The Northern Rhone really has a lot to offer. The finesse of Cote-Rotie and the power of a great Hermitage are well known and delicious, but they can often be out of the average wine lover's budget. The good news is there are plenty of other regions in the Northern Rhone that are producing more budget friendly wines. Cornas in the southern end of the Northern Rhone produces some rustic but very interesting Syrahs that aren't necessarily budget friendly, but they do provide a nice value relative to Hermitage. Saint Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage on opposite sides of the Rhone are both larger regions that produce some average stuff as well as some really great values. Today's subject is not in my $15 and under category, but it is a Crozes-Hermitage that provides great value in the low $20s.
The 2009 "La Martiniere" is 100% Syrah that is grown in rocky soils and aged for 12 months in oak before bottling. The wine is a deep reddish purple in your glass. The bouquet brings pretty intense blackberry and raspberry fruit with some black pepper and a bit of vanilla. In your mouth you get more mixed red and black berries, but the fruit is much more subdued on the palate than the nose. Decent acidity and some mild tannins make this a very nicely balanced offering. All of this is brought to a close by a very subtle but long finish. The bottom line is that this wine has a little something for everyone. Fruit lovers will fall for the bouquet, and those who like a little more finesse and balance will not be disappointed.
This is not a hard wine to pair with food. It could go with the usual Syrah suspects of lamb or other grilled red meats, but it could also work with braised chicken dishes like coq au vin or even pasta with a meat sauce. It would also be a great red to serve with fine cheese and elegant hors-d'oeuvres.