Saturday, August 13, 2011


It rather floors me when I read that Costco is the largest purveyor of wines in the US. The reason, of course, is that big box stores, supermarkets, and anything of the like, aren't allowed to sell alcohol of any sort in British Columbia - not even beer and wine. So, when Boo and I visited Seattle back in the spring, we made a bit of a Costco run in Bellingham while en route.

This was one of the bottles I thought I'd give a go.

893. 2009 Kirkland Signature - Cuvée de Nalys Châteauneuf-du-Pape (AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape - France)

I could be wrong (after all, it has been known to happen), but my guess is that Costco hasn't set up Kirkland vineyards in the Rhone to grow grapes and make wines. They must have contracted with Domaine de Nalys to produce this Châteauneuf-du-Pape for bottling and sale under a Costco label. It would be interesting to know what level of involvement, if any, the big box shop has in the winemaking process to influence the final product.

This is the first time I've ever seen - or even heard of - a Kirkland Signature wine. I don't know if they - and Domaine de Nalys - bring out a vintage of CdP every year or whether it's a one off arrangement that simply depends on the availability of grapes after the harvest. There were only 4000 cases of this wine produced. And, after all, the Domaine produces its own line of wines as well.

I like the fact that the label set out the blend of grapes. Domaine de Nalys appears to be one of the producers that likes to go beyond the base GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) blend and uses noticeable percentages of some of the other varietals allowed in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I'm definitely taking advantage of the fact that they've stated that the wine blend includes 4% Vaccarèse, 4% Counoise and 3% Muscardin and adding all three varietals to my Wine Century Club membership list.

None of these three grapes are found much outside of the Rhone and, indeed, they are hardly even grown there. A 2004 study showed that Vaccarèse comprised only 0.15% of vineyard plantings in the Rhone. The other two grapes aren't much more common - Counoise plantings represent only 0.5% of Rhone grapes and Muscardin only 0.4%. The Domaine de Nalys website discusses the thirteen varietals that are allowed in a CdP and their unique characteristics. Counoise is apparently noted for adding walnut, nutmeg and green peppercorn notes. Muscardin has a bright floral nose and Vaccarèse is used for its unusual floral tones and for toning down the brawny nature of the wine's often dominant Grenache.

As for the wine itself, Boo quite liked it. No doubt the pronounced earthiness stood out and worked for him. Me, I found it a bit slight on the fruit and body for my taste. It rather came across as an introductory level version of CdP - as opposed to the more expensive versions that we usually see in our market.

All the same, an interesting bottle that I never would have run across without having traversed the 49th Parallel. There are more bottles to come from the "Costco Collection" as we managed to work out getting about a case and half up to Canada - if only a couple of bottles at a time due to the ridiculous border restrictions and taxes. But that's another story.

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