Châteauneuf-du-Pape: A Tax Day Steal

Who needs a drink? Certainly all those tax-filing procrastinators do—you know, our friends who took to Twitter telling us either they’re about to start filing their taxes with one hour to go or just filed close to midnight.

Where to go is the Grill Room in Georgetown. The swanky restaurant inside the Rosewood hotel (formerly Capella) has an amazing deal, in which an exquisite bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape normally priced at $98 can be had for $60. A glass that is otherwise $25 goes for $15. That said, why ever drink by the glass? As my friend Lettie Teague once pointed out, "Wines by the glass are almost invariably the worst deal in the house. After all, the conventional rule of thumb calls for the price of the glass to equal the wholesale cost of the bottle, plus, often, a few dollars more. And with five glasses in a bottle (or four, at a more conservative measure) that's a profit margin so large that only the greediest restaurateurs would dare to charge a similar markup on a full bottle."


Just remember, it’s a secret deal—so secret, in fact, that folks at the restaurant hadn’t heard of it. (Yes, I was seriously tempted to say I heard it through the grapevine.) Luckily I had the press release email on my phone, which the waiter showed to his colleagues. We were all set, the waiter confirmed. A coworker was aware of the special, he said—he just didn’t think anyone was going to take advantage of it.

But you would be insane not to take advantage of a $60 bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape—specifically a 2014 Télégramme rouge from the heralded Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe in southern Rhone. (Near the vineyard is an old telegraph tower that once connected Paris to Marseille, hence the name.) Of course, just because a wine happens to be titled Châteauneuf-du-Pape doesn’t automatically make it a classic. But this particular label is widely regarded as one of the best. "Vieux Télégraphe’s vines are planted on a privileged site," Kermit Lynch noted in his Adventures on the Wine Route. "Thanks to this site, their vinification, and their consistency, it is one of the two or three finest domaines producing Châteauneuf-du-Pape today."

In his tasting notes, Lynch mentions not just minerality but "gunflint." I didn’t find any of that, but I was struck by its lightness and subtle fruit notes. (Okay, maybe stone fruit, but let’s not get carried away.) "Very drinkable" is what my colleague said. But despite it’s drinkability, Châteauneuf-du-Pape has the highest minimum alcohol level (12.5 percent) of any French wine. So you’ll breeze through the bottle and be on the floor before you know it!

And how fitting to drink this wine to spite our tax collection. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is itself a product of a tax law—one that requires winemakers to withhold 5 percent of their crop (reassigned for table wine) in order to ensure only the truly best grapes are used in production. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is French for the pope’s new castle—a reference to the seat of the Avignon papacy during the Schism.

So who knows, even if this country is torn apart at the seams, maybe something good will come out of it, like a fine wine.

For D.C. wine lovers: The Châteauneuf-du-Pape special at the Grill Room continues until the end of April.