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2007 Domaine de Monpertuis Cuvée Counoise

Originating from Domaine de Monpertuis, a winery located in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, this Old World counoise is deep amethyst in color and exhibits a “hot” nose and high acidity that mirrors the minerality of its terroir. Dry and earthy, this bottling offers a generous amount of tannins. However, allow it to open up to experience ripe, red fruit that elevates its Old World characteristics to a wine that ideally compliments a fatty and substantial fish like halibut. I owe my friends at Liner & Elsen a big thank you for performing the seemingly impossible task of locating a 100-percent Counoise import from France for less than twenty dollars.
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2004 Domaine de l’Oratoire St Martin Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne Cuvée Prestige

This is a very nice bottle of wine, and it has improved with time in the cellar. When the first bottle was opened in 2008 the nose was shy, refusing to give up its secrets without several hours of decanting. Now, after two additional years of rest, it sings. Leather and a touch, a light touch, of barnyard cradle layers of different cherries all sprinkled with white pepper and a spray of foam from an Atlantic wave. Hide this wine in a blind tasting of Chateauneufs and nobody will question its place in the lineup. Drink with steak au poivre.
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A Trip to the Rhône, Part I

A long weekend in the Northern Rhône would give us a chance to taste from the major producers—Chapoutier, Jaboulet Aîné, Guigal—and from a few of the smaller ones, too. The trip would serve as a kind of a reconnaissance, a chance to test, and sample, the waters, and to get a sense of what tasting wine in France is like.