From my favorite wine store I’ve never been to, 3 Cups, in Chapel Hill North Carolina:
Sainte Croix du Mont is a lesser-known appellation of eastern Bordeaux. The region exists literally across the river from (but figuratively in the shadow of) Sauternes, the most well-known and probably greatest of French dessert wine producing regions. On this side of the Garonne, Chateau la Rame make probably the best, and certainly the best-value, dry red and white wine.
The prevailing style in Bordeaux for a number of years has been to bottle super-concentrated, ripe and lavishly oaky red (and occasionally white) wines. To me the wines of Chateau La Rame stick closer to an older template of subtle, medium-weight, food-friendly wines. Age-worthy perhaps, but more importantly great in the meantime, in particular with traditional French country cooking.
The Barrel Thief was excited to snag the remaining 15 bottles of the La Charmille 2008 vintage last week, a close-out before the 2009′s roll into our market. I worked with this wine quite a bit last year, proud to sell it as an exceptional, moderately-priced, Merlot-based Bordeaux that gracefully balances approachable fruit with classic style. Neither overly austere or crippled by extraction or oak, La Rame wines always have a way of getting me excited about drinking Bordeaux any night of the week. Sensible fruit, integrated tannins, earth, herb, and a good finish—it’s all there.
I opened with a quote from the 3 Cups website for a reason.
Even though I’ve never visited their store, I’ve always felt our stores were kindred spirits. Our inventories constantly overlapped. Just like our own store, I knew that 3 Cups was one of the few retail filters that managed to weed through a sea of mediocre wine and hone in on the precious few that were relevant, honest, natural and proper every time—and make no exceptions.
Francois Gaunoux from Burgundy, Eric Texier from the Rhone, Guy Larmandier from Champagne, Nigl from Austria, G.D. Vajra from Piedmont, Edmonds St. John from California, Paolo Bea from Umbria, Peciña from Rioja, Illahe from Oregon… and on and on it went.
Sadly, I learned today that 3 Cups was closing. Another outlet for real, hard to acquire wine: gone. I knew La Rame wines always had a place on their shelves, so I knew what was coming home with me tonight.
On a final note?
Get to know a local wine shop and make the extra stop on your way home. These gems will never find their way into a grocery store or Costco.