Restaurant: John Gerber [1, 2, 3]
Date: May 22, 2015
Cuisine: New American
Today’s Sauvages lunch is a lunch in honor of late Co-Poobah Steve Levin. It’s graciously hosted by Paul at at his beautiful home in Flintridge. This event is held outdoors in memory of the Zinfandel barbecues that Steve would hold for our group every summer at his home (it being Paul’s idea to maintain this fine tradition). To that end, we always enjoy a few Zinfandels at this lunch in addition to the theme wines for the lunch. The annual lunches at Paul’s home always rate very high on the scales for ambiance, camaraderie and food quality.
The main wine theme: This year, as it has been the past few years for our lunch at Paul’s, our primary wine theme will be “Grenaches of the World”, in this case from the 2006 and older vintages (the older the better). Just to be clear, “Grenaches of the World” means any Grenache or Grenache-based blend (at least 60-70% Grenache), as long as it is rated 93+ by a reputable critic, and is from the 2006 or older vintage. Grenache-based wines from Australia, California, Washington, Priorat, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Sardinia (called Cannonau) or any other parts of the world are fair game as long as the wine has a qualifying score.
This California style building isn’t the house itself, but the amazing top of the integrated cellar.
2012 Progeny Mount Veeder Trinity Blanc. Interesting blend of Roussanne and Marsanne.
Inside the upper level of the cellar where staging occurred.
2003 Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay Ashley’s Vineyard. VM 91. Medium yellow. Smoky, lower-toned nose offers dried fruits, baking spices and leesy traces. Superconcentrated and creamy but with bright acids leavening the wine’s sweetness. The broadest and longest of this set of chardonnays on the back end, but finishes with a slight youthful aggressiveness.
agavin: Golden yellow, quite enjoyable, but by Burgundy standards oxidized for its age and not going to last much longer.
Grilled crab claws with avocado mouse.
NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Rosé. VM 92. Pale orange. High-pitched red berry, orange zest and jasmine aromas, with suave mineral and smoky lees notes adding complexity. Spicy and precise on the palate, showing very good punch to its strawberry and bitter cherry flavors. Opens up smoothly with air and picks up a bitter rhubarb quality that lingers onto the long, tightly focused finish. This bottling showed more brawny character than many past renditions of this cuvée, but with no lack of vivacity.
Grilled peaches wrapped in prosciutto with gorgonzola.
The pool patio where we dined.
On the left is our chef, John Gerber, formerly of the French Laundry! On the right is our host Paul.
A lot of the food used the wood burning oven.
2003 Pierre Usseglio Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee de Mon Aieul. Parker 97. Deep, layered and rich, the 2003 Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee de mon Aieul is comprised almost all of Grenache and always comes from three lieux-dits: La Crau, Guigasse and Les Serres. Aged all in tank and showing none of the negative traits of the vintage, it has a rich, meaty bouquet of semi-mature red and black fruits, wild herbs, melted licorice, dusty minerality and roasted beef. Full-bodied, gorgeously pure and seamless, with solid underlying structure and a core of sweet fruit, it is a brilliant wine. I don’t see any upside to holding bottles, yet given the balance, richness and mid-palate depth, it should continue to hold for another 5-8 years and certainly drink nicely well past that.
2001 Domaine de la Mordoree Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee de la Reine des Bois. Parker 100. More youthful and backwards, the 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee de La Reine des Bois has been incredibly consistent for me and always comes in near the top of the scale. Black raspberry, blackberry, wood smoke, licorice, crushed rock-like minerality and smoked beef are just some of the nuances here, and it hits the palate with serious levels of fruit, thrilling structure and blockbuster length. It still needs another handful of years to hit full maturity, but its off-the-hook good today (assuming you’re not completely against tannin).
2001 Pierre Usseglio Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve des Deux Freres. Parker 99. The 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve des Deux Freres elicits “wows”. Aged 60% in neutral wood foudres and 40% in one, two, and three-year old Burgundy barrels, this 2001, which tips the scales at an awesome 16.2% natural alcohol, boasts an inky/purple color along with a sensationally pure bouquet of blackberries, graphite, acacia flowers, licorice, and sweet kirsch liqueur. Unctuously textured and full-bodied, with high tannin as well as a closed personality, this prodigious yet fabulous Chateauneuf du Pape is a potential legend in the making. It requires 3-5 years of cellaring, and should keep for two decades. The texture, purity, and magnificent concentration suggest tiny yields, old vines, and non-interventionalistic winemaking. By the way, this wine represents a selection of the finest lots in the cellar as the sources are the same as for the Cuvee de Mon Aieul, although a large component of Deux Freres is from the Usseglio holdings in the sector of Chateauneuf du Pape called La Crau. Anticipated maturity: 2007-2022+.
2000 Pierre Usseglio Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee de Mon Aieul. Parker 95. The profound 2000 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee de Mon Aieul (85% Grenache and the rest equal parts Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault) tips the scales at 15% alcohol. From an old vineyard and cropped at 15 hectoliters per hectare, and aged only in foudre, it boasts a dense purple color in addition to an exquisite nose of violets, minerals, blueberries and blackberries. Pure and concentrated, but atypically tannic, it requires considerable aging as it is one of the vintage’s more backward, broodingly powerful efforts.
Wood Oven Roasted Clams. Saffron Gnocchi, Chorizo, Peas, Charred Scallions and Grilled Bread. A very lovely partially deconstructed bouillabaisse.
2003 Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reservee. Parker 98. Starting with the 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reserve, this wine showed spectacularly on release, closed down for a few years, and has now emerged, at close to full maturity, and is straight-up fabulous. Out of the entire tasting, it remained my favorite. Giving up gorgeous blackberry, currants, garrigue, pepper and beef blood, it hits the palate with a massive, full-bodied texture that carries layers of sweet fruit, awesome concentration and blockbuster length. Tasting like the essence of both this estate and the terroir, it’s an incredible wine that I’m happy to taste/drink anytime. It will continue to evolve gracefully, but I see no reason to delay gratification.
2004 Les Bosquet des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape A la Gloire de Mon Grandpere. Parker 91. Almost all Grenache (98%), the 2004 Chateauneuf du Pape a la Gloire de Mon Grand-Pere comes from the Gardiole lieu-dit and was aged 12-18 months in concrete tank, foudre and demi-muids. Sweeter and more feminine in style compared to the traditional cuvee, it offers loads of baking spices, cinnamon, dried garrigue and sweet Grenache fruit to go with a medium to full-bodied, supple and pure profile on the palate. Rich (especially in the vintage) and nicely balanced, it’s a joy to drink and makes the most of the vintage. Enjoy it over the coming couple of years as well.
2000 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape. Parker 95. The 2000 Chateauneuf du Pape reveals 14.6% alcohol, and is stylistically similar to the great 1990. The 2000 is open-knit and fat, with higher levels of glycerin as well as a more corpulent style than the structured, backward 2001. A deep ruby/purple color is followed by sweet, black cherry/kirsch liqueur-like notes presented in a voluptuous, full-throttle, intense style. It is already revealing such secondary nuances as pepper, garrigue, and truffles. Chewy, full-bodied, and moderately tannic, this cuvee is accessible, but not ready to drink. Anticipated maturity: 2007-2025.
Grilled Sonoma Duck Breast. Confit Crepe, Mole, Pickled Cherry. A stunning bit of duck breast accompanied by a stunning smokey “chipotle” sauce. The crepe was even better if possible.
2000 Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape. Parker 93. The 2000 Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape, which Emmanuel Reynaud believes is better than 1998, came in at a whopping 15.2% alcohol. It is reminiscent of a hypothetical blend of the 1998 and 1999, with a medium to light ruby color, and a sumptuous bouquet of kirsch liqueur, spice box, and licorice. Full-bodied and fleshy, with low acidity, it is a sweet (from high glycerin and alcohol), seductive, intoxicating offering with no hard edges and a rich, fleshy mouthfeel. While it will be hard to resist, I feel the 1998 still has more structure. Anticipated maturity for the 2000: 2005-2016.
From my cellar: 1998 Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape. Parker 94-96. There is no doubting the extraordinary depth and layers of flavor the 1998 Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape contains. The color is medium to deep ruby, and the bouquet offers aromas of ripe strawberry and cherry candy, with kirsch liqueur thrown in for additional interest. On the palate, the wine is full-bodied and fat, with high levels of sweet fruit, a velvety texture, multiple dimensions, and an explosive finish. It is an undeniably sexy, compelling Rayas that is already performing exceptionally well, despite having been bottled only a few months ago. There are several thousand additional bottles available for the world’s market. My best guess is that this voluptuous, sexy Rayas should drink well young, yet age easily for 15-16 years. Do not be surprised to see it put on considerable weight over the next few years.
1998 Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reservee. Parker 95. The 1998 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reserve showed the warmth and richness of the vintage, with knockout kirsch and blackberry fruit, garrigue, game and leather aromas and flavors that literally come jumping from the glass. Full-bodied, rich, textured and beautifully focused, if not still structured, it’s a rock-star to drink through 2020 or so.
Grilled Wild Boar stuffed Morels. Fiddlehead Ferns, favas with red wine farrotto and ramp pesto. I’ve never had these before, morels stuffed with boar mousse! Really pretty amazing.
Just so you can see the inside. Sous bois like crazy.
2001 Clos Erasmus. Parker 98. A wine of great intensity, this 415-case blend of 78% Grenache, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Syrah aged in 100% new French oak casks, reveals an inky/purple color as well as a tight but promising bouquet of acacia flowers, raspberries, blackberries, and hints of blueberries, smoke, and the essence of minerality. With extraordinary richness, good underlying acidity, firm tannin, and a multilayered mouthfeel, this spectacularly concentrated 2001 is only hinting at its ultimate potential. Patience will be rewarded as this is a tour de force in winemaking, marrying the elegance and complexity of Priorat with the extraordinary concentration and intensity that comes from low yields and ripe fruit. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2020+.
2001 Alvaro Palacios Priorat L’Ermita. VM 95+. old-vines garnacha with a bit of cabernet from the Dofi vineyard added to bring more structure) Bright ruby-red. Discreet but nuanced nose hints at black fruits and flowers; quite subdued today. Then explosive in the mouth: huge, suave, deep and layered, with powerful yet somewhat cool black fruit, mineral and graphite flavors. This really expands to fill the mouth. Wonderfully concentrated wine that’s not at all heavy. Finishes very broad and rich, with noble tannins and great persistence. Still a baby, and likely to merit an even higher score six or eight years down the road.
1998 Clos Erasmus. Parker 99. The spectacular 1998 flirts with perfection. A saturated opaque blue/purple color is not dissimilar from ink. Dazzling aromas of ripe, pure blackberries, violets, blueberries, wet stones, and smoky, toasty oak soar from the glass. Powerful, with an unctuous texture, and super-extracted, rich, concentrated flavors, this blockbuster effort boasts extravagant quantities of fruit, glycerin, extract, tannin, and personality. The wine displays a firm, structured edge, but a viscous texture from super concentration gives it immediate accessibility. This 1998 should hit its plateau of maturity in 7-8 years, and is a strong candidate for 20-30 years of aging. It is a winemaking tour de force.
1999 Clos Erasmus. Parker 93. The 1999 Clos Erasmus, a blend of 65% Grenache, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Syrah aged in 100% new French oak, was fashioned from yields of only one ton of fruit per acre. Its dark ruby/purple color is followed by an elegant perfume of pure, sweet black raspberries, currants, creosote, and minerals. It reveals complex flavors, tremendous purity, and a long finish with no hard edges. Drink it now and over the next 12-15 years.
The lamb grilling on the BBQ.
Rotisserie Leg of Lamb. Fennel, potatoes, spring porcini, and olives. Have a bit of lamb!
2001 Alban Vineyards Grenache. Parker 92. The 2001 Grenache (an 800 six-pack blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah) exhibits an opaque blue/purple color in addition to peppery, kirsch, raspberry, and blackberry aromas and flavors. With a viscous texture, medium to full body, and a gorgeous up-front style, it begs to be drunk over the next decade.
2001 Linne Calodo Sticks and Stones. Parker 95. The extraordinary 2001 Sticks and Stones (a blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, and 10% Syrah) tastes like an old style of Rayas, or the renowned Chateau Lafleur from Pomerol. I know that sounds ridiculous, but those were the two wines that came to mind when I smelled and tasted this wine. It’s pure cherry liqueur with notions of raspberries, flowers, and minerals in the background. This deep ruby/purple-colored Rhone Ranger simply blew me away. With gorgeous texture, purity, perfume, and fruit presence, it has enormous amounts of both soul and personality. Enjoy it over the next 5-6 years.
2006 Sine Qua Non Raven Series (Grenache). Parker 98. 2006 Ravens Series (# 6 and 7 Grenache): This blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah, largely from the 11 Confessions Vineyard, with a small amount from Bien Nacido, spent 21 months in barrel. It is really strutting its stuff now, and showing even better than my original note predicted in August of 2009. The wine has loads of meat, licorice, smoke, charcoal and graphite, as well as huge peppery, blackberry and black cherry notes. Full-bodied, with great acidity, nicely integrated tannin, an admirable mouthfeel and tremendous length, this killer Grenache is still young and probably 3-5 years away from prime time drinking.
2013 Progeny Winery Grenache. 94 points. Tasted from a barrel sample. This was just yummy – candied fruits, spicy, reminds me of a slightly softer form of the SQN version (not a meal in a glass) but oh so wonderful. Still quite a bit of tannin and still very young. Might never make it to being a wine that’s produced, but I very much hope it is as it was just delicious.
Cheese plate. Point Reyes Blue, California. Noord Hollander, Holland. Heublumen, Switzerland. Somehow skipping France!
1979 Joseph Swan Vineyards Zinfandel Sonoma County. 88 points. Had a light garnet core fading into a tawny colored rim with oranges hues. Fdruit aromas and flavors included dried cherries, black and red currants, plums and a touch of citrus; secondary aromas and flavors included baking spices, brown sugar, dried herbs, touch of old leather. This wine had bright acidity and a fresh character, was enjoyable however the finish was shorter than expected and appeared to be declining.
1980 Ridge Geyserville. 91 points. Pretty red raspberry nose. Medium bodied with medium+ acidity. Mix of tart and ripe raspberry fruit sprinkled with cinnamon. Tasty, great acidity.
1995 Ravenswood Zinfandel Dickerson. 87 points. Dark fruit, smoke, and light spice. Medium-full body.
1993 Turley Zinfandel Aida Vineyard. 90 points. Layers of flavors, mostly blackberry, but with a very peppery overtone.
My scribbled thoughts on the wines.
Overall, a delicious afternoon — food and wine both! As a Burgundy nut, a often forget all the Châteauneuf-du-Pape in my cellar, but it’s really great stuff — and so consistent. Grenache is a nice grape, if a powerhouse. Even the Zins were enjoyable. We didn’t have a mediocre wine today, just good and great ones.