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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Petit Louis Bistro
A lookalike, authentic French bistro, Petit Louis in Baltimore's Roland Park is the creation of restauranteurs par excellence Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman. You feel like you’ve walked into a bistro on the Left Bank of Paris when you enter Petit Louis. The food is classic bistro, and they do it well. All of the courses we had were flavorful, sometimes a trifle rustic, but delicious in their intensity. This was good comfort food prepared extremely well. The wines started with one of the major surprises for me over the last year, the 2006 sparking wine from Tony Soter in Oregon. I had this several times while I was out visiting Oregon, and I had always been impressed, but this is a 10-year-old sparking Rosé that is just sensational, and I’m talking world class—it’s that good. Something this good from France would cost at least two to three times as much, so kudos to Tony Soter. The 1995 Billaud-Simon Chablis Mont de Milieu was oxidized and undrinkable. The 1996 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos St. Urbain Rangen de Thann was sweet, and although it went well with the foie gras, it was just a little too unctuous and sweet a wine...