Tom and Sandy were our hosts this past month for a really fun tasting of Chateauneuf du Pape wines. They cooked up some great appetizers and then dazzled us with a big pot of galbi jim and all sorts of Korean sides. What a delicious meal and a great environment in which to enjoy these wines!
While folks assembled, there were bottles of N.V. Roederer Champagne Brut Premier and 2009 Daniel Bouland Morgon Delys for folks to sip on. The first glass I really sat down with, though, was this one:
2005 E. Gugial Condrieu. I am surprised by how tight and reticent the bouquet of this wine is. Sure, way in the background I can pick out some aromas of peach, honeysuckle, honey, orange blossom and stones, but it is pretty darned quiet otherwise. In the mouth, it is intensely stony, with a big dose of austere acidity and a tough exterior that is difficult to penetrate. It remains cool, aloof and granite-like, with wispy flavors of apple, honey, peach pit and lemon-lime, along with some floral inner mouth perfume. I don’t have enough experience to know where this is heading, but I’d suggest waiting on it.
By this time, we sat down to the dinner table with all of the food and began to dig into the flights of Chateauneuf du Pape.
1981 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape. The first wine of the formal tasting is nice and sweetly-fruited on the nose, with aromas of rose petals, red licorice rope, cherry, pomegranite and worn leather. In the mouth, it has a nice grippy feel to it, and is generous with its fleshy-textured sour cherry, strawberry licorice, coffee ground and green menthol flavors. This is just well-constructed, complex and elongated in the mouth and is drinking really finely right now.
1981 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape. I love this. To me, it just seems immediately identifiable as aged Beaucastel, with deeply complex and savory aromas of sweaty horse, old saddle leather, black cherry, cranberry, fresh-turned earth and funky barnyard. My wife and a few others find it somewhat overpowering, but I can’t get enough of it. In the mouth, it is absolutely beautiful, with a unique personality and plenty of vitality. Flavors of cranberry, cool earth and leather are creamy-textured, but sculpted to high relief by the wine’s crunchy acidity. It feels so balanced, with not one hard edge or drying quality, and it persists on the palate for what seems like minutes. I could drink this all night (and I more or less did!). My WOTN.
1990 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape. This wine also has a beautiful bouquet, though it is more suave and regal and warm-fruited in nature—featuring aromas of crushed cherries and raspberries, foresty undergrowth and a touch of soft leather. On the palate, it is both luxuriantly-fruited and finely-structured, with outstanding balance and appealing flavors of baked cherry, leather and cool earth that are completely mouth-filling and tenaciously long. Some sneaky tannins are definitely in the mix, but this is just a lovely wine.
2000 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Paso Robles. This was a mystery bottle served double blind by Adam. Right off the bat, I am thinking Syrah and Northern Rhone, based on the aromatic profile of tire tread, bacon fat, scorched earth, meaty black fruit and hints of smoked ham. In the mouth, it displays dense and meaty flavors of blueberries and black currants, but also a solid slap of youthful and chewy tannins and an intense beam of acidity. The finish leaves the tongue a bit furry, so I would say this needs to see some time in the cellar. For the record, this is actually 35% Mourvedre, 26% Syrah, 25% Grenache and 14% Counoise.
1998 Domaine de la Janasse Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Chaupin. I dig the nose on this wine a lot, with its cool and dense aromas of clay, baked cherry, iron ore, dried blood, tree bark, ash and mace. In the mouth, it has a lot of vigor and tons of cherry and red currant flavors to offer. Despite a thick texture, some charred wood that still needs to integrate and a fair bit of plush tannins still present, the wine comes across as bright and lifted through the energetic mid-palate—providing an overall sense that this is a long and strong wine that is entering its early drinking window right now.
1999 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape. The aromatics of this wine are just gorgeous—highlighted by scents of pure cherry liqueur, lavendar, garrigue, suede jacket, cocoa powder and a bit of dried sweat. It all hangs together in an attractive and intriguing way and just keeps drawing one back for more. On the palate, I again get the garrigue notes, along with some tobacco leaf and leather supporting the core of pure cherry and strawberry fruit. It is dry and has a moderately austere edge to it at times, and the tannins are suave yet still forceful. One can easily sense the underlying power of the wine, and I do like the profile a lot—it just needs a bit more cellar time to really blossom, in my opinion.
1999 Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee de Mon Aieul. This wine slowly unfolds over the course of the evening, starting out a bit slow but gaining in volume and layering as time goes on. Aromas of chocolate paste, black currant, black olives, dry underbrush, leather, bacon fat and an interesting streak of hot ball candies are measured at first but eventually come to show greater exuberance and flair. It is big, boisterous and a bit savory in the mouth, with full-blown flavors of baked cherries, spicecake, smoke and menthol on a large-bodied frame. It probably has more tannic backbone than any wine on the table and I feel that it is in need of 5-10 years of additional cellaring.
2001 Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf du Pape. This is the blackest-colored wine on the table. It is relatively dark-fruited on the very attractive nose that also sports appealing notes of leather strop, tobacco and green pepper skin. This general profile continues on the palate, which has an Old World rusticity to it—with earth, black fruit, black licorice, spice and leather elements in play all the way through. This particular bottle comes across as younger and more tannic than a bottle drunk a few weeks later that was more aggressively decanted, but either way this is one that can be aged without any hesitancy.
2001 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape La Crau. One finds aromas of black cherries, red pixie stick powder, dark earth and pine sap/pine needles on the nose of this Chateauneuf du Pape. In the mouth, it has a nice lush texture, but no shortage at all of acidic twang or mineral crunch to go with the sweet core of cherry and raspberry fruit flavors. The tannins here are pretty well integrated already and the whole thing is tasty and engaging, though not quite as exciting as some other offerings in the tasting.
2004 Domaine Charvin Chateauneuf du Pape. The bouquet of this wine is pure and lifted, featuring pristine and airy notes of cherry and raspberry fruit supported underneath by garrigue, fresh flowers and soft leather aromas. In the mouth, it is bright and transparent, with earth, clay, mineral and pure strawberry and cherry flavors that are delicious and fresh. It ought to develop more complexity with time, but it is an uplifting drink that rewards early drinking handsomely. This was a real favorite.