One of the most heartwarming stories on my trip was when I arrived at La Beaugravière and told Chef Guy Jullien and his wife, Tina, that my guests were Henri Bonneau and his son. Chef Jullien said,
"he hasn't eaten here since 1992 when you brought him and Jacques Reynaud for dinner."
I was shocked, but when Jullien told me that Bonneau rarely leaves his residence/cellars, I was very touched that he chose to join me. He confirmed later at dinner that yes, this was the first time he had been to La Beaugravière since 1992. He showed no signs of rust in terms of his ability to eat and drink well. We enjoyed a spectacular magnum of 1999 Jean Thevenet Maçon Clessé, a brilliant wine that could easily be confused with a grand cru white Burgundy. That was followed by a wine that can be perfect on occasion, the 2000 Marcoux Châteauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes. It was interesting to serve the great Henri Bonneau another producer's wine. He was in full agreement that it was a tremendous expression of old vine Grenache. We then had the 1990 Pégaü Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée Laurence, made by Bonneau's sidekick and schoolmate, Paul Feraud. This wine, which is aged much longer in old barrels and foudres, was performing well. (I have encountered some bottle variation with this particular vintage.) This bottle exhibited a dense plum color as well as a big, sweet nose of figs, earth, black cherries, mushrooms, and spice. It is full-bodied, rich, and vigorous, yet fully mature.
While I suspect most people make a pilgrimage to this spot for what is the world's greatest Rhône wine list (the list of Burgundies is not bad either), the food is also impeccable. Guy Jullien is the largest purveyor of truffles in southern France and he does a good job of conserving them when they are out of season. I always go straight down the board with the truffle dishes. Once past the utterly delicious deep fried zucchini flowers, we had his famed puffed pastry stuffed with foie gras and black truffles in a black truffle sauce. Yum, yum, yum. Next came a gorgeous piece of beef with black truffles piled on top covered with an intense truffle sauce. As always, the food was delicious.
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