Wednesday afternoon I stopped at Arlequin to try the flight of the week, Grenache. I discovered that a promotion of $10 wines had just started that will run through the end of the month. Some of the wines have been selling for $10 all along, but there are others that have been marked down or acquired through special deals for this sale. And, if you buy a case, the 10% case discount still applies, bringing the price per bottle down to $9.
I bought a mixed case and opened the two wines tonight that I thought had the most potential to be run-away bargains. Happily they're actually better than I expected and can recommend them.
2002 Gilles Robin "Papillon" Crozes-Hermitage - This wine far outperforms its appellation and this weak vintage in the Northern Rhone. I'm highly impressed by this producer and will certainly look for it in the future. This wine would be a terrific deal at the regular price of $12, and is a complete no-brainer at $9. I can't think of a better bottle of Syrah, let alone one from the Northern Rhone, at that price that can beat it. Purple semi-opaque color with some premature fading at the rim, quiet nose of damson plum and smoky ashes, medium-bodied with supple silky tannins, somewhat strident and tart acidity initially but tones down as the fruit unfolds with more time in the glass, delicious black stone fruit laced with bacon fat, anise, white pepper and cardamon, drinking very well now, medium-long finish with slightly edgey acidic ending and earthly aftertaste. VERY GOOD plus
2000 Dominique Rocher "Monsieur Paul" Cairanne Cotes du Rhone Villages - Five years ago I met Dominique Rocher in Cairanne. He had interned at my friends' winery in Sonoma County then in 1996 started his own domaine in the Southern Rhone. "Monsieur Paul" is an hommage to his father, Paul, and is made from the best parcels of Grenache and Syrah from vines with an average age of 40 years. I had the chance to taste a barrel sample of one of the component lots at the time and always meant to seek out the wine but never did. It was a wonderful surprise to find it now, three or four years after release, and on mark-down no less! Originally about $15, it's an even better value today with some bottle age. Surprisingly dark semi-opaque color with some pinking at the rim, leathery/gamey notes mingle with stewed blueberries and cherry confiture, smokey oak dominates the initial impression then folds into the dense fruit in the nose and mouth, heavy-bodied and deep with velvety mouthfeel and Southern Rhone unctuousness, good balancing acidity cloaks the 14% alcohol, sturdy fruit with some meatiness and a touch of brett for complexity, firmish rustic wood tannins kick in at the end to carry the long finish. EXCELLENT
Either of these wines will provide fine drinking for the next 12 to 18 months, perhaps a bit longer for the Crozes. I tasted and re-tasted these wines over a 2 1/2 hour period. Both of them got better and better and did not deteriorate in the glass. The Crozes still surprises me with its quality, as in the last month I've tried two 2002's, a Chapoutier Hermitage and a fancy Cote Rotie, both much more expensive wines of the region that fell apart into acid water after two hours of aeration.
Some of the other wines in the promotion that I've not tried yet, but seem like worthwhile bets include:
2000 La Grolet Cotes du Bourg (reg. $14)
2003 Bodega San Polo "Auka" Merlot Mendoze (reg. $14)
2002 Cellar de Capcanes Mas Donis Barrica Montsant (reg. $12)