2005 Domaine du Pas de l'Escalette Le Grand Pas

Domaine du Pas de l'Escalette Le Grand Pas

It's all about something the French call terroir. But, our definition may be a bit different from others. To us, 'terroir' is a combination of soil type, microclimate and one artist's interpretation of his vines in a specific growing season. We discovered this form of artisanal genius last year when we first met young Julien Zernott, and then featured his brilliant Pas de L'Escalette Grand Pas 2004. A few weeks later, we started to receive a wave of unsolicited feedback. A couple of rave emails a day. While that wine really turned heads, this 2005, from the best vintage in Southern France since 1978, is a benchmark wine, one that speaks to the place, the vintage and the man.

Just a reminder. We met Julien at ViniSud over a year ago. His Grand Pas 2004 stole the show at the prestigious wine fair. We then took the long route to Pas de L'Escalette where we discovered Zernott's immaculately hand-tended, terraced vineyards. Julien spoke of the microclimate where rainfall is unusually plentiful and where old vines spider wildly through the plateau seeking out rainwater -- organically farmed, old vine Grenache and Carignane burrowing 30 feet below the surface!

But the special ingredient of Grand Pas 2005 is the human element of 'terroir.' Julien is a native of Sancerre and was one of the region's top winemakers before discovering Pas de L'Escalette. As the top winemakers of the Loire focus on freshness and vibrancy, Julien's search for an estate in the south culminated on this rugged plateau where time seems to have stood still for a century. So Julien's expression of these old, gnarly vines, planted in the rugged calcareous stone is decidedly Sancerrois.

Le Pas de l Escalette The 2005 Grand Pas has gorgeous fruit aromas and flavors that are typical of the year, but it's the astounding, almost Northern Rhone, structure and balance that makes this bottle so seductive. This is one of those delicious blends that has Southern Rhone opulence, but northern vibrancy.

A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre, this is a very special 2005; deep in color with a wonderful primary fruit confiture nose. But it's the surprisingly structured vibrancy of the wine that is most distinguished, guaranteeing a long life in bottle.

Try a pairing with herb-encrusted New Zealand rack of lamb.