A Loire rosé, a Bordeaux from Pommerol and…..cheese #winophiles

The Cheese Counter at Cured & Whey

A while back the French #Winophiles decided that June would be about French wine and cheese.  This is a traditional pairing made in heaven that can go in so many different directions!  You can join us to see the wide range and variety of wines and cheeses explored on Saturday June 15th at 8 am Pacific time on twitter.  Just follow the hashtag #Winophiles to jump in on the conversation!

For this month’s pairing I received two sample wines courtesy of VinConnexion this month.  One was from Chateau de Sales in Pomerol and second from Cave du Vendômois in the Loire Valley. While grateful for the opportunity to taste these wines, rest assured, all opinions are my own.

Le Cocagne Gris 2018

Le Cocagne Rosé of Pineau d'Aunis from Coteaux du Vendômois 2018
Le Cocagne Rosé of Pineau d’Aunis from Coteaux du Vendômois 2018

This rosé of 100% Pineau d’Aunis is from Coteaux du Vendômois.  You don’t see too much Pineau d’Aunis, at least not exported, so I was excited to try this variety. 

This grape is also known as Chenin Noir (makes sense in the Loire, right?).  It is a red grape found primarily in Touraine and Anjou.  Ours came from Touraine, in the Coteaux du Vendômois and is made by the Cave Cooperative du Vendômois.  The soil here is clay and the wine is fermented in stainless steel with a few months on the lees.

Cave Coopérative des Vignerons du Vendômois

An an old Favorite…

This is grape is an old favorite.  How old?  Well Henry Plantagenet (Henry III) really liked it and had it brought to England back in 1249! Sadly, it fell out of favor and is now not widely grown. (get more details on this from https://fringewine.blogspot.com/2012/01/pineau-daunis-coteaux-du-vendomois.html )

Tasting the Le Cocagne Gris

The Le Cocagne Gris 2018 was pale salmon in color and clear. It had raspberry, strawberry and bright light florals on the nose.  I caught a little dried hibiscus, like for tea and bright fresh herbs like fresh thyme, with a bit of white pepper and dried thyme in the background.  The nose opened up to ripe raspberries. On the palate it was tart with light notes of raspberry, with spice and pepper notes in the back. It sits at 14% abv and has a medium finish.

Chateau de Sales 2010 Pomerol

Château de Sales Pomerol 2010
Château de Sales Pomerol 2010

This wine is from Bordeaux from the Right Bank in Pomerol, the smallest of the Bordeaux appellations.  The area is on a plateau with terraces into the valley.  Soil here is layered, compact gravel of sandy-clay atop an oxidized iron base that is unique to Pomerol called “crasse de fer”.

Vignoble de Bordeaux
Vignoble de Bordeaux

Château de Sales has been in the same family since the 15th century.  It is now jointly owned by 14 cousins.  The estate has 47.6 hectares of vineyard.

Savor the Harvest has a beautiful piece on this vineyard that is well worth the read.

Château De Sales Vineyard in Pomerol, Bordeaux France
Château De Sales Vineyard in Pomerol

This wine is 82.5% Merlot, 12.5% Cab Franc and 5% Cab Sav. The wine is fermented in concrete vats, aged in barrel (5% new oak) for 12 months.

Tasting the Château de Sales 2010 Pomerol

The Château de Sales 2010 Pomerol we decanted for 30 minutes while it warmed to just under room temperature. There was a bit of sediment in the bottle (this is a 2010).

The wine was opaque and had only a slight rim. It was a deep ruby color.  On the nose I got red and black currant, eucalyptus, mint, pepper, white pepper, cedar, cigar box and spices.  It had a medium mouthfeel and was lighter on the palate than I expected, in a good way.  The inky dark color had me convince that my palate was about to be overwhelmed it was not. It was a thoughtful wine that allowed me to explore it’s depths without hitting me over the head.

The Cheeses

Many of you have seen a wine aroma wheel and we often use those for our wine tasting notes.  As I was researching the cheese I came across a cheese aroma and flavor wheel from Cheese Science!

I reached out to Château de Sales for suggestions on pairing.  They suggested Comté (as well as steak and chocolate lava cake…and yes, after our cheese pairing we did indulge in those also)

So… Comté, but what else.  I reached out to one of my favorite cheese shops in town for some suggestions. 

Cured & Whey

Diana Brier is the new cheesemonger/cheese consultant at Cured and Whey here in Las Vegas and was kind enough to suggest a Valencay to pair with the rosé, when I asked her online.  I headed down to peruse their cheese counter and walked into find Diane gloved up with hands in 180 degree water just getting ready to pull mozzarella.

I had time, so I enjoyed the show and we chatted.  She had just relocated from Oregon and gave me some tips for wine and cheese for our upcoming trip that would take us to Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley, where she used to make cheese.  Michael, the owner also came out to consult with us and we settled on 4 cheeses.

MountainTop

This is a cheese from FireFly Farms located in Maryland. These guys are big on the ethical treatment of not just goats, but also the farmers.  It’s worth a visit to their site to see the standards they set.

While not a French Cheese this Maryland cheese is made in a French style.  Valencay is a typical goat milk cheese from the Loire Valley, that is set in pyramid shaped molds.

This cheese is “surface-ripened” with blue and white molds.  You get a bit of that blue cheese flavor.  When you cut it is oozes, and almost runs.

Morbier – Montboissie du Haut Livradois

This cheese that Michael suggested, Diane went to the back to get from the chiller.  She brought forth a box, cut it open and gently whispered a hello to the beautiful wheel inside.  (She didn’t think I heard, but I did, and now she is my favorite cheese monger ever).

This is a Morbier-style cheese that comes from the Jura Mountains.  Made of Cow’s milk, it has a vein of vegetable ash down the middle.  This came from a tradition where you separate the milk from the morning and afternoon milking.  So morning milk on the bottom, a layer of vegetable ash, and afternoon milking on top.  This is a washed rind cheese.

Société Roquefort

This cheese has a legend. 

Ages ago, at the base of the Combalou Mountain, an ardent shepherd spotted a beautiful young woman. He ran after her leaving behind his flock and forgetting his meal, composed of bread and ewe’s milk curds, in a cave. As he couldn’t find the beautiful shepherdess after days of searching, the shepherd came back to his flock and the cave where he found his less than appealing meal. The ewe’s milk curd was now marbled with green veins and the bread had molded. Starving, he tasted the cheese: the Penicillium Roqueforti had worked its magic transforming his cheese into Roquefort…So says the legend!

 http://societeroquefort.com/
Societe Roquefort Cheese
Societe Roquefort Cheese

The milk for this cheese comes from a special breed of ewes called “Lacaunes”.  They give just 16 gallons of milk per season making this a rare milk, that goes into a really special and delicious cheese.  Roquefort is made with Penicillium roqueforti which is found in damp caves.  This cheese is aged for at least 90 days in natural limestone caves.

Comté

For our last cheese, we return to the Jura for another cow’s milk cheese. It is one of the first French cheeses to have AOC status (1958).

It has been noted that comté has 83 flavors that can be detected!  You can tell what season the cheese is from by the color; Golden is summer cheese (from the carotin), a lighter white is a winter cheese.  A younger comté will be creamier and softer, as it ages it will firm up and be more crumbly.   It also gains crystals as it ages.  It will smell different depending on the cow’s diet or the cave it was aged in!  To really smell it, squish it between your fingers to test the texture and warm it releasing the scent.

The Tasting and Pairing

With the Rosé

We paired the Le Cocagne Gris 2018 with the MountainTop and I pulled out the cheese aroma/flavor wheel.  I got blue molds, with some spice, it was milky and musty with bitter and pepper notes.  As I continued and paired it with the wine more floral notes were evident.

I found I really enjoyed this with just a dab of apricot preserve.  That with a sip of the wine, brought the whole bite together.

We moved on to the Morbier, which had a lovely smooth texture.  The cheese had a bitter note, but was soft and creamy, with those bits of ash and vegetal notes from the vein in the center.

On pairing, the rosé cut the bitter notes in the cheese. Again, this was great with the apricot preserves, the bitter notes in the cheeses were rounded even further.  This preserve also had sage in it and a bite with the preserve brought out flavors in the cheese that I had not noticed before.

With the Pomerol

Chàteau de Sales Pomerol 2010 with Cheese
Chàteau de Sales Pomerol 2010 with Morbier, Comté and Roquefort

We paired this with the Roquefort superior, which was salty with lovely florals from the mold.  It was smooth, creamy and wet enough to be spreadable.  We added a bit of cherry preserves and it was amazing!  This cheese is so good I could eat it with a spoon.

We then tried the comté.  The cheese was firm, but still creamy, this was a younger comet and more yellow in color, so probably a summer comet and it had no noticeable crystals.  It smelled of butter salt and flowers on the nose and was perfect with the wine.

There are so many cheeses and so many wines to try. While there are basic rules for pairings, I encourage you to just try things! You might check out the pieces below for more ideas for pairings!

The #Winophiles

Are you drooling yet? So much wine and cheese…so little time!

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

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

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

Blenheim Vineyards in Virginia Wine Country

Blenheim Vineyards Patio space

The day started as overcast.  We began with the amazing views from Monticello, without the sun, but without actual rain also.  The world was covered in the gorgeous bright green of spring.  It’s that shade that pops against the gray, turning even a completely overcast day into something bright!  It was spring in Virginia, with the ground covered in pink petals washed from the trees.  It’s especially magical for those of us who have been so long away from the green.

That changed as we drove our way to Blenheim Vineyards.  The sky started to leak.  Not a full on rain storm, just steady inconvenient rain.  But that was okay. We didn’t get to sit outside at the outdoor tasting bar at Blenheim, but wandered down into the main tasting room.  It is an A-frame building with the front full of windows as well as windows along the peak of the room. When you walk in you can also look down through the glass floor at the center to see the winery, it’s tanks and barrels.  The windows here allow for natural light even on this rainy day.

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The end of the tasting room holds the bar so you can enjoy your tasting looking out through the huge windows overlooking the vineyard.  The bar was full, so we were guided to a table.  I asked if we needed to go to the bar for our tastings and was assured that we did not.  They have pourers assigned to the tables who come around.  The staff, which seemed to be all female were helpful, friendly and knowledgeable about the wines and the vineyard.  Out came the glasses and the tasting menu.

The pours here were generous and the atmosphere was relaxed.  It was a place you could come and enjoy a tasting with friends, which was what we were doing.  Those types of tastings lean more toward conversation with your friends, and less about in-depth tasting and contemplation.  This of course is rather new to Michael and I, wine geeks who typically taste with just the two of us and take copious notes.  I did manage to scribble a few down and when I did ask about the blends, the staff were quick to pull out the vineyard map and show us where each block was located.

– A map of the vineyard blocks with all the varieties at Blenheim Vineyards

The grapes of Blenheim Vineyards

They are growing 13 varieties of grapes here.  You have the standard Cabernet Franc and Viognier which are the varieties that seem to grow best here in Virginia.  In addition they grow, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Roussanne and then surprisingly (at least for me) Pinot Noir.  Yes, I’m still two short.  They also have a block of Teroldego and a block of Garganega which are new and have only been in the ground for 3 years.  Teroldego is a deeply colored red grape from northern Italy in the Province of Trentino.  Garganega is a white grape also from Northern Italy from the Provinces of Verona and Vicenza.  It will be interesting to see how these grapes do.

The tasting at Blenheim Vineyards

I fell in love with the Rosé ’16.  It does 48 hours on the skins.  This is a blend of 46% Merlot, 31% Cab Franc, 12% Pinot Noir and 11% Syrah.  It was complex on the nose and tart on the palate. ($17)

The Chardonnay ’15 was partially (30%) aged in Hungarian and American Oak for 5 months.  While you got a little oak on the nose, the palate was clean and bright. ($17)

The 2015 Painted white has a totem on the label.  It is 58% Chardonnay, 21% Viognier, 12% Albarino, 9% Sauvignon Blanc aged for 9 months in French and Hungarian oak with 35% tank aged. ($25)

Petit Verdot ’14 was 10 months on mixed oak; 75% American Oak and 25% French Oak.  It had a yummy nose, was milder on the palate with a quick finish but was very nice. (My dear friend Mess, has discovered that she likes Petit Verdot and after searching for a term, decided that they were chewy!)($24)

The Painted Red ’15 also features a totem.  The Painted Red 2015 was 44% Cab Franc, 31% Petit Verdot, 13% Merlot, 12% Cab Sav, 76% aged for 10 months in French, American and Hungarian Oak. This was very nice but our favorite of the reds remained the Petit Verdot. ($30)

They also sell “growlers” here.  Yep, they have 2 wines, the Claim House White (83% Chardonay, 10% Pinot Noir and 7% Viognier (un-oaked) and the Claim House Red 84% Cabernet Franc, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot (un-oaked) that are available at $6 per glass or you can buy a growler for $7 and fill it for $19. The growlers are becoming popular in this area.  You buy the growler itself once and then can return to have it refilled!  These wines are not all estate, but include fruit from some other vineyards.  Both are NV (non vintage).

Doesn’t Somebody Famous own this winery?

So here I am two thirds of the way through this post and I have just gotten around to telling you that Dave Matthews owns this vineyard.  I am a Dave Matthews fan from way back and was lucky enough to see them play on Brown’s Island in Richmond with Widespread Panic back in the ’90’s.  Dave draws the totems on the labels for the blends.

Blenheim Vineyard

The posters of the labels for the Blenheim Vineyard blends, drawn by Dave Matthews

Dave designed the winery with William Johnson and finished it in 2000.  The winery, that you see though the glass floor in the center of the tasting room is nestled into the hillside to help with climate control.  The place is made from reclaimed wood and those south facing windows mean that they don’t need to use lighting in tasting room at all in the summer.

Dave Matthews moved to Charlottesville when he was 19.  He formed the Dave Matthews band here.  Did you know their first concert was on Earth Day in 1991?  Without knowing the connection we had dinner (and great burgers and beer) at Miller’s in Charlottesville where he bartended before he started the band.

The Vineyard and Winery were meant to make good wine, not necessary to make money.  Success had hit and they had the luxury of not needing the money.  So they focused on the wine, and in my opinion succeeded.  Inspired by Farm Aid, he started out with the BOWA (Best of What’s Around) farm outside of Charlottesville that they rehabilitated and had certified organic. He planted Blenheim Vineyards on the remnants of an old vineyard that was on the property.

But why is it named Blenheim Vineyards?

Ok, while it seems like this should be an easy question, I found the answer to be a bit ’round about.

So…John Carter was the Secretary of the Colony of Virginia.  In 1730 he obtained a large parcel of land in what is now Albemarle County Virginia.  His son Edward, of Blenheim built the first Blenheim house, which was named for the Duke of Marlborough who won the War of the Spanish Succession for Britain.  The Duke’s family seat was Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire.  Blenheim Farm & Blenheim Vineyards are located on this property.

It is said that Thomas & Martha Jefferson stayed here when their coach had to stop nearby in a snowstorm.  The house burned down in the mid 1840’s.

The Women of Blenheim Vineyards

I mentioned that the tasting room staff was primarily women.  Well the winery staff is also female dominated, which is a rarity these days.  Their Winemaker and General Manager Kirsty Harmon, graduated from UVA with a degree in Biology in 1998.  She apprenticed with Gabriele Rausse (who has his own winery in Virginia and was the director of gardens and grounds at Monticello and is often referred to as “The Father of the Modern Virginia Wine Industry”).  She then studied at UC Davis in California getting a degree in Viticulture and Enology in 2007.  She spent a bit of time in France and New Zealand working in the industry and then became the Winemaker at Blenheim Vineyards in 2008.

The remainder of the major members of the staff are also female (I’m lovin’ the girl power!).  Tracy Love runs the Sales department, Ellen Houle is the tasting room manager, Amanda Gray is the Event Manager & Mimi Adams is the Vineyard Manager.

So if you are an environmentalist, a feminist and like good music, good people and good wine (like me) than you should definitely stop by Blenheim.  If it is a pretty day you can see the grounds, but even if it’s raining, it’s well worth the trip.

Blenheim Vineyards is located at 31 Blenheim Farm, Charlottesville, Virginia 22902

They are open daily from 11 am to 5:30 pm, tastings are $7 per person and you can bring your dog, as long as they are on a leash and friendly.  They are on the Monticello Wine Trail

It is well worth it to make it a day!  Visit Monticello in the morning, stop at Blenheim Vineyards and have lunch at the Historic Michie Tavern.  Find another winery (there are plenty in the area) and then go for dinner downtown in Charlottesville.  We had amazing burgers the first night at Miller’s (you remember I mentioned the Dave Matthews connection there earlier) and the 2nd night we had an amazing meal at the Downtown Grill  (and a great bottle of Frank Family Pinot Noir from Carneros) followed by drinks upstairs at the Sky Bar.  This is a college town so it is eclectic and busy.  If the weather is nice I highly recommend enjoying a table out on the Downtown Mall which is one of the longest pedestrian malls in the country.  It is located on Main Street and the center is set with tables for outdoor dining for all of the restaurants.

We will be posting more on our trip and of course on lots of other wine related things so stop back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles.  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

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Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Wine Pairings

Non traditional Thanksgiving Wine Pairings

So we did a non-traditional Thanksgiving this year. We bagged the turkey and instead did a stuffed flatiron steak, and instead of potatoes for a starchy side, we went with a pumpkin lasagna. We of course tied in some traditional sides with cranberries in red Belgian ale, green beans almandine and a bright arugula salad with flavors of the season with apples, pecans, maple syrup and bacon. So what to pair with our eclectic Thanksgiving? We dug into the cellar and here’s what we decided.

Start with a sparkler!

It’s a celebration and I was ready to celebrate when we finally had dinner complete and ready to eat. We looked in the wine fridge and Michael pulled out a sparkling wine from a very (I mean VERY) small winery called Lumiére in Temecula, California. We did a blog post on them awhile ago which you can read here. Lumiére is only open on weekends and only once have we been able to stop by. The owner and winemaker’s mother, Martha was there pouring. They have a charming tasting room on a hill off of Calle Contento Road on the North side.(more on the winery here). One of the final things we tasted was their Voulez Vous Brut sparkling wine.

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This is a Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc and it was lovely with the salad of arugula, pink lady apples, pecans, maple brown sugar bacon and the dressing of maple syrup and yogurt.

Chardonnay with Pumpkin Lasagna

So an Oaked Chard with a rich cheesy pumpkin lasagna seemed the right choice and allowed us to relish some great memories at the same time. We pulled a bottle of 2011 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay. This Santa Barbara County Chardonnay comes from the Los Alamos Vineyard and was a gift when we stayed at the Clendenen Ranch in the spring. This vineyard is beautiful, take a look at the photo on our homepage. That was the view we were privileged to enjoy. The home is warm and obviously meant for relaxing and entertaining friends & family. There is history here also. The first Au Bon Climat Winery was in a small barn that you can see from the house. The story, as Marissa told us is, after long days of harvest the folks that owned the house on the hill and had the olive orchards would invite the entire gang up for dinner. When the owner was looking to sell the property,s Jim Clendenen quickly bought it up, as it was filled with so many fond memories. The previous owner still makes olive oil from the olives on the trees, which you can find in her olive oil tasting room in Los Alamos called Global Gardens.

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This Chardonnay is one of their Historic Vineyard Collection Wines. They harvest by hand, gently press and then ferment in 75% new French Oak and leave them in these barrels to age surlee for another year.  The amazing thing about this wine is that you get the richness of the oak and a full nose and then it is beautiful and bright on the palate. If you ever want to explain to someone what French Oak is…pour a glass of this and stick their nose in it.  Au Bon Climat has a tasting room in downtown Santa Barbara and a history that is as rich and exciting as their wines.

So as a pairing the richness of the nose of the Chardonnay, went beautifully with the lasagna and then the brightness of the wine on the palate kept you from getting bogged down in all of that glorious cheese! One sip had your palate reinvigorated for another decadent bite.  The Lasagna was more than just pumpkin too. We did 3 different types of puree, pumpkin, queensland blue and sweetmeat. Each got a layer in the lasagna between layers of ricotta, parmesan and fontina.

Stuffed Flatiron Steak Screams for a Red

This recipe called for a dry red wine. While it suggested a not too fruity Syrah or Zin…Michael found a beautiful 2008 Ferrari-Carano Merlot. We opened this way early to start cooking with it and give the wine time to open up. We have a history here too. While working on Smokey Joe’s Café in Reno we were at the El Dorado Casino, which is owned by the Ferrari-Carano’s and got hooked on their wines there. We have since made a couple of trips to their Northern Sonoma Vineyard and Winery.

So these steaks are flatiron steaks which are a shoulder cut. They are pounded out and filled with a stuffing of toasted bread in olive oil, prunes rehydrated with the red wine, rosemary, roasted chestnuts, pancetta, pecorino, salt, pepper & cayenne. The Merlot went beautifully with this.

So there you have it. A feast to be thankful for with beautiful pairings that brought back great memories of visits to 3 different areas of California Wine country.   Now that’s a perfect Thanksgiving.

For more information on these wine regions:

http://www.temeculawines.org

Santa Barbara Vintners

Sonoma.com

And don’t forget to visit us on Facebook

And on Twitter

You can find more great Farm to Table recipes on our sister site  4Farm2Mrkt

Sculpterra Wine & Art – Roaming the sculpture garden

Sculpterra Winery

Sculpterra is located on the East side of Paso off of Linne Road. This unique winery greets you with a magnificent sculpture garden.  Surrounded by gorgeous iron fencing by master black smith Robert C. Bentley the garden itself is filled with the beautiful sculpture work of John Jagger.

Dr. Warren Frankel bought this property back in the 1980’s and moved his family there in 1990.  Paul his son is the winemaker, a graduate of Cal Poly in Viticulture and Enology.  Paul is more than just the winemaker, he also manages the vineyards, deals with fruit and juice sales and occasionally can be found pouring in the tasting room.

As we were here on a Saturday, the winery was busy and had an accordion player playing live in the tasting room.  In addition to making their own wines, they also sell bulk fruit and juice to small independent winemakers.  They do a wide variety of wines here, including Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Primitivo, Mourvedre, Merlot, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The wines are lovely and it is a wonderful place to come grab a glass of wine and wander the sculpture garden for a little art fix.

Enjoy a virtual stroll through their amazing sculpture gardens…you’ll have to provide your own wine, I recommend a rose.

Wiens Reflection Vertical, wine tasting and pairings

Wiens Reflection Vertical

Wine is terrific, and when you pair it with food you can take it to another level.  Learning how to taste, decant and pair can be an exciting adventure.

The journey today is with a Vertical of three vintages of Wiens Reflections red blend.  There are differences because of the actual blends (they use different varieties of grapes each year), differences because of the climate in each year and then differences because obviously the older vintages have aged longer!  We taste the wines right out of the bottle and then decanted and watch as the flavors evolve. Then we pair them with meats cheeses and other foods and the flavors change again, enhanced (or not) by contrasting or complimentary flavors in the food.  It’s an exciting journey, join us and then try a tasting of your own! See original Post.

Reflection Tasting in Vertical from Wiens Family Cellars

Wiens Family Cellars was having a Vertical tasting of their Reflections red blends and we couldn’t go…so we put together a vertical of our own.  We had the 2008, 2010 and the 2011.  These are of course blends, so they are all a little different, so this a little different from a typical vertical.  Typically you would have a single variety of grape or a fairly set blend that you would be comparing from year to year.  You would get the differences in the climate and season that affect each year’s harvest.  You would also be able to see how the wine ages.  We were able to do those things, but the field for comparison was a bit more wide open.  Let me take a minute to give you the breakdown on these three vintages.

  • 2008 Reflection is 30% Sangiovese, 28% Barbera, 28% Merlot, 14% Petit Verdot  with Alcohol 15.1  and Residual sugar .6%
  • 2010 Reflection is 63% Sangiovese, 14% Cabernet, 14% Syrah, 9% Zinfandel with 14.5 Alcohol and .5 % residual sugar.
  • 2011 Reflection is 42% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot, 14% Zinfandel, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Primitivo, 2% Montepulciano, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Dolcetto with 12.5 Alcohol! and .2 residual sugar

So as you can see this blend is Sangiovese based, but that’s about where the similarities end.  This makes for a brilliantly exciting tasting!  At the winery they are doing “Reflections of the Decades” and they are tasting 6 of these wines, 2006-2011. We somehow can’t find the 2009 so I must have already enjoyed it!  At the winery they are doing a decade theme starting with the 60’s for the 2006.  I perused their pairings and then went back to the suggestions with the wines. We picked up some Spanish meats and cheeses (yes I know, I could have picked up Italian!).  We did a tasting upon opening and then let them breathe for a bit and tasted each with the meats and cheeses.  For the pairings we went a little out of order and cooked them for each course.  I know it sounds tough, but…we have Trader Joes.  So here’s the run down for the pairings:

  • 2010 Reflection with a goat cheese and basil pizza, to which we added a little sage and thyme.
  • 2008 Reflection with Eggplant Parmesan
  • 2011 Reflection with meat lasagna and a spinach salad.

Then we had chocolate cake for dessert and tasted it with all 3.

 

We found that the wines opened up quite a bit over the course of the evening.  I had e-mailed the winery to ask decanting recommendations.  Bob was kind enough to get back to me and suggested decanting the 2010 and 2011 straight down into a decanter on the counter top to add as much oxygen as possible.  For the 2008 he suggested carefully pouring it down the side of a tilted decanter to give it some space to gently open up.   Thanks Bob!  Unfortunately, I do not yet own a nice decanter.  So…we took the advice the best that we could.  We opened up the 2008 and gently poured into glasses and let it air.  The other two we got the aerator out and poured them through to add oxygen.  On to the tasting!

 

Oak Mountain Wine, Music and a view

Oak Mountain Winery

Oak Mountain Winery sits high on the North side of the De Portola Wine Trail with great views of Oak Mountain. You can’t miss the entrance with it’s buckboard wagon emblazoned with the winery name.  This winery houses both Oak Mountain and Temecula Hill Wineries.  Temecula hills is way down De Portola and does not have a tasting room.

Oak Mountain patio Ent

Oak Mountain patio Ent

Every weekend they have live music in their Pavilion next to the tasting room.

Oak Mountain patio

Oak Mountain patio

Oak Mountain pizza

Oak Mountain pizza

We stopped by and the Pavilion was busy and enticed us in with the sign out front advertising gourmet pizza inside.

There was a duo playing and lots of 8 top round tables filling the space.  The band was at the front corner, backed by the great view.  We headed straight for the pizza which was made to order.  They also had a table set up with jewelry and crafts for sale.  Michael took a seat and I went to the tasting bar at the back.  The line was long and they had wines by the glass and wine margaritas in addition to the tastings.  All the wines here were reasonably priced.  We tasted through the 2011 Muscat, 2011 Zinfandel Blanc Noir, 2011 Savignon Blanc,  2008 Grenache Noir, 2009 Merlot, 2009 Tempranillo and a Durif.   We enjoyed our pizza, the music and the view.

In addition to their weekend music they have monthly events that include cooking classes or blending classes.

 

 


Pictures


Monte de Oro – “Vines, Wine, People”

Monte De Oro depcicted in oil

This Temecula Valley winery is impressive as you drive up toward the end of Rancho California Road. The building sits on a rise and is expansive and inviting. In the early mornings there are typically balloons taking off from here making for picture perfect morning shots with their vineyards out front.

Monte De Oro Tasting Room Window View

Tasting Room Window View

The Monte de Oro winery is owned by OGB (One Great Blend) Partners, which is a collection of 68 family owners from across America, South Africa and the UK.

The Vineyards are located around the valley. The first, Vista Del Monte was planted in 2002 with 18 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. They added 18 acres at the DePortola vineyard and 23 acres at the Galway vineyard in 2003 planted with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Zinfandel, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat Canelli.

In 2007 they broke ground on the winery and in 2008 planted their 4th vineyard at the winery growing Cinsault, Mourvedre, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo.

Monte de Oro Underground Cave

Monte de Oro Underground Cave

Committed to sustainability the winery created a basement wine cave under the winery rather than building a barrel room above ground that would need to have a system for climate control. One of the most impressive sites in the building is walking across the glass floor that allows you to see down into the barrel room. They are also planning to build a gravity flow winery which reduces the energy needed to pump the wine as well as being gentler on the grapes, and they are looking to add solar panels to supply energy in the future.

The tasting room here is huge with beautiful views of the patio and beyond that the valley. They offer a variety of tours and private tastings that you can schedule in advance in addition to the Standard and Black Label Tastings available daily in the tasting room. Also open on the weekends is the MDO Bistro offering a Bistro menu Friday thru Sunday from 11-4.

Monte de Oro patio

Monte de Oro patio

When we visited the winery was busy and it was towards the end of the day. We tasted through a wide variety of their wines, most of which they produce about 250 cases each. All of the wines are very affordable running from $18 to $33 per bottle. watched a group head out for a tour while we were there and I would like to return to do a tour and learn a little more about their wines.

Adventures at Van Roekel

Van Roekel Sign

Van Roekel is the sister property to Maurice Car’rie.  It sits on the hill overlooking Maurice Car’rie and is where their winemaker Gus produces his more refined wines.  The winery complex is on a drive that includes the Van Roekel winery, a small wine country art gallery, the Temecula Wine Makers Association offices and the Van Roekel tasting room.  The tasting room has a sparkling wine menu and a regular menu.

Van Roekel tasting room

Van Roekel tasting room

The pourers in the tasting room were friendly and we had great conversation while we tasted the wines.  We began with the Gewurztraminer which was crisp and not overly sweet and is a great buy at $12.95.  All the wines here are very reasonably priced.  We also tasted their White Zin , and the Chardonnay which was very crisp and slightly sweet and very un Chard like to me, but fascinating enough that I took a bottle home.  On to the reds.  The 2011 Merlot had a bit of oak and spice and a light mouth feel with butter on the end and only a slight hint of tannins.  The Syrah was medium bodied with light silky tannings and pepper with a cooling bit of eucalyptus on the nose.  This felt very finessed for a syrah, not your big fruit bomb or barnyard style syrah.  The 2008 Grenache was full of plums and had higher tannins.  The Papa Red is a non vintage blend that gave you cooked berries on the nose and a variety of fragrances that my nose could not pick out. They were very well rounded and blended.  Bright tannins fill your mouth and there is a little hint of oxidations which is actually very pleasant and provides a depth of flavor.  There is a little bit of barnyard/wet dog on this that is very nice.  This wine is extremely unique.

Our afternoon here was very nice.  The wines, while not what I typically think of for the varieties were very enjoyable as well as cost effective.  These wines are an adventure and one that caught me by surprise and I enjoyed.

A family winery with Hart

Hart Winery
Hart Winery

Hart Winery

When you drive into Temecula Wine Country the very first winery you come across is Hart Family Winery.  In 1974  over the weekends Joe and Nancy Hart  and their 3 sons planted the first grapevines in their vineyard in Temecula.  In 1980 they built their winery and produced their first wines.  This winery has stayed small and focused and still produces only 5000 cases of wine each year.  Growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Viognier, Syrah, Merlot Grenache, Sangiovese, Zinfandel & Sauvignon Blanc.

When we visited in early 2012 we were greeted at the door by “Bosco”.  He was resting on the rug at the door.  Inside you step into the coolness of the tank room, the tasting bar is just inside the door with a small area for gifts, beyond it you see the stainless steel tanks and typically Joe Travis Hart walking about checking the tanks.

While there we tasted the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 Rousanne, 2010 Zinfandel, 2007 Merlot, 2007 Cabernet Franc, 2010 Blanc de Franc ( a rose of Cabernet Franc), 2008 Syrah, the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2009 Aleatico (an obscure grape native to the Puglia region in Italy) from the Palmador Vineyard which is a fortified dessert wine.

This small family run winery is well thought of in the community and respected for paving the way for Temecula Wine Country.

Foot Path Winery & farm

Footpath Winery

Foot Path is not your typical winery.  It’s off the beaten path on Glen Oaks Road.  The property and drive are marked by a banner.

Footpath Tasting

Footpath Tasting

This isn’t a shiny tasting room that you are driving into, it is a working organic farm.  Grapes are just part of what they do.  As you pull up you see the horses and then the metal warehouse that is the winery.  Stroll in and you find barrels on one side and a tasting bar set up in the center.

In all likelihood the person behind the bar is Deane Foote the owner and winemaker.  It’s $10 to try 5 of their wines and they are all reds.  Mr. Foote makes a small amount of white, but it is all for his wife!  This is a family run farm and winery and Deane’s daughter came in while we were there to bring her dad lunch.  Bandit one of the farm cats came in and wandered down the tasting bar.  They are dog friendly, but with the cats…you have to have your dog on a leash.  They do also sell produce from the farm and usually have that listed on the home page of their website so you can see what is in season.  They grow pomegranates figs tangelos lemons grapefruit limes orange.

The wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc and a couple of blends.  You won’t find lots of oak or extra stuff in the wines.  The wines tend to be fruit forward, are unfiltered and are ready to drink now.  In September family comes in from all over to harvest. This place is not shiny and it makes for a lovely contrast to some of the larger corporate wineries.  It’s quieter, or maybe the noises are just different, horses munching on hay, cat meowing, the buzz of humming birds.  This is farm and family and Deane Foote is making wines that he likes.