Domaine Vernay 2016 "Blonde du Seigneur" Côte-Rôtie, Rhône Valley, France
Domaine Vernay 2016 "Blonde du Seigneur" Côte-Rôtie, Rhône Valley
This historic estate sits in the heart of the Northern Rhone, known most famously for the family's preservation of the Viognier grape, and the proliferation of world-class white wines from the area. Today, the third generation of Vernay leads the estate; Christine has maintained the elegance and complexity of the white wines that have made the family world-famous, but has also brought further acclaim to the Domaine with the production of her Syrah-based red wines.
Winemaker/Chef du Cave: Christine Vernay
Grape Varieties: Syrah & 5% Viognier
Soil Type: limestone and sand
Vinification/Oak Usage: The Blonde du Seigneur Cuvee comes from a total of 1.65 hectares in the southern part of the appellation. There is 1 ha in Coteaux de Semons planted in 1987 and 0.65 ha in Lancement planted in 1999. It contains 5% to 8% Viognier. The grapes are harvested by hand and after a careful sorting they are 100% destemmed and placed in temperature-controlled vats for 2 to 4 weeks for fermentation. After fermentation, the wine is aged in 225-liter oak barrels (25% new) for 18 months before bottling.
Tastng Notes: The Blonde du Seigneur is very much in the style of the Cote Blonde with 5% to 8% Viognier. It shows very floral notes. It has a beautiful dark color with a nose of mineral, smoke, black fruit, black olive, and cracked pepper that is always enhanced with a floral component. The palate is aromatic, with well-constructed but smooth tannins, continuing into a long finish.
Domaine Georges Vernay lies among steep slopes of the northern Rhone Valley. The property has become a major emblem of French winegrowing, from the time when Georges Vernay saved the Condrieu appellation. Since 1997, Christine Vernay, Francis' granddaughter, has continued the family commitment, anchoring its savoir-faire and imprinting her father Georges' style on the reds and whites. Georges Vernay created the family business with 1.5 hectares of AOC Condrieu "Coteau du Vernon" vineyards. Towards the end of the '40s, Georges Vernay became one of the most ardent defenders and saviors of the Appellation, then about to disappear. Today, the vinification is assured by his children Luc and Christine Vernay and the estate extends over 16 hectares - 7 hectares in the appellation Condrieu, of which 3 hectares are old vines producing 2 prestigious wines matured in barrels: 3 hectares of Côte Rotie, 1.5 hectares of St.-Joseph and 5 hectares of local wine Syrah and Viognier. Whatever the classification, the wines are always delicious and of the highest quality. The Domaine produces 3,500 cases on average each year and the wines are raised lutte raisonnée.
In 1940, the appellation was officially created thanks in large part to the help and efforts of Francis Vernay. In later years, his son George would play a key role in restricting the geographical boundaries of Condrieu to include only the best hillside vineyards, even robbing himself of the appellation for some of his vineyards on the plateau above. Domaine Georges Vernay came to be regarded as one of the reference standards in Condrieu for decades with George at the helm. Now, George’s daughter Christine, has brought an even greater level of refinement to the wines and has also brought more focus on the estate’s reds bringing them up to a world-class level.
October 2020 Bottle Club Feature!
If Simi and Cara were on a desert island and we had to choose a wine region to drink for the rest of our lives, we both agree the Rhône Valley might be what we stick with. Especially wines from the Northern Rhône. Especially wines made by women in the Northern Rhône!
Christine Vernay, the daughter of George and granddaughter of the estate founder Francis, has run the estate since 1997. With her careful organic winemaking, she has brought the beloved estate to a world-class level. She is best known for her powerful Viognier from Condrieu and her Syrah from Côte-Rôtie. What do we mean by Northern Rhône? Well, this is a region that sits in the Northernmost part of the vast Rhône Valley, mostly along the Rhône River between the cities of Vienne and Valence, on soils that are dominated by granite hills. While the Southern Rhône is a Mediterranean climate, the Northern part is much more continental, meaning they get a real winter and tends to be a bit cooler during the growing season. The main red grape here is Syrah, and honestly, the benchmark for all Syrah globally is based on wines from this region, especially from the villages of Côte-Rôtie and Cornas.
Blonde du Seigneur is a top wines from the Vernay estate, blended from their top Syrah terroirs throughout Côte-Rôtie, namely the Côte Blonde. The vines for this bottling come from a total of 4 acres in the southern part of the appellation, planted in 1987 and 1999. As it permitted in Côte-Rôtie, the wine also contains 5% to 8% Viognier, which provides lift and silky texture to what can otherwise be very tannic and aggressive Syrah. Taking great care, Christine and her team hand-harvest and after careful sorting, they are 100% destemmed and placed in temperature-controlled vats for 2 to 4 weeks for fermentation. After fermentation, the wine is aged in 225-liter oak barrels (25% new) for 18 months before bottling.
This wine gives us what we love from Côte-Rôtie Syrah—a structured red wine with aromas of black pepper, green olive, black cherries, and spiced game meats, enveloped by a smooth, balanced, concentrated dark fruit core. The structure and power of this wine also make it an excellent candidate for cellar aging. You can hold this wine 20-25 years, but it will likely hit its stride around the 10-15 year mark. If you can hold it for that long, it’ll be a lovely companion to slow-cooked barbecue pork, roast duck, or anything else that takes some time to cook. If patience is not your virtue, decant it for at least a handful of hours and pair it against a rich stew or rich cut of meat. There is something so special and gastronomic about the wines from the Northern Rhône, and this one is one of our favorites!