French Wine…where to begin? #Winophiles

Map of French Wine Regions

This month the French Winophiles are diving into a French Wine 101.  It’s timely as we all enter our comments to the government in opposition to proposed 100% European wine tariffs.  (If you have not heard about this, I’ll post some links at the bottom for more information.) We have done a bit of writing on French wines and you will find links to those pieces. Many of these pieces were written in conjunction with the French #Winophiles, which means there is the extra bonus, of each of those pieces having links to other articles written by the rest of the #Winophiles! If you are interested in French wine, you will have plenty of reading available!

French Wine 101

I’m here to rally for French wine.  If you are new to wine, French wine can be a bit overwhelming so let’s start at the beginning.

Old World vs New World

To be sure, when we say “Old World” in reference to wines, we think first of French wines.  But what does “Old World” mean?  From a scholastic point of view: Old world wines are dominated by terroir, they are defined by place.  Typically these wines are more restrained and elegant.  New World wines, on the other hand tend to be reflective of the winemaker’s style and are often more fruit forward and bold.

That is a really broad definition of the differences, and doesn’t always hold true, but when people say “Old World” and “New World” this is what they are thinking.

French wine names

In France, wines are named for the region they come from, not by the variety of grape as we do in the new world.  This takes us back to that idea of “terroir” which is a sense of place, with soil, and climate.  So rather than speaking about Chardonnay in France, you would speak of Chablis or White Burgundy.  Both of those wines are made with Chardonnay, but the wine is named for the region.

When we think of Bordeaux, we think of age worthy reds.  These are typically Cabernet or Merlot based, depending on which bank of the river the region sits.  And you will notice that I said “based”. These wines are blends of the different varieties of grapes that grow best in this region.

There is one exception to this. In Alsace, the white wine region on the German border in the North East of France, wines are often labeled with the variety.  This comes from the German culture and this area throughout the ages, has bounced back and forth between French and German control.

Without going too deep into the wine labels (that’s a rabbit hole best saved for another day), let’s talk about some of the most well known French Wine Regions, and I’ll give you a translation for what varieties you will see from each.

French Wine regions

Map of French Wine Regions
Map of French Wine Regions

I love maps.  It gives you a better sense of the geography and influences on a region.  I could dive into the climates and soils in each of these regions (I do love to get geeky on these things), but this is French Wine 101!  So let’s put together some dots for you, on what varieties you will find in each of these regions and what you might want to eat with each of these wines!

Loire Valley – Val de Loire

Map of the wine regions of the Loire Valley
Map of the wine regions of the Loire Valley

This is white wine country!  You will find a bit of red, but the white wines are likely to be the ones you have heard of.

Muscadet

On the West end of the Loire Valley closest to the Atlantic Ocean. Melon de Bourgogne, which you will hear called Muscadet, is most prevalent here. This is a dry white wine that pairs really well with seafood. You will get citrus, and green apple and pear along with a lovely note of salinity. Go for shellfish with this wine

Chenin Blanc

Moving east Chenin Blanc begins to shine. Vouvray and Saviennières are well known Chenin Blancs from the regions of Touraine and Anjou-Saumur respectively. The two can be very different. Vouvray can be made from dry to semi-sweet to sweet, and you will find you need to do a bit of research to determine which sweetness level you are getting. Saviennières has been called the “most cerebral wine in the world”. These wines have depth of flavor, great acidity and minerality.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc, is mainly found in the Upper Loire, the area furthest east and inland. Here you hear of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. These wines are crisp and high acid. Pair them with fish or poultry. With cheeses these are wonderful with goat cheese or other creamy cheeses (think brie).

Cabernet Franc

Not to be overlooked is Cabernet Franc which in this region is the primary red wine. Chinon or Bourgueil in the Touraine region produce elegant Cab Francs. These wines can be slightly spicy with raspberry and violet notes and are a favorite at Parisian Bistros.

For more…

Champagne

Popping a champagne cork!

Well you know what Champagne is!  This region and it’s soil and climate produce some of the world’s finest sparkling wines primarily from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.

These wines, while often looked at a just for celebrations or just with the hors d’oeuvres at the top of the meal actually are perfect during a meal. The bubbles and acidity clean your palate making every bite taste as amazing as the first.

There are plenty of classic pairings, but try potato chips, buttered popcorn or fried chicken! The bubbles and acid with the fat and salt are heaven.

For more…

Alsace

Famous wine route in the Vosges mountains Alsace France
Famous wine route in the Vosges mountains Alsace France

This region sits on the German border and as I mentioned earlier has bounced back and forth between French and German control. The names and architecture here reflect that mixed heritage and the wines do as well.

These bright aromatic white wines are perfect to keep your nose in all day or dab behind your ears. But…if you must move on to drinking them, pair them with fish, aromatic cheeses, schnitzle, salads…there are so many great pairings. These are also wines known for pairing well with spicy foods like Thai! You will find riesling, pinot gris, muscadet and gewurztraminer lead the pack on varieties.

For more…

There are a few other varieties including Pinot Noir, but you are less likely to run into them.

Chablis

Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu Simonnet-Febvre 2013 and Pôchouse
Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu Simonnet-Febvre 2013 and Pôchouse

Chardonnay

This is Chardonnay land, but not those big buttery California Chardonnays that your Aunt might drink.  These are sharp and bright with great mineral quality! Pair with fish or chicken, oysters or other shellfish, mushrooms or cheese (think goat cheese or Comté). The sharp acid makes this great with creme sauces.

For more…

Burgundy (Bourgogne)

Vignoble de Bourgogne
Vignoble de Bourgogne

Chablis, above, is in Burgundy sitting 80 miles northwest of the rest of Burgundy.  Burgundy is known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir

The Côte de Nuits is the Northern part of the Côte d’Or and is the region that Pinot Noir calls home. It ventures further afield, but this is it’s homeland and you will find some of the most expensive Pinot Noirs on the planet, hail from here.

Pinot Noir is perfect for red wine with fish. It is the go to wine to pair with salmon. Many Pinot Noirs also have earthy notes and pair beautifully with mushrooms.

Chardonnay

The Côte de Beaune is dominated by Chardonnay. These are likely to be aged in oak. They will be richer and more buttery than those lean Chardonnays from Chablis, but they are still dry. Try this wine with pasta, chicken, risotto, shellfish or salt water fish and with cheeses like gruyere.

There is more to the region, the Côte Chalonnais and the Mâconnais, but we will leave those for another day.

For more…

Beaujolais

Gamay grapes in Beaujolais
Gamay grapes in Beaujolais

Just south of Burgundy you find Beaujolais.  This is a wine you will know better by the region name than by the grape, Gamay, that it is made from.  Beaujolais Nouveau is the first wine released each year on the third Thursday in November.  These early release wines are fresh and fruity, but the region does have other Gamay’s that are meant to be deeper and more age worthy.

Beaujolais Nouveau will be fruit forward and downright perky! Sometimes you will hear people say that they smell bubblegum or bananas in addition to raspberries and cranberry.

Aged Beaujolais might have notes of forest floor, mushroom, violet, tart cherry and smoke.

These are lighter wines and can pair across the spectrum from salmon to barbeque. Visit the Beaujolais site for a great graphic to assist with pairings for all the varied wines from this region.

The Rhone Valley

M.Chapoutier Crozes Hermitage vineyards in Tainl' Hermitage Rhone valley France
M.Chapoutier Crozes Hermitage vineyards in Tainl’ Hermitage Rhone valley France

I am a lover of Rhônes. Guaranteed…many of mine come from the Rhône Rangers that you find in California, and many of which were brought from Chateauneuf-de-Pape in the Southern Rhône.

The region is broken into the Northern and Southern Rhône. The Northern Rhône is the land of Syrah and Viognier and typically very pure and expensive versions of these.

Syrah

The Côte Rotie is known for some of the most amazing Syrah on the planet. I’ve heard it described as bacon and violets. Which sounds pretty amazing to me.

Viognier

Condrieu is well known for 100% Viognier. This white wine is full bodied and round with notes of apricot, pear and almonds.

There are other appellations like Crozes Hermitage above and Cornas, there is more to explore here, if you have the budget.

The Southern Rhone is warmer as it heads down the Rhone river to the Mediterranean and you will find blends of multiple varieties.  The famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape is here with blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre and more. Wines here lean toward blends.

Red Rhône Blends

These will have berry notes (think raspberry and black berry) baking spice, and maybe some garrigue (think underbrush), lavender, dried herbs. The more Mourvedre, the more likely you will have meaty notes to the wine.

These go well with mediterranean foods, like olives and red peppers, and herbs like rosemary or sage (or herbs de Provençe).

White Rhône Blends

Marsanne, Roussanne & Viognier make up the body of most white wines in this area. These blends are medium bodied and have notes of beeswax (I love that), as well as moderate citrus, like a meyer lemon, then stone fruits like peach and apricot.

Pair them with richer dishes with white meat (chicken or fish or even pork) and perhaps with fruits that are stewed or roasted. Dried apricots are a definite must on a cheese plate with these wines.

For more…

Bordeaux

Vignoble de Bordeaux
Vignoble de Bordeaux

If you have heard of any region in France other than Champagne, it will be Bordeaux. This is the region that Napa Valley wants to be. It is the big daddy of French wine with bottles that can be very pricey and many that need considerable aging. When people pull out dusty bottles from their wine cellar, typically they are Bordeaux wines.

Left Bank Reds (Cabernet Sauvignon based)

Red wines here are classified by which bank of the river the vineyards sit on. Left bank wines are west of the river in Médoc and Graves. The reds here are Cabernet Sauvignon based.

Right Bank Reds (Merlot driven)

The Right bank wines are on the other side of the river in the Libournais. These wines are Merlot driven. The Entre-deux-mers, the area in the middle between the two, has much more fertile soil producing less concentrated (but more affordable) wines.

The bold reds of Bordeaux are perfect with rich meaty dishes, like a big steak.

Sweet wines of Sauternes

Down in Graves you find the region of Sauternes. These are my friend Corinne’s favorite wines. These are sweet wines made from grapes with “Noble rot”. The botrytis fungus takes hold of the grape and dries them out considerably. They are pressed into tiny amounts of wine that when fermented becomes sweet and delicious. These are wines to pair with bleu cheese or with desserts.

For more…

Provence

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

Rosé

This is Rosê country, more than 1/2 the output of wine from this region is rosé. The mistral wind that whips down from the mountains keeping the vines in this Mediterannean region dry and free from disease. The landscape is dotted with lavender fields. It’s pretty dreamy.

In addition to those delicate ballet slipper pink rosés you will find Bandol, which is a rich red wine from Mourvedre.

Pair pink with pink. It’s delicious and pretty. Smoked salmon, ham, prosciutto, crab, lobster….you get the picture.

Yes…these wines are great in the summer. Their high acid and bright flavors are perfect to help you cool down on a hot day. But don’t overlook them at other times.

For more…

Other regions

Is there more to French Wine?  Why yes…so much more, there is the island of Corsica, the black wines of Cahors, Picpoul de Pinet from Languedoc-Rousillon…and then there are the wines that I have yet to discover!

Oh and did I mention Crémant? That would be sparkling wine from any region outside of Champagne! You want bubbles and value? It’s your go to!

Dive deep into the links and the links in the links and take a little vacay to France sans airfare!

For more…

More from the Winophiles!

There are so many ways to dive into French Wine, I have only scratched the surface. Why not check out the other #Winophiles and their approaches to the subject! You can join us for the conversation on Twitter on Saturday Morning January 18th (8 am PST, 11 am EST) by following the hashtag #Winophiles!

Remember I said I would include more about those potential tariffs.

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

12 Days of Wine Day 6 – Armstrong Family Winery

Today we venture out of the Yakima Valley, sort of….This wine is from Armstrong Family Winery, who are located in Walla Walla. We spent an afternoon with Tim & Jennifer Armstrong at the vineyard this summer (you can read about it here). But, sadly…the fruit from this vineyard, did not go in this wine. Here’s the deal…

Tim & Jennifer started their wine journey near Seattle with Tim working with a winery in Woodinville. (Well actually they met in Milwaukee and spent time in Chicago before heading to Washington…but Washington is where we get to the good part). After sourcing grapes, they found a vineyard near Walla Walla (which is where we visited them). They now have a tasting room in both Woodinville as well as Walla Walla and their vineyard has just had it’s first estate harvest! So…you need to get in line for the 2019 Vintage!

Armstrong's Valley Grove Vineyard Barn Walla Walla Washington

Their property is stunning, with the historic barn that now graces many of their labels. The vineyard is 20 years old, and they have been retraining it. I look forward to the vintages that will come from the estate and to seeing their dream of a winery and tasting room on property progress. In the meantime, you can visit by booking the guest house they have on property.

Okay…on to this particular wine.

Armstrong Family Winery 2016 Bogie’s Blend

Armstrong Family Winery 2016 Bogie's Blend
Armstrong Family Winery 2016 Bogie’s Blend

Where does the name come from?

Bogie, the family dog is a blend of beagle and basset hound. The wine named in his honor is a blend of 55% Syrah & 45% Cabernet from the Columbia Valley. Bogie joined the family 13 years ago as a rescue.

Elephant Mountain Vineyard fruit

Well…I know it says Columbia Valley, but those grapes come very specifically from Elephant Mountain Vineyard, which we visited a while back. This vineyard is super nested. So yes, it is in the Columbia Valley as the label says, it is also within the Yakima Valley AVA (which is in the Columbia Valley AVA) and then it is in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA (which is within the Yakima Valley AVA). So, when I said we ventured out of the Yakima Valley at the top…well i was only telling part of a truth. Yep, this wine actually comes from fruit from the same AVA as that lovely Côte Bonneville Riesling.

Cabernet Sauvignon on Elephant Mountain
Cabernet Sauvignon on Elephant Mountain

The Tasting

Armstrong Family Winery 2016 Bogie's Blend with it's flavor profile
Armstrong Family Winery 2016 Bogie’s Blend with it’s flavor profile

So you may have noticed by now the photos of the wines with their flavor profiles. Well, I only had one bottle of each of these wines, so I referred to tasting notes to find the flavors and pairings ahead of time. For this lovely photo I blended Tim’s notes with a review of this wine and put together a spread of black cherries, tobacco, spice, vanilla, rose petal, lavender, roasted walnuts, coffee, blueberry and anise. Did I get all that from the wine when I opened it? First I found stewed red berries and spice then florals, yes…dried rose petals and lavender. Then the nose took on those cocoa notes, I thought of chocolate covered dried chukar cherries (which seem appropriate as we are in Washington). The tannins were tingly, not drying and I got a bit of mocha and smoke…and a little cigar tobacco.

This wine sits at a hefty 15.2% abv, but it is surprisingly smooth. This wine runs $42.00. It was the wine we enjoyed sitting on their back patio overlooking the vineyard as we chatted with Tim & Jennifer.

View from the patio at Armstrong
The view while sipping Bogie’s Blend

The Pairing

I did roast some walnuts to pair with this and they were perfect. We made a perfect bite with bleu cheese, honey and rose petal…and then another with the walnut, raspberry jam and a sprinkle of dried lavender…the combinations to delight with this wine are endless.

Armstrong Family Winery Bogie's Blend
Armstrong Family Winery 2016 Bogie’s Blend

Half way there!

I don’t know if that is good or bad. I kinda want this to go on forever! None-the-less we are on to Day 7 tomorrow! See you then!

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12 Days of Wine 2019 – Day 2 Owen Roe

We’ve come to Day 2 of our 12 Days of Wine! Today’s wine is from Owen Roe Winery and it’s kinda special. This is the 2015 Syrah Chapel Block. Yes…I know, another Syrah. Well, we happen to like Syrah and as I mentioned this one is special to us.

The Chapel Block – Red Willow Vineyard

The Chapel on the Chapel Block at Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley Washington
The Chapel on the Chapel Block at Red Willow Vineyard

Red Willow Vineyard is in the Yakima Valley, and within it sits the very special Chapel Block. We were lucky enough to visit and spend an evening watching the sunset with vineyard owner/grower Mike Sauer and his son Jonathan.

So many of the vineyards in the Yakima Valley are easily accessible along Interstate 82. It’s a bit more work to get to Red Willow. Southwest of the City of Yakima, you must travel West from Wapato. It is 14 miles through large blocks of agricultural land that seems to go on forever. Far in the distance Mt. Adams rises.

  • Red Willow Vinyard
  • Red Willow Vinyard
  • Red Willow Vineyard Chapel Block
  • Red Willow Vineyard Chapel Block
  • Red Willow Vinyard with Mike and Jonathan Sauer
  • Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley AVA Mt. Adams in the Distance
  • Red Willow Vineyard
  • Red Willow Vineyard
  • Red Willow Vinyard with Mike and Jonathan Saue

We arrived before sunset and Jonathan Sauer took us up to the Chapel Block. The Chapel stands on the top of a hill with slopes on each side planted to wine grapes. That syrah grows in sight of the Chapel is no mistake. The building harkens back to the Chapel of Hermitage in France’s Northern Rhône where Syrah is king.

While we were there, we saw blocks labeled for wineries, one of which was for Owen Roe. This was where the Syrah for this wine originated from. The Chapel Block, with it’s iconic Chapel is well known for highly prized fruit in the Yakima Valley. The care and pride that the Sauers put into the fruit they grow, shows in the final wine. You can read a bit about our magical evening with them here

Red Willow source for some of Owen Roe's great Washington Wine
Red Willow Vineyard, the Chapel Block, one of the rows for Owen Roe

Owen Roe 2015 Syrah Chapel Block (Red Willow Vineyard)

Owen Roe 2015 Chapel Block Syrah
Owen Roe 2015 Chapel Block Syrah

So, we do have a progression here from yesterday’s wine. This is from the other end of the Yakima Valley and it is 2 years younger. It was aged 10 months in 47% new oak. It sits at 14.1% abv and will set you back $55.

Tasting

The color on this was a bit bluer and the rim a little less (2 years younger will do that). Blueberry, blackberry and a bit of orange zest come out, blended with notes of leather, tobacco and a bit of wet stone.

Notes of bramble fruit, wet stone, tobacco, leather, orange peel and on the 2015 Chapel Block Syrah from Owen Roe
Notes of bramble fruit, wet stone, tobacco, leather, orange peel and blueberry on the nose 2015 Chapel Block Syrah from Owen Roe

Pairing

We again hit the bleu and gouda to pair with this. I found raspberries and cherries to pair nicely. (hmm…cherries and the Chapel block…that just makes me happy to think about)

More on Owen Roe

We visited Owen Roe and met with then Owner David O’Reilly in October of 2018. Recently he has sold the winery, though he is still overseeing operations. We are always sad to see a winery sold, most especially when it is to a larger organization. We hope that as David is staying on, not just with Owen Roe, but will be taking a place within Vintage Estates a a regional director, the winery will continue in it’s quality and uniqueness.

For more details on Owen Roe Winery you can visit these posts

More on the Yakima Valley

We have fallen a little in love with this valley. As such, we have a list of pieces and additional places you can get information on Washington’s Yakima Valley wine region.

You can also visit Wine Yakima Valley‘s site for maps and details.

On to Day 3!

2 down 10 more coming your way! Don’t miss tomorrow’s reveal as we march on with our 12 Days of Wine Celebration!

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12 days of Wine 2019 – Day 1 Hedges Family Estate

We kick off our 12 days of wine this season with a wine from Red Mountain Washington from the Hedges Family Estate. We had a wonderful visit with Sarah Hedges Goedhart this summer and after a lengthy tasting through many of their wines we left with a bottle of this wine.

Hedges Family Estate the garden with the fountain Red Mountain Yakima Valley Washington

Syrah on Red Mountain

Yes I know. If you know Red Mountain, you immediately think cabernet sauvignon. Don’t get me wrong, the cab is good here, but I love syrah and the syrah here is pretty amazing. You will get lush bold dark fruit and a distinctive minerality.

Vines at Hedges Family Estate in Yakima Valley's Red Mountain AVA
Vines at Hedges Family Estate in Yakima Valley’s Red Mountain AVA

When Sarah & her husband Brent started Goedhart Family Wines in 2006 they wanted a singular focus. That focus was on syrah from Bel’ Villa Vineyard. They blend both early and late fruit to get a balance. This gives you bright red fruit notes and acid from the earlier picked fruit and lusher darker fuller notes from the later picked fruit.

Bel’Villa Vineyard

Planted in 1997 this vineyard sits above the Hedges Estate vineyard. It is one of the highest vineyards on Red Mountain. This is the Joseph Phelps clone on it’s own rootstock and the vineyard sits at 959 feet in elevation.

Here is a link to their vineyard map. Click on the top right vineyard section to find the block for this wine. (It’s a pretty cool map)

https://www.hedgesfamilyestate.com/the-land

2013 Goedhart Family Red Mountain Syrah from the Bel’ Villa Vineyard

This wine is 100% Syrah from the Bel’ Villa Vineyard on Red Mountain. Goedhart is Sarah’s married name.

Their harvest notes for 2013

Harvest Notes: 2013 was another excellent vintage in Washington State, made slightly unusual by 80 plus temperatures in April and 90 plus temperatures in May. This uncommon early season heat caused bud break and growth to be early and rapid, exceeding average by about ten days. An average summer meant veraison and harvest began early, which led to ripe fruit throughout the state. Once again, “average” in Washington is everyone else’s “great”.

http://hedgesfamilyestate.orderport.net/product-details/0138/2013-Goedhart-Family-Red-Mountain-Syrah

Details on the making of this wine

  • destemmed
  • partially crushed into stainless steel fermenters
  • punched down three times per day
  • pressed to barrels
  • malo-lactic fermentation
  • racked off lees
  • 100% barrel aged for 11 months in 26% new American & French oak.
  • Abv sits at 13.4%
  • they made 504 cases of this wine.
  • SRP $29.00
2013 Goedhart Family Red Mountain Syrah Bel Villa Vineyard from the Hedges Family
2013 Goedhart Family Red Mountain Syrah Bel Villa Vineyard from the Hedges Family Estate

Tasting notes

This wine is a rich dark garnet with a bit of a rim (this is a 2013 after all). It started with full fruit then backed off as it opened. I did get the dried blueberries and cherries they mentioned (side note, dried blueberries have a slight macha note to them, who knew?). Notes of mocha, cherry and orange peel. It does have a whiff of vanilla and spice from the oak.

Tasting notes for the Goedhart Family 2013 Red Mountain Syrah
Tasting notes for the Goedhart Family 2013 Red Mountain Syrah

Pairing

We had some bleu cheese and gouda (always a good bet with a big red). We laid out dried blue berries and cherries, plus some other cherries (cooked). Michael made a chili with beef, turkey and bison (adding game to pair with the wine.) We also did some adorable little potato stacks with butter, thyme and parmesean that baked in the oven and were the perfect little flavor bombs to pair with the wine.

More on Red Mountain

We visited with Sarah last July and you can catch a bit of our visit in our post The Scenic Route Flash Tour 2019 Part 5 One Day 3 Washington AVA’s

You can also visit the Red Mountain AVA site for details on the area.

11 more days!

And we’re off! Day 1 for 2019 is in the books…on to Day 2! Join us tomorrow for the reveal of our 2nd wine for our 12 days of Wine!

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Fall, Thanksgiving and the flavors of Rasteau #Winophiles

The beautiful embossed Rasteau AOC Cru bottle Photo Courtesy of Inter-Rhône

Rasteau. Perhaps it’s a name you are not familiar with. This region in the Southern Rhône has long been known for their sweet Vin Doux Naturel wines. It was just recently (2010) awarded Cru status for it’s dry red wines.

This post is a sponsored post. In conjunction with the French #Winophiles I recieved 4 bottles of wine from Rasteau as samples to taste and write about. The opinions provided are my own.

Rasteau

The name itself comes from the French word “râteau” meaning rake. The hills and valleys here look like the tines of a rake.

  • The Fortress in Rasteau Photo Courtesy of Inter-Rhône
  • Rolling vineyards showing the altitude in Rasteau Photo Courtesy of Inter-Rhône

The region is east of the famous Chateauneuf-de-Pape. Perspective…it is 21 miles from Avignon, at the very south of the Rhône River and 12.5 miles from Orange. Writing this out made me realize how small this area really is. This is a small medieval village with cobbled streets. Located in the Haut-Vaucluse, this little village faces south and looks to the Dentelles de Montmirail mountain range.

Haut-Vaucluse

The name might not be familiar to you, but this is the region that inspired Cézanne and Chagall. Farmlands with orchards, olive groves and lavender fields cover this area of Provençe. Here you find ancient cities, including Rasteau.

Dentelles de Montmirail

This small mountain chain is just south of the village of Vaison-la-Romaine. Dentelles translated to English is “lace” as the mountains have a scalloped lace like feel as you look at them.

Geography, Climate & Soils

The Rasteau AOC Courtesy of Inter-Rhône
The Rasteau AOC Courtesy of Inter-Rhône

As I mentioned the village faces south. The soils differ depending on the altitude. Lower altitudes have pebble rich soils, a little further up you reach sandy marl (between 525 and 951 feet) and the highest vineyards have red and grey marl with galets, those pudding stones that the Rhône is so famous for.

  • Pudding stones in AOC Rasteau Photo Courtesy of Inter-Rhône
  • Old vines and galets or pudding stones AOC Rasteau Photo Courtesy of Inter-Rhône

As far south as they are you get loads of sunshine and it’s relatively dry. Plus the Mistral wind keeps the vines healthy. All that air keeps the vines dry and free from mold and disease. But…the vineyards on this south facing slope are arranged in a bowl or amphitheatre shape which keeps them safe from the most brutal of the winds. So they get the good breezes, not the damaging wind.

Red Rhône Blends with some rules

The wines here are made up of red Rhône varieties that you are likely familiar with, but with a couple of rules.

  • The blend must be at least 50% Grenache Noir
  • At least 20% of the wine must be Syrah & Mourvèdre (that’s 20% together)

We recieved 4 samples, each with a slightly different blend. Two of which were 2015 vintage and two that were the 2016 Vintage.

All of the wines were food friendly, made to bring to table, to share and enjoy with food and laughter.

2016 Rasteau wines from Domaine M. Boutin and Domaine La Fond de Notre Dame
2016 Rasteau wines from Domaine M. Boutin and Domaine La Fond de Notre Dame

Domaine La Font de Notre Dame 2016 Rasteau Le Chêne

This is an old family estate renamed by the sons in 2016. The Domaine has vineyards in several regions including Gigondas, Sablet and Lirac in addition to their vineyard in Rasteau.

The vineyard sits on the top of a hill at 350 meters between the Ouvèze and Aygue valleys with soil of brown marl and pebbles.Vines here average 80 years old, so they were the oldest of the samples we recieved.

The wine is Grenache driven at 80% with 10% Mourvèdre and 5% each of Syrah and Cinsault. The Grenache is grown in the gobelet style (bush style, untrellised)

The Domaine La Font de Notre Dame was the lightest bodied of the 4 Rasteau wines we tasted and was also the highest percentage of Grenache. It was bright and elegant.

Domaine M. Boutin 2016 Rasteau

Mikael Boutin, the winemaker is a 5th generation winemaker. Domaine M. Boutin is a small operation. His facility is the size of a two car garage size and he works mostly with concrete tanks. He has almost 5 acres of vines scattered over 8 parcels. The vines average 40 years old and are are varied soils and have different exposures. Regardless of the fact that they are scattered, they are all organically certified.

Mikael hand harvests and does wild yeast ferments in his concrete tanks. The wines are kept on the fine lees for 8 months (still in the concrete tanks). Wines are held in bottle for 12 months before release.

Chateau du Trignon 2015 Rasteau

Chateau du Trignon 2015 Rasteau
Chateau du Trignon 2015 Rasteau

This property had been kept for generations as a traditional farm by the Roux family, who gradually turned the focus to vineyards. In 2007 the Quiot family purchased the property, 12 acres are with in the Rasteau AOC.

This is a 60/40 blend of Grenache and Mourvèdre from vines that average 30 years in age. The grapes are de-stemed and after around 3 weeks of masceration do a 3 week indigenous yeast ferment. They age for a year in foudres and concrete.

Lavau 2015 Rasteau

2015 Lavau Rasteau bottle shot
2015 Lavau Rasteau

This wine comes from east facing stony hillsides. Harvests here are small and late. This blend in 50/50 Grenache and Syrah. Destemmed, 25 day masceration and a year of aging in mostly neutral oak.

A little on the 2015 vintage from Lavau

After a wet winter and spring, followed by a few showers in June, the vines were able to withstand the extreme summer droughts due to the water reserves. Ripening conditions were optimal with sunny days and cool nights, accompanied by a light Mistral wind. The harvested grapes showed exceptional concentration and balance.

Groupe Lavau Maucoil www.lavau.fr

Thanksgiving Pairing with Rasteau

With Thanksgiving right around the corner here in the US, I looked at these wines and determined that the flavor profiles would pair nicely with those fall foods we indulge in at Thanksgiving.

The menu

Thanksgiving flavors to pair with the wines of Rasteau
Thanksgiving flavors to pair with the wines of Rasteau

With just 2 of us, we took a simpler route than roasting an entire turkey. I found 2 turkey breast marinated and applewood smoked to cook like a pork loin, roasting it in the oven. This took my cooking time to a little over an hour, rather than the 3 or so for a full bird.

I looked to flavors that would match the wine. Herb de Provençe was a no brainer for this area of southern France and the berry notes of raspberry, blackberry and cherry noted in the wine…well I figured that adding some cranberry and making a sauce would be pretty perfect.

  • Smoked roasted turkey breast with a berry sauce, roasted mashed sweet potatoes with herbs de provençe and sauteed green beans with fried shallots, almonds & balsamic reduction.
  • Rasteau Rouge with turkey, sweet potatoes and seared brussel sprouts.
  • Thanksgiving and Rasteau

I roasted the sweet potatoes (a regular sweet potato and a purple sweet potato with sweet white flesh) in olive oil, herb de provençe, salt, pepper and a bit of nutmeg and then mashed them with butter and a dash of stock. The nutmeg brought out that bit of spice in the wines.

For our green vegetables… we did fresh green beans, cooked in butter and a bit of stock, drizzled with a balsamic reduction and sprinkled with sea salt, as well as boiled brussel sprouts, that I then sliced and pan seared to pull out the sweetness. Both of course got a dash of the herbs de Provençe,

Cheese Pairing with the Rasteau Wines
Cheese Pairing with the Rasteau Wines

We did start with a cheese platter, with a decided feminine feel. I picked up “New Woman” cheese which has jerked spices in it, and Two Sisters Gouda. We rounded this out with dried cherries, blackberries, raspberries, apple and almonds.

Honestly, all the foods paired beautifully with all of these wines. Not a bad pairing in the bunch. Tying in the fruit notes as well as the herbs and spices really made these pairings sing.

Verdict

Michael found both of the 2015 wines to be more weighty and substantial. I would agree. There might be several components to this, the age, the vintage, which as we saw above was very warm and the blend. Both of these wines were simply Grenache and one other variety and the Mourvèdre and Syrah that they used can both be weighty. I did really enjoy the Domaine La Font de Notre Dame, for exactly the reason that it was not weighty. Perhaps I was in a very Grenachey mood. I was also really enamoured by the story of MB Boutin and his 2 car garage size set up and his scattered hand picked vineyards. Mikael’s story definitely influenced my tasting and I savored visualizing his harvest while sipping the wine.

All of these wines were delicious, but they are decidedly food wines. On their own, they were fine, but not wines to sit and deeply contemplate with your nose in a glass. They are wines to pop open and enjoy with people and food. They are not showy, they are complimentary, quietly, each in it’s own way, adding to the meal and elevating the food.

These wines are in the perfect price point. Running from $18 to $25 SRP, these are wines that you can easily bring to the table to enjoy without the pressure of needing to stop and take detailed tasting notes.

For more information on these wines on social media, check out

  • Twitter: @RhoneWine
  • Instagram: @rhonevalleyvineyards, @vinsderasteau
  • Facebook: @RhoneValleyVineyards, @aoc.rasteau
  • Or search for the hashtags: #rhone #rasteau #rasteauwine #rhonewine

Or visit Vins-Rhône.com for details on wines and vineyards throughout the Rhône region

The French #Winophiles

We will be gathering on twitter under the hashtage #Winophiles to talk about the wines of Rasteau on Saturday morning November 16th. It’s early at 8 am if you are in the Pacific time zone, a more reasonable 10 am in the midwest and a luxurious 11 am on the east coast. Join us to chat about these wines and the pairings we all found!

Here is a list of the other terrific articles written on the wines of Rasteau by the other #Winophiles!

Shout out to Michelle Williams at Rockin Red Blog who was terrific in helping secure samples from Rhône Valley Vineyards for some participants (one of which was me!). Thanks Michelle!

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

Corsica – An Island and it’s wines #Winophiles

Famous pine tree on Palombaggia beach with azure clear water and sandy beach on the south part of Corsica, France

Close your eyes. When I say Corsica, what comes to mind.  Cliff side villages, overlooking the bluest of waters, sea breezes, perhaps a crisp white wine to take the edge off the heat?

Corsican village of Bonifacio on the cliff side
Corsican village of Bonifacio on the cliff side

This island sits closer to Italy than France, but…it is French, although the people consider themselves decidedly Corsican.  The culture blends Italian and French foods and language.

Map of Corsica
Map of Corsica

Red from the Mountains, White from the Sea – Wines of Corsica

Vermentino, the leading white grape of the island, may be called Rolle as it is in France or Vermentinu as it was on the bottle I picked up. Sangiovese is the prominent red, known here as Niellucciu.

Corsican wines are not so easy to come by, but can be really affordable when you find them.  We searched around town, to no avail with our local wine shops and ended up picking these up at Total Wine, who had a selection from 3 producers.

Alba di Diana Corse

Alba di Diana Vermentino from Corsica
Alba di Diana Vermentino from Corsica

This wine from Domaine de Terra Vecchia is 100% Vermentinu (or Vermentino). $14.99 srp

The Estate is on the East Coast of Corsica facing the Tyrrhenian Sea that sits between Corsica and Italy. On the map above you can see the city of Aleria where you will find Domaine de Terra Vecchia. Vineyards here are between the mountains and the Etang de Diana, a lagoon where they harvest mussels and oysters.

Vines were planted here in the 19th century on a little property on the edge of the Etang de Diana. Jean-François Renucci acquired the Domaine, replanted with Corsican grape varieties and converted the vineyard to organic farming.

Clos Sulana

Clos Sulana Red wine of Corsica 2016
Clos Sulana Red wine of Corsica 2016

The other wine we found is from Clos Sulana in the Centru di Corsica. Clos Sulana is located in the mountains around the village of Morosaglia in the Central part of Corsica. Vineyards here enjoy high altitudes at the foot of a chain of mountains with wide temperature variations.

Clos Sulana is produced by Domaine Vico. Their vineyards were originally planted in 1901 by Jean Vico. The family now has 49 hectares with soils of schist, basalt, granite and pebbles that sit between 850 and almost 1200 feet at the foot of the mountains.

The Clos Sulana Rouge is a Red wine made of 40% Niellucciu (the Corsican name for Sangiovese), 40% Sciaccarellu and 20% Syrah.  Okay…”Sciaccarellu”, you ask? Well, it is a dark skinned grape grown primarily in Corsica, although you will find it in Tuscany where it is known as Mammolo. This grape has soft tannins, red fruit and a peppery note. The wine sits at 13.5 abv. $11.99 srp

Foods of Corsica

Local wild pork delicatessen, and corsican cheese,
Local wild pork delicatessen, and corsican cheese,

Meats & Cheeses

Corsica is well known for its sheep and goat milk cheeses and cured meats. The cured meats here are made from the meat of free range pigs who live the life feeding on chestnuts (another important product of the island) and acorns.

Fish & Seafood

The east coast of the island, as I mentioned, has oyster farms. Other fish you find locally include anchovies & sardines, red mullet and langoustine. The island does have fresh water fish in it’s rivers so trout and eel can be found.

Stews & Pastas – Herbs, fruits and veggies

Soups and stews are popular with wild boar, chesnuts and fennel or veal, olives, tomatoes and herbs, always with a splash of wine in the pot.

Pastas are also popular (I mean…this is a stones throw from Italy). When it comes to vegetables, think mediterranean with tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant. You can readily find fruits like peaches, clementines and figs. Olives and olive oil of course are staples. They have a group of herbs called “maquis”. This blend is of thyme, juiper, myrtle, oregano, basil and different types of mint. This is the scent of the island. They also have an AOC for honey, which carries the notes of the “maquis”.

Food Pairings

I searched locally for Brocciu, a non-lactose cheese that is a common ingredient in recipes. No luck. This is a fresh cheese and is similar to ricotta, so I used that instead. You will also find Tommette de Chèvre (a strong goat milk cheese), Corsu Vecchiu 9a semi-hard sheep milk cheese, Niulincu (a tangy cheese from the middle of the island) and ….Casgiu merzu (stand back, this is like Sardinia “rotting cheese” and comes complete with insect larvae).

Oysters

In my research on the Etang de Diana found that both oysters and mussels were farmed here. So it seemed a no-brainer to pick up 1/2 dozen oysters on the half shell to pair with a wine from a vineyard with a view of the Etang.

Oysters on the half shell
Oysters on the half shell

Sturzapreti

I found a delicious sounding recipe for Sturzapreti, a gnocchi like dumpling, with chard and brocciu cheese. The dumplings called for chard, brocciu cheese (for which I subbed ricotta), a potato, an egg, fresh mint and parsley. These ingredients get mixed up and then par boiled. I’ll admit, my first batch made soup! It all disintegrated in the water. I was more careful with the rest. They then went into an oven dish, and I used beef stock to half cover them and topped them with emmental cheese. This baked until brown. The mint and cheese really was lovely and went well with the Vermentino.

  • Ingredients for Sturzapreti
  • Sturzapreti baked Corsican Dumplings
  • Sturzapreti baked Corsican Dumplings

Gnocchi with roasted zucchini, eggplant and sausage

We mixed the pasta and stew idea and did gnocchi with roasted zucchini and eggplant, tomatoe, thyme & sausage.

Gnocchi with roasted eggplant, zuchinni and sausage
Gnocchi with roasted eggplant, zucchini and sausage

Our charcuterie platter

We tied in the olives, wild boar sausage and peaches and added a bit to round out the platter with other things in the fridge and cupboard.

Cheese & Charcuterie platter with olives, peaches, blackberries, strawberries, emmental, wild boar sausage & almonds.
Cheese & Charcuterie platter

All in all this was a pretty nice tasting! The wines we picked up were Vin Corse. These were the most widely distributed of the wines from these producers and I would love to dig deeper into the higher quality wines from the island. The Vermentino was good with the food, but uninspiring on it’s own (I must admit to being very spoiled with good Vermentino). The Red wine, again was good, for opening a bottle and having some food, but I am sure that this producer has some wonderful wines that have more depth and detail and I look forward to exploring those in the future.

The French #Winophiles!

This is just the tip of the island! The French #Winophiles have gathered to talk about the wines of Corsica this month. Head to twitter and follow #Winophiles to join the conversation! We will be live on Saturday September 21st at 11 am EST!

You can also dive into the pieces below for lots more on Corsican wines!

Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Friday Night Pizzas + Domaine Poli Niellucciu Rosé 2018”
Cathie from Side Hustle Wino shares “Wines from Corsica? Of “Corse”  (#winophiles)”
Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog shares “Mixiote de Pescado Paired with Domaine Petroni Corse Rosé”
Linda at My Full Wine Glass shares “Spaghetti and meatballs for a Corsican wine (#Winophiles)”
Gwen from Wine Predator shares “Corsica Rose with Salmon Crespelle and Currant Clafoutis #Winophiles
Payal at Keep the Peas shares “Corsica: The Maquis, The Mountains, The Sea (#winophiles)”
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Corsica; French with a lot of Italian Influence”
Cindy from Grape Experiences shares “Drench Yourself in the Sunshine of Corsica with Domaine Petroni Rosé Corse 2018 and Provençal Vegetable Gratin”
Nicole at Somm’s Table shares “Corsican Happiness: Domaine Giacometti Sempre Cuntentu Sciaccarellu with a Flavorful Seafood Stew”

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

The Scenic Route Part 6 – Visiting Rioja in Washington and dinner at a gas station in Walla Walla

Valdemar Estates in Washington's Walla Walla AVA

It was a quiet morning as we drove south of Walla Walla toward the Oregon border. Pulling off Peppers Bridge Road into an area with several large wineries, we headed to the one that stood out architecturally. This was Valdemar. Bodgas Valdemar is known in the Rioja region of Spain, and has ventured to Washington to explore making wines of place here.

Valdemar Estates in Walla Walla

  • Valdemar Estates Winery and Tasting Room in Walla Walla Washington
  • Entrance to Valdemar Estates Winery and Tasting Room

Modern with clean lines the building evokes the feel of the modern architecture seen in Spain. There were few cars here at this point and we headed to what we thought was the front entrance, an immense door that stood a full story tall. Natasha let us in and we met Kaleigh Vrapi, the Valdemar Estates Hospitality Director. We were led upstairs around the stunning space as things started to open up for the day. After a stop in the tasting room, we headed out to the patio next to the fountain with a beautiful view of the Blue Mountains for our interview with Kaleigh.

  • Basket Press at Valdemar Estates in Walla Walla Washington
  • The Barrel Room at Valdemar in Walla Walla Washington

The sparkling winery

After our interview, which we will share with you later, Kaleigh led us through the rest of the space in this beautiful facility. Down the open stairway that spans the full height of the space, past the antique basket press, into the barrel rooms and finally into the winery, to meet Assistant Winemaker Devyani Gupta. Devyani was awaiting the crane to install new fermentation tanks that morning. As the truck had not yet arrived, she took a few moments to show us around the sparkling facility.

The Working Winery at Valdemar Estates in Walla Walla Washington
The Working Winery at Valdemar Estates

Flights of Rioja & Washington

Kaleigh then led us back up to the tasting room and took us through a tasting. Tastings here are done as flights and we began with a couple of flights from Bodegas Valdemar beginning with their rosé of Garnacha & Viura, followed by their barrel fermented Viura and then into the reds, which as you would expect…are Tempranillo based.

Now it was time to move on to the Vlademar Estate Wines, which are labeled as “Component Trial” . This exploration into the wines of this region features labels are perfect for the geeky wine nerd, listing vineyards by percentage, as well as the harvest notes etc.

Valdemar Estates Component Trial 2017 Syrah Walla Walla Valley
Valdemar Estates Component Trial 2017 Syrah Walla Walla Valley

All of their Washington wines are Syrah. The first of these is their Blue Mountain Syrah from the Walla Walla Valley, then they have 2 from Red Mountain. The Red Mountain Syrah is a blend of syrah from Kipsun and La Coye vineyards and then they have a vineyard specific Klipsun Syrah.

This is the perfect place to come and explore wine and food pairings. Find a comfortable spot with a view, chose a flight or two, then ask your server for suggested pairings from their Tapas and Pinchos menu. They are all about hospitality here.

A stroll in Walla Walla

We headed back to Walla Walla and after a stroll, stopped in to the Cadaretta tasting room. In October with WBC18 we had been treated to an extraordinary dinner at Cadaretta’s glass house. We needed to get back and explore some more of their wines.

Cadaretta Tasting Room

Cadaretta Tasting Room in Walla Walla Washington
Cadaretta Tasting Room in Walla Walla Washington

In the tasting room, Greta was a friendly face! We had met her at the Glass House. She took us through a tasting and we left happily with a bottle or two.

My Dinner at Andrae’s

(Can anyone give me a shout out for that movie reference?)

Now we were ready for dinner and dinner had a plan! At our dinner at Doubleback back in October, Chef Andrae of Andrae’s Kitchen had put together a spectacular meal. Thaddeus Bugs of the Minority Wine Report had gushed about his food when we arrived and asked if we had been to the gas station? What? Well, now were were back to do just that.

Andrae's Kitchen at the Cenex gas station on Rose Street in  Walla Walla Washington
Andrae’s Kitchen at the Cenex gas station on Rose Street in Walla Walla Washington

Chef Andrae Bopp has a resume filled with work in restaurants like Balthazar and Le Bernardin. His current restaurant and catering business run out of the Cenex Gas Station on Rose Street in Walla Walla. His food is impeccable, but he keeps it real. Unsure of what to expect, we pulled into the Cenex, but the sign over the door let us know we were in the right place.

I stood back to peruse the chalkboard menu for a bit. It was a tough decision, but we settled on AK’s Corn Salad, Poutine and a combo of tacos. The kitchen runs like a well oiled machine. The staff are polite, attentive and obviously in love with the food they are making. We kicked back at table up front to wait while they did their magic. Chef Andrae came in while we were there to check in. We grabbed our to go order and headed back to the hotel to indulge in some deliciousness to end our day and our stay in Walla Walla.

Rest for another day…

Tomorrow we would spend a good deal of the day driving. First it would be back to Sunnyside in the Yakima Valley to meet Kerry Shiels and visit her Du Brul vineyard and a stop to see Co Dinn at his Sunnyside tasting room. Then we would drive back to the gorge through Hood River and up to Hiyu with their stunning view of Mt. Hood. We would finish our day with views of Mt. Hood as we headed back to Salem Oregon for the night. Join us for more!

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

Tasting blind – globetrotting at home

Table set for a blind tasting

We gathered a bakers dozen of folks for a blind tasting of 3 white wines and 3 reds. There were aroma jars and tasting sheets and lots of glasses! After the reveal for each, we had small bites to pair with each of the wines. People discovered varieties and places they did not know they liked. Here’s the run down on the wines we tasted.

The White Wines

When choosing these wines, we didn’t want to pick wines everyone was already familiar with and we also wanted them to be from a range of places around the globe. Without realizing it at first, we had chosen three wines, with somewhat similar profiles, which made the guessing a bit harder. Here are our 3 white wines.

White Wine #1 Carhartt 2018 Sauvignon Blanc

Carhartt 2018 Savignon Blanc bottle shot with apple, lemon zest and honeydew melon
Carhartt 2018 Savignon Blanc

This wine is from California, Santa Barbara Country and more specifically from the Santa Ynez Valley. It hails from 2 vineyards, the Carhartt Vineyard in Santa Ynez (60%), and Grassini Vineyard located in Happy Canyon (40%). Carhartt is great about the deets on their labels: 100% Savignon Blanc, Clone 1 on 101-14 rootstock, vertical trellis system, sustainably farmed, fermentation in both oak and stainless steel, cooperage :6 months in neutral oak and stainless steel 50% each.

Aromas, flavors and pairings

We set out scent jars for this wine that included pear, green apple, lemon zest and honeydew melon. We paired this with herbed goat cheese on crostini.

This is a great summer sipper sitting at 12.5% alcohol, it will drink fresh through 2022 and can age beyond that. They made 900 cases of this wine and it will set you back $25.00.

About Carhartt

And yes….this is the same Carhartt that you see on work wear. They family had a ranch in the Santa Ynez valley that Mike and his family decided to grow wine grapes on. They still have some livestock and they work the ranch and vineyard. Here is a link to a video that will give you a feel for Carhartt.

Carhartt Hand Made Films Presents: Carhartt Vineyard

You can find their tasting room in Los Olivos at 2939 Grand Ave If you have visited before, know that they are no longer in the tiniest tasting room at the north end of Grand Ave. You can find them in the new larger spot across the street about a block south.

2939 Grand Avenue
Los Olivos, CA 93441
Ph #: 805.693.5100
Open daily 11am-6pm
No reservations. First-come, first-serve.
Closed only on Christmas Day

White Wine #2 Spier 2017 Vintage Selection Chenin Blanc

Spier 2017 Vintage Selection Chenin Blanc
Spier 2017 Vintage Selection Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc hails form the Loire Valley in France. While it is grown in France and elsewhere, this is a variety that has become most notable in South Africa, where locally they refer to it as “Steen”.

Spier Wine Farm

This wine is from South Africa from Spier Wine Farm which dates back to 1692. The fruit comes from the Western Cape in the Breede River and Coastal regions. For a video about this winery…

A visit to Spier Wine Farm and Hotel

More details: alluvial, well-drained and aerated soils with decomposed granite from the mountain foothills. Grapes are both trellised and bush vines (head pruned). They hand harvest, destem and slightly crush before pressing. There is a bit of skin contact then they let the free run juic settle in tanks overnight. In the morning they rack from the lees and innoculate with yeast strains (so this is not a native yeast wine). They let the wine mature on the fine lees for 3 months to add body. We could see the results of this in the richer fuller mouthfeel of this wine.

Aromas, flavors and pairings

Fragrance jars for this wine included pear, peach, vanilla beans and a mango/guava/passion fruit jam, as there were notes of tropical fruit and green guava in the wine. We paired this with two different bites, a cracker with brie and a dab of the mango/guava/passion fruit wine as well as smoked trout on a baguette slice with either a russian pickle or a cucumber slice. (Here we were lucky that one of our guests had recently been fishing and caught a trout and another had taken that trout and smoked it! Thank you for this great bite to pair with this wine!)

You can look for this wine locally as it is widely distributed. It sits at a higher alcohol level than the Sav Blanc at 14.5% and you can find it for around $18.00.

Here is a video to give you a little more information on this South african Winery. https://www.spier.co.za/

White Wine #3 Martin Codax Albariño

Martin Codáx 2016 Albarino from Rias Baixas Spain with pear and green apple
Martin Codáx 2016 Albarino from Rias Baixas Spain

We headed to another country for our final white wine. This is an Albariño from Spain’s Rias Baixas region. Michael actually tasted this wine last year at a session at WBC18 on Rias Baixas.

Rias Baixas

The region of Rias Baixas, if you are unfamiliar, is on the coast of Spain above Portugal. The area is known as Galacia. Most grapes here are grown on pergolas, and the region is green and lush. This wine comes from Val do Salnés, which runs along the coast south of the Ria de Arousa. This area is known as the birthplace of the Albariño grape.

Bodegas Martin Códax was founded in 1986 and was named after the most known Galacian troubadour whose medieval poems, the oldest in the Galician-Portuguese language, have survived to the present. In the poems, the troubadour sings to love, the sea and the coastline.

http://www.martincodax.com/en/

The winemaker for Martin Códax is Katia Alvarez. That she is a woman is unsuprising in Spain’s Rias Baixas region, where roughtly half of the winemakers are female.

Aromas, flavors and pairings

The scent jars for this wine were simply, pear, green apple and the mango/guava/passion fruit jam (this time for the passion fruit). We paired this with a slice of Guyere and a slice of pear. It sits at 13% abv and runs about $16. Widely distributed, this is a fairly easy to find wine.

Find out more about this beautiful wine region by visiting the Rias Baixas site.

The Red Wines

When looking to red wines, we again wanted to go a bit out of the box, but not too far. Here though, the wines that we chose had flavor profiles that varied quite a bit so it was easier to differentiate the wines. All of these wines were international varieties that have ventured out from their homeland.

Red Wine #1 Carhartt 2016 Estate Sangiovese

Carhartt 2016 Estate Sangiovese with wet stones, strawberries, black tea, clove, and cedar plank
Carhartt 2016 Estate Sangiovese

We spoke earlier about Carhartt. We have been fans of Carhartt for awhile and on two separate occasions were able to visit the ranch. Once for a wine dinner (which was a blast) and once to take a tour with Joe, who at the time ran their wine club. We walked the Hilltop vineyard and he pointed out the Sangiovese on the 11 Oaks vineyard across the way.

Sangiovese? Think Chianti

This is a Sangiovese, the famous Italian variety that you might think of as Chianti. You remember the wine in those straw wrapped bottles?

The Geeky bits: 100% Sangiovese from 11 Oaks Vineyard in Santa Barbara’s Santa Ynez Valley. Fontodi & isole e olena clones that are own rooted, sustainably farmed, fermented in small lots with a cold soak, 18 months in barrel 25% of which is new. Unfined and unfiltered (see Zeina, that was the floaty stuff!)

Aromas, flavors and pairings

Jars for this included: wet stone, wild raspberry jam (couldn’t find wild raspberries), black tea, cedar plank, clove and strawberry. We paired this with an Asigo cheese topped with a bit of prosciutto and a touch of raspberry jam.

Asiago Proscuitto and raspberry jam
Asiago Proscuitto and raspberry jam appetizer

They made just 565 cases of this wine, it sits at 13.6% abv and is a crowd pleaser. It is medium to light bodied, so lots of folks guessed it was a Pinot Noir. It will drink well through 2029 and was the most expensive wine we poured at $40 per bottle.

Red wine #2 Gascon Malbec Reserve 2015

Gascón 2015 Reserva Malbec from Argentina with blackberries, plum and spice
Gascón 2015 Reserva Malbec from Argentina

This grape is a little more well traveled. Malbec is originally from Cahors in France where it is known as “the black wine of Cahors”. Long ago it travelled to Argentina where it found it’s voice. In Cahors he dressed in black, in Argentina he wears purple and red!

Don Miguel Gascón Wines

This particular wine is from Mendoza where more than 70% of the country’s vines can be found and most of which are high altitude at 2,000 to 4,000 feet above sea level. Argentina currently has just 2 DOCs: Luján de Cuyo and San Rafael. This wine hails from Luján de Cuyo, and more specifically from the Agrelo and Uco Valley regions. It is labeled “Reserva” which indicates it must have been aged at least 6 months.

The grapes for our Don Miguel Gascón Reserva Malbec were harvested by hand in the early morning hours in mid to late April from the high elevation vineyards of Altamira, Agrelo and Tupungato, then crushed and cold soaked for 72 to 96 hours. The juice maintained contact with the skins for up to three weeks through the end of fermentation, which occurred in upright conical tanks at 85°F for six days. Malolactic fermentation was completed prior to racking and aging. Sixty-five percent of the wine was aged for 15 months in a combination of medium toast French and American oak barriques.

http://www.gasconwine.com

You should really visit the Gascon site for great information on this winery that dates back to 1884.

This wine is 97% Malbec with just a touch (3%) of Petit Verdot. It sits at 14.8% abv and runs a little over $20 a bottle.

Aromas, flavors and pairings

Scent jars here included blackberries, plum and spice. We did two bites here a cracker with blue cheese and cherry jam, as well as a slice of smoked gouda.

Red wine #3 Larner 2014 Syrah Ballard Canyon

Larner 2014 Syrah Ballard Canyon  with plum, blackberry, cherry, peppercorn, earth and leather.
Larner 2014 Syrah Ballard Canyon

If you have visited our site before, you know we are big fans of Michael Larner of Larner Vineyard & Winery. He helped to put Ballard Canyon and their Syrah on the map. He was instrumental in founding the Ballard Canyon AVA in Santa Barbara County.

Michael’s background is in geology and he is an invaluable resource for discussing the soils of the entire Santa Barbara Region. He is passionate about the region and it’s wines, most especially the Syrah from this little corner of the universe.

This wine is all Estate grown fruit that is aged 22 months in 33% new French oak and 8% new American oak (the rest is neutral oak).

  • Larner Vineyard Syrah
  • Larner Fête 2016, Larner Vineyard
  • Larner Vineyard Sunset

Aromas, flavors and pairings

This wine was the biggest we served at 14.9%. With a complex nose, we set out scent jars of blackberry, plum, cherry, pepper corns, leather and earth. We paired this with our favorite bite with syrah, bacon wrapped dates.

Visit Larner

If you want a bottle of this wine, or to taste his other wines, head to Santa Barbara and Los Olivos. You can find the tasting room at the corner of Grand Avenue and Alamo Pintado Ave next to the Los Olivos General Store. Grab a tasting and a sandwich from next door and sit at a table in front in the shade, behind the historic gas pump.

2900 Grand Avenue
Los Olivos, CA 93441
Email: [email protected]
T: (805) 688-8148

Open Daily 11-5

It was a fun evening and hopefully everyone discovered a new wine that they enjoyed! We got up today to 85 dirty glasses! I have a new appreciation for tasting room staff who deal with this, and then some, daily! Was it worth it? Damn straight! We got to explore the world with wine while sitting in the living room with friends. What could be better?

85 dirty wine glasses
A sampling of the 85 dirty wine glasses after last nights tasting.

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

Exploring the Grand Terroir of Gérard Bertrand with Tautavel and La Clape

Gérard Bertrand wines of Limoux, Tautavel & La Clape

Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses - courtesy Gérard Bertrand

Even if you are not an expert on French Wine, you are sure to have heard of Gérard Bertrand. He produces that stunning bottle of rosé Côte des Roses. You know, the bottle with the rose embossed on the bottom. It’s hard to miss! And…it’s a lovely wine, that actually comes from the Côte des Roses, an area near Gruissan in Languedoc in the South of France. But Gérard Bertrand is much more than simply rosé….

Gérard Bertrand – the man

Gérard’s family had an estate vineyard. He learned alongside his father. Of course he went off on his own and found a passion for Rugby, which he played professionally for many years. But he always had a passion for wine. When his father passed in 1987 he returned to take over the family’s Villemajou Estate and later created the Gérard Bertrand wine company.

Languedoc -Roussillon

Map of the Languedoc-Rousillon Wine Region in France
The Languedoc-Roussillon Wine Region in France

Even if you enjoy French wines, Languedoc is rarely one of the first regions you will encounter. This region is in the south of France to the West of the famous Provence. It is the region that wraps around the mediterranean sea from Nîmes to the border with Spain.

The red grape varieties here include Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Carignan, all of which can be beautifully blended. We will explore two of these blends below, as well as dipping our toes into a bit of Crémant from Limoux.

Gérard Bertrand – Expressing the Terroir

At Gérard Bertrand they are dedicated to biodiversity and to the area of Languedoc-Roussillon. They expanded from the original Villemajou vineyard to purchase Cigalus Estate, Château Laville Bertrou and the Aigle Estate. Beyond that they now include Château la Sauvageonne, Château la Soujeole, Clos d’Ora, Clos du Temple, Château les Karantes, Château Aigues-Vives, Cap Insula winery, Château des Deux Rocs, Château de Tarailhan and the Estagnère Estate, in their portfolio.

Biodynamic practices

After becoming interested in homeopathic medicine in the early 2000’s, Gérard became interested in Biodynamics and in 2002 started farming the Cigalus Estate biodynamically. They have since converted all their estates to biodynamic practices.

Many of the pieces you will see below will focus on the Biodynamic Cigalus Blanc, the wine that Gérard Bertrand provided as samples to many of the French #Winophiles. With many people interested the list had to be limited. Late to the party we did not receive the samples, but we were able to find several other bottles of Gérard Bertrand wines that peaked our interest!

The Grand Terroir range of wines they produce allow you discover each unique region. In addition they produce a Crémant de Limoux, claimed to be the region where sparkling wine originated. I mean how could we pass that up?!

Limoux

Map of Limoux courtesy Gérard Bertrand

So we have all probably heard the story of the famous monk Benedictine Dom Pérignon who lived in Hautvillers in the Champagne region of France, discovering bubbles and tasting the stars! Dom has, in legend, often been credited with inventing Champagne. He lived from 1638 to 1715. Well… in Limoux they say that in 1531, the monks of Saint Hilaire were the first to discover the bubbles and begin using the “traditional methode” to produce sparkling wines. I’ll let them duke it out, you can pour me a glass of either and I will be happy to watch them debate while I simply enjoy the delicious wine.

Limoux sits in the cool foothills of the Pyranees, an area perfect for growing grapes for sparkling wine. For more on this area, I highly recommend visiting the Limoux AOC page on Languedoc Wine site!

Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Crémant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016

Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Cremant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016 Bottle shot
Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Cremant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016

Crémant de Limoux is said to be the only sparkling wine that Thomas Jefferson kept in his cellar. I like to picture him receiving the sparkling bottles from the chilly basement through his wine elevator…leave it to Thom to invent this stuff. (We visited Monticello a few years ago, hence the photos).

This particular wine is a blend of 70% Chardonnay, 15% Chenin, and 15% Pinot Noir.

The Grapes are harvested when their acid-sugar balance reach their best. The fruit is transferred to the winery and immediately pressed in a pneumatic pressing machine. In addition to reinforce the perception of freshness and balance, the dosage is very precise. The Pinot Noir grapes are not macerated, in order to preserve their colour. The must is transferred to the vats for alcoholic fermentation using the same process used for still wine. After malolactic fermentation in the vats, the wine is blended together and then transferred to the barrels to mature for 8 months.

From Gérard-Bertrand.com

La Clape

During the Roman era, this area was actually an island. No longer an island, La Clape is bordered to the east by the sea, to the west by the low-lying alluvial plains of the Aude and to the south by the lagoons. The soils here are loose limestone.

  • Map of La Clape in Languedoc courtesy Gérard Bertrand
  • Photo of La Clape courtesy Gérard Bertrand

Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir La Clape 2015

Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir La Clape 2015 bottle shot Languedoc
Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir La Clape 2015

The wine is a blend of 50% Syrah, 35% Carignan and 15% Mourvèdre. It sits at 13.5% abv

A slow ripening process and a late harvest (end of September to mid-October) are the key ingredients for producing grapes that are ripe, healthy and concentrated and also aids the extraction of colour and aromas during fermentation and maceration. The grapes are harvested by hand when they have reached peak ripeness and transported to the winery in special bins. They are then de-stemmed before being transferred to the stainless steel vats for maceration, lasting 20 to 25 days. The wine is then decanted into barrels for 8 months of ageing.

From Gérard-Bertrand.com

Tautavel

Tautavel is a village in the Roussillon region, located between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean. This region lays claim to some of the oldest hominid remains in Europe. In 1971, the remains of Tautavel Man were discovered. These remains date to 450,000 years ago, and the area is thought to be one of the cradles of civilization.

  • Map of Tautavel courtesy Gérard Bertrand
  • Photo of Tautavel courtesy Gérard Bertrand

Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Tautavel 2015

Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Tautavel 2015 bottle shot Languedoc
Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Tautavel 2015

This wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah & Carignan and sits a 15% abv

Work in the vineyard starts by selecting the most suitable plots of land for each variety. The grapes are harvested once they have reached peak maturity, determined by regular tasting, and are sorted twice: once in the vineyard and again in the winery. The fruit is vinified in the traditional manner, the grapes are de-stemmed and then undergo maceration for 3 to 4 weeks. The must is then pressed before malolactic fermentation begins. 33% of the wine is transferred to barrels and matured for 9 months, while the rest matures in the vats.

From Gérard-Bertrand.com

The Pairings

I sat with the tech sheets for each of these wines and prepared a menu, which began and ended with the Crémant de Limoux Brut Rose.

Salmon Crostini

  • Salmon Crostini with raspberry jam or caviar
  • Gérard Bertrand Crémant de Limoux with Salmon Crostini

The salmon crostini was simple, just crostini, (sliced baguette, brushed with olive oil and baked 8-10 minutes) topped with smoked salmon, a dot of creme fraiche and then either a dab of raspberry jam or a dab of caviar.

The Crémant was beautiful in the glass, clear with fine bubbles and a light salmon color, that looked gorgeous next to our salmon crostini. The nose hit you first with tart fruit followed by whiffs of toast.

This was beautiful with the salmon, the acid and bubbles cutting through the fat. The creme fraiche mirrored the tartness in the wine and the crostini brought in those toasty elements. It was interesting to see how the difference of salt or sweet on the top affected the experience. I enjoyed the jam matching the fruit in the wine and balancing it with that hint of sweetness, but the crostini with the caviar was my favorite. The caviar contrasted beautifully, pulling forward the fruit notes in the wine. This was a delicious bite and pairing.

Cheese & charcuterie

Cheese and Chacuterie platter Gouda, triple creme, manchego, berries, nuts, honey, sopresso
Cheese and Charcuterie platter

We opened the two red wines and put together a cheese & charcuterie platter, which included gouda, manchego and a St. Angel triple creme cheese. I added some sopresso, honey & walnuts, as well as an assortment of berries; strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.

I found that the triple creme cheese went beautifully with both wines, with the wine pulling forth some beautiful floral notes in the cheese. The Tautavel was surprisingly nice with the salmon crostini with caviar, brightening and highlighting the food.

As expected the sopresso was wonderful with the La Clape with the mouvedre in the blend. The La Clape was also very nice with the crostini with the jam. Together both the jam and the wine felt brighter in my mouth.

Sous vide pork in caramel sauce & Roasted fennel & Peppers

  • Pork in Caramel sauce to pair with the Gérard Bertrand 2015 Tautavel
  • Sous Vide pork w/caramel sauce & roasted fennel and peppers

Gérard Bertrand’s suggested pairings for the Tautavel included “grilled peppers, pork in caramel sauce and rabbit with prunes and fine cheeses”. The tasting notes also listed red fruit and raspberry aromas underpinned by spicy notes…delicate notes of scrubland and spices on the palate”. In addition they noted “Ripe black fruits, chocolate, licorice and smoked herbs…”

Intrigued by the pork in caramel sauce, I found a recipe for sous vide pork to riff on. The pork went into the sous vide with a rub of salt, pepper, paprika (for those subtle spices on the palate) and rosemary (for the scrubland herb notes). 2 hours later, we seared the chops and drizzled with a caramel sauce with salt pepper and rosemary. This plated with roasted fennel (pulling forward those licorice notes) and peppers with a bit of rubbed sage (more scrubland). We garnished with fresh fennel and sage leaves and blackberries to tie in the “ripe black fruit”.

Roasted Chicken on a bed of cous cous with arugula and cranberries

Roasted chicken on a bed of cous cous with rosemary, cranberries and arugula
Roasted chicken on a bed of cous cous with rosemary, cranberries and arugula

The La Clape suggestions included roasted poulty and creamy cheeses. We had already enjoyed this with the triple creme, so now it was onto tasting it with the roast chicken. I served this on a bed of cous cous with cranberries to pull those fruit notes and arugula to pull some of the peppery notes, as well as add a bit of green.

Both of the wines paired well with the food. These wines are lovely on the nose, but feel lighter on the palate, so that they were beautiful to pair with these lighter meats without overpowering the flavors of the dishes.

Dessert – Deconstructed Berry tart

Deconstructed berry tart with the Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Cremant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016
Deconstructed berry tart with the Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Cremant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016

With a Brut Rosé you can rarely go wrong with a red fruit desert, and this was no exception. I created a simple deconstructed berry tart, with crumbled shortbread, raspberry jam, a puree of raspberries an strawberries, fresh blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, mint and a raspberry sorbet.

We poured another glass of the Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Crémant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016 (which we had stoppered, pressurized returned to the fridge to preserve the bubbles while we enjoyed the rest of the meal). This pairing did not disappoint and was the perfect end to an evening of delicious wines.

This was a beautiful exploration into this region and this winery for me. I encourage you to search for Gérard Bertrand wines, beyond that beautiful rosé and taste a bit of Languedoc.

The French #Winophiles

Read on for more great pieces on the wines of Gérard Bertrand. As I mentioned before, many of these will focus on the wonderful 2018 Cigalus Blanc, an exceptional white blend that I look forward to tasting in the future.

And join us on Saturday May 18th at 11 am EST on twitter to discuss these wines! Just follow #Winophiles to find us!

Michelle Williams – Rockin Red Blog: “Celebrating Biodynamic Viticulture And The Beauty Of The Languedoc With Gérard Bertrand #Winophiles

Lynn Gowdy – Savor the Harvest: This Biodynamic Wine Is a Summer Pleaser + Saturday Culinary Concoction.

Wendy Klik- A Day in the Life on a Farm :  ” New Wine Paired with an Old Favorite.”

Camilla Mann – Culinary Adventures with Camilla: “Lemon-Caper Halibut + Gérard Bertrand 2018 Cigalus Blanc

Linda Whipple, My Full Wine Glass : “Languedoc Wine Meets Lebanese Cuisine” 

David Crowley – Cooking Chat: “Savoring a Special White Wine from Souther France

Pinny Tam – Chinese Food and Wine Pairings: “Exploring Languedoc-Roussillon with Chateau Millegrand Minervois Mourral Grand Reserve + Chinese Charcuterie Board #Winophiles

Jeff Burrows – Food, Wine, Click: “Butter Roasted Fish with Gérard Bertrand’s Cigalus Blanc”

Jane Niemeyer – Always Ravenous: Chicken Korma with Gérard Bertrand Cigalus Blanc

Cindy Lowe Rynning – Grape Experiences: “The Wines of Gerard Bertrand: Expect Joie de Vivre with Every Sip

Susannah Gold – Avvinare: “A Wine from Gerard Bertrand: A Larger than Life Figure

Deanna Kang – Asian Test Kitchen:  “Gerard Bertrand Rose Paired with Subtly Spiced Shrimp”

Cynthia  Howson & Pierre Ly – Traveling Wine Profs:Comfort Food and Sunny Red: Gérard Bertrand Côtes des Roses with Senegalese Mafé and Fonio

Jill Barth – L’Occasion:A Name To Know: Gérard Bertrand

Gwendolyn Lawrence Alley – Wine Predator:”Bertrand’s Biodynamic Cigalus Paired with French Sausage

Liz Barrett – What’s in that Bottle: “Get to Know the Winning Wines from Languedoc Icon Gérard Bertrand

Nicole Ruiz Hudson –  SommsTable: “Cooking to the Wine: Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Tautavel Grenache-Syrah-Carignan with Saucy Lamb Loin Chops

Rupal Desai Shankar – Syrah Queen:A Commitment To Languedoc – The Biodynamic Wines Of Gerard Bertrand

Payal Vora, Keep the Peas:Aude: Alive in More Ways Than Wine

L.M. Archer:The Hedonistic Taster: Gérard Bertrand 2018 Cigalus Blanc

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

Fabulous French Biodynamic Wines and some Exquisite Pairings #Winophiles

Livienière 2011 Les Planels a biodynamic French Wine

biodynamic

adjective

bio·​dy·​nam·​ic | \ˌbī-(ˌ)ō-di-ˈna-mik,

Definition of biodynamic 

1 : of or relating to a system of farming that follows a sustainable, holistic approach which uses only organic, usually locally-sourced materials for fertilizing and soil conditioning, views the farm as a closed, diversified ecosystem, and often bases farming activities on lunar cycles Followers of biodynamic viticulture not only abstain from the use of chemicals, but also take a more holistic approach, viewing their environment—the soil, plants and animals—as a working unity that should be as self-sustaining as possible.— Alison Napjus biodynamic practices

2 : grown by or utilizing biodynamic farming biodynamic vegetables a biodynamic vineyard

Merriam Webster definition https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/biodynamic

Biodynamics and me

I grew up with a Mother Earth News on the coffee table, the Farmers Almanac from my dad’s shelf was referred to for the garden.  I do Yoga and believe in chakras.  You will find a stone or crystal in my pocket most days and essential oils in my drawer.  I have a dear friend who has a house in Hawaii, she and a friend put out gifts for Pele during the last expansion of Kilauea and I am sure that it protected her home.  Yet somehow, when I speak with winemakers or vineyard owners about biodynamics, the skeptic comes out in me.  I will talk with them about how it is probably the attention to detail in the vineyard that causes the results to be so good.  And they ARE good, of that I am sure. 

Michael and I had a discussion about this recently.  I value his perspective, as he tends to be analytical with these things.  We talked about the preparations, with cow manure in a cow horn buried in the ground.  Sounds like a “potion” right?  But you are creating something with the biology in the ground, the micro-organisms on the site.  That’s science.  We discussed the leaf days, which I have been really hesitant to buy into, but they are based on moon cycles.  I’m a woman, I believe in moon cycles.  Again…there is some science behind it.

Finally we came around to the founder, Rudolph Steiner, and I think I found my answer.  I don’t have enough depth of knowledge on him and I am skeptical of one guy coming up with all the answers.  (ie, I love Bikram Yoga. Bikram Choudhury, the founder of this style yoga…not so much)

What I will tell you, is that I have yet to meet a biodynamic wine that I didn’t like,  and when it comes to the people I have met on vineyards who are growing biodynamically, they are some of my very favorite people in the industry.  You can check out a couple of interviews we have done with Jason Haas of Tablas Creek and Rudy Marchesi of Montinore.

 But for now, lets get on to a quick explanation of biodynamics and then move on to the wines!

Biodynamics

As the definition at the top says, this is about a holistic approach to farming that looks at the farm as a self-sustaining system.  It takes organic a step further.  These farms work without chemicals and adhere to a lunar calendar. 

Biodynamics in Winemaking

Rudy Marchesi reminded me in our interview

…biodynamic practices were established as agricultural practices.  …Biodynamic winemaking is an extension of the thought process. 

Rudy Marchesi, in our interview July 2018.

Biodynamic practices have been adapted to growing wine grapes and processing wine.  Demeter International is the most recognized organization for official biodynamic certification.  https://www.demeter-usa.org/

Certification is difficult, can be expensive and must be renewed annually. Biodyvin is another organization in Europe that certifies vineyards http://www.biodyvin.com/en/home.html

You can find certification logos on bottles in different forms.

Biodynamic logos on labels
Biodynamic logos on labels

Finding Biodynamic wine

It’s tough!  If you are not out in wine country it can be hard to find!  In Las Vegas I could not find any biodynamic French wines at the “to be unnamed” wine store that claims to be “total” on the wines is carries.  The manager told me that 100% of the people buying wine do not care about biodynamics. After a sharp glance from me, he updated his statement to “only 1 out of 100 customers care”.  I did admonish him, that as people in the industry, it was our job to educate people on this subject.

So I searched and finally purchased wine online to be shipped to me.  I was lucky to have Jeremy at wine.com who was willing to do the research and provide me with multiple links to wines they had available to choose from.  I settled on the Château Maris Les Planels Old Vine Syrah La Liviniere Minervois 2011 and the Domaine Fouassier Sancerre Les Chailloux 2016.

The bottles arrived and I found them to be without Demeter labels.  But I had researched and each of the wineries said they grew biodynamically! Well they are.  My love/hate relationship with certifications comes out here.  Running a winery is a busy all-encompassing business.  Certification means extra time and money that many wineries may not have.  Also, it depends on when they were certified!  I checked my Tablas Creek bottles.  They were certified in October of 2017, so it won’t be until the 2018’s are released that they will be able to put the Demeter logo on their label.

They have a great piece on their blog about attending the International Biodynamic Wine Conference that makes for great reading.  https://tablascreek.typepad.com/tablas/2018/05/consumers-dont-really-understand-the-difference-between-organic-and-biodynamic.html

So…while I won’t show you Demeter logos on the bottles I tasted, I will tell you about the vineyards and their biodynamic practices.  And then…we will get to the delicious pairings.

Domaine Fouassier Sancerre Les Chailloux 2016

Domaine Fouassier 2016 Les Chailloux Sancerre
Domaine Fouassier 2016 Les Chailloux Sancerre

Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre, Loire, France  $29.99

About Domaine Fouassier

This domaine has been in the Fouassier family for 10 generations, with Benoit and Paul Fouassier at them helm. The domaine is 59 hectares of mostly Sauvignon Blanc.  Wines are vinified by parcel here to showcase the individuality of the sites.  They have members of Biodyvin since 2009.

Biodynamics to them means enchancing the soil and the plant, applying preparations at precise times and working the soils through ploughing and hoeing. 

“A wine domaine, just like any other agricultural concern, is considered to be a living entity. The soils that we work are not just there to support the vine but are a living environment and a source of energy for the plant, just as much as the air it breathes.

Biodynamics in Wine Growing from the Domaine Fouassier website http://www.fouassier.fr/la_biodynamie-en.html

The wine

The 2016 Les Chailloux is 100% Sauvignon Blanc comes from a vineyard with vines between 10 and 35 years old.  It spends 12 months in stainless steel.  The soil on this vineyard is clay, chalk and limestone and you get the minerality immediately on the nose.  Alcohol on this is 12.7%. 

The Pairing – Cod with Lemon Purée

Les Chailloux Sancerre with cod and lemon purée
Domaine Fouassier 2016 Les Chailloux Sancerre with cod and lemon purée

On their site they suggested pairing with oysters, fish & chips or cod with lemon purée.  I went with the 3rd as I knew I had cod in the freezer, and searched for a recipe online for the lemon purée.  I found a recipe for Sea bass with Meyer lemon purée and zucchini salad on farm to plate and did a riff on it.  http://www.farmonplate.com/2013/09/15/sea-bass-with-meyer-lemon-puree-and-zucchini-salad/

My lemon puree came out looking decidedly different than theirs, but regardless, it was delicious and it was an absolutely perfect pairing with this wine.  The notes of mineral in the wine reflected in the cod, the lemon notes of the purée mirroring the wine.  It was truly blissful. 

Butter poached cod and lemon purée with Zucchini and lemon salad
Butter poached cod and lemon purée with Zucchini and lemon salad

Michael noted that after enjoying the pairing and then just sipping on the wine, that the wine was enhanced by the lingering flavors on his palate from the food.

This is a dish I will work to perfect.  This is one of those “Flavor Match” pairings.  You can learn more about different strategies of pairings with our Pairing with Bubbles – Gloria Ferrer And The Amazing Sarah Tracey https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/pairing-with-bubbles-gloria-ferrer-and-the-amazing-sarah-tracey/

Château Maris Les Planels Old Vine Syrah La Liviniere Minervois 2011

Chateau Maris Cru La Livinière 2011 Les Planels
Chateau Maris Cru La Livinière 2011 Les Planels

Syrah/Shiraz from Minervois, Languedoc-Roussillon, France $31.99

About Château Maris

Wine spectator says that “Château Maris is one of the five most environmentally friendly wineries in the world.”

Robert Eden and Kevin Parker bought this vineyard in 1997 with the idea of growing grapes and making wine, in harmony with nature. They knew they wanted to go chemical free, and decided to do a test with biodynamics. They set up two compost piles and treated one with a biodynamic preparation, while the other went without. Testing later, they found the compost treated with the biodynamic treatment had far more living organisms than the one without…and the path was set.

They have been Ecocert since 2002, and Biovin since 2004. In 2008 they became Demeter Certified and in 2016 set up as a BCorp. You can read more about their biodynamic philosophy here at http://www.chateaumaris.com/gb/about/a-biodynamic-philosophy/

The wine

This Syrah comes from a 3 hectare parcel with soil of clay-limestone and clay-sandstone. It sits at 14.5% alcohol. Tasting notes on this wine noted, tar and smoke on the nose with notes of black currants and black licorice.

The first thing I got on the nose was smoke, for Michael it was blueberries. When I dipped my nose back in I could find a little tar, but it was savory. There were nice tannins. This wine was big, but not too big, kind of a gentle giant. This wine did not feel like a 2011. It’s aging is really graceful. It has probably mellowed, but still is vibrant.

The Pairing – bacon wrapped tenderloin fillets

Chateau Maris 2011 Le Planels pairing
Château Maris 2011 Le Planels pairing with bacon wrapped tenderloin fillet, fennel and apple salad and potatoes with Herbs de Provençe

I again went to the tasting notes and pulled from these for my pairing. I picked up a couple bacon wrapped tenderloin fillets and encrusted them with cumin and black pepper (both spices often found on the nose of syrah). These got seared on both sides and went into the oven to finish. While they were cooking I took some red currant jam, added fresh blackberries, a bit of worchestershire sauce and a bit of anise seeds and slowly cooked it down, to drizzle on top.

We did baby potatoes in butter and herbs de Provençe and a baby greens salad topped with fennel and green apple in a lemon vinaigrette with just a touch of lavender.

Bacon wrapped tenderloin fillet encrusted in black pepper and cumin, with a blackberry and red currant sauce, fennel and apple salad and potatoes with Herbs de Provençe
Bacon wrapped tenderloin fillet encrusted in black pepper and cumin, with a blackberry and red currant sauce, fennel and apple salad and potatoes with Herbs de Provençe

The pairings all worked pretty well. The fennel in the salad pulling up those black licorice notes (although I would have lightened up on the amount of lemon). The umami from the tenderloins with the berry sauce went beautifully. This was a delicious and very comfortable pairing.

The wrap up – is it worth it to search out Biodynamic Wines?

That’s a pretty easy yes. Here’s my take on why. When I’m searching for a new wine the possibility exists that I may not like it. Even with scores etc…it’s often hard to be sure of the quality of the wine you are getting. I have never been disappointed with a Biodynamic wine. There may be many reasons for this, the farming is one, the attention to detail demanded by this type of farming is another and quite honestly the vineyard that is determined to do this is committed with time and resources to doing this and that may be one of the biggest reasons that it works so well.

Will it be difficult to find biodynamic wines? Probably to start, but if all of you go out and start asking about biodynamic wines in your local wine shops and restaurants, the market will follow! Businesses will add items that they hear people consistently asking for. So do us all a favor and start asking!

The French #Winophiles

The French #Winophiles are a group of wine writers that gather monthly to together, tackle a subject on French Wine. I am privileged and honored to be a part of this lovely group. This month, the topic was biodynamic French wines. You have seen my take on this, now you can read on, to see biodynamic French wines from a variety of points of view! There will be so many different wines and pairings! And…you can join us on twitter on Saturday morning January 19th as we spend an hour chatting about the wines we tasted and biodynamics and the impact on the wines (as well as the impact on the planet!). Gwendolyn from Wine Predator will be leading the discussion at 8 am PST or 11 am EST.

More great pieces from the French #Winophiles on Biodynamic French Wine

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

The 12th Day arrives…2009 Esprit de Beaucastel Panoplie & Duck

Assorted cheeses with the 2009 Tablas Creek Panoplie

The 12th Day of Wine demanded digging in the cellar for something special and Michael perused the Tablas Creek Wines that we patiently wait to open, allowing them to age as we gaze longingly at the Vintage chart waiting for them to be in their prime.

It’s worth noting that as we gazed at the Vintage Chart, we opted to open the 2009 even though it is listed as “Drinking Well: Youthful”. The 2010 that we have is in a closed phase.  We probably could wait another 5 years to open this bottle and have it in a “Drinking Well: Mature” stage, but…life is short.

Tablas Creek 2009 Espirit de Beaucastel Panoplie
Tablas Creek 2009 Espirit de Beaucastel Panoplie

Tablas Creek Vineyard 2009 Esprit de Beaucastel Panoplie

What makes the Panoplie different from the other Esprits?  Well this is the most age worthy wine they make.

“sourced from the most age worthy lots in the cellar and blended for intensity and balance.”

Tablas Creek (from the bottle!)

This is why this wine that is almost 10 years old, is still drinking “Youthful”.

This vintage had the Panoplie blend at 65% Mourvèdre, 26% Grenache and 9% Syrah.

Tablas Creek Vineyard Winery in Paso Robles Adelaida AVA
Tablas Creek Vineyard Winery in Paso Robles Adelaida AVA

Monica from Tablas Creek was kind enough to send me a link to a post Jason Haas had done a few years ago “We Warm-up for the Holidays with a Vertical Tasting of Panoplie, 2000-2015”

This was written in December of 2016 (so 2 years ago).  In it Jason describes how the 2009 Panoplie was showing then.

2009 Panoplie (65% Mourvedre, 26% Grenache, 9% Syrah): A very cool, savory, and exciting nose of dark blue/black fruit, seemingly less about Grenache than the 2008. The fruit is fresh but concentrated, cherry and plum, with a powdered sugar character to the tannins that we often see in great vintages.  Some cocoa powder on the finish, which is still youthfully grippy and fairly primary.  It’s still quite a young wine, from a powerful vintage, and may also still be emerging from its closed phase.  Should make great drinking over the next decade.

Jason Haas from the Tablas Creek Blog December 2016

What to pair?

We looked at options for pairings, and while Neil Collin’s recipe for Boeuf Provençale looked wonderful, I am beef stewed out this holiday season.  So…we opted to go for something celebratory, like duck!  And for an extra bit of celebration, (and to be sure I didn’t mess up cooking the precious duck), we chose to pick up some superbly made duck dishes from Cured & Whey and eatt  here in Las Vegas.

Cured and Whey – Duck Reuben

Duck Rueben from Cured & Whey
Duck Rueben from Cured & Whey

I have been meaning to try this great sandwich from Cured & Whey and managed to be on this end of town today to stop by and pick one up. Rocksan was kind enough to have them prepare it for me uncooked, so I could grill it at home for Michael and I for dinner. What’s in it you ask? Hudson Valley Duck Ham, Swiss Cheese, Sauerkraut, Dijon and house sauce.

Cured & Whey Gourmet Market and sandwich shop storefront
Cured & Whey Gourmet Market and sandwich shop storefront

Cured and Whey is a great little gourmet/sandwich shop created by Chef Michael Stamm. They are in a warehouse area, but don’t be afraid, they are well worth searching out. They get busy at lunch time, because they are so good. So plan ahead and leave enough time to order and sit with your eyes closed soaking in each and every bite.

6265 S Valley View Blvd Ste K Las Vegas, NV 89118 | 702-429-3617

eatt – Duck with sunchoke three ways & black currant sauce

The Tablas 2009 Panoplie with Slow Cooked Duck Breast and sunchokes 3 ways
The Tablas 2009 Panoplie with Slow Cooked Duck Breast and sunchokes 3 ways
Eatt Gourmet Bistro
Eatt Gourmet Bistro

eatt is a neighborhood restaurant in Vegas that is serving amazing Michelin Star worthy food. The duck is “Slow cooked and seared served with
sunchoke three ways and a black currant sauce” The chef was kind enough to prepare it for me slightly deconstructed, so that I could warm the sunchokes and duck later for Michael and I to enjoy. The 3 ways for the sunchoke were confit, puree and chips. Sadly my plating is probably no where near as beautiful as it would have been had I enjoyed it at the restaurant.

You can find them at:

7865 W Sahara Avenue Suite 104-105
Las Vegas, NV 89117 702-608-5233

Funny Coincidence. When I told Rocksan that I was picking up her duck sandwich and then heading to eatt for their duck dish, she asked if I was basing this on Michael’s article in the RJ on duck dishes. Nope! I had missed that, but you know what they say about “great minds”! (Looks like there are a few more places I need to hit up!)

Article in the RJ on Duck Dishes around the Valley
Article in the RJ on Duck Dishes around the Valley

The Pairing

Ah duck…so adorable, but so delicious. The wine took a bit to open up. I suggest decanting an hour before (which I did not do, so we waited for it to open in the glass.)

The pairing was divine. The duck breast melted in your mouth and the sunchokes were the perfect companion adding a bit of brightness to the rich and beautiful duck. The currants set the dish off with that sweet/tart/acid component and made the pairing with the wine even better.

We moved on to the duck rueben…mmmmm…great flavor without being too overpowering. I had worried about the sauerkraut with this, but it was perfect. And I have to do a shout out on the tiny pickle medley that accompanied the salad. Mini gherkins, and tiny grape size and smaller tomatoes along with some heritage tomato slices in the lightest of pickling that were perfection (where can I get more of those Rocksan?)

A surprising pairing with goat cheese

Honeyed goat cheese with cherry preserves and rosemary
Honeyed goat cheese with cherry preserves and rosemary

One last surprising pairing. We still had some goat cheese around from other pairings and I had thrown together a cheese plate. The goat cheese with cherry preserves and a bit of rosemary was really nice with this wine, as did the Haymarket Goat Cheese I had picked up at Cured & Whey.

Want some?

This particular wine is sold out on their site. The idea with these wines, is to get them when they are released and then sit on them while they get tastier and tastier. So…go find a bottle on their website https://tablascreek.com/story/vineyard_and_winemaking/our_wines

You really should go visit

Make your way to Paso Robles. There is wine in abundance. Take the time to make the drive out to Tablas Creek. I really believe that these are some of the finest wines being made in this country. And…you can learn all about all of the Rhône varieties here

Tablas Creek Vineyard
9339 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446
Phone: 805.237.1231

More Info…

We have tons of information on our site about Tablas Creek. They really are an inspirational winery. There is a whole page of information, posts and a great series of interviews that we did with Jason Haas the GM for you to check out!

Want more?  Click through to all of our 12 Days of Wine posts!

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On the 11th Day – A Ballard Canyon Syrah from Larner & Beef Stew

Larner Reserve Syrah with Beef stew and Polenta

We’ve come to the 11th Day in our 12 Days of Wine and we pulled a beautiful bottle of Ballard Canyon Syrah out from Larner Vineyard & Winery.

2013 Larner Estate Syrah – Reserve

Larner Ballard Canyon Syrah
Larner 2013 Ballard Canyon Syrah Reserve

Our finest Syrah from the 2013 vintage has a vivid bouquet of violets, cassis, blueberries, pepper, vanilla and espresso. The intense, full palate has a layered texture of chalky tannins followed by a smooth finish. Fermented with 20% whole cluster, 4% Viognier and aged 36 months in 30% new French oak barrels.

Larnerwine.com

So this is a big Syrah.  This is not just their Estate Syrah, but a bottling of the best of the lots of the Estate Syrah from 2013. 

Ballard Canyon AVA

The view down @ballardcanyon from above @saarloosandsons Windmill Ranch Vineyard. #sbcwines

This AVA is in the Santa Barbara Region and is nested inside the Santa Ynez Valley AVA.  At about the half way point of the East West Valley of Santa Barbara, the climate is perfect for Rhône Varieties and Syrah thrives here. 

You can visit the AVA site and read about the climate and varieties here.

Larner Vineyard

We have been lucky enough to spend significant time with Michael Larner soaking up his amazing knowledge of the area and the soils.  You can find all sorts of articles and interviews on our Larner Winery & Vineyard page.

What to Pair?

I reached out to Larner Vineyards and Jeni who runs the Tasting Room and Wine Club responded with a great pairing for winter.  A Beef Stew made with the Syrah to pair with the Syrah!


Hi there Robin! Here is a recipe that we definitely recommend to go withour Reserve Syrah! Nice and hearty and pairs perfectly with the wonderfully balanced 2013 Syrah!

Jeni Torres Larner Wine Club Manager and Tasting Room Lead

Here is the beautiful recipe she shared with us.

Beef stew with mushrooms and polenta

  • 3 pounds stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 4 thick bacon slices, cut into 1-inch –wide strip. (I used unsalted bacon)
  • 4 cups of beef broth
  • 4 cups of 2011 Larner Syrah.
  • 25 pearl onions
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 20 ounces of mushrooms, you can used brown button mushrooms, quartered, shitake cut in half,
  • cremini mushroom or if possible fresh porcini mushroom. I soaked the dry porcini mushrooms in the warm water and added this water to the stew.
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoon of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoon on tomato paste
  • 1 bunch of baby carrots, cut
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 springs of thyme
  • Salt. If you use the salted bacon don’t add salt,you can always do it at the table.
  • Some olive oil
  • 3 cups of polenta

In the heavy pot cook bacon, until the bacon turns light brown and crisp. Remove the bacon from the pot and drain on paper towels. Keep the fat.

 Dry the meat in the paper towel and cook it in the bacon fat until brown. Put the meat aside in the bowl. Add 1 cup of beef stock to the pot,increase the temperature and try to scrape all the brown bits from the bottom.  Pour this liquid over the meat in the bowl.

 Add 4 tablespoons of the olive oil to the clean pot and add chopped onion. Cook until golden.

Add garlic and cook until soft. Add all the mushrooms and cook until soften, about 2 minutes

Add 3 tablespoon of flower and cook for1 more minute stirring. Pour 2 cups of beef broth to the mixture, stir and add to the meat.

Return the beef and all the juices that have accumulated to the pot. Add 4 cups of red wine.  I used Larner Syrah 2011. 

Add 2 tablespoon of the tomato paste, herbs and bring the meat to the boil. Simmer for about 1 hour or until the meat is soft.

Boil some water in the pot, add small onions and cook for 10 minutes. Peel the onion. Clean the carrots and cook them until soft.

When the meat is ready add the bacon, onions and carrots to the pot. Remove the herbs.

If your beef stew is too thick add more beef broth.

In the medium pot bring 9 cups of water to the boil. Add polenta in the thin stream stirring all the time until polenta starts to separate from the side of the pot. Your polenta should be very soft and runny. You can also follow the instruction on the box.

Pour the polenta on the plates and cover it with beef stew. You can also sprinkle it with some chopped parsley. (Optional)

Beef Stew with Polenta
Beef Stew with Polenta

This was a delicious meal and was beautiful with the Syrah. As you can see I did not add the parsley, but I did add a pat of butter on top of the polenta before ladeling on the stew.

Want some?

Well I don’t know if there is any of the 2013 left but you can find their beautiful Syrahs as well as other Rhône style wines in single varieties as well as their Elemental Blend on their site.

They also have a tasting room in Los Olivos, next to the Los Olivos General Store where you can taste their wines.

Larner Vineyard & Winery Tasting Room

2900 Grand Avenue
Los Olivos, CA 93441
T | (805) 688-8148

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