To the great delight of guests, Rio Station Restaurant’s “Night in Paris” dinner event featured French-inspired fine dining dishes and the renowned Chateauneuf du Pape blends of the Beaurenard Vineyard of the Cotes de Rhône region of France. The 5-course dinner began with a brief Riedel glassware seminar hosted by Keith Bader, CSW, of Lauber Selections wine distributors. Bader began with what seemed to be an odd question, “How does the glass impact your tasting of the wine?” Guests appeared dubious as Bader insisted that, in fact, the glassware used in wine tasting is crucial. Bader first articulated that Riedel is not home to a design room. Rather, the wines themselves and their winemakers dictate glass design and each particular type of glass is then crafted to match its grape.
Guests were then given a quick lesson in anatomy as Bader explained that the human tongue is structured so that anterior taste buds detect “sweet”, mid taste buds detect “sour” and “salty”, and posterior taste buds detect “bitter” flavors. The design of a wine glass determines how the wine will be delivered onto the palate and thus which flavors of the wine will be sensed first and last. Having explained how glasses truly matter, Bader set out to prove this fact to demo guests. He began with Riedel’s Chardonnay glass, with a wider radius, larger bowl, and shorter height than red wine counterparts. Wait staff poured a 2010 Riva Ranch Chardonnay into guests’ glasses and Bader instructed the crowd to first inspect the wine’s color. Its golden hue suggested a distinct oak influence.
Next, guests were told to tilt the glass so that it was nearly horizontal to the table and to observe the “river” of wine that resulted. The wide bowl of the Chardonnay glass allows a fair amount of wine to be delivered directly onto the palate so as to “flood” it. This serves to dissipate the oak and alcohol flavors. Next, demonstration participants swirled and smelled the Riva Ranch Chardonnay while in its proper glassware. They sensed “buttery” and “toasty” aromas. But just moments later, after having poured the Chardonnay into a plastic cup (called a “Joker” glass by Bader), guests were amazed when they swirled and smelled “nothing at all”.
Next, Bader instructed the group to pour the Chardonnay into a Serat glass. Though some aromas were apparent, guests concurred that the smell was “muted”. The wine now tasted “bitter” to guests and one woman simply exclaimed, “It’s not as good!” The particular way that this glass delivered Chardonnay onto the palate accentuated the alcohol’s flavor. Finally, the group poured the Chardonnay back into its proper Riedel glass for a finishing taste. The manner in which the Chardonnay glass flooded the palate accentuated the sweetness of the wine’s fruit flavors before any bitterness. “Amazing,” stated one guest, as another insisted he tasted “no bitterness whatsoever”. It was as if the demo had featured three entirely different Chardonnays. Yet the true differences lied entirely in the glassware in which the wine was served.
Keith then repeated the process with a 2009 Behringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon served in Riedel’s Cabernet/Merlot glass. Once again, guests found that the “joker” glass tended to depress fruit components of the wine. When served in the proper glassware, this Cabernet tasted moderately sweet, with hints of red and dark berries. The demonstration concluded with amazed guests and Bader’s closing remark. “Where and how the wine hits the palate makes all the difference in the world.” Proper glassware brings out the best in any fine wine.
Following this demonstration, Victor Coulon of Beaurenard Vineyards introduced himself to guests and began to explain the rich tradition of his family’s award-winning wines. Coulon is the family’s 8th generation winemaker and expressed the significant role that tradition plays in his family’s approach to cultivating their grapes. The Beaurenard 130-acre vineyard utilizes biodynamic farming, a concept popularized by German philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Central features include crop diversification, the avoidance of chemical soil treatments, and the consideration of celestial and terrestrial influences. Victor emphasized the great value his family places on their soil, their refusal to use pesticides, and the great deal of agricultural work done by hand. Diners were then served an aperitif course of prawns wrapped in bacon paired with Beaurenard’s Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc 2011. Rio Station owner Richard Rutherford’s son, Richard Rutherford III, was responsible for creating and executing each of the meal’s courses and presented diners with a brief description of each. The second course of Agneau en Croute de Dijon was paired with Beaurenard’s Rasteau Rouge 2010, which Victor explained contains six varieties of grapes. This unique blend brings great complexity to the rare Rasteau which represents only 7% of Chateuneuf du Pape’s products.
The arguably most notable pairing came with the meal’s fourth course of “Fromage Delice”, authentic French and aged cheddar cheeses. This particular Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge is made with the vineyard’s oldest vines and bears the original namesake of the family’s wines. The “Boisrenard” is made with grapes from 110 year-old vines and can be aged for up to 50 years. This extremely rare vintage is not imported in the United States and the Coulon family ferments only two barrels at any given time. A true treat, this Chateauneuf du Pape was an excellent conclusion to Rio Station’s upscale “A Taste of France” event.
By Megan Kummer