Gigondas, in the southern Rhône Valley, is home to fine Grenache-based wines of its own. A little ways outside of the old Roman town center lies Domaine Les Pallières, a historic estate blessed with some of the best vineyards in the appellation. Facing north and creeping up wooded slopes beneath the Dentelles de Montmirail—one of southern France’s most stunning rock formations—the vines enjoy a long, sunny growing season as well as the influence of the wonderfully fragrant garrigue herbs that grow wild in the clay and limestone soils. The cuvée Racines features all the oldest vines on the property, many of which are over one hundred years old. They naturally give very low yields, producing a deep, rich, and generously aromatic wine. This 2015 is already delicious with black cherry, réglisse, and dried herb suggestions, and it will continue to improve for many years.
Domaine Les Pallières is undeniably one of the greatest, longest-running properties of the Southern Rhône, having been within the same family since the 15th century. By 1998, with no successors, the Roux family decided to sell. A discussion over lunch between Daniel Brunier, of Vieux Télégraphe, and Kermit Lynch spontaneously turned into a plan to revive the jewel—Les Pallières. The Roux family decided to sell to the Bruniers and Kermit and the Pallières’ renaissance had begun. A focus on terroir and its potential led to a clear, new direction. Domaine Les Pallières has become a partnership among friends, a real meeting of the minds—a creative collaboration of three leading, passionate experts on the wines of the Rhône.
The southern Rhône valley is Grenache country. It’s also known for its stones. With a viticulture history dating back well before the Popes arrived in the 12th century and one of France’s oldest appellations d'origine contrôlée, Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe, the southern Rhône is unquestionably one of France’s best known and premier winegrowing regions. The wines have the pedigree and age-worthiness of Burgundy and Bordeaux, but with a rustic, Mediterranean character. Like most wines from southern France, the reds, whites, and rosés are blends. Filling out the Grenache for the reds and rosés, you’ll often find Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault. The common white grape varieties are Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Viognier, Roussane, and Marsanne among others. From the alluvial riverbed stones found in Lirac, Tavel, and Châteauneuf to the limestone cliffs of the Dentelles de Montmirail that influence Beaumes-de-Venise (where you’ll find excellent Muscat), Vacqueyras, and Gigondas, great terroir abounds.
Kermit’s entrance in the region came in the mid 1970s on his first trip with Richard Olney, an American ex-pat and friend of Alice Waters. On that trip, Richard introduced Kermit to the Brunier family of Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe. Soon after, Kermit began importing the Brunier’s wines—their Châteauneuf-du-Pape “La Crau” bottling remains a staple of our portfolio today. In the late 1990s Kermit teamed up with the Brunier family to purchase the famed Gigondas estate, Domaine Les Pallières. More than 40 years later, we now import wines from fifteen southern Rhône domaines spanning the entire area of the region.
Every three or four months I would send my clients a cheaply made list of my inventory, but it began to dawn on me that business did not pick up afterwards. It occurred to me that my clientele might not know what Château Grillet is, either. One month in 1974 I had an especially esoteric collection of wines arriving, so I decided to put a short explanation about each wine into my price list, to try and let my clients know what to expect when they uncorked a bottle. The day after I mailed that brochure, people showed up at the shop, and that is how these little propaganda pieces for fine wine were born.—Kermit Lynch
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