“Nous saluons le retour” or as we say it in English, “Welcome Back.”
Funny thing that I seem to be drawn back to French wines these days time and time again. I’m really not thinking: “Gee, I have to do ANOTHER French wine.” No, it’s more like I just seem to run into them a little more, especially when you consider some of the great vintages they have had in recent years. Not surprising, at least to me, is that the wines hail from areas that have always been a fan of mine. We’re talking Burgundy, Alsace, Rhone Valley and my fav, Champagne.
Which makes me think, I need to do a Champagne tasting soon so rather than just talk about one specific Champagne, I can include a host of them. A quick check of my calendar, as my memory is not as impervious as my computer, I see that, in fact, I do have a tasting coming up soon. So be prepared!
What brings me back to France this time? While I have talked about the Outstanding 2015 and 2016 Vintages in the Rhone Valley, I haven’t yet done any specific reviews on any of the wines. That all has changed.
Given the overwhelming reviews of the region, it is no surprise that I have already acquired a couple of exceptional wines for the cellar. Wanting to do a review on at least one or two Rhone wines led me to a wine shop that recently opened in my area. Nice little place and in attending their Grand Opening, I found their selection of wines very interesting. Like most shops you had only to look at a shelf or two to see that they carry some of the old standbys that just about any shop or restaurant has to have. I also saw a couple of winery names that, while not of the everyday sort, were recognizable to me. Lastly, there were a bunch of wines I had never seen or heard of.
Following up with the manager (Aleah) a few days later, when I went in and claimed a $10 Gift Certificate I had won at the Grand Opening, we discussed the selection of wines the shop carried. She explained that most of the wines carried by this wine shop came from smaller wineries with less exposure but no less in terms of quality. I totally understood where they were coming from. While at the wine shop I worked at in Hinsdale, I would carry a number of wines with excellent pedigrees but whose names wouldn’t register with most wine drinkers. Reputations and the quality of the wine will go a long way in determining their future.
So I digress. While at the Grand Opening I started looking through most of their wines. Cell phone with all my wine apps in hand, I was able to check on a few interesting specimens (that sounds like I’m working in a lab) (note to self, consider using ANYTHING but the word specimens). Focusing on vintages rather than specific wines, mostly due to the fact very few wines even had reviews, I came across a selection of wines from the Rhone Valley, more precisely, the Southern Rhone and the area of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Even better, a number were from the fabulous 2015 Vintage.
A couple wines caught my eye and with a flip of my wrist, out comes the cell phone and with my slightly chubby fingers (that’s ONLY my fingers, I’m not chubby) I type in a couple wines to see if they’ve been reviewed. As luck would have it, one did, and it was a stunner! 93 Points from Wine Spectator with a review declaring: “Ripe, juicy and focused, with a solid core of raspberry puree, cassis and crushed plum flavors still youthfully coiled up, while bright violet, iron and alder notes stream through as well. Has length, cut and grip, and should unwind nicely in the cellar.” The first four words had me hooked. Before leaving the Grand Opening, I grab a bottle and pay the $40 they’re asking (it may seem like a lot, but for a CdP and great review, it’s very doable). The wine:
Châteauneuf-du-Pape Manus Dei de Sixtine 2015
The wine made it home and lingered only a short time in my cellar. This was a wine that had to accompany the right meal. That special cuisine came when the local Whole Foods had a sale on Pork Tenderloin. I know I’ve probably said before how much I love Pork with Syrah and Grenache based wines, more than ever when they have just that right amount of earthiness, “bingo,” the Rhone Valley.
One dilemma, these were not small tenderloins. I ended up with one weighing in at a hefty one and a half pounds! While I like Pork Tenderloin, that means I’m eating it three days in a row! Then the light bulb goes off over my head. Actually, it was a light fixture in my kitchen and it did burn out. But what occurred to me; this is the perfect time to bring out the good ole Coravin Unit. Not sure I can get three days out of the wine if it’s that good, but if that calls for opening another bottle of something, I think I can manage.
I don’t usually do too much in the way of any special preparations for pork. A quick sear, into the oven for 15 minutes and a short rest period, done. My go-to veggies will be mashed potatoes and broccoli. My only idea for mixing it up was the addition of a Horseradish Cream Sauce. In hindsight, maybe not the best choice, but what the heck, I have two more days to try something different.
Before I get my mise en place together, I wanted to give the wine a little time to breathe before dinner. Coravin in hand, a refresher in my head as to the PROPER way to use the device and away we go! A good healthy pour as I don’t want to have to revisit the wine and not get the benefit of aeration. Thankfully no one was around because it wasn’t a small wine glass and the amount of the fill was WAY ABOVE what any wine drinker might see as “normal.”
Dinner assembled and on the table, my relatively full glass of wine at the ready and it’s now the moment of truth. Will Wine Spectator come through for me? Will the Rhone Valley come through also? Lastly, will Mother Nature have the expected influence on the wine?
If that is a rousing review, I don’t know what is. Honestly (and am I anything but) the wine was gorgeous. As Spectator noted the fruit, both in aroma and palate, were beautiful. Nicely balanced with only a moderate use of oak allowing for the dark rich fruit flavors to show through. Everyone did their job and did it magnificently.
While not perfect, the Horseradish Cream Sauce really didn’t mess things up. The dinner made only better by the wine.
So far so good as it relates to the Rhone Valley for 2015. I’m sure that future “Wine of the Week” posts will explore more of this region and the exceptional wines being produced.
Jusqu'à ce que nous nous revoyions