Last week I had the pleasure of attending a class on selected crus of the Rhône Valley. Usually when I go to a wine event – particularly one with a specialized focus – it involves a flight to New York and several days in the city. This time, however, all I had to do was hop on the Metro Mover and take a five-minute ride.
Welcome to Miami, indeed!
Early last week I stumbled upon an invitation to the class on Facebook. Much to my delight it was sponsored by the Florida Wine Academy, which happens to be right in my neighborhood. I clicked the Sign Up button and hoped the class wasn’t already full. A few minutes later I received confirmation that I was “in” and I told my husband he’d be eating dinner solo the next night.
Class was scheduled for 6:30 pm and, before I left my apartment to head over to FWA, I stopped to ask myself: I wonder if that’s the actual start time or if we’ll be on Miami Time. I’ve attended enough events in the Magic City to realize that (in most cases) the start time serves more as a suggestion than a rule. It’s not uncommon to wait an hour or more for the participants – or lecturers – to arrive. It’s my only real quibble with Miami; as a product of the mid-Atlantic, I’m genetically predisposed to arriving at appointments ten minutes early.
I was pleasantly surprised when the tasting table filled up with ten minutes to spare. Off to a fantastic start!
Our host for the evening was Alessandra Esteves (DipWSET, FWS) director of education and co-founder of the Florida Wine Academy. A native of Brazil, she has lived around the world, coming to Miami a few years ago. She’s already making her mark on the local wine scene, greatly increasing the educational options for local oenophiles.
Florida Wine Academy is an approved program provider for the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) and the Wine Scholar Guild. In fact, she and her staff will be among the first educators authorized to teach the new Spanish Wine Scholar curriculum that debuts later this year. They also offer sake certification classes!
And Alessandra is the energy behind the inaugural VinoSummit, a day-long wine education and tasting event to be held March 18th at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. Why undertake such a task? Major wine events like Vinexpo in New York, Hong Kong, and Bordeaux, and Texsomm in Texas are big draws for wine professionals and consumers alike. Until now, Miami has hosted no large events focused exclusively on wine. I can’t wait! (Any of my wine friends want to meet me there? Miami is kind of nice this time of year – just sayin’!)
The Rhône Valley Crus Masterclass
We tasted through seven distinct terroirs in the northern and southern Rhône valleys, with Alessandra explaining the grape varieties, unique soil types, and historic producers in each region. Here’s a summary of what we tasted:
2016 Château de Saint-Cosme Condrieu (SRP $80)
Although this winery was founded in 1570, the Viognier-based wines are regarded as modern benchmarks for this Northern Rhône appellation: they undergo malolactic fermentation, rest on the lees for an extended period, and are aged in used French oak for eight months. Vineyard methods follow biodynamic principles.
In the glass this wine gleamed bright yellow and exuded heady aromas of honeysuckle, dried apricot, and a hint of pineapple. Less overtly ripe on the palate, the wine had a creamy texture and an unctuous mouthfeel that (in my opinion) is unique to Viognier from Condrieu. The medium+ body was balanced by crisp acidity. I was reminded why Condrieu is my first wine love!
2017 Château Trinquevedel Tavel Rosé (SRP $22)
We traveled down the river to the Southern Rhône village of Tavel, where rosé rules the roost. This particular wine is the product of a co-fermentation of Grenache, Clairette, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Bourboulenc, testament to the wide variety of grapes used here.
It was a striking salmon color, with flashes of rose-gold at the rim. This wine tempted all the senses! Notes of ripe cherry, citrus, and herbs rose from the glass without a swirl. Over time, savory and meaty aromas emerged. On the palate you had all the fruit promised by the nose, underpinned by the garrigue and savory components. Very well-balanced and a pure pleasure to drink. I wish I had a case of this at home!
2014 Domaine René Rostaing Côte-Rôtie “Ampodium” (SRP $80)
100% Syrah from 60- to 100-year-old vines, this wine was the product of a difficult growing season. The first swirl, sniff, and sip revealed smoky aromas and what appeared to be green, rather unripe fruit. There was a decidedly herbaceous note of mint and eucalyptus that quite appealed to me. On the palate there was even less fruit but lots of spice and smoke. Class participants were divided in their opinions on this wine – at least at first.
After tasting through the rest of the flight, we went back and sampled this wine again. Wow! Over the course of an hour, it had softened a bit, with shy fruity notes finally emerging. It was also more cohesive on the palate, and almost everyone agreed that it showed much better with a little time in the glass.
2003 M. Chapoutier Ermitage “Le Pavillon” (SRP $325)
2003 was the hottest, driest year – ever- in Europe. Conventional wisdom would say, “This wine can’t age – too much alcohol, too little acidity, blah, blah, blah.” Nonsense! This blend of Syrah from 100-year-old vines (85%) and Marsanne/Roussanne (15%) exhibited lovely dried fruit aromas, dusty cocoa notes, caramel, and coffee. Tannins were quite pronounced, even after 15 years, so this wine might last a few years yet. It still had moderate acidity and wore its 15% abv lightly. All in all I found it quite balanced and enjoyable; and a reminder to take conventional wine wisdom with a grain of salt.
2013 Domaine Vincent Paris Cornas “Granit 30” (SRP $30)
Named for the granitic soils underlying the vineyards, this wine comes from 30-year-old Syrah vines that yield just four bunches of grapes each. Four. I’m still trying to figure out how you make money with that winemaking equation, but I’m really glad someone did. One of my favorite wines of the tasting, this Cornas brought a tempting mix of red and black fruit, violets, and a touch of vanilla on the nose. The palate took all those elements and added tart acidity, integrated tannins, and a distinctly mineral component (wet rocks or petrichor.) On the finish there was a little spice that lingered, making me wish for another glass of this wine.
2016 Château de Saint Cosme Gigondas (SRP $58)
From one of the southern Rhône crus that lies close to the famed Châteauneuf-du-Pape, this is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault. Grapes are farmed biodynamically and the wine is treated to time in new oak, 20% of which is new. On the nose, there are classic Syrah notes of smoke and meat, as well as the cherry delights of Grenache. The fruit flavors are ripe, with medium acidity and tannins. The palate is more savory and herbal than the nose, including a whiff of white pepper – there’s that Syrah again! It’s a big wine, one that would pair well with a thick, grilled steak.
2007 Domaine de la Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes (SRP $230)
Hailing from the La Crau lieu dit (named place) in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, this wine comes from vines between 60 and 100 years old. It is vinified in a modern style that takes advantage of large (600 litre) oak barrels and weighs in at 15.5% abv. The nose is rich and perfumed, featuring a lovely mix of red, blue, and black fruit, as well as a pleasant green leafiness that I can’t quite pinpoint. Robert Parker awarded this beauty 100 points; in this case, we’re in agreement.
Until the Next Time . . .
I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at the Florida Wine Academy. The vibe was relaxed and friendly, with everyone contributing comments and asking questions. I felt right at home, learning about and tasting some very special wines with my new wine friends.
See you all at VinoSummit!