Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Welcome to Wine Blogging Wednesday #46: Rhone Whites

Welcome to Wine Blogging Wednesday #46, the monthly online tasting event started nearly four years ago by Lenn Thompson of Lenndevours. This month, I'm your host and for the theme I wanted to pick something summery, that wouldn't be hard for people to find, and would bring some under-appreciated grape varieties into the spotlight.

The varieties that I think best exemplify summer are white varieties associated with the Rhone: Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains, Picardin, Picpoul, Roussanne, Ugni Blanc, and Viognier. These white grapes are grown all over the world, and produce wines that are rich in orchard and tropical fruit flavors, or have a bracing acidity that cools you down when its warm outsides. The wines made from these grapes are surprisingly versatile, and pair with a wide range of foods depending on how the fruit is treated during fermentation and aging. For this WBW you could drink any white Rhone variety or combination of varieties, from any region in the world, at any price point.

I decided to compare and contrast two wines: one made in the Rhone from a blend of Clairette and Grenache Blanc; and another made in Paso Robles, solely from Roussanne. The French white was aged in stainless steel; the Paso Robles white was kissed with some oak.

The first wine was the excellent QPR 2006 Ferraton Père & Fils Côtes du Rhône Samorëns ($12.99, domaine 547). The wine was made from organically and biodynamically produced Grenache Blanc and Clairette grapes grown in Tain l'Hermitage. Samuel Ferraton and Chapoutier have been in partnership on the property for the past decade, which has brought new resources and attention to the Ferraton operation. When I opened this bottle of wine, it smelled just like summer with aromas of pear, almond, and a bit of flower as the wine warmed up. The pale gold color was equally summery, and the flavors were redolent of summery orchard fruits like pear and peach. Because it was aged in stainless steel the wine retained a fresh intensity that would make it very appealing on a warm June or July day. An interesting nutty almond aftertaste added complexity to the wine. It had a nice round feeling in the mouth, and was a textbook example of a blend of these two varieties--for a terrific price.

The second wine I tasted was another excellent QPR pick: the 2004 Tablas Creek Roussanne ($22.95, Chronicle Wine Cellar; available online for between $19 and $28) I've tasted this wine twice in the last year or so. In the spring of 2007, it was all about the fruit. Now, a little more than one year later, it was a more complex and interesting drinking experience. This wine was true, deep gold in color and the richness of the color hinted at the richness to come. There were shy aromas of pear and minerals, and as the wine opened up there were delicious flavors of pear, melon, and mineral with a touch of beeswax in the finish. The overall impressions of the wine were soft and round, and there was no hint of alcohol or sense of heat despite its full body and heavy feel in the mouth. There was also just a hint of oak in the aftertaste, since 50% of the juice had been fermented in small French oak barrels. This was a big wine with a lot of complexity for the price.

Both of these wines were quite food friendly, and would lend themselves to a wide range of dishes from spicy curries and stirfries to rich scallop, lobster, and shrimp preparations. We had the Ferraton with a Peruvian Fried Rice--one of the world's earliest fusion dishes created by Chinese railroad workers in South America. Few wines could complement a dish that combined rice, ginger, soy sauce, shrimp, and chorizo, but the Ferraton did the job beautifully. The soft and round qualities of the wine were terrific with the shrimp, and the fresh pear and peachy flavors were a nice counterpoint to the ginger. As for the Roussanne, I always feel that this variety is made for scallops--and that's what we had it with. The rich, buttery texture and sweet flavors of the scallops partnered perfectly with the Roussanne's full-bodied melon and beeswax qualities. It doesn't matter how you fix the scallops, they will be perfect with Roussanne. Try a classic Coquilles St. Jacques, or Eric Ripert's innovative pan-fried scallops on a mound of orzo mixed with tomatoes, ginger, and lemon grass.

Summer is often associated with the crispness of Sauvignon Blanc, but Rhone whites are equally wonderful for drinking during the long, hazy, and lazy summer days and nights to come. Thanks to everyone who participated in this month's event, and be sure to drop me a note or leave a tasting note or a link in the comments if you'd like me to include you in the roundup this weekend. I'm really looking forward to reading what you all have to say about these wonderful whites.


David said...

they both sound great! I had the Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel and would like to try this white; but I haven't seen many of there wines in the Boston area.

Michael said...

Pan-fried scallops on orzo with a CdP Blanc? That does sound good, sign me up!

Great theme, great write-up; I'll keep an eye out for the Tablas Creek.

My contribution:
2003 Tardieu-Laurent CdP Vieilles Vignes

Best wishes!

Joe Roberts said...

I didn't get around to a full-fledged post this time around for WBW. BUT... can I interest you in a mini-review of a Rhone white?


dhonig said...

My contribution, on Garrestson Roussanne "The Limoi Cior" 2004 -

Anonymous said...

Whew, just under the wire!


Unknown said...

My first cotes-du-rhone white... thanks for being the host.

Anonymous said...

Perfectly scorching weather in Boston this week made this even more of a pleasure!

My contribution at

Anonymous said...

I need to get my hands on that Tablas Creek Roussanne!

Anonymous said...

I'm there!

Anonymous said...

Here's my post:

Thanks for hosting!

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. Debs,

I hope you are well and I hope you are going to the Wine Blogger Conference!

My WBW #46 can be found at the below link:


Joe said...

Hi Debs - For some reason we only have the Ferraton Hermitages, Crozes-Hermitage and St-Joseph up here. Anyway, sounds like a great find. I emailed my you my tasting notes, one old world, one new world. Can't wait for the bonus points...

Anonymous said...

Hello Dr. Debs,
Here is my WBW 46 post, with 30 whole minutes to spare:

MonkuWino said...

What a mouth-watering review! I have the 2005 Rousanne from Tablas Creek - drink it now or wait, do you think? Also, I ordered the Ferraton from Jill so I am eagerly looking forward to trying that one.

Here's the link to my WBW #46 post, for the Twisted Oak 2006 Viognier:

Anonymous said...

One late post for you--


Bill Wilson

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks to all of you who participated in this month's WBW. If you're still working on finding/drinking/reviewing your wine, I won't start the roundup until Saturday so no penalties for lateness (don't tell my students or there will be a mutiny!). We have 44 submissions so far, several first-time bloggers, and some unusual wines and stories behind the reviews. I can't wait to round them all up for you.

Anonymous said...

Yes! Tablas Creek is my all time favorite, and it is so under appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're not taking marks off for late entries.

I always figure I'll do something simple, then I dig for other information and context, and then... I miss the deadline.

Anyhow, my contribution, on Jean-Luc Colombo's surprisingly fresh whites (and other considerations), is now online.

I'm still a bit perplexed at the lack of action on the Wine Blogging Wednesday web site. Why was there no official announcement? Why no update since May? I just hope everyone is all right and that things will be clearer for WBW 47.

By the way, for French speakers (or readers, at least), there is a French equivalent of the WBW. They are called the Vendredis du Vin (Wine Fridays, litterally), and I have the pleasure of coordinating them. Lots of fun too.

Dr. Debs said...

I agree, Sara! Remy, I do that, too. I'm glad you were able to submit something. As for last WBW, you would have to ask Lenn, Tim, or Andrew about it. I just work here.

Thank you for leaving information about Vendredis du Vin. I will be checking it out, and hope to participate.

Anonymous said...

Hi Deb,

Thanks for the nice comments on the Tablas Creek Roussanne! I'm sorry I missed it; for some reason, the Google blog alert that I have set up for "Tablas Creek" doesn't ever catch your postings on Good Wine Under $20.

I have been excited to see to growing interest around Rhone whites, both from France and from California. I think that, in the long run, California's Central Coast is going to be one of the very best spots in the world for these richer grapes like Roussanne and Grenache Blanc. You get plenty of heat and sun to ripen them, but the cold nights (much colder than in the Rhone Valley; after a day in the 90s here today the forecast low is for the low 40s) frame the richness with good acids and give a beautiful vibrancy to the fruit.

I was sorry to miss you at the recent Rhone Rangers Los Angeles tasting; I understand you were out of town with a good excuse :>

All the best,

enobytes said...

I intended to participate in the WBW this month but I lost track of time and missed the deadline. I'll have to try the Tablas Creek!