The village of Valréas is one of 22 that is allowed to append its name to the Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation (a notch above the plain Côtes du Rhône appellation) and is one of the northernmost and the highest elevation of them all at 1200 feet. Winemaker Stèphane Vedeau began his career in the Languedoc-Roussillon, which also prominently features Grenache, but was never quite satisfied with Grenache he was able to produce there. Realizing that the expressions of Grenache coming from the Southern Rhône were the only ones that interested him, but he wanted a fresher expression than was commonly found there, so he began to search for vineyards in the Southern Rhône and eventually found his unicorn at Clos Bellane. (Clos, incidentally, is a French term for a vineyard that has been enclosed by a wall that is needed to prevent erosion.) Further assisting in Stèphane’s quest for lighter and fresher Côtes du Rhône is the Eastern orientation of the vineyards, thus shielding the grapes from sunlight during the hottest part of the day, and as Mourvedre is the most tannic of the standard GSM blend of Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre used in the Southern Rhône, Stèphane took the mildly unusual step of doing away with it entirely. The blend here is a 50-50 split. To keep the focus on the freshness of the fruit and the terroir of the limestone soils and garrigue, the wild flora of the area (rosemary, sage, bay leaves, thyme, juniper, artemisia, lavender and mint) that make their presence known in well made wines, Stèphane has farms organically (certified), ferments with native yeasts and ferments and ages in concrete tanks and large format older French oak barrels. Aromas of fresh cut flowers, bing cherries, red plums, bay leaf, white pepper and wet rocks with enough intensity to stand up to intensely flavored dishes like shepherd’s pie.