We’re always on the lookout for red Rhônes we haven’t tried before, and our explorations often take us back to Ferndale’s Western Market, where our buddy Jarred Gild has a knack for coming up with out-of-the-way selections that, more often than not, are most enjoyable with not only Red Wings hockey, but with good food as well. (Food and wine, what a concept!) And so it was that we found the six wines noted here in the last month or so; all are good, with some being clearly better than others.
Domaine Saint Amant, located in the Beaumes de Venise AOC, is comprised of 32 acres of small plots of steep slopes, facing South-East, at an altitude of 1640 feet. Owned by the Jacques Wallut family, the domaine produces nearly 50,000 bottles a year. We tried the Grangeneuve bottling first, and when we liked that, went back to see what else Jarred had for us. Apparently, he had rescued the four Saint Amant wines from languishing in a local distributor’s warehouse. I was particularly intrigued by the fact that all four are somewhat older vintages than you’ll find on most area retail shelves.
2005 Domaine Saint Amant Beaumes-de-Venise Grangeneuve, 13.5% alc., $15.99: deep and dark in color; rich, earthy and intense, with lots of black plum, berry and currant, all shaded with a good dose of mineral. Mouth coating and still quite tannic, almost burry, this really wants a good hour in a decanter before serving. Once it opens up, it delivers more than enough fruit to pair well with a variety of grilled red meats, and there’s no reason to think that it won’t age effortlessly for 5-8 years and beyond. Kim commented that “it’s a little poopier than the Saint Jaume,” noted below. This is our clear favorite of the four Saint Amants we tried, and we went back and bought the last four bottles in the store. A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Viogner. Find this wine
2005 Domaine Saint Amant Beaumes-de-Venise Saint Jaume, 13% alc. ., $15.99: Deep, deep color, with an earthy black fruit nose, slightly perfumed, with a faintly petroleum-like element. There’s even more of the petroleum aspect on the palate, along with notes of black olive and iodine over a rich core of black plums and berries. Not quite as big or as “burry” as the Grangeneuve, but structured for at least another 3-4 years in the cellar. The petrol adds an intriguing quality to the wine’s personality, and we like it almost as much as the one previously noted. A blend of Syrah and Grenache. Find this wine
2006 Domaine Saint Amant Côtes-du-Rhône Les Clapas, 13.5% alc., $15.99: Clean and dark in color, with a meaty, somewhat sunbaked character, and a little hot. Full bodied and not close to its best days of drinking, it offers red and black plums and berries, shaded with a nice leathery note. This will be better in a few years, but it’s not bad now, either. A blend of Syrah and Grenache. Find this wine
2007 Domaine Saint Amant Côtes-du-Rhône Les Clapas, 13.5% alc., $15.99: Clean, dark color, with some barnyard on the nose that carries over on to the palate; not quite as intense as the ’06, but similar otherwise, with the same sunbaked character and perhaps even more heat. Full bodied, well-structured and still on the way up, but the ’06 is clearly the better of these two. A blend of Syrah and Grenache. Find this wine
Domaine Saint Amant imported by Johns Island Imports LLC., Edwardsville, IL
Both Domaine Faury and Domaine Durand (Eric & Joel) are better known for wines from more prestigious regions, such as Côte-Rôtie, Cornas and Saint Joseph, but also make bottlings from Collines Rhodaniennes, which are accordingly priced in a much more pocketbook friendly manner. When I saw these two sitting on the same shelf, the tasting opportunity was a no-brainer, and I grabbed one of each.
2012 Domaine Faury Syrah IGP Collines Rhodaniennes, 13% alc., $17.99: Deep, dark garnet color, with a somewhat shy black fruit and iodine nose that echoes and expands considerably on the palate; with air, some nice notes of garrigue and leather emerge to really set the tone to the wine’s personality. Smooth texture belies the ample structure that will take this some years down the road, but it’s drinking quite well right now. A solid, not-quite-everyday Syrah, and we went back for more of this one too. Find this wine
Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA
2012 Domaine Durand Syrah IGP Collines Rhodaniennes, 13 % alc., $15.99: Deep and dark in color, and perhaps a little more fruit forward than the Domaine Faury, but not as complex. Earthy black plum and currant flavors and aromas, and structured for at least a few years in the cellar. A straightforward, enjoyable Syrah, but, of the two, the Faury gets the nod from this taster. Find this wine
Imported by A.H.D. Vintners, Warren, MI
Reporting from Day-twah,