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July 29, 2015 | Matt Mills

The Roasted Slope

 

Literally embodying summer and grilling is the tiny France region of Côte-Rôtie AOC, a.k.a. “The Roasted Slope.” The Côte-Rôtie lies at the far northern limits of the Rhone just south of Burgundy with only about 550 planted acres specializing in Syrah-based red wines. Sloped (up to 60 degrees!) and rocky vineyards face south along the Rhone River to take advantage of the sun exposure which promotes ripening during the summer but also prevents vines from freezing during the harsh winters. This region also contends with the famous “mistral”, a strong, cold wind that pushes down to the Mediterranean during winter and spring months sometimes reaching 50 mph for extended periods of time.

 

 

Syrah dominates the region similar to other Northern Rhone AOC’s like Hermitage, Cornas and Saint-Joseph. Here at Baldacci Family Vineyards we grow this varietal on our Honey B Estate Vineyard in the cool climate of Carneros where it traditionally gets blended into our Fraternity wine but also sometimes earns its own bottling as Allwin.

 

 

Wines from the Côte-Rôtie are easily distinguished by their aromatics: green olive, pepper, violet, blackberry, plum, leather and a personal favorite, bacon. These wines pair great with barbecue cuisine, bringing together meat, spice and vegetal qualities. Even within this small region, two sub-regions developed from the rocky terroir: the Côte Blonde (lighter, elegant and enjoyed sooner) and the Côte Brune (darker, more tannin, more ageworthy). Most wines found are blended by local negociants to incorporate both characteristics.

 

 

Astonishingly, the tiny region of Côte-Rôtie has been a grapegrowing region for over two millennia thanks to the Romans during the time of Caligula. Since it received the official AOC status in 1940, the wines are unique in a couple respects. For one, a white wine grape (Viognier) is permitted to be blended into the Syrah. Viognier adds additional aromatic character but it has to be blended by cofermentation, a style of production Côte-Rôtie AOC laws mandate. “Cofermentation” means all the grapes (in this case Syrah and Viognier clusters) are brought to tank to begin fermentation together, in lieu of the more traditional individual fermentation prior to blending.

For your next summer barbecue, consider pushing Zin and Cab to the side for a wine that was truly born of roasting.

 

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707-944-9261
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