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Senior editor James Suckling joined Wine Spectator in 1981 and retired in 2010. As European bureau chief, he was based in Tuscany and tasted the wines of Italy, Bordeaux and Port.
James Suckling

A French Red that Tastes Like a Baby Châteauneuf

Mas de la Dame Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence Red Coin Caché 2005

James Suckling
Posted: April 2, 2009

I was in Los Angeles for my mother's 80th birthday last week, and we celebrated the evening at Chateau Marmont, one of my favorite places on earth. We had a small dinner party outside in the courtyard. I asked my friend Nat Gunter, wine buyer and assistant restaurant manager of Chateau Marmont, to pick out something that wouldn't break the bank but would be exciting. He chose this excellent Grenache-based red from Provence, for $60 on the wine list.

I didn't know what the red was when he served it in a decanter at the table. The aromas of strawberries and spices, with hints of tea, gave away that it came from excellent Grenache. When I later checked the winery's website, I discovered that the Coin Caché is made primarily of old-vine Grenache that is picked late and aged 15 months in oak casks. Apparently the Grenache is buttressed with some Syrah, but the former comes out the most on the nose and palate. I guess the Syrah gives some color and freshness to the wine.

Anyway, Mas de la Dame's top red was like a baby Château Rayas (one of Châteauneuf-du-Pape's famed estates) with its beautiful, exotic, slightly rustic fruit, along with the fine tannins and fresh acidity. Four of us went through two bottles with little problem (two designated drivers didn't drink). I scored it 90 points, non-blind.

As a fun side note, the winery's website claims that the French estate, which totals about 123 acres of vineyards, was depicted by Vincent van Gogh in one of his paintings.

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