Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Washington GSM v. Cotes du Rhone

The Criterium du Dauphine' is one of the final tune up stage races as the pros get ready for the Tour de France.  The Dauphine' is great training because it follows many of the routes used on the le Tour.  The stages in the week long race will also often mimic stages the riders will experience in July.  In the past several years the winner of the Dauphine' has gone on to win the Tour de France.

This year's edition of the race rolls through the Rhone Valley and through Provence before heading back for a couple of mountainous stages to wrap things up with a bang.  The race featured the top contenders for the Tour de France.  Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali are expected to be the top three riders battling for the crown in July.  They did not disappoint in this year's Dauphine with numerous attacks and spirited uphill skirmishes.

In the end, Andrew Talansky took the overall victory.  Nobody saw that coming.  Well, maybe the Garmin Director Sportif, Jonathan Vaughters saw it.  But he would have been the only one outside the Garmin team.  Talansky took the (well earned) overall victory on the final stage of the race.

This week's Lucha Vino matchup takes a trip to the south of France with a tour de force through the Cotes du Rhone AOC.

2008 Brian Carter Byzance v. 2011 Alain Jaume & Fils Domaine Grand Veneur Les Champouvins

Tale of the Tape

2008 Brian Carter Byzance

50% Grenache, 22% Syrah, 19% Mourvedre, 6% Counoise and 3% Cinsault.

Aged for 24 months in 75% French and 25% European Oak Barrels.  80% used.

Purchased at Total Wines for $26

2011 Alain Jaume & Files Domaine Grand Veneur Les Champouvins

70% Grenache
20% Syrah
10% Mourvedre

Purchased at Bin 41 Wines for $25.

Round 1.  First Opening

When Les Champauvins enters the building it is followed by the ambience of a smoky late night jazz session.  This French Luchador is showing some amazing notes of smoky, sweet and spicy tobacco.  The vineyard is literally located 3 meters to the North of the Chateauneuf du Pape border.  And, boy does it show!  The nose is showing earthy dry cherries, and cedar spice tinged tobacco leaf.  The palate doubles down with tart tobacco and cherries along with cracked pepper that lingers to a tart spicy finish.

Brian Carter is battling back with a complex combination of dark and mysterious moves.  The nose features dark cherries, light smoky earth and mineral funky spices.  The palate is dark and lively with notes of tart cherries and currants followed by dry cedar and white pepper notes that are repeated on a complex finish that mixes in notes of dried violets.

Round 1 is close with Brian Carter slightly edging the French challenger with a powerful mix of offensive moves.

Round 2.  One hour later

Les Champauvins is getting more sultry as time goes on.  The nose has bulked up with rich dark cherries and currants that combine with sweet spicy tobacco leaf ,white pepper and floral notes for a wickedly complex attack.  The palate follows quickly behind the initial attack with dark cherry, currant, cracked pepper and sweet spicy tobacco leaf with the tobacco spicy character carrying over to the finish.

Brian Carter is trying to subdue the French Challenger with a powerful headlock reflected in a nose featuring dry dark cherries, currants and dry cedar mineral spices.  The palate is similar with dried cherries, white pepper and some floral notes wrapped up with a finish of dry cedar white pepper spices.

Round 2 was close again with Les Champouvins taking the points with a complex combination of finesse and sultry power.

Round 3.  One day later

This is it.  The match is all tied up at one round a piece.  This is winner take all, no holds barred.  Let's see who is going to step up and take the championship belt home with them tonight!

Les Champauvins seems to have lost a bit of its swagger.  The nose is showing cherries and earthy brambles along with some subtle savory notes.  The palate is also more subdued with dried cherries and tart spicy tobacco leaf notes that carry over to the finish. 

Brian Carter is sensing signs of weakness and is going for the quick knock out.  This Washington State Luchador is showing powerful stamina.  The nose is building power with earthy anise spices, dark cherries and currants.  The palate has also maintained a powerful attack with currants, light licorice, white pepper and violets followed by a finish of dried flowers and white pepper spices.

Brian Carter takes the final round, and the match, with a mighty display of power and stamina!

Wrap up and overall observations

Both of these wines are excellent values at the mid 20 dollar price point.

The Alain Jaume & Fils lives up to the winery's label of "baby Chateauneuf du Pape."  The Grenache brings tons of spicy, sweet and savory tobacco leaf character to the party.  If you like CdP, I would highly recommend seeking out this Cotes du Rhone crusher.

The Brian Carter Byzance is always a top notch Washington contender.  The wines are consistently high quality at a great price.  This Southern France inspired wine follows suit with excellent character and style.  I really like the way Brian Carter Cellars brings out the "old world" style with our "new world" Washington grapes.

I would highly recommend both of these wines!

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