This is seriously yummy stuff. Not to diss Kenneth Volk, because he makes some very, very good tempranillo, but the Coral Mustang Tempranillo is even better. The deep ruby color sets you up for dark fruit and bramble fruit – think blackberries. It’s extremely well balanced with the perfect acid/tannin/alcohol triumvirate. It made Mike take a second long taste to see if he had missed some critical detail. Nope. It’s just rich and satisfying. It’s great on its own but would go well with any dish you want to take off the grill or even a nice little pan-fried steak with mushroom gravy. Or chicken breast with blackberry and traditional beurre blanc. Or whatever richly flavored meal you can think of.
While the Carmichael Sur le Pont is not technically an oddball bottle of wine. The fact that it is made up of 80 percent syrah means it can be legally called a syrah, and that’s hardly oddball these days. But that other 20 percent of lesser known grapes adds something really special to the final product. We promise tastings of grenaches, mouvedres and carignans in the future. But for now they are all present in the 2005 Carmichael Sur Le Pont, with 14 percent mouvedre, 5 percent carignan and 1 percent grenache.
These are all Rhone varietals, meaning they are largely grown in and inspired by the winemaking in the fertile valley surrounding the Rhone River in France. Unlike the five Bordeaux grapes (cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit verdot, malbec and cabernet franc), there are 22 grapes grown in the Rhone Valley, so you can just imagine all the possible blends. Where do we start? Right here!
The wine Sur le Pont is named after the French children’s tune “Sur le pont D’Avignon,” or On Avignon’s Bridge, Avignon being one of the primary cities in the Rhone (and also more infamously known as the base for a series of Roman Catholic popes/non-popes, who during the Middle Ages tried to take over).
The wine has the nose of blackberries and cola. The taste has some dry fruit, but it’s not jammy. Instead the wine is lightweight in the mouth without being cloying or burning with excessive alcohol. In fact, at 14.3 percent, it’s almost a lightweight compared to the hot (high in alcohol) syrahs that are often made today. This makes it an excellent companion to meat off the summer grill or winter stews of lamb or beef. The acids keep the palate stimulated and can handle sauces that are not spicy or terribly sweet – a mushroom gravy comes to mind.