Yesterday to visit a fine artisan producer of Cotes du Rhone Villages Massif d`Uchaux: Chateau d`Hugues where the wine is made by owner Bernard Pradier and his son Bastien. The “Massif “is one of the up and coming CdRV aocs , benefiting from it`s higher altitude and a slightly cooler microclimate. For such a small estate, just 15 ha, Bernard produces a remarkably wide range of wines: various cuvées of reds , whites, rosé, fruit cordials and even a sparkler. I tasted the wines in Bernard`s charming caveau with its walls full of paintings by the man himself and his son. The reds are big, packed with ripe fruit and spice and with alluring garrigue aromas – I especially liked the “Grande Réserve 2007” (G&S ,no oak) and the barrique aged “L`Orée des Collines” with its truffle notes from the dollop of Mourvèdre. The white Péché de Vigne is delightful, oak vanilla and floral and peach from a Roussane/Viognier blend. Biggest surprise was a deep red Vin de Pays the “Vendange des Chefs”, a little animal on the nose; on the palate, rich mouth feel, smooth tannins , peppered black cherry – I think the only example of a 100% Merlot made in the Rhone valley that I’ve tasted and mighty fine it is too, …I snapped up a magnum (The 2012 Hachette guide agrees..lauding this wine of humble appellation but great personality with two stars). We hope to see more of M. Pradier and his wonderful wines ( not to mention very stylish labels painted/designed by Bernard) on our tours later this year.