Just wrapped up Tavern's Larder Wine & Cheese Club which resumed again after a brief hiatus. We had a great turn-out and a really lovely group of guests. My belief in the west side's interest in wines beyond oaky chardonnay has been reinvigorated, thank the lord! I was beginning to get worried.
The entire room seemed to really enjoy the format of the evening as well as the pairings that we put together. I know I'm not alone when I say that my favorite wine of the night was the 2003 Château de Fonsalette Côtes du Rhône. It was a real stand-out, mainly because it is such a far cry from any other Southern Rhône wine. Fonsalette is made by the legendary Château Rayas, known for producing what is probably the most elegant Châteauneuf-du-Pape around. Rayas drinks much more like a Burgundy than anything else, which is probable why I like it so much. Somehow, Grenache from this estate becomes bright, high-toned, lean and elegant, a far cry from the dark, blueberry laden wines normally made in this region. I was immediately struck by its seductive aromas of eucalyptus, cranberry and game which carried over to a palate of smoky, roasted meats blended with kirsch. Throughout, the wine's acidity kept it bright, lean and racy. It was the perfect accompaniment to our roasted root vegetables and a Midnight Moon goat cheese from Cyrus Grove.
I love the stories of Jacques Reynaud, Rayas' winemaker who passed away in 1997. He was apparently quite a character and an incredibly private person who would go so far as to avoid his appointments by hiding in the ditches along his rutted driveway. I can just imagine this elegant man, lying in the dirt hoping that no one would see him, all the while trying to avoid being run over. Of course, I might do the very same thing if it meant that I got to keep all of that wine for myself!