Today’s Tour de France stage 16 crossed the Rhone River into Hermitage, a wine region in Rhone Valley that I visited recently. Riders had to battle winds gusting to 40 mph and 93 degree heat, typical weather for southern France.

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The wine regions of northern and southern Rhone Valley are vast – second only to Bordeaux in the number of vineyards. However, only 5% of Rhone Valley wine is from northern Rhone and Syrah is the only red grape permitted. Vineyards grow in ancient granite soil on steep terraced vineyards, so steep that tractors are not used in all sites. No irrigation in the warm Mediterranean climate stresses vines to create deep root systems to find water. Only the strongest vines survive the hot summers and cold, wet winters, and inky-red Syrah wine is produced from 40 year or older vines (Vieilles Vignes in French).

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Northern Rhone wine region includes familiar appellations like Hermitage, Côte-Rôtie and St Joseph but our destination was Cornas, a tiny appellation. Our appointment was at Vins JL Colombo whose owner, Jean-Luc Colombo, is instrumental in promoting Cornas wines outside France. Colombo produces less tannic wines that do not require long aging that is typical for northern Rhone Syrah.

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JL COLOMBO Cornas La Louvée 2009 | 100% Syrah |$50 |
Colombo’s is known for single vineyard and small production Syrah.
Wine Spectator 94 rating “Very tightly wound, but the purity of the plum, blueberry, cherry eau-de-vie and dark currant fruit is impressive, with sleek, well-integrated toast and a very long, violet- and iron-filled finish that just sails on. “

colombo rose

JL COLOMBO Cape Bleue Rosé 2016 | $12 |
67% Syrah , 33% Mourvèdre
Wine Spectator 88 rating “Streamlined watermelon and white cherry fruit has a very fresh feel. Ends with a light floral hint on the persistent finish. Not big, but precise and pure.”

Cheers, Bob the Wineguy
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