At our monthly wine group dinner a couple of weeks ago Howard brought along 5 CdPs with some age on them to pair with the exquisite cuisine at Culin Ariane in Montclair. Both Howard and Ariane brought huge smiles to our faces with the wine and the food.
2003 Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reserve. A good choice to begin the evening with, the wine had a pleasant earthy bouquet with a nice clean, peppery balanced palate. A blend of mostly Grenache (80%) the estate follows traditional wine making methods and consistently produces age worthy wines. $65. Wine Searcher.
1998 Henri Bonneau Cuvée Marie Beurrier Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Many people, myself included, feel that along with Chateau Rayas, the estate of Henri Bonneau makes the finest Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the world. This is old world winemaking to the nth degree. All his wines are made of 90% Grenache, with the balance being Mourvèdre, Syrah, Counoise and Vaccarese. Not one barrel of what he produces will see the inside of a bottle before its fifth birthday. It will then be sold under one of three names – “Celestin”, “Marie Burrier”, or just plain “Châteauneuf-du-Pape”. “Which name?” is a question he often struggles for the entire five years, sometimes longer. This bottle, the Cuvée Marie is his 2nd level Chateauneuf-du-Pape and is thus the juice from the vintage that does not meet his standards for his flagship Cuvée des Celestains. In my opinion, with the exception of Rayas, it is better than the flagship bottlings of other CdP producers. This bottle was gorgeous. The bouquet intoxicated the nose and the palate savored the balance and complexity of the fruit. While this was bottle number two of the night, I nursed this wine throughout the dinner and revelled as it just kept evolving with each sip. Production of these wines is small, so finding them is difficult. About $200.
1998 Domaine de la Mordoree Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee de la Reine des Bois. Made mostly from Grenache (80%) with Mouvedre, Syrah, Counoise and Vaccarese making up the rest of the blend, this drank beautifully with glorious fruit and a light peppery palate. It finished with finesse and elegance. The average age of the vines here is 60 years old. $225. Wine Searcher.
1989 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape. From the great 1989 vintage this is a wine I have enjoyed on many occasions in past years. Tonight’s bottle however, never seemed to open up. While it was pleasant enough to drink, the fruit was muted as opposed to its usual vibrancy and the finish was the shortest of the 5 bottles we drank. $200. New York Wine Warehouse.
2001 Henri Bonneau Cuvée des Celestains. I remember reading on a website a while back, “ …if the question is posed as to what is the quintessential Châteauneuf du Pape at the highest quality level, the answer can only be Henri Bonneau’s Réserve des Célestins.” You will get no argument from me on this. I have had the 2001 on many occasions and have been completely blown away by it as I was again tonight. It is simply one of the greatest wines I have ever had. The wine has such a sense of grace, poise and finesse that there is little more to say other than it is round and delicious. Truly a wine with soul! Difficult to find and pricey, but worth every cent. New York Wine Warehouse.
My ranking of the wines this evening:
2001 Henri Bonneau Cuvée des Celestains
1998 Henri Bonneau Cuvée Marie Beurrier Chateauneuf-du-Pape
1998 Domaine de la Mordoree Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee de la Reine des Bois
2006 Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reserve
1989 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape
As I have had the oysters hundred’s of times, I opted tonight for the salad special of the evening that included Tempura Battered Rock Shrimp. Here again textures and flavors rang in harmony like the words and music of Cole Porter song. I think that harmony on the plate is what makes Ariane such an extraordinary chef.
Seared Filet of Beef with Caramelized Onions and Jalapeño Cheddar Tater Tots, Spinach and Veal Jus (sorry photo blurred) was the entrée choice for 4 of us. What can I say that I have not said above? Delicious and a perfect match to the wines.
Coriander Cured Venison with Butternut Squash, King Oyster Mushroom Cranberry Compote and Black Garlic Butter was the other selection and received rave reviews from Howard.
In addition to the superb cuisine and A+++ service, Ariane’s husband Michael provides wine service par excellence. For a BYOB restaurant the stemware, decanters and overall wine service far surpasses many restaurants with wine lists. Thus it is no mystery why are group dines here frequently.