Châteauneuf-du-Pape (we call this wine “CDP” for short) roughly translating to “The Pope’s new castle (house)”, is produced in France’s Rhône valley and generally contains a blend of three grape varietals: Grenache is the prominent grape variety in Châteauneuf-du-Pape blended with Syrah and Mourvèdre grapes (13 grape varietals are allowed in the wine by the INAO, Institut National des Appellations d’Origine).
I always know I am drinking a CDP because it makes my mouth taste wet…not an overdose of salavia, but a wet mouth feel. Duiring our Chateauneuf du Pape tasting this weekend we determined that the wet mouth feel most likely is due to the high glycerin content in the wine. Our purpose for the wine tasting was to pair the Chateauneuf du Pape with dry rub ribs which was a huge hit with our guests. Another pairing that was equally as well received was this spicy mushroom dish:
Spicy Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms With Aged Gouda Cheese Sauce
Makes 10 appetizer servings (2 stuffed mushroom caps per serving)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
1/2 pound mild pork sausage
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced red onion
Place vegetable oil in a frying pan. Place pan over medium heat and add sausage. Brown sausage and crumble in pan. Add red onion and cook over medium-low heat until onion is soft and transparent. Remove from heat.
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Add panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese to sausage. Stir to combine all ingredients. Whisk egg into sausage mixture. Make sure all ingredients are well combined.
20 baby portobello mushrooms, stems removed and center (stem side) hollowed out with a spoon
Stuff mushrooms with sausage mixture, gently pressing sausage mixture into the hollowed out stem end of the mushroom, mounding the mixture on top of the mushroom. Place stuffed mushrooms in a shallow baking pan. Bake stuffed mushrooms in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes.
While stuffed mushrooms are baking, prepare Aged Gouda Cheese Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/4 pound aged Gouda cheese, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon medium Peri-Peri Sauce or your favorite hot sauce (more may be added to taste – but add carefully…more can always be added, but once it’s in the sauce it cannot be removed!)
Melt butter in a saucepan. Whisk in flour. Whisk in one half of the milk. Add red chili flakes, aged Gouda cheese, Peri-Peri Sauce and the rest of the milk. Stir to combine all ingredients. Continue to heat over medium low heat and stir until cheese melts. Once the cheese melts remove from heat.
Once the mushrooms have finished baking, remove from oven. Place mushrooms in individual ramekins. Pour aged Gouda cheese sauce over the mushrooms. Place ramekins under the broiler until the cheese sauce is lightly browned and bubbly. Serve immediately.
Our original pairing for the spicy sausage stuffed mushrooms was Domaine Lou Frejau Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1986. According to the Wine Spectator: “There’s an elegant concentration of fresh, ripe, tannic fruit but the raspberry, cherry, earth and spice flavors offer depth and complexity. The finish is coarse and tannic, but balanced. Drink now through 1998.” We found this wine to be, unfortunately, past it’s prime. Fortunately we always have a back-up and that evening the fall back was Domaine de Morcoux Chateauneuf du Pape 2003.
Robert Parker tasting notes: The 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape is superb and one of the best regular cuvees Marcoux has ever made. This wine, which tips the scales at 15% alcohol, has great intensity, a dense ruby/purple color, no shortage of tannin, but wonderful sweetness, a huge tactile impression due to high glycerin, gorgeous layers of fruit, and a pure, long finish of 45+ seconds. It is a brilliant cuvee of Chateauneuf du Pape that will benefit from 1-2 years of bottle age, and should drink well for 12-15.