Côtes du Rhône
Gramenon is one of the great properties in the Southern Rhone. The winery takes some finding though and this is perhaps the first indication of the exclusivity and elusiveness of it's wines. These wines are literally impossible to track down. The winery and cellar is located in a remote area of the Drôme, in the small town of Montbrison-sur-Lez. The farm house and cellars are surrounded by rolling hills of vineyards and olive groves. It is truly an incredible place; very relaxing, very serene.
In 1990 Michelle and her husband Philippe established their winery and young family within this idyllic location encompassing some ancient vineyards containing 100+ year old vines. Winemaker Philippe quickly gained international acclaim for his concentrated and complex wines resulting from natural, minimal-intervention techniques. But in 1999 tragedy struck when Philippe was suddenly killed in a hunting accident. Michelle was devastated yet determined that the winery would continue in his tradition.
Although she had neither her husband’s reputation nor experience, she followed Philippe’s blueprint in the vineyards and winery. Throughout the vintages of Gramenon that I’ve tasted following Philippe’s untimely death, I’ve noticed Michelle developing a style of her own, perhaps producing finer, more layered wines. Now aided by her young son Maxime-Francois (who has recently returned from his schooling and work experience in Burgundy), she still farms the vineyards organically and applies careful, natural handling in the winery—the wines she produces seem to be taking on a quality of effortless elegance and exquisite balance.
There’s real fruit purity to the aromas and a wonderfully fragrant earthiness that comes forward as her wines open-up. Michelle has taken great efforts to reduce the amount of sulphur that is added to the wines and because she handles the grapes and wines so carefully she is able to add just the smallest amount at bottling. Although you would think this might hinder the ageability of the wines, on the contrary, I’ve found her wines to develop and keep very well. While the wines of Gramenon may not carry revered designations like Chateauneuf-du-Pape, don’t be fooled by thinking that their Cotes-du-Rhone status makes them simple and light. These are not, in fact they are some of the most riveting and rare wines from the entire Rhone Valley.