Chateauneuf du Pape: Clos des Papes 2005 – Pairing Rating: 9.5 out of 10.0
Secure in our winter retreat in Newport Beach, CA., Trish and I have evaded the snow, ice and cold of Connecticut . . . at least for a while. This is our second winter here and we love it: the sunshine, the hiking, the proximity to California vineyards and our friends who live in Irvine. Naturally, this kind of winter sojourn lures family members and friends from the East who are also looking to escape.
My sister, Mary, and her husband Steve arrived this past Thursday, joining us for a long weekend. I thought that this celebratory event called for a special meal: Grilled Prime Beef Tenderloin with Green Peppercorn Sauce. Trish accompanied the beef with roasted fingerling potatoes and steamed broccoli. My sister is an outstanding cook (see her blog LovetheSecretIngredient.net), so the pressure was on to pull out all the stops.
We started with Trish’s Shaved Brussels Spout Salad with Marcona Almonds, Egg, Pecorino and Citrus Vinaigrette from the 2/15/14 edition of the Wall Street Journal. Sorry no photo. This recipe was so good it deserves a blog post of its own; I will discuss a pairing for that beauty at a later date. Update: here is that blog post. The focus of this post, however, is the beef entrée, and specifically, the Green Peppercorn Sauce. The recipe I use for this is from James Paterson’s Sauces cookbook. The sauce is quite simple to make: sauté a minced shallot in a little butter. Add 1/4 cup of Cognac + 2 Tbsp of Marsala (or Port or Madeira). Stand back and light the pan to torch off the alcohol. Then stir in ½ cup of meat glace, 3 oz. of heavy cream and 1 Tbsp of green peppercorns. Reduce the sauce to the desired consistency, swirl in some butter, and add a few drops of red wine vinegar. Master this and you can open your own steakhouse!
I cut the Tenderloin into thick steaks (8-9 oz.) so I could grill them and get maximum surface exposure to the grill aromas. For the wine, we chose a 2005 Chateauneuf du Pape from Clos des Papes. Decanting the wine for about an hour ahead of time helped soften the tannins and integrate the flavors. The aroma in the glass reminded us of dark fruit and lavender with a hint of pine forest, while the flavors left a notable impression of black raspberry and kirsch. The wine is made up of 60% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, with the balance composed of other Southern Rhone varietals. The dominant Grenache was key to the pairing in that its ripe character allowed the wine to be just a tad “sweeter” than the Marsala/Cognac in the sauce – an important criterion in any pairing. The richness also complemented the sharpness of the green peppercorns, while the tannins from the Syrah and Mourvedre cleansed the palate of the fat from the cream and the beef. Finally, the weight and mouth feel of the Clos des Papes were perfect matches for the dish.
We would have scored this wine as a 10.0 save for the price. The wine is expensive. If your budget doesn’t allow for this wine, then look to a Gigondas or a Vacqueyras for the pairing – the wines have similar compositions and flavor profiles. And if the thought of opening a steakhouse intrigues you, take an Ambien and sleep it off. You will come to your senses the next day.