Sadly, during my two week tasting trip to the Rhône Valley, I only had time to visit Beaugravière once. This restaurant has the greatest Rhône wine list in the world, and the food, while neither refined nor deluxe, is friendly, generous, impeccably well-prepared, and satisfying. We started with sensational deep fried zucchini flower heads, which are always light and tasty, never greasy. That was followed by one of Chef Jullien's specialties, puff pastry filled with a whole black truffle and a slab of foie gras. Next came classic Charolais beef with a mouthwatering, finger-licking black truffle sauce.

The 2004 Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf du Pape blanc is not quite as rich and honeyed as the 2003, but it is a crisp, refreshing, pure, clean white that went beautifully with the zucchini flowers. One of the great Châteauneuf du Papes of the last generation is undeniably the 1990 Cuvée Papet from Clos du Mont Olivet. This wine has been drinking fabulously well for 7-8 years, offering up loads of sweet black cherry fruit intermixed with hints of Provençal herbs, licorice, and roasted meats. This full-bodied, opulent, savory, mouthfilling effort represents old vine Grenache at its finest.

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