There are people who want funk from their Southern Rhône reds. Me, I am not so crazy about those animal, extra-earthy, gamy characteristics, not when I can get the full effect of complexity from the grape itself. Which is why I got a big smile on my face when a glass of Domaine Font de Michelle Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2007 appeared next to my main course of roast quail with Puy lentils at La Toque, a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner, in Napa recently.
Ken Frank's cooking, so thoroughly rooted in French cuisine, produced a dish that would coexist happily with any delicate French red, but the chef was smart enough to amp up the seasoning on the juicy Wolfe Ranch quail and enrich the lentils with bacon and snails. These elements worked perfectly with the wine, which was impressive for the purity of its blackberry and plum character, the complexity coming from hints of cardamom, sweet anise and ginger. La Toque offered the 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Pape as the recommended match by the glass for the quail. The young wine had not developed any bacon notes, a hallmark of Châteauneuf, so the dish supplied them. Genius.
Though full-bodied, the wine struck a graceful balance, which let the flavors sing unimpeded. For the wine alone: 90 points, non-blind. The match? 95 points, easily.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Domaine Font de Michelle Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2007 (91 points, $56).