© Andy Abramson
Auberge du Cedre
This is a wine and food junkies paradise for a variety of reasons. First there are nine very good wines available by the glass, dozens of bottles at very fair prices and fourteen different aperitifs and dessert wines listed on the wall mounted blackboards.
The exceptionally priced menu, the home-style preparation and friendly service, plus the rooms upstairs, though Spartan, provide for a combination of good wine, food and a restful time.
I started with a glass of Domaine de la Rectorie "Vin de Pierre." This is a deep amber aperitif from Banyuls. It offers a dry, but intense level of fresh fruit, lots of alcohol, but no hotness what-so-ever. It is smooth, like a fine sherry, very deep and loaded with creme caramel, spice and bright melons. With the assortment of tapas, olives, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes and nuts it is a nice relaxing start.
Across the lane from the Auberge is the Chateau de Cazeneuve, a personal favorite. Mr. Leenhardt makes some of the most intense red wines and delicious whites around. His dark pink rose is also a treat and his white, not too often seen outside of the Languedoc, is simply sublime. A few years ago Jeffrey Davies was importing Cazeneuve but the last two vintages have not been visible on the west coast at all, with rumors in the wine trade that they all end up in New York and Washington, D.C.
On the list by the glass is the 1997 Rose. All Pic St. Loup grapes, it is loaded with lush berry fruit, especially the blueberry and blackberry flavors. The mid palate is simply amazing, with light flavorful hints of rosepetals, lilacs, violets on the tongue and nose. This is more than a starter, it is a rich food wine, which has body, structure and finesse. Sadly none of the rose reaches the USA that often. It is easily on par with Tempier, D'Auphilac or Clavel, all whose wines we can find. As a food wine it stands up very well to the Auberge salad and tapenade spread on a warm roll. They spread the tapenade and then bake the bread. The flavors of the olives, and the local herbs, which are infused in the crust of the bread is wonderful with the Rose.
On the white side of the agenda, I pop for an old favorite, the Chateau de Lascaux "Pierres des Argents" from 1996. Now this producer makes wine like he's from Pic St. Loup, but his fields lie outside the barrier so he cannot use the PSL appellation designation. No matter, the whites, like the Lascaux reds can always be counted on to be intense and striking. They're imported by Kermit Lynch and are always a great selection. This wine, largely Rolle (Vermentino) with some Marsanne and Rousanne in the mix, is so mouthfilling and complex that I wish I owned a case. It is a pure powerhouse of ripe cantaloupe, honeydew melon and exotic passion fruits. It is almost like a desert wine, it is that rich and complex. The flavors just linger on and on, with a dazzling finish that never seems to want to quit.
With the main course, a nice cut of beef, served with hearth baked potatoes, diced brown mushrooms and sautéed onions in a light gravy sauce, I'm poured two wines, one from Pic St. Loup and one from Faugeres.
Both are dense, almost black. The 1997 Mas Bruguiere "Vinam" is the lighter color of the two. It is a blend of Syrah and Grenache, typical for the region. The wine just oozes with rich and velvety currants and plums, along with that unmistakable Garrigue flavor which just overwhelmes your taste buds. It has a perfume like nose of spring flowers, with cassis and blackberry, lingonberry and raspberry flavors on the palate. It easily surpasses the Hortus Grand Cuvee of last week's birthday bash for David Clark, wine merchant extroidanaire in San Diego.
The Faugeres, from Chateau Chenaie is a 1995 "Les Douves". Even darker, it rivals its Faugeres neighborm the Les Bastides de Alquier from Alquier quite easily. It may be the darkest wine I've seen all trip. Totally opaque but velvety, the wine is as smooth as any Hermitage or well aged Bandol around. It is a tour de force and fully blown powerhouse of blueberry and port like black raisins. It's chewy, fill your mouth feel, is almost devoid of any tannins and makes it a really hard choice between the Mas Bruguiere and wine of the night. The wine is as deep and complex as any Caymus or BV cabernet, as delightful as any Cote Rotie by Jasmin or Guigal, and as complex and aromatic as the wines of Trevallon or Penfold's red blend.
Dessert is a wonderful pear cobbler, served with an absolutely delectable Gros Marsang from Jurancon in the Sud Ouest (Southwest) of France. I'm very partial to these wines, as rare and obscure as they are, for their richness and complexity abounds and puts them on a par with the best Alsatian wines around. Its clear color is so deceptive, for its nectar like aroma, loaded with tangerine, orange, nectarines, melons and apples is just overpowering.
This is not a gourmet experience, but really a food and wine lovers wet dream. I'm here for four nights so my palate should be happy.....
From Lauret, France.....bon soir!
To contact Andy Abramson, write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.