Burgundian vigneron Gabriel d’Ardhuy first fell in love with this small domaine in 1980 while on a bicycle trip with his grandchildren. He was so taken by the beauty of this 45-hectare property, just outside the village of Mondragon in the Drôme of the southern Rhône, that he bought it. His daughter, Marie-Pierre d’Ardhuy-Plumet, and her husband, Éric Plumet, have run the domaine ever since, slowly bringing the once-abandoned property back to life. Blessed with old-vine Grenache and lanes lined with mature olive trees, it is a little slice of Provençal paradise. Marie-Pierre and Éric have undertaken the restoration of the domaine in small steps. They rehabilitated the rocky vineyards and built a more modern winery. In 2007, they began using organic and biodynamic farming practices in the vineyards and today are certified in both methods of farming. The vines are situated at 165 meters above sea level in the Massif d’ Uchaux, whose altitude and ideal sun exposure make for a cooler growing area in this part of the Rhône, thereby leaving the grapes’ natural acidity to shine in the final wines. Domaine La Cabotte is named for the small stone shelters and tool sheds used by growers in the vineyards.
Marie-Pierre and Éric grow Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Carignan and use the lunar calendar as a guidepost for appropriate natural vine treatments. Keeping the yields low, an uncommon practice in the high-yielding Côtes du Rhône, is paramount to their philosophy. They prune aggressively in the winter, de-bud in the spring and perform a green harvest in the summer. After the harvest, all of the grapes are sorted rigorously (once in the vineyards, another at the winery) and are de-stemmed. Fermentation takes place quickly, and the must is pumped-over twice a day. The wines then go through a post-fermentation maceration of six to seven days to soften the tannins. The wines are aged in tanks and bottled in the spring. Using such labor-intensive methods of quality control in both the vineyard and cellar give the spicy Côtes du Rhônes of Domaine Cabotte a great value beyond their modest price.