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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Tribeca Chateauneuf Haven

For any Rhone fan that plans to spend any amount of time in the Big Apple, they owe it to themselves to make a trip downtown to visit Robert DiNero’s (a Myriad Restaurant group project) Tribeca Grill. A bastion for lovers of everything Rhone, especially Chateauneuf du Pape (Tribeca cellars the largest selection of the world), where verticals can be found from Rayas, Marcoux, Mordoree, Clos des Papes, Janasse, Henri Bonneau and of course, Pegau. Not only is their assortment exhaustive, their prices are staggeringly competitive (at times, strangely close to retail). If one needed another impetus to indulge on a Southern Rhone elixir, the grilled Long Island duck, Black Trumpet crusted lamb, dry-aged beef painted with chanterelles and Berkshire pork chop interpretations certainly would help get those juices flowing!

The selection by the glass is typically paltry, but as luck would have it, I stumbled on a Matetic sauvignon blanc. If anyone is not familiar w/ this Chilean producer, they are a rising star of the Southern Hemisphere. While they specialize in syrah bottlings, their pinot noir has to be the most successful expression of the grape in Chile to date, and just about anything in their portfolio is treated w/ kit gloves and worthy of purchasing. The 2006 sauvignon had Sancerre sensibilities in the nose, w/ the gushing generosity of a Californian version in the palate. Pure straw, lilac and bailed hay scents gave way to a rich, quince and passion fruit medley in the mouth that was kissed by a perfect push of cleansing acids. The persistence of this wine simply wouldn’t quit. When I taste examples of varying varietals in Chile that get it right (a Casa Marin Gewurztraminer comes to mind as well), I realize what a cornucopia of potential lies in this country (most of which is completely untapped). 91 points. This was followed by a regretful half bottle of Garretson’s Saothar, 2005 viognier. Certainly overdone and nearly exhibiting an aged shade of amber in color, this wine was full of over-ripe bananas, brandy soaked apricots, canned peaches and artificial bubble gum flavors. Syrupy, but w/ enough acidity to keep it honest, the wine was certainly not a dumper, but was by no means memorable. Another example of ‘over-experimentation’ in Paso Robles that I hope disappears in the next couple years. 83 points (my wife hated it so much that she remembered to complain about it this morning...very unlike her!).

Now for the main event. Considering that I have personally eradicated the restaurants selection of Alban’s 2001 Grenache (it was selling for a measly 51 dollars), it was time to move onto my beloved Chateauneuf. I have had just about every vintage of Pegau available in this modern, Tribeca establishment, but had yet to dive into the 2001. This particular vintage is darker in color than most Grenache-based wines, rivaling the 2003 for its color saturation. With exposure to air, haunting notes of lavender, sage, tobacco, cedar box and damp earth emerge from the glass. Remarkably complex flavors strike a different chord than most Southern Rhones, showing plumb sauce and black currant notes (over the kirsch and fig fruit images that lot of Chateauneuf based Grenache conjures). While this effort is undoubtedly structured, the tannins have incorporated themselves admirably into the body of the wine (unlike the 2003) and this baby is drinking beautifully now. It has miles to go before it sleeps (I’d assume 2 decades) but it is by no means infanticide to jump into one today to admire its dazzling arrays of complexity. Another profound winner from the Ferauds! 96 points.

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