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Celebrating the Past, Present & Future

The Spring Wine, so fine!
By James Fallon

   In this season of rebirth, as the fresh vegetables of spring re-enter our menus, one’s wine-drinking palate is drawn to the flavors of the wines of the Rhone Valley in France.  Here we find the spicy, earthy flavors of the region reflected in the style of the native wines.

     From the steep slopes of the northern end of the river, the Syrah grape comes from the villages of Hermitage, Saint Joseph, and Cornas.  The intense wines produced in these regions are harvested by hand in small, family owned vineyards as they have for generations dating back to Roman times. These long-lived, powerful wines have been popularized by the Australians under the name Shiraz and marry well with springtime dishes such as lamb and grilled meats.

     In the south end of the Rhone Valley we find Grenache and Mourvedre, two grapes which pair well with hearty, robust flavors of the Mediterranean such as olives, rosemary, garlic, and basil. Grenache is one of the world’s most versatile and prolific grapes and thrives in a multitude of warm climates from Spain to California to Australia. In France, Grenache produces dry, refreshing rosés from appellations such as Tavel and the Cotes du Rhone, deep full-bodied reds from the towns of Gigondas and Chateauneuf-de-Pape, and deeply extracted, fortified dessert wines, the perfect compliment to chocolate, from the little known regions of Banyuls and Rasteau.

    At the mouth of the Rhone, on the Mediterranean, sits a seaside town called Bandol, which is the home of the Mourvedre grape. Like the Syrah grape, Mourvedre grows on low-yielding vines situated on steep hills which prohibit access by farm equipment, requiring maintenance and harvesting by hand.  The spicy and rich wines produced from this varietal have a unique, gamey quality that stands up to the bold, rich flavors of the season.

James Fallon, the owner of Northern Neck Gourmet in Warsaw, Virginia, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and has worked as a sommelier with certification by the Washington Sommelier Society.


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