2005 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rubis: Earthy, but otherwise not very distinctive

nov. 24, 2010: this was a unique night. brian fribley gave us liver from the doe he shot a few days ago, and greg waited until i arrived home from the office to cook it up in a savory cabbage crown recipe he got from "wild about venison," by stoeger publishing. the liver was excellent, even if, after the first half i had of this dish that was itself cut in half, i spent the next 30 minutes self-managing what felt like an explosion of cholesterol within my own body.

we got this frenchman at sahara mart in bloomington for $29.99. greg liked it, but i feel i've been spoiled by california. which is to say: there is the california that bursts with references to rebellion, to feelings and expressions of individuality. and then there is the california that spills personality from its guts, without any remorse at all.

contrast these stereotypes with a poised frenchman like this chateauneuf-du-pape, which according to our reference book, would have been a good pairing with venison.

but matched with this venison liver, this rhone valley speciman wasn't perfect. it might have been the inherent sweetness of the apples, or the apple juice. or it could have been the fact that this liver, while slightly overcooked, wasn't soaked with the flavor of iron that a calf's liver might be expected to have.

but i just wasn't that impressed with this wine. that said, it was better than the 1998 guigal chateauneuf-du-pape that my father twice gave greg as a gift. it has more personality than that wine, more spunk and heaviness, with some tannins. (though my father has told me other brands of 1998 chateauneuf-du-pape are richer than guigal.)

still, this can't compare to californians in my mind. maybe i'm spoiled by that state's individualities. i could point to the paso robles that taste like crayons, or the russian river valleys that seem to spurt cherries from their fleshy veins, saying those are examples enough.

but the fact is that those wines are Personalities. yes, i said it, despite the fact that half of my genes were born and raised on french soil. they are Personalities with capital "P"s: Characters, in other words, that make their marks on your palate, that announce themselves with flavor and tannins, and that aren't ashamed of what they are, even if they overtake a main, and very rare, meal of venison liver.

suffice it to say that this 2005 wasn't that. so in this most recent california vs. france battle for flavor: california wins out, hands down. 14 percent alcohol.

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