HWI’s Latest Favorite in More Ways Than One


Continuing now with the reviews of locally available GREAT wines at smokin’ prices, I stopped by what promises to become my personal wine shop yesterday.  Having not yet informed the proprietor of my intentions, thus thinking perhaps I should ask for his permission before blurting his name out in these pages, I rang his bell and entered his warehouse.  The lights were still off when I arrived at nearly noon yesterday, indicating a private sort of man and a shop very much to my liking, and after our friendly salutations, I asked him if he’d like to visit a certain web-site.

This was the proprietor’s first visit to my blog and upon first arrival he was obviously surprised.  “Well, there’s our wine”, he exclaimed, naming the Berthet-Rayne from Monday’s blog post by name, pronouncing the Domaine’s title with a nearly perfect French accent.  I took a seat and proceeded to tell him my story, the story of Houston Wine Idealist.

Explaining that I find myself now the Houston consumer’s proponent, a man self-charged with locating great wines, preferably naturally made, organic, at the very least bio-dynamic at prices unmatched anywhere in the country, I began to see this shop owner’s eyes light up.  I could sense that my new found role as Houston Wine Idealist was stirring something in his imagination, obvious even more as he began to describe in greater detail additional wines he wished for me to share with my readers.  We were on to something, I concluded, and the two of us continued to explore this man’s business.

Thomas Smith, owner of French Country Wines, the source of Monday’s Berthet-Rayne, today’s wine, and many more to come for these pages, comes from an Investment Banker’s background, having additionally spent many years as an attorney.  I suppose he’s one of the lucky many we read about these days: folks who enter the wine business with plenty of capital, a love for the juice of the vine and dreams of the wine business as a fun hobby; not so much a career but as something to do with all that retirement time on their hands.  I must admit how I envy the man, for his smile and upbeat attitude truly runs counter to every article published these days as to the state of the finer wines in the market; this guy seems genuinely positive about the future of “Fine Wine”

That’s not to say Mr. Smith is immune to the occasional scowl, by no means at all.  One mention of the word Spec’s turns his smile immediately to a pucker, as if lemon juice had hit an open cut on his hands.  “Folks constantly ask if my wines are available at Spec’s”, he gruffs, “as if all the work I do to discover and bring these wines to Texas could be replicated by those guys.”  Further discussions regarding the local three tier system winds him up even further.  “These big distributors will do anything for Spec’s, with no consideration for the independents, Spec’s is their sole concern.”  Seems Mr. Smith has fallen victim to the machine in his short time as a merchant as well.  Here’s hoping that the positive energy that dominated our time together, and the great wines I’ve enjoyed so far will win the day for Mr. Smith. 

I, for one, as a passionate consumer’s proponent, need a shop of this ilk!

Especially for wines like this:

2007 Domaine Rouge-Bleu Cotes Du Rhone Cuvee Mistral
SARL Rouge-Bleu
71% Grenache, 19% Syrah, 8% Mourvedre, 2% Roussanne Dry Red Table Wine
Cotes Du Rhone, Southern Rhone, Rhone France

Review by Christopher Massie
Wine Idealist #1, (March 2009)
Rating: 90
“An OUTSTANDING wine worth your serious attention that will impress and offer memorable drinking experiences.”
Drink: 2009 – 2015+

Best possible price located as of this review: $16*

    “Our first sign of greatness lies in the color of this beauty: a deep ruby hue, very, very purple right to the rim.  This color coats and stains the glass, indicating ripe and healthy old vine grapes.  A glance at the back label reveals chapters: 75 year old Mourvedre, 75 year old Grenache, indeed, we’re dealing with an estate holding seriously aged parcels.  

  Your nose will capture these aromatics from an arm’s length.  This is another organic farm, a pristine winery in that sense, that has immediately captivated this taster.  Viewing their blog, with pictures of gnarled old Carignan vines has captured my attention, very nearly as much as this aromatic profile.  The farm itself here is 400 years old, and these now 75 plus year old vines offer your sinuses a cornucopia of the most naturally produced, mind pleasing nuances one expects from single vineyard, triple digit CDPs.

    I find baking spices, cardamom, baker’s cocoa, pastille and a full bucket full of every black and blue fruit imaginable; blackberry, raspberry, plum and dates of every description.  But these fruits are pure, not cooked and no sign of heat nor candied / baked / late harvested nuances interfere.  This is one of the most sublime noses.  What did he say this sells for?!
    On the palate, we have that soft, caressing robe of fruit that wraps around every edge of your tongue and dares you not to compare this beauty to a triple digit, single vineyard CDP.  There is structure with power, yet there is harmony and no sign of oak nor overt alcohol.  This is indeed old vine Grenache, as it should be, yet the mineral, the pure terroir and the sensual, sexy, mouth teasing acidity is here in spades. A total wine and a real hoot of a price!”
       — Christopher Massie

*for information on acquiring this wine, at the price I’ve located it for, e*mail me: chambertin@sbcglobal.net





All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier