Another great find thanks to the knowledgeable folks at East End Wines – the 2013 Domaine de la Ronciere Cotes du Rhone. It is grown on a family estate near Avignon in the south of the Rhone Valley – Chateauneuf du Pape. Perhaps you have heard of it.

The 1999, 2000, 2007 and 2008 vintages were award winners and after trying this younger one, it’s easy to see why. The wine is aged in concrete vats, which protects it from extreme swings in hot or cold. Also, the estate and the winemaking have stayed in the family since 1958. Is that a prerequisite for award-winning wine? Certainly not. But I like the story. My favorite part of wine, apart from physically drinking it, is the history and craftsmanship behind the bottles. Family-owned makes me smile.

I don’t recall any specific reason or occasion for buying this wine, other than I was likely reading up on French wines in general and thus hoarding them. I forgot about this bottle as it was in the very top of my wine fridge next to a bottle I’m saving. But how fortuitous! I remembered it before leaving to have dinner with friends at a BYOB joint. It seemed an ideal bottle to share on the patio of the neighborhood Italian deli.

This Cotes du Rhone is a solid GSM -- Grenache, syrah and mourvedre blend (85-10-5). It is a brilliant garnet color, but of course it’s a red wine, so that’s sort of a given. I mention it only to illustrate that when I poured it, I was pleased because it looked the way a rich, full and velvety French red wine should – at least the rich, full and velvety French red wines I like best. On the nose, it is bright and fruity with pungent aromas of cherry and red berries. It is a mouthful of plum and herbs – a very earthy wine. I feel this was meant for drinking outside because the earthiness is so pronounced. It just works. Despite the herbal and earthy flavors, this is still a very smooth and elegant wine. I like that juxtaposition. In fact, I’ll carry it a bit further and let you in on a secret… We drank this wine out of disposable plastic cups. Gasp! It was still good. In fact, it was the best Cotes du Rhone I had that day.

As aforementioned, we carried it with us to dinner with friends. We were dining at a neighborhood Italian joint called Little Deli. It’s buried in a residential area, next to a corner IGA market, and on beautiful nights (like this particular night) patrons flock to order the best pizza in Austin and sit on picnic tables under Live Oaks. A setting such as this is what wine was created for, in my opinion – good friends, good food and a relaxed atmosphere. We feasted on pizza topped with bacon, Gorgonzola and roasted red peppers on one half, and a sausage trio on the other half. Every bite and sip was miraculous.