Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Answer: fun at Domaine du Pegau

In the previous blog post, we posed a fun question-puzzle. If you don't want to spoil the surprise, make sure you read that first before returning here.

But first, a little bit about the setting...
At 5:30pm on Dec 29, 2008, at the end of a busy day of wine exploration in Southern Rhone, surrounded by total darkness at the outer edge of the town of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, we slowly drove up along the dirt road to Domaine du Pegau. It was dead quiet, we knocked on the front door of a house. We were supposed to be expected. But an elderly man we saw through the window seemed surprised by our visit. Briskly he came out and unable to speak English, gestured for us to follow him to what from outside looked like half garage half barn. It was the cellar. A helper inside luckily spoke English, and explained that Laurence (pronounced "Law-runs") Feraud, the older man's daughter, who had scheduled the appointment with us, had car trouble returning from a wine tip to Burgundy, and so we would begin tasting without her. Being the last appointment of the day, it was also the most anticipated one, as in the recent years Domaine du Pegau had become one of the most prized Chateauneuf-du-Pape's, garnering classic ratings from wine critics and attention of wine collectors. This mom-and-pop production having developed a loyal following now commands prices well north of $100/bottle. Below are some of their recent ratings from Wine Spectator. Knowing that definitely added to our sense of anticipation and excitement as we began the tasting.

Domaine du Pegau produces three high-end Chateauneuf-du-Pape cuvées: Cuvée Reservée, Cuvée Laurence, and the highest-end Cuvée da Capo (made from the best grapes in the best years). These wines are aged in large old oak foudres for at least 18 months for Reservée, and much longer for Laurence and Capo.

We tried 2007 Cuvée Reservée and 2007 Cuvée Capo from the casks - and they were huge brooding wines (especially the Capo). In addition, we had 2003, 2005 and 2006 Reservées. Even the oldest - the 2003 - which had mellowed a bit compared to the younger wines, still caused a nuclear explosion in my mouth and needed more time. These wines are definitely not for the faint of heart, and have the backbone to age for 15-25 years. The wines tasted of extremely ripe concentrated black fruit, bitter sweet spices, dry herbs and charcoal, with plush texture and long tannic finish. For me, they were a bit overpowering, even the 2003. To quote a wine importer Dan Kravitz: "It is like drinking a liquified, rare grilled steak mixed with ground pepper, roasted herbs, and spice." I can see others enjoying these wines tremendously with a robust pepper steak, or roasted leg of lamb, grilled venison, or wild boar with mushrooms (I could go on, but you get the idea.)

Laurence had finally arrived from her Burgundy wine touring and joined us for a sip, and with Burgundian grand crus still fresh on her tongue and mind, she exclaimed: "My god, my wines are so WILD and SPICY!" I suppose I find those words befitting the type of food one might want to pair with them. I loved her straightforwardness and vivaciousness!

Oh, and let us finally get back to the question at hand...

What's wrong with this picture?

1. Look at the legs.

2. Why are those bottles upside down?

3. What have I got in that jacket?

And now - the reveal...This is the original photo. Enjoy!

To the left, the Wine Spectator Top 10 of 2006: Tasting #5 from Domaine du Pegau. The #5 wine is from Domaine du Pégaü in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Meet winemaker Laurence Feraud as she describes her personal approach to winemaking.

Despite recent acclaim, the father-daughter winemaking tag-team of Paul and Laurence remain friendly and accessible to wine explorers, and childishly excited about "this whole wine thing", seemingly unaffected by the good fame and fortune.
Thanks to Laurence for letting me have a little fun in her cellar - it was a bit like being a kid in a candy store. But you must forgive me - one does not often get to play with a Pegau, let alone one of Methuselah proportions! And no, she didn't let me hold the 6L bottle.

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