We've had great fun collaborating with our good friend and 'artist in residence' David Chandler over the last few months as he has been working on the illustrations for our bi-monthly seasonal offers.
Being both creative and technically adroit David couldn't resist cajoling me into participating in some conversations about wine ('adventures' in his parlance) that can now be downloaded as Podcasts from the iTunes store.
"In this big, bonging, New Year edition, Jason introduces David to the Rhône Septentrionale (or Northern Rhône) and the handful of rare and characterful white wines that are teased into existence alongside the ever abundant rows of generic Côtes du Rhône AOC.
While David's head is still spinning with percentages, hectares and Olympic-sized swimming pools (not to mention the vestiges of this year's flu virus), Jason has popped the cork on their first bottle; a fizzy, yet velvety smooth St. Péray from Jean Louis Thiers. It's fit for an emperor and probably was - at least when Napoleon was quaffing it as a cadet in nearby Valence.
South East of Valence, Côtes du Rhône Brézème began with just one hectare in 1962. Though it remains in a kind of classification limbo, this rare blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier from Julian Montagnon is in a class of its own.
Further up North and up budget, Alain Graillot's Crozes Hermitage Blanc might appear under-dressed in its screwcap, but is a bright, beautifully textured, masterful offering from a master wine-maker.
Only three bottles in to the podcast, any thoughts that David might have that Jason has peaked too soon are chased away by a half bottle of Georges Vernay's voluptuous, ethereal Condrieu. 'There are many occasions when half is the perfect volume,' Jason insists and David, who has barely resorted to the spittoon since the tasting began, is hardly in a position to disagree.
Finally, at Hermitage, we arrive at 'le sommet' of Jason's tour of the Northern Rhône and Jean-Louis Chave's Sélection Blanche 2015. 'A wine to contemplate,' says David just as Jason whips out a 2001 domain wine from the same illustrious wine maker - gothic font and all. 'I am indulging you today, David,' he says, pleonasmically."