St. Emilion Jurade Inductee Henri Leconte Interview by Paige Donner Local Food And Wine TV

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Today Is Biodynamic Flower Day

Courtesy of Organic Matters, Ireland’s Organic Magazine

Bio-dynamic gardening

Bio-dynamic gardeners, followers of the principles of Rudolf Steiner, believe that the movements of all theheavenly bodies, moon, planets and stars have an influence on the growth and development of all plants. So the time you chose to sow, plant or even weed your plants will affect their progress. The moon, the stars and the planets all affect the development of our plants.

At first glance the idea that the stars affect our garden seems quite crazy. But then we do know that the moon can move millions of gallons of water from one side of the ocean to the other every day. We do know also that all living things, including plants and ourselves contain water. So perhaps the idea is not so far fetched? Anyway judging by the number of horoscopes in newspapers and magazines, it seems that many people accept that the movement of heavenly bodies can affect their lives. So why not on plants?

Flower and fruit

The auspicious time for flowering plants is on ‘flower days’ when the ascending moon is in, Libra, Gemini or Aquarius. And for plants that are grown for their seed or fruit such as beans, tomatoes or courgettes, the best yields will be had by planting on ‘fruit days’ when the ascending moon is in Leo, Sagittarius or Aries.

By now, many readers have probably put these ideas into the ‘interesting, but far too much trouble’ category. And they may be forgiven for wondering if they are being asked to spend all their precious gardening time gazing at the sky before they can venture out to sow their new packet of seeds? But just as you don’t have to be an astronomer to read your stars in the newspaper, neither do you have to be one to plant by them.

Bio-dynamic calendar

Maria Thun publishes a calendar every year for interested gardeners and farmers. In it are marked all the suitable days for planting and sowing for the year. Few bio-dynamic gardeners bother themselves with the complexities of the cosmos, they merely organise their sowing and planting times around the calendar.

Another interesting aspect of bio-dynamic theory is that crops harvested on favourable days will keep better than when picked at other times. Thus, lettuce cut on a leaf day will stay fresher for longer than heads picked at other times. Equally gardeners who store their carrots over the winter are advised to harvest them on root days.

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Obernai, Its Le Parc And Its Vineyards

By Paige Donner

Obernai is the exquisite gem of a village on the famous Alsace Wine Road. If you have two days in which to explore Alsace, I recommend that you hop on the TGV from Paris, do a quick change in Strasbourg and continue onto Obernai on one of the regional trains for another 30 minutes.

Obernai from Above - Local Food And Wine photo by Paige Donner c. 2011

Obernai from Above - Local Food And Wine photo by Paige Donner c. 2011

Obernai and its Vineyards - Local Food And Wine photo by Paige Donner c. 2011

Obernai and its Vineyards - Local Food And Wine photo by Paige Donner c. 2011

Disembark in Obernai and then park yourself at the 4-Star Le Parc Hotel, the haven of VIP service and quiet tranquility that awaits you at the top of the village. If you are so predisposed, you needn’t budge from this spot as the resort has an indoor and an outdoor pool, two restaurants, both gastronomic quality, a cigar and rum lounge, a stylish bar, a bowling alley, a breakfast room and one of the best spas – the Asiane Spa – not just in Alsace but in France. There’s even a winery right next door that sells cold bottles of Gewürztraminer, Cremant d’Alsace and Riesling, as well as regional specialties like Kirschwasser, Salted Caramel Liqueur and fine regional patés.

Le Parc Hotel Obernai, Alsace - Local Food And Wine photo by Paige Donner c. 2011

Le Parc Hotel Obernai, Alsace - Local Food And Wine photo by Paige Donner c. 2011

l'Hotel Le Parc Obernai, Restaurant La Stub - photo courtesy Le Parc Obernai

l'Hotel Le Parc Obernai, Restaurant La Stub - photo courtesy Le Parc Obernai

Hotel Le Parc's Obernai (****) Rum and Cigar Lounge, Alsace - photo by Paige Donner c. 2011

Hotel Le Parc's Obernai (****) Rum and Cigar Lounge, Alsace - photo by Paige Donner c. 2011

Vineyards of Obernai

But if you do feel like venturing farther, an early morning walk, when the air is still fresh and cool, up Mt. St. Odile through the Schenkenberg, will have you walking through vineyards of Pinot Gris and Riesling. You will be rewarded with a magnificent view over Obernai that stretches all the way to several of the neighboring towns on the Wine Route.

Obernai's Oldest Butcher Shop, Alsace - Local Food And Wine photo by Paige Donner c. 2011

Obernai's Oldest Butcher Shop, Alsace - Local Food And Wine photo by Paige Donner c. 2011

Winery and Wine Shop next to Le Parc Hotel, Obernai, Alsace - Local Food And Wine photo by Paige Donner c. 2011

Winery and Wine Shop next to Le Parc Hotel, Obernai, Alsace - Local Food And Wine photo by Paige Donner c. 2011

For Oenotourists, you have several options: Either let the extraordinarily gracious staff at l’Hotel Le Parc (****) make a few phone calls to their winery friends to set up tasting appointments for you – recommended if you have your own car or a rented one. Or you can wander over towards the Tourism Office where you will find a sign that maps the wineries right in Obernai, all within walking distance.  You can stop by for a tasting and pick up some of that Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer before heading back to your hotel for an afternoon lazing by the pool and drinking outstanding Alsacian wine. Top your day off with a gastronomic dinner at Le Parc’s La Table accompanied by haute cuisine service. Paradise found…in Alsace.

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Le Baron Rouge

by Paige Donner

As wine bars in Paris go, this is both authentic and on the beaten path.  For years, whenever you’d search out wine bars and Paris, it is this one that would come up. It is nestled right next to the famous (and super cheap!) Marché d’Aligre.

Le Baron Rouge, Local Food And Wine Culinary Tastings

Which is a good thing. Because after – or before – you buy your fresh cheeses, your ripe fruits, and your roasted chicken, you can buy your wine by the liter and enjoy a glass of it while doing so.  And yes, you buy your liter of wine straight from the barrel.

Le Baron Rouge. It’s a bit on the beaten track but every bit worthy of a drop-in.  Plus, what better way to start off a Sunday morning but with a glass of good, country, French wine?

Contact Local Food And Wine for our Culinary Tours and Rates.

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Bordeaux Nibbles And Fresh Markets

by Paige Donner Bordeaux is the ideal-sized city to just wander around. In this sense, it is a bite-sized city that still offers enough funky and charming little neighborhoods to give you the feeling that you are exploring. Chartrons is the … Continue reading

L’Avant Comptoir, Odéon, Paris

L'Avant Comptoir, Paris, Local Food And Wine by Paige Donner

 

 

By Paige Donner

Small plates are a Spanish thing. They’re known as Tapas and they’re a great way to share a meal with friends. It’s also a great way to do wine tastings when you can share the bottles with a group or taste by the glass.

French “small plates” dining wasn’t heard of in Paris until L’Avant Comptoir opened its doors next to Le Comptoir du Relais, a restaurant that boasts a 6-month waiting list for reservations. But no reservations are needed here at L’Avant Comptoir. It’s the place to come before lunch or dinner to get an “appetizer.”

Hors d’oeuvres, however, is not what I would call these small plates. Out of respect for Chef and Proprietor Yves Camdeborde, I won’t call them French Tapas but I do think of them that way.

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When I’m in Paris on assignment, there’s often no time to sit down to a meal. So I’ve gotten into the habit of popping into the closet-sized, standing-room-only boudoir of a Basque-and Bearnais -inspired deliciousness where I can eat a couple plates like seared fois gras on a skewer, a wooden cutting board covered with amazing Carpaccio de Boeuf, wash it all down with a glass of Saint Chinian – or whatever the chef recommends to me that day – and am out the door in under 10 Euro and less than 20 minutes. (I even ate Boudin there once – and liked it!)

Of course, when I had a friend visiting recently, a pal who can’t pronounce Si’il Vous Plait to save his life but knows good food and has the charm to get what he wants, always, I had to drag him there. Compared to several sit-down, expensive meals, after an evening spent eating at L’Avant Comptoir, squashed between the elbows of our fellow gourmands-on-a-budget and up against the long pewter counter laden with fresh bread and the best butter in Paris, my Food Dude buddy couldn’t stop raving. We would have been back there for lunch and dinner and snacks every day if he had had his way. Every day!

The great thing, too, for Non-French speakers is that there are pictures of all the small plates hanging right above your head, in addition to the day’s specials, that you can mutely point to and you’re still sure to get what you want.

A Franco-American we chatted up there one evening confessed that L’Avant Comptoir is his favorite place in Paris because it’s the only place, he said, where people will talk to you openly and unreservedly.

This place just plain rocks. Once you go there, you will keep coming back AND it will always be on your Top 5 Paris Picks. Bon appetit!

L’Avant Comptoir, 9 carrefour de l’Odéon, 75006, Paris; 011-33-8-2610-1087. No reservations. Open daily.

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Bordeaux’s Musée du Vin et Du Négoce

By Paige Donner Read Full Article on Bordeaux Food And Wine Bordeaux’s Musée du Vin et Du Négoce is resplendent in its devotion to the history of this region’s cause celèbre; it is humble in its presentation; and it is welcoming … Continue reading

Château Smith Haut Lafitte – Bordeaux

By Paige Donner Read Complete Article on Bordeaux Food And Wine  Château Smith Haut Lafitte is one of those wineries in Bordeaux that has its own helipad. Likely, it’s one of the only wineries in Bordeaux that has its own helipad, … Continue reading

La Revue du Vin de France Paris Salon 2011

By Paige Donner

La Revue du Vin de France held its wine salon this past weekend in Paris at the “ancien Bourse” which is the old stock exchange of Paris. As you can see here, it’s a beautiful building. It’s spacious and airy and the perfect place for wine tasting on a sunny Spring Sunday afternoon in May.

Le Salon LRVDF May 2011 c. Local Food And Wine

Honestly, if I have one recommendation to make to visitors to France, it’s that you really must coordinate your travels with these wine salons. For a few Euro, you get to not only see the interior of a national monument, you get to drink and taste your way through the wines of France.

Le Salon LRVDF May 2011 c. Local Food And WineI was so pre-occupied with tasting wines from Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Loire and Provence that I had to remind myself to sip a few drops of champagne every so often – just to clean the palate, you know.

So many wonderful wines. It will take the rest of the month to wade through all my tasting notes.

Le Salon LRVDF May 2011 c. Local Food And WineAnd the crowd was super friendly. Maybe it’s the sunny weather in Paris in Spring or perhaps it’s simply that good French wine brings  out that “conviviality” that the French speak so glowingly of when discussing their wines. Whatever it was, the LRVF crowd was super friendly, very forthcoming with anecdotes about the wines they were pouring and the wines they were tasting and just plain, well, welcoming.

Le Salon LRVDF May 2011 c. Local Food And WineIf there is only one little note I might give it’s that the Spanish wines were much too hard to find. Certainly, once I found my way upstairs, I loved the private room where the Spanish winemakers had stashed themselves, with the old stock exchange board that featured handwritten company signage such as Printemps and Paribas on it… But they were much too isolated up there. Since it’s the first time the salon has welcomed foreign wines amongst its midst in its 5 year history, perhaps affording them more accessibility would be a gesture of convivial diplomacy.

By the time I left, it was with a full glass of Spanish red liqueur wine. So sweet and rich and nothing like “ice wine.” I’ll definitely have some words to share about that and about the Priorat wines I discovered at the Paris Stock Exchange.

Le Salon LRVDF May 2011 c. Local Food And Wine

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Max Bordeaux, When Only The Best Will Do

Max Bordeaux When Only The Best Will Do by Paige Donner   Max Bordeaux Wine Gallery & Cellar, Bordeaux, Photo by Paige Donner for Local Food And Wine When your wine tastes will be satisfied only by the best, Bordeaux has … Continue reading

Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival March 28th to April 3rd


VINESTARS OF WINE CELEBRATE 33 YEARS AT PLAYHOUSE WINE FESTIVAL
Meet the industry’s top international trendsetters and principal vintners

Vancouver, BC, February 21, 2011 – To mark its 33rd year the 2011 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival will welcome some of the most progressive winemakers and winery leaders in the world. From pouring at the International Festival Tasting to hosting events, these vin-pioneers are set to satisfy curious neophytes and seasoned oenophiles with personal, one-on-one meet and greets. Appearances from the following wine world celebrities are just a few reasons to partake in the weeklong festivities.

DIVA(S) AT THE MET

What’s it like to be a woman in the grape trade? Vancouver-based sommelier and Playhouse Wine Festival host Daenna Van Mulligen(alias WineDiva), who has a decade-long list of wine tasting critiques in her purse, will be introducing an international group of female winemakers, proprietors and industry headmistresses at Diva(s) at the Met. Speakers include Ann Sperling, of British Columbia’s 86-year-old Sperling Vineyards; Mary Ann Yewen, Director of Freixenet, one of the top selling sparkling wines on the planet; and Mariola Varona, the North American Export Director of the multi-award-winning Bodegas Martín Códax, specializing in the Albariño grape. Among other dignitaries, these wine queens will dish on the coveted wines they represent, as well as the stories behind their successes as principal businesswomen in a traditionally male dominated industry.

With direction from the biggest wine diva of them all, attendees will also enjoy a selection of small bites prepared by Diva at the Met’s Executive Chef Quang Dang. Join this inspirational group of women on Tuesday, March 29th at the Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver, 645 Howe Street, from 6:00 – 8:00 pm.

THE LEGACY OF A SPANISH VISIONARY: MIGUEL TORRES

When it comes to describing Spanish wine icon Miguel A. Torres, “legendary” is an understatement. Arguably one of the most important families in the history of Spanish wine, Legacy of a Visionary is thepièce de résistance of Festival week. Miguel is the fourth generation of Torres to preside over the acclaimed and centuries-old Miguel Torres Winery, a published author several times over, Decantermagazine’s 2002 Man of the Year and Wine International magazine’s 2005 Personality of the Year.

Moderator Anthony Gismondi will be discussing Miguel’s influence and the Penedès region winery, whileguests are guided through a rare and diverse selection of wines from the Torres wineries in Spain, Chile and California.

One of the most anticipated events of the Festival, Legacy of a Visionary will held on Thursday, March 31stat VCC East, meeting room 8, 999 Canada Place Way, from 5:00 – 6:45 pm.

GOOD GRACIOUS GRENACHE!

Join house wine’s Michelle Bouffard and Michaela Morris as they explore the grandeur and the many guises of Grenache. This lesser known, but surprisingly common grape, was baptized as “Garnacha” by the Spaniards and has ties to cheerful rosés, fuller-bodied reds (think: Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Priorato and Rioja), and lusciously sweet elixirs. Prepare to taste some of its finest expressions hailing from Spain, France, California and Australia. Good Gracious Grenache! will be held on Saturday, April 2nd, at VCC East, meeting room 1, 999 Canada Place Way, from 3:00 – 4:45 pm.

MEET YOUR MATCH

Finding the perfect wine is like finding the perfect partner, it takes the right introduction at the right time. Oeno-enthusiasts are promised that proverbial “spark” at this year’s much anticipated, Meet Your Matchevent. Chaperoned by master wine matchmaker and acclaimed wine writer, Anthony Gismondi, sippers will be invited to get up close and personal with the vinestars of the wine biz. These fascinating international winery principals are set to lead tasters first-hand through the intimate secrets of some of the world’s most outstanding wines and wineries. Presented in a format that allows small groups direct and personal interaction with Festival celebrities, each group will have about 6 minutes to taste the producer’s wine, hear their story and ask questions.

Included in the VIP list is proprietor Telmo Rodriguez, one of Spain’s most celebrated and animated winemakers. Telmo sought out forgotten vineyards for the purpose of recovery and cultivation of abandoned indigenous vines to rave reviews, consistently scoring 90+ points. Alvaro Palacios, widely considered to be propelling Spanish wine into the modern era, acquired his first vineyard, Finca Dofí, in 1990, and will be pouring cellared wines for Meet Your Match guests.

Known for his outstanding Syrahs and Cabernets, South African winemaker Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof will be returning to the Festival with his much lauded The Journeyman Franschhoek 2005. David Guimaraens, a sixth generation to Portugal’s Taylor Fladgate and Fonseca, is considered something of a winemaking genius at the international table. In December 2010, David released one of the world’s oldest ports, SCION, to a limited group of collectors and connoisseurs, which at 155 years old, may be one of the only wines to have survived the pre-Phylloxera era.

If these wine experts haven’t already satiated your taste buds, the event will also see Stefano Leone, International Export Director of Antinori; Louis Moreau, owner and winemaker of France’s Domaine Louis Moreau; British Colombia’s own Anthony von Mandl of Mission Hill Family Estate; Cristiano Van Zeller of Portugal’s Quinta do Vale Dona Maria; Californian winemaker Rick Sayre of Rodney Strong; Rupert Symington, Joint Managing Director of Symington Graham’s Port; and David Paterson of BC’s Tantalus Vineyards. Meet Your Match is scheduled on Saturday, April 2nd at VCC East, meeting room 8, 999 Canada Place Way, from 5:00 – 6:45 pm.

ABOUT THE PLAYHOUSE WINE FESTIVAL

The Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, Canada’s premier wine show, runs from March 28thto April 3rd, 2011. The Playhouse Wine Festival is one of the biggest and oldest wine festival events in the world. In 2011, the theme region will be Spain and the global focus, Fortified Wine. The Festival features a week of special events including the Bacchanalia Gala Dinner + Auction, wine seminars, wine minglers, winery dinners, and lunches and brunches at fine restaurants and hotels. The Playhouse Wine Festival is produced by the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival Society, which has three mandates: provide an informative, educational and entertaining wine experience for public and trade; be a premier marketing opportunity for the wine industry and Festival partners; and raise funds for the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company. Since its inception in 1979, the Festival has raised over $7.2 million to enable Western Canada’s leading theatre company to mount 223 productions and develop extensive community outreach and educational programs.

The Shore Club generously presents the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival.

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San Francisco Sustainable Foods Summit Calls For Greater Transparency

Sustainable Foods Summit San Francisco, click HERE for FULL Story and Pictures

Sustainable Foods Summit, San Francisco

(London) January 28, 2011 – The North American edition of the Sustainable Foods Summit (www.sustainablefoodssummit.com) drew to a successful close last week, with many participants calling for greater transparency and accountability from the food industry.

Organized by Organic Monitor, the summit brought together about 200 executives at theRitz-Carlton in San Francisco on 18-19th January 2011. New horizons for eco-labels and sustainability were the focal theme of the 2-day summit.The summit explored the evolution of eco-labels – such as Organic, Fair Trade andRainforest Alliance – in an increasingly global food industry.

The advent of international supply chains is leading many consumers to become disconnected from agriculture andfood production methods. Scott Exo, executive director of Food Alliance, echoed the general sentiment at the summit, calling for the ‘de-commoditization’ of food products byproviding greater traceability to consumers. Seth Goldman, co-founder and president of Honest Tea, opened the summit with his keynote on the triple bottom line. By using the example of tea plantations in China, he showed how modernization does not always contribute to sustainability. Since its launchin 1999, Honest Tea has become one of the fastest growing ethical beverage brands in the US.

The first session explored sustainability initiatives in the food industry, with many speakers raising the question, ‘how do you measure sustainability?’ The use of metrics in sustainability performance was explored by Joseph McIntyre from AG InnovationNetwork. Albert Straus, founder of the Straus Family Creamery, shared his company’sapproaches to measuring the carbon footprint of its dairy operations. The importance of offsetting carbon emission was also highlighted by Theresa Marquez from OrganicValley who showed the role of organic agriculture in carbon sequestering. Sustainability in foodservice was covered by Bon Appetit Management Company, which is sourcing locally from small farmers.

Sustainable Foods Summit, San Francisco

Also in the morning session, Kenneth Ross from Global ID discussed future trends in eco-labels. His paper stressed the importance of IT in combating food fraud and providing traceability to consumers. Convergence of mobile and internet technologies is expected to allow consumers to get ecological and social footprints of their food products. The session ended with a lively debate on sustainability indicators and measurement.The second session honed in on ethical sourcing and sustainable ingredients. The opening papers examined the role of Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade standards in lowering social and ecological impacts of food products.

Sustainable Foods Summit, San Francisco
Sustainable Foods Summit, San Francisco

Nasser Abufara from Canaan Fairtrade explained how social enterprise can improve lives of marginalized growers.Using case studies of three of the most traded food commodities, sustainable sourcing was discussed by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Theo Chocolate and Givaudan.

Marketing & distribution innovations were the subject of the third summit session. Leading retailers – Fresh & Easy and Safeway – shared some of their ethical trading and marketing initiatives. Alex Petrov from Safeway showed how its O Organics label had transcended the boundaries of a private label without cannibalizing manufacturer brands.Fresh & Easy, a subsidiary of the global retailer Tesco, explained how it was raising the bar by implementing new ethical codes of conduct. Ellen W. Feeney from Whitewave Foods shared her experiences in developing brands to meet consumers’ needs for healthy and ecological products with the ‘planetary health’ initiative.

The last session of the summit – organic plus strategies – began with an update on theglobal organic products market. Amarjit Sahota, President of Organic Monitor, showed how pioneering organic food companies were integrating sustainability into their corporate ethos and how some eco-labels were converging. Proceeding papers gave case studies of such developments. Equal Exchange stated how companies could intertwine organic and fair trade practices, whilst the Brazilian company Native Organic Products shared its raft of sustainability actions.

Using wine as a case study, the potential of biodynamic foods was explored by Demeter USA and Fetzer-Bonterra Vineyards. Chad Smith from Earthbound Farms closed the session with an interactive discussion onecological packaging for sustainable food products.The third edition of the executive summit raised many questions about sustainability inthe food industry: Will an eco-label ever fully represent sustainability? What ecological and social parameters are most important in such a standard? What are the most efficient methods to measure sustainability? Where is the line between green marketing and greenwashing? How can companies become more sustainable in distribution andpackaging?

The next editions of the Sustainable Foods Summit aim to address such questions. About the Sustainable Foods Summit Organized by Organic Monitor, the aim of the Sustainable Foods Summit is to discussand debate the major issues the food industry faces concerning concerning sustainability and eco-labels. The proceedings of the North American summit (San Francisco, 18-19th January 2011) are available for a small professional fee. More information is available at: www.sustainablefoodssummit.com

Organic Monitor has announced the dates of the next editions of the Sustainable FoodsSummit as…European edition Amsterdam (23-24 June 2011) North American edition San Francisco (17-18 January 2012)

In 2011, Organic Monitor is celebrating 10 years ofencouraging sustainable development. Since 2001, we have been providing a range of business services to operators in high-growth ethical & sustainable industries.www.organicmonitor.com

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Chefdance at The 2011 Sundance Film Festival

2011 Confirmed Chef Line-Up

Friday, January 21 – Brian Malarkey, Season 3 Top Chef

Saturday, January 22 – Jared Van Camp, Quality Social in Chicago, James Beard Nominee

Sunday, January 23 – Kerry Simon, Palms Palace in Las Vegas

Monday, January 24 – Michael Chow, Mr. Chow (receiving ChefDance Legend Award 2011)

Tuesday, January 25 – Jared Young, Winner of Iron Chef

Chefdance was started in 2004 and coincides with the Sundance Film Festival every year to provide the perfect marriage of fine food with film for a culinary experience unlike any other.  Chefdance’s acclaimed chefs bring their culinary expertise, passion, and life story to your table.  I hope you are able to join us in this unique and memorable experience!  For more information on Chefdance, please visit http://chefdance.com/.

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La Garde Robe

by Paige Donner

“La Garde Robe,” is a closet. Which is about the size of this snuggly little wine bar just off the rue de Rivoli, a hop and a skip from the Louvre.

Paris 75001, La Garde Robe offers Organic Wines

Wandering in late one night after a meal with friends, there were just enough stools at the bar to accommodate the few of us. The high tables and the low tables towards the back, were all full of revelers who had the appearance of having spent the entire night at the comfy little “closet” swilling vins naturel and chomping on made-to-order plates of cheeses and thinly sliced meats.

La Garde Robe ha a loyal following and locals will name it as one of Paris’s top wine bars.  You can get a good glass of red for anywhere between Euro 3,50 and 7,00. Come with a sense of adventure, ready to try something you haven’t before. It might be within a recognizable apellation, but likely you’ll find producers you haven’t yet tried.

Or just come for the ambiance. It’s one of those exquisite central Paris hole-in-the-wall wine bars that you’d never know was there until you purposefully set out to look for it. And on these cold winter evenings when a lighted window friendly beckons you to come in from the cold, well, if there’s still room for you to squeeze inside, you’ll be glad you did especially once you’ve tried a few things you may not have before.  This is Paris, after all! You can also buy your bottles to go.

La Garde Robe, 41, rue de l’Arbre-Sec (rue de Rivoli) 75001

Transit: Pont Neuf, Louvre-Rivoli  www.legarde-robe.com

Café de l’Homme

By Paige Donner

There are 6360 restaurants in Paris. But there is only one that lays claim to the throne of the Trocadéro. There, seated at the right hand of arguably the most recognizable monument in the world, is the Café de l’Homme.

It would be easy to choose to stop in at the Cafe to warm up or cool down, depending on the season, after a session of sightseeing. But it’s not really that kind of cafe. Indeed, it’s not at all a cafe, not even in the French “brasserie” sort of way. It’s a full-on restaurant.

Just slightly at arm’s length, despite its famous address, it is a restaurant that is easily overlooked. You reach the Café de l’Homme by entering through the same monumentally sized doors as you do for the Musée de l’Homme. This is probably why it took me a bit of time to brave the experience.

But once inside, I realized that the Cafe’ is completely independent from the Museum and neither are places that are even remotely intimidating. The Café de l’Homme’s actual entrance is shielded by a floor length dark olive velvet curtain that the Butler/Coat Checker and the Maitre d’ keep firmly shut to keep in the warmth.

Once through the olive emerald veil, the red warmth with tones of leather couches and sparkling wine glasses, greets you. That’s if you can peel your eyes away from the straight-shot view of the Eiffel Tower.

It would be lovely to be able to order a drink at the bar as you await your dinner mates, but, alas, the Maitre d’ will fussily try to seat you straightaway or usher you back outside into the cold hallway to wait. Not exactly overabundant in the art of graciousness. There is a couch-loungey seated area off to the far left of the dining room where you can share drinks with friends. It seats one group. Only.

All snootiness is forgotten however once your meal is served. Appetizers include choices of Riquette salad with parmesan shavings and pine nut kernels; Tuna belly with Basque Country lettuce hearts; and even King Crab salad.

For the main dish the Grilled Iberico Pluma (pig) marinated in ginger is tender, sweet and spicy; the roast French Rack of Lamb with Terragon sauce is a classic; and if you want steak, they serve a 200 gr. Fillet. It’s not cheap: the main courses start at 23 Euros, and quickly average at around 32 Euros.

Remember, you are paying for the view. When you think about it, those across the river who are dining at Jules Verne and looking down at you don’t even have the view that you do. And you didn’t even have to take an elevator to get where you are.

Reservations are definitely recommended. The dining room might have some empty seats at 7:30 but by 8:00 they will all be filled. Leave room for dessert. They do the chocolate molten cake pretty well, but their Strawberry soup with Sichuan pepper and organic vanilla cream is interesting enough of a blend of flavors to have to try. They also serve a satisfying plate of A.O.C. cheeses.

Café de l’Homme. Come for the view. Stay for the food!

Restaurant Café de l’Homme17 Place du Trocadéro, Musée de l’Homme – Paris XVIe – Tel : +00 33 (0)1 44 05 30 15

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Some Bubbly And A Sauternes

by Paige Donner

Pol Roger, Perrier-Jouët, Piper-Heidsieck, Louis Roederer,Gosset,…these are some of the most exclusive names in the coveted appellation of France’s Champagne region. And now it’s their time to shine in the New Year spotlight.

Bubbly and New Year’s Eve. They go together like caviar and blinis, oysters and aphrodisiacs.

And, as we all know, champagne comes only from the well-designated, well-demarcated geographical area East of Paris. It claims the cities of Epernay and Reims as its own. Everything else might be bubbly, but it can never be champagne.

Of course what’s always fun is to learn the backstories of these gastronomic names of legend. When something becomes so lodged in our collective conscience as are certain brands of champagne, we forget that they started out as people who decided to build a business out of the grape. So, sit back, relax, pour yourself a flute or a “sacred cup” of the festive drink, and come with us on our succinct tour de force of Champagne and a Sauternes for a sweet finish:

La Maison Perrier-Jouët gets its names from a husband and a wife, respectively. Famous and easily recognizable as the bottle with the beautifully painted flowers – Japanese anemones – on its glass, the house was established first in 1811 when Pierre-Nicolas Perrier, estate owner, married Adèle Jouët. Their joined names went on the Champagne Estate’s marquee and now 200 years, and only seven Cellar Masters later, the exquisite champagne is world-reknowned.

If you are in the mood to celebrate with the best of the best, Perrier-Jouët’s Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs is the choice. It’s a vintage that is sourced from a singular terroir, a singular year and a singular varietal. Only two parcels of Grands Crus Chardonnay were harvested  to create this champagne, “one of the most rare and exclusive in the world.”

Perrier-Jouët, 28 Avenue de Champagne, Epernay, France

Piper Heidsieck Champagne and Louboutin Shoe Flute

Piper-Heidsieck

You may be most familiar with Piper-Heidsieck as the champagne you drink from a lady’s shoe – especially designed for the champagne house by Christian Louboutin. Or perhaps you know them best as one of the first and still main supporters of the Cannes Film Festival. But what you might not have known, is that back in 1785, at Versailles, Florens-Louis Heidsieck presented Marie-Antoinette herself his special champagne vintage.  A hundred years later, Fabergé decorated the bottle in gold, diamonds and lapis-lazuli.

And Marilyn Monroe? She said she went to sleep with a dab of Chanel No. 5 at her ear and awoke with a glass of Piper-Heidsieck champagne in her hand.

The house of Piper-Heidsieck just released their “Rare” 2002 Vintage only three months ago.  “Le Rare” is aged seven years in the cellar and made primarily from Chardonnay grapes with some Pinot Noir. Its subtle minerality plays as an hommage to Mount Reims. The bottle is beautifully designed with a filligreed gold dress. Girls like to wear it as a Tiara. Champagne fit for a Princess, or a Queen. “Le Rare,” has only been made in the years 1988, 1998 and 2002 (just released.)

Piper-Heidsick, Reims, France  www.piper-heidsieck.com

Bruno Paillard Champagne

Bruno Paillard is a champagne that you have likely not yet had the chance to drink. Too bad for you. It is the youngest of the champagne houses, established in 1981 by then 27-year-old Bruno Paillard. In a region where champagne houses had existed for centuries already, Mssr. Paillard decided to sell his Jaguar MK2 and buy a vineyard with the capital he raised.

Today the Domain produces about 500,000 bottles (for comparison, Moët produces about 5 million) and he exports about 70% of his champagne to Asia, North America and the rest of Europe.

Blanc de Blancs Réserve Privée, 100 % Chardonnay, is a “fresh, bright sparkler,” says Parker who gives it 90 points.  Its bouquet is grapefruit and white flowers, its mouth is white pepper, lemon, lime. Wonderful as an aperitif and also can be paired with food.

Bruno Paillard, Avenue de Champagne, 51100 Reims, France   http://www.champagnebrunopaillard.com

Louis Roederer Cristal ChampagneLouis Roederer’s future was set when Tsar Alexander II, already a devotee of the champagne, ordered his personal sommelier one day in 1876 to see to it that the bottles served in his court should be markedly distinguished from all others. Hence the birth of “Cristal.” After the Russian Revolution of 1917, only then was Cristal allowed to be sold the world over.

The Louis Roederer house was first established in 1776 and has been in the same family since 1819. Today it can boast of being still one of the largest Champagne domains independently owned. They produce approximately 3 million bottles per year and sell in approximately 80 countries.

Champagne Louis Roederer, 51100 Reims, France http://www.champagne-roederer.com

Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill Cuvee'

Pol Roger has, for a long time, had friends in high places. During a dinner in Paris, the English Ambassador, Duff Cooper, introduced Sir Winston Churchill to Odette Pol-Roger. At that time, 1945, Sir Winston Churchill was already a man who had marked history. He was fond of saying that Pol Roger (Odette? the champagne?) incarnated all that was well and beautiful of France.

Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill; Its composition is a jealously guarded secret. It is a robust and mature champagne, one with characteristic power and refinement.

Pol Roger   1, rue Henri Le Large 51200 Epernay   http://www.polroger.com

Vve Fourny et Fils Champagne, VertusSince taking it over not too many years ago,brothers Henry and Emmanuel Fourny have transformed their family domain nestled in the traditional geographic are of Vertus in Champagne. They do something unusual with their Chardonnay, they cultivate it as if it were a Pinot Noir. Why? It has to do with their vineyards’ South-South East exposure.

Vve Fourny et Fils Champagne Rose Premier Cru Vertus Brut has notes of rose and delicate, soft notes of hyacinth.  This vintage comes exclusively from the Domain’s terroir, “Les Gilottes 1er Cru.” Refined, velvety bubbles.

Champagne Veuve Fourny  5, rue du Mesnil, Vertus, France http://www.champagne-veuve-fourny.com

Gosset Champagne Gift Boxes

Gosset Champagne makes not just delicious champagne but also packages it in wonderful ready-to-gift packs. The Gosset Grand Reserve, 750 ml., is sold with a portable isothermic bottle keeper and a replaceable cork.  The house also sells cognac, which they make in the cognac region of France.  Another choice for their champagne is the “Excellence Brut” sold in 1500ml. bottles.

Champagne Gosset, 12 Rue Godart Roger, Epernay, 51200 http://www.champagne-gosset.com

Perrier Joseph Champagne

Joseph Perrier makes a beautiful gift bottle called the Glamour Josephine. It comes packaged in a red velvet-lined box. The ornate bottle is sure to please any discerning Diva-Luxe in your life who also knows good champagne.

Joseph Perrier Champagne  69 Av. de Paris, 51016 Châlons-en-Champagne France   http://www.josephperrier.com

Moet et Chandon, Vintage Champagne

Moët et Chandon. Who in the civilized world has not heard of Moët et Chandon? As noted earlier, producer of 5 million bottles per year, they can truthfully say they have a hold on a large portion of the world’s market of champagne. That’s a lot of New Year’s Toasts!

Still, if you ever get the chance to go to the Domain it is well worth it. Why? Not only will you get the chance to tour the cellars, but you might just get the opportunity to taste their Grand Cru 1975.  Hint: it’s  a champagne to drink on more occasions than just New Year’s Eve!

Sauternes, Sweet Bordeaux

Now…as promised…A Sauternes. Chateau Bastor-LaMontagne. This Sauternes is a classic, class act. It is in fact a Grand Cru Classe’. Its pale, light acidity is a dessert in a drink, an aperitif that leads delightfully into the pop of a champagne cork. Delicate, refined, white blossom, pear and ginger.

I might even be tempted to create a champagne cocktail out of the two. Hello 2011!

www.sauternes-barsac.com *  www.sweetbordeaux.com

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Paris Food And Wine Gossip: Blake Lively Does Gastronomy!

BLAKE LIVELY AT LE CORDON BLEU PARIS

Blake Lively Blake Lively, dynamic actress, and one of the young emerging Hollywood stars, is also passionate about gastronomy: recently a tailor-made workshop was held for her and her guests at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. Chef Franck Poupard demonstrated French culinary techniques by preparing the following dishes: 

Guinea fowl baked in a sealed casserole, sautéed winter root vegetables Soft centered chocolate fondant, orange compote

Blake was delighted with her course, she tells us about her experience: “My dream as a passionate cook has been to go to Le Cordon Bleu. Never could my most incredible dream have lived up to the experience. The food, the lesson, the chef, the ingredients –all the best of the best. I see why Le Cordon Bleu is world renowned. Now I only dream to have more time to go back to Le Cordon Bleu and spend months learning from the gods of food!!

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Blake Lively does Gastronomy – Local Food And Wine/ Paris

Blake Lively star of Gossip Girl, Goes For Gastronomy in Paris
Photos: Fabrice Danelle

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Bettane & Desseauve’s Festival of Wine

By Paige Donner

Le Grand Tasting, Paris

On a recent weekend in Paris, I found myself underneath the glass pyramid of the Louvre, in the grand marble Agora Exhibit Hall, spitting out champagne. And not just any champagne, the best champagne in the world:  Louis Roederer, Bollinger, Veuve Fourny et Fils, Piper Heidsieck, Perrier- Jouët, G. H. Mumm, Nicolas Feuillatte, Veuve Clicquot PonsardinMoët et Chandon…When Moët poured me their 1975 Reserve Vintage, that’s when I started drinking. It would have been a sacrilege to spit that out.

If there is a metaphor for the Festival of Wines that Michel Bettane and Thierry Desseauve have organized for 5 years now, it is this: Your cup runneth over.

le Grand Tasting, Paris, 2010 - Local Food And Wine

At the festival, named Le Grand Tasting, I found myself in an earthly paradise filled with many of the world’s best wines, from mythical vintages to ones barely known outside of their own appellations, and most all of them from France. This year, 2010, as an exception, there was a side exhibit of Italian wines also featured.

As a local explained to me, Bettane & Desseauve are more than just a couple of France’s most celebrated and respected wine journalists, they are even more than simply the authors of Le Grand Guide des Vins de France, they are the “Robert Parkers of France and French wines.”

Bettane & Desseauve on Local Food And WineAnd they are exceptionally approachable people. You will not find Wine Snob here.

This year’s event was held over the Friday and Saturday of December 10th and 11th at Paris’s Le Carrousel du Louvre, which is the underground shopping center/ exhibit hall that is right underneath the Louvre. For a mere 25 Euros you could taste your way through more than 2000 wines and 350 individual producers from France and a small representation from Italy.

“We have Festivals of Film, we have Festivals of Litterature, but until Le Grand Tasting we haven’t had a Festival of Wine…Every wine, like a book or a film, tells its own story. It is the story of the winemaker, of the creator, and sometimes, of genius…” said Thierry Desseauve who, with Michel Bettane, is the co-founder of Le Grand Tasting.

WATCH VIDEO HERE

Desseauve and Bettane, according to Desseauve, have plans to take their show on the road to English-speaking countries. Their highly successful Hong Kong Festival of Wine earlier this year has injected them with enthusiasm and they are starting to eye the U.S. and Canada. Their Grand Guide des Vins de France will be published in English in 2011 by Abrams Books.

When asked how was it to take the Festival of Wines to Hong Kong, Desseauve replied that he enjoyed the Chinese habit of embracing fast-paced development and he also noted that as Europeans, they are accustomed to dealing with significantly different cultures and languages. He pointed out that Germany, Italy, Spain are just as different from French culture as is the Chinese culture, in many respects.  Both Bettane and Desseauve invested many years as journalist and wine critic at La Revue du Vin de France until it was bought by the Marie Claire publishing group five years ago, which is the same time they founded Le Grand Tasting.

According to Bernadette Vizioz, press liaison for the event, 10,000 people attended Le Grand Tasting over the course of two days. It’s not hard for them to keep count, the price of admission includes a glass for the wine tastings, supplied by Riedel. The attendees on average were surprisingly young and very much the trendsetting crowd. I’ve heard mention a few times that the regional wine syndicates are actively promoting their wines particularly among the French whose consumption of their native juice is down significant percentage points in recent decades.

Le Grand Tasting does its part to elevate wine drinking to its proper podium among Gen Y in France. And the event is doing so in ways that present the people who make the wine as people who are just like you and me, except they spend their days in grape vineyards and in fermenting cellars. What sold out in advance were the special courses, such as the Master Class, that took place simultaneously in the rooms adjacent to the Hall Agora. The standout of these courses was, according  to French site iDealwine « Le Génie du Vin ».

The ‘Genius of Wine’ class, included Cuvée René Lalou by Mumm (1998 Vintage), Chateau Angélus 2000, Chateau Gruaud Larose 2000, Clos de La Roche GC (2004) from Domaine Dujac,  Châteauneuf du Pape (1998 Domaine duVieux Télégraphe,  château Climens 1989, Ridge Monte Bello represents California and finally riesling Clos Ste Hune 2000 by Trimbach.

Another sold out course offering, of which there were 20 separate classes, was l’Ecole des Terroirs. I managed to bump into a few Americans while I roamed the airy, well-lit, elegant and wonderfully climatised hall – underneath the Louvre! – who were thrilled to have just accidentally happened upon the festival last year.

This husband and wife marvelled at the feast of wines they were getting to taste, all for a mere 25 Euro entrance fee. They loved last year’s event so much that they actually planned their trip around the Festival this year. We North Americans couldn’t help but compare Napa’s $25 average cost per wine tasting flight/ per winery to the 25 Euro entrance fee which put 2000 wines, including the best champagnes in the world, at your fingertips and lips. The only limitation to your wine tasting is the hours in a day and your stamina for how many tastings you can fit in.

Le Grand Tasting marked a few firsts this year,  notably in the category of positioning themselves more internationally. To that effect their Italian space welcomed 2000 visitors in a relatively small area of 90sq. meters located towards the back of one of the main halls.

In addition, this was the first year that they invited notable European wine critics:  José Penin (Espagne, Penin), Neil Beckett (Grande-Bretagne, World Of Fine Wine), Armin Diel (Allemagne), Marco Sabellico (Italie, Gambero Rosso), Enzo Vizzari (Italie,L’Espresso)!

An elegant, hip, affordable, culturally illuminating wine tasting event,  Le Grand Tasting’s Festival of Wine is not to be missed.

Read More Here: Guy Savoy and Thierry Desseauve discuss holiday food + wine pairings.

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Hôtel Fouquet’s Barrière Benefit Wine Auction For Reforestation

Dedicated Staff from Hôtel Fouquet’s Barrière at this year’s Vendanges in Bordeaux. Proceeds from the harvest, earned at auction, go toward reforestation and also biodiversity research.- Local Food And Wine Continue reading

Independent Winemakers’ Salon – France

by Paige Donner

Rarely do you get such a glimpse of how basic an element wine is to French culture than at something like the Salon des Vins des Vignerons Indépendants.  At an event like this one, you really get the feel of how wine is actually a basic food group for the French. It’s not a luxury or something that needs to be “mastered” but rather as elementary to daily life and basic needs as is water.

Salon des Vins des Vignerons Independants Photos copyright Thomas Millet

As a tourist or even as a resident foreigner, this Wine Salon is something I plan trips around and mark on the calendar months in advance.  Held this past weekend at the ginormous Expo center that is Porte de Versailles in Paris, I had the chance to sip and taste new and just released vintages from over 250 independent wineries and winemakers from all the regions of France. The question was not a matter of access (entry cost 6 Euro) or accessibility (all the wineries were pouring). The question was whether I had the stamina to last a whole day.  If I were a real pro, I would have gone over the course of each of the consecutive five days and prolonged the learning and the enjoyment, the listening and the tasting, stretching it out for every last drop.

Vigneron-Vigneron

The Salon des Vins des Vignerons Independants is something that everyone even remotely interested in wine must attend at some time. As a window onto wine and French culture, it’s unsurpassed. It’s also no-frills. And it’s held twice a year – in the Fall and in the Spring. The only people I envied as I roamed the alphabetized aisles, were those who were savvy enough to have come with their rolling suitcases which they packed full of bottles and cases of France’s most excellent and affordable wines.

Here’s a sampling:

Wine Tastings, France. Photo Copyright Laurent Hardhuin.

Champagne Philippe Martin

They are located right in the heart of Champagne just between Reims and Epernay in Cumieres. They grow their chardonnay and pinot noir grapes on 10 hectares and produce 6 crus.

Cuvée de Réserve Brut – dry, frothy bubbly. At 14.40 Euro per bottle at the Salon it stands up to any of the internationally known brands.

Millésime 2002 – aged and made with pinot noir grapes as well as chardonnay, the richer, fruitier grape is detectable as soon as the elixir hits your tongue. At 22 Euro per bottle, you can see why I wish I’d had my rolling suitcase with me.

Alsace

Domaine Gerard Metz “The power of harmony”

The Salon tipplers tended toward the Alsatian wines, I noticed. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Paris had just seen its first snowfall of the season this weekend.  It’s easy to think of a spicy Gewurztraminer and heavy spaetzle and sausages when it gets cold outside – all things that come from Alsace.

Gewurztraminer Vielles Vignes  2009 at 9 Euro per bottle this tending toward almost sweet gewurz tasted of the grape. In the sense that I almost felt like I had popped a whole grape into my mouth and was drinking of it, and a splash of alcohol.

Gewurztraminer “Cuvée Mégane” 2009 This guy was just shy of a late harvest wine. Its gold color spoke of its autumn, rich flavors even before it made itself known in the mouth. It sells for 13.50Euro per bottle.

Bourgogne – Chablis

It’s just too novel when you come to the realization that these wines you’ve long loved come from an actual place. In this case, Chablis.

Moreau Naudet at 5, rue des Fosses, Chablis offered Petit Chablis, Chablis 1er Cru and Chablis Grand Cru on offer. He ages his white wine for 24 mos. in barrel.

Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons 2007 was smooth and classy; its light golden color reminded me of summer in California. 26 Euro

Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2008 had lively acid playing throughout the mouth. Well-balanced and a white you can keep for a few years and still enjoy. 26 Euro

Domaine Millet “Intensement Chablis”

The winery is in Tonnerre, still within Bourgogne. The Petit Chablis L’Angelus and Petit Chablis were noteworthy, all 2009. They also had their Chablis Vieilles Vignes and Chablis 1er Cru Vaucoupin for sale and to taste. The maturity of the old vines tend to be the wines I gravitate towards. www.chablis-millet.com

Côte du Rhône, St. Joseph

Domaine du Mortier, Saint Joseph by Didier Crouzet. What’s a wine tasting if you don’t indulge in a bit of the sacred St. Joseph? Part of the geography of Côte Rôtie, a St. Joseph can take good care of you through the Winter. On 10.5 acres Mssr. Crouzet cultivates his vines of character.

Domaine du Mortier, St. Joseph, 2008 A little light. Not often found in this wine or appellation, it can offer a more drinkable alternative to what is usually paired with a good steak or winter roast.

Domaine du Mortier, St. Joseph, 2009 is a considerably more powerful wine. 2009 vintages, like the 2010 harvest, will have legs for years to come. Dark fruit, some wood, wine with a backbone.

Bourgogne, Pouilly-Fuisse

In this cluster were three domains that are run by the same winemakers and which are all independent. The majority they’ve brought to market this year have won a medal or an award or even a “coup de coeur” from the Guide Hachette des Vins 2011.

Domaine de Fussiacus   Pouilly-Vinzelles 2008. These grapes are from 30-40 year old vines. This lovely tinted yellow gold nectar won the Medaille d’Or Paris et Macon 2010. It was selling for a mere 10.30 Euro.

Domaine Chateau de Chaintre Bourgogne Blanc 2008 is the one which you’ll find in the Guide Hachettes des Vins 2011 listed as the Coup de Coeur. It is burgundy chardonnay and its well-balanced, proper notes and aromas make it a perfect choice for a dinner with family and friends.

Domaine de Fussiacus Vielles Vignes Pouilly-Fuisse 2008 had a nose of citrus and a delicious mouth of calcaire and mineral hints.  Another one of those wines I wish I’d bought a case of. 15.10 Euro per bottle.

Corbières

From this region down near Perpignan which is still part of Languedoc-Roussillon you will find wines that have the garrigue in their molecules.

Abbaye de Fontfroide

A husband and wife winemaking team, Nicolas de Chevron Villette married his wife, Laure d’Andoque de Seriege, whose family has owned the Abbaye de Fontfroide and the vines that surround it for centuries. They have a tasting room, a restaurant and they offer vacation stays. It is also just 15 km. away from the region’s only 3 Michelin star restaurant run by France’s Best Chef 2010.

Abbaye de Fontfroide Cuvée Deo Gratias 2007 A finessed red wine that speaks of the region and the terroir. The nose is aromatic, the mouth hints of the garrigue.

Abbaye de Fontfroide Cuvée Oculus 2009 Though this is a white, it boasts a nutty mouth and an aromatic nose. At 7.10Euro a bottle, it is an elegant wine to serve at table with roasted poultry and new potatoes for example.

Abbaye de Fontfroide Cuvée Deo Gratias 2009 The grapes are Roussanne, Marsanne predominantly and the juice is new barrel aged. 12.90 per bottle. www.fontfroide.com

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Today’s Special

TODAY’S SPECIAL is a heartwarming comedy with a culinary flavor starring Aasif Mandvi (Daily Show with Jon StewartThe Last Airbender), and renowned Indian actress and best selling cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey.

Samir (Mandvi) is a sous chef who dreams of becoming the head chef at an upscale Manhattan restaurant. When he is passed over for a promotion he impulsively quits and lets his co-worker Carrie (Jess Weixler, TEETH) know that he intends to go to Paris and apprentice under a master French chef.  Dreams must be put aside though after his father Hakim (Harish Patel, RUN FAT BOY RUN) has a heart attack and Samir is forced to take over Tandoori Palace, the nearly bankrupt family restaurant in Jackson Heights.  Samir’s relationship with his parents and his heritage is immediately put to the test. He has been estranged from his father since the death of his older brother, and his mother Farrida, (played by legendary cookbook writer and actor, Madhur Jaffrey), is consumed with finding a wife for her remaining son.

While Samir is being forced to forsake his dreams, he is desperately trying to master Indian cooking to salvage the family business. Luckily, he crosses paths with Akbar, a taxi driver, passionate chef, and worldly raconteur (portrayed by the icon of Indian cinema, Naseeruddin Shah, MONSOON WEDDING). Akbar inspires Samir and teaches him to trust his senses more than recipes; to stop measuring his life, and to start truly living it. With Akbar’s guidance, Samir has a chance to rediscover his heritage and his passion for life through the enchanting art of cooking Indian food.

TODAY’S SPECIAL is produced by Nimitt Mankad’s Inimitable Pictures and Lillian LaSalle’s Sweet 180 (Loggerheads, Sweetland).  The film is directed by Sundance alumni David Kaplan (Year of the Fish) and is written by Aasif Mandvi and Jonathan Bines (Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel).

Rating: R. Running Time: 99 minutes.

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Salon Papilles et Les Crus du Rhône

A.O.C. Chateauneuf du Pape, Chateau du Mourre du Tendre

By Paige Donner

At Paris’s port de la Villette on a recent weekend I had the good fortune to meet over 250 producers of French gastronomic delights. They were all direct from the countryside, having brought their specialties to the big city for a wonderful public celebration of French Food and Wine.

Safran de St. Hilaire

One of the more unique “farmers” I met was a woman who runs a Saffron farm with her family about 2 hours outside of Paris. It’s a little known sector of agriculture in France and one that once thrived but has since been mostly outsourced.

Still, this woman labors over her fields of purple saffron flowers, Safran de St. Hilaire, with her husband, Thierry Parde’ and their children, to produce some of the finest saffron available on the market. Each flower produces only three, at most, pistils of saffron that must be hand plucked ever so gently and guarded for safe-keeping until it can be put in small glass vials and spice jars. It is stunning to think that such an industry still exists anywhere in the entire world, let alone in France. Mind you, when you taste a crème bruleé á la safran, you’ll understand the rhyme and reason behind all the fuss.                                    Mr. Parde’ Thierry/ Les Migeons/ 45320 Chantecoq/ 33 02 38 94 21 36

Celebration of Tastebuds

Papilles,” means tastebuds in French. So it was the “Celebration of Tastebuds,” and just in time to start stocking up on holiday gift shopping. Most all the wine regions of France were represented, including small and mid-sized producers of Champagne.

Salon de Papilles en Fete, Paris

The Inter Rhône, the Rhone Valley’s wine syndicate,  was a sponsor of the event so the wonderful wines from Côtes du Rhône were on hand for daily on-the-hour wine tastings.  www.vins-rhone.com

Les Crus des Côtes du Rhône

The signature of the Côtes du Rhône are its Grand Crus. They are known throughout the world: the rolling hills of the l’Hermitage and the hillside vineyards of Gigondas.  Each of the distinct terroirs has been studied intensely by the experts before being awarded such supreme distinction. Have you ever experienced the power of a Côte Rôtie or a Cornas? Have you had the good fortune to drink of the finesse of a St.-Joseph or the smoothness of a Condrieu? These are all definite entries on the Top Ten list of things to do when in France.

Did You Know?

Tavel is the only wholly rosé Cru and the first rosé in France that is classified in the category of “gastronomy.”

AOC Château Grillet: This is one of the “biggest” white wines from France that you’ll ever get to drink. Its terroir, a whole 3,5 hectares, is the smallest apellation designation in the entire Côtes du Rhône.

Château du Mourre du Tendre

Further south is the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Displaying country humility, the Château du Mourre du Tendre attended the Salon Papilles en famille, meaning father, mother, son. They made the journey up to Paris from Courthézon, where the domaine is located.

Speaking with Mme. Paumel and her winemaker husband, is what buying wine in France is all about. Families like this represent the living history of the vine and the tradition. Nevermind that Parker gives them a 92 – consistently – on his yearly trips to the region. One sip and you know you are drinking wine in a class all its own.

When Mssr. and Mme. Paumel explained to me they do no barrel aging, I was surprised. “The wine is just right as it is. There’s no need to smooth it out with any oak,” is how they explained it to me.  Their wine wisdom is a cumulative 4 generations, so it’s probably safe to say that they know how to make good wine.

It’s also an incredible buy:  Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2002 Cuvée Tradition, 22 Euro.  Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2005 Cuvée Prestige, 33 Euro. Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2006 Cuvée Prestige 31 Euro.   You won’t find them selling any newer vintages. They know that good wine is worth waiting for.  www.chateaudumourredutendre.com Courthézon, France

French Cuisine at Unesco

French Cuisine As Cultural Heritage of Humanity

French Cuisine at Unesco! [Courtesy Paris Daily Photo]


You probably noticed it if you came to France, food plays a really large role in our culture. Everyone knows how to cook – at least a little – and when you go to any restaurant you expect the food to be good! Of course things have changed (a lot of restaurants use ready made dishes now), but the demand for quality is still there. So I guess it’s no that surprising that, as you may have heard, Unesco officials just declared “French cuisine” as part of the “intangible cultural heritage of humanity” (read more on the NYT)! It’s probably a little far fetched, but it’s good for our nation self esteem. And to illustrated this, here are some zucchini roulés. What’s good, must also look good 😉

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Wine By One

by Paige Donner

Wine By One, Place Vendôme

Stephane Girard was the first non-American president of the Wharton School of Business Wine Club.  He’s come a long leap across “the pond” from when he organized tastings for that 700-member club to opening up his first, and a first- of-its-kind, Wine Bar, Wine Shop and Tasting Room in Paris, just off the Place Vendôme. This all-in-one -on-tap -bar and shop is called Wine by One.

Wine by One, Paris, 75001. Photo courtesy Mathieu Garcon.

“We offer a 100 different kind of wines by the glass. We are the only wine bar in the world to have so many different wines on offer at any given time,” explained Girard at a recent wine tasting.

The key to his success – and the wine bar, if measured by the number of people sipping wine and nibbling on appetizers on any given evening, is certainly already a success!  – is the wine pouring/preservation machine that he uses to automate the pouring of the wine tastings.

Girard, a Frenchman, refers to his machine as caves á vins, which houses 8 bottles of wine each and keeps each wine at its ideal temperature and conditions of service and preservation.  He didn’t invent this machine. In fact he saw it used by an entrepreneurial sommelier when he was still back in the States getting his MBA. What he did pioneer for Paris is the business model that allows him to offer wines to people in ways that are accessible, affordable and appealing.

“At Wine by One, people have the chance to taste a Grand Wine without ruining the wine or having to buy the whole bottle.”

Wine By One, wine shop and tasting bar. Paris, 75001.                                Photo by Mathieu Garcon.

Accessible

The wines are set up in their groups of eight in their respective caves á vins for pouring a Tasting (Impression, 3cl), a Tentation (half a glass, 6cl) and a Sensation (a whole glass, 12 cl).  What’s great about this is that you can commit to the wine a little or a lot, depending on how much you like it. It’s also a great playground for training your wine palate where you have 100 different bottles from all the world’s regions on hand.  They add 5-10 new wines each month, on a rotation method.  The machines are set up as self-serve as well, so you almost have the feeling of it being a 7-11 set up – for top-notch wine!

Affordable

Wine by One promotes itself as being a very affordable way to try new wines and also great wines. This is true, for the most part. Some of the wine tastings do start at about 2 Euro or even a little less.  But it’s altogether too easy to want to try the 5 and 6 Euro tastings. Also, the tastings give you slightly more than one sip.  So you are more likely to go for the half glass which is easily in the 4 to 8 Euro range for some of the names that you’ve only ever read about.  And, of course, when I saw that Wine By One had Les Sorcières du Clos  des Fées d’Hervé Bizeul…on tap!…well, of course I had to go for the glass, (11 Euros).

The long and the short of it, then, is that, yes, you can do tastings for a few Euros but likely you will be tempted by other wines.  Expect to spend at least 25 to 30 Euro per head, and that’s not even including any food or bottles of wine purchased to take home with you.

Appealing

Two of the additionally seductive factors of Wine by One are that you can order food and you can buy the bottle you just tasted to take with you and enjoy for later.

Not many wine shops in Paris have the permitting required to be able to sell food. Girard has a unique position for his wine shop, then, in that people can order small bites and nibbles as they’re tasting. You can also stop in midday for lunch which is the French style sandwich, tartine, toasted and with a generous amount of gourmet spread, then finished off with a specialty coffee and all for about 10 Euro.

The leather lounge seats by the window, and the rue des Capucines location just off of Place Vendôme make it a great choice, and one that is slightly updated from the regular Bistro, while still being very French.

Just off the Place Vendome, Wine by One is open for lunch, too. Photo courtesy Mathieu Garcon.

Anyone who knows anything about opening up a shop in Paris will quickly recognize that this rue des Capucines real estate is prime and strategic.  Girard’s only comment was that he had a good friend who was doing the real estate scouting for an unnamed American coffee franchise who dominates the market with their green goddess icon and storefronts on every U.S. corner.  When her client didn’t take the shop that morning, Girard was there with his pot of gold and a pen ready to sign by that afternoon…

Another appealing characteristic of the Wine by One biz model is that Girard has engineered a way to make Wine by One feel like a club.  When you arrive, you must sign up for a card that you use to purchase your wine and tastings. Think along the lines of a Kinko’s card. Except that here, they ask you for 2 Euro before they give you the card and you have the option of it being personalized with your name.

More good things:  There’s a Water Bar or Bar á Eaux which offers a dozen different kinds of water from all over the world.  And they offer complimentary WiFi.

Wine by One, 9 rue des Capucines, 75001 Paris,  www.WinebyOne.com

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San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival

When luxurious cuisine meets with luscious wine, you know it’s time for the return of the 7th Annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival. This November join the wave of epicureans taking over America’s Finest City in a week-long experience your tastebuds will never forget. November 17 -21.

THE SAN DIEGO BAY WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL

Chef Roy Yamaguchi, Chef Jon Sloan, Chef Celestino Drago, Chef Nico Chessa, Chef Katsuya Fukushima, Chef Kenny Gilbert, and Chef Ron Oliver design a six-course menu for the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival’s Celebrity Chef Luncheon

SAN DIEGO, CA (October 18, 2010) – The San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival is pleased to announce its line-up of celebrity chefs appearing at the November 21st Celebrity Chef Luncheon, Presented by Wine Spectator, which includes Chef Roy Yamaguchi and Chef Jon Sloan of Roy’s, Chef Celestino Drago of Drago Ristorante, Chef Nico Chessa of Valentino, Chef Katsuya Fukushima of José Andrés Catering by Ridgewell’s, Chef Kenny Gilbert of Bravo TV’s Top ChefSeason 7, and Chef Ron Oliver of The Marine Room La Jolla.

The luncheon is the culmination of a weeklong series of festivities, where nationally acclaimed chefs and legendary wineries come together to prepare a six-course meal paired with wines.  Each table features a different winemaker or winery representative pouring a selection of fine wines from their portfolio.  The prestigious list includes Domaine Serene, JUSTIN Vineyard & Winery, L’Aventure, Robert Biale Vineyards, Spring Mountain Vineyards, Laird Family Estates, Martinelli Winery, Wines of the Loire Valley, and others.  Following the luncheon is the American Institute of Wine & Food’s Big Bottle Auction, a live auction that raises funds for the AIWF’s Culinary and Enology Scholarship Program.

“We’re very excited to have such a talented line-up of chefs for this year’s Celebrity Chef Luncheon,” said Michelle Metter, co-producer of the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival.

“The luncheon serves as a great platform for bringing together chefs from all over the U.S. to showcase their culinary skills at the food and wine festival.  Most importantly, however, the chefs are helping support the education of future chefs and wine experts.” – Read More on Local Food And Wine

The Wine Spectator Celebrity Chef Luncheon & AIWF Big Bottle Auction takes place on Sunday, November 21 from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at Roy’s San Diego Waterfront.  Celebrity Artist Christopher M. serves as host and emcee for the afternoon, while Master Sommelier Joseph Spellman will be on-hand to provide commentary during the live auction. Following the six-course food and wine pairing, the AIWF Big Bottle Auction begins, giving attendees the opportunity to bid on an array of items such as jet-setting vacation packages, large format bottles, and one-of-a-kind items that are perfect for the food and wine enthusiast.

For a complete schedule of events for the November 17-21 San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival, visit www.worldofwineevents.com.

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Confrérie des Vignerons des Côtes du Ventoux

Ventoux AOC Wine Region in Provence, France. During Crush, winemakers all sport the tell-tale sign of deeply purple tinted hands. Photo courtesy YR.

By Paige Donner

Confrérie des Vignerons des Côtes du Ventoux roughly translates to the Brotherhood of Ventoux Winemakers. Vignerons is one of those wonderful French words. The word itself sounds like Patron and Vine combined. It evokes the associative alliteration of “patron of the vines.” And what is a winemaker, a vigneron, if not a patron of the vines? Someone who cultivates,  nurtures, tends and harvests fruits brought forth from deep-rooted vines.

And what is wine, if not an art?

AOC Ventoux is the wine region right next to the celebrated Châteauneuf du Pape. Not as famous as its neighbor, the area’s wineries nonetheless produce outstanding wines. “We just have to say that we’re next to Châteauneuf du Pape for people to recognize what we produce. It’s the same terroir. The same vines,” explained the proprietor and winemaker André Berthet-Rayne of Domaine Berthet-Rayne in Cairanne. He gestured to his fields of Bourboulenc, Grenache, Roussane and Clairette with the deeply tinted purple hands that are the tell-tale signs of the winemaker during crush.

Castel Mereio by Domaine Berthet-Rayne, Cairanne, comes in both red and white.

He also produces AOC Côtes du Rhônes wines including a Domaine Berthet-Rayne Castel Mireio 2008 from old vines, approximately 40 years old. This red has top notes of mushrooms, offers a waft of musky and finishes with a balanced acid, fullness in the mouth. It also comes in a white. Vignerons-Cairanne.

Confreries des Vignerons des Cotes du Ventoux

The Confrérie was revived in 1982 and today is the ambassador for Côtes du Ventoux wines.  It is made up of a small group of wine lovers who are expert on wine and the soils. Newly inducted members have to pass a tasting test, do some oath-taking and then they are allowed to receive the taste-vin engraved with the Poudadouïre, the symbol of the brotherhood.

Ventoux AOC Terroir

There are several distinctive soil types in the Ventoux wine region, a region that has more wineries than all of New Zealand combined, according to Morgan Williams. Williams is a New Zealand native and winemaker who currently works at Château Unang, a 9th century château and vineyard in the village of Malemort du Comtat. He will tell you straight up that none of the locals buy Châteauneuf wines. Not when you can get a Ventoux wine that’s just as good and not nearly as expensive.

Altered Safre is one of the Ventoux soil types and exhibits a light, sandy texture combined with pebbles.   Ochre sands, (red earth),  and gypsum, (white rock), are also to be found on the natural steps that form the “Comtat Terraces,” the geological formation between the plains and the Mont Ventoux mountain from which the AOC region takes its name. At the base of Mont Ventoux, in Bedoin, home to many noted wineries, the alluvial fan presents a variety of soils – brown, red and white -which lend themselves to growing the highly characteristic wines.

Mazan is a choice starting point for a journey of discovery of Ventoux wines, and not just because the Marquis de Sade, in 1772, held the first theater festival in Provence in the village of Mazan. [Nearby Avignon now holds its annual, world renowned theater festival during the summer]. It is also a wine heritage site with archeological digs unearthing wine storage amphorae from ca. 40BC, the Augustan era.

But most importantly, Mazan offers a number of outstanding and easy to access wineries and wine paths. Domaine des Cambades is a bit off the beaten path but still close to Mazan. Proprietor/winemaker Hervé Vincent will graciously meet you at the crossroads if you call in advance and tell him that you are coming by. Domaine des Cambades’ vintage, Il Etait Une Fois makes a stop at the winery, every bit worthwhile and an absolute must.

For some oenogeek activity, an afternoon at the Château Pesquié is one to put on the list. The winery, located in Mormoiron, offers a path around the lovely 18th century château itself which is a beautiful specimen of Provencal architecture. The path offers sweeping views over Mont Ventoux and Mormoiron, a charming local village.  Along the path you will see the AOC Ventoux grape varietals: Carignan, Cinsault, Syrah, and Grenache for the reds and rosés and Clairette and Roussanne for the whites. The path is about 1 km and takes approximately 45 minutes to walk.  The cellar also shows cross-sections of the estate’s soils.

Carignan is a grape very present in the Côtes du Ventoux appellation. It is Spanish in origin and is cultivated to produce low yields. Winemakers expect to get qualities of robustness, color, power and liveliness from the juice.

For three generations the family has been making wine at Domaine du Bon Remède.  Lucile and Frederic Delay say that 2010 will be a good year. They use 40-50 year old Grenache vines to blend with their 90% syrah, 10% Grenache Secret de Vincent vintage 2008. Their 2006 is all sold out and not even a wine cellar visit at the winery will get you a bottle, let alone a case. Their barrel and cask storehouse make the trek out to the winery still worthwhile.

Domaine de Fondrèche is another to mark down on your map. It’s at the intersection of two ancient Roman roads. And, of course, Domaine des Anges, at the top of Notre Dame des Anges hill, with its splendid views of Mont Ventoux, lend a Ventoux wine tasting trip its deep red, dark fruit flavor, perfect for crush and the Autumnal season.

*Editor’s Note: Truffle season, “Rabasse,” in Provencal, begins in November.

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Wine For Gen Y

After a stint in Australia, Bear Flag's winemaker won't use anything but Stelvin closures, otherwise known as "screw" caps.

Through her unique style of winemaking, Beth Cutler hopes to bring obscure grape varieties out of the underground, making them more wildly recognized and respected by both winemakers and consumers alike. Where some might use varietals like Touriga Nacional and Alicante Bouchet in small proportions for blending, Bear Flag allocates a hearty 20% of the bottle.

Shephard Fairey is a Fan!


The bottles’ artwork is another distinct touch that sets Bear Flag apart from the rest. The colorful cartoonish collage put together by Argentinean artist Eduardo Bertone has an eclectic punk rock aesthetic that perfectly illustrates Bear Flag’s mission, and Cutler’s style of winemaking.   Read MORE on BRAND X…

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Corsica – L’île de Beauté

Cape Corsica.

By Paige Donner

Corsica, off the French south coast, produces delicious dry white and subtle rosé wines that are best drunk chilled, young and fresh as an aperitif or to accompany light meals of seafood, salads, tapas.

Wine of Corsica is the common appellation to all the wines of Corsica, with the following AOC classifications related to either the soils or the villages in which the vineyards are grown: Ajaccio, Calvi, Coteaux du Cap Corse et Muscat du Cap Corse, Figari Patrimonio, Porto-Vecchio, Sartène.

While Corsica is definitely “south of France,” it does not fall under the newly minted branding of “Sud de France,” a term that is being used by the region of Languedoc-Roussillon as they voyage forth once again onto the world export stage with their wines and other agricultural products.

Corsican wines are one of those “well-kept secrets.” The island, which the French call “L’île de Beauté,” produces some great wines but they aren’t exported much overseas…yet. Set in the Mediterranean Sea, many of the island’s wines originate from Italy.  The sun’s reflection on both  white rocks and the Mediterranean brings even more energy to the vine which, combined with low yields, will eventually produce a very concentrated grape.

Typical Corsican Village. Perched between the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Cap Corse Wine This white wine is pretty rare and much appreciated by winelovers. Many agree that it is the best white wine in Corsica.
  • Sartene Wine This is an excellent wine, and the red San Michele is definitely a must-taste. These are fruity and warm Corsican wines.
  • Patrimonio This wine is as famous as the classic Corsican appellation and its quality is constantly growing.  Corsican reds and whites are increasingly famous even out of the island. Patrimonio rosé wines are also fine wines. Patrimonio wines have a pretty strong character that originate from the soil, which is composed mostly of clay and limestone. This Corsican wine is full-bodied but still light and fruity.
  • Ajaccio The Ajaccio French wine boasts the distinction of being the most elevated wine region in France. Most of its vineyards are located 500 m and above. This Corsica wine benefits from the warm weather, and the sea air provides it with a very particular flavor too. This French wine fully benefits from the Corsican environment thus it is light coloured, fruity and has a pronounced pepper flavor in the mouth. The Ajaccio soil is mostly granite.

They also have excellent beaches in Corsica!

Corsican Beaches.

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How To Love The Heartbreak Grape

by Paige Donner

How To Love The Heartbreak Grape

Pinot noir is a very fickle grape, requiring the utmost attention and respect in every phase of the winemaking process. Winemakers are the first to testify to this, claiming that grapes that have been handled too much can end up making wines that lack flavor and harmony.

Clearly, Pinot noir is a risky (and more expensive) proposition for the winegrower, the winemaker, and the wine drinker. But it is precisely this high-stakes gamble that makes pinot noir all the more alluring and rewarding.

There is much debate as to the origins of the variety, although one currently popular theory is that the Pinot noir grape is an offspring of Pinot meunier and Gewurztraminer. This union helps explain the characteristics behind the beloved Pinot noir. As author Stuart Pigot notes in Planet Wine, “Pinot meunier gave Pinot noir its bright, berry aromas and initial charm, while Gewurztraminer its silkiness, extravagance, nobility, and fickleness.”

Pinot Noir, the elegant, fickle, silky grape.

The name Pinot Noir is derived from the French words for “pine” and “black” in reference to the varietals’ tightly clustered dark purple cone-shaped bunches of grapes. Therefore, Pinot noir refers both to the grape varietal as well as the wine that it produces. The skin of the Pinot noir grape is relatively thin, making it a tricky, albeit rewarding, candidate for wine production.

As mentioned by Karen MacNeil in The Wine Bible, “Winemakers adopt a minimalist approach, and often a percentage of the grapes is not crushed. Instead, whole grapes are put directly into the fermenting tanks, which also helps maximize fruity flavors in the wine. To keep those fruit flavors dominant, many wine-makers are also extremely careful and sparing in their use of new oak for aging.”

Oregon, inspired by the similar climate characteristics of Burgundy, staked its reputation on Pinot noir with much success. Thanks to ocean fog, California has shown that it too has no shortage of spots cool enough to keep Pinot grapes on the vine as they develop fine fruity flavors and texture. Notable Pinot regions in California include Los Carneros, the Russian River Valley in Sonoma and Santa Maria north of Santa Barbara.

Pinot noir is what put Oregon on the map internationally, and is the most planted in the state by far. Wineries in Oregon tend to be small family affairs. Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot gris follow. Oregon has no such thing as cheap, bulk wine. The climate is distinctly cloudy and cool, especially in the Willamette Valley where most of the wineries are clustered. This gentle climate, which highly resembles that of Burgundy, allows for wines of good acidity and balance, moderate alcohol, and an ideal degree of flavor.

Love Pinot? Check out the International Pinot Noir Celebration!

Summer Wine Reads:  Johnson, Hugh. The World Atlas of Wine, Ed. 4. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994; MacNeil, Karen. The Wine Bible. New York: Workman Publishing, 2001; Pigott, Stuart. Planet Wine. London: Mitchell Beazley, 2004; Robinson, Jancis. Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course. London: BBC Books, 1995.

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Green New Zealand’s Pinot Noir And Gewurz


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