Over the past few years, largely spurred on by my friendship with the Rolet family, owners of Chene Bleu, I've been making wines of the Ventoux region of the Rhone something of a regular visitor to the area, and while most of my tasting of wines from there has been either as part of dinner parties or events, I have become a regular buyer and consumer of wines from what I feel is the next breakout region from the Rhone. Given the Ventoux is one of France's oldest regions where wine has been made and grapes have been planted, one would say that "it's about time."
I say that because the hillside and valley floor regions are producing some of the most interesting, fruit forward, lush and rich wines from the Rhone Valley over the past 7 vintages. My friend Even Bakke, an ex-pat American and the owner/winemaker at Clos de Trias has his Ventoux wine now on the list of Tesse in Los Angeles as well as Emporium Thai, as well as his Ventoux Blanc on the list at Fundamental in Westwood.
The 2012 Clos de Trias Ventoux Red is the current release in California and it's a tour de force that offers GREAT value for money. Big and bold, with a delicate balance, the red wine stands up so well to spicy curries and rich dishes. The wines of Domain Vindemio and Domaine Martinelle also pop up from time to time as does Domaine de Fondreche in the USA, but like so many great country wines from across France, the inconsistency from year to year in distribution holds these wines back from broader sales.
Unfortunately, one of the region's best, Domaine Vintur, made by UK expat to the region, James Wood, is not found on USA shores. His flagship wine, Le Gentleman is a wine for the ages. Big, spicy, robust, with incredible layer upon layer of fruit. It is a perfect blend of sun drenched Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan that outperforms wines three times or more from Chateauneuf du Pape. Between James and Even's bottlings, I could stock my cellar with high quality red and white wines for sub $20.00 and be drinking very happily.
Also Ventouxish, is Chene Bleu. More of a Super Rhone, along the likes of Trevallon and La Grange de Peres, the pristine winery on the top of the hill facing Mont Ventoux has the enigmatic and very engaging Nicole Rolet actively championing the region to all she comes in contact with. Her "Gang of Grenache" which I'm included in according to a local wine bar owner in Vaison la Romain, includes the likes of Bakke and Wood as well as many others. Never shy about sharing her feelings about a wine region, her dedication and commitment of bringing the wines to a level of wider global appeal can't be overlooked.
Easily on par with any wine sold in the USA from Guigal or Chapoutier, the Ventoux wines offer exquisite character, deliver incredible value to the wine buyer and an incredible range of food friendliness. In many ways the top producers in the Ventoux, and those from the next hill region over, Beaumes de Venise, are too often overlooked by USA importers, who tend to bring in lower grade negociant wines from the area, when really well made wines, by artisanal winemakers go skipped by.