Some of the most impressive and wallet-friendly wines arriving in America these days are coming from vineyards in southern France's Rhone Valley. There's a reason: The location and conditions are exceptional for growing Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre -- the backbone varieties of the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape red blend that is lusciously captivating.
Les Dauphins winery isn't going to sell you a $90 bottle of wine. It would like to, but that's not the winery's style. It produces quality Rhone blends that you can buy by the case and without worrying about interest payments accumulating on your credit card.
Its red and white blends for the 2016 vintage year are hitting store shelves now. These are fresh wines and best consumed within a year of their release -- which is now.
Les Dauphins is a big hit in New York, where it won Winery of the Year honors in 2015 and 2016, respectively, in an international competition.
I broke out the Le Dauphins Cote du Rhone Reserve Rouge for a tender and juicy pork roast prepared by the Wine Goddess, my wife Mary Lee. She added green beans, summer squash and a Greek salad to the mix. The combination of wine and food was a perfect match: sweet blackberry fruit, gentle peppery spices and smooth tannins that enhanced the taste of the succulent pork.
Grenache (70 percent) dominates the blend, with Syrah (25 percent) and Mouvedre (5 percent).
This is a beautiful blend to enjoy year-round, and you can buy it for $11 or less at most chain outlets.
Les Dauphins also produces the Cote du Rhone Reserve Blanc (White) ($12.99) which is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Clairette and Marsanne. We tasted this cool white on the first real warm day of spring, outside on the deck, and it captured our yearning desire for a sunny summer. For those looking for a respite from Chardonnay, Les Dauphins white is a welcome delight. The pale straw color in the glass is a hint to its multilayered flavor profile of peach, lemon, yellow apple and even some pear. The winemaker's tasting notes mentioned a "delicate grapefruit" flavor, but I didn't detect it at all. The Wine Goddess said the blend was good enough without it. She's usually right, so I concurred.
Like its brother rouge blend, Les Dauphins white was remarkably smooth and uplifting from first sip to final swallow. Buy them as a pair. They'll make a good match for the leisure days ahead on your summer calendar.