Blog: Producer Newsletters

  • Terroir(s) of Southern Rhone!

    March 25th, 2013

    Terroir(s) of Southern Rhone!
    Eric Bonnet (Bastide Saint Dominique), Chateauneuf du Pape & Cotes du Rhone
    Eric Bonnet
     We did not waste a second in 2009 when we heard La Bastide Saint-Dominique lost its California importer. Having flown under the radar for several years, it is a rising star and for the quality, the wines are terrific values.
    Added to the book in 2010 , La Bastide Saint-Dominique was our first foray into the Rhône Valley and in every way – size, viticulture and winemaking practices, and quality – reflects Return to Terroir’s philosophy.


     The different lieu-dits (parcels) of Chateauneuf du Pape
    Founded in 1976 by Gérard and Marie-Claude Bonnet, La Bastide Saint-Dominique is located in Courthezon, a small village in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Very much of a family endeavor, their son, Eric, has taken over the day to day but Gérard still works in the vineyards and Marie-Claude oversees hospitality, which in addition to vineyard visitors includes renting an apartment on the property. Eric’s wife, Julia, runs the office.
    Having grown up on the land, Eric knew a thing or two about winemaking but he deepened his knowledge while studying viticulture in Burgundy. This may have given him a lighter touch as his wines are on the more elegant side for the southern Rhône.


    Lieu dit “Les Bedines” (red pebblestones) making harder wines that can age longer
    The Bonnets have a total of 34 hectares including 11 hectares in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, five in Côtes du Rhone Villages, ten in Côtes du Rhone and eight that is just vin de pays. They make wines that reflect the terroir without the ‘funk’ that Châteauneuf-du-Papes in particular often can be known to have.
    Lieu dit “Pignan” (sand) making more refined, aromatic wines
    The cuvee “Secrets de Pignan” is enterily made from that lieu-dit.


    The soil in the different AOCs varies, with Châteauneuf-du-Pape having much of the famous ‘pignan,’ a sandy soil, plus clay and pebbles. The composition of the pignan delivers Grenache Noir with a lighter, and more feminine, elegant quality than the large red stones or ‘galets’ commonly associated with Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Eric’s lighter hand in the cellar makes for a perfect match with this terroir, and his “Secrets de Pignan” cuvee is one of the purest expressions of Grenache we have tasted.
    On the other hand, the Lieu dit “Les Bedines” is composed of red pebblestones, making harder wines that can age longer. The cuvee “Les Hesperides” is enterily made from that lieu-dit. 
    Caravane 2012
    The Côtes du Rhône Villages vineyards, located in Orange 10 kilometers north of Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation, are predominantly stony and the Côtes du Rhône vines are right along the eastern border of Chateauneuf du Pape, near the lieu-dit Pignan on sand and clay with small pebbles interspersed.


    Vegetable lasagna and glou glou Cotes du Rhone
    La Bastide Saint-Dominique follows organic practices and is awaiting certification. The grapes are carefully picked by hand and go through a second sorting process in the cellar.  All of the reds undergo ‘pigeage,’ the French term for punching down the cap during fermentation.
    Eric Bonnet has become one of the young stars of Chateauneuf du Pape
    We are currently carrying four red wines from La Bastide Saint-Dominique.
    All are made in stainless steel tanks, giving them more freshness and focus.
    Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2011
    80% Grenache, 20% Syrah | From a sandy vineyard along the eastern border of Chateauneuf du Pape AOC, near the sandy lieu-dit Pignan | Aged in stainless steel tank.
    The 2011 vintage was the third in a row that smiled down on the Rhône Valley. Whether it is nature or nurture, all of the nuance and character was gently squeezed out of this modest wine, giving it an array of fruit, spice and minerals. With laurel and rose petals in the nose, raspberry, blackberry jam, kirsch, cayenne pepper and cardamom, this is a bright, fresh wine that is ideal for charcuterie.
    Côtes du Rhône Villages Rouge 2010
    50% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre, 5% Cinsault | From a gravely terroir in Orange | Aged in stainless steel tank.
    Composed of fruit from 15 – 55 year old vines, this wine falls somewhere in between Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Rugged but not rustic, it has very good structure but there is plenty of fruit to flesh it out. Spicy and mineral laden, with blackberries and plums, it is a substantial wine at a great price.
    Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010
    80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre, 5% Cinsault | From Chateauneuf lieu-dits “Valori” (clay), “Les Bedines” (red pebble stones) and “Pignan” (sand)  | Aged in stainless steel tank.
    Made from various soils on the property, this wine is made from vines that are between 25 – 80 years in old. With forest floor and peppery aromas, juicy red and black fruits, kirsch and a hint of cocoa, this is a well balanced, even handed Châteauneuf-du-Pape. You can drink it now, albeit decanting is a good idea, but it will also age well for another five to eight years.
    Châteauneuf-du-Pape ‘Secrets de Pignan’ 2010
    100% Grenache | From the lieu-dit “Pignan” (sand)  | Aged in stainless steel tank.
    The name here comes from its soil composition, the highly coveted ‘pignan,’ that is responsible for making legendary wines from well-known producers. Made from 90-year-old vines, it has immense concentration but there is also a level of elegance. Full-bodied with dried herbs, cedar and pepper in the nose and rich, juicy fruit on the palate, this flagship is tasty now but will be exceptional in ten years.
    Châteauneuf-du-Pape ‘Les Hesperides’ 2010
    50% Grenache, 50% Mourvedre | From the lieu-dit “Les Bedines” (red pebble stones)  | Aged in stainless steel tank.
    The red stones that make up the Bedines vineyard boost the rustic notes in the wine which possesses a good bit of tannin in addition to blueberry, blackberry, exotic spice and black pepper notes. Decant if drinking now and pair with a steak, lamb with mint sauce or lasagna with mushrooms.


     Chateauneuf du Pape and the Southern Rhone
    Please, ask for our entire California Catalog.