Union Square Wine’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape Tasting

11. February 2008 Ingredient + Produce Features 3

Feeling a lit bit under the weather, I’ve asked Cameron to guest-blog about the wine tasting we attended at Union Square Wines in New York City. Thanks, Cameron! The Chateaneuf-Du-Program:

Le Vieux Donjon 2003
Clos des Papes 2004 from Magnum
Domaine du Grand Tinel 2005 Cuvee Alexis Establet
Clos Saint Jean 2005 Cuvee Vieilles Vignes
Domaine Charvin 2005
Domaine du Pegau 2005 Cuvee Reservee
Chateau de Beaucastel 2005
Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe 2005
Domaine de Beaurenard 2005 Cuvee Boisrenard

I arrived at Union Square Wines to meet Cia on an unexpectedly chilly January night, ready to warm up with some nice reds in their Pape Stars Part One: The Golden Age of Chateauneuf-du-Pape: The Golden Age of Chateauneuf-du-Pape tasting. I’d been willing to overlook their puzzling use of italics in the event description, as my knowledge of these wines was pretty much limited to the pronunciation of the region’s name. A small crowd had assembled in the middle of the store by the time I joined Cia, and it was only a short wait before they welcomed us into the back tasting room of the store.

The first thing I noticed upon entering was the delicate placement of no less than 32 glasses of wine on each small round table. You know that person whose presence at a table guarantees that it’s only a matter of time before something gets knocked over, spilled, or broken? That’s me. I took my seat with trepidation, trying not to touch anything, as the tasting commenced.

The first ten minutes were filled by Wine Director Jesse Salazar’s effusive introduction of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the current darling of oenophiles everywhere, and even more effusive introduction of special guest host Adrian Chalk, clearly a darling of the New York wine scene. Turns out it was well-deserved; Adrian’s knowledgeable and eloquent presentation of the C-d-P region and the particulars of each of its wines made the tasting worthwhile.

I’ve always loved Grenache (and my familiarity with it has come a long way since I first ordered a glass of “Gre-nach-ay” at The Room a few years ago), but I had no idea that Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines are characterized by the presence of its luscious, bold grape. Predictably, my favorites were the heaviest on Grenache–a pure-Grenache Domaine du Grand Tinel 2005 Cuvee Alexis Establet was the only red Cia and I ended up taking home at the end of the evening.

As far as the actual tasting went, we had fun laughing (especially as the night bore on) at our appraisals: I would detect strawberries at the exact same moment that Cia would exclaim that the same wine tasted like leather. Our tasting companions seemed to have the lingo down, citing things like “tannic euphoria” and “fennel on the nose.” This also became increasingly hilarious as the night bore on.

Of course, the problem with wine tastings, as anyone who has ever enjoyed a tasting menu with wine pairings can attest, is that by the time you get to the good stuff (the main courses and dessert, or in this case, the really expensive wines), you’re just drunk. The last few wines came with florid descriptions and price points to match, but all we could say was that they tasted like wine. By that point, we were also near hysterical about the absence of the promised spread of Murray’s cheeses. We did get our cheese (and meat and bread) in the end, but we were no closer to getting what was so great about these expensive bottles. All the better for spending that $50 wine voucher that came with the price of admission wisely, I suppose.

I liked this tasting not only for Adrian Chalk’s excellent presentation, but also for the discovery that all these wines from the same region really do taste different in ways both simple and complex. I loved hearing about how the tastes were affected by things like a rocky landscape in which sunlight reflected off the stone, creating intense heat. I was intrigued to hear how these sophisticated wines are born of a hellish landscape (the conditions are so hot and inhospitable, the soil so hardened with clay and rock, that Caterpillar tests their machinery here). I was excited to taste a white Chateauneuf-du-Pape on top of all those better-known reds; it turned out to be one of my favorites.

And all night, even after ten wines and several trips to the cheese plate, I didn’t spill a drop.

Related purveyor/s:
Check out Union Square Wines’ calendar of events

3 thoughts on “Union Square Wine’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape Tasting”

  • 1
    Jesse on February 25, 2008

    Good stuff, I’m glad you enjoyed the tasting. You should check out the wines of Gigondas and Calatayud as well if you love Grenache. Best regards – Jesse Salazar, USQ

  • 2
    Intrepid Eater on October 25, 2009

    Jesse Salazar and Adrian Chalk and not only knowledgeable and respected professionals, they are obviously patient and tolerant fellows, because this posting contains some of the most idiotic, uninformed writing — and I use the term loosely — I’ve ever seen on this or any other wine related topic.

    If you didn’t even know Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a grenache-based wine (Gre-nach-ay, indeed. Whatever the hell that’s supposed to be), what exactly qualifies you to write and post this piece, other than the fact that you were born with a mouth to pour the wine into and bought a computer on which to type this nonsense? If you’re even semi-serious about a tasting, ten minutes of preparatory research would have gone way toward credibility.
    “Of course, the problem with wine tastings,” you state, “as anyone who has ever enjoyed a tasting menu with wine pairings can attest, is that by the time you get to the good stuff (the main courses and dessert, or in this case, the really expensive wines), you’re just drunk. ” Ever hear of a spit bucket? I know Jesse keeps at least one around. How can you report on what these wines taste like if you’re swallowing every sample? That’s drinking, not tasting. Perhaps it’s inappropriate to be spitting at a dinner gathering, but only a total hack wouldn’t make arrangements to taste — as in spitting and tasting notes — a few minutes before the event. That’s what professionals like Adrian and Jesse do when they’re setting up a tasting like this, and I’m sure they would have been happy to have you join them if you told them you wanted to write a proper report on the wines. But how would you know that? This is clearly subject matter with which you are completely unfamiliar.
    If this was a site about social events and such, perhaps this posting would have been sufficient. But for a blog with pretensions of real wine and food writing, this is truly an incompetent, silly piece.
    I guess it’s true what they say about so much of the tripe posted on many blogs — anyone with an internet connection and two fingers can claim to be offering real information and informed opinion.

  • 3
    cia on October 29, 2009

    lgleventhal@gmail.com aka Intrepid Eater — read how obnoxious you sound after you’ve used your internet connection and two fingers to comment on my site!

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