The SOMM Journal

August / September 2016

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Page 81 of 148

{ }  81 Soon after, Chicagoland sommeliers, beverage managers and others entered a room topped by a 30-foot-high wood ceiling to taste 20 wines: 15 Appellations d'Origine Protegées (AOP) and five Indications Géographiques Protégées (IGP). Included in the group were Arthur Hon, Beverage Director of Sepia; Kevin Bratt, Concept Wine Director of Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab; Barbara Hermann, Wine Buyer for Binny's Beverage Depot; Mick Ter Haar, Beverage Director/ Sommelier for Schaefer's; Mitch Einhorn, Owner of Lush Wine & Spirits; Alan Blum, General Manager for Sandburg Wine Cellar/Potash Bros. Markets; Alex Basich, Co-Owner of the Noble Grape; John Cressman, Founder of World Wide Wine LLC; Charles Lockhart, President of Oenes, Ltd., and Scot Cohen, a Vice President at Heritage Wine Cellars, Ltd. The Somm Journal's Wine Editor, Jessie Birschbach, offered an enticing introduction. "A lot of these wines blew my mind when I tasted them earlier," she said. Dotted with mountains, rivers and the Mediterranean Sea to the east, the Roussillon region rests just north of the border with Spain. More than two dozen grape varieties flourish in the 2,200 family vineyards. Despite the low yield in the region (the average of 3,200 liters per hectare is less than even Burgundy) many guests arrived already familiar with—and impressed by—Roussillon wines. Perhaps no one was as well-versed as Parag Lalit, Sommelier at Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago, who spent nine years in that part of France. "I am a fervent admirer of wines from this region," Lalit said. "Roussillon wines rub shoulders with the finest any - where in the world." With the seats filled, the curtains pulled back to a Le Cirque Grenache Gris (IGP Côtes Catalanes) opening, a 2015 vintage from Les Vignerons de Tautavel Vingrau. "We have a bit of salty minerality, express - ing the terroir," Aracil said. "It would be good with some sort of green leaves or goat cheese." The second selection, a 2010 Grenache Blanc Vieilles Vignes (IGP Côtes Catalanes) produced by Le Clos des Fées, was com - pletely different. "So fresh and, even though it's six years old; still a wonderful color," Aracil pointed out. "I can imagine already some plates with filet of chicken and even some truffles—why not?" Next came the Côtes du Roussillon 153 RD 900 (AOP Côtes du Roussillon), a 2015 rosé produced by Arnaud de Villeneuve. One's nose inhaled scents of flowers, such as lilacs. The first course, a king crab salad, tasted delectable with the rosé, its pieces of grapefruit and avocado a perfect match with the wine. Three reds—a 2015 Penya Rouge (IGP Côtes Catalanes) produced by Les Vignerons de Cases-de-Pène, a 2014 Aux Figuiers (IGP Côtes Catalanes) produced by Domaine de L'Architecte, and a 2013 Carignan 1900 La Centenaire (IGP Côtes Catalanes) produced by Château Nadal Hainaut —rounded out the first flight. "You can smell the juniper. You have something quite complex yet drink - able," Aracil noted about the Penya Rouge. The Aux Figuiers came from a new estate with marble in the soil, "giving it a special spiciness," he said. The flight's final tasting, Carignan 1900 La Centenaire, offered an expression of black fruits. Belinda Chang, Director of Wine & Service at Maple & Ash, applauded the first six wines. "In the first flight, the terroir is screaming through the glass—I love it," she said. Jennifer Schmitt, Sommelier at Everest restaurant, was also impressed. "I liked the flight because they were wines that were new for me for the region," she noted. "Both whites showed complexity and a depth of character." As a lunch of mouth-watering ricotta agnolotti and sliced bone-in ribeye appeared, the second flight kicked off with a 2014 Cuvée Bernard (AOP Côtes du Roussillon). The red wine produced by Domaine Vaquer, said Aracil, was "voluptuous." Next, a 2014 bottle of Initiation (AOP Côtes du Roussillon), a red from Domaine Trilles, was discussed. "It's really juicy, with a touch of sweet orange," Aracil said. A 2012 Le Secret (AOP Côtes du Roussillon) from Domaine Treloar earned praise for its strong expression of Syrah before the Roussillon ambassador moved on to a prized selection. Fewer than 7,800 bottles annually are produced of the Domaine Semper selection called Voluptas (AOP Côtes du Roussillon Villages Lesquerde), a 2014 red featuring Syrah, Black Grenache and Carignan. "Once you taste this wine, you'll never forget it," Aracil said. With vines resting in granite sand about 1,000 feet above sea level, a metallic and graphite expression stood out. Aracil credited limestone slopes for the The 2015 Penya Rouge, Les Vignerons de Cases-de-Pène poured at the back end of the first flight. A few of the middle flight of wines served with bone-in ribeye and incredible, rich sides from Maple & Ash.

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