Thursday, February 14, 2013

the winemakers of CHATEAUNEUF du PAPE pile into PLUME Restaurant (2/13/13)

Last night some twenty-odd folks were treated to a rare wine-tasting experience. It was a wonderful evening for wine as five vignerons (and of course close neighbors) from the tiny enclave of Chateauneuf du Pape presented their superb wines. I had not been to PLUME (in the Jefferson and was excited to be there for the first time as well.

I had the pleasure of being seated between one of the vintners and the gentleman who heads up the importing company in the USA for their wines. It was fun to switch back and forth between French and English and understand so much wonderful information being given to us about these wines, only two of which I knew beforehand.

We sat down to a simple amuse-size Garlic & Sunchoke Veloute which was nice, but would win no awards. The Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils 2011 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc was superb, if served a bit too cold. As it warmed up the flavors opened up and popped out big time, as they should for a wine that retails at way over $50 a bottle. The wine was presented by owner/couple Thierry & Sandrine Usseglio(seated across from me), whose family hail from Piemonte and moved to France about three generations ago before WWII.

The highlight of the meal was the MUSSEL GRATIN with crisp fresh fennel shavings, Chorizo & Mussel Glacage.

I could not get enough of he divine sauce and the bread was all gone when I finished mopping it up. Domaine J.P. Lafond-Roc Epine Tavel Rose 2011 was a nice pairing, but again quite cold, especially for a cold wet night. Pascal Lafond himself (two seats away from me) explained that the wine is a blending of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. It is unquestionably one of the best Rose wines from the area and indeed France.

Roasted Stuffed QUAIL was a plate of two birds with Chestnut & Foie Gras Stuffing, Spiced Red Wine Jus and Wilted Seasonal Greens (Chard and others). This was indeed another wonderful dish and would have been perfect with just a bit more of the jus! We received two red Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines with this: First was Le Vieux Donjon 2007 presented by Francois Michel and is a blend of Grenache,Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault. The wine had been open for a while (these two were poured from magnums) and it was still a bit tight. It opened up later as I saved a bit for the end of the meal, but it was not as fine and smooth a drinkas the Chateau Fortia "Cuvee du Baron" 2007 served by Pierre Pastre next to me. His Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre blend was easily the best wine we drank last night. I have already ordered some!

A selection of cheese arrived billed as "Rhone Cheese Selection" which may have been a poor move by the folks at Plume. The St. Nectaire, always one of my favorites, was not ripe enough, as can often be the case with imported French cheeses. The Tomme de Savoie was nice, but not intense enough for the two big red wines paired with the course (and it is not from the Rhone). I think if they had chosen a Grayson from Virginia it would have offered that intensity of pairing with the two huge Chateauneuf-du-Pape reds: Cuvee du Vatican 2010 introduced by vingeron Jean-Marc Diffonty and the superb but expensive ($140 per bottle--NOT a magnum) Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils 2010 "Cuve de Mon Aieul" from Thierry and Sandrine again made from 100% old vine (75-100 years old) Grenache.

Dessert was a sad event for me in the form of a dish called Apple "Matefaim" with Salted Caramel Sauce (this was superb) and Whipped Creme Fraiche. I asked several of the vignerons what "Matefaim" was and after checking around, we discerned it was a rare name that derives from an old word "mate" meaning "kill." the "faim" of course means hunger...hence this dessert "kills the hunger." The French pastry chef at Plume gave us a small unexciting pastry topped with some diced apples and not much more.

So, if you go to Plume, you know which of these wines to order and to stay away from the Matefaim, but order Mussels and Quail!