Romanee Conti Style, Turley Zest

adrien-roustanThe first part of Adrien Roustan’s story is traditional enough. Adrien’s grandfather planted vines on 12 hecatres of steeply sloped vineyard in rocky Gigondas and the richer soils of Vacqueyras down the hill below. Both he and his son, Adrien’s father, just wanted to farm, so they sold their grapes to other winemakers. When Adrien was preparing to take over the family business, he decided to make wine.

But…no one in the Roustan family had ever made wine, so Adrien needed to learn. He started by enrolling at the winegrowing/making program in Beaune, in the heart of Burgundy. His 3 years there culminated with a stage, or apprenticeship, at the world’s most famous Pinot Noir house, Burgundy’s Domaine de la Romanee Conti.

Adrien knew his rich, powerful, Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault vines made very different wine from Romanee Conti’s elegant Pinot Noir, so he next traveled to California to learn from America’s most experienced powerhouse winemakers, Larry Turley and the team at Turley Cellars.

Making Changes Back Home
Returning from California in 2009, Adrien had learned a lot about making wines both big and elegant. But what really impressed him was Romanee Conti’s and Turley’s commitment to organic and biodynamic farming – making great wine by nurturing healthy vineyards. So, Adrien converted his family vineyards to biodynamic farming in 2009 before making his own first vintage in 2010.

Production at Dom d’Ourea is still very small – even after growing to 20 hectares, Adrian bottles only 2,500 cases or so per year – but European praise was immediate. France’s prestigious Revue du Vin de France lauded Adrian as a “talented vigneron … full of promise.” Jancis Robinson described his 2011 Vacqueyras as, “Big – very big for its boots.” And, French merchant Terre de Vins listed the domaine as one of its “Coup de Coeurs” (“Most Favorite”) at Découvertes en Vallée du Rhone 2013, calling it “dynamique … an Eveready battery” and described the Vaqueyras as “fresh, fruity and structured … a great future for the domaine.”

With his fifth release of Vacqueyras, the 2014 vintage ($26.98/$24.98ea on a case) Adrien has clearly arrived. For the AOC Vacqueyras and Gigondas, his winemaking approach is simple: grow great grapes and then do as little to them as possible. Whole clusters are snipped from the vine during the cool of the morning, taken carefully to the winery and then layered into the fermentation tank. Once the natural yeast from the vineyard and winery starts the mass bubbling, the rising cap is punched down and broken up, releasing more juice and gently extracting color and ripe, silky tannins. 18 months rest in concrete tanks allows enough oxygen exposure to soften the wine without diminishing any of the luscious, ripe, fruit.

Just for Friends and Fun
dom-dourea-tire-bouchon-vin-de-franceTire Bouchon (12.98/$10.98ea on a case) is a bit different. Adrien’s grandfather’s plantings included not only the noble grapes of Vacqueyras – Grenache and Syrah – but also higher-yielding Carignan and two grapes not legally permitted in Vacqueyras wine: Aramon and Oeillade Noire. Both of these had gained popularity as high-yielding, “mass production” grapes following the phylloxera crisis of the late 19th Century, but neither makes serious wine and both are now on their way to extinction.

If Carignan, Aramon and Oeillade Noire weren’t good for “serious” wine, Adrien decided they could still make something fun. So he combined them with select lots of Grenache and Syrah, fermented them using the Beaujolais carbonic maceration technique to maximize fruit, and bottled the wine as a simple Vin de France.

What to call this fruit-filled, festive, red? Well, Adrien could tell right away that this was going to be the kind of wine that would be lined up for a party and have one cork after another pulled out to please the crowd. So, he called it Tire Bouchon – the “cork puller.”

He could have called it the “slurper” or “gulper” because that’s how we’re drinking it – a wine to pour heavy into a tumbler and knock back as the perfect companion to everything from burgers to fried chicken. A few of the (translated) comments from French wine site Les Grappes captures the essence:

  • “An accessible wine, typically welcome during an aperitif with friends.”
  • “Good wine for a picnic at the park in summer. Very generous in fruit, easy to drink.”
  • “Nose candy, easy and flexible, is drunk alone on grilled lamb or pork.”

Both d’Ourea Tire Bouchon 2015 and Vacqueras 2014 will be open to sample today and through Saturday. Come give them a try!

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