2015 Vignobles Verzier Chante-Perdrix St. Joseph ‘La Madone’
Region: St. Joseph < Rhone Valley < California
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: Organic/biodynamic farming; 55-year-old vines on granite/sandy soils; 70% whole cluster press, 25-day fermentation, matures 18 months in old 500-litre oak barrels (70%), the rest in stainless steel vats; minimal SO2 at bottling only; 13% ABV; 25 cases for the US
Winemaker: Philippe Verzier
Philippe Verzier, youngest of seven children, was not expecting to get the call at age 19 to return to his family’s farm, called “Chante-Perdrix” (“singing partridge”), but that’s what happened after his father’s untimely death. He ditched his studies and took on the responsibility of 10 hectares of grapes, orchards, and grains, farmed organically since the 1960s and certified since 2010. While his father had been selling the grapes to the local co-op (a common practice after World War II), Philippe immediately started bottling his own wine. For pretty much everything else, he stuck to tradition – green harvests to reduce yields, old barrels for aging, and very light filtration and sulfur usage. , has mastered the old-school elegance for which Northern Rhone Syrah is famous (just not the labels – these are pretty bad). Powerfully feminine and exuding Syrah-ness, this single-vineyard cuvee is surprisingly deep, and dark, almost opaque, yet isn’t a big wine. Sweet and savory at the same time, it smells and tastes like ripe blackberries, leather, smoked meat and black olives buried in a wet cedar forest. Super hard to resist now, but it can age if you have that kind of willpower.