So what's the secret of Hermitage? As in real estate, "location, location, location" - a south-facing granite hillside that retains heat and provides excellent drainage into the nearby Rhône. Delas Frères is one of the few producers privileged to control a major chunk (22 acres) of the Hermitage hill. Their Marquise de la Tourette bottling comes from three separate plots on this well-charted slope. Dark and smooth with lush berry fruit, it's complex, rich, and lovely.
2000 Perrin Vinsobres Côtes du Rhône Villages ($16)
The Perrin brothers, Jean-Pierre and François, are the proprietors of the Château de Beaucastel, not far upstream from Avignon. (They're also the co-owners, with wine dealer Robert Haas, of Tablas Creek Vineyard Winery in California's Paso Robles region.) These guys, being descended from several generations of winemakers in the region, have a
better grasp of the Southern Rhône, its terroirs, and its grapes than just about any other wine producers.
Vinsobres is one of the 17 communes - not hippie love nests, but the French equivalent of townships - which are permitted to add their names to the Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation. Two former such communes, Gigondas and Vacqueyras, have graduated to full-fledged appellations, and Vinsobres may do the same one day. The dense, rich 2000 Perrin Vinsobres is a sexy blend of Grenache and Syrah. It's a real value for its modest price, lobbing gobs of ripe blackberry at the palate, freshened by tangy acidity and followed by a clean finish.