On the Second Day a Viognier

Maryhill Viognier With Thai Food

As we move to the 2nd day of our “12 days of Wine” we head to Washington to pair a Washington Viognier with one of our favorite traditional holiday foods, Thai take out!  Yep…Carry out at the holidays always takes me back to “A Christmas Story”.

on the 2nd Day…

Maryhill Winery 2017 Viognier Columbia Valley

We were lucky enough to visit Maryhill back during harvest and get a behind the scenes look at their winery, as well as take in the spectacular views.  This beautiful Viognier was sent to us as a sample for review following our visit.

This wine is 100% Viognier, has a touch of residual sugar and was partially fermented on oak staves. Here is a bit from the winery on the vintage:

“2017 was a warmer than average year and the growing season began slowly. Bud break occurred
a couple of weeks later than usual, especially when compared to the last few harvests. The late
bud break was due to the substantial cold weather that occurred in Washington State during the
winter of 2016. Temperatures then rose dramatically in late June through July. The extreme heat
caused vines to shut down, which further delayed harvest. Some grapes that are customarily
picked early were harvested significantly later than historical dates, although this varied
throughout the state. The upsides to the lengthened harvest were longer hang times and
agreeable flavor development in the red varietals that need more time to age on the vine. In
white varietals, acids were held which resulted in improved balance. Wines from this vintage
will age longer if red, and whites will have more pronounced zing.”

Cassie with Maryhill included a fun fact when she responded to me:

“Fun fact – Maryhill is the largest producer of Viognier in the northwest and best selling in the northwest, also the 2nd best-selling in the nation.”

The winery pulls from the Columbia Valley AVA and this wine is 35% Tudor Hills Vineyard, 26% Gunkel Vineyards (Estate), 23% Coyote Canyon Vineyard and 16% McKinley Springs Vineyard.

Viognier and Asian Takeout

Maryhill Viognier with  Lemongrass & Lime Thai food.
Maryhill Viognier with Lemongrass & Lime Thai food.

In addition Cassie was kind enough to send some suggestions for food pairings:

“Suggested food pairings.. Spicy Asian food due to the natural sweetness in Viognier. Viognier also works in wine and food pairings with a wide variety of seafood and shellfish, roasted or grilled chicken, veal, pork, spicy flavors and Asian cuisine.”

As I said before, my brain went straight to Thai Takeout and there is a new place nearby I had been wanting to try. So…off we went to Lemongrass & Lime  It was cloudy and rainy so soup seemed like a no brainer.

They had a pumpkin coconut milk soup on special so we picked that up, as well as some Tom Yum with Shrimp, Pad Thai with Shrimp, and Orange Peel Chicken.  We went with spice level 3 (the waitress alerted me that 5 was pretty spicy and 10 well…)

The Viognier and the pairing

When you put your nose in the glass it is undeniably Viognier, with beeswax and honeysuckle.  This had some warmth and spice from the oak staves.  It is comfortable with a medium body and it went well with all the food.

I found I enjoyed it to balance the spice in the Tom Yum soup and the Pad Thai and that it really accentuated the flavor of the coconut milk in the soup.

Maryhill Winery Courtesy of Washington Wine Board
Maryhill Winery Courtesy of Washington Wine Board

If you find yourself in Washington, Maryhill is worth looking up, they have spectacular views of the Columbia Gorge, a lovely tasting room and often live music on the weekends.

Goldendale
Tasting Room

9774 Hwy 14
Goldendale, WA 98620
Open Daily 10am – 6pm
Phone: +1 (509) 773-1976

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.  For more on Maryhill Vineyards

Un repas de Noël pour les fêtes de fin d’année (A Christmas Dinner for the end of the year celebrations)…with wine. #Winophiles

The wines of Vignobles & Signature for our French Style Season Dinner

When the French #Winophiles mentioned that they were going to make a “French-Style Season” the theme for our December discussion and tasting, I was all on board.  I knew I wanted to pair these wines with authentic French holiday and winter foods, so…I went straight to my favorite Frenchman, Arnaud, to ask for suggestions.  He had a tête à tête with one of his foodie friends in France and they put together a list for me of their favorite holiday and winter foods for gatherings.  Thus began the planning for a party.  These are foods and wines that are meant to be shared.

Well, the food part began there.  The wines…ahhh…the wines were graciously sent from Vignobles & Signatures through Michèle Piron/Vinconnexion.  7 of their producers participated, and I received 3 wines.

I received the 3 wines as samples and  I was not paid for this post. The opinions expressed here are all my own.

The Wines

The wines of Vignobles & Signature for our French Style Season Dinner
The wines of Vignobles & Signature for our French Style Season Dinner

Château de Tracy 2017 Pouilly-Fumé

Château de Tracy has been run by the same family since the 14th century.  The Domaine is 33 hectares.  Soils here are limestone and flint.

This 2017 Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley comes from a vineyard overlooking the Loire.  This was a tough year with spring frost that came after budbreak and limited the crop. 

Quadratur Collioure Rouge 2015

This wine comes from Coume Del Mas in Banyuls/Collioure. This region is in Occitanies near the border with Spain.

Coume del Mas has only been around since 2001, when Philippe and Nathalie Gard created it.  They have about 15 hectares of vines mostly on the very steep slopes near Banyuls sur Mer.  Everything in the vineyard must be done by hand, you can’t get a tractor or even a horse up these steep slopes.

This wine is 50% Grenache Noir, 30% Mourvèdre and 20% Carignan.  The soil is schist. Manually harvested, the berries get a cold soak and macerate for 3-5 weeks, then spend 12 months in barrel.

I was lucky enough to correspond with Andy Cook at Coume del Mas.  I was looking for cheese pairings.  He was a bit reserved on cheese with their red wines.  They typically pair cheeses with their white wines.  He suggested something creamy to smooth out the tannins.  He also recommended that I decant the wine for two hours prior to serving (a tip that was used and I was rewarded!)

Château Haut Selve Red 2015

This is the 20th anniversary vintage of this wine.  Yep, a new vineyard in Bordeaux.  They are the only vineyard created in Bordeaux int he 20th Century.  Château Haut Selve is located in the Graves appellation, they found a property that had been well known for grapes before the phylloxera epidemic.  The land had been lying fallow for 120 years and was now overgrown with pine.

They took care clearing the trees and planting the vines. Owners Arnaud and Denis Lesgourgues brought in a talented crew to create a sustainable winery that has state of the art technology.

This wine is 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It spends 3 weeks in masceration and then is aged 12 months in French Oak, one third of it new.

A few other wines

Well…3 bottles was not going to do the entire party right?  We needed bubbles to start the party.  I referred to my Cremant post from last month and picked a few white, rather than rosé versions to start the night.  Michael had really enjoyed the Levert Frères Cremant de Bourgogne so I picked up a couple bottles of that as well as of course a Cremant d’Alsace, from Lucien Albrecht.

Our friend Jill brought a bottle of Côtes de Bordeaux from Château La Grange Clinet that was 68% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc. This 2015 vintage was labeled Grande Reserve. It ferments  in stainless steel and then ages in oak for 12 months. The vineyard is sustainable.

We also needed a wine for with dessert so we went with a wine from Sauternes from Chateau Doisy-Védrines.

The menu!

So Arnaud came up with a quick list for me of suggestions that included: Oysters, smoked salmon, foie gras, escargot, La dinde aux marrons, boudin blanc, boeuf bourguignon, pot au feu, tartiflette, raclette, mont d’Or chaud and Bûche de Noel.  We narrowed down the list by time, wine pairing issues and product availability. We couldn’t find boudin blanc locally even after I had a friend with connections call around for me (Thanks Roxanne).  So…here’s what we settled on.

The Cheese platter

  • Gouda
  • Comte
  • Haymarket aged goat cheese
  • a honey goat cheese
  • an herbed goat cheese
  • smoked salmon
  • proscuitto
  • grapes
  • blackberries
  • assorted nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, filberts)
  • Lobster pate with cognac
  • Dijon mustard
  • cherry preserves
  • tomato marmalade

I’ll admit, this was for grazing and sadly we didn’t end up pairing these with the wines, just munching with the Crémant. If we had…I would expect that all of the goat cheeses would have been exceptional with the Pouilly-Fumé and the blackberries, prosciutto, gouda and compte would have played nicely with the red wines.

Butternut Squash Soup

Okay, I know this was no where on Arnaud’s list, but we needed a soup to start us out!  My french tie in for this is that I found the recipe on FrenchWomenDontGetFat.com

Butternut squash soup
Butternut squash soup

This soup went without the cream and was lovely with the Pouilly-Fumé. 

Ratatouille

Ratatouille
Ratatouille

Yes, I know…this is typically a summer dish, but it really is lovely in the fall also as a vegetable side.  It is so rich in flavor.  So this was our vegetable dish and it was delicious.

Escargot

Escargot with cheese
Escargot with cheese

Yep, that was on Arnaud’s list and I found a can at Cured & Whey (thanks again Roxanne).  I didn’t splurge for shells and I didn’t have it in my budget to buy multiple escargot pans, so I went with a South African Recipe I found which simply cooked the escargot in butter, garlic and lemon juice and then put them in a dish, covered them with mozzerella and stuck them under the broiler.  Michael has discovered that he likes escargot!

If you want to find the recipe…snails in butter on Food24

Tartiflette

Tartiflette
Tartiflette

I made two versions of this extremely decadent potatoe dish!  I had no idea what tartiflette was when Arnaud mentioned it.  Now that I have made it, I don’t know how I lived without it!

I had a friend who is Jewish and does not eat animals (with the exception of Thanksgiving), so I wanted to make a tartiflette that she could enjoy also (no one should go without tartiflette).  So I made one classic tartiflette and one with mushrooms rather than bacon. This was based on a BBC recipe for Tartiflette.

Bouef Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon
Boeuf Bourguignon

This was a slow cooker recipe based on Julia Childs recipe.  It was a bit of work, but it was well worth it.

Bûche de Noël

Okay, I was going to make a Bûche de Noël.  I mean I had just watched the Great British Baking Show – Holidays! So I should be good to go!  I chickened out and visited Patisserie Manon and ordered one (they have amazing desserts)

Patisserie Manon dessert counter
Patisserie Manon dessert counter

How the cooking went down

So the party was on Saturday, so I shopped on Wednesday, and started cooking on Thursday (thank goodness I’m on Vacation!).

It began with making the Butternut Squash soup on Thursday. It will sit in the fridge and the flavors will marry.  This way it will be even happier when I reheat it in the crock pot the day of the party.

Friday I began the boeuf bourguignon and the ratatouille.  After the initial prep the boeuf spent the day in the slow cooker and then went to the fridge to become even more flavorful.  I did this before the addition of the mushrooms and wine. 

Boeuf Bourguignon ingredients
Boeuf Bourguignon ingredients

The ratatouille, I was a little concerned about. What if it got soggy as it waited a day to be reheated?  As this was a savory fall inspired ratatouille I decided it was okay.  It smelled like heaven as it cooked.

Saturday I did the tartiflettes.  Roxanne at Cured & Whey had just posted a recipe using the Le délice du Jura cheese which is a Reblochon style cheese from Jura.  I put the two tartiflettes together (one bacon, one mushroom) and then stuck them in the fridge until I was ready to bake them.  Then I prepped the escargot in the same way, ready to have the mozzerella topping added and sit under the broiler.

Before guests arrived I laid out the cheese plates.  And when we were almost ready for soup, I popped the Tartiflette in the oven, followed by the escargot.

The Pairings

This was a feast, so we were drinking the wine, eating the food and enjoying the company.  We did have a few aha moments:

One of my guests who typically avoids white wine, was smitten by the Château de Tracy Pouilly-Fumé.  And we found it went nicely with the Butternut squash soup and the Ratatouille as expected.

I was enamoured by the Quadratur.  I am terrible at decanting, I am always paniced that it will lose to much.  This wine with the Rhone grapes that I love was huge, but opened beautifully as it decanted.  It was my favorite of the night and I enjoyed it most with the boeuf bourguignon, although it was nice with the bacon tartiflette also.

My Bordeaux loving guest, stopped dead in his tracks when he tasted the Haut Selve.  He spun and looked at me and said “That’s really good!”.  Again this wine was really happy with the Bouef Bourguignon.

The Bûche de Noël, beautiful as it was got lost in the fray. I presented it to a group of people in deep conversation.  But we did pour tiny glasses of the Sauternes and have a toast before everyone dug in to the cake as well as the macarons that Jill brought.

Bûche de Noël with macarons
Bûche de Noël with macarons

The Takeaway

This was a brilliant evening filled with great wine, food and conversation.  Everything was delicious and a good time was had by all.  That really seems to me exactly what a French Style Season should be.

And….it makes for outstanding leftovers which we enjoyed with the Crémant D’Alsace the next day!

French Style Season dishes
French Style Season dishes

Join Us to chat on Twitter

There were many other French #Winophiles taking part in this French Style Season. We will be gathering on Saturday December 15th, to discuss the wines and the foods on Twitter.We hope you’ll join– 8am PT, 11 am ET, and 5pm in France— and chat with us (I know 8 am is early Pacific time, but I’ll be up for it!) It’s easy to participate: just log in to Twitter at the times mentioned and follow #Winophiles. Feel free to chime in, making sure to append #Winophiles to your tweets so we can welcome you.

Here’s a preview of what each writer will contribute to the discussion – all articles will be live on Friday or Saturday, December 14 or 15th:

12 days of Wine

Here at Crushed Grape Chronicles we are counting down the days to Christmas with wine!  Join us as we taste great wines and pair them with winemaker suggestions.  Day One is here : On the First day of Christmas my true love gave to me a Gewürvignintocloniger!

Follow all 12 days on our 12 days of wine page

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On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a Gerwürvignintocloniger!

fossil and Fawn, with potato chips and cheese

Okay, well he didn’t really give it to me, he pulled it out of the cellar (“cellar” being a fancy word for the wine rack downstairs).

When we thought about how to celebrate the holidays and to share them with you, the first thing that came to mind was Wine (of course).  So we raided the cellar and pulled out 12 bottles to pair and enjoy in the run up to Christmas. Here is the first of our “12 days of Wine”.

Day 1 – Fossil and Fawn 2017 Oregon White Wine (aka Gewürvignintocloniger)

Gerwhat?  Okay, so we tasted this wine at the “Uncommon Wine Festival”

The 2017 Oregon White Wine is a blend of 50% Riesling, 20% Savagnin Rose, 15% Gewürztraminer, 6% Fruilano, 6% Melon de Bourgogne, 3% Kerner (Yep, that’s a blend!).  They fondly refer to it as the Gewürvignintocliniger.

Here is how Jim and Jenny of Fossil & Fawn described it then.

 

Jim  So this is predominantly from one vineyard here where they have what I would call a bunch of kooky varieties, very uncommon white wine varieties, for example…

Jenny  A very technical term…(Kooky)

Jim  For example, in the Willamette Valley to my knowledge there are 14 plants of Kerner, which is a German grape and that makes up 3% of that wine.  All 14 plants of Kerner are in there.  And so there is a collection of unusual things, Also a collection of not so unusual things. 50% is Riesling which is fermented in an egg shape vessel.  And the next is 20% Savagnin Rose, which is a relative to Gewürztraminer.

Jenny  Which is also in there

Jim  Which, Gewürztraminer is in there at 15%.  It is 6% Fruilano, 6% Melon de Bourgogne and 3% Kerner, those 14 plants.  So the Riesling as I mentioned is fermented in egg the other 50% was fermented on it’s skins for about 4 days and we pressed off and then it went into a mix of Acacia wood barrels and French oak barrels, totally unfiltered native yeast fermented, we use that yeast that exists naturally on the skins of the grapes to carry out the fermentation.  We wanted to make something that was dry but rich and textural but aromatic, something kind of fun, food friendly.

From our July 2018 Interview with Jim and Jenny at the Uncommon Wine Festival at Vista Hills Vineyard.

Pairing a Gewürvignintocloniger

We reached out to Jim Fischer of Fossil and Fawn to ask about a perfect pairing for the holidays.  Remember he described the wine as “something kind of fun, food friendly”?  He also mentioned it as “summery” and well, it’s less than that right now.  But in true Fossil and Fawn form he responded with a perfect pairing for the season!

“As far as pairings go, I’m a fan of elevated lowbrow food. Recently, we had the opportunity to include our gewurvignintocloninger with this incredible Wisconsin brick cheese (from Widmer’s Cheese Cellars) that our friend and cheesemonger Sarah stuck under a Raclette cheese melter. The cheese slowly dripped over a bed of Wavy Lay’s potato chips. The way the aromatic elements in the wine played off the rich, slightly funky cheese was delightful. Also, melting cheese on chips is incredibly fun and a great holiday party activity. We highly recommend it!”

Jim Fischer, II Vice President of Wine Things, Fossil & Fawn

I think my response to Jim was “Brilliant!”  and it really is.  This wine has plenty of those Alsatian varieties in it, so a raclette is pretty perfect there, but going with a Wisconsin brick gives it a twist and then over Wavy Lay’s potato chips adds just the right “Fossil and Fawn” funk.

We will add a little typical raclette accessories: cornichons, a little smoked meat (ours will be Proscuitto to make the Fruilano feel at home), gherkins and instead of the traditional fingerling potatos, the wavy chips!

I don’t have a raclette cheese melter and in lieu of running out and buying one, we found an internet hack by Cook the Story

If you have a raclette grill you can go the fancier route.  Here’s a great post by eat, little bird with ideas for a dinner with raclette.

We couldn’t find a Wisconsin brick cheese, but our cheese monger suggested the Dubliner as a good substitution. (see the photo above)  We also picked up a raclette.

The wine had a bit of funk on the nose and then lots of different aromatics!  This wine is unfiltered. You can see that it is cloudy in the glass and you can see the sediment in the bottom of the bottle.  The first sip started off feeling simple and pleasant and then all the different parts of my mouth erupted with a little “hey what’s that and what’s that!”.  I won’t say this wine is complex in depth, it doesn’t necessarily evolve in the glass, but it has alot going on and is highly entertaining on your palate!  It is fun and funky…I’m channelling a little “Commodores” here with a little “Brick House” and “Play that funky music”.  The wine went well with everything, taking the pickles, cheese, chips and prosciutto out on the dance floor for a spin, each to a different song.

All in all, a really good time! It’s just $20 a bottle…that is if they have any left.

Join us again tomorrow for our Day 2 pick!

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Giving thanks for a quiet kitchen

Cranberries

Cooking can be meditative and sensuous. At Thanksgiving cranberry sauce is always how I start. Listening to the berries and they plop into the colander for rinsing, then the ding as they hit the pan. The shoosh of the sugar as it rains down on top of them, then the plurps as they warm and pop.

Cranberries Orange Rosemary

Cranberries Orange Rosemary

The kitchen is usually quiet with classical music or jazz playing in the background, perhaps a glass of wine near my hand. It’s just me, no one to rush things. I start the pie, measuring out each ingredient and placing each in a beautiful vessel for a group photo before for the mixing begins.

Pumpkin pie ingredients

The group photo, ready for pie

Pouring creme is immeasurably satisfying.

I find I need to do this a the right time of day. The light changes so quickly from day to day in the winter. The sharp angles of bright sunlight can become blinding at points. But when it is right, it makes the whole experience more beautiful. The careful chopping and measuring as the light streams in, illuminating simple things as if they were in a cathedral and somehow made holy.

Cooking can be so sacred, nurturing the spirit and soul even before you take a bite (although I usually do…testing you know, with an only slightly guilty smile).

Tomorrow the tone will change, it will be more upbeat and busy, multiple scents mixing in the air with a full oven and stove bubbling away. But for now I give thanks for a quiet kitchen.

I hope your holiday was delicious and joyful.  Join us again, when I promise to talk more about wine.

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A Sparkling Rosé by any other name…just might be a Crémant – #Winophiles

Crémant Rosé pairings

‘Tis the season for a little celebrating and nothing gets a celebration started better than bubbles. Something about how the bubble sparkle in the glass, or how they tickle your nose when you head in for a sip.

Bubbles are great for atmosphere, they set the mood. They are also perfect with those delicious salty, fatty treats we like to have around. From popcorn to caviar, they make a great match. And beyond just appetizers or snacks, they are great with a meal. The acid and bubbles clean your palate between each bite, making every bite taste as good as the first.

Now, bubbles come in many forms. There is Cava and Prosecco, sparkling wine, Champagne…and then there is Crémant.  Crémant is the topic for the French #Winophiles this month and we will be taking to twitter on Saturday November 17th at 11 am EST to discuss Crémant.  Join us by following the hashtag #Winophiles!

Crémant

What is Crémant? Well it’s bubbles made in the “methode champenoise” from outside of the Champagne region in France. (So secondary fermentation in the bottle)

The word Crémant means “Creamy”. The term was originally used for a Champagne that was slightly less sparkly, the bubbles were creamier, with a little less pressure in the bottle.

Some of the areas that you will find Crémant in France include: Crémant d’Alsace (Alsace), Crémant de Bourgogne (Burgundy), Crémant de Loire, Crémant de Limoux (Languedoc-Roussillon), Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant du Jura, Crémant de Savoie and Crémant de Die.

One of the best things about Crémant is the variety of grapes that you might get to try in them. We were only able to easily locate Crémants from Alsace, Burgundy & the Loire.  Below is a list of these Crémant regions with the grapes that can be included in them (variety, my friends, is the spice of life!)

Crémant Regions and grape varieties allowed

Crémant d’Alsace (Alsace)

If it’s a rose, it will be 100% pinot noir, if it is not, it can include pinot blanc, pinot gris, riesling, chardonnay, auxerrois or pinot noir.  (1/2 of the Crémant in France is made here)

http://www.winesofalsace.com/wines/varieties/cremant-dalsace

Crémant de Bourgogne (Burgundy)

Most Crémants here use pinot noir and chardonnay (it is Burgundy after all), but they may also use gamay, aligoté, sacy & melon

https://www.bourgogne-wines.com/our-wines-our-terroir/the-bourgogne-winegrowing-region-and-its-appellations/cremant-de-bourgogne,2458,9253.html?&args=Y29tcF9pZD0yMjc4JmFjdGlvbj12aWV3RmljaGUmaWQ9MzAxJnw%3D

Crémant de Loire

Primarily these Crémants use chenin blanc, cabernet franc and pinot noir. But the allowed grape varieties include: chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pineaus d’aunis, and grolleau (looking some of those up!)

http://loirevalleywine.com/appellation/cremant-de-loire-touraine/

Rules for Crémant

Each of the AOCs for Crémant have individual rules but they do have a few that they all adhere to:

  • Hand Harvesting
  • Not over 100 liters of juice for 150 kg of grapes
  • Secondary fermentation in bottle
  • Finished wines cannot have a dosage (added sweetness for secondary fermentation) that is over 50g per liter of sugar
  • Age 9 months on the lees before being disgorged and held an additional 3 months before going to market

So with all these different grapes from different regions how does it affect how the wine tastes? Well, we rounded up a couple of Crémants and tasted through to see. With 3 Cremant d’Alsace, a Cremant de Loire and a Cremant de Bourgogne we had a little variety.

The Crémant Rosés

Lucien Albrecht Crémant d'Alsace Brut Rosé.

Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé.

Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé

This wine was received as a sample

This wine from Lucien Albrecht is 100% Pinot Noir and comes from the house that was one of the three founding members of the Crémant d’Alsace AOC.

Made from free run juice, this wine ages on the lees for 14-16 months.  It sits at 12% alcohol and runs around $22.

You can read more about this wine in a previous bit we did on Alsace.

 

Levert Frères Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé Millésime 2013

This is one of the oldest properties in Burgundy.  You will notice the “depuis 1595” on the label.  The estate is in the Mercurey appellation in Côte Chalonnaise.

The 2013 Vintage was 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Gamay. (so while I didn’t celebrate Beaujolais day in the normal fashion…I did drink some Gamay!)  It spends 24 months on the Lees.  It too sits at 12% alcohol and runs around $18.

Deligeroy Crémant de Loire bottle shot

Deligeroy Crémant de Loire

Deligeroy Brut Rosé Crémant de Loire Cave De Vignerons de Saumur

This wine comes from a cooperative formed back in 1957 in the Loire.  They are located in the Saumur appellation on the top of the hill in Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg.

The Deligeroy Brut Rosé is 100% Cabernet Franc grown in soils that include the tufa limestone from which many of the famous Loire castles are built.  Vines here are 20-30 years old.  This wine sits 12 months in racks before disgorging.  Alcohol is 12% and it runs around $18

Tasting and pairing

For this tasting we really wanted to look at the differences in the wines.  These are rosés which means you get a bit more “grape” in them from the skin contact.  The wines are from different regions and different grape varieties, so we expected there to be significant differences.

When I poured the glasses, the color was the first thing that struck me.  The Levert Frères Crémant de Bourgogne was significantly lighter in color than the other two, that light onion skin color.  As we went on to taste, that appeared in the glass.  This wine had less skin contact and as such was lighter with less distinguishable fruit on the nose or the palate. It did however seem to have a little more acid to it.  It ended up being Michael’s favorite in the pairings.

The other two wines, were influenced by their grapes.  The Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace had red berry notes as did the Deligeroy Crémant de Loire, but the notes in the Deligeroy were a little deeper, the Cabernet Franc showing through.

Pairings

As the holiday season is here, we went with a crowd pleasing cheese platter to pair with.  We are geeky and tend to one by one, taste and pair each element to see which pairing we like best.  Below, you will see the results.

Cheese plate with vegetables

Brie, blackberries, lobster pate, cherry preserves, smoked salmon, raw vegetables, salmon spread, strawberries, almonds, cashews, prosciutto

Brie: Any double or triple crème cheese is brilliant with crémant.  I stacked a bit of the brie on a cracker and smeared a little of the cherry preserve on top and found this went really well with the Crémant d’Alsace and the Crémant de Loire with their berry notes.

Lobster Paté:  I had this lobster paté with Cognac in the cupboard and popped it out to try.  I found that the extra richness in the Crémant de Loire really stood up to the richness in the paté and made this an exceptional bite.

Strawberries:  The red berry notes in the Crémant d’Alsace really blossomed here.

Blackberries: Again paired best with the Crémant d’Alsace

Proscuitto:  This brought out the fruit in all the wines.

Smoked salmon:  This salmon was thicker cut and applewood smoked.  The smoky flavor was a bit much for most of the wines, but it paired best with the Loire.  I think had this been a slightly lighter salmon the pairing would have been better.

Raw vegetables with dip:  A suggestions from Wines of Alsace.  This is also typical holiday fare with a veggie platter, so we thought this would be a good test!  We went with a salmon dip and it was perfect with the wines.

Popcorn in a bowl

Popcorn

Popcorn: Bubbles and buttery popcorn are always a good bet.  (potato chips too!) And they are great affordable snacks to keep everybody happy.  This went well, but we also did a pairing with some white Crémant d’Alsace and found the popcorn went better there (more on that later).

Crémant Rosé and lobster tails

Crémant Rosé and lobster tails

Lobster:  Well…pink with pink and lobster with butter screams for bubbles.  This is maybe a little more decadent than snacks for a holiday party, but…when the guests have gone, treat yourself.  Here was where the lack of berry notes in the Crémant de Borgogne came in handy.  This wine really sang with the lobster.  The other wines were fine, but I found the berry notes a bit of a distraction.

Apple and cranberry tart.

Apple and cranberry tart.

We finished out our evening with apple and cranberry tarts.  I always like fruit deserts and the berry and bread notes in all three of the wines paired wonderfully here.

Hopefully you now have some ideas for things to pair with sparkling wines this holiday, whether you are curled up for a quiet evening or feeding a crowd.  And reach for a Crémant!

We also did a piece on the two beautiful Crémant d’Alsace white wines that we paired with a simple dinner the night before! You can read up on Crémant d’Alsace perfect for a country picnic (maybe in the living room).

The French #Winophiles

So there is this wonderful group of wine writers who gather monthly to discuss French Wine.  We pick a topic and we all taste and pair and write a piece and then we get up (early for me) on the 3rd Saturday of the month to discuss. This month is it Crémant and here are all the amazing pieces that the French #Winophiles have written on the subject this month!  Check them all out!

Liz Barrett from What’s In That Bottle is writing “Affordalicious Alsace: Best Bubbles for the Buck”

Jill Barth from L’Occasion will show us “A Festival of French Crémant”

Camilla Mann will talk about a tasting pairing, Lingcod, Legumes, and Domaine Mittnacht Frères Crémant d’Alsace on her blog Culinary Adventures with Cam.

Susannah Gold from avivinare.com will share her post “French Cremant – Perfect Sparklers for the Holiday Season” Susannah is also on Twitter @vignetocomm and Insta: @vignetocomms)

Martin Redmond will be “Elevating Weeknight Fare with Cremant d’Alsace” at the Enofylz Wine Blog

Nicole Ruiz Hudson’s post on SommsTable.com will be “Crémants for Going Out and Staying In”

Wendy Klik of A Day in the Life on the Farm is writing “Rustic Elegance; Fall Vegetable Soup paired with Cremant” which sounds perfect for Thanksgiving!

Jane Niemeyer will teach us “How to Pair Crémant d’Alsace and Food” at alwaysravenous.com

Payal Vora’s post at Keep the Peas will be called “Crémant d’Alsace: More Than Just A Sparkling Wine”

Lauren Walsh from The Swirling Dervish will “Add a Little Sparkle to Your Holiday with Crémant d’Alsace”.

Jeff Burrows will be pairing “Elegant Crémant de Bourgogne Served with Lobster Two Ways” at foodwineclick.com

Gwendolyn Alley from winepredator.com is going to be looking at Crémant Rose: 4 Affordable Food Friendly Beauties for #Winophiles

David Crowley from cookingchatfood.com will be discussing the “Best Food Pairings for Crémant d’Alsace”

Rupal Shankar the Syrah Queen will be giving us “Five Reasons to Drink Crémant d’Alsace this Holiday Season”

Neil will be joining us from Eat, Live, Travel, Write with a post entitled “Champagne taste but not a Champagne budget? An exploration of France’s Crémant wines”

Kat Wisnosky of Bacchus Travel and Tours, who was our fearless leader and host for the month shares with us Crémant – The Perfect Style of Wine for A Festive Meal

Don’t forget to check back with us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on wines from around the world and closer to home. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Crémant d’Alsace perfect for a country picnic (maybe in the living room)

Crémant d'Alsace pairings

Okay, I know, it’s not really picnic season right now, at least not in North America, but sometimes you just want to curl up by the coffee table and have an indoor picnic and that’s just what we did with these two beautiful Crémant d’Alsace wines.

We were focusing on Crémant Rosé for our post with the French #Winophiles, but we had a couple of beautiful sparkling white Crémant d’Alsace wines come in that we thought you should be on the lookout!  They would be perfect for holiday parties, or for a simple relaxing dinner after a day of holiday shopping.

Pierre Sparr Crémant d’Alsace Brut Réserve

Pierre Sparr Crémant d'Alsace

Pierre Sparr Crémant d’Alsace

This Crémant comes from the heart of the Haut-Rhin where Maison Pierre Sparr has been making wine since 1680!  80% Pinot Blanc and 20% Auxerrois the wines are whole cluster pressed separately and undergo their first fermentation in stainless steel. They are then blended and head into secondary fermentation in bottle.  They sit on the lees for 12 to 16 months. The soils here are granite, limestone, gneiss and chalky-clay.  Alcohol is at 12.25% and you can find this wine for around $19 per bottle.

The tasting notes on their site mentioned “dried mango and hints of nuts”, so I picked up dried mango and cashews to see if they would pair well.

Cave de Ribeauville Giersberger Cremant d’Alsace Brut

Cave de Ribeauville Giersberger Crémant d'Alsace Brut

Cave de Ribeauville Giersberger Crémant d’Alsace Brut

The oldest wine cooperative still operating in France, Cave de Ribeauville produces 72 different wines.   Like the Pierre Sparr, this wine sits at 80/20 with Pinot Blanc and Pinot Auxerrois.  It sits in bottle for at least 9 months. Alcohol sits at 12% and I had trouble finding the SRP for this particular wine.  The closest I found was in euros at 8.95 which would make this a bargain at around $10.25 US.

These are tasty and affordable sparking wines. If you want to understand the term “crémant” take a sip of one of these wines and swish it around in your mouth. The creamy delightful texture is the essence of “crémant”

We asked for some suggestions and had some great options!  Casey of Travelling Corkscrew mentioned popcorn, oysters and anything with soy.  Martin Redmond of Enofylz Wine Blog suggested potato chips, popcorn and triple creme cheese.  We opted to pair these with popcorn, pot stickers (another shout out to Casey for the pairing with soy inspiration), brie (we had to settle for double creme), dried mango, cashews and ….Fried Chicken! (that came from the Wines of Alsace site) The acid and bubbles with the fat are perfect!

I recommend takeout.  Life is busy enough during the holidays.  Then park yourself on the floor at the coffee table, turn on your favorite Netflix and pop a bottle of Crémant d’Alsace!  You can thank me later.

Don’t forget to check back with us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on wines from around the world and closer to home. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Dinner with a view – Cadaretta

The Glasshouse at Southwind Vineyard by Cadaretta

We got in a van not knowing how long the drive might be.  I suppose I could have looked at a map, but I’m not sure that would have helped.  We actually ended up in Oregon.  Walla Walla AVA is a border AVA with part of the AVA in Washington and part in Oregon.

We were headed to Cadaretta’s Glasshouse on their Southwind Vineyard for dinner.  We arrived as the sun was setting to amazing views.  We were greeted with a glass of wine and trays of passed hors d’oeuvres.  The food and wine were lovely, but that view…

Cadaretta

The name comes from the name of the schooner that carried the Anderson & Middleton lumber products to market in the early 20th century.  The family has a history in Washington having been in lumber on the coast since 1898.  That’s 120 years in business in WA this year, which is no small feat.  The timber company was based on the coast in Aberdeen WA (of Nirvana fame).

Getting into Grapes

Issues came up with the decline of old growth and the family, always looking to preserve the land, closed their mill. In the 70’s issues with the spotted owl came up and many companies went out of business. The family bought property in California’s central valley and started growing table grapes.  This led them to Paso Robles where they have been growers of wine grapes at their Red Cedar Vineyard for 30 years.

They started Clayhouse wines in Paso Robles.  Their roots were in Washington though, and they returned to purchase this piece of property in the Walla Walla AVA.

Back to the ship

The Cadaretta carried lumber to San Francisco and LA.  Kris’ father used to ride on the ship as a kid on it’s journeys.  During WWII the ship was requisitioned by the Government.  Family lore tell the tale that on the final trip as the Cadaretta the ship was followed down the coast by a Japanese submarine.  The ship was later renamed Southwind, which is where this particular vineyard derives its name.

Southwind Vineyard

This vineyard sits just west of Milton-Freewater on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla AVA.  L’Ecole, Doubleback and Sleight of Hand also have vineyards nearby.  The view and the company are impressive, but what makes this place special for wine is the soil.

Soil at Southwind Vineyard

Most of the soil in the surrounding area is loess (blown dust) from the Columbia and Missoula Floods and you find that in the soils on the Northern slope. Those are the relatively young 15 million year old soils.  On the South slope you find fractured basalt soils.  These are ancient soils.  They were just behind the tent we were sitting in.  You find them only on steep hillsides above 1250.

When they bought the property they spent 2 years digging test plots.  After soil analysis they planted 1 acre test plots. Digging into the basalt is difficult, time consuming and expensive.  The vines have to work harder and dig deeper, but the characteristic they were getting in the wines from this soil made it worth it.

They have been working on this for 8 years and only 2 years ago release the first of the Southwind wines. Kris said that as a timber family they have a saying…

“It takes 40 years to grow a tree, we have patience.”

They wanted to get it right.  They find Syrah and Malbec do best in this soil.  There are few other vineyard grown in fractured basalt. These Southwind wines are pretty rare also with just 50 cases of each released.

Sustainability is common sense

The family comes from timber and it was always just common sense to take care of the land.  It’s no different with the vineyard.  Being salmon safe and sustainable isn’t something they advertise, they just do it.  They have falconers from Paso that they used in the vineyard there who come in to help keep the vermin down, as well as owl boxes on the property.  They use arugula for cover crop and have a bee keeper who comes in with the bees.  It just makes sense to be sustainable.

Artifexs

With that idea in mind, they also didn’t see the need for a big showy winery.  Instead they worked with Norm McKibben and  JF Pellet and created Artifex in Walla Walla which is a custom crush facility for small lot, high end wines.  The name comes from a Latin term meaning “Made skillfully” and it is a state of the art facility.  The facility houses multiple wineries and they are customers to themselves.

The Glasshouse

So they had determined that they didn’t need an extravagant tasting room, but her brother still wanted a place to entertain.  The view here from the vineyard was stunning and he wanted to create a place to enjoy that view.  He had seen a building at the Santa Rosa Airport and honed in on the idea of a glass house with garage doors to open to the view.  The timber is recycled, of course.  To keep this a “special” place they limit it to just a few events.  We were lucky to be one of those few events.

The Dinner

Over the course of the evening, Kris spoke to us between courses and we enjoyed dinner from Olive Catering in Walla Walla to compliment the wines.

The 2014 Cadaretta, Windthrow

This wine was paired with Wild Canadian Arctic Char with Yukon potato emulsion, chanterelle mushrooms and plum relish.

The Windthrow is a Columbia Valley Rhone Style Blend (76% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre and 9% Grenache) sourced from Stonetree, Southwind and Monetta’s Vineyards.  Aged 22 month in 50% Hungarian Oak, 40% New French Oak and 10% Neutral French Oak.  Unfined they made just 259 cases.

The 2015 Cadaretta, Southwind Malbec

Paired with maple braised lamb shank with black truffle risotto, foraged mushrooms and dates.

The Southwind Malbec is a Walla Walla Valley wine specifically from the Southwind Vineyard.  2015 was a warm vintage with an early bud break. This was a wine that opened in the glass.

The 2014 Cadaretta, Springboard

Our dessert pairing of petite fours & truffles.

The Springboard is a Columbia Valley wine and is a Bordeaux style blend of 81% Cab Sav, 10% Malbec and 9% Petit Verdot sourced from Obelisco, Southwind, Red Mountain and Alder Ridge Vineyards.  It is aged in 60% new french oak with the remainder in more neutral oak.  Only 249 cases of this wine were made.

The evening was beautiful, the hosting was warm and the wines were truly stunning.  Getting to speak with Kris and being so warmly welcomed to the place that is so special to their family was a wonderful experience.

You can taste them at their tasting room in Downtown Walla Walla at 315 E. Main Street Thursday through Sunday.  Visit there website here for details.

Don’t forget to check back with us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more great wine country experiences in Washington, Oregon and beyond. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

 

 

Cahors – Malbec from along the winding river Lot

Three Malbecs from Cahors France

We’ve all heard of Malbec.  First thought that popped in your head?  Big bold Argentinian Malbec.  Right?  This month with the French Winophiles we are exploring Cahors, France the original home of Malbec.

History of Cahors

This region sits in the south west of France about 100 miles east of Bordeaux in the Midi-Pyranees and is divided by the Lot river that does a half a dozen or more “S” curves through the area.  The original home of Malbec, here it is often known as Côt or Auxerrois.   First planted by the Romans, the Englishmen named the wine from this area “The Black Wine of Cahors”.  It is said that if you can see your fingers through the glass, it’s not from Cahors.  At one time widely known throughout the wine world, the 100 years war and later phylloxera dampened it’s growth.

The city of Cahors from Mont Saint Cyrin along the river Lot in France

The city of Cahors from Mont Saint Cyrin along the river Lot in France

Cahors is also the name of the city at the eastern end of the area that sits on the last of those hairpin turns of the river Lot.  The Pont Valentré has become the symbol of the town.  It is a 14th-century stone arch bridge crossing the Lot River on the west side of Cahors.

The Pont Valentré in Cahors France

The Pont Valentré in Cahors France

 

The AOC and the wine region

Map of the South West of France

Cahors is located in the South West of France North of Toulouse

The AOC was founded in 1971 and produces only red wine.  The terroirs here are divided into the Vallée – the valley that runs near the river; the Coteaux – the terraces up the sides of the cliffs and the Plateau, which sits at around 980 feet and has limestone soils.  The wines of the Vallée and Coteaux tend to be more fruit forward, where as the wines from the Plateau have a bit more finesse due to the wide diurnal shifts (day to night temps) which make for slower ripening and a later harvest.

Countryside and local cuisine

The country side here is out of a storybook with villages perfect for biking, boating on the river and hot air ballooning.  It is also home to many Michelin starred chefs, due in no small part to the abundance of truffles in the region.  The annual truffle festival early each year brings people from far and near to bid on truffles from vendors walking the street. The region is also noted for chestnuts, wild mushrooms, foie gras, goose, duck and walnuts.  All of these things play beautifully with the local wine.

The wines

While I was doing that fabulous Grower Champagne tasting last month at Valley Cheese and Wine, I was thinking about this month and our Cahors tasting.  So…before I left, I picked up a bottle of Cahors and a cheese that Kristin suggested to pair with it.  We later picked up two other wines to compare, of the 3 we ended up with 3 different vintages.

 

Château du Cèdre – Cèdre Heritage 2014

Cedrè Heritage 2014 Malbec from Cahors

Cedrè Heritage 2014 Malbec from Cahors

This wine is 95% Malbec and 5% Merlot

This family estate is run by Pascal and Jean-Marc Verhaeghe.  They have 27 hectares of vienyards growing 90% Malbec with 5% each of Merlot and Tannat.  They do have a little bit of white grapes growning with a hectare of Viognier and then a little bit of Sémillon, Muscadelle and Savignon Blanc.  Vines here are between 10 and 60 years old.

Verhaeghe might not sound French to you.  Well that would be because the name is Flemish.  Charles Verhaeghe started a farm in the area in 1958.  His father Léon had left Flanders for south west France in the early 20th century. They planted some vines and added to the plots each year.  Charles bottled his first wine in 1973.  His sons Jean-Marc and Pascal now run the estate.

The vineyard was certified Organic in 2012.  The vineyard is divided into three parts.  The largest section sits on lime stone soils, it has a southwest orientation and produces wines with very fine tannins.  The other 2 plots face south.  The soil here is red sands and pebbles with clay below.  These wines have a bit more power.

Maison Georges Vigouroux

This Maison spans four generations since 1887 with Bertrand-Gabriel Vigouroux now at the helm as winemaker.  In 1971 they replanted Haute-Serre, the first vineyard replanted in Cahors after the phylloxera.  They increased the density of planting to reduce the yield and stress those grapes.  They find that this increases the delicacy of their wines.  They now own around 150 hectares of vineyards and are considered to be the premiere producers of Malbec in the region.  They have 4 wineries and produce a variety of styles of Malbec.

Wine/Agro-tourism is also a focus for Georges Vigouroux.  They have “La Table de Haute-Serre” a restaurant at the Château de Haute-Serre winery and are devoted to promoting the local products that enhance and pair perfectly with the  wine.  They do tours, workshops and cooking classes.  The Château de Mercuès is a luxury Winery Hotel in Occitanie that immerses it’s guests in a high end wine country experience.

We found 2 wines locally from this producer:

Antisto Cahors 2013

Antisto 2013 Malbec from Cahors

Antisto 2013 Malbec from Cahors

This wine from Georges Vigouroux is 100% Malbec and comes from slope vineyards in Cahors (that would be the Coteaux vineyards we spoke of above).  These are clay-limestone or gravel and silt on terraces overlooking the Lot Valley.  They list the winemaking method as short maceration and long fermentation.  This wine can age for 5-8 years.

They also do an Antisto Mendoza, the idea is to have the ability to compare Malbec from France and Argentina, done in the style of the region.

Atrium Malbec Cahors 2016

Atrium 2016 Malbec from Cahors

Atrium 2016 Malbec from Cahors

Another wine from Maison Georges Vigouroux.  Their website speaks of the name of this wine in this way

“Place of convergence in the Roman house, the atrium is also the centerpiece of castles, the forecourt of cathedrals … Another theory also suggests that the word atrium is derived from the adjective “ater”, which means “black”: a a haven of choice for Malbec.”

The grapes for this wine are again grown on hillsides.  It is a Cuvée from multiple vineyards and is aged on oak for 6 months.  This wine is a blend, of the region’s 3 main varieties, Malbec, Merlot and Tannat.

The Atrium name is also the overall name for the group of boutique wineries that highlight the wines from Southwest France.  They continue this local focus with wine/agro-tourism, promoting local products that pair perfectly with their wines.

Tasting and Pairing

When I picked up the bottle of Cèdre Heritage at Valley Cheese and Wine, I asked Kristen for a recommendation for a good cheese to pair.  She set me up with a raw cows milk cheese from Sequatchie Cove Creamery http://www.sequatchiecovecheese.com/

in Tennesee called Coppinger http://www.sequatchiecovecheese.com/index/#/candice-whitman/

This is a semi-soft washed rind cheese with a layer of decorative vegetable ash down the center.  This cheese is not a flavor bomb, rather it is comfortable, like the quiet but really interesting person sitting by the window.

In addition we picked up bleu cheese (gorgonzola), some prosciutto, sliced strawberries, fig jam, raw honey and walnuts.

Cheese platter

Cheese platter with Sequatchie Cove Creamery’s Coppinger cheese, gorgonzola, prosciutto, walnuts, fig jam, honey and strawberries

For dinner we paired beef barbeque, herbed potatoes and a salad.

Beef barbeque with herbed potatoes to pair with three Malbecs from Cahors

Beef barbeque with herbed potatoes to pair with three Malbecs from Cahors

Impressions

The wines spanned a few years and we tasted them youngest to oldest.

The 2016 Atrium had black plum and tobacco and unsurprisingly, as it was the youngest, seemed the brightest.  I really enjoyed this with the gorgonzola.

The 2014 Cèdre Heritage gave black cherry and ground cinnamon.  It had tart acid and opened up to give off more leather and barnyard.

The 2013 Antisto felt like the most complex on the nose with leather, black plum, fresh eucalyptus leaves.  It was a little less complex on the palate, but I had a hint of black olive that appeared later as it opened.  This went beautifully with the fig jam.

I will admit that all of these wines were purchased for under $20.  I enjoyed them, but didn’t have my socks blown off.  They all disappated fairly quickly on my palate.   I look forward to locating and exploring more wines from Cahors and noting the differences in wine styles and vineyard locations.  Perhaps a Malbec comparison with French and Argentinian wines is in order!

I look forward to hearing about the other Malbecs my fellow French #Winophiles tried, as well as their pairings and finding more wines from this region to search for!

The French #Winophiles

This group of writers monthly take up a French wine or region to taste, pair and discuss!  If you want to join us for the discussion, it will happen on Twitter on Saturday September 15th at 8 am Pacific Time, 11 am Eastern Standard Time.  Just jump on and follow #Winophiles!

Here are the other great pieces on Cahors!

Rob from Odd Bacchus tells the real deal on Cahors: A LOT to Love

Liz from What’s In That Bottle paints the place Red Wine & Black All Over

Wendy from A Day In The Life On The Farm tempts the crowd with Basque Chicken Stew paired with Black Wine

Payal from Keep the Peas gives us a bit of everything we want with White Wine, Red Wine, Black Wine, Cahors!

Camilla from Culinary Adventures With Camilla gets the party going with Grilled Lamb Sirloin with Cedre Heritage 2015

Rupal from Journeys Of A Syrah Queen inspires and delights with Crocus Wines – Exploring Cahors With Paul Hobbs

Jeff from Food Wine Click may be getting us in trouble with Forbidden Foods and Stinky Cahors

Jill from L’Occasion, will share Cahors: Your Favorite Wine For Fall

Break open a bottle of French Malbec and enjoy a selection of great reads!

And don’t forget to follow us at Crushed Grape Chronicles  and don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Farmer Fizz? An exploration of Grower Champagne with the French #Winophiles

Pierre Péters Champagne Rosé for Albane

Grower Champagne, Farmer Fizz it’s been called. Why do we want to drink it? Why would I prefer “a dirt to glass story” to go with my bubbly? Who wouldn’t?

Quick breakdown on Champagne

You are probably already aware that just because it is fizzy wine, doesn’t mean you can call it Champagne. That title is reserved for sparkling wines made in the Methode Champenois in the Champagne region of France. (for more on what makes Champagne different dive into our piece “Sparkling Wine or Champagne“.)In the US in California they labeled bubbly as Champagne for a bit, (something to do we us not ratifying the Treaty of Versailles, back in 1919. When we then signed the wine trade agreement with France in 2006, Korbel was grandfathered in to be allowed to use the name Champagne) and France put the kibosh on that.

So to be called Champagne you must come from the Champagne Region in France. Now within that there are more distinctions and here is where “Grower Champagne” comes in.

Most Champagnes come from large Champagne Houses or Maisons.  These houses may have estate vineyards, but they also source from all over the region, pulling grapes from small growers.  They then blend the juice and often blend in some previous vintages.  The goal?  To create a uniform wine NV (non vintage) that will have consistent flavor and quality from year to year.  A noble pursuit!  And many fine Champagnes come from these houses.

 

The Champagne AOC is one of the largest in France covering 340,000 hectares with over 300 Villages. 

80% of the wine coming out of this AOC is produced by Négociants and Coopératives.

They can pull from anywhere in the AOC AND they can purchase not only grapes, but pressed juice or in some cases sur-lattes (that is pre-made sparkling wine).

 

Grower Champagne

Picture the small winery, one that has maybe been in the family for generations, growing grapes and now, rather than selling those grapes to someone else to blend, they keep those grapes and make their own wine.  This is a wine that speaks of their land, their soil and their style.  We love this in wineries, don’t we?  It’s tougher to do in Champagne, because the bubbly, well… the equipment is expensive and the process is time consuming.

For those who don’t have the money to invest in the equipment you find Cooperatives, places where smaller vineyard owners can get together and make a Champagne from a village. These vineyards bring their grapes together and one winemaker will often make a cuvée.  These are often vintage Champagnes. These are noted on the bottle with “CM” for Coopérative Manipulant.

True Grower Champagne comes from a Vigneron.  Someone who owns the land, farms the land, harvests the grapes and makes the wine.  They are typically vintage Champagnes and the best part about this (IMHO) is that they taste different from year to year.  As with good still wines, you are able to taste the terroir.  It makes tasting much more exciting in my opinion.

Types of Champagne Producers

So a quick breakdown on the one set of codes that you will find in fine print on the Champagne Bottle that can help you determine the origin of your Champagne.

ND Négociant Distributeur

  • These guys are the labeler/marketers.  They buy a Champagne, label it and sell it.

MA Marque d’Acheteur

  • Kinda like ND’s, they just buy a wine and private label it with their brand.

(So I don’t have alot of use for these top two.  If you need to buy a whole bunch of Champagne for a celebration and no one is going to notice quality…well maybe then.  I mean bubbles are bubbles, but if you have a choice…look for the codes below)

NM Négociant Manipulant

  • They may buy all or some of their grapes from others.  Deal is that anything under 94% estate fruit puts you in this category.  While big houses are typically in this class, it’s easy for others other to get lopped in also.

CM Coopérative Manipulant

  • These are the Co-ops we talked about above.  This is a group of growers that work together to make a single wine or brand.

RC Récoltant Coopérateur

  • This is a small grower, who rather that purchasing their own equipment, has it made at a co-op facility (we see lots of this style of co-op popping up in California for wineries)

SR Sociéty de Récolants

  • This is a group of growers who get together to buy the equipment to share and then each produce their own wine.  (These spots are popping up in California too for still wines.  The Buellton Bodegas that Michael Larner started is a great example, they have separate warehouses for each winery, but they share the larger more expensive equipment)

RM Récolant Manipulant

  • This is where it’s at in my book.  They grow the grapes (a minimum of 95% must be estate)

Where do you find this on the label?  Well, it varies, but typically it is in small print on the back label.

RM Récolant Manipulant

RM Récolant Manipulant

Vintage Champagne

Just because you are a grower, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are making “Vintage” Champagne.  You can be a grower and still blend previous vintages and make a cuvée.  And truth be told, if you want to sell a Vintage Champagne, there are a few more hoops for you to jump through regulation wise.  Vintage Champagnes must spend a minimum of 3 years aging on the lees in bottle, where as non-vintage only need 15 months.

Some Growers choose to put the vintage on the label.  Others, while adhering to the standards for a vintage, prefer to focus on the vineyard and site.  You will see this below with the Chartogne-Taillet I tasted.

Regions within the Champagne AOC

Within the Champagne AOC there are Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne and Côte des Bars.

Map of the regions within the Champagne AOC

Map of the regions within the Champagne AOC

Overall, the Paris Basin is Jurassic sediment covered in Cretaceous Chalk and the Chalk is the key to the terroir in this region.  Chalk can hold water, so the roots struggle to dig down up to 30 meters to tap into this moisture.  The average precipitation in the Champagne region is just 26 inches each year, so this moisture stored in the soil is critical to keeping the vines going.

Each of the regions within the Champagne AOC have slightly different soil breakdowns and each grow a slightly different mix of wine grapes.

Montagne de Reims

This region in the Northwest of Champagne has cretaceous chalk with clay and sand for soil.  The breakdown for grapes in the region is 56% Pinot Noir, 28% Chardonnay and 16% Pinot Meunier.  You might see village names on the label also.  The Grand Cru Villages include: Ambonnay, Beaumont-sur-Vesle, Bouzy, Louvois, Mailly-Champagne, Puisieulx, Sillery, Verzenay and Verzy.  Premier Cru Villages include: Bezzanes, Billy-la-Grand, Chamery, Chigny-les-Roses, Eceuil, Jouy les Reims, Les Mesneux, Ludes, Montebré, Pargny les Reims, Rilly-la-Montagne, Sacy,Taissy, Tauxières-Mutry, Trépail, Troi Puits, Vaudemanges, Villiers-Allernad, Villier-aux-Noeuds, Ville-Dommange and Villiers Marmery.  Vineyards here face multiple directions (northeast, southeast, southwest and west). The tops of the hills have deposits of lignite that nourishes the chalk soils below.

Vallée de la Marne

South West of Montagne de Reims along the Marne River you find the Vallée de la Marne region.  Here Pinot Meunier is king, with 63% of the grapes grown.  Pinot Noir comes in at 27% and Chardonnay at 10%.  The sub soil is Cretaceous chalk with a top soil mix of clay, flint, limestone, marl and sand.  There are 2 Grand Cru Villages: Aÿ, and Tours-sur Marne.  Premier Cru Villages include: Bisseuil, Champillon, Cumières, Dizy, Huatvillers, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ and Mutigny.  The best vineayrds here face south.

Côte des Blancs

South of the Vallé de la Marne you find the Côte des Blancs.  There is a reason for the name, 96% of the grapes grown here are Chardonnay with a mere 3% Pinot Noir and 1% Pinot Meunier.  The soil here is Cretaceous Chalk.  There is a bit of clay and sand, but really it is overwhelmingly chalk.  Vineyards are typically east or southeast facing.  Grand Cru Villages include: Avize, Chouilly, Cramant, le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger and Oiry.  Premier Cru Villages include: Bergèrese-les-Vertus, Coligny, Cuis, Etréchy, Vertus, Villeneuve-Renneville and Voipreux.

Côte des Sézzane

Step a little further south of Côte des Blancs and you find Côte des Sézzane.  Like Côte des Blancs, it is mostly Chardonnay that is grown here.  The vineyards here are about 64% Chardonnay and tend to face southeast which allows them to get a little riper than the grapes of the Côte des Blancs. The soils here are clay and clay silk with pockets of chalk.

Côte des Bars or The Aube

The furthest south you find The Aube or Côte des Bars.  Here the grapes are primarily Pinot Noir (83%) and the soil is marl. Almost half of the PInot Noir grown in the Champagne AOC is grown in this region. While not as well known, this area has some of the prettiest country side.  It includes the 3 communes that make up Les Riceys; Ricey-Bas, Ricey-Haut and Ricey-Haut-Rive.

How does this all affect the flavor?

For the most part you will notice the wines of Côtes des Sézzane and Côte de Bars are more aromatic and have less acidity.  The wines of the Vallée de la Marne are unctuous and fruity (due to the pinot meunier) and the Côtes des Blancs are higher in acidity and racy.

As I was researching I found that the big wine mega shops don’t typically have staff that will recognize the term “Grower Champagne”.  I had a couple of less than pleasant phone and face to face conversations that left me frustrated.  I reached out to the smaller wine shops that, sadly, are all the way on the other side of the valley from me (45 minute to an hour one way trip).  Incredibly, I missed out on a tasting event with Jean-Remy Rapeneau, who’s family owns Chateau Bligny at Khoury’s.  I found out about it too late to manage to go.  I did also contact Valley Cheese and Wine in Henderson.  They had over 20 different grower Champagnes in stock.  We went to look and picked up one bottle and found that they were doing a Champagne Class.  So…you will get to hear about that at the bottom of this piece.

When in Vegas…my go to wine shops are Khoury’s and Valley Cheese and Wine.

From our trek across the valley to Valley Cheese and Wine we picked up a bottle of Grower Champagne from Pierre Péters.  This was their Rosé for Albane Brut NV.  This comes through the Terry Thiese Estate Selection.

Pierre Péters Champagne Rosé for Albane

Pierre Péters Champagne Rosé for Albane

A little about Pierre Péters

So Gaspar Péters, was from Luxembourg.  In 1858 he married Miss Doué who owned vineyards in Le Mesnil.  They started their operation with about 2 hectares. Their son Louis Joseph continued the business.  Louis’ son Camille, was one of the first growers in 1919 to sell bottles under his name.  In 1930 Camille acquired “Le Chétillons” which was 2.5 hectares.  Pierre was Camille’s oldest son.  At the ripe old age of 12 they had him out traveling on his own developing sales.  He evidently took the branding to heart and when his father passed he took over operations and released the first vintage under Pierre Péters.  In 1967 the estate passed to François, his second son who ran the estate until 2008.  In 2007 Rodolphe Péters joined the family estate.  He came with 12 years of experience as an oenologist/winemaker in the wine world. (information from http://champagne-peters.com/en/historical)

This Champagne is from the Côte des Blancs region and within that Le Mesnil-sur-Oger.  This is a 20 hectare vineyard, so around 50 acres and produces 14,000 cases annually.  Soils here are Cretaceous Chalk and they grow 100% Chardonnay.  They are known for their Blanc de Blancs.  So…hmmm how do they make a rosé?  Well, they moved into the rosé market in 2007 adding this “Rosé for Albane” which adds some saignée Pinot Meunier to Chardonnay.  This wine is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Meunier.

Champagne & Sushi

Sushi with Grower Champagne

Sushi with Grower Champagne

We paired this first with some takeout sushi, we were hungry and it was what was for lunch!  And really, you can’t go wrong with sushi and Champagne.  Rosé Champagne is great against melt in your mouth fish and soy.  We always talk about salt and fat with Champagne (popcorn, potato chips, caviar & créme fraiche) you get that same fat from the fish and salt from the soy.  And for me, the festive atmosphere a sushi platter creates goes great with bubbles.

A selection of cheeses with Grower Champagne

A selection of cheeses with Grower Champagne

I did dive deeper into pairings and later we paired the Champagne with a selection of cheeses.  We visited our friendly Murray’s Cheese counter and picked up a couple cheeses to pair.

Swiss Emmentaler

Swiss Emmentaler cheese

Swiss Emmentaler cheese

I was hoping to pair the buttery and nutty notes of this wine with the Champagne.  It was okay, but I honestly liked the cheese better on it’s own.  This is a raw cow’s milk cheese from the Emmental region of Switzerland.  When you say swiss cheese, this is what you mean.

Grand Margaux

Grand Margaux cheese

Grand Margaux cheese

Brie and Champagne.  No brainer right?  This cheese is double creme and is similar to Brie and leans towards buttery flavors.  It paired as perfectly as expected.

Comte

Comte cheese

Comte cheese

Alpine cheese is a great pairing for Champagne.  We waffled between Comte and Gruyere and thought we were picking up the Gruyere.  No worries, this cheese went very well.  As firm as this cheese can be on it’s own, the Champagne makes it seem lighter in your mouth.  This cheese is cut from 90 pound wheels from the France’s Jura.  It is made from raw, mountain pasture fed cow milk.

Fourme d’Ambert

Fourme d'Ambert cheese

Fourme d’Ambert cheese

Typically I would have chosen this to go with a sweeter wine, but I wanted to see how it would do.  Topped with a bit of honey, it was heaven.  Without the honey, Meh.  Made from pasteurized cows milk in Auvergne, this cheese is made from unpressed curds inoculated with a blue mold.  They start a bit crumbly, but then after 4 months in cave you get a smoother softer blue with notes sweet cream and mushrooms.

We garnished with champagne grapes.  No they are not really the grapes that you make champagne from, but they are cute sweet little grapes that are tasty and look adorable on the cheese plate.  That sweetness was a great offset to the savory cheeses.

We also paired with a fresh cheese bread and quite honestly that was one of my favorite pairing.  All the yeastiness was happy to play together in my mouth.  Bread and Champagne….yeah, I could happily try to live on that.

Bread with Champagne

Bread with Champagne, yeast and more yeast

Now for a brief rundown of my Champagne Class at Valley Cheese and Wine.

A Champagne Tasting

So I spent an evening around a table with a dozen or so people at, Valley Cheese and Wine, tasting through some Champagnes with Bob, who focus’ on the wine here.  We were tasting through 6 Champagnes all but one were Grower Champagnes.

They did provide us pairings for the tasting (after all they are a cheese shop also and Kristin brings in an amazing array of cheeses)  The platter of cheeses included Cremèux de Diteaux with truffle (a cow’s milk cheese from France), Clochette (goat’s milk cheese from France) and Regal de Bourgogne with raisins (cow’s milk from France).  There were blueberries, strawberries, dried apricots, raspberries and bread, plus Jamon Serrano from Spain, Chorizo from Spain and Speck from Italy.  Later in the evening, hot fries and baked macaroni and cheese with crumb topping were served.  The salt the fat the richness, was perfect for the Champagne to cut through.

Duval-Leroy

Run by a family team of mother Carol and her 3 sons Julien, Charles and Louis, this is a Champagne House, not a Grower Champagne. They produce about 4.5 million bottles annually.  The Duval-Leroy Champagne house was formed in 1859 between two families; the Duval family of Vertus in the Côtes des Blancs and the Leroy family, merchants from Reims.  It has been passed down father to son for 6 generations.  Carol Duval-Leroy took over the company in 1991, when her husband unexpectedly passed at just 39 years of age.

2006 Duval Leroy Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs

2006 Duval Leroy Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs

Duval-Leroy Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2006 Prestige

100% Chardonnay, 2,000 cases produced.  This is made from grapes from the Grand Cru Villages that include: Avize, Cramant, Chouilly, le Mesnil sur Oger and Oiry in the Côte des Blancs.   This goes under malolactic ferementation to give it a smoothness and that bit of bready yeastiness on the nose.  These wines age in chalk cellars for a minimum of 6 years.  This wine ages on the lees for 6 years.

This was a good Champagne, but it sat as our control.  It was a bright Blanc de Blanc.  Each of the wines we tasted after this were much more intense both in the nose and in flavor on the palate.

Champagne Doyard

Located in Vertus in the Côte des Blancs, this is a family farm. Champagne Doyard has 10 hectares of Chardonnay spread over Vertus, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger, Cramant and Avize.  They also have 1 hectare of Pinot Noir in Vertus and Aÿ.  The vineyards average 40 years in age.  They can trace their family roots in Champagne to the 17th century. They farm biodynamically and the vineyards are worked by horse rather than tractor to keep the ground in the vineyards from compacting.

2011 Champagne Doyard Clos de l'Abbaye Grower Champagne

2011 Champagne Doyard Clos de l’Abbaye

2011 Champagne Doyard Clos de L’Abbaye Premier Cru Extra Dry

“Clos” indicates wall, and this wine is made from a little walled vineyard behind the winery that was planted in 1956.  It spent 4 years on the lees. This is a vintage champagne and it is 100% Chardonnay.

I found this wine to be more fragrant than the first.  There were fruits and florals on the nose and the flavors floated in my mouth and had a lovely length.

Marc Hébrart

Located in the Vallée de la Marne, Jean-Paul Hébrart took over the reins from his father in 1997. With 15.5 hectares of vineyard they produce 8,750 cases annually.  Calculated in acres that is 37 acres, which is made up of 70 different parcels in 10 villages.  They do 6 or 7 cuvées here.  The soil here is chalk and they grow 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay.  Jean-Paul is experimenting with indigenous yeast and barrel fermentation.  Everything here is organic and sustainable and they hand riddle the bottles.

2010 Marc Hébrart Rive Gauche Rive Droite Grower Champagne Extra Brut

2010 Marc Hébrart Rive Gauche Rive Droite Champagne Extra Brut

Rive Gauch Rive Droite 2010 Grand Cru Champagne Hébrart Extra Dry

This wine is named for the vineyards that comprise this blend which sit on both the left and right sides of the Marne River.  This wine is 50% chardonnay and 50% pinot noir, natural yeast, unfiltered and made in barrels. This wine is part of the Skurnik Portfolio.  This aged 6 years on the lees and the pinot noir is old vine.

As we went through the tasting I felt like the aromas in each wine became more intense.  The nose on this wine is intense.  It hit me with notes of apple cider, that type of sweetness, that is tangy on the nose.  This wine was served with the baked macaroni and cheese with a crumb topping.

Champagne Chartogne-Taillet

From the Montagne de Reims region.  This winery has 11.5 hectares of vineyards and produces 7,500 cases of wine annually.  They grow 40% chardonnay, 38% pinot noir, 20% pinot meunier and 2% arbanne.  They are located in the village of Merfy and have been growing wine there for over 500 years.  Alexandre Chartogne now runs things and is delving into biodynamics.  He uses stainless steel, neutral barrique and concrete eggs and allows for natural malolactic fermentation. Another from the Skurnik Portfolio, you can find more information here.

The vines in this vineyard go deep to look for water, some digging down as much as 65 feet.  They are also ungrafted vines (which is risky for phylloxera, an aphid which in the early 1900’s took out over 70% of the vines in France.  Since then most French vines are grafted to American root stock which those little aphids evidently don’t like to eat).  They believe that the ungrafted vines pull more terroir and varietal character into the wines.

We tasted 2 wines from this producer, which were made from a single vintage, but they chose not to label them as vintage Champagnes, but rather to focus on the single vineyards each came from.

*Bob did a follow up to confirm the reasoning for Chartogne-Taillet not releasing as vintage.  The answer was “Chartogne wants to have flexibility and to release them as he wants rather than by regulation. The vintage in which the wines were harvested is on the back label.”

NV Chartogne Taillet Les Barres GrowerChampagne

NV Chartogne Taillet Les Barres

Champagne Chartogne-Taillet Les Barres Extra Dry

This wine is made from grapes from the 2012 vintage, but they chose not to label it by vintage. The first vintage of this wine was produced in 2010. It is 100% Pinot Meunier.

This wine was fragrant and unctuous. I got an herbal-bramble note lightly on the nose.  This wine felt a little more wild to me.  I had not had a 100% Pinot Meunier Champagne before, and it was exotic to me and I liked it!

NV Chartogne Taillet Couarres Château Grower Champagne

NV Chartogne Taillet Couarres Château

Champagne Chartogne-Taillet Couarres Chateau Extra Dry

They make a Couarres Champagne also, but this is the Couarres Château Champagne, a distinction that indicates the specific vineyard.  This is a single parcel wine with vines planted in 1987.

This wine is 100% Pinot Noir.  It was a lovely wine, but quite honestly, I was so enamoured by the Les Barres….

Champagne Geoffroy

Located in the Vallée de la Marne in Cumières the Champagne Geoffroy vineyards span 14 hectares (just over 34 acres) and they produce 10,400 cases anually.  Soils here are calcareous, sandstone and clay.  The family has been rooted in Cumières since the 17th century, but it was in the 1950’s when Roger and Julienne Geoffroy decided to start making their own wine.  René Geoffroy took the reins when his father passes all to soon and together with his wine Bernadette they continued the brand.  Today, Jean Baptiste Geoffroy runs the estate and they have moved the winemaking facilities to Aÿ.  The vineyards are made up of 35 plots of 24% Chardonnay, 34% Pinot Meunier and 42% Pinot Noir.

NV Geoffroy Rosé Saignée of Pinot Noir Grower Champagne

NV Geoffroy Rosé Saignée

Champagne Geoffroy Rosé de Saignée

The Rosé de Saignée Brut is hand harvested and sorted and they avoid malolactic fermentation.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir and you get that Pinot funk the minute you dip your nose in the glass.  This is a Saignée, and we have talked about this in terms of rosé before, where a winemaker will bleed off some of the juice of a red wine to intensify the flavors and then use this bled off juice to make a rosé.  In this case they let the juice sit on the skins for about 4 hrs to get this vivid color and intensity and then bled off all of the juice to use to make this Champagne.  It spends 3 years on lees.

You get bright BRIGHT red fruit on this and some savory notes.  It is cheerful in color and intense with flavor.  (Think Tavel intensity with bubbles)

The Grower Champagne Community

As Bob talked about the winemakers, most of whom he has met.  He talked about what a small community they are and how they help each other out.  The Pinot Meunier that is used in the Pierre Péters Rosé that we started with comes from either Geoffroy or Hébrart.  These growers all know each other and work together, sharing knowledge.  It was heartwarming to know that the type of wine community that we have seen in Oregon and Santa Barbara, winemakers working together and supporting each other, exists across the pond.

And I mentioned hand riddling, horses plowing fields, organic and sustainable farming and really all of these producers are doing that.  Most in fact are gravity flow in their winemaking.  They differ in sites, and in styles, but overall growing philosophies are similar.

Global Warming as it impacts Champagne

They are seeing the signs of Global Warming on  a very locale scale.  They and other Champagne makers are finding each year that they are cutting back on the dosage (the sweetness added to the bottle after disgogement that determines the sweetness of the Champagne).  This is because the grapes are getting riper earlier.  Within their lifetime they are watching tremendous change in the climate and ripening times in the vineyards. Bob mentioned that one wine maker had said “If they tell you Global Warming is not happening, send them to my vineyard, they can see.”

How Much?

Now if you are heading out to buy a bottle of Grower Champagne, be aware that these wines are not cheap.  They run from $85 to $175 retail and there are many in the shop that run $200-$300 each.  You can find Grower Champagnes that are less expensive, and you may find a great deal, but keep in mind, that Grower Champagne is all the rage these days, and many people are jumping into the market without proper experience.  Do a tasting if you can, before settling on splurging on a bottle.

The French Winophiles on Grower Champagne

We are lucky enough to get to associate with some wonderful people in the French # Winophiles group and this month we all dove into Grower Champagne.  So if this has wet your whistle, you can dive into more great information and pairings for Grower Champagne.  And…join us on Twitter on Saturday Morning 11 am EST or 8 am PST!  Just follow #Winophiles to join in the conversation!  And it’s Saturday morning, pop a bottle of Grower Champagne while you join us!

Here are the links to all the other great articles the #winophiles have out there on the subject!

 

And don’t forget to check back here with us  at Crushed Grape Chronicles , you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

We will be continuing our journey through Oregon’s Willamette Valley and the winemakers we met there and…next month with the French #Winophiles we will be diving into Cahors!


Vinho Verde and Arroz de Bacalhau (Rice with cod)

Vinho Verde and Arroz de Bacalhau

A simple dinner inspired by a simple Vinho Verde from Portugal.

Vinho Verde white wine

Espiral Vinho Verde white wine.

I love Vinho Verde.  I don’t typically drink soft drinks, soda, pop, coke…what ever you might refer to it as in your neck of the woods, but bubbles in my wine…well, I’m a sucker for that.  Vinho Verde, takes me back to the fresca of my youth.  I didn’t like it at the time, but now, it’s a flavor I crave in the heat of summer and Vinho Verde gets it for me.  It’s not typically an expensive wine, this one was under $5 at Trader Joes.  The bubbles?…yeah, not naturally occuring, but I’ll live with that.  At some point a Vinho Verde producer had a little natural effervescence sneak into his wine and people loved it so much that most producers adopted the practice of adding it.

While I was looking for something cool, I also needed something authentic and good for my soul.  Michael had been working and I wanted a nice curl up dinner to fill him up without being too fancy, and I wanted a good traditional pairing for my Vinho Verde. I came across a recipe for Arroz de Tamboril, which is a Portuguese dish “rice with monkfish”.  Sadly the butcher told me they had no monkfish, but…they had some cod loins.  So I adapted.  The cod loins would be meaty and delicious and the fact that they were frozen, only helped me in cutting them into the perfect bites for in the dish.

Arroz

The French have risotto, the Spanish paella and the Portuguese have arroz.  These are those comforting creamy rice dishes that are meant to be eaten (IMHO) out of a bowl with a spoon, and they are great for date night (big bowl, two spoons).  You need a rice with starch here to get that creaminess, so don’t look for long grain.  The long grain rice is meant to keep from getting sticky and sticky is what you want here.  I found a bag of arborio rice that worked perfectly, but you can use a medium or short grained rice.

The recipe

I riffed on a recipe from Sorted “Arroz de Tamboril – Monkfish Rice

Ingredients for Arroz with Cod loins

Ingredients for my Arroz with Cod loins

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As I mentioned, I riffed on the recipe, so here is my version

Ingredients

  • 2 cod loins
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1 onion (Michael doesn’t like onion, so I used a little less
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 1 green pepper
  • 3 roma tomatoes
  • paprika
  • 1 carrot
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine (I used the vinho verde)
  • 400 g arborio rice (almost a small bag)
  • salt
  • pepper

You will notice the bay leaf in my ingredient shot.  I actually bailed on using that.  It was the last I had and I wasn’t feelin’ it.

So here’s what I did.

I cut the partially frozen cod loin into good size chunks.  Something you wouldn’t mind spooning out of your bowl to eat.  Then tossed it with olive oil, salt, pepper and sweet paprika.  Then set this aside to marinate while I worked on everything else.

Now time to make the broth.  I finely chopped 1/2 of the onion, 2 cloves of garlic, parsley and carrot.  They get braised until they are golden.  Ideally you would throw in fish bones here, but I didn’t have any, so I moved on to adding some water.  500 ml is about 2 cups.  Bring it to a boil, then turn it down to simmer for about 10 minutes, then set aside off the heat.

Chop the rest of the onion the last of the garlic and the green pepper.  The tomatoes need to be peeled and diced, so here’s the trick.  Boil a little water, and toss each in for a couple minutes.  I actually cheated and filled my 2 cup measuring cup with hot tap water and tossed them in one at a time.  After a couple minutes or so in the hot water, make an “X” through the skin on the bottom and peel the skin off.  Then you can quarter them and clean out the seeds and chop them.

Sweat the onions, garlic and green pepper over a low heat with olive oil (3 to 4 tbs, so more than you think).  You want to get most of the moisture out.  Then turn the heat up and braise them a bit.  Now you can toss in your rice and stir it around to coat it in the oil.  Stir it around for a couple minutes then add the wine and cook until it has completely evaporated.

Now you can strain the broth (I saved the veggies to add to other dishes).  Measure out 4 cups of broth adding water if needed.  The idea is twice as much broth as rice and you added 2 cups of rice.  Now you can season with salt, pepper, paprika and even cayenne if you want it spicier.  Get this to a boil and then add the tomatoes and fish, cover and cook 10 minutes.  Add the cilantro and take it off the heat.  Leave it covered for5 to 10 minutes DON’T TOUCH IT!

Now toss it in a bowl, curl up and enjoy!

Arroz de Bacalhau

Arroz de Bacalhau

 

Other pairings

I had picked up a cheese to pair with this.  Goat cheese is a definite go to and in addition I picked up a truffled goats milk cheese in a bloomy rind.  Some strawberries for a little sweetness and some anchovies to pair with that seaspray in the wine.

Vinho Verde with goats milk cheeses and anchovies

Vinho Verde with goats milk cheeses and anchovies

In Portugal this would be a simple dinner.  It is wholesome and delicious and made for a perfect pairing.

I mentioned that I like Vinho Verde, didn’t I?  We have written about it before, here are a couple links.

Summer Heat with a refreshing Vinho Verde

Pairings at the Keyboard! Vinho Verde.

Guilty pleasures

Check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  for more great recipes, wine pairings and great stories on wine travel and the people behind the wines!  Or visit us on social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

Côtes de Provençe through Rosé filled glasses #Winophiles

Emotion, Urban Provençe and Inspiration. Emotion and Inspiration come from Château de Berne and Urban Provençe is from Ultimate Provençe feature shot

Provençe …

Even the word itself sounds like a sigh, an exhalation. Your mind drifts to summer breezes, the fragrance of lavender in the air, warm sun on your skin, sunflowers, olive trees, elegant beaches and Provençe rosé.

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This month the French #Winophiles are tackling French Rosé.  Rosé, the wine of summer, can be made anywhere, from almost any red wine grape.  The styles across the world vary and even within the borders of France you will find many expressions of “rosé” from Tavel to Alsace, sparkling rosés from Champagne and crémants from other regions. Even with all those rosés out there, when you first think of rosé, you probably think of Provençe. It is the largest wine region in the world that specializes in rosé. The French now drink more rosé than white wine, and the love of rosé from Provençe is global. There is a bit of history with this.

Quick Provençe history

Le Vallon des Auffes, Marseille

Le Vallon des Auffes, Marseille

It was somewhere around 600 BC when the ancient Greeks founded the city of Marseille and brought vines to southern France. Most of the wines made at this time were lightly colored. The Romans came in 125 BC and claimed the region “Provincia Romana”  giving it it’s current name. While the Romans brought red wines of a deeper note to the region, the quality and reputation of the lighter colored rosé from this region held. Today 88% of the region’s wine production is rosé.

Making Rosé

So there are 4 basic ways to make a rosé.

Blending: You can mix red and white wine to get the desired color, but this method is not highly regarded, and is not used in Provençe. Back in 2009 there was a proposal to allow this method and French wine producers protested so vehemently, that the proposal was withdrawn.

Saignée: Saignée means “to bleed” and wines made in this style are a byproduct of red wine making. As a red wine is fermenting part of the juice is drained off. This juice will be pink, because it has not had much skin contact. This concentrates the juice left in the tank allowing in a higher skin to juice ratio giving you a fuller red wine.

Limited Skin Maceration: This method leaves the juice on the skins to “mascerate” for a short time (at least compared to red wines), typically 6 hours to 48 hours although in Provençe that time is more in the range of 2 to 20 hours.

Direct Pressing: To make a really light colored rose, the grapes may be gently pressed and the juice taken immediately away to ferment, not left to sit on the skins at all. This will give you a light pink color, just a little bit from the skins, which is inevitable if they are red grapes.

The last two methods are the most well regarded and there is one big reason for this. The grapes used in these methods are typically grown specifically to make rosé. The saignée method is using grapes that were grown to make red wine. They may be very good, but the vintner is focused mostly on the red wine and the rosé is a byproduct. With the limited skin masceration and direct pressing methods the grapes are picked with the acid to sugar ratio perfect for making a rosé not a red, and these can be very different things.  Grapes for rosé will typically be harvested earlier than for red wines.  This keeps the sugar low and the acid high.

In Provençe that delicate light pink color is due to the majority of producers using the Direct Pressing method. Rosé in this region is typically made dry, that is with no residual sugar.

Provençe: the region

 

a map of the wine regions in Provençe

Vinoble de Provençe, a map of the wine regions in Provençe

The region of Provençe is large, it spans the south east corner of France with the Italian border to the east, the Mediterranean sea to the south, Occitanie to the west and Rhône and the Alps to the North. It includes the City of Marseille and on the coast encompasses St. Tropez, Cannes and Nice. North up the Rhône it takes in Arles where Vincent Van Gogh was inspired to paint his famous sunflowers.

Overall the regions warm days and cool nights due to the Mediterranean Sea makes Provençe a perfect place to grow wine grapes. The area is also gifted with the “Mistral” a wind off the Alps that keeps the grapes dry, so there is no worry of mold on the bunches late in the season.

Côtes de Provençe

There are multiple appellations in the Provençe region, the largest being Côtes de Provence. Within this large region, there are many differences in the areas subregions, which you may see named on labels.  These include: Saint-Victoire, La Londe, Fréjus and Pierrefeu.  I recently had a friend mention Pierrefeu and I look forward to diving more deeply into this area.

The Côtes de Provençe encompasses 49,000 acres and produces 123 million bottles of wine, 89% of which are Rosé. There are some rules within the AOC. Residual sugar is restricted to 4 grams per liter and the minimum alcohol level is 11%.

Grapes in Côtes de Provençe

There are 5 primary grapes and 6 secondary grapes that are allowed to be planted:

Primary Grapes:

Cinsault, Grenaches, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Tibouren

Secondary Grapes:

Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Clairette, Semillon, Ugni Blanc, Vermentino (or Rolle)

The wines we tasted through are from the Côtes de Provençe AOC. Two are from the Château de Berne and the third from Ultimate Provençe. These wines were provided to us by Teuwen Communication and the Provençe Rosé Group, but all opinions are our own. The wine maker for all of these wines is Alexis Cornu of the Provençe Rosé Group. The Provençe Rose group has 4 estates; Château de Berne, Ultimate Provence, Châteaux St. Roux, Château de Bertrands.

Emotion, Urban Provençe and Inspiration. Emotion and Inspiration come from Château de Berne and Urban Provençe is from Ultimate Provençe

Emotion, Urban Provençe and Inspiration. Emotion and Inspiration come from Château de Berne and Urban Provençe is from Ultimate Provençe

Château de Berne

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The Romans planted grapes here and the vineyard was a trading post along the Aurelian Way (the Roman Road from Italy to Spain). The Château site is on the Triassic Plateau, sheltered by forests, atop a Jurassic limestone bed.

(The Triassic Plateau…little super simple geology here…The Triassic period sat just before the Jurassic period at the beginning of the Mesozoic era or the age of the dinosaurs)

In addition to the vineyard the Château is home to a 5 star resort.  The vineyard is 330 acres and they also source from other growers. The vineyards sit between 820 and 1082 feet in limestone and clay soils.

Harvest here is done in the middle of the night to keep the grapes cool, which allows for more control in extracting color and flavor.

Both of the following wines; Emotion and Inspiration do a 2-3 hour cold soak and are fermented in stainless steel.

Emotion

Emotion Rosé from Château de Berne

Emotion Rosé from Château de Berne

This wine is 50% Grenache, 25% Cinsault and 25% Syrah. Released in February of 2018 this 2017 Vintage sits at 12.5% alcohol and retails for around $16.

This wine was the lightest in color and aroma.  The scent of stone fruit pits and minerals first hit my nose.  In my mouth, it’s tart with a hint of pink grapefruit and light notes of strawberries in the back.  It went nicely with the goat cheese and I enjoyed the prosciutto and melon with this.

Suggested pairings from the winery include: Waldorf salad, tomato-basil bruschetta or fresh goat cheese. (We did some fresh goat cheese with our pairing)

Inspiration

Inspiration Rosé from Château de Berne Côtes de Provençe

Inspiration Rosé from Château de Berne Côtes de Provençe

70% Grenache Noir, 20% Cinsault & 10 % Syrah. This 2017 vitage sits at 12.5% alcohol and retails for around $19.99.

The color was slightly deeper on this wine and the nose a bit more prominent.  I caught strawberries and slate, and then deeper red fruit like pomegranate.  It was tart, and all that grenache in the blend loved the strawberries.

Suggested pairings from the winery include: arugula and watermelon salad (which we had to make and try…we added crumbled goat cheese to ours) or shrimp cocktail.

Ultimate Provence

Just 30 minutes drive from Saint-Tropez this 100 acre estate is located near the village of La Garde-Freinet. The vineyard is in an area of oak forest and the soil is shallow with a subsoil of a sandstone slab.

They have an amphitheatre where they hold movie screening and concerts and a restaurant with family style dishes.  They make but one wine, Urban Provence.

Urban Provence

Urban Provençe Côtes de Provençe Rosé from Ultimate Provençe

Urban Provençe Côtes de Provençe Rosé from Ultimate Provençe

45% Grenache Noir, 35% Cinsault, 15% Syrah and 5% Rolle (known elsewhere as Vermentino) it sits at 12.5% alcohol and retails around $22.99.

This was the biggest of the wines, richer on the nose and the palate, with more complexity than the other wines.  It was our favorite of the evening.

Suggested pairings from the winery include: charcuterie spread, grilled shrimp or a fresh fruit tart.

A little news on the region

The 2017 vintage had a heat wave in the spring and then a late frost, with a dry summer leading to less fruit. It has been reported that rosé production in Provençe was down almost 11% in 2017 due to the late frosts. (http://www.harpers.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/23442/Provence_2017_wine_production_slumps_12_25_as_quality_rises.html)

Our Pairings

The truth is, rosé is a forgiving wine, it’s terribly polite with food, adjusting and melding to go with almost anything.  It can pair with Asian, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Spanish, Thai, Chinese, Sushi, burgers, BBQ, Steak, Lobster…you name it.  A couple of things to avoid are butter and creme sauces, bleu cheese and game, and quite honestly, bleu cheese and game could work if you were pairing with a deeper rosé, like a Tavel, or a Mourvedré rosé.

I was really into the whole idea of Provençe, so we stayed for the most part with foods from the region, or things you might readily eat at a café or restaurant in the area.  These are also pretty simple dishes that you can whip up easily, like we did, at home, without too much work.  It’s Provençe right?  We want to keep the relaxed feel going.  Close your eyes, picture the lavender, sunflowers, olive trees, beaches..or scroll back to the top and soak those in again.

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We began with a cheese and charcuterie plate with sausage, brie, goat cheese, radishes, strawberries and olives, as well as melon wrapped in proscuitto and a watermelon, arugula and goat cheese salad.  I definitely recommend the goat cheese, as well as anything with fresh strawberries or watermelon, which paired nicely, pulling forward the Grenache in each of the blends.  With the melon and prosciutto you really can’t go wrong, the sweet and salty paired with the rosé and made the melon seem extra juicy.

a Traditional Salade Nicoise with shrimp on the sideI wanted to do a traditional Salade Niçoise and we did a little shrimp on the side.  I did not have all the ingredients to create Herbs de Provençe so we improvised with fennel and orange seasoning, crushed dried lavender and dried sage on the shrimp.

The salade Niçoise was fresh spinach topped with red potatoes (that had been sliced, cooked and drizzled with a dry white wine), green beans, radishes, tuna in oil, capers, olives, sliced cherry tomatoes and a dressing of shallot, olive oil, thyme, dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

By the time we arrived at this part of the meal, the wine had loosened our tongues and conversation was flowing and we were eating, drinking and enjoying company, which is really what these wines were meant for.

Provençe is on my list of places to visit, but it is amazing how just by pouring a glass and closing your eyes, you can transport yourself to this perfect summer region. Grab a bottle and take a virtual trip.

The French #Winophiles Rosé Party!

You can join the French #Winophiles who will take to Twitter on Saturday morning July 21st to talk about all the amazing French rosés that they tasted!  Just head to Twitter at 11 am EST or 8 am PST and type in #Winophiles to follow along and join in!

And then grab a glass, pour some rosé and read the pieces below from some fifteen great wine writers on a variety of French rosés and wonderful things to pair with them!

Mardi from Eat Live Travel Write goes From Rosé? No Way! To # RoséAllDay.
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares Warm Weather Rosé and Cheese Pairings.
Michelle from Rockin’ Red Blog will be Celebrating the Provençal Lifestyle with Three Rosés.
Lynn from Savor the Harvest cues up Obscure French Rosé Wines – Drink Now.
Gwendolyn from Wine Predator gives us a two-part treat: #RoséAllDay with Grilled Cheese Gourmet for #Winophiles and It’s Summer! Time for Rosé Wine from Provence, France and Seafood Pasta.
Nicole from Somm’s Table adds Cooking to the Wine: Ultimate Provence Urban Rosé with Herbed Sous-Vide Chicken Breasts and Roasted Eggplant Sheet Pan.

Jane from Always Ravenous offers up a Summer Cheese Board with Rosé.
David from Cooking Chat says it’s Always a Good Time to Sip Provence Rosé.
Jill from L’Occasion explains Why Rosé Matters, According to French Culture.
Liz from What’s In That Bottle advises us to Live a More Rosé Life.
Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog discusses The Pleasures of Provençal Rosé #Winophiles.
Payal from Keep the Peas will share Rosé: The Original Red Wine.
Julia from JuliaConey.com talks about Rosé: Not from Provence but Just as Delicious!
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm tempts us with Soupe au Pistou Paired with Rosé.
Lauren from The Swirling Dervish shares Celebrating Our New Home with an Old Favorite: French Rosé.

We’ve explored rosé before.  If you want to learn more about rosé from France and beyond your can check out some other things we’ve written:

Rosé

Presqu’ile Rosé of Pinot Noir and a Strawberry, Citrus and Avocado Salad.

Is a Rosé just a Rosé

Rosé Season Rosé basics

Of course to keep up with all of our posts and wine adventures, you can find us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles . You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 


Spring Vegetable Frittata to pair with an Alsatian Pinot Blanc

Spring Vegetable Frittata and salad with pickled beets and radishes

I recently had occassion to make a frittata.  We were doing a tasting of Alsatian Pinots with the French Winophiles, with some beautiful samples provided by @AlsaceWines.  When I searched for a pairing to go with the Emile Beyer Pinot Blanc, a suggestion of eggs and spring vegetables came up.  I settled on a pairing of a spring green salad and a spring vegetable frittata.

Frittata

So what is a frittata?  It is an Italian egg dish.  The name loosely translates to “fried”.  Kind of like an omlette, it is a great way to use up leftovers.  You can create a frittata with almost anything.  Use up vegetables, rice, pasta, cheese, meats….you name it.  A frittata ideally cooks in a rod iron skillet and the size of the skillet and number of eggs is the key.  Typically you are looking at a ratio of 1 cup of cheese, 2 cups of filling, 6 eggs and 1/4 cup of milk or…go for it, heavy cream.  Whole milk and richer creme will make a more unctuous frittata with a thick creamy texture.  And the number of eggs?  Use a full dozen for a 10 inch skillet.  And make sure your pan is well seasoned.

Why rod iron?  It heats evenly and you are starting this on the stove and finishing in the oven.

I wanted a light spring vegetable frittata.  Something bright to pair with the Pinot Blanc.  I dug around in the fridge and freezer and here is what I put together.

Spring Vegetable Frittata

  • 1/2 cup broccoli
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1/2 cup green beans
    • (my broccoli and peas were frozen and my beans were fresh)
  • 2 golden beets
  • 3 radishes
  • 1/3 zucchini
  • 1/2 teaspoon Allium Allure spice blend from Spicy Camel Trading Company (or use a seasoning blend that you like)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 11 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1/4 cup red onions
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Dill

First I got the oven heating to 400 degrees.

Then I needed to cook the broccoli, peas and beans.  Just blanching them and quickly cooling them with cold water (I was too lazy to do an ice bath).  The beans were cut into 3/4 inch pieces (on the diagonal to make them pretty) and I chopped the broccoli into smaller pieces when it was cooked. It’s important to cook your vegetables first so they don’t let go of all their moisture in your frittata and make it soupy.

Blanched broccoli, peas and green beans for the frittata

Blanched broccoli, peas and green beans for the frittata

I then diced the beets, radishes and zucchini and sautéed them in olive oil with a little Allium Allure spice blend from my friends at Spicy Camel Trading Company.  (I’m adding the link ’cause you really should get to know their spice blends!  Amazing blends, handcrafted…and really nice people too).  Allium Allure is all that onion goodness Onion, Shallots, Roasted Garlic, Leeks, Chives and Green Onions.  I tossed in a little salt and pepper (Spicy Camel does not add salt to their spice blends).  Radishes are great this way.  It tones downs their spiciness and gives them a sweetness.  You could also toss all of this in the oven to roast if you wanted.  I was hungry so a sauté seemed quicker.

Sautéed golden beet, radish and zuchini

Sautéed golden beet, radish and zucchini with the Allium Allure spice blend from Spicy Camel Trading Company

Now, on to the frittata!

I lightly whisked my 11 eggs (yes I went 1 short of a dozen on this).  I say lightly whisked.  You want the yolks to be incorporated but you don’t want to get too much air in the mixture, as that will cause the final texture of your frittata to be light, but dry.

I added my milk.  I just used whole milk and with the ricotta, it may have been redundant, but the final product came out perfect, so I’m stickin’ with it. I folded in my ricotta so it would break up a little, but still have chunks that would create pockets of creaminess in the finished frittata.  Then it’s all the rest, the broccoli, peas, beans as well as the sautéed vegetables, a little salt and pepper and some fresh dill.

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I got out my rod iron skillet and started a little olive oil and butter melting in the bottom, then tossed in my red onions to get a beautiful base going.

Once the onions were soft and translucent, I added the egg mixture.  This cooks over medium until the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Frittata in pan

Spring vegetable frittata cooking on the stove in it’s rod iron pan

Then toss it in the oven at 400 degrees  for about 10 minutes.  You want to be sure it is set, but not overcooked!  Poke the center with a knife and if egg is still flowing, it’s not quite ready.  When it is ready, pull it out and serve it immediately…OR…you can cut this and store it in the fridge, it is delicious cold!

The finished frittata

Finished Spring vegetable frittata just out of the oven

 

The Pairing

We served our frittata with a salad of spring greens topped with some more of those golden beets and radishes that I quick pickled in honey and white wine vinegar while the frittata cooked and some pine nuts.

Spring Vegetable Frittata and salad with pickled beets and radishes

Spring Vegetable Frittata and salad with pickled beets and radishes with an Emile Beyer Pinot Blanc from Alsace

This did make quite a big frittata for Michael and I.  (8 nice sized slices).  I enjoyed cold frittata happily for lunch for a good part of the week.

Emile Beyer Pinot Blanc and an appetizer of fresh peaches, goat cheese, basil and prosciutto

Emile Beyer Pinot Blanc and an appetizer of fresh peaches, goat cheese, basil and prosciutto

We did need an appetizer to go with this while we waited for the frittata to finish in the oven and we went with fresh peaches (these were still firm) sliced, with a dollop of goat cheese a leaf of basil and then wrapped in prosciutto.  This was pretty perfect with the wine that was so bright.  The peaches were crisp and picked up on the notes of slightly unripe stone fruit in the wine.

The Wine

This Emile Beyer Pinot Blanc Tradition is made in the picturesque village of Eguisheim, just outside of Colmar. The family estate is now run by Christian Beyer who is 14th generation in the family business.

The wine comes from younger vineyards, and the grapes are pressed pneumatically to gently get those juices to drip from the skins.  It’s a slow fermentation and they age the wine on the fine lees for several months.

The soil of these vineyards are made of Chalky marl, sandstone and clay.

It is not 100% Pinot Blanc, they do add some Auxerrois.  What is Auxerrois you ask (I asked that too, it was a variety I was not familiar with).  This grape is grown mostly in Alsace and it adds weight and body to the wine.  If you want to know more, there is a great article on called Auxerrois: A Lesson from Alsace on Wine’s Acidity

This is a beautiful fresh wine for spring time or any time of year when you want to channel a little spring time.  And…Suggested retail price is $15. So run out and find a bottle!

Give this frittata a try, or come up with your own combination and let us know how it goes!  Oh, and don’t forget to let us know what wine you choose to pair with it!

You can check out all of our Pinot Pairings from Alsace in our piece A Palette of Pinots; the hues of Alsace

And of course to keep up with all of our posts and wine adventures, you can find us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles . You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram