Last Wine in DC: 2006 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe “La Crau” Châteauneuf-du-Pape

10 May

Hello from Bittersweet in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.  That’s an apt name given the subject of this post.  After nearly four years in DC and Virginia, I have decided to move to New York to try and pursue professional and creative opportunities.  Some of those opportunities are in the legal industry; others are in the wine industry.

I’ve been in New York for about nine days now.  I’m already writing a wine column for a local Brooklyn neighborhood blog, and I’ve surveyed the local cafes, bars, and restaurants.  There is so much hustle and bustle here.  I never thought I’d say this, but I miss Virginia with its clean streets, quiet neighborhoods, and familiar haunts.  But there is an energy here that I love, something in the atmosphere that not only inspires people, but makes people receptive to new ideas no matter how crazy.

I had a wonderful wine dinner with friends at Founding Farmers the Friday before I left DC.  We had a number of good bottles, including the 2009 Stangeland Pinot Gris2008 Stangeland “Miller’s Vineyard” Pinot Noir2008 Margerum “ÜBER” Syrah, and the 2008 Domaine de la Fontainerie “Coteau la Fontainerie” Vouvray Doux.  The Stangeland Pinot Gris was fruity and tasted sweet, prompting one of the guests to say that this was not a “Joon wine” (I like sweet/fruity wines!).  The Pinot Noir was my favorite of the evening, with nice red fruits and a savory aspect.  I had tasted this wine previously, and it showed even better during the dinner.  The Syrah was good but did not show as well as it had previously, and the Vouvray was super sweet but had great elegance, structure, and weight.

For my last bottle of wine, however, I wanted something special.  Mary Kate and I were having Thai delivery for dinner, and I would never recommend this pairing to anyone, but I had one more nice bottle squirreled away that needed to be drunk: the 2006 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe “La Crau” Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

This is a storied wine from the storied region of Châteauneuf-du-Pape (“New House of the Pope”, in memory of when the Papacy moved to nearby Avignon), a Southerly region of France that is known for its gnarled old vines and distinctive cover of smooth round pebbles called galets.  The galets serve as insulation, reflecting sunlight and heat so the vines do not get too hot, but also trapping heat so the vines do not get too cold.  The combination of old vines and minerals from the galets produce wines that can only be said to possess soul: they have great depth, are tremendously expressive, and have layer upon layer of flavor and aroma.

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe is one of the top producers in the region.  Owned by the famed Brunier family, the specific “La Crau” vineyard has been under cultivation since 1898 and is planted with Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Cinsault, and Clairette.  It is reputed to be the best vineyard in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and the bottle we opened supported that statement.

My God.  This had to be one of my top five wines, ever.  The nose was utterly entrancing, with lavender, herbs, and dark fruits.  It basically tasted exactly how I want every one of my wines to taste, ever, just plum and other dark red fruits, spice, leather, earth, minerals… The best thing about this wine, however, was just how integrated everything was.  All of the flavors blended into each other seamlessly.  Mary Kate equated this to shifting in a sports car versus, say, a beat-up Toyota CR-V.  The finish lasted minutes.  Even with Thai food, this wine more than held its own and, in fact, did not overpower the Thai, either.  Of all the bottles that could have been my last in DC, this was perfect.

I would highly recommend this wine.  If you don’t feel like shelling out $60 or $70 for a bottle, however, the Brunier family makes the very excellent Domaine la Roquète, also a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and the Le Pigeoulet en Provence, an outstanding Vin de Pays made from much of the same type of grapes.

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