Domaine de la Garrigue Vacqueyras 2004
I am tempted to recommend this hardy Rhône red with a roast lamb done to a turn in
rosemary and thyme, but why bother with all that meat when you get these flavors and a lot
more in this accessible $16 wine? Vacqueyras used to be (from 1937) one of those villages
that qualified for Côte du Rhône-Villages status but it was rightfully advanced to its own
appellation in the 1990s. Some consider Vacqueyras the poor man's Gigondas, but why not
enjoy both neighbors without forcing the two to compete?
The French term “Garrigues” signifies the kind of scrubland that tends to grow wild herbs like lavender, rosemary and thyme; Roves des Garrigues goat cheese from the region is known for these same herbal notes. The Bernard family (which also run a fine hotel and restaurant in Gigondas called Les Florets) has been passing these vineyards down through a number of generations. Their grapes are predominantly Grenache (75% of this wine, and a minimum of 50% in this appellation) with the remainder Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault. The grapes are hand-picked, and vinified selon les méthodes ancestrales with neither fining nor filtering. Warned by the label about possible sediment, I didn't note any, having decanted three hours.
The first note on the nose of this entirely dry wine is spice—black pepper—quickly followed by
the rosemary, thyme, and some real Mediterranean laurel (bay leaf); I could add a note of
sweet marjoram. The fruit is a complex mix of black berries, cherries and cassis, though on
the finish a concentrated red cherry fruit that has been waiting in the wings all along sees
things through, carried by firm tannins. The most delightful aspect of the wine—vegetarians
please leave the room—is the roasted meat—that lamb once again, and have we forgotten those
little bits of country bacon? I can revise the initial reference to roast; stew it, if that suits
you. At 15% alcohol, there is a bit of heat, but it is well conveyed.
Verdict: True to type
Once you move south from Bordeaux and Burgundy, the wines almost scream “please buy a case before everybody else moves in on the secret!”
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman