In France's southern Rhone Valley, Grenache dominates the blends. The best-known wine is from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which is typically the most expensive as well. But in a particularly fine vintage like 2007, the quality spreads. With that in mind, we turned to the workhorse of the Southern Rhone, the Cotes du Rhone. Here are the panel's favorites:
2007 Clos du Caillou Cotes du Rhone Vieilles Vignes, $18.99
Old-vine grapes result in a uniquely complex red. The nose is filled with cherry liqueur and dark berry, laced with sweet licorice, cinnamon and clove. Deeply extracted cherry and berry flavors carry through on the palate, while the finish, with chocolate and spice, has amazing persistence.
2007 Domaine de Couran Cotes du Rhone, $10.99
This wine is a bit closed in at first, but it opens up nicely to reveal an appealing array of aromas highlighted by black currant, raspberry, green tea, anise and dried flowers. Round and rich in the mouth with creamy cherry and dark berry fruit. This is a well-balanced wine with a lingering velvety smoothness.
2007 Domaine de Coste Chaude Cotes du Rhone, La Truffiere, $15.99
The aromas are subdued but intriguing, with layers of cocoa, coffee, cherry, earth, game and bacon fat. Nicely balanced in the mouth with a core of cherry fruit backed by dark chocolate and light spice. Smooth tannins and a hit of just sour cherry brighten things up on the finish. Another fine value.
This week's panel: Dave Faulk, Porterhouse Meats; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op Wine Shop; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Karen McMillin, Young's Market; Kevin Settles, Bardenay; Leslie Young, Boise Co-op Wine Shop