05 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Grenache Vacqueyras Cuvee Doucinello
There was a reason we'd bother collecting wrappers of Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pops when I was a kid. There was a rumor that, if you got enough wrappers with the little Native American boy shooting an arrow at a star, you could send them in--like some cumulative Golden Ticket--for all the sugar-veneered chocolate-candy-on-a-stick you could eat in a year. So we sucked down as much blue raspberry, chocolate, grape, and strawberry lollipops as we could. And no one ever won anything. Or knew anyone who won anything. But we kept on eating. Kept on living through the fruit to get to the caramel inside. And years later that same pursuit came to define my search for great grenache. There's no Indian. No arrow. No star. But Vacqueyras might just be the prize. Domaine le Sang des Cailloux (literally, "the house of the blood of stones") lives up to its name. It's less a wine than a slow French press of Vacqueyras itself. But if this is the house of stones, the house of ankle-breaking round galets, limestone, and sand, then it must sit beneath a guest house of blackberry slushie. Because it takes what Spain does with grenache, keeps all the fruit as plush as can be, and then makes it an afterthought. At times, I think there's a lesson in this wine. One that tells me it's OK to like something as rich and juicy as this is, as long as we can remember where it comes from. Even in its youth its cherries and berries somehow come to taste like peppered steak. The aroma is heady. The finish is long. While a wine like this, by name alone, insists on the importance of terroir, it's so good it actually confuses the idea that wine is as much where it's from as what it is. Sure, this defines a part of the Rhone Valley in France. But which part? As far as I'm concerned, it might as well have "Chateauneuf du Pape" in all caps on the label. Or maybe just a giant star.