Serge Chenet

This is a beautiful bed and breakfast about 15-20 minutes from the old tourist bastion of Avignon, and 20 minutes south of Châteauneuf du Pape. The cuisine is modern and creative, but never silly. It is named after Chef Serge Chenet, who has been in the Rhône Valley for years and has set up this wonderful gastronomic venue. Everything we had was tasty, but the real focus was on some extraordinary wines. The 2010 Roussanne cuvée from Michel Gassier, from his beautiful estate in the Costières de Nîmes, the Coucardière, was gorgeous. Gassier is on top of his game with both white and red wines. This effort, an inexpensive version of a Beaucastel Roussanne Vieilles Vignes, exhibits lots of rosewater, honeysuckle and marmalade notes with good acidity and minerality. It should drink nicely for a long time. A magnum of 2001 Domaine Giraud Grenache de Pierre was sensational, offering pure kirsch liqueur notes intermixed with raspberries, licorice and loamy soil (although this vineyard’s soil is pure sand). Fully mature, and not likely to improve (even from magnum), this is a sumptuous wine to drink over the next 4-5 years.

Two perfect wines that should last for another two decades are Clos Saint-Jean’s 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape Sanctus Sanctorum and their 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape Deus Ex Machina, both served from magnums. They are both infants, but the contrasts between the 100% old vine Grenache Sanctus Sanctorum and the 60% Grenache / 40% Mourvèdre blend Deus Ex Machina were striking. The Sanctus Sanctorum may be the single greatest wine I have ever tasted. Given the fact that it is a naked, low yielding, almost intellectual curiosity given the old vines and the fact that it is only available in magnum, it is a riveting wine that I wish every reader could have a chance to taste in order to see the glory of Grenache at such a celestial level. The blend of Grenache and Mourvèdre makes for a fabulous combination, and no one does it better than Clos Saint-Jean’s Maurel brothers, who created this cuvée in 2003. It has been one of the great Châteauneuf du Papes in every vintage since.

We then moved to another of my favorite traditional, old style, long-aged Clos du Mont Olivetofferings, their Cuvée du Papet. The 2004 magnum was fully mature and gorgeous, but it was a dead heat to see whether the 2007 or 2006 du Papet was better. The 2007 is more primary, but the 2006 is no slouch. This excellent vintage is somewhat forgotten given what has happened in the Rhône recently. One of the most monumental Châteauneuf du Papes of all time is André Brunel’s Les Cailloux Cuvée Centenaire 1990. I was fortunate enough to buy a case and subsequently drink every fabulous bottle, so there are no regrets. This was another fabulous look at a great Châteauneuf du Pape primarily made from Grenache vines planted in 1889. It also includes small amounts of Syrah and Mourvèdre. This wine is pure kirsch, raspberry, spring flowers, spice box and earth offered in a voluptuous, full-bodied, opulent style that has been fully mature for many years. However, it shows no signs of fading. We finished with a still tannic, young 1989 Les Cailloux Châteauneuf du Pape and a spectacular, fully mature 1978 Les Cailloux Châteauneuf du Pape that exhibits the great garrigue, licorice, seaweed, black currant and black cherry characteristics of this wine.

This was a sensational night of great wine, fabulous food and wonderful company.

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