There are some types of wine that a lot of people seem to love that I don’t.  Burgundy is a big one.  And Châteauneuf-du-Pape is another.  I think that Robert Parker caused a lot of producers to push the ripeness, alcohol, and extraction into unbearable territory.  For this reason I have generally avoided Châteauneuf-du-Pape and the like from the southern Rhone.  But when the opportunity came along to taste some Châteauneuf-du-Pape at Union Square wines I thought I would give it a go and check back in on the genre.  Isabel Ferrando was in the house at Union Square, and I have to say she was one of the most charming and funny French ladies I have ever met.  She took over Domaine Saint Préfert just over a decade ago and set about revitalizing the wines.   Namely she began organic practices in the vineyards and will be certified organic as of 2012.  She has also avoided the use of new oak in the cellar, instead utilizing a combination of cement vats and older oak barrels of various sizes.  The wines therefore let the character of the terrior and the fruit speak without any oak makeup.  Starting in 2009 Isabel also began using stems in the fermentation, imparting further structure and tannins and magic to the wines.

Isabel operates twin Châteauneuf-du-Pape estates of Domaine St.-Préfert and Domaine Isabel Ferrando Colombis, producing wines under both names with different cuvées, blends, etc.  We were able to sample different labels from both and different vintages as well.  I can say each and every wine stood on its own.  They were each distinct personalities that spoke of place, fruit, and vintage.  I would also say that one of the most distinct impressions that I took away was that there was restraint and purity in all the wines, a testament to Isabel’s work in the vineyard and transparency in the cellar.  Isabel’s wines certainly are winning me over to a kind of wine I had perhaps written off.  Bravo!

I cannot find my tasting sheet from the event, but here is a list of the wines presented with a few mental notes from some of the most notable wines.  The 2009 Colombis was my personal favorite as it was just so inviting and hard to resist.  The wines from Domaine St.-Préfert and Domaine Isabel Ferrando Colombis can be widely found.  They are, however, not cheap, but they merit attention as they are the real deal.  Try Wine Searcher to find what’s available in your area.

2010 Domaine Saint-Préfert Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc:  Slightly oily and viscous, with deep yellow fruit and minerals and nuts and flowers.  Great stuff.
2004 Domaine Saint-Préfert Châteauneuf-du-Pape Reserve Auguste Favier
2009 Domaine Saint-Prefert Châteauneuf-du-Pape Reserve Auguste Favier
2007 Domaine Ferrando Châteauneuf-du-Pape Colombis
2009 Domaine Ferrando Châteauneuf-du-Pape Colombis:  This was my favorite wine at the tasting (and by her own admission, Isabel’s as well).  Sweet red raspberries and mint.  Just so approachable and impossible not to love.  Very pretty and delicious.  Drinking surprisingly well now too.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
2003 Domaine Saint Préfert Châteauneuf-du-Pape Collecion Charles Giraud:  The oldest of the lot, menthol and herbs, a bit medicinal but in such a good way.  A hint of cured olives as well.  Very interesting stuff.
2005 Domaine Saint Préfert Châteauneuf-du-Pape Collecion Charles Giraud
2009 Domaine Saint-Préfert Châteauneuf-du-Pape Collecion Charles Giraud