About this Blog

The blog focuses on the essence of wine and food, not how many points or stars it receives. The opinions are mine and should be taken only as that, an opinion not gospel.

Like many collectors, initially I was very much influenced by wine ratings. I purchased wines based on points, even if I had never tasted the wine. And it was much worse than that. I would drink a wine with a high rating, not like it, yet since it was highly rated I’d rationalize that I did not yet appreciate the wine, or that my palate was not sophisticated enough to understand the wine. How’s that for lunacy? As a result my cellar grew in all directions while my palate narrowed. By the time I realized the style of wine that I enjoyed, my cellar abounded with wines whose styles I did not enjoy. All of these wines were very highly rated, just not my cup of tea, or glass of wine to be more accurate. Fortunately I was able to sell many of these wines to those who either enjoyed them or wanted highly rated wines. Don’t misunderstand, I am not against wines with high ratings, in fact I own many. It is just that I now purchase wines based on the producer, the style and my palate, not the rating. Nor do I shun reading reviews. I very much respect Antonio Galloni, Alan Meadows, Eric Asimov and John Gilman and read their reviews routinely. I pay attention to what they write, not the points they award.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Isabel Ferrando Dinner

If the late Henri Bonneau of Domaine Bonneau and Emmanuel Reynaud of Chateau Rayas are the kings of Chateauneuf du Pape, then I would like to nominate Isabel Ferrando, of the joint domains Saint Prefert and Domaine Ferrando, as the queen of the appellation.  I had the good fortune to attend a tasting of her Chateauneuf du Pape whites and reds last night at Tribecca Grill in NYC.  The event was put together and hosted by Tribecca Grill wine director, David Gordon. David is also a VP at David Bowler Wine, the importer of Ferrando wines.  The Tribecca Grill is one of the signature restaurants of restaurateur David Nieporent and Robert De Niro.  David Gordon has a fondness for Châteauneuf du Pape and the restaurant’s excellent wine list contains almost two dozen different Châteauneuf producers.  The food is also quite good.  Tonight we enjoyed:

Passed hor’doeuvres

Einkorn Cavatelli
Rabbit Rgout, Orange, Tarragon

Braised Short Rib 
Shaved Celery, Horseradish, Arugula, Sauce Meurette

Selection of Rhone-Alpes Cheese
Tomme de Savoie, Beaufort d’Eté, Fromager d’Affinois

Nougat Glace
Crepe Dentelle

My experience with the wines of Isabel Ferrando is limited to a few bottles of 2005 Colombis CdP that I had a number of years ago (and liked).  She was mentored by her neighbor, the late Henri Bonneau, and has learned very well from this master.  Her first vintage was in 2003.  Her wines exhibit the purity, balance roundness and elegance one usually finds in traditionally made wines. She uses whole cluster fermentation in all of her wines, mostly old wood barrels and bottles her wines without filtration.  Perhaps the best news is that her wines retail in the $40 to $75 range compared to the $300 plus range one must pay to drink Bonneau or Rayas.

We began the evening with her 2016 Saint Prefert Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc Traditional.  Poured from magnum, this was a young, fresh and utterly delicious blend of 80% Clairette and 20% Roussane. The wine spends 6 months in barrel of which 1/3 is new wood before being bottled without filtration.

This was followed by the 2012, 2014 and 2015 Saint Prefert Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc “Vieilles Clairettes”.  Bottled only in magnums they are made from 100% Clairettes (80-100 year old vines) from the Quartier des Serres to the south of the village of Châteauneuf du Pape, renowned for being one of the most sun-drenched in the appellation.  Fermentation is in wood, 50% new and then aged for 2 years before being bottled without filtration.  All three wines drank beautifully and should add depth with a few years of cellar age.  The 2015 however stole my heart.  It was delicious with great pedigree.  A monster in the making.  While the new oak was evident at this early age, I would guess it will be very well integrated in a few years.  A wine with soul!  Producer M. Chapoutier says of the (2015) vintage, "...great and exceptional vintage that is destined to become legendary."

Our first flight of the reds were from the 2014 vintage, a vintage that produced fruit forward wines that are for the most part medium-bodied with a soft and elegant texture.

2014 Isabel Ferrando Chateauneuf du Pape “Colombis”.  100% Grenache, aged in 100% large, aged wooden casks.  A delightful wine that fits neatly into the vintage description.  My CdP preference has always been toward those wines made with 100% Grenache, as I enjoy the hint of pepper and spice on the palate Grenache usually offers up.  This was no exception.

2014 Saint Prefert Chateauneuf du Pape “Auguste Favier”.  A blend of 82% Grenache and 10% Cincault, 8% Syrah that is aged for 18 months, 50% in concrete and 50% in aged wood.  A medium-bodied CdP, it drank beautifully with a pure and silky mouth feel and elegant finish.

2014 Saint. Prefert Chateauneuf du Pape “Charles Giraud”.  A blend of 60% Grenache (80 year old vines) and 35% Mourvedre (60 year old vines) and 5% Syrah (65 year old vines).  Like the Favier, the wine was medium-bodied with bright acidity for aging.  The wine displayed a soft, textured palate and a lengthy and peppery finish.

Our second flight of the reds were from the 2010 vintage, and was my flight of the night.  Josh Reynolds of Vinous says "an exceptional, ageworthy vintage, with many producers making their best wines in years, or even decades. Tannin levels tend toward the high side so patience is advised."  I found them to be full-bodied opulent wines with great aging potential.

2010 Isabel Ferrando Chateauneuf du Pape “Colombis”.  100% Grenache, this was simply gorgeous.  The wine begins with a rich bouquet of spicy and pure Grenache fruit and then coats a balanced palate with richness and elegance.

2010 Saint. Prefert Chateauneuf du Pape “Auguste Favier”. 85% Grenache and 15% Cincault. A full bodied, lush wine that exhibits velvet tannins and excellent length.  This should drink well for years to come.

2010 Saint Prefert Chateauneuf du Pape “Charles Giraud”.  60% Grenache and 40% Mourvedre. Another superb wine, with lively fruit, depth, balance and elegance.

The final flight of the reds were from the 2005 and 2007 vintages.  

2007 Isabel Ferrando Chateauneuf du Pape “Colombis”.  100% Grenache.  2007 was an extremely hot vintage that yielded very ripe wines. Tonight’s wine was full-bodied and had a deep ruby red hue with a slightly sweet palate.  While the tannins were silky and the palate was nicely balanced, the sweetness, in my opinion, detracted from the wine.

2007 Saint Prefert Chateauneuf du Pape “Auguste Favier”. 85% Grenache and 15% Cincault. While not as sweet as the Colombis, this was a big, California like wine.  More power than elegance here.

2005 Saint Prefert Chateauneuf du Pape “Auguste Favier”.  A blend of 60% Grenache, 35% Mourvedre and 5% Syrah.  2005 was another terrific year for the Rhone. The vintage was shaped by warm, sunny dry days and cool to cold nights and a long growing season which helped to produce rich, ripe, concentrated wines. Tonight’s wine had depth, balance and vibrant acidity to enable it to age and evolve gracefully over time.

My apologies for the somewaht blurred photo. 

To complete the evening, Isabella treated us to NV Saint Prefert Vieux Marc Chateauneuf du Pape Brandy.  Similar to Grappa, it possessed a gorgeous golden hue and it is made from all the grapes (I assume from the must) from her vineyards.  As a huge Grappa fan, and I really enjoyed this.

It was a wonderful evening.  Isabella did a great job in articulating her philosophy and describing here wines.  Color me a fan.

By the way, I am told that the art you see behind us was all done by Robert DeNiro's father.