Chateauneuf du Pape: Be sure to read labels carefully

December 18, 2017

Here are some Chanukah facts of which few are aware. Initially the Menorah (a candelabra with eight holders for my gentile friends) was originally placed outside to the left of your doorway as you enter, because the Mezuzah (a case containing a piece of parchment called a klaf, inscribed with specific Hebrew verses from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21), is placed by decree on the right side. With the mezuzah on one side and the menorah on the other, you are literally surrounded by holiness. If you wish to learn more, go to this page

Happy Chanukah! 

Regarding Chateauneuf du Pape, the palates I trust most are Jancis Robinson, Stephen Tanzer and my own. Just opened Domaine La Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Tradition 2012 that JR rated 18 (that's 102 Parker and 94 Tanzer). WS would write "wonderful, but we prefer the 2007 Cuvee'XXL" ( Of course you would!) Unfortunately, the XXL goes for $453/bottle and it only rated 93 points. In my plebian world that's not worth the candle. After a bit of searching, I located two cases of 2012 in NYC at $50/bottle and free shipping. As an added fillip, I opted for the 2012 over the 2010 which many critics claimed superior. They were decidedly wrong in my opinion. The 2012 is just entering its window and will improve at least seven to eight years, and cellar through at least 2030. The "10" is already peaked. Right now I'm recommending the Janasse CdP Cuvee Ville Vignes, 2013, $99, 94 McD points. Best since 2009, and better than 2007 which finishes alcoholic hot. "13" is still dark purple colored with plums, blackberries some licorice and herbal bouquet. On the full-bodied palate more plums, some black tea and ripe fruit supported by sweet tannins and gravel minerality.

At the end of a pleasing finish I detected a pretty chocolaty ganache. Janasse makes several CdP Cuvees in most years, so be sure to read the labels carefully. They are unequal in any vintage year. Goes great with pork, lamb or beef roast and compliments plum pudding or chocolate/spice yule roll. 

2015 Moulin a Vent is at least as wonderful as the stellar 2009. 2009 is past its drinking window now. There are 10 cru Beaujolais: Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleury, Juliénas, Morgon (Domaine Jean Foillard Cote de Py ), Moulin-à-Vent (Albert Bichot, Rochegres), Régnié ( Maison des Bulliat Vielles Vignes) and St. Amour by name. If you can't locate the recommendations you can always fall back to Louis Jadot and other shippers. These folks are reinventing Cru Beaujolais into prize wine. Follow the money, Hunnys.

Relatively speaking, these are fairly inexpensive, in the low to mid $20s. Buy four 2014 or 2015 from different producers and have a tasting party. A judicious two ounce serving will allow enough for 12 people. Please serve the hors d'oeuvre cheese and crackers after you evaluated the wine. 

Sampled a Quinta do Portal Colheita Tinto 2014 from R/West. So, Colheita (pronounced Col-yate-a) are single vintage-dated Tawny Port, juice from one harvest, aged in small used oak barrels. Wiki, "In Portuguese the word 'Colheita' actually means 'harvest,' and can be construed therefore, to mean vintage as well." I have been following this Quinta for several years. Recent information shows cases being sold in New Jersey from $155-170/case for the "14s." Compares favorably to the 2003. Another Portuguesa in this category is Cartuxa Colheita Tinto Alentejo. I sampled the 2013, first time for this label. 89 McD under $20. Both wines are a bit tannic but color, fruit and acidity says, "please give me a few years to mature." If you wish to go upscale, look for Quinto do Portal Grande Reserve 2014; gets 91 points under $48. Those who wish to explore Portuguese, other than Port, should note that the winemakers, generally speaking, are adept at blending product to replicate profiles. After all, they are notorious for Tawny Port. Unlike nearly every other production region, the Portuguese will not declare a vintage port if the juice isn't stellar. It is this rigid adherence to quality, plus the extensive experience with blending that drives production of Colheita.

Be careful; the label reads "Tinto" when buying. Many producers make white wine that has a very similar label.