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The Holy Grail

Visits to the wine caves and Chateaux of Beaucastel, Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Domaine Pegau and the town of Chateauneuf du Pape

The Holy Grail
Visits to the wine caves and Chateaux of Beaucastel, Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Domaine Pegau and the town of Chateauneuf du Pape

OK, if you are not a wine geek, stop reading and go count your money. You will have more than me after this week and this blog will bore you and make your eyes roll. If you are a wine geek, open your best bottle, light a candle and I'll teleport you to wine heaven. Also, if you are a wine geek, skip the next two paragraphs as you already know this preamble.
There are several areas in the world that wine lovers worship. Napa, Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Southern Rhone are probably at the top of most geeks list. Yes, Oregon is special and rising, but it just does not have the history, tradition and winemaking experience that the other great regions have earned through centuries of single family ownership. Since I can't afford the great first growth Bordeaux wines and I have yet to truly experience Burgundy (later this week), that leaves Napa and the Southern Rhone as my wines of choice. Of the wines of the Southern Rhone, Chateauneuf du Pape (CdP) is my ultimate love.
The town of CdP is small - maybe 4-5k population. There are 85 wineries and over 300 different vineyards. The CdP wine is a blend of mostly Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre grapes. The area produces other wines including more inexpensive Cotes du Rhones, but CdP is the king of wines in the Southern Rhone.
Cathy does not know this but if I had to pick one reason for coming to France, the last two days were it. I set up tasting and touring appointments at my three favorite CdP wineries - Beaucastel, Telegraphe and Pegau (the French pronounce it "Pih-goo"). In addition, I wandered around town stopping at several tasting rooms and especially enjoyed Chateau de Gardine, Oliver Hillario, and Clos du Papes tastings. There were also some cozy restaurants serving fine French cuisine, so I was a pretty happy guy in my own version of bliss.
My first visit was to The estate of Chateau Beaucastel - owned by the Perrin family. Raphael greeted me and immediately took us outside to see the soil and the vines - which were in their 3rd day of bud break. The pictures of the large stones tell all. I shared the tasting and tour with David - a young Israeli wine affectionado who was pretty much there for the same reasons I was. Raphael walked us around the outside of Chateau, told us about the family history and then took us into the caves to see (and smell) the large barrels. After a thorough tour of several barrel rooms, we went into the bottle storage cellars (lots of older, large format bottles, unlabeled, but separated into different rooms with a simple handwritten sign in each area. Raphael must have liked us. When we arrived at the tasting area - which consisted of 4 bottles and 3 glasses sitting unpretentiously on a single barrel - he excused himself and a few moments later came back with two more bottles - a '98 and a '01 CdP. He started by pouring a 2013 white that was 80% Roussanne. It blew my mind! I could have sat down with some cheese and crackers and drank the bottle right there. Then after a tasty Cote du Rhone, he started with the CdP's from youngest ('12', '10, '01 &'98). He poured large pours and tasted along with us. I followed his lead of spitting until I got to the '98 which I was not going to part with. At the end of the tour, we shook hands and parted - no sales room pitches - just a simple thank you for coming and sharing.
Notes:
2013 Beaucastel Blanc - rich, spicy, full mouth flavor, Honeysucle noted with very long finish. Superb quality! Loved this!
2012 CdP - Big wine, firm tannins, but plenty of fruit, nutty, a little gravely with a hint of orange peel.
2010 CdP - concentrated flavors of black cherry, powerful but very drinkable now.
2001 CdP - very soft, flavor hints of lavender, mushrooms and sweet cherries. Wonderful, open and lush.
1998 CdP - Full funk upon opening, flavors of pink bubblegum! Earthy and mature. One bottle would always be too small.

After a sandwich, a pastry and a short snooze back in the town of CdP, I headed south to Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe. Owned by the Brunier family, the winery is not in a rural setting as the town grew around it. I was greeted by Frederick who seemed like a jack of all trades around the winery. It was just the two of us and he warmed up immensely once I showed the pictures of both my cellar and my collection of older Telegraphe wines. We tasted both the Telegraphe "La Crau" CdP's as well as several other wines from wineries that Domaine Telegraphe had bought over the last several decades. They also produce a Telegramme a CdP wine that is made up of grapes from their younger vines. My notes are only for the 2012 & 2001 Telegraphe CdP.
2012 CdP - very easy to drink now, but this great vintage is built for 2020 and beyond. Berries and herbs
2001 CdP - A little pepper in strawberry jam with some browning on the edges, no funk yet. Perfect with Duck L'Orange.

The following day was my appointment was at Domaine du Pegau - owned by the Feraud family since the 17th century. Their production is quite small for such an iconic Chateau - only 6200 cases total - divided into 3 reds and 1 very small production white. The 3 reds are a Reservee, Laurence and Cuvée de Capo. I was greeted at the door by Didier. We shared a few "Enchante's" and then I again tastelessly pulled out my iPad and showed him my 12 bottle collection of Pegau wines from 2000-2012. Cutting to the chase, my wine buds will all want to know if there was a Cuvée de Capo on the tasting table.....For my friends in Corvallis - there is a bottle of the Pegau Cuvée de Capo in the locked glass case at Market of Choice. At $600+, it will be my first purchase - after I win the lottery! I was lucky enough to be standing outside with Didier when a Mercedes passed by the house and stooped. Out jumped Laurence Ferraud, who along with her father Paul is the co-owner and decision maker for many of the business decisions of the winery. She also has her name on the higher end Pegau "Laurence" CdP. We talked about Oregon wines and the CdP terroir. I was brash enough to ask Didier to take our picture together.
After she drove off, Didier took me to the caves and showed me the Pegau winemaking process. I was surprised to learn that Pegau never de-stems and also never uses new oak - often buying discarded 3-4 year old French oak barrels from other winemakers. After going upstairs, we tasted wines from their newer winery Chateau Pegau - which are mostly Cotes du Rhone as the vineyards are outside the legal boundaries of the official CdP territory. We also tasted an '08 and '12 Pegau CdP Reservee. I have both of these wines in my cellar, but was happy to preview both of them as I have not opened one yet. The '08 was lighter than many Pegau's I have enjoyed. It was very drinking easily with hints of strawberry. I won't cellar mine much longer as it seems just about at it's peak.
The '12 was the other end of the spectrum with huge tannins, long finish of beefy complex herbs. I hope I'm still alive when this one hits its stride.
Pics show screens around town, the tasting experiences and the terroir of this incredible area. Cross another off the bucket list.

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Posted by Catnchas 14:01 Archived in France Tagged and town wines cdp

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