I celebrated my birthday at my sister Roberta’s home where her husband, Jack, grilled some delicious Porterhouse steaks served with huge baked potatoes and Harvard beets. For the wine, I pulled out my oldest bottle of Châteauneuf du Pape, a 2001 from Domaine de la Solitude. I found a very interesting blog with a recent post about this producer. The author, Christian Schiller, notes that for many years, the appellation received little notice until Robert Parker “fell in love” with the region. I, too, love these wines, and now I have Robert Parker to blame for their prices.
At the producer’s website, the wine is described as being a blend of 55 percent Grenache Noir, 25 percent Syrah, 15 percent Mourvedre, and 5 percent Cinsault. The grapes are hand-picked when they’ve reached the appropriate ripeness.
As is often the case with the wines in my closet, the longer I hold something, the riskier it becomes when I decide to open one. Particularly recently, because we’ve had an awful stretch of hot weather and my apartment can get really warm and stuffy during the day when I’m not at home. But I was blessed with this selection.
Like all Châteauneuf du Papes, this one was big. There was a delicious nose of plum and blackberry, bold fruit scents that pillowed upward with a hint of vanilla in the background. In the glass, the color was brick red. And on the first taste, the tannins were there, but soft and luscious. As the wine breathed, the tannins became firmer, muscling through the fruit to let through some more of the vanilla, spice and even a bit of smokiness. Against the steaks it performed well, and complimented also the sweet Harvard beets.
The wine probably was past its prime. Although still very delicious and impressive, it lacked the full breadth of muscle this wine normally has. Roberta commented that there was a taste of prunes about it; not a negative per se, but it does suggest that this bottle may have endured one or two too many hours in my closet at its less-than-ideal climate. The drink window varies significantly when you compare the producer’s recommendation with that of Wine Spectator (WS rated it among the Top 100 wines of 2003, ranking it 33). The latter suggests this wine could be cellared through 2015; but the producer suggests that it should have been opened by 2007. I’m more inclined to think that Wine Spectator had it right, because if stored properly, I’m sure this wine has the staying power necessary for long aging. But given the conditions in my closet, I probably would have done much better to have followed the producer’s guidelines.
Oh well, it was still a handsome choice for my birthday, and I rate it with a 9 based on my scale at the left.