Story by Norma Davidoff
Photos courtesy of Beaucastel Vineyards
Bulldogs Like to Drink Wine
I just attended an elegant dinner at the storied Yale Club in New York City. Flowing abundantly were wines of the Beaucastel Vineyard. Beaucastel is located at the famed Chateauneuf-du-Pape Appellation, which literally means “new house of the pope.“ These wines date back to the move of the papal seat to Avignon, some two thousand years ago. The priests needed wine for mass. So the vineyards, just twenty miles from Avignon in the Southern Rhone Valley, provided the wines for masses. Today Chateauneuf-du-Pape has great distinction in France and in the entire world for that matter.
We tried two whites and two of the more famous reds plus a dessert wine. Before we got to the Beaucastels, we drank a wine from Famille Perrin, owned by the Perrin family, the fifth generation to own Beaucastel. This Cotes du Rhone Reserve Blanc 2017 was light, somewhat sweet, and retails for $8.99. The wine went well with the amuse-bouche of caviar with sabayon foam. The sweetness of the marsala in the foam brought out the taste of the red onion and smoked sturgeon in the bouche. With it, amusingly enough, we were served the Yale Club’s famous popovers. Yalies don’t break with tradition, even at an affair this swish.
With the second white, Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, 2016, we had small bites of fresh tuna. The clean fresh taste of raw fish was accented with a tangy tomato cream, teeny crisp onion rings and the smallest bits of apple and olive. The wine grabbed our attention – complex with a bit of bite, yet smooth with a taste of apples. .There was a muskiness to it This white is $89.99, quite a radical range in price between the two whites.
Next up was our first red, Coudoulet de Beaucastel Cote du Rhone 2015, paired with braised beef cheek. Hidden under a square of dough, the meat was succulent and aromatic, like a superb beef stew. With it came delectable homemade pasta, mushrooms and Parmesan cheese.
This Cote du Rhone had a lovely after bite. We were told that 2015 was considered a fine wine year all around. Lucky us! Coudoulet de Beaucastel means the “Rocks of Beaucastel.” The rocks, covering the ground there, are 250,000 years old. The humidity under the rocks helps the wine keep its acidity.
While savoring braised beef cheek, we learned that in 1936 Chateauneuf- du-Pape was the very first wine appellation created in the world. Today there are many. Emmanuel Lemoine, U.S. Export Director for the vineyard, proudly told us that this wine, Coudelet de Beaucastel, a blend of several reds, ($25) is basically Chateaunueuf-du-Pape at less than a third of the price. M. Lemoine touted its sustainability.
Our next wine was also built to last a long time. It was the Big Kahuna, the star of the show: Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2011, full-bodied and smooth. With it we had filet mignon -- just one perfectly cooked round of intensely flavorful meat with potato gratin and a bit of chestnut and carrot. This Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a blend like the others of several types of red grapes, and, believe it or not, 5% white. These grapes, harvested earlier, bring a natural acidity to the final blend.
Our spokesperson said one could wait 20-30 years to drink this wine and it would still be good. Having spent three years aging in a barrel the wine had just the right acidity -- bright, fresh and lively. Lemoine explained that the acidity brings tension and a long lasting finish -- wonderful chemistry at $99 a bottle.
Servers were generous with their pours. As we drank, Lemoine told us that this particular vintage scored 99 points and that the entire lot has already sold out. Yet , he said there are plentiful alternative that they can sell around the world. At that point executive sous chef, Eddie Hong, took a bow to enthusiastic applause.
After those four exhilarating wines we went on to sample a fifth for our dessert of white chocolate mousse accompanied by a touch of fig, almonds and honey. The velvety mousse was embraced by a lattice of dark chocolate that gave it greater depth.
Our sweet dessert wine, Famille Perrin Muscat, hit just the right note -- lush and satisfying -- a great ending to a lovely evening. Maybe we were not near the Rhone, but we sure were some place special on a night of high spirits and legendary wines. Go bulldogs!
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