Jean-Paul Autard www.paulautard.com is not an old man, but he has a wealth of wine-making experience since taking over the family wine operation at age 17. This domaine produces a range of wines including many award winning, highly sought after wines (Autard’s 1998 Chateauneuf du Pape “Cote Ronde” scored an impressive 97 pts from the Wine Spectator). On a recent visit, Jean-Paul Autard took a few minutes away from his very busy time to speak with us. Early October is at the end of the exhausting harvest and during the middle of the wine-making process that lasts several weeks, and we could tell that Jean-Paul and his wine-makers were visibly tired, despite their weariness, they were still very gracious toward us Americans. While Autard’s Chateauneuf wines are the most impressive and famous, Autard’s Cotes-du-Rhone is far less expensive, more accessible and more widely available in the USA, so for the moment we will focus on the Cotes-du-Rhone. I’ve been impressed with this wine in past vintages and the just-released 2009 vintage continues the trend. The 2009 Domaine Paul Autard Cotes du Rhone blends 70% Grenache – 15% Syrah – 15% Counoise (the latter is a relatively rare grape, used mainly for blending in small amounts… it adds a slight pepperiness to the wine), and presents itself as bright and vibrant – which nicely expresses the exceptionally hot 2009 vintage – not as hot as the record breaking levels of 2003, but despite the 2009 growing season starting rather wet, by mid-summer 2009 featured 24 days above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. One can virtually taste the hot weather in the wine as the bright fruit flavors burst with blackberry and plum fruits and finish with well balanced grip. Overall this 2009 Domaine Paul Autard Cotes du Rhone punches above its weight, making the roughly $15 price tag a big bargain for a fine Rhone Wine. If you can find it, buy some and drink them over the next 1-3 years.