Regional Wines

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On The Alsace Wine Route

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
Le Stub at l’Hotel Le Parc, Obernai, Alsace specializes in Regional Cuisine – Local Food And Wine 
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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Vinexpo Bordeaux 2011

BORDEAUX VINEXPO FROM 19 TO 23 JUNE 2011

Champagne Louis RoedererConcha y Toro and Baron Philippe de Rothschild are among just some of the world-class wines that will be represented at this year’s Vinexpo, Bordeaux.

Vinexpo - Get All The INFO on Local Food And Wine, Bordeaux

Alongside these major groups, large numbers of vigorous companies are also lining up: Symington Family Estates, Maison Louis Latour, Camus, Angus Dundee Distillers and many more.

Italy, France and Spain, which together account for nearly half the world’s production andexport more than 6 billion bottles of still light wines, are again very widely represented at thisVinexpo with national pavilions but also through well-known companies, such as Luigi Cecchi & Figli, Casa Vinicola Zonin and Gonzalez-Byass, as well as Hugel & Fils, Georges Duboeuf and Castel Frères.

The other leading producer countries have also reserved space for their national pavilions: Germany, Chile, the U.S., Austria, Portugal, Hungary, Greece, Brazil, etc.

Vinexpo Bordeaux on Local Food And Wine - Bordeaux

New At Vinexpo, Bordeaux 2011

What Vinexpo visitors and exhibitors will find new this year is the promotion of a number of tasting areas branded “TASTINGS BY VINEXPO.” These unparalleled facilities are designed to really enhance all the wine and spirits tastings and presentations organised in these areas.

Vinexpo's World's Best Sommelier 2009 - Local Food And Wine - Bordeaux

Thus in 2011, together with the rooms in Halls 2 and 3, the Convention Center becomes a state-of-the-art platform for high profile tastings and professional presentations with options for organising seated tastings, reception areas and conference halls. Of course, all these events are perfectly complementary with the many events and meetings organised directly on the different stands.

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Cahors, Malbec From France’s Black Wine Region

by Paige Donner

Malbec from Cahors region in France has a history. Yes, it’s true, Malbec from Argentina has been getting all the attention of late, but there’s another region, the Cahors region in France,whose history with Malbec dates back millennium.

With the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to England’s King Henry II in the 12th century, the vines of Cahors first won favor among Europe’s nobility. It was, even in those days, referred to as “Vin Noir” or “Black Wine” because of the deep, rich color its Malbec grapes give.  It became so well-liked that by the 13th century Cahors Vin Noir represented nearly 50% of the wine exports out of Bordeaux.

Eleanor of Aquitaine helped elevate Malbec Wine from Cahors

Argentina’s most popular Malbec region, Mendoza, was, in fact, planted with Cahors Malbec vines during the 1800s. In 1971 France’s then President Georges Pompidou decreed that the wineries of Cahors would be classified as AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée).

Malbec is the emblematic grape of Cahors. The region hugs the River Lot, along 60 Km. and 30 km spanning either side. The regions’ nine distinct terroirs span from 100-300 meters high. The picturesque region just East of Bordeaux is equal distance from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean to the Pyrenees. The area is considered one of the best in the world to cultivate Le Grand Vins, or Grand Cru “statut de Falerne,” in particular from Malbec grapes. The region is the “Burgundy of Malbec.”

According to vintner Bernard Bouyssou of Château Armandière, it is also one of the prettiest little areas in France. And if it is somewhat overlooked due to its famous neighbor, Bordeaux, and Argentina’s comeuppance in Malbec wines, all the better for those who love the black wine from Cahors. There are definitely deals to be had!

The regions’ vineyard production averages out like this:  Cuvees Tradition, round and structured, 70 – 85% malbec, about 7 Euros, can save for approximately 5 years.  Cuvees Prestige is 85 – 100% malbec grapes and you’ll find this class of wine to be full-bodied and appealing to the gourmand palate. These bottles you can save 5 – 10 years and can find in the 7 Euro to 14 Euro price range.  The Cuvees Speciales is 100% Malbec, is regarded as intense and complex. These wines can be kept for 10 years and more and often start at about 14 Euros.

The nose you’ll get with Cahors Malbec are:

Violet – this is the signature aroma of wines whose grapes were raised in “grands terroirs”

Menthol – this fresh note sets the Cahors Malbec apart from Argentina’s and also from the other South West wines from France. It borders on hints of eucalyptus.

Truffle – this bouquet is the height of the Cahors Malbec. The region has a strong truffle and foie gras culture during the late fall season. It stands to reason that the terroir would yield a mushroomy, woody nose to its wines. It enhances after 5, 10, 15 years.

Cassis – with notes of blackberries and blueberries

Cerise – cherry, dark red, that evolves into plummy notes

Licorice – more than an aroma, the licorice bouquet can at times be reminiscent of a nice savory piece of licorice floating around on your tongue

Vanilla – the signature note of the Cahors Malbec raised along the Lot

If you’d like to read up on the region before visiting, perhaps a novel is the way to delve into the culture: The Novel of The Black Wine, by Jean-Charles Chapuzet. You can find it on Feret.com.

For more information about Cahors AOC and French Malbec wines,Click Here.

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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 setwhen Tsar Alexander II, already a devotee of the champagne, ordered his personal sommelier one day in 1876 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, Cristal was then 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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Château Pichon Longueville, Bordeaux

by: John Schreiner

Photo: Gildas d’Ollone, general manager of Château Pichon

Bordeaux’s 1975 vintage was one of the most controversial in that decade. Most of the reds were markedly tannic. Tannin will always soften with age but the question is whether there is any fruit left by that time.

I have tasted a number of 1975s over the years. A few were satisfactory but many were lean and dried out.

And then I got to taste the 1975 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. It is a delightful wine, with mellowed tannin and with fruit still fresh and alive. The alluring bouquet shows that perfumed sweetness that happens when Cabernet Sauvignon spends a long time in the bottle.

Perhaps this is all academic. It would be a rare cellar that still has any 1975 Bordeaux, if only because the wine should have been consumed by now. In his The Great Vintage Wine Book, Michael Broadbent – having tasted the wine in 1978 – recommended drinking it between 1983 and 1995. Well-stored red Bordeaux has remarkable longevity, however.

This bottle of 1975 came directly from the cellars of Château Pichon. Gildas d’Ollone, the winery’s general manager, presented this wine plus some current vintages at a recent Vancouver tasting for members of the Guild of Sommeliers.

He was supposed to be in Vancouver this spring at the Playhouse International Wine Festival. However, he was among the number of European producers who were prevented from coming when the volcano in Iceland basically shut down Europe’s air space. His wines were at the festival, presented by Sid Cross, one of Vancouver’s super-tasters and a friend of the Pichon wines.

Gildas had a second reason for coming to Vancouver this fall. Like most leading Bordeaux producers, Château Pichon is being besieged by buyers from China who would take all of the production if allowed.

“I want to keep our wines in traditional markets,” he says. “I don’t want to have all of our wines put into one basket.”

Château Pichon is one of the second growth estates in Pauillac, a neighbour of Château Latour, a first growth. The winery has records of vineyards from the late 1600s, when it and other properties were all owned by a very large landowner. In 1700 what became the Pichon vineyards formed the dowry when the landowner sent off his daughter to marry Jacques Pichon de Lonqueville, the president of the Bordeaux parliament.

Ownership has changed several times, usually driven by French inheritance laws. In 2007 the winery was on the market again because the family faced payment of inheritance taxes. A number of offers were made and the winner was Roederer, the great Champagne house.

Aside from making significant investments in the vineyard, Roederer has not messed around with this great chateau. Interested in maintaining the style of the Pichon wines, Roederer kept the staff intact (other than adding to the vineyard staff). The elegant Gildas d’Ollone, a nephew of the previous owner, remains the general manager.

What is the Pichon style? “We are not a blockbuster wine,” Gildas says. “We have never been. The challenge is to get balance with finesse.”

The winemaking has changed a lot since the 1975 vintage but balance and finesse would describe that wine. That was a warm, dry growing season. By September, the grapes hanging in the vineyard were small with thick skins, little juice and green seeds, a recipe for excessive tannin. Then the weather forecast threatened rain. Many producers chose to pick.    READ MORE ON John Schreiner’s Blog….

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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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Terrasses du Larzac

Terrasses du Larzac, Coteaux du Languedoc, AOC.

by Paige Donner

Terrasses du Larzac is a relatively new appellation – AOC status since the 2004 harvest– in the Hérault region of Languedoc-Roussillon in Southern France. In this sense it is absolutely reflective of the Coteaux du Languedoc’s re-establishment of the quality and prestige of its region’s vineyards, winemakers and especially its wines.

Top 100 Wines

The Domaine de la Sauvageonne’s 2006 ‘Les Ruffes’ wine was placed in the top 100 wines of 2008 in The Wine Spectator, the leading USA wine magazine. Not only a tribute to the Domaine and its Director, Gavin Crisfield, this is proof of the quality potential in the Terrasses du Larzac.

The Terrasses du Larzac is a V-shaped area spreading from the Pic Saint Baudile, its cliffs and benches, that graduates on downward to the point of the V towards Aniane and Lake Salagou. The area encompasses 32 communes (villages such as Saint Jean de la Blaquière, Puechabon, Lodève, St.-Jean-de-Fos…) and produces some 75,000 hectoliters of AOC Languedoc, and only 9000 hl of AOC Languedoc -Terrasses du Larzac, annually. While the highest points of the natural boundaries of the Terrasses du Larzac reach over 800m high, the only planted and permitted AOC zones are between 50m and 300m high on the foothills of the Causse.

READ MORE on Local Food And Wine – Sud de France

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Picpoul de Pinet

by Paige Donner
Picpoul-de-Pinet, cultivated on the French coast of the Mediterranean Sea, pairs perfectly with fresh, chilled oysters, prawns and other seafood.

Picpoul de Pinet, also spelled Piquepoul de Pinet, is both a rare white French grape varietal that thrives in the South of France and it is a designated appellation with its own A.O.C. classification in an area that hugs the Thau Lagoon between Sete and Agde in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France.

This fresh, crisp wine that splashes hints of lime and green apple in the mouth pairs beautifully with seafoods. It accents especially well  the oysters and fresh prawns that grow in abundance off this Languedoc coastal region and the Thau Lagoon where the sun-loving, late-blooming grape thrives and where it enjoys its own Languedocian regional appellation.

A.O.C. Languedoc-Roussillon

A Great Future For A Little Known Grape

Piquepoul, the grape varietal, is used to make the light acidic wine called Picpoul de Pinet, with floral and citrus fruit aromas. It follows then, that the AOC Coteaux du Languedoc, Picpoul de Pinet classification, applies only to white wines.

This rare, ancient French grape thrives in the coastal sands near Sète in the Languedoc, the fishing village that affronts the Mediterranean Sea. The refreshing acidity of this full-bodied wine pairs especially well with seafood because of its more floral, citrus and peach flavors than the minerality of a Sancerre .  Picpoul is mostly enjoyed by Languedociens or tourists visiting the area, at present, and is not yet exported as much as say, another rare French varietal, Viognier.

This clear, light-gold wine breathes appetizing aromas of peaches, juicy and fresh, with a back note of lemon-lime. Crisp and tart, white-fruit flavors and lemon-squirt acidity are fresh and cleansing in a very long finish. Not overly complex but bright and appealing, it’s a first-rate seafood wine. It has been called the Muscadet of the south of France. It is the wine that is usually served with oysters that can be found along the coasts of the Languedoc.

Serve very cool between 6 and 8°C to accompany all seafood,

Read more:  Here
Picpoul de Pinet A.O.C., Languedoc-Roussillon, Sud de France.

Picpoul de Pinet A.O.C.

The AOC Picpoul de Pinet vineyards cover some 1300 hectares (3000 acres) around the Thau lagoon to the west of the Mediterranean Golfe de Lyon.

It forms a triangle bounded by Agde, Pézenas and Sète. It is the largest white wine producer in the Languedoc.

The white Piquepoul grape inclines to ripen late, so the warm, humid sea breezes help it mature in good conditions.

The climate

The weather pattern is typically Mediterranean with low rainfall (600mm or 24 ins) and moderate winters. Summers are dry.The maritime influence is influential in that it limits strong temperature variations :
– Sea breezes limit high daytime temperatures,
– he water in the lagoon protects the land from steep night-time temperature falls.

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2004 Nicolis Amarone della Valpolicella Classico D.O.C. via The Wine Spies

(the wine spies)

Mission Codename: Celebrate America, Toast Columbus

Operative: Agent White

Objective:

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Agricola Nicolis Angelo e Figli

Wine Subject: Amarone della Valpolicella Classico D.O.C.

Winemaker: Giuseppe Nicolis

Backgrounder:

Amarone della Valpolicella is one of the most unique wines in all of Italy. Made in Italy’s northeast Veneto region and specifically in the Valpolicella DOC (near Verona), Amarone is made with grapes that are dried for several months on straw mats in the lofts above the farm houses or barns at the winery before being pressed and fermented. The dried fruit has a higher residual sugar which is mostly fermented away. This results in a dry wine of tremendous depth and intensity; in addition to a generally higher alcohol content.

Amarone is usually a blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. On occasion, other varietals are blended into the mix. Amarone is aged for two years in oak barriques before being aged further in the bottle. These wines have a long life, with most Amarone showing its best character many years after their release. Flavors and aromas of complex dried fruit, chocolate and spice linger and meld with its distinct texture.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Deep garnet with ruby red reflections through its clear ruby core. Along the edges, the color shines ruby red and when swirled, thin color laden legs descend at varying speeds to the wine below.

Smell – Rich and well developed with complex aromas of sweet red and black cherry, chocolate covered raisins, sweet exotic spice, a touch of black licorice, vanilla and fresh cut sandalwood.

Feel – Smooth and dry, this full-bodied wine is rich with highly textured and etched tannins; crisp acidity; and dark mineral and spice a that softens as this wine opens and breathes (recommended highly for wines of this type).

Taste – Well integrated but muscular flavors of red and black cherry blend with complex sweet exotic spice; subtle leather and meaty notes; hints of pencil shavings and graphite; cedar/tobacco cigar box.

Finish – The red and black cherry fruit fades softly as this wines texture lingers on the palate for several minutes begging for another sip.

Conclusion – The Nicolis Amarone della Valpolicella Classico D.O.C. is a delicious wine of tremendous elegance and finesse. Complex on the nose, extremely well structured that is both masculine and balanced, and bold and rich flavors that linger long into the finish. An exceptional example of one of Italy’s premier wines. Certainly young now, this wine will continue to develop and improve for many years to come. Pair this amazing wine with Osso Buco, grilled veal lamb.

Mission Report:


WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING INTERVIEW

SUBJECT: Giuseppe Nicolis

AGENT WHITE: Greetings, Giuseppe. We are thrilled to be showing your Amarone Classico 2004 today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

GIUSEPPE: My pleasure – this Amarome is a great wine to be featured on your site

WHITE: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

GIUSEPPE: My family has always being producing wine and since 1951 we started it as a business. So actually I grew up in the vines and in the wine cellar together with my brothers, and in our region it is quite common to grow up with a great love to land, to our area and for the typical and indigenous tastes, passed on from fathers to sons.

WHITE: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

GIUSEPPE: Not in particular, we always try to give back in the wine the maximum that our indigenous grape varieties can give as expression of the Terroir. Anyway all experiences I had with different winemakers, you learn something of, and they are all important.

WHITE: Who do you make wine for?

GIUSEPPE: Basically myself: first of all I have to be satisfied with the quality, otherwise, if the harvest was not so good, I prefer to skip the vintage and not come out with a product I am not satisfied of (we skipped the 1999 and the 2002 harvest). Of course if other people would not like our wines, me and my family would have a hard time, so of course you always produce as well hoping that the consumers will appreciate it. Don’t forget, I am myself a consumer!

WHITE: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

GIUSEPPE: First of all, you don’t have to forget that Amarone is one of the few red-wines in the world where there is a real reason for its price, which is not the marketing. Too often people don’t know or forget, that we are in front of a wine produced with dried grapes and the juice coming out from there is really a lot less than if you produce with fresh grapes.

2004 was a good Vintage, but for Amarone not only the harvest is important, but as well the autumn- and winter time, when the grapes are put for natural drying for at least 3 month, it is important that the climate is dry and even best if we have a good temperature excursion between day and night. All conditions that in 2004 where favourable. So the Amarone Classico Nicolis2004, was produced with very good and healthy natural withered grapes, which gave to the wine an extraordinary structure and poliphenols.

I especially like the balance between the powerful structure and at the same time the elegance in this Amarone, which keeps its great fruit and freshness, perfectly in accordance with the body.

WHITE: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

GIUSEPPE: No doubts, if I am alone, I love staying hours and hours smelling the different evolution of flavours coming out of the glass. You can leave it very long and you’ll always get different impressions as the time goes by. But even nicer is if you share it with friends and then I would serve some strong meat dishes, or game. Or after dinner as dessert with some long seasoned cheese, to close the day in perfect harmony.

WHITE: In your opinion, what makes the VALPOLICELLA so special?

GIUSEPPE: Valpolicella has its indigenous grape varieties, which have no equals. Only here Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara, Coratina ….. grow in this way and give this results to the wine. If you would plant them just 15 km away from this area, you’ll get out something completely different. That is the great reason why I prefer the use of big oak barrels as i did on the Amarone Classico Nicolis 2004, 30 month ageing only in big oak barrels (7-15-20 hl ), which keep the fruit and the typically of those wines. I find no reason in overloading those wines with the use of small “barrique”, which would give a stronger oaky touch and probably cover the typical and unique taste of Valpolicella. As you may know, we are not completely against Barrique, as we use it partially in our other Amarone : AMBROSAN, which has more structure and alcohol and can support the little bit more oak and spicy.

WHITE: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

GIUSEPPE: Right now I am “taking care of my babies” I am checking that the wines that are actually in the oak barrels are “growing” ageing as I expect them to, and then slowly we all will get ready for harvest.

WHITE: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

GIUSEPPE: You should not get scared from some “big words” used in speaking of wine, if you drink wine from serious quality producers, which you can as well find with a very good price-quality ratio, you’ll see that you can enjoy them even for everyday’s lunch. Take our simple Valpolicella for example, as well in summer time when it is hot, you’ll enjoy it served a bit chilled, to spaghetti or pizza. Just use always your own senses, your taste is unique and subjective, but only you can decide if you like this or that wine. The only way you can get experience in knowing wines, is to taste them.

WHITE: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

GIUSEPPE: I think I have already said everything answering the previous question. All there is to do now is enjoy this great wine!

WHITE: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The approximate location of the Agricola Nicolis Angelo e Figli can be seen in this satellite photo.

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Pommery Champagne, Chaplin, Monroe And Bogart

Pommery Champagne And Chocolate Truffles, A Hollywood Match

Succumb  to the liveliness & finesse of  Champagne Pommery Brut Royal from France..  in the presence of Felix Ghoul from the Champagne house in Reims..

Explore  new vineyards & Terroirs with wines from the old & new worlds…  including California, Argentina, France, Austria..  cherry-picked from  Colorado Wine Company‘s unique wine selection..

Indulge  in the highest-quality delicacies with artisan cheeses from the four corners of the world by  Nicole’s Gourmet Food..  You will experience tasty & harmonious couplings with each wine served..

Tantalize  your senses with  Yvan Valentin‘s chocolate truffles..  Just imagine a velvety chocolate ganache hand dipped in Valrhona Grand Cru Chocolate and..  delight the chocolate connoisseur in you!..  Chocolate Truffle Menu here:  4 flavors your taste buds can’t resist.

4 flavors that your taste buds can’t resist..

Dark Chocolate Truffle
“Old tradition” crunchy bitter sweet chocolate filled with a dark melting ganache.A classic simply exquisite.

Milk Chocolate Praline Truffle
Wonderful combination of creamy ganache and caramelized toasted hazelnut paste wrapped in a milk chocolate.

Ivory Cointreau Truffle
Delicious blend of chocolate, orange peel and Cointreau in a velvety smooth chocolate icing. A favorite for white chocolate lovers.

Cappuccino Truffle
Perfect blending of chocolate and cappuccino cream, coated with bittersweet chocolate and light cocoa.


Discover & Learn  through the passion and expertise of Champagne, fine wine & gourmet specialists who will guide and assist you throughout the soiree..  You are all taken care of!

Listen  to a delicate mix of sultry crooning, tender melodies, and bittersweet lyrics from the Leftover Cuties who harken back to a simpler age when music was as likely to come from a soup-line or a smoke filled speakeasy as it was from a recording studio..  watch & listen to them

Can’t See The VIDEO? Click HERE


Relax & Mingle  at really unique & irresistible Hollywood locations..  Live Classic at the Hollywood Tower..  or Live New at La Belle at Hollywood Tower..  an exceptional choice in one location!..  learn more

More Info at www.LAWineTasting.com

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Queen’s Wine, New York (?!)

The Queens County Farm Museum  (http://www.queensfarm.org/) in New York is making and selling its own wine, which goes on sale this month. The AP’s Warren Levinson check’s out New York’s new brew.


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Going The Distance – Argentina And New Zealand

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Going The Distance

by Paige Donner

You’ve heard it said that “A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing,”…When it comes to wine, a little bit of knowledge is a limiting thing.

Click on Image to watch VIDEO, Wines of Argentina.

At the recently concluded Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival that took place at the uber-spectacular and green-roofed new Vancouver Convention Center, the spotlight was especially on wines from Argentina and New Zealand.

Limiting one’s exploration of a region’s vines results in a myopic view of the country’s wines. The only one who loses in that equation is you. For the purpose, then of greater taste awareness and enjoyable adventure, we will focus on the not-s0-obvious varietals from Argentina and New Zealand, respectively.

Knowledge Equals Taste

In the next couple of paragraphs you will get a concise explanation of why there’s more to Argentina than Malbec, and more to New Zealand than Sauvignon Blanc. The intention is that you will be the richer – in taste, anyway – for it.

Argentine’s Native Vine Torrontés

You won’t go wrong reaching for a Malbec, or even a Bonarda, from Argentina. You’ll also be in good hands reaching for a Torrontés from Salta or Mendoza, a Pinot Noir from Patagonia, and with some discernment you’re on safe ground with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc.

“Wine talks about the people, the region, the country. It brings the country alive,” recently commented Ambassador Julio Miller, Consul General of Argentina to British Columbia, Ontario and several other Canadian Provinces, while he and his Chilean wife attended the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, where Wines from Argentina enjoyed much of the spotlight.

READ More Here on Local Food And Wine – Argentina >>>

New Zealand’s Mana Whenua

When wine geeks get together, invariably talk turns to “terroir.” New Zealand has its own terroir and they even call it by its own name, “Mana Whenua,” – Maori for that indefinable French term, terroir.

“Mana Whenua,” explained Paula Ramage of Waitiri Creek vineyards in Central Otago, N.Z., refers to “the power of the land and the people who work it,” and how that permeates the bounty and harvests from that land.

Read More Here On Local Food And Wine – New Zealand >>>

There are 643 wineries spread across 10 major winegrowing regions in New Zealand. One in every 200 bottles of wine produced in the world comes from New Zealand. 95% of N.Z. wines are under Stelvin or “screwcap” enclosures to ensure quality. N.Z. wine is known to be food-friendly wine.



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Drink To Your Health!

Local Food And Wine

“Wine is a food.”   – Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Wine is the most civilized thing in the world.”  – Ernest Hemingway.

“What contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch?” – W.C. Fields

Wine … cheereth God and man. – Judges, 9:13

“By making this wine vine known to the public, I have rendered my country as great a service as if I had enabled it to pay back the national debt.”
– Thomas Jefferson

Here’s looking at you, kid.  – Humphrey Bogart, with a glass of Veuve Clicquot, toasting Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca

Wine is the “healthiest and most health-giving of drinks.”
-Louis Pasteur

“You have only so many bottles in your life. Never drink a bad one.” –  Len Evans

Likely, you think this is all a myth, this notion, this hearsay that wine is good for you.  But we’re here to tell you that it’s not just mythic folklore…we have scientific proof that wine is nothing less than medicine in a bottle.  Read on, O devoted oenophile…

Researchers who surveyed 12,000 men and women about their alcohol consumption found that the people who drank one glass daily of wine had a 50% lower risk of developing non-alchoholic fatty liver disease. This, according to a study published in Hepatalogy, a medical journal.  Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can lead to liver scarring and cancer, notes Dr. Jeffrey Schwimmer, M.D. of the University of California, San Diego.

Rider: these beneficial side effects do not apply to beer or spirits consumption, just vino.

Furthermore, in Copenhagen, medical researchers conducted yet another study in which they determined, from among 490,000 test subjects, that…

…individuals who consumed one alcoholic drink daily had a decrease in mortality from all causes of 20% and cardiovascular-associated mortality of 30–40% compared with nondrinkers.2 In the Copenhagen City Heart Study, individuals who consumed between three and five drinks of wine daily had a decreased relative risk of death from all causes, including cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events, of approx50% compared with non-wine drinkers.  READ MORE

So we here at Local Food And Wine say, go ahead, drink to your liver! drink to your heart! drink, of course, in moderation, and then write to us and tell us what wines you love and what you love to drink them with.

Vancouver Food And Wine *   Okanagan Food And Wine

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Wine Of The People, By The People, For The People


Schreiner’s 3rd Edition is out May 1st 2010,
Updated and Revised

Book Review by Paige Donner

Just in time for the Okanagan’s Spring Wine Festival, John Schreiner’s 3rd edition of John Schreiner’s Okanagan Wine Tour Guide, is out in book stores May 1st 2010.

Schreiner’s guides to wine offer an approachable and friendly introduction to the region’s winegrowers, winemakers and proprietors of the ever-expanding Okanagan Valley wine community in addition to the wines themselves.

In the book’s Intro, Schreiner tells you upfront that he didn’t write the book for “technicians,” but rather for people who enjoy drinking wine and for the people who make the wine that we enjoy drinking.

“Wine is not a clinical product to be separated from the people who grow it. The art in wine is what attracts both consumers and wine growers,” writes Schreiner in his Introduction to the book’s 3rd edition. The first edition was published in 2006 and already there are a good many new additions to the Okanagan winery fold, with more wineries planned and building underway.

“In most of the tasting rooms I have visited, everyone is having fun, especially during wine festival time,” writes Schreiner, reminiscing, “During the Okanagan’s Spring Wine Festival 2005, I was lounging on the deck at Jeff and Niva Martin’s La Frenz winery, savouring a glass of Shiraz…”.

This is the context, a context of place, time and people in which John Schreiner uniquely can immerse you when it comes to the distinctive regions and wines of the Okanagan. His perspective dates back 35 years when he first began touring the region in search of good wines. The Okanagan’s current vibrant wine industry really only dates back to the late 80’s/early 90’s so Schreiner’s insight is one that lends itself to developing right alongside with the then-nascent wine industry of the region itself.

The book delves into the various regions of the Okanagan. The Okanagan Lake itself is 135 km. stretching more or less N-S from Penticton up to Salmon Arm. The wine growing regions are dotted all along there and stretch down, past Skaha Lake, into the Golden Mile and Black Sage Bench areas of Oliver and then down into Osoyoos, around Lake Osoyoos which spans the U.S./ Canada Border, and then a bit West over into Keremeos and Cawston, known as the Similkameen Valley.

Wonderful Lake Okanagan wineries and vineyards, British Columbia

His book beguiles you with the charms of Naramata Bench, a wine-growing region overlooking the expansive, beautiful and pristine Lake Okanagan; delves into the people with a dream some of whom are just selling their first ’09 vintages in time for Spring Wine Festival 2010, kicking off today in the Okanagan. He gives you a brief background on valley influentials such as Elias Phiniotis, Ron Taylor, and Howard Soon. He also takes you into the past with historical anecdotes about B.C.’s oldest continually operating winery (since 1932), Calona Vineyards, and forward into the future sharing with you certain family’s plans to plant on the northern perches of Salmon Arm, where the nearest vineyard at Larch Hills is at B.C.’s highest elevation of 700 meters/ 2,300 feet.

Most importantly, however, Schreiner will introduce you to the people who have chosen to build their lives around the vine, to make the best of the hand that Mother Nature deals them season after season. With this kind of an introduction to a region’s wine, you can’t help but fall in love with the ones that please your palate, and keep returning year after year to see what magic has been bottled in this year’s new vintage.

*Note Book’s Wine Speak Glossary at the end is very helpful and is sure to make you sound like you know what you’re talking about when you’re in the Tasting Rooms.

John Schreiner’s Okanagan Wine Tour Guide (2010), 161 pgs.

Available in Bookstores and Online Now

For More On Schreiner visit: John Schreiner’s Blog

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2 thoughts on “Regional Wines

  1. Only as you do know yourself can your brain serve you as a sharp and efficient tool. Know your own failings, passions, and prejudices so you can separate them from what you see.

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