The Splendid 2015 Southern Rhônes from Domaine Palon

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Last May Hélène and I once again had the distinct pleasure of visiting the Palons (that’s Noé, Sébastien and Marie Line waiting for us outside their tasting room) in Gigondas where we gleefully sampled their latest creations from the superb 2015 vintage. It was an arduous task, but it simply had to be done. Domaine Palon is one of our favourite wineries. They produce wonderful, elegant wines and their most recent elixirs certainly live up to their well-earned reputation.

Domaine Palon
The estate is located just below the fairytale village of Gigondas between Orange and Vaison-la-Romaine in the heart of Provence. The property covers fifteen hectares: seven devoted to Gigondas; five to Vacqueyras; two to Côtes du Rhône, and; one to table wine. The Palons produce a very limited quantity of superb wine each year.

Domaine Palon is a real family affair with a century-long grape growing tradition. Back in 1915, Valérie and Léopold Palon were wine makers in Gigondas and their son Jean founded the Cave Coopérative de Gigondas and served as its administrator from 1956 to 1978. His son, Jean-Pierre took over the reins of the co-op in 1978 (Jean-Pierre’s wife Annie was the financial director) and ran it until 2001, all the while selling his grapes to the same co-op. When Jean-Pierre’s son Sébastien graduated from oenology school, the family decided to leave the co-op and start making their own wines. 2003 was their first vintage.
Sébastien Palon … outstanding in his field!
Sébastien has turned out to be a wine-making magician, crafting elegant, exquisite potions from vines averaging over fifty years of age. Sébastien’s wife Marie Line looks after the winery’s administrative duties and manages the gift shop while the latest addition to the vinous dynasty, their son Noé makes regular guest appearances around the property. 

Jeb Dunnuck (Wine Advocate) on the 2012 Southern Rhônes
“Gigondas is by far the standout, with extremely high-quality 2012s. In fact, I was shocked at the overall quality of the 2012s from this appellation, and in addition to the normal spice-driven aromatics and big structure that accompanies most wines from the region, the 2012s have beautiful purity of fruit and voluptuous, rounded textures that were hard to spit. Vacqueyras was also successful, more so in 2012 than 2011, with the majority of the releases being more mid-weight, charming and upfront.”

My takes on the 2013, 2014 and 2015 vintages in the Southern Rhône: Summer was cool and wet in 2013 resulting in a sub-standard Grenache crop. Decent wine was possible, but only with arduous sorting. But even the decent wine is somewhat one dimensional and unexciting. With lots of 2012s still around and the wonderful 2015 vintage upon us, I would keep away from the 2013s.

2014 was a bit hotter and drier during the prime growing months, but still the Grenache was late to mature (if it ever did in some vineyards). Once again, careful hand sorting was necessary and those who did so, like the Palons, made very decent wines reminiscent of the 2011s.

From what we saw and learned from our vintners during the harvest and our extensive barrel sample tastings this spring, 2015 looks to be a very, very good (and perhaps great) year in the Southern Rhône. It was a hot summer and the Grenache ripened beautifully. Time will tell, but I can hardly wait to try them.

The Wines of Domaine Palon
We are delighted to once again offer you the wondrous southern Rhônes from Domaine Palon – this time from the outstanding 2015 vintage - the 2015 Côtes-du-Rhone ‘Cuvée Esparza’; 2015 Vacqueyras Rouge; 2015 Vacqueyras ‘Blanc du Bary’, and; 2015 Gigondas Rouge. Oh yes, we have the 2012 Vacqueyras and 2012 Gigondas in magnums as well.

And, the Palons have created a Sampler for us containing three bottles each of the 2015 Vacqueyras, two bottles of the 2015 Gigondas Rouge and one bottle of the 2015 Vacqueyras ‘Blanc du Bary’. All but the magnums (3 magnum cases) come in six-bottle as well as twelve-bottle cartons. We will be taking your orders to the LCBO on Friday, November 4th.

2015 Côtes-du-Rhône ‘Cuvée Esparza’ – 13.5% Alc./Vol.
$22/$132 for 6
$21/$252 for 12 

This is an excellent Côtes du Rhone from a great year.  It is comprised of 69% Grenache, 16% Syrah and 15% Cinsault all hand-picked and sorted from the Palon’s two acres of vineyards in Vacqueyras. The yield was only 15 hl/ha! It is a dark and lustrous ruby red with hints of violet. The nose is of pronounced aromas of ripe cherries, plums, black currants, garrigue (the fragrant underbrush of Southern France), smoke, new leather, cassis and a hint of pepper. In the mouth it is big, round and satisfying with delicate tannins and good length. Served slightly chilled (16°-17°) it will go splendidly with roasts, grilled meats and medium cheeses. It will keep quite happily for three to five years. Order your succulent southern Rhône now, in six-bottle or twelve bottle cases.

2015 Vacqueyras ‘Blanc du Bary’ – 14.0% Alc./Vol.
$29/$174 for 6
$28/$336 for 12

I love this elegant white wine. It is comprised of 80% Clairette and 20% Grenache Blanc, all hand-picked of course from vines averaging more than forty-five years of age. The yield was but 13 hl/ha! It has seen some new oak, but not too much. It is a clear, bright yellow-gold colour with a vibrant nose of grilled almonds, peaches, pears, honeysuckle, vanilla, exotic spices, toast and minerals. It is very smooth and extremely well balanced – lots of fruit offset by a gorgeous acidity. It is fresh, complex and rich with wonderful flavours of peaches and pairs. It would be perfect, served at about 8°, with oysters, other shellfish, fish, goat cheese and rich poultry dishes. This is very yummy stuff indeed, very reminiscent of a top-flight Châteauneuf-du-Pape white. It will cellar nicely for at least five years. Caution, there is very little of it. Order your scarce and delicious white now, in six-bottle or twelve bottle cases.

2015 Vacqueyras Rouge – 14.5% Alc./Vol.  
$29/$174 for 6
$28/$336 for 12

This gorgeous, medium-bodied wine is made from 75% Grenache, 16% Mourvèdre and 9% Syrah, hand-picked from vines averaging more than forty-five years of age. The Mourvèdre and Syrah were aged in large oak casks for twelve months. It is a deep, pure garnet with complex aromas of plums, prunes, raspberries, black cherries, currants, new leather, Provençal spices with a note of black pepper and cloves. In the mouth it is fresh and lively with surprising complexity and excellent balance. And, oh those delicate, silky Palon tannins. This wine has lots of character, depth and substance and will go beautifully with roasted fowl and charcuterie. This lovely concoction is a real pleasure to drink right now and will continue be so for another eight to ten years. Order some of this very, very fine wine for your drinking pleasure, in six-bottle or twelve bottle cases.

2015 Gigondas Rouge – 14.5% Alc./Vol.
$32/$192 for 6
$31/$372 for 12

This elegant Gigondas is made from 79% Grenache, 15% Syrah and 6% Mourvèdre hand-picked from seven hectares of vines averaging well over fifty years of age. The Syrah and Mourvèdre are aged for twelve months in new oak casks. It is a pure purple with a lustrous sheen and offers up pronounced aromas of blackberries, black cherry jam, pepper, roasted coffee beans, garrigue, pepper, clove and licorice. It is surprisingly big and velvety (even more so than the 2010 vintage) in the mouth with gentle tannins and a long, perfumed finish. I’d like to see another six months to a year on it to get everything in proper balance. Served just below room temperature, this most impressive wine will go perfectly with magrets de canard, wild game, roasts and medium cheeses. I’d decant it for at least an hour before drinking. It will cellar well for ten to fifteen years. Get a great southern Rhône now, in six-bottle or twelve bottle cases.

Palon 2015 Southern Rhône Sampler – 14.0% - 14.5% Alc./Vol.      $30/$180 for 6

This is a great way to try three beautiful and distinctive Southern Rhônes from Domaine Palon. You get three bottles of the 2015 Vacqueyras Rouge, two bottles of the 2015 Gigondas Rouge and one bottle of the 2015 Vacqueyras ‘Blanc du Bary’. A taste of the Southern Rhône just doesn’t get much better than this. Order your six pack of pure elegance now.

2012 Vacqueyras Rouge Magnums  - 14.0% Alc./Vol.
$64/$192 for 3
2012 Gigondas Rouge Magnums       - 14.0% Alc./Vol.
$70/$210 for 3

Both the 2012 Vacqueyras Rouge (only nine magnums remain) and the 2012 Gigondas are much like their 2015 counterparts; maybe not quite as round or full but both are remarkably delicious. Their aging potential is a couple of years longer than their regular-sized brethren. These are both classics from the excellent 2012 vintage.

Order your 2012 Vacqueyras magnums or 2012 Gigondas magnums now.

The LCBO is the only entity authorized to sell beverage alcohol in Ontario. Arthur Sellers & Company and Arthur’s Cellar Wine Club do not sell or markup beverage alcohol, but rather, arrange for customers to purchase it from the LCBO. Our prices indicated above and on our website include the LCBO sale price plus a fee to cover the cost of sourcing, handling and marketing the wine. The LCBO’s sale prices are available on request.

It would be really spiffy if you would pass this note on to anyone you think might be interested in some very, very good Southern Rhônes.

Many thanks and cheers!

Jim, Hélène and Kate


It is with more than a little sadness that Hélène and I are informing  you that we have decided to greatly curtail our wine importing business, including the Arthur’s Cellar Wine Club. This is after more than ten years of successful operation and over 5,000 individual orders worth more than $2 million on behalf of our Members and Restaurants.

Why? Simply because we can no longer bear dealing with the LCBO. You might remember that we suspended operations for six months a year or so ago when  LCBO Private Ordering introduced a new operating system. We anticipated chaos and were not disappointed. However, we also hoped that in time the new system would settle in and the LCBO folks would learn to work effectively with it. On that count we were totally wrong. Not only have things not improved, they have gotten progressively worse. I am not going to bore you with all of the wretched details, but if you are interested, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to explain further.

LCBO Private Ordering’s systems and operating procedures are extremely complex and inflexible. The way we do business does not fit neatly into their way of doing things. Their senior management have worked heroically with us to make things work, but to no avail. We thank them for their efforts.

Dealing with our wineries and wine club Members has been a delightful experience and we are going to really miss that part of our endeavours.

So, What’s Next?

We are going to proceed with four more regular wine club offerings. First, as soon as we receive needed information from the winery, will be Les Cuvées du Firmament followed by Champagne Forget-Brimont, Domaine Chabrier Fils and finally Domaine Palon. And that will be the end of our regular operations.

We are going to retain just four wineries – Domaine Roger Sabon, Domaine Palon, Domaine Giuliani and Champagne Forget-Brimont and will offer them once a year to our wine club and Le Sélect Bistro.

I am going to continue writing my book about our vinous experiences (excerpts of the first seven chapters can be found at ‘Gentleman’s Portion’), intensify my struggles to learn French and read more with the not inconsiderable amount of time thus freed up. And, Hélène and I intend to travel more frequently for longer periods and spend more time with our granddaughter and granddog.

Thank you all for your gracious support; it has been a most wonderful experience.

What’s Up with Hélène’s Tours de Provence?! had a wonderful stay at the castle – Hélène and Jim did an amazing job of organizing everything. The company, the tours, the food and, of course the wine were all outstanding. We would love to do it again and see all the places we missed.”   Bruce –Vancouver, B.C., 2014

A number of wine club members and guests from previous years have asked when Hélène’s next Tour de Provence will occur. Here’s the scoop.

For a variety of reasons, Hélène isn’t able to pre-book a tour on spec any more. However, she would be delighted to organize and lead a tour if ten to twelve people got together and asked her to do so. The beauty of this is that they could choose the time of year for their Provençal explorations and she could tailor the tour to match the group’s specific preferences.

Hélène has been conducting her small, intimate tours to southern France for the past eleven years. Her extensive knowledge of Provence, superb organizational skills, eye to detail and winning personality makes these adventures truly remarkable.

Her usual home base for the week is Le Château de Goult, a lavishly restored 14th Century castle in the hilltop town of Goult in the Luberon (Peter Mayle country). Each day brings a different nearby destination ranging from village markets to vineyard tours and boat rides on the Mediterranean. Dinners at the Château feature wines from local purveyors to Arthur’s Cellar.

My husband and I have never been on an organized tour for travel before. Our experience with Hélène and Jim has left us excited to do it again. Provence is beautiful and full of history but without Hélène guiding us to all the right spots and taking care of all the details we would never have discovered most of them. The stay in the chateau was a highlight and set the stage for much laughter, delicious meals and easy connection with the other guests. Jim with his expertise in wine kept us informed and in good ‘spirits’. If you have always wanted to explore Provence, this is definitely the way to do it; a trip of lifetime!   Susi and Steve –White Rock, B.C., 2014

What a great way to celebrate a special occasion or stage a get-together with old friends and family.  Please contact Hélène for all the delicious details. We’d love to create a Tour de Provence just for you.

Hélène with her Tour de Provence 2015 guests

Winery Updates

There have been several changes to our supplier line-up over the past couple of years and I thought I should bring you up-to-date.

Château Saint Jacques d’Albas

Our old friend Graham Nutter decided that he requires bigger and better distribution for his wines in Ontario. We are very sad to see him leave our fold. His were the first wines we featured when we began our wine club over ten years ago. Since then we have, on behalf of the wine club, placed eighteen orders for over 5,000 bottles of wine with Château Saint Jacques d’Albas. I know that many of you have come to enjoy Graham’s wines. They might continue to be available in Ontario. Please contact Graham for more information.

No need to despair over the loss of this fine Minervois winery. We have another that is equally as good, Les Cuvées du Firmament and we will be featuring them next month.

Château des Gimarets

This is a strange one. Eric and Nathalie Boyer approached us a couple of years ago asking if we would represent their excellent winery located in the Moulin-à-Vent region of Beaujolais. We tried some samples here, visited them at their winery and decided to give it a go, knowing orders would be limited. We offered their wines on two occasions to limited response. Imagine our surprise when they informed us that they were going with another agent who had secured a listing for them at Vintages! The kicker was that they sold it to the LCBO for less than half the price they sold it to us. “A distress sale,” they said. But why not to us so we could have passed along the savings (and built up brand image) to our Members and offered it to Vintages as well? Oh well, such is the world of wine. We are unlikely to look for a replacement in Beaujolais.

Château Romanin

This well-known biodynamic winery is located literally in the Alpilles (tiny mountains) outside of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in southern France. It was recommended to us by our old friend Christian Esparza who operates a wonderful wine emporium in Saint-Rémy. We struggled to generate sales for a few years but kept trying. Then the winery switched marketing managers. We were unable to establish a decent business relationship with the replacement, so decided to terminate our representation. However, something good came of the association. Jean-Jacques Quinsac of Le Sélect Bistro visited our booth when we represented Château Romanin at a trade show. Since then we have supplied this excellent restaurant with many of our wines.

Domaine des Les Terres de Velle

This one really hurts! We had a long and pleasant relationship with Sophie and Fabrice Laronze, first when they worked with Alex Gamble at Maison Alex Gamble and then when they started their own winery in the Côtes de Beaune in Burgundy. They make very, very good wine, but Burgundies are expensive and the Laronze’s were forced to significantly hike their prices due to scant harvests. This predictably resulted in very small order quantities from our members which in turn rendered the association unviable.

Domaine Vincent Stoeffler

Scan0005Several years ago when we asked a sommelier at a restaurant in Strasburg to recommend an up-and-coming Alsatian winery, he immediately pronounced, “Domaine Vincent Stoeffler.” So we visited the winery and were smitten by Vincent Stoeffler’s Pinot Gris, Rieslings and Gewurztraminers. Unfortunately, it turned out that they were too unctuous (oily) for Canadian tastes and, as the result, repeat orders were disappointing. Regrettably, we had to terminate our dealings with them.

The 2015 Vintage in Southern France
We spent some time in southern France this past May sampling many young, fresh 2015 wines from the area (it is truly a selfless task we perform on behalf of our wine club Members), some recently bottled and others from tanks and casks. They were generally terrific – both reds and whites. The 2015 growing season had been close to ideal (hot in July and part of August with little rain) and harvesting was a bit earlier than usual under favourable conditions. Last fall, during the vendange, I had predicted that 2015 was going to be a very good year for Grenache and it turned out I was right. But, to my surprise, the Syrah turned proved to be every bit as good if not better. In that these are the two principle grapes for the reds from southern France, the resulting wines are very, very good, not unlike those of 2009 at this stage of their development. My two 2015 favourites were the Domaine Palon Vacqueyras and the Domaine Roger Sabon Châteauneuf du Pape ‘Prestige’.

Important Note
The LCBO is the only entity authorized to sell beverage alcohol in Ontario. Arthur Sellers & Company and Arthur’s Cellar Wine Club do not sell or markup beverage alcohol, but rather, arrange for customers to purchase it from the LCBO. Our prices indicated above and on our website include the LCBO sale price plus a fee to cover the cost of sourcing, handling and marketing the wine. The LCBO’s sale prices are available on request.

LCBO Delivery Notices!

The LCBO has started to mail out delivery notices to all our Members who order wine. This notice is being sent when the wine has arrived from overseas and has been cleared for delivery by the LCBO. The form letter is two sided, one with the numeric details of the transaction and the other with pick-up instructions. Please note - the pick-up instructions do not apply to our Members.


First, they instruct our Member to pick up the wine at the LCBO’s warehouse loading docks at 33 Freeland Street in Toronto. Our Members don’t have to do this – we either cause the wine to be sent to an LCBO retail store that is conveniently located near our Member or we personally deliver the wine.

Second, they infer that our Members owe them for the wine and warn that they will be penalized if the wine is not picked up within a prescribed period of time. Our Members have already paid for their wine and don’t owe any additional money. We look after payment for them.

Please disregard these form letters when you receive them.

We have requested that the LCBO either correct the message or not send it at all. We also asked that they send the message electronically (they have the e-mail addresses of everyone who orders) to save money and be environmentally responsible. They have thanked us for our suggestions and we hope they will act on them.

Why is the LCBO sending out these notices?

When we inquired, we were told that this has always been their procedure; they just haven’t been following it.

We can surmise that it is in response to last year’s ruling by the Information and Privacy Commission of Ontario (IPC) ruling that the LCBO stop taking personal information from wine club customers. In a subsequent Ontario Superior Court of Justice appeal hearing, the case was remitted back to the IPC for reconsideration, i.e., the LCBO and the other involved parties were told to work out their issues between themselves. A key point in the ruling was, “it is not clear whether the IPC actually made a clear or consistent finding on the issue of whether the LCBO's customer is the club or the club member.” Since then, the LCBO has been determined to make certain that we are all fully aware that it is they who control the customer relationship when it comes to the purchase of beverage alcohol in the Province of Ontario.

To reinforce this point, they have instructed us to prominently post the following wherever we display our prices:

The LCBO is the only entity authorized to sell beverage alcohol in Ontario. Arthur Sellers & Company and Arthur’s Cellar Wine Club do not sell or markup beverage alcohol, but rather, arrange for customers to purchase it from the LCBO. Our prices indicated above and on our website include the LCBO sale price plus a fee to cover the cost of sourcing, handling and marketing the wine. The LCBO’s sale prices are available on request.

If you have any comments for the LCBO, please address them to Margaret Plant, Supervisor, Private Ordering ( and copy Archie Karanxha, Acting Manager, Specialty Services ( and Geoff Allaire, General Manager Operations, Toronto Retail Service Centre, Vintages Warehouse (

All this reminds me of a very old joke. It seems that a little devil was involved in a most unfortunate tangle with one of Toronto’s Red Rockets that resulted in his tail being severed. He was rushed to the Toronto General Hospital but was refused admission. The ER receptionist explained, “I am afraid you will have to take him to the LCBO ... they are the only ones in Ontario allowed to retail spirits.”

Kate joins the team!
We are delighted to announce that our eldest daughter Kate (shown here with a bottle of Penfolds Grange from her birth year!) has officially joined the Arthur Sellers & Company team. She is an avid wine enthusiast with a very fine palate and is renowned for her frequent thirsty assaults on Arthur’s Cellar. Kate will be assisting us with the day-to-day operation of our wine club and will introduce our fine wines to her market demographic (recognizing that this old tippler needs a little help marketing to the younger aficionados of the fruit of the vine). Please join us in welcoming Kate to our wonderful world of wine.

Where’s My Wine??
Generally, it will take three to four months from the time you order your wine till it is delivered. To find out where your next treasure is on its long journey from Europe, just click on Delivery Status in the side bar to the left. We update it regularly.

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