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2000 Domaine Les Pallieres Gigondas, Southern Rhone Valley, France

I've always had a thing for the wines that Kermit Lynch imports. As far as I'm concerned he's the demi-god of imported French wine values, and I've never had a wine from him that I haven't liked.

This wine, in particular, has a little more of his touch than most, as it comes from an estate that he owns and manages. Because he has a day job (let's hope he doesn't quit) he has teamed up with the Bruniers of Chateauneuf-du-Pape's Domaine de Vieux Telegraphe, who do the winemaking and tending of the estate, and work with Lynch to do the final blending. After that the 6000 or so cases that the estate produces every year are fed into the marketing machine that is Kermit Lynch Imports.

Domaine Les Pallieres lies in the Gigondas appellation of the southern Rhone Valley, just out of the shadow of the Dentelles du Montmirail, a spiky necklace of limestone cliffs that separates the Rhone Valley from Mount Ventoux. While this limestone juts up most visibly here for hikers and climbers to admire and assault, it is also a key ingredient for the vineyards of the southern Rhone: good draining, chalky, calciferous soil that gives way to hard pack red clay -- both of which red grapevines love to sink their roots into.

The Gigondas region maintains the traditional grape blends of the Rhone, but unlike in the north where Syrah is the dominant grape and makes up usually at least 70% of the final wine, the south lets the Syrah take a back seat to Grenache. This Gigondas is a blend of 80% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, and 5% Mourvedre and Syrah. It was aged 8 months in tank followed by 12 months in old oak casks.

Tasting Notes:
This wine's hue was a light garnet, tinged slightly pink at the rim. Out of the glass came aromas of earth, smoke, cherries and leather. On the palate it was bright with acidity (thanks to the Cinsault most likely), with an elegant, balanced mix of soft cherry and redcurrant flavors combined with dusty tea and dried herbs that lingered in the long finish. This wine has been blended extraordinarily well, and has a harmony to it that is delectable.

Food Pairing
I've recently learned that these days its tres chic to drink red wine with fish in Paris, and since all my friends at lunch today were in favor of it we went for it. It actually went beautifully with the sole meuniere over mashed potatoes that I opted for. Sole is so delicate, an intense red wine would ordinarily overpower it, but with the salty brined capers and the loads of butter involved in this recipe, the acidity of the wine counterbalanced the richness of the dish and was really quite pleasant.

Overall Score: 9

How Much?: $30

This wine is imported by Kermit Lynch in Berkeley, CA and should be available in his stores, and a quick check on the Internet indicates several retailers willing to sell it to you there as well.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.