I'm on a kick. That's the opposite of a rut, I guess. I'm drinking a bunch of the same stuff and loving it. This month, despite the chilly weather in San Francisco, I'm all about white wines from the Southern Rhone. I've always enjoyed these in the past when I've had them (most often by the glass at French restaurants) but more and more I'm seeking them out as extremely food friendly alternatives to my usual white Burgundy and whites from the Loire.
So when I found myself and a couple of new friends recently in an LA restaurant (possibly to be reviewed later, but for now anonymous) with a great wine list, I couldn't help but pick out a wine from this region for pairing with some cheese, charcuterie, and other little bits of tapas. Of course, it helped that the wine's French name translated to "The Drunken Secret." How could I pass it up? The stuff is so good it's no wonder that it carries the name it does.
Domaine Pierre Gaillard is a relative newcomer to the Northern Rhone, but not a stranger to growing and making wine. His first experiences in the vineyard started as a teenager, tending and selling the Chardonnay grapes planted literally in the yard of his family's home. After many years of working as a winemaker for both Vidal-Fleury and Etienne Guigal, in 1987 Pierre Gaillard struck out on his own. This is something which seems to happen a lot in Napa and Sonoma, especially as winemakers make a name for themselves, but for some reason I don't hear a lot about it in France, though I'm sure it happens with the same frequency.
Gaillard began his own label after purchasing a vineyard parcel in Saint Joseph, a northern Rhone appellation that overlaps with the much more famous Condrieu, from which he made a single red wine in very small quantities for several years. This wine met with much acclaim, and as a result Gaillard has now expanded his operation to include about 30 acres of vineyards in Saint Joseph, Condrieu, Banyuls, Collioure, and Cote Rotie. He has also recently completed construction on a new winemaking facility in the medieval town of Malleval where he bases his winery, and has also embarked on a winemaking venture with some friends across the river which goes by the name of >Vins de Vienne. In the last 10 years Gaillard has cemented his reputation as one of the better vintners in the northern Rhone -- his name now being somewhat of a guarantor of quality wine in the bottle.
This particular wine in all its drunken secrecy, is a newer, small project of his on the fringes of the Condrieu appellation. It is made from 75% Roussanne and 25% Viognier, both of which grow on sloping hillsides of shattered, rocky schist. While I don't know anything about the winemaking for this wine, I'd imagine it spent its relatively short creation in a combination of steel and old, neutral oak before bottling. The grapes were likely picked fairly ripe as it has a touch more alcohol (14%) than some other whites I've had from the region.
Interestingly, it is bottled in an Alsatian style wine bottle. I don't know the purpose of this, but I was surprised when the waiter brought it to our table.
Very light straw in color, this wine has a lovely nose of parchment, brown sugar, and flower nectar. In the mouth it is silky and rich, with fabulous texture carrying dry flavors of apricot, quince paste, honey, and flinty minerals. It has a nice finish and excellent balance between fruit and acidity.
What WON'T this wine go with? It was even great with some pork rillettes which we ate on toasted bread with cornichons. If I had to pick something, I'd say drink it with something like this swordfish with braised endive.
Overall Score: 9/9.5
How Much?: $20
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.
Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 4, 2015 Vinography Images: A Shaggy Guardian Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 26, 2015 Vinography Images: Above the Coast 2015 Seven Percent Solution Tasting: May 6, San Francisco Imagining a Better Future for the Soils of Champagne A Brief Video Lesson in Champagne Disgorgement Vinography Images: The World of the Leaf Book Signing on May 9th, at Raymond Vineyards in Napa Doorman: Changing My Wine Delivery Life
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune