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Domaine des Amphores “Altitude 300” 2015

Domaine des Amphores “Altitude 300” 2015

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Winegrower: Domaine des Amphores
Region: AOP Saint Joseph
Grape: 80% Rousanne, 20% Marsanne
Color: White
Alc. 13%

Please note: Shipment for this wine will be May 2017.

We taste a lot of wines around here and without naming names some are meant to “taste” while others are meant to drink. Today’s Altitude 300 from Véronique and Philippe Grenier’s Domaine des Amphores is the latter. I’ve tasted many wines that initially seem impressive but which in short order I do not want to drink, especially with food. Then there are wines like Altitude 300 that whet my appetite, enliven my senses and inspire me to want more. The word “drinkable” might sound absurd but it is apt, especially with this wine. This Roussanne Marsanne blend is a wine to drink, not deliberate on. It’s delicious and a superb value and after one sip I find myself craving more to the point where, before I realize it and much to my dismay, the bottle is empty. 

Véronique and Philippe Grenier’s tiny domaine is little known outside of the Northern Rhône Valley and represents great value for the money. The Rhone Valley in southeastern France is a region primarily known for its red wines but it also produces some awesome whites of which Altitude 300 is one. The region is just shy of 240 kilometers long and is located between the cities of Lyon to the north and Avignon to the south. The region has 16 appellations (Chateauneuf du Pape, Cornas, Cote Rotie are its more famous) that produce both red and white wines of different quality levels.

Véronique and Philippe Grenier’s authenticity, tenacity and talent make them the kind of winegrowers anyone in my business would want to champion. In 1992, as a young couple just starting off, they took over an old, rundown house with a half-hectare of wild farmland from her grandfather that had not been lived in for 18 years. Initially they grew chickens and goats and then in 1994 they converted their small plot to a vineyard. Since those humble beginnings they have added other vineyards and now farm 9 hectares to produce wines of outstanding quality and terroir.

From the beginning Véronique and Philippe have practiced organic farming and were certified biodynamic by Demeter in 2002. Their vineyards, just north of Chavanay including in Saint Joseph, are beautifully positioned at the top of the valley and overlook the Rhône and Alps to the east. In the cellar methods are traditional, only indigenous yeasts and old oak are used; extraction is gentle and a basket press is frequently used. The wines are filtered lightly or not at all and minimal sulfur added. The resulting wines are perfumed, elegant and wonderfully delicious! The best reds have enough structure and depth to age well and develop for 15 to 20 years and the whites up 8 to 10 years.

Véronique takes care of the office and sales side while Philippe works the vineyards and cellar. Philippe works in a true, experimental manner and develops his techniques through trial and error, constantly evolving his practices depending on the vintage and what he observes, both in the life of the soil of their vineyards and in the cellar.

Altitude 300 is aptly named for the altitude (300 meters) of the vineyards the grapes come from. As in all their vineyards the grapes are picked by hand. The different varietals are fermented separately with indigenous yeasts then blended to make the final wine which is then aged 50% in stainless steel tanks and 50% in old oak casks before being bottled lightly filtered with and minimal sulfur.

Altitude 300 is a full and rich wine. The beautiful aromatics of the Roussanne dominate with hay, wet stone, pear, almond and white flower. Rich yet balanced and well rounded the palate displays good minerality, white fruits and dried herbs with a wonderful cleansing, refreshing saline acidity followed by a long finish. This is an outstanding northern Rhone white to drink now or let it develop more over the next 5 to 8 years. Serve at 15˚ in Bordeaux stems with smoked ham or salmon or better yet this wonderful Chanterelle mushroom and chicken pasta.