The seed for Department 66 wines was planted in 2008 when winemaker Dave Phinney visited Maury, France near the border with Spain. He was taken in by a very old vineyard planted on steep terrain. The more he saw of the region, the more he fell in love with it. Before he returned home from that visit he purchased a vineyard. The following year he built a winery. He now owns more than 300 acres of vineyards in the region.
The wines we are tasting today, which we received as tasting samples, represent three of the five wines in the Department 66 range of wines. All are sourced from the 300 acres of estate vineyards in the Côtes Catalanes sub-region of the Roussillon.
In case you’re curious where the Department 66 name comes from, it is the department number of Pyrénées-Orientales, the administrative department that is home to Maury.
Old-vine Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Carignan are the predominant grape varieties in the region. Soils are complex and include black schist and red angile. The climate is very warm in summer with moderating breezes from the Mediterranean.
2017 Department 66 ‘Fragile’ Rosé, Côtes Catalanes IGP — brilliant salmon in the glass with generous aromas and flavors of strawberries, cherries and blackberries. A generous spritz of citrus zest lingers on the finish along with fruit in this medium-bodied rosé. 15.3% abv. SRP $18
2014 Department 66 ‘D66’ Grenache, Côtes Catalanes IGP — bright ruby in the glass with translucence at the rim. Generous aromas of roses, plums, ripe blackberries and caramel are a prelude to ripe blackberry flavors, dusty earth and hints of sweet vanilla. Black tea lingers in the background. Tannins are drying, the body medium and the finish medium+ in length and warming. 15.2% abv. SRP $38
2015 Department 66 ‘Others’ Red Wine, Côtes Catalanes IGP — medium ruby in the glass with aromas and flavors of blackberries, black tea, dried herbs and dusty earth. Tannins are grippy and linger on the finish, which is medium+ in length and warming. 15.2% abv. SRP $25
Dave Phinney is also the creative winemaker behind Locations wine and like the Locations wines, the Department 66 wines offer pretty aromatics, bold flavors and generous alcohol levels. These are wines that will appeal to a wide variety of wine drinkers and are wines to pair with flavorful food. Pair them with Chili-Cumin Lamb Meatballs, Lemongrass Sausage Lettuce Wraps or Korean Short Ribs. If you have Buffalo Chicken Wings or Meaty Nachos on your Super Bowl menu, no problem.
The vintage football used in the photos for this post belongs to our friend and neighbor. It is the football he and his brother tossed around as children. He was happy to lend it to us for the photos, having recently had the football restored and relaced. It holds many happy memories for he and his brother. I hope you have a memorable Super Bowl celebration.