml
And there’s even a white:
- Chapoutier 2010 Cotes du Rhone Blanc “Belleruche” $13.99/750ml
Erskine Gallant, Wine Manager