Restaurant: John Gerber [1, 2, 3]
Date: May 26, 2017
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.
We gather at one multi-wing table.
From my cellar: 2009 Domaine Bruno Clair Marsannay Rosé. VM 88. The 2009 Marsannay Rose is a serious wine. It shows plenty of intensity and generosity, I only wish the aromatics were a little more focused.
2011 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc. VM 88. Pale, bright yellow. Candied lemon peel, bracing grapefruit pith and a hint of flowers on the nose, plus a smoky note that reminded me of chardonnay. Rich, silky and slightly sweet; and more fruity than some Carneros chardonnays I tasted on the same day. This easygoing and attractive wine is perked up by a piquant grapefruit quality on the back end.
2000 La Granja Nuestra Señora de Remelluri Rioja Blanco. 89 points. Mineral notes with an apple/pear fruit; balanced acidity.
2014 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé. VM 92. Light orange. Intensely perfumed citrus fruit and white cherry scents are complemented by suggestions of dried flowers, honey and dusty minerals. Chewy, tightly focused blood orange and lavender pastille flavors show very good depth and clarity, with a spine of minerality adding support. Finishes sappy and very long, leaving dusty mineral and floral notes behind.
2009 Clos Mogador Priorat Nelin. VM 91. Light yellow-gold. Intense aromas of dried pear, lemon curd, white flowers and candied ginger, with subtle vanilla and beeswax qualities adding depth. Fleshy, deeply pitched orchard and pit fruit flavors are lifted and braced by a tangy mineral quality and pick up spiciness with air. Finishes broad and ripe, with very good persistence and resonating floral and spice notes. This is showing very well now; I’d err on the side of youth here and drink it over the next few years.
2013 Domaine Morey-Coffinet Meursault. BH 88. A more restrained and very pretty nose offers up hazelnut, acacia blossom and pear aromas. The cool, sleek and delicious middle weight flavors also exude a very subtle minerality on the slightly austere finish that delivers good if not truly distinguished depth and persistence.
Fruits de Mer. Razor clam, sea scallop, spot prawn, fava beans, and fennel. Amazingly fresh and tender — all of it.
1995 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape. 91 points. This was ok but really did not ring my bell. 1995 is a not so thrilling vintage with Rayas towering above everything. Very rustic with some serious austerity on the palate and a burnt-ashen character and loads of red fruit. Acidity was average and the wine came across as boring.
1998 Alban Vineyards Grenache HdR Selection Seymour’s Vineyard. Someone gave it 96 points online :-).
1998 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée. VM 92. Good medium red. High-toned aromas of dried cherry, redcurrant, wilted rose, roasted herbs and spices. Sweet, silky, sexy and decadent yet with a penetrating quality thanks to vibrant mint and spice elements. Finishes with big, broad, sweet tannins that come from fruit, not oak. Classic fully ripe southern Rhone grenache.
2000 Les Cailloux (Lucien et André Brunel) Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Centenaire. VM 94+. Full deep red. Tangy nose combines red fruits, roast coffee, pepper and spices. Very rich, dense and full, with considerable power (the wine features 15% alcohol) and a strong element of spice cake. Less obviously creamy than the 2001, but equally powerful and extremely long on the aftertaste. The tannins show a chewy quality and a dustiness that no doubt reflect the wine’s 12% mourvedre component.
1997 Clos Mogador Priorat. VM 89. Medium ruby-red. Aromas of currant, plum, licorice and uncured tobacco. Lush but bright, with a firm edge of acidity and hints of exotic fruits and wild herbs. Finishes with dusty, even tannins and good length.
From my cellar: 2000 Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape Reserve. VM 93. Rather pale red (Reynaud says the color will deepen as the wine ages). Smoke and pepper dominate the nose. Thick and sappy; round and seamless. Offers very good depth of flavor but today I don’t find the excitement of the vintage’s top examples. Best today on the peppery, long finish, which features thoroughly ripe tannins. There weren’t a lot of bunches in 2000, says Reynaud, but the grapes were large.
agavin: my WOTD — although I’m clearly biased
Grilled sweetbreads, morels, and blood sausage. Pea mash and carrot romesco. Amazing and rich dish with a lot of gaminess and weight. I loved the blood sausage and theromesco combo in particular.
2001 Mas Doix Priorat Costers de Vinyes Velles. RR 97. Great Priorat from traditional local grapes Garnacha and Carinena. Dark red cherries, cocoa, nice acidic backbone, small pepper note, medium to full body, soft tannines, in a great place right now, powerful yet elegant, smooth aftertaste.
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.
2001 Rotllan Torra Priorat Tirant. VM 91+. Deep red. Exotic coconutty oak on the rather port-like nose. At once sweeter and more primary than the Amadis, with a penetrating minerality. Also quite oaky, but has more jammy plum and blackberry fruit to stand up to the wood. Still, it’s hard to predict whether this slightly pruney wine will reward more time in bottle. Finishes with sweet tannins and good length.
2002 Torbreck Grenache Les Amis. 95 points. The nose had a latex paint like aroma from the over-ripe fruit in this wine. There was a lot of dried/over-ripe character to the nose of this wine. With some time it also took on a coconut-like note over the muddled red fruit aromas. The palate had loads of jammy fruit and a chocolate like note, but it was just hard for me to get past the nose of this wine to really enjoy the richness that the palate had to offer.
2002 Bodegas Alto Moncayo Garnacha Campo de Borja. VM 90. Medium ruby-red. Sappy black cherry and black raspberry aromas complicated by chocolate, minerals and tar. Sweet, lush and seamless, with a pinot-like silkiness of texture. Still a bit shy following the recent bottling but large-scaled and mouthfilling, with sound balancing acidity. Distinctly exotic in its flavors but not yet complex. A wine to follow.
2003 Bodegas Alto Moncayo Garnacha Campo de Borja. VM 89. Bright red. Powerful, oak-laced raspberry, strawberry and cherry preserves on the nose, plus a hint of candied licorice. Deep and sweet, the red berry flavors strongly accented by oak notes of coconut, vanilla and clove. Finishes sweet, deep and long. This is clearly made from strong material, but I’d love to have seen it without so much oak.
2003 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée. VM 94. Deep red. Strikingly complex nose offers powerful scents of red berries, spicecake, cured meat and potpourri. Velvety red berry and kirsch flavors stain the palate, picking pick up candied lavender and fruitcake nuances with air. The spiciness builds on the finish, which echoes the cherry note. This wine was most noteworthy for its power in the early going (I rated it 92-94 shortly before it was bottled) but has become more graceful and now conveys a stronger impressive of pure, spicy fruit.
2004 De Lisio Grenache. 90 points. Dark ruby colour. Nose of raisins and some flowery notes. Bursting with ripe fruits on the palate. Blackberry jam. Spicy towards the long finish. Concentrated and flavourful, but still velvety in the mouth. Fruit bomb lovers will like this, with bonus points for the smoothness with age.
Game bird stuffed quail. Black lentils, purple radish and pickled rhubarb. Nice tasty bird. Very moist.
2001 Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils Châteauneuf-du-Pape Réserve des Deux Frères. VM 91. Bright ruby-red. Superripe, roasted aromas of singed red fruits, carob, marzipan and walnut. A huge, roasted wine showing strong evidence of surmaturite; flavors of dried fruits and walnut. With alcohol in the 16% range this is undeniably massive, but I found myself wishing it had more primary fruit and verve. Quite different in style from the Cuvee de Mon Aieul. A rare and expensive bottling, recommended for fans of the type.
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.
2004 Clos Mogador Priorat. VM 94. Deep purple. Powerful, sexy aromas of blackberry, boysenberry, fruitcake, cigar box, graphite and violet, with suave oak spice adding even more interest. Sweet, silky and deep, with wonderfully pure dark berry flavors complemented by cinnamon, smoked bacon and red licorice. Utterly delicious if very young, with great vibrancy, clarity and even elegance. This compellingly sweet and very long wine is the best bottling of Clos Mogador I’ve had to date.
2005 Linne Calodo Sticks and Stones. VM 93. Bright ruby. Explosively perfumed nose offers fresh strawberry, raspberry and rose aromas, with an exotic lashing of baking spices. Fine-grained and silky, with deep but focused red fruit flavors and Asian spices. Lots going on here. Clings impressively on the long, juicy finish. A very impressive blend.
Cheese plate. Midnight moon from California. Schnebelhorn from Switzerland. Campo de Montalban from Spain. Beemster from Holland.
2005 Sine Qua Non Grenache Atlantis Fe2O3~2a. VM 100. The 2005 Grenache Atlantis Fe203-2a has been absolutely thrilling both times I have tasted it within the last year. A huge, vertical wine, Atlantis graces the palate with deep, voluptuous red fruit, crushed rocks, smoke, tobacco and mint. Even with all of its intensity and explosiveness, the wine remains light on its feet, with great balance and class to burn. The inclusion of whole clusters adds gorgeous lift and perfume, especially on the finish. At nearly ten years of age, the 2005 Grenache Atlantis is in a perfect spot right now and should continue to drink well for another 5-10 years, perhaps longer.
2005 Sine Qua Non Grenache Atlantis Fe2O3~2c. ?
2007 Domaine la Barroche Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Pure. VM 96. Inky purple. Huge, expressive bouquet shows dark berry, floral and fruitcake qualities, along with a smoky mineral note. Lush and creamy, with deep boysenberry and blueberry flavors and velvety tannins. Turns spicier on the back half and finishes with outstanding clarity and juicy persistence. As massive as this is, there’s no sense of overripeness or excess weight.
2007 Domaine de la Solitude (Lançon Père et Fils) Châteauneuf-du-Pape. VM 90. Inky purple. Sexy, perfumed scents of black raspberry, cherry compote and potpourri. Broad, fleshy and sweet, offering lush, edge-free black and blue fruit flavors. This upfront, creamy wine is delicious right now.
2007 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape. VM 95+. Deep ruby. Powerful, pungent aromas of kirsch, dark berries, smoky herbs and spicecake, with notes of black olive and tobacco coming on with air. Chewy, palate-staining dark fruit flavors are complicated by bitter chocolate, licorice and black cardamom. Acts like a 2005 today, with serious structure but also superb depth of powerful, densely packed fruit. A hint of cherry skin adds grip and refreshing bitterness to the long, smoky, focused finish. Not an easy read right now: this demands cellaring.
2013 Progeny Winery Trinity Rouge.
1996 Limerick Lane Zinfandel Collins Vineyard.
2009 Robert Biale Zinfandel Black Chicken. VM 90. The 2009 Zinfandel Black Chicken shows off gorgeous mid-palate richness in its black cherries, menthol, licorice and sweet spices. There is more than enough vibrancy and depth to allow the wine to drink beautifully for at least a handful of years.
2006 Turley Zinfandel Dragon Vineyard. VM 92. Good medium ruby. Black raspberry, spices and fruity pepper on the slightly medicinal nose. Ripe, lush and mouthfilling but quite dry; a big, chewy wine with a deep pepper-and-spice character. Finishes with very suave, pliant tannins.
2008 Brian Benson Cellars The Wince. VM 90. Inky ruby. Powerful, highly aromatic scents of dark fruit liqueur, lavender and licorice, with vanilla and mocha accents gaining power with air. Fleshy and appealingly sweet black and blue fruit flavors stain the palate and show a touch of back-end warmth. Velvety tannins give shape and gentle grip to a long, spicy finish that echoes the blue fruit and vanilla notes. Nothing shy about this one.
In the center is our chef, John Gerber, formerly of the French Laundry! On the right our host Paul.
The list de vin.
And the full lineup!
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.
We did have WAY too much wine for the number of courses. We could have used an easy 2 or 3 more courses to stage it out.
The setting really is magnificent. The weather was perfect, and just an ideal afternoon in the yard!