Friday, July 19, 2013

Dream Team Northern Rhone Producer

Inspired by a forgotten ancient Roman vineyard at the northern tip of the Northern Rhone, three friends formed a wine project in 1996 to restore its vinous glory. The project took off and more wines were added to the range, with the partners contracting to buy fruit (sometimes wine) from small growers whom they know well. The wines reflect the philosophy they share of making wines that are balanced and expressive of their origins.

The three partners are Yves Cuilleron, Pierre Gaillard, and Francois Villard. If you're a Northern Rhone fan, then these winemakers need no introduction as their wines are some of the best and most sought-after in the Northern Rhone. The wine company they formed is Les Vins de Vienne, in reference to the ancient vineyard in Vienne that inspired their project.

I tasted with Francois Villard and Yves Cuilleron a few months ago during their visit to San Francisco. I was already familiar with their wines and had been aching to get hold of some for quite some time ever since I tasted with their export manager last year. Their wines are all beautiful, which is not surprising at all given the caliber of these producers and the pedigree of the vineyards they work with.

Among the many wines I tasted from their current release, two stand out for sheer value. I'm astounded by the quality of the modest Cotes du Rhone from wine brought in from a brilliant vigneron in the Southern Rhone. Les Vins de Vienne handled the elevage and bottled the wine. It is the best 2010 Cotes du Rhone under $20 that I've tasted!

The other wine wine that stood out for value wears no appellation, as it's a humble Vin de France Viognier. Yet its pedigree is beyond reproach and, of course, the winemaking was done by these three superstar winemakers. It comes from an estate-owned parcel situated on the Ardeche hillsides next to St. Joseph. It evokes nothing less than pure Northern Rhone Viognier character, but at a very affordable price.

Cotes du Rhone Rouge "Les Cranilles", Les Vins de Vienne 2010 $19.00 (click to buy!)

Vin de France Viognier, Les Vins de Vienne 2011 $23.00 (click to buy!)

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