Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Rhone is What I Got

Tom Gannon is the playwright in residence at Rothmann's Steakhouse in New York City. He is also the sommelier and serves as America's Host. UncleLuther@gmail.com

Last week I had a table of six collectors come in for dinner with some Rhone wines to burn. I have a deal with them (and some other groups) that I think is very advantageous for all. Waive the corkage fee, I decant and serve all the wines and taste as well. Usually difficult in the middle of service to taste, oversee the wine service in the rest of the dining room and still take some notes but it was only six wines, so I had time to go back to my glasses resting on top of the notebook near the kitchen as needed. This was the group that brought a vertical of Screaming Eagle one night a couple of years ago and a Dal Forno dinner last year so when I get the phone call for a reservation my curiosity is piqued, knowing the theme will change every time.

So to begin, Chateau de Beaucastel Blanc Vielles Vignes 2003. From 75 year old vines they made 500 cases of this 100% Roussanne. Honey, sweet almond, marzipan, candied walnut, candied orange peel, acacia flowers and star anise on nose. On the palate it is rich and luscious, surprisingly balanced- the finish was a bit shorter than I expected, but I think that may be chalked up to the 2003 vintage being so screamingly hot. I love aged white Chateauneuf-du-Pape but I don't think this one is in for the long haul. Open a bottle for me in five years and prove me wrong.

Next up Vidal-Fleury Cote-Rotie 1978. From a legendary vintage in the northern Rhone, This wine had smoke, meat, earthy black and white pepper and fig on the nose. It was soft on the palate with a dried herbal edge. Not a long finish but showed very well. I would like to know how much Viognier was in the blend...

Then another northern Rhone star, Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage 1989. Anyone who read my homage to the 1998 may have an idea I might got a few things to say about this wine. Blackberry, sage, smoked meat, blueberry reduction, bacon fat, black pepper, absolutely stunning on the nose. Still tannic on the tongue, long mineral finish with tingling herbs, smoke and meat. Would love at some point soon to taste the legendary trio of '88, '89, '90 side by side by side.

And now back down south to CNP. I had decanted the magnum of Chateau de Beaucastel 1995 as soon as the table sat down. Beaucastel uses a higher percentage of Mouvedre than is typically found in other CNP houses. They also use all thirteen CNP varietals in the final blend- a nod to tradition also utilized by Chateau La Nerthe (they also use a higher percentage of Mouvedre than the norm). It was served an hour after decanting. Based on how it showed if you do have this laying around in magnum, I would have patience for 6-10 years. Not to say we didn't enjoy it...Gunpowder earthiness, black pepper, herbs de Provence, spearmint on the nose and added rich sen sen, black cherry liqueur, melted licorice, lavender, minerality and surprisingly soft tannins on the finish. Still, I would wait just a few more years even in 750ml format.

But we had the good fortune of having the Chateau de Beaucastel 1986 as well for reference. This apparently is a bit of a controversial wine that many feel is past it's peak- some feel it never was a great vintage for Beaucastel. This bottle showed very well with dried cherry, tar, white pepper and a soft dried herbal edge. Gamey sweet leather, strawberry, funky wet tobacco and clove and a long soft earthy finish. Over all 1995 is the greater vintage and a better expression of Beaucastel's style but I was glad to see the 86 stand up for itself. Some at the table felt it was the wine of the night. I would disagree, but good form 86 good form sir.

So to finish up with a little sweet sweet. It ain't the stickiest of the icky and considering the label looked like it had been hit by a blowtorch and an illegible cork crumbling as I opened it I had my doubts...still the Chateau Filhot Sauternes 1975 had orange marmalade, cinnamon toast, bruised pear, honey butter, mango chutney and an India rubber edge. Pineapple and honey fruit in mouth, lighter than I would have thought, not as long of a finish as you would hope, but given the condition of the bottle the fact that it had structure at all was a nice surprise. Wouldn't spend time tracking it down.

Blind tasting group tomorrow in the AM. Taste early taste often. Duty calls.

1 comment:

  1. Drinking chateau is a privilege, I wouldn't be surprised that people love to drink such a wonderful alcoholic beverage, I have to accept it has class.