In February I was delighted to accept an invitation to an exciting wine and food event at Stanley’s Restaurant & Wine Bar on St Andrew’s Street in Dublin. The wines were from Northern Rhône star Yves Cuilleron, which gives us a full house of names.
The wines were selected by Wine Director Morgan Vanderkamer and introduced by Yves himself. As one of the few other French speakers I was given the honour of occasional interpreter. The amazing menu was put together by proprietor & Head Chef Stephen McArdle (nickname Stanley!) who takes inspiration from French cuisine in particular.
Cave Yves Cuilleron
Yves elucidates the history behind his family vineyards on his website but, en bref, he took over the family vineyards when his uncle retired in 1987 – he surprised his relatives by throwing himself into the family business. He has constantly innovated and invested since then, building a new cellar then later a new winery, and expanding his vineyards across most of the northern Rhône’s appellations.
For around ten years, Cuilleron wines have been brought into Ireland by Le Caveau.
Stanley’s Restaurant & Wine Bar
Stanley’s has a wine bar on the ground floor, with a well-curated and interesting list by the bottle and by the glass. Where else could you try a mini-flight of skin contact orange wines?
Upstairs is the main dining room – light and airy during the day but feeling more sophisticated in the evening. The top floor has also been made available as a private dining room (no photos yet, it’s that new!)
The faux-military portraits are great talking points.
So now we’ve set the scene and done a bit of a guided tour, down to business with the food and wine!
Yves Cuilleron Marsanne IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 2012
This is a simple wine made to be drunk young, but is very approachable. I was lucky enough (by virtue of my linguistics) to be able to taste the single bottle of 2012 available. There’s fresh peach and a hint of honey with a touch of breadiness from time on the lees.
Yves Cuilleron Marsanne IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 2013
For his IGP wines, Yves tries to bring out the characteristics of the grape, which of course can be stated on the label for IGP wines but not for AOP wines. Marsanne is often partnered with Roussanne in the northern Rhône but here it shines on its own.
Wild Irish rabbit, foie gras parfait, carrot, pistachio, pain d’epices
Yves Cuilleron AOP Cornas “Le Village” 2012
Cornas is a mono-cépage wine, i.e. it’s a 100% varietal under AOP regulations – and that variety is Syrah. Until relatively recently, Cornas wines were often rough round the edges, euphemistically termed “rustic”. They needed time in the bottle to soften up, and you just had to hope that there was enough fruit left by then.
Yves’s Cornas is modern, clean and fruity, without being “manufactured”. There’s power here but it’s from intensity of flavour rather than high alcohol. Black cherry, blackberry and plum combine with tobacco and spice – the latter particularly hitting it off with the gingerbread.
When it comes to foodstuffs, some people can be funny buggers. Unfortunately, I’m one of them – and rabbit is never on the menu in my house. Out of respect for my hosts and fellow dinners I tried the dish – and was astounded! I’ve been missing out on delicious things like this for years! Bunny owners better put some good latches on your hutches!
Venison loin, cauliflower, apricot, truffle potato purée
Yves Cuilleron AOP Côte Rôtie “Madinières” 2009
Up to 20% Viognier is permitted in the red wines of this appellation, as long as the grapes are cofermented, though in practice it is rarely that high. Traditionally Côte Rôtie is split between the Côte Brune in the north with dark, iron-rich schist and the Côte Blonde in the south with pale granite and schist soil. Yves is more a believer in the importance of each vineyard’s aspect, i.e. which direction it faces.
2009 was a very good, warm vintage across much of France, including the northern Rhône. This comes through in power, warmth and fruit – venturing more into the red fruit part of the spectrum than the Cornas. There’s also both floral and savoury notes on the nose – sounds like quite a contradiction, but lovel – and an amazing match with the rich venison!
Extra mature Cashel blue, walnut toast, celery, salted caramel
Yves Cuilleron AOC Condrieu Moelleux “Ayguets” 2007
This is a sweet, Late Harvest style with some botrytis (noble rot). The semi-dessicated grapes are hand-picked with several sorting stages from mid-October to mid-November, then pressed and left to settle.
It has around 100 g/L of residual sugar, but is soft and soothing without being cloying. A simple rule of thumb for dessert wines is, does the acidity balance the sugar? And in this case, undoubtedly yes!
As regular readers will know I’m far from a cheese fan myself, but I was told the Cashel Blue was lovely and went well with the Condrieu. I can attest, however, that the latter was lovely with the salted caramel.
Mascarpone, white chocolate, pear
Yves Cuilleron Condrieu “La Petite Côte” 2013
This is the sort of wonderfully rich wine that a novice taster might think was sweet – it isn’t, but shows apparent sweetness due to abundant fruit and a slight oiliness in the mouth. It’s dry but not Sahara dry.
It was something of a bold selection – moving back to a dry wine to accompany dessert – but it worked because the dessert wasn’t super sweet, with acidity from the pear, and the honeyed notes from the wine.
Many thanks to Patrick, Stephen, Morgan and Yves for a fantastic evening!