Restaurant: John Gerber [1, 2, 3]
Date: May 27, 2016
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 2007 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 2007 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.
Inside the upper level of the cellar where staging occurred.
Our triplex mega table — a triclinium?
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.
2014 Colinas de Uruguay Albarino. Very bright and crisp.
Bonus from my cellar: 2012 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé. VM 93. Light, bright orange-pink. Complex scents of fresh red berries, nectarine and orange zest, with a sexy floral overtone. Silky and expansive on the palate, offering juicy cherry and pit fruit flavors and an exotic touch of honey. A dusty mineral quality adds bite and lift to the strikingly long, chewy, floral back end.
2015 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé. Really nice young fruit and flowers.
2013 Progeny Winery Grenache. Not yet released! Pure hot Grenache.
2013 Progeny Winery Trinity Rouge. Blend of several Rhone grapes.
Gougères. aka fancy French cheese puffs.
Tuna poke. Wrapped in nori. Somehow the now “plebian” tuna tartar has been rechristened poke.
Flight 1: White
2012 Oremus Furmint Tokaji Dry Mandolás. Bight and fresh.
2013 Clos Mogador Priorat Nelin. 90 points. Dry body, hard to place the fruit on the nose. It’s extremely unique. Marzipan is present on the palate. High alcohol content but very round and smooth body.
2013 Clos Figueras Priorat Font de la Figuera Blanco. VM 91. Vivid straw color. Lively citrus pith and pear skin aromas are complicated by anise, white flowers and dusty minerals. Firm and juicy on the palate, offering zesty lime and orange flavors and a gingery topnote. Finishes dry, precise and very long, with a lick of spiciness and lingering minerality
1998 M. Chapoutier Ermitage Blanc De L’Orée. Our bottle was sadly was advanced.
Fruits de Mer. Razor clam, sea scallop, prawn and octopus with fava beans, fennel and coriander. Amazingly fresh and tender — all of it.
Flight 2: CNDP
2000 Domaine Charvin Châteauneuf-du-Pape. VM 93. Full ruby-red. Expressive aromas of roasted blackberry, black raspberry and espresso. Lush and superripe, with compelling mid-palate fat and fullness. Fresh flavors of dark berries and dark chocolate. Finishes very ripe and long, with sweet, suave tannins. Offers a rare combination of stuffing and finesse.
2001 Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf-du-Pape. VM 94. Red-ruby. Flamboyant, wild Chateauneuf du Pape aromas of raspberry, pepper, leather, Cuban cigar tobacco, fruitcake, game and truffle. Explosive, layered and deep, with captivating flavors of game, leather, melting chocolate cake, leather, incense and black pepper. Wonderfully suave and silky but with terrific verve and grip. Finishes with fine, palate-coating tannins and sneaky length. If someone sticks a glass of this in your face and you don’t say Chateauneuf du Pape, you should give up wine drinking.
agavin: great wine. Nice and balanced and mature.
2006 Clos Saint Jean Châteauneuf-du-Pape Deus-Ex Machina. VM 95. Glass-staining ruby. Explosively perfumed bouquet of fresh red and dark berries, potpourri, incense and licorice. Completely saturates the palate with sweet raspberry and boysenberry flavors, picking up anise and lavender pastille qualities with air. For a wine with this kind of palate impact there’s remarkable finesse and clarity. Red berry and floral notes echo endlessly on the long, sappy finish.
2000 Domaine de la Vieille Julienne Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes. 94 points. Deep garnet color. First whiff from the nose was fantastic revealing a freshness of cherry fruit which sadly went quickly away leaving in its place liqueur-like, jammy and darker fruit. Nose is scented, complex and mature with tertiary aromas accompanying abundant fruit like blackberry and plum and minerals. Palate is even more intense than the nose with unending finish. Fruit is liqueur-like as the wine is full bodied and with lots of glycerol. Yet it is balanced and drinks effortlessly. Flavors include spices, herbs and ground coffee. Tannins are mellow and acidity has to be high for the wine to be in such an impeccable balance. The wine is mature but I believe it could age and last for at least twenty more years given its structure and still abundant fruit…
2001 Cuvée du Vatican Châteauneuf-du-Pape Réserve Sixtine. VM 91. Bright ruby-red. Blackberry, bitter chocolate, violet, mint and spicy oak on the nose; intriguing suggestions of mourvedre. At once dense and penetrating, with rather oaky flavors of blackberry, violet and eucalyptus. Finishes with a hint of leather, but also a slight dryness from the wood element.
Grilled Paine Farm Squab. Licorice root braised leeks, sierra morels, and shallot puree. yum!
Flight 3: “Old” CNDP
1998 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape. VM 90. Good medium red. Aromas of red fruit syrup, cola, milk chocolate, humus, graphite and prune. Sweet, lush and rich, with the fruit syrup flavor showing a distinctly roasted quality. Grew fresher and juicier with a bit of aeration and held its shape nicely, but eventually the pruney element became more pronounced. With little in the way of primary fruit remaining, this doesn’t really come alive, in spite of its complexity.
1998 M. Chapoutier Châteauneuf-du-Pape Barbe Rac. VM 93. Medium red. Smoky red fruits, graphite and pepper on the complex nose. Superripe, plump and sweet, with lovely balancing acidity for a wine this high in alcohol. This has real depth and chocolatey sweetness. Very long, ripely tannic finish builds slowly and lingers long. Distinctive, outstanding Chateauneuf du Pape.
1998 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée da Capo. VM 95. Saturated dark ruby. Nose like a fruit essence: blackberry and blueberry liqueur, licorice, pepper, Provencal herbs, and hints of more exotic fruits. A wine of extreme unctuousity, virtually too large for the mouth. Suggestion of marc, but with sappy fruits and great solid underlying structure. The tannins saturate the palate on the peppery finish. Very much in the style of Bonneau rarely made Cuvee Speciale. This wine took nearly two years to finish fermenting. Paul Feraud told me he feared that the alcohol would burn, that there would be too much residual sugar, and that the wine would show signs of premature oxidation. But in fact this headspinner (and I mean that in the purest, Linda Blair sense) boasts great surmaturite without quite descending into madness.
agavin: so hands down the best wine of this flight! Huge and balanced.
1999 M. Chapoutier Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Bernardine. VM 88. Medium red-ruby. Aromatic, wild aromas of redcurrant, leather, smoke and game. Juicy, firm-edged flavors of smoky red fruits. Bright and fairly tannic but not especially deep.
1998 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée. VM 92. Full ruby-red. Aromas of roasted plum, cherry and raspberry, with a distinct animal aspect. Deep, rich and complete; lush but with sound supporting acidity. Complex mineral and chocolate notes complement the wine’s superripe fruit flavors. Very long, subtle finish features thoroughly ripe tannins. Laurence says the pH here is a relatively low 3.4. #2, not yet racked: Liqueur-like jammy sweetness on the nose. Extremely glyceral palate impression; sauvage hint of smoked meat. Finishes very long, with completely ripe tannins. #3, from a foudre in the back corner of the cellar, where there’s less air movement; includes La Crau plus Montpertuis: Saturated ruby. Completely primary wine; makes #1 seem ready to drink. Black cherry liqueur on the nose. Thick but with powerful underlying backbone. Medicinal black cherry and licorice notes. Finishes with huge, toothcoating tannins. The licorice note comes from the mourvedre planted on iron-rich soil in Montpertuis, says Laurence. Making early assessments of this estate’s wines can be a tricky exercise, as the numerous foudres that go into the ultimate blend range widely in style and quality, but 1998 appears to be an outstanding wine in the making. (Laurence says it reminds her of the domain’s 1985).
agavin: our bottle reeked and tasted of barnyard
Flight 4: Spainish
1999 Cims de Porrera Priorat Classic. VM 89. Deep ruby-red. Low-toned aromas of raisin, maple syrup, damp earth and nut skin; seems far more advanced than the 2000. Fat, sweet and lush in the mouth, but can’t match the 2000 for purity. Hints of bitter cherry, raisin and maple syrup. Finishes with sweet, building tannins and good length.
1998 Clos Mogador Priorat. 92 points. full bodied, with prominent dark cherry and blackberry notes. the wine is bone dry without even the slightest touch of sweetness. Jerry noted that he could taste the alcohol. Distinct barrel flvors including coffee come through on the finish. good complex wine, will benefit from cheese at least.
From my cellar: 2007 Spectacle Vins Montsant Espectacle. 94 points. Upon opening a tangy, yeasty, dark-fruit rolling on the forest floor nose was apparent. In the glass for 20 minutes it was black cherry, chocolate, and lots of orange spice – very enticing nose. Big taste, definitely reminiscent of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Cherry, figs, slightly saline mineral, very good balance, some meaty “chewiness” to it, little bit of pepper coming on in the 30+ second finish. There was also a peculiar cool “sweetness” aspect to the finish. Again – excellent balance in this wine, but I ended up thinking you could drink it with dessert, or even as a stand-alone dessert. A good one from Spain – the overall essence of velvet is never far away.
2002 Clos Erasmus Priorat. VM 90+. Medium ruby-red. Claret-like aromas of currant, licorice, tar and nutty oak. Densely packed, tight and juicy, with slightly green but sappy fruit flavors framed by bright acids. Distinctly a wine from a less ripe year but possesses very good concentration, subtle sweetness of fruit and very firm structure. This may well be better for a couple years of additional time in bottle.
Roast Rib of Veal. Grilled potato, porcini confit and sauce Antiboise. I don’t even like tomatoes and I liked that sauce.
Flight 5: Big Boys (by weight)
From my cellar: 2007 Domaine la Soumade Rasteau Cuvee Fleur de Confiance. Parker 96. The top effort, the 2007 Cotes du Rhone-Villages Rasteau Fleur de Confiance, is awesome. An inky/blue/black color is followed by a stunning bouquet of scorched earth, incense, blackberry jam, coffee, and spice. This full-bodied, massive, stacked and packed Rasteau is destined for two decades of life. Its sweet tannin and textured mouthfeel are compelling. Give it 2-4 years of cellaring and consume it over the following 20 years.
2001 Alban Vineyards Grenache Alban Estate Vineyard. VM 92. Medium ruby. Roasted black fruits, kirsch, gunflint, smoke and game; distinctly syrah-like and not at all tired or overly oaky. Then thick and deep, with urgent, penetrating flavors of sappy black fruits and spices. At once powerful and pliant. Finishes very long, with fine, broad tannins. I preferred the Reva syrah in 2000, but this year the grenache seems even deeper and sweeter, with a larger structure. Also tasted: 2002 Viognier Alban Estate Vineyard Edna Valley, 2001 Roussanne Alban Estate Vineyard Edna Valley.
2001 Torbreck Grenache Les Amis. 94 points. Medium purple with ruby tinge. Nice prototypical superripe Grenache nose, but all fruit and no vegetables so that’s good. Mouth was heavy with nice glycerin and considerable heat that persists through finish. Lots of red berries in there, very sweet.
2006 Sine Qua Non Syrah Raven Series. VM 94. Opaque purple. Succulent, mineral-driven dark berry and kirsch, with strong graphite, iron and black olive notes arriving with air. Vibrant mineral qualities add urgency to deep, sweet black and blue fruit flavors and lend an incisive character to the long, spicy finish. Picked up silky tannins with air but not at the expense of the suave fruit.
Cheese plate. Brebirousse, france. Caveman Blue, Oregon. Challerhocker, Switzerland, Majorero, Spain. Queso al Romero, Spain.
Flight 6: Zinfandel (eek gads)
1976 Sutter Home Winery Zinfandel Amador County. Not bad for its age.
1987 Rosenblum Cellars Zinfandel. Cloudy, but interesting.
1997 Ridge Zinfandel Late Picked Paso Robles.
1999 Turley Zinfandel Tofanelli Vineyard. VM 91. Moderately saturated medium ruby. Slightly high-toned aromas of smoky black fruits and eucalyptus. Dense, sweet and chewy, with impressive depth of flavor. Exotic hint of orange peel. Finishes with chewy, sweet tannins and excellent length. The Neyers Winery bottling from the same vines showed more urgent berry fruit but a bit less volume.
2006 Turley Zinfandel Mead Ranch. VM 89. Bright, deep red. Superripe, porty aromas of mocha, molasses and nuts. Fat, sweet and creamy but a bit over the top. This big, thick, peppery wine finishes with considerable power and strong tannins. I find this rather awkward.
2012 Turley Zinfandel Hayne Vineyard. VM 94. The 2012 Zinfandel Hayne Vineyard is one of the most tannic and structured Zinfandel in Turley’s extensive lineup. Tense, brilliant and beautifully sculpted throughout, the 2012 bursts from the glass with explosive concentration and pulsating acididy. Winemaker Tegan Passalacqua gave the 2012 three extra months in barrel, all of which it clearly needed. Readers will have to be patient here.
My scribbled thoughts on the wines.
The wine list.
On the right is our chef, John Gerber, formerly of the French Laundry!
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 (relatively) enjoyable.
The setting really is magnificent. The weather was perfect, and just an ideal afternoon in the yard!