A Missourian Stray from Chardonnay in Saint Joseph

By Travis H. Brown

Finding a slower day amidst the hectic political campaigns during a presidential election year can be difficult to negotiate, but I managed to find a half day recently in Saint Louis to tidy up the wine cellar.  Finding a box of wine that you have forgotten to try can be like Christmas in July, which leads me back to the Northern Rhone region of France, thanks to one of my Californian wine brokers.

I took the pleasure of trying a 2006 Saint Joseph Pierre Jean Villa from Seyssuel, France.  This is not like any Chardonnay you have ever tried, mainly because it is a Rhone blend of 60% Marsanne and 40% Roussanne, aged 12 months in oak barrels.  Wild and nutty can perhaps describe this Rhone combination that was bottled on the right bank between Vienne and Valence.  Since it already had six years on it, I did not get a lot aromatic notes such as pear, but I did get the classic Rhone spice blend such as white pepper.

This Rhone producer, Pierre Jean Villa, has others taking notice for his bold expression of local varietals.  My sense is if you like bigger body Burgundian whites, you should try this Marsanne/Rousanne blend a little farther south.  If you get a chance to explore whites of the Rhone, do not be afraid to give it a go as I have.