Spotlight on Rhone Valley White Wine: Pierre Gonon ‘Les Oliviers’ St. Joseph Blanc 2005

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A return to elegance and complexity as I return to this spotlight – lost amongst distractions and digressions. Run by two brothers in their 30’s, Domaine Gonon is one of those dwindling producers only making one red and one white wine. With the infection of the prestige cuvee both in the southern and the northern Rhone, it is rare and exceptional to find a producer with some incredible terroir who see simplicity as the way to the heart of good wine.

A Simple Take on Terroir

As wines made in the St. Joseph appellation, some might place the Gonons’ creations into the unfortunate realm occupied by the highly cropped and poorly made wines from the regions with little terroir. This would be a mistake. The Gonons’ father was one of the first to pursue white wine seriously in the modern generation, planting his Marsanne vines in 1958. This makes the vines some of the oldest in the Northern Rhone.

These days, the white Gonon is made with 80% Marsanne from these vines and 20% Roussanne from vines planted in 1974. The vines sit above Tournon, 200 metres above on the Coteau des Oliviers – a site renowned since before the creation of the St. Joseph appellation. As for soils, you will find stones and red clay with some sanded granite.

Farming and vinification practices are thoughtful and attentive at this estate. For instance, all the vineyard work is manual and they don’t use wire training for any vines. They also select cuttings from their own rootstock to avoid importing clones. In the cellar, they use all indigenous yeast and ferment in open wooden vats.

A Perfect Balance

The brothers report that their white wine can age up to 20 years in great vintages, a rarity for whites made from Marsanne and Roussanne. I tasted it at a mere 4 years of age, but it was showing perfectly. The nose was soft and clear with minerals and stone combined with citrus zest. This is basically textbook St. Joseph Blanc – it marries suppleness and elegance with intense flavour and tremendous versatility for a low-acid wine. I would pair this with a main course, but the pear, apple, honey, nuts and caramel flavours are also lush and wonderful by themselves. Full bodied, clean, but not overly sweet, the aromatics and texture are enticing beyond addiction. This is the complete package and you could not hope for better quality from a white at this price.

$50 at Marquis


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