Cru is the perfect place for a cork dork to be lazy. Firstly, even the most proud connoisseur can push aside the 35,000-label list just because he or she is not up to it. Secondly, Robert Bohr and his staff are fantastic at selecting great wine from the cellar. I almost always use Cru as an excuse to learn something new. I will say things as steeped in lethargy as, "I would like a $100 red and a lesson." Without fail, they step up and find me something that is both unique and fun to drink, as well as details down to the name and age of the dog that accompanied the vintner on his walks through the vineyard.
Well, last night it all came to a head. I had been drinking in the proximity of a guy I had met once or twice and realized to be a regular. At some point I saw him poring over the list and I asked, "you looking for a bottle?" He responded in the affirmative and I offered to split it with him, up to $50.00 (it was only Tuesday after all). We both pretty much decided that we didn't really care white or red or part of the world, and that we were happy to serve the ball up to the staff.
Then Alex showed up and smacked the ball right back at our lazy asses. He put down an unmarked carafe of dark red juice and said, "tell me what it is." I guess some days even the workhorses of New York wine get a little fed-up with carrying you on their backs.
This has happened to me before in other places, but it was the first time for Regular. It is very daunting facing down the fact that no matter how genuine your love of wine, and how thorough your study, a couple facts will always remain: there is too much wine at Cru (not to mention on Earth) for any one person to fully wrap there cognitive abilities around, and taste is the most subjective thing in the world. Can you trust yours? Basically, it's the question we used to love to ask when experimenting in school: is the color red the same to me as it is to you?
Alex had offered us a very good BS test for all the wine talking and drinking we had each done in our separate pasts.
So we put our noses in the glass. It was Syrah and, I thought, Old World. I can't even tell you why I thought that, except that it smelled like Syrah, chocolate, cassis, and black fruits. Done. That easy. Until the doubts set in. The first one crept in when I detected the slightest bit of green and worried it could be a Cabernet Franc-heavy blend from somewhere hot like eastern Washington State.
Then I tasted it. Definitely Syrah. Definitely Old World. Except then I detected some blueberries in my mouth which, although sometimes I taste them in Syrah, made me suspect the presence of Grenache. Keep in mind all this pressure was self-generated. All Alex said was, "you tell me about it." He was giving me the right to declare it fruity or tannic, big or light and instead I beat myself up trying not to get it wrong.
When Alex returned, Regular was outside smoking a cigarette, so he asked and I answered: Syrah from the Rhone, that I suspected it was southern and that it may have been blended with some Grenache. Alex explained it was 100% Syrah, from the southern Rhone. Typically, southern Rhones are Grenache-dominated. So I had come up with the grape and the terroir. I would say if it were graded I probably got in the low eighties, a number that makes me proud. Maybe next time I won't rethink so much and I'll remember that games are for fun. Then again, maybe next time I'll be ballsy enough to guess a vintage.
It was an '01 Chateau de Fonsalette, labeled Cotes du Rhone and produced by Chateau Rayas, which is in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a region in southern Rhone and it allows up to thirteen grapes, three of which are white. Beaucastel is the only house that uses all of them, but it is pretty safe to say that there are always at least three in the blend, Grenache dominating Syrah and Mouvedre. So this is a unique wine, all Syrah from C-d-P. Very hedonistic. When people talk about a Parker wine this is what I imagine.
So my years of drinking wine, seeking out wine geeks, and talking about it incessantly have gotten me to a point where I am pretty sure what Syrah from France tastes like. Four years ago I never would have believed that was possible. The best part, though, is having an awesome place to go and find guys that truly enjoy wine, just because it is Tuesday and you feel like a glass.