by Paige Donner Just when you’re starting to think about the Christmas Cakes that will be the upcoming 2017 holiday season’s stars, a little silvery-black treat comes onstage and steals the entire Parisian culinary scene. Enter Stage Left – the … Continue reading
Bordeaux, June 18, 2017 by Paige Donner (all photos copyright 2017) On a hot summer evening in the Médoc’s Pauillac, Bordeaux guests arriving for the 1855 Grands Crus Classés dinner held this year at Château Latour were greeted with a … Continue reading
by Paige Donner Ever wondered how Parisians really eat? A recent study released by the Mayor’s office of Paris breaks it down by the numbers. Here are some interesting stats to chew on. (Sorry! couldn’t resist that one…) 13,800 Restaurants … Continue reading
by Paige Donner Gillardeau Oysters and French Tea Tasting Ahhh yes, it’s March once again and that of course means that spring is just around the corner. For this episode of Paris GOOD food + wine I’m letting you in … Continue reading
Paige Donner, host-producer of Paris GOOD food + wine brings you the January ’17 episode of the program, the first-ever English language radio show and podcast about French food and wine broadcast from Paris. To contact Paige: paigedonner.info In this … Continue reading
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without cakes! Sooo many delicious cakes! Follow #Localfoodandwine on Twitter @LocalFoodWine Paris Food And Wine App is available for iOS and Android. Bordeaux Food & Wine too! @BordeauxFoodVin More Info @ParisFoodWine Instagram @PaigeFoodWine Listen to Paris … Continue reading
For those of us throwing parties this weekend and into Tuesday for America’s bumfuzzling ’16 Presidential Election, this recipe, lifted off the New England Today food page, ought to set your course straight back to hearth and home (after stopping … Continue reading
Originally posted on Chérie Du Vin:
by Paige Donner If you missed the Foire Aux Vins at Leader Price or any of the other Casino Géant affiliate chains such as c-Discount or FranPrix these past few weeks here in…
2016 brought spectacular sunny spring weather throughout the Grands Jours de Bourgogne. Save for the last day, Friday (my 4th straight day of tasting many of the world’s best wines – more strenuous than perhaps it appears). Lots of people … Continue reading
Saving the best for last… the 5th day of #bourgogneGJB included tastings of Meursault and Volnay. It was my fourth day of tasting some of the best wines of the world and it felt, truly, like an embarrassment of riches. … Continue reading
My 3rd day of the Grands Jours Bourgogne featured a tasting spotlighting Mercurey producers and another featuring Young Talent. It’s also the day that features the best lunch by far, put on by Chef Didier Denis and his team. A … Continue reading
A few snapshots of Château de Pommard, recently acquired by Michael Baum. Featured also in the photos are his winemaker, Emmanuel Sala and his Chief Commercial Officer, Ann Feely. Listen to their upcoming feature interviews on #Paris GOODfood+wine airing on … Continue reading
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What If Food Had Feelings? This is the question the new animated film, release date August 2016, asks. It’s the brainchild of a bunch of young Hollywood turks who screened it at last weekend’s SXSW annual Film/Tech/Music festival in Austin, … Continue reading
For this Episode of Paris GOOD food + wine we’ll be starting right out of the gate with a tribute to Paris Fashion Week. Paris Fashion Week takes place twice a year, in October and March, with March seeming to … Continue reading
Held at the restaurant that Wine Spec recently named Paris’ best, Les Climats (Paris’ 7th arr), this tasting showcased gorgeous Burgundian wines that often don’t get enough attention… I’m talking Irancy, Saint-Bris, Chitry, Epineuil, Coulanges-la-Vineuse, Tonnerre, Aligoté and Vézelay. These … Continue reading
posted by Paige Donner Paris GOODfood+wine 9 – Season 2 / 2015 September For season Two’s kick off of Paris GOODfood+wine we’ll be hearing from Sylvie Cazes, the civic-minded Bordealaise who is now the proud owner of her very own … Continue reading
Mashup posted by Paige Donner At the beginning of the 2015 season, Fenway opened a 5,000-square foot rooftop farm along a previously unused stretch of roof behind Gate A, dubbing the area “Fenway Farms.” The impetus for the farm came … Continue reading
by Paige Donner This episode of GOODfood+wine airing on World Radio Paris is all about Bordeaux. Well, nearly. In honor of the bi-annual Bordeaux Vinexpo extravaganza (opento the trade only) we did some pre-tasting at two of Bordeaux’s most prestigious … Continue reading
by Paige Donner It’s always a thrill to watch the development, the progressive, step-by-step development of an ambitious and culturally iconic project. Such is the case with the Cité des Civilisations du Vin gorgeously taking shape along the banks of … Continue reading
by Paige Donner It’s nearly May – and that means La Bonnotte is just about in season! La Bonnotte, for those of you not familiar with it, is a little yellow gem that grows on the small, sheltered Isle of … Continue reading
Set right in the mythical Benedictine Abbey of Hautvillers, where Dom Pérignon is said to have discovered the méthode Champenoise, is now the Atelier Dom Pérignon. l’Atelier Dom Pérignon à l’Abbaye d’Hautvillers Full Slide Show On Chérie Du Vin All … Continue reading
(re-posted from Press Release) According to the Vinexpo/IWSR study the United States are the world’s number one wine market and the study forecasts a growth of 11% between 2014 and 2018. During that period the American wine consumption is expected … Continue reading
(sponsored post) Canadian dog food brand, Open Farm, to recycle ALL of their packaging. Also, for every empty bag sent in, they will make a donation to the sender’s favorite animal charity or rescue organization. As of this week, I … Continue reading
by Paige Donner In this episode of Paris GOODfood+wine you’ll hear all about a small French bird called the ortolan, considered a traditional culinary delicacy in some circles. Next, Paris restaurant critic and book author Alec Lobrano joins us again … Continue reading
Tom Colicchio, celebrity chef and founder of Food Policy Action says, “We’re going to send a clear message to Congress that we’re organized, we’re viable, we’re strong, and yes we have a food movement and it’s coming for you.” Blog … Continue reading
by Paige Donner This Valentine’s Day why not indulge in a bit of self-love? Yes, I mean CHOCOLATE! The good thing about eating chocolate is that it’s actually included in the grouping of Nature’s Super Foods. Gotta love nature! If … Continue reading
by Paige Donner If you read French and keep on top of French culinary news, you may already have bookmarked several of these articles that buzzed around the social media waves these past weeks, namely how France is mounting a … Continue reading
Reblogged by Paige Donner I have a major lemon addiction. I confess. And it’s not just during detox time, after the holidays. It’s a year-round thing. Lemonade in the summer, hot water, lemon and honey in the winter. So what … Continue reading
by Paige Donner (all photos copyright Paige Donner) Every year about this time, as the leaves turn their gold, yellow, orange and red, a sweet tradition overtakes Paris. That tradition is the annual presentation by France’s superstar chefs of their … Continue reading
by Brittany Winter (featured guest blogger) Zandra Genovese, a young Long Islander and Girl Scout is making a huge difference for those people who use wheelchairs for mobility on Long Island. Zandra Genovese, a young Long Islander and Girl Scout is … Continue reading
by Paige Donner What better time than summer to 1. Eat Healthier 2. Spend less time in the kitchen 3. Transform your body to Fantastically Fabulous With these three goals in mind, is it any wonder then that Fast Food … Continue reading
According to the market survey commissioned by Vinexpo, the international wine and spirits exhibition, whose Asian show is to be held from 27 to 29 May this year in Hong Kong, China has become the world’s largest red wine consuming nation … Continue reading
Documentary about the rise of the Celebrity Chef. With Jamie’s fortune estimated at over £40 (million!) these cooks know how to whip it up in the kitchen. On and off screen. Doc is by BBC – so it’s all UK-centric. … Continue reading
Read More On Tuscany Food And Wine by Paige Donner Like any good California girl, I love me some Sangiovese. So when I was able to get my hands recently on a bottle of the stuff … Continue reading
reposted from Bourgogne-Wines.com Editorial SCIENCE AND WINE: A CENTER OF EXCELLENCE IN BOURGOGNE A major new step in scientific research into Bourgogne wines has just been taken. The University of Bourgogne, in conjunction with the Regional Council, is creating a … Continue reading
Delivered straight to your Mailbox… the box of gourmet treats that will inspire your taste buds… and your culinary kitchen prowess too! Brand new in France – Sign up for your Easter Treats La BonneBox now. Click on the link … Continue reading
by Paige Donner
A few interesting facts set the champagne brand of Nicolas Feuillatte apart from the others.
For one, it’s a champagne house that is cooperatively owned. Just outside of the champagne capital of Épernay in France, in the little village of Chouilly, the modern and sleek facilities whose cellars are both above and beneath the ground, ferment, disgorge and age 300,000 hectoliters of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Petit Meunier destined to become top-selling champagne every year. That translates into 21.9 million bottles of champagne in 2011.
by Paige Donner
Paris is catching on to a wildly popular UK dining custom called “Secret Dinners.” In certain parts of the U.S., such as L.A. and NYC, they are popular, too. Essentially, they are moveable feasts where the people, the food and, most importantly, the locales are never the same.
Parisian foodies will nod and smile and confess that they have no idea why the Secret Dinner trend hasn’t quite taken hold in their city. It might be partly because when you do a search on the internet under Paris Secret Dinners this huge article of a catacomb tribe who held seances (not really, much tamer than that, but it’s fun to spread these blasphemous rumors, isn’t it!?) in the secret tunnels below the Trocadero surfaces.
In Paris there are a few who are carrying on the UK tradition of Secret Dinners and Secret Lunches. One goes by the name New Friends Table and another by the name Miss Lunch. Neither wanted their photos published or even too much written about them, given that it’s all, well, you know, Secret!
The concept is a good one for travelers or transplants to a new city. Anyone can eat out at a restaurant, but how often do you get the chance to be invited to someone’s home where you can share a meal, meet other people, talk to locals, and generally get an authentic glimpse into how people live in a given city. Well, you might, if you have an old college roommate or a cousin living in a foreign city, but if you’re off for a romantic weekend or on business overseas for a week, you likely won’t get that opportunity.
As a single woman, it provoked some thought to agree to attend a Secret Dinner where an address isn’t provided until a few hours before the start time and where you must swear to secrecy about the identity of the people putting on the dinner.
So when a Secret Picnic was alternately proposed, I felt confident that this was the better choice. Sunshine and spring weather on a Saturday afternoon in a Paris park is paradise on Earth. Add to that a picnic basket filled with some of the best delights Paris has to offer, in the form of cheeses, bread, wine, olives, chocolate, traiteur salads and cold dishes, and a couple of outrageously decadent desserts all delicately spread out on a colorful flower tablecloth on the grass and you’ve got yourself a Picnic a la gourmand…secret or not.
Sightseeing is tiring. And while shopping for cheese and wine can be fun, you might not know where to get the best stuff when you’re in Paris for 72 hours. It’s also time consuming to make the pilgrimages to the various arrondissements to gather the truly famous goods.
You have the option of either joining in on a Secret Picnic already planned or you can order your private picnic for two, as you desire. Now you’ll just have to try to figure out who the Secret Picnic people are. Good LUCK! Hint: they arenot in the catacombs under the Trocadero.
Take a look at this video interview to hear what he has to say about being named the Best Restaurant In The World, two years running.
And, in case you missed it, International Herald Tribune/ NY Times columnist Roger Cohen wrote a lyrical piece about Noma recently, foraging deep into the chef’s local food philosophy.
- The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance’s program has provided a Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices Workbook to the industry. They have conducted more than 200 self-assessment workshops with more than 1,500 vintners and growers who have assessed their operations against 277 sustainable winegrowing criteria.
“These companies are true leaders,” said California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Linda Adams. “They prove that we can make the move to a thriving green economy and that going green is good for the pocketbook and the environment.”
Awards are given based on strength in eight specific areas: results, transferability, environmental impact, resource conservation, economic progress, innovation and uniqueness, pollution prevention and environmental justice.
If you would like to plan a winery tour to visit Sustainable Winegrowing Program Participants please visit www.discovercaliforniawine.com. Click on Create your own wine tour. You can search for SWP Participants under the “Amenities” search feature.
Everywhere where Thanksgiving is celebrated, we have a favorite recipe that each of us takes out, dusts off, – often from our Grandmother’s recipe book – and cooks up each year to share with our friends and loved ones.
And while Thanksgiving has become a Food Fest for most of us, it is firstly a celebration of gratitude. With gratitude as the cornerstone ingredient for manifesting abundance, this is, then, a powerful recipe: Thankfulness + Good Food = Abundance.
Thanksgiving is also a time of sharing. Back on Plymouth Rock, it is significant to remember that the Mayflower Pilgrims would not have survived that first winter had it not been for the Native Americans sharing their knowledge and abundance of the land and native foods such as corn and beer. (Yes, beer!)
So, yes, Thanksgiving is a time for families and food. It is also a time of sharing and gratitude. So…what was your grandmother’s favorite recipe? Mine was whipped yams baked with mini marshmallows. I think I’ll start practice cooking it now again in preparation for the big day…!
Help for the Holidays
If your family is one of the many struggling this holiday season I would urge you to research the non-profits in your area that can help meet your needs. I have listed just a few of the many valuable organizations serving the residents of the 23rd Senate District.
- FOOD Share, Ventura County
- Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles
- Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, Los Angeles County
- Manna Conejo Valley Food Bank, Ventura and Los Angeles County
- Valley Food Bank, San Fernando Valley
21st Annual Malibu Pie Festival
Kara Seward with her pie entry for Malibu Pie Festival, October.
The Malibu United Methodist Church hosted their 21st Annual Malibu Pie Festival last month. The proceeds from pie sales and silent auction items went to support the church’s youth and family programs and service projects. I am proud to announce that my staffer for the Malibu area, Kara Seward, entered her family’s blueberry pie recipe and won third place in the Fruit Pie category. Congratulations to all the entries!
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.
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.
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.
Wine Buying for Dummies. If there were a book with this title – there probably is! – it would be my Bible. Let’s face it, when you’re on the spot, standing in a wine shop or a grocery store at the end of the day when it’s time to buy that nice bottle of wine to bring to a friend’s house for dinner, or share with your loved one on a quiet, cozy night at home… all too often all the fantastic Domaines, Crus, Mas, Vintages and Wineries you’ve so painstakingly committed to memory on dozens of wine tasting trips and hours spent pouring over Robert Parker…suddenly all dribble away like last year’s headlines and all you have left is 5 minutes to buy your bottle and get on your way.
It’s not just a Wine Shop, it’s a Concept Store. Leave it to the French to figure out how to add a good dose of pleasure to buying wine. Even when you’ve left Robert Parker behind at home, you can still feel on safe ground in Paris’s La Note Rouge in the 3eme arrondissement.
Brainstorm of brothers Yann and Romain Remacle, these two young, handsome, Parisian men decided to take the pomp out of both Parisian and, even, out of buying wine. And just in time. It wasn’t too long ago that I wandered into one of the French chain wine shops and asked the salesclerk on duty what adjectives he would use to describe wines from the Sud Ouest. He responded with that look that indicates, albeit very politely, that you’ve just asked a really stupid question.
At La Note Rouge, this won’t happen. It won’t happen for two reasons: 1) Yann and Romain are far too accommodating and charming to ever leave one of their customers lacking for knowledge and 2) If, for example, you are like many of us and feel at times intimidated to ask questions about a wine, these two 30-somethings have outfitted their sleek and chic wine shop with computer touch screens mounted to the exposed stone walls programmed with a picture and detailed descriptions about each of the wines they keep stocked in their shop. Touch, and the information, like a cup, runneth over…
- Modern Concept Wine Shop, La Note Rouge, near Les Halles, Paris.
Another unique characteristic about La Note Rouge is that they stock wines only from small producers from all over France. “We buy wines from French wine producers who cultivate anywhere from 5 – 35 hectares of vines,” explained Yann Remacle, whose passion for wine led him to open up this shop in one of Paris’s trendiest districts. “I’m not a Sommelier but I know what I like.”
And he’s betting you’ll like it too. Indeed on a recent evening of wine tasting, the shop was non-stop with regulars, tourists and the curious all stopping by to pick up just that perfectly right bottle of wine. Located just a couple blocks up from Les Halles, the decor of the shop is very un-traditional for France, but at the same time very Parisian, with bottles displayed by region. They even stock a French organic brand of vodka distilled from Quinoa, along with a few select bottles of Whiskey.
Notes: Vain du Rû, Dominique Andiron – white, biodynamic, full-bodied, aperitif; Les Grandes Costes, Musardises, a Rosé from Pic St. Loup, fruity with notes of spice; Le Villain P’tit Rouge, Vincent Ricard, Apellation Touraine Contrôlée – at La Note Rouge, with Frères Remacle, should you drink anything else?
P.S. La Note Rouge was a name inspired by Blue Note. Particularly fitting as what goes better together than Jazz and Wine and Paris? And, when you’re really nice – or naughty – I hear that the brothers might even play you a tune or two on that piano they keep in the back cellar…
Recommend: Dinner around the corner at Ambassade d’Auvergne. Fantastically French and authentically country.
by Paige Donner
Just north of the ancient town of Béziers, where Molière and his band of Troubadours once spent a winter (ca. 1656), is the lovely AOC Saint Chinian. The area which envelopes 20 some villages and 3,300 hectares from the foot of the mountains Espinouse and Caroux, also includes the sub-appellations of Berlou and Roquebrun. It is one of the earliest appellations in the Languedoc to receive that distinction, designated in 1982, and produces both reds and rosés under AOC St. Chinian, with the area’s vignerons producing whites under the AOC St. Chinian (blanc) since 2005 and also frequently under a Vins de Pays d’Oc label.
The climate, – sunny Sud de France – and the soils, primarily schistes, clay, calcareous and limestone, are typical of this Mediterranean zone and is one of the important elements that has lent itself to building this appellation’s “grand” reputation. The average temperature is a cool 14° C. The varietals used for the red blends in St. Chinian are Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Lladoner Pelut. For the most part a St. Chinian red can be expected to be rich and generous with the rosés a bit more delicate giving off their hints of red berry fruits.
Red wines dominate in this appellation, which is true of the region, with 89% of the production going towards them, while just 1% ends up as white wine and a decent 10% being produced as rosés. To visit all the wineries of St. Chinian, allow for some time. There are 100 private wineries and 8 cooperative cellars (caves coopératives) with a total of approximately 350 producers.
A Bit of History
The name St. Chinian is derived from the name of the monk, Sanch Anhan, who founded the monastery in the year 794 on the left bank of the River Vernazobre one of two rivers that run through the terrain. The Benedictine monk, beatified in 1102, became known as St. Chinian. St. Chinian is a delightful area in which to play tourist while you taste wines and stock up your cellar. You can meander along the ancient Roman road that connected Narbonne to the upper Languedoc and then all the way onto Italy – the road that Molière and the Troubadours would have travelled. Or you can drive through the Orb Valley where orange trees an eucalyptus trees flourish alongside the river gorge, and where the little jewel of a village Roquebrun nestles. Be sure to pause along the wine route to take some of the heritage walks through the vineyards.
Domaine La Grange Léon, AOC Saint-Chinian, Berlou
Joël and Véronique Fernandez named their vineyard after Joel’s great-grandfather, Leon, who himself came from a long line of vineyard managers and winemakers originating from this Languedocien patch of land not all that far from the Spanish border and Pays Basque. It was Léon who was one of the founding member of the “caves coopérative” of Berlou, credited with uplifting the quality and reputation of St. Chinian wines. Since he was 16 years old, Joël dreamed of being the owner-operator of his own vineyards and winery. He immersed himself in the seasonal rhythms of the vines, in the harvests and dedicated himself to learning the mastery of the “alchemy” of winemaking.
In 2008 Joël and Véronique established their own winery. They harvest their grapes only by hand and are rigorously attentive about the quality of the grapes they allow into the cellar. The Domaine’s vineyards are primarily schiste soils and because they’ve invested so much of themselves into their winery, they are fond of declaring that their wines are “a bit of the terroir and a bit of ourselves.”
La Grange de Léon – Vintage Selection
La Rose de Laury, AOC Saint-Chinian Rosé This rosé has delicate fuchsia reflections with notes of strawberries and cherries. 60% Cinsault, 20% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre.
Viognier, Vins d Pays d’Oc Blanc Sold out. Only the proprietor has a few bottles on reserve. Uncharacteristically made from 100% Viognier. [The French make blends from the appellation’s designated varietals, Americans tend toward single varietal vintages.] Notes of passion fruit, pineapple, apricot. Aromas of verveine.
D’une main à l’autre, AOC Saint-Chinian – Berlou Rouge Only available in 2010 – so get it now. Plums on the nose, black cherries; mandarin, vanilla, pepper on the tongue. Round, full, long in the mouth. For steaks on the grill in summer, Entrecôte in the winter. Also: L’insolent, AOC Saint-Chinian Rouge; L’Audacieux, AOC Saint-Chinian Rouge Visit the Maison des Vins in Saint-Chinian on the Grand Rue to start off your wine tasting of the region. Ask for Henri Miquel, the President or Nelly Belot, Director. And be sure to stop in at the Syndicat du Cru AOC Saint Chinian at 1 Rue de la Promenade, St. Chinian.
By Paige Donner
In this Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France, once owned by Sir Lancelot, there rests a 16th c. Castle, Château Capion, tranquilly nestled along the riverbanks of the Gassac.
On the Château Capion’s 75 hectares are planted approximately 48 hectares of vines, mostly of what has become the regional classics: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault for the reds and Viognier, Chardonnay, Roussanne for the whites.
They have also planted the Bordeaux varietals of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc, all which thrive in the unique l’argile bleue terroir – red, volcanic clay/soil – of this micro-climate situated in the sweetspot between Aniane and Gignac, not far from the Medieval village of St. Guilhem le Desert, just 30 km from the Mediterranean Sea on France’s southern coast. This l’argile bleue is similar to what can be found in Bordeaux and has proved to be quite a singular discovery for this vineyard as well as the neighboring vineyard.
Limestone is what is predominantly found on the vineyards with these sections of interspersed red clay soil found only in concentrated deposits, where they’ve planted the Cab Sauvs and Cab Francs, who thrive on their scattered patches of argile bleue, especially, too, because the only water source used for the vines is the natural source to be found deep, about 100 m. under the ground. This pure, natural water source keeps the vines hydrated. They use no irrigation on the vineyards, relying just on this natural water source and rainfall in the Autumn, which varies significantly between as much as 400mm to 1000mm per year.
For the Syrah, this is paradise. Château Capion’s calcareous sandstone and limestone soils differ in the size of the rocks from large stones you can pick up three at a time with your hand to very large stones that you need two hands to hold. Château Capion’s award-winning winemaker Jérémy Chanson explains that they use a vinification process more reminiscent of Côtes du Rhône du Nord. Their Syrah vines, mostly 30 years old, with some vines pushing 80 years and more, offer the raw stuffs for good tannins. “We feel it in the cellar, the difference between the old and young vines. The tannins and the color…,” says Chanson, a native Languedocien whose grandparents, one branch of which came from le Pays Basque, worked in vineyards in their day. He’ll also tell you that from “Corsica to Perpignan, there are no Syrah vines like ours here at Château Capion. She gives where she lives. That is Syrah.”
Their prize vineyard, the Triangle of Le Juge, are the grapes he presses for their Le Juge vintage, and what has earned the Château, along with their Capion vintage, the award of “Best French Winemaker 2008” in London as well as high marks from Decanter Magazine, Guide Parker(Robert Parker’s wine guide to France) and Andrew Jefford’s, The New France. In the cellar he uses gravity for processing the grapes and hand stirs for the “pigeur;” in the vineyards they practice eco-friendly viticulture. There is garrigue all around – sage, fennel, lavendar, thyme – but it is husbanded to a degree that lends a subtler, elegant taste to their wines when compared to the wines from the regional terroir.
For wine enthusiasts, a visit to the Château is imperative. Frédéric Kast, Winemaker, delights in sharing their wines, declaring that each wine has a distinctive personality, “just like you and I do.” The tasting room is suggestive of a Chapel Sanctuary; the heavy marble dais and the stained glass windows add both light and depth to a cheerful room fully refurbished, as is the original XVI c. castle, with taste and modern comfort. They have also manicured a tour of the vineyard with stopping points for an explanation of the terroir, of the view of the terrain which looks out onto Mt. Baudile, of the vines, of the flora of the garrigue… For those looking to absorb even more from this Southern French terroir, the Château offers suites you can rent on the property for short stays, including the new “Troubadour Room” which is in the castle itself. The immediate property surrounding the main house features an English garden, a French garden and a Japanese garden all nestled up against the Gassac River, with views of Mt. Baudile and the Gassac Valley.
The Swiss Buhrer family who purchased the property and vineyards in the mid-90’s have raised their five children there. The label on their prestige single-vineyard white, Le Colombier, is that of a dovecot, which they chose as it is the symbol used throughout history of love, peace, hope and the presence of the Holy Spirit. When this part-Sound of Music, part-Swiss Family Robinson acquired the property in ’96 they inscribed on the outdoor solar clock what became the guiding principle for their family, their wines, their vineyards: “C’est le temps de l’Amour.”
“The Heart of the Terroir”
Le Colombier: Blanc, A.O.P. Coteaux du Languedoc; This Roussanne (40%) and Viognier (60%) blend is a soft golden color with a brilliant shine telling of its fine acidity and balance. Floral notes of white roses, full and long in the mouth. To pair with white meats, grilled fish. 12 Euros
Le Juge: Rouge, A.O.P. Terrasses du Larzac; Primarily Syrah (70%) from vines that are grown in ideal conditions for syrah, with Grenache and Mourvèdre (15% each) blended in for balance and acidity. This “honor of Capion” has fine, subtle hints of garrigue, elegance and refined tannins and its je ne sais quoi is what sets it apart from the wines of the surrounding area and puts it in league withLa Pèira en Daimasela wines, though altogether different. It is aged in new barrels for 12 months. Aromatic whispers of “framboise,” during vinification. 12 Euros
From 2007 and on this wine will continue to be remarkable. To drink now or to save. Can be enjoyed in the summer with grilled meats as well as in the winter with heartier meals.
“One of the 10 best wines in the world.” – Michael Broadbent
“A Lafite in Languedoc.” – Gault et Millau
Daumas Gassac vineyards planted amidst the Languedocian garrigue and protected forestlands, Aniane, France.
By Paige Donner
My father once told me the tale about a Stradivarius. There was a Stradivarius that sat in the dusty folds of a shelf in the back of an obscure violin shop. People came and bought violins from the shopkeeper, for themselves, for their children, but the few who stumbled upon the dusty, old instrument quickly overlooked it, assuming that it couldn’t possibly be an instrument of any worth. Until one day, a master violinist stumbled into the store and like a mother to its child, was at once drawn to the exquisite instrument and knew it instantly for what it was. In his hands, beautiful music once again flowed forth from the Stradivarius.
This story came to mind as I drove away from Mas de Daumas Gassac, the 50 hectare Languedocian vineyard estate just outside of Aniane. This region, the Midi, is, of course the Languedoc-Roussillon, the region that produces the most wine not just in France but in the world. The region is, in every sense of the phrase, Sud de France.
What the region was not known for in 1970 was its quality wine. Flanked by Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Loire and Rhone Valleys, the Languedoc has long been known as the area that makes table wines or vins de table, the better ones just squeaking by with a vin de pays classification – or so goes the common perception. But not all wines need a classification in order to be good. Excellent, even. Indeed, in the case of Mas de Daumas Gassac, as much notoriety as this wine has attracted, it still eschews classification, its winemakers saying a polite “no thanks” to an AOC label.
Rooted In The Languedoc
Flash back to 1970 when a husband and wife team, Aime’ and Veronique Guibert, were in one of those life transitional phases and decided to buy a farm. What they found was this old rundown farm just outside of Aniane, situated in the middle of the Forest of Arboussas, that was still owned by two old spinster sisters of the Daumas family. It was also nestled next to the Gassac River and, in fact, was an old mill or “moulin.”
Tout ce qui brille n’est pas d’Or.
“Everything that glitters is not gold.”
…And, conversely, all that is gold does not glitter. In what has played out over the last 40 years since the Guibert family has grown their grapes and harvested their wines at the vineyard they planted around that old dilapidated mill, now the Mas de Daumas Gassac, is nothing short of an uncovering of a long-forgotten treasure. The treasure, arguably an unofficial Tresor de France, is the terroir of the Gassac Valley.
50 Hectares of Vineyards Surrounded by 100 Hectares of Mediterranean Woodland
The 50 hectares that Mas de Daumas Gassac rests on are home to the first wines ever produced in the Gassac Valley. Those wines were made for Charlemagne, the first King of France ca. 780 A.D. In fact, it was St. Benoit d’Aniane, one of Charlemagne’s counsellors and an Abbey, who created the first vineyard in the “magical” valley of Gassac some 1,200 years ago.
The magic is the microclimate. The terroir was rediscovered in 1971 by Henri Enjalbert a Professor of Geology at Bordeaux University. Veronique, also a PhD (in ethnology) and husband Aime’ Guibert were successful in getting Professor Enjalbert out to the Mas to check out not just the unusual red soil, which was found to be glacial soil, the calceous limestone (for the white varietals), but also to explore the cool microclimate that is derived from multiple factors: the Gassac River, several natural springs on the property, and the cool night air that descends from the Larzac mountains throughout the valley cooling the air surrounding the vines in August and September by about 5 to 10 degrees.
It was this same Prof. Enjalbert who declared to the Guiberts that they were sitting on “the ideal and unique terroir to produce a Grand Cru wine.”
Mas de Daumas Gassac Estate Today
Today it is the brothers Samuel, Gael, Amelien, Roman and Basile who take care of the estate. The Mas de Daumas Gassac label, with its sister label of Moulin de Gassac, produces about 150,000 to 200,000 bottles every year.
Walking through the Daumas Gassac vineyards is not just a walk through the vines but also a walk through the Forest of Arboussas, the Languedocien garrigue and, on this sweet summer day in June, a walk through veils of frolicking white and yellow butterflies. The ladybugs are there, too, when you stop and look closely.
Samuel Guibert, the estate’s winemaker who spent ten years in New Zealand before coming home to help run the family business, matter-of-factly explains that no chemicals, no fertilizers, nothing of the sort has ever touched this soil. “It’s virgin land,” he says. The family themselves source their drinking water from the freshwater springs on the property, so they are not about to poison themselves – or their vines. Their approach to land is “to preserve nature’s balance.”
What’s really unique about this estate, however, in addition to the glacial red soil and everything else…is that the 63 vineyard parcels are all planted interspersed throughout the property, fully integrated with the garrigue and the 3,000 hectares of protected forestland.
When you look up the translation for garrigue, the English is “scrubbrush” or just “garrigue.” What it is in fact is clusters of lavendar, mint, thyme growing wild since the millennia. This is the real Mediterranean. Aromatic, fragrant. So like hidden gardens of fruit nestled within aromatic parcels of herbs, the vineyards are planted throughout this preserved and untouched forestland of fragrant garrigue.
When the grapes are harvested by hand, they are then deposited via gravity into the underground fermentation cellar via a trapdoor which is up top at ground level. The fermentation cellar used to be an underwater tank. “We took what existed and made the best of it,” says Guibert, emphasizing that the whole process from sorting to destemming to macerating is all moved along purely by gravity and all done by hand.
This is a process not often seen any longer anywhere, including France. Some of the vineyards in Bordeaux used to use this gravity-fed process but most have since switched to automated. The difference being, explains Samuel, that the less the grapes are manipulated or handled, the better.
Similarly natural and using the resources at hand, the river next to the cellar helps to maintain the cellar at a cool 13-14 degrees C. in Winter and about 17-18 C. in summer with about 70% humidity. “It’s perfect temperatures for cellaring our wines,” says Samuel Guibert.
They only use about 5% new oak. “We don’t use oak to influence the taste of the wine, rather to enhance the capacity to age,” explains Guibert. You will often hear that a Mas de Daumas Gassac – red or white – has an ease of ability to age. “They are wines that can age, I like to say,” says Guibert, noting that the red that you drink and enjoy today will be a different wine from the one you cellar for 10, 15 and even 25 years. Different and perhaps equally enjoyable.
They blend for complex wine. The Guiberts only planted old strains of vines used before cloning, “to ensure traditional flavors and low yields.”Some of the planted vines are pre phyllaxera era and some are grafted onto American root stock. Oenologues refer to the Daumas Gassac vineyard as a “living museum” of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Manseng – a varietal that really only thrives in the south west region of France, – Viognier and also a “panoply” of 10% varietals that originate from “Biblical” Mediterranean vines – Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Armenia.
As for the vines that St. Benoit of Aniane planted for the Abbey and Charlemagne, “The existing vineyard that my parents found when they arrived at Mas Daumas in 1970 was indeed extremely ancient but no one can prove if it was the exact same vines as when St Benoit d’Aniane arrived,” says Guibert.
Emile Peynaud, the revered modern genius of oenology, told Mssr. Guibert back at the start of this quest for treasure that he had never been attendant at the birth of a Grand Cru. Forty years later, and we get to enjoy the fruits of that treasure quest.
Mas de Daumas Gassac Haute Vallée Du Gassac 34150 Aniane, France www.daumas-gassac.com
The San Pellegrino recently released its Top 100 Restaurants of The World. We decided to ask ourselves, how does a food critic rate a restaurant?
The Michelin Guide is the most revered, its stars the most sought-after. It has now spawned itself across Europe, in America and Japan, but remains strictly anonymous with a vast team of inspectors split into regions and who visit destinations unannounced. Its inspectors have never been allowed to out themselves to journalists and, according to a piece run last year in The New Yorker, they are advised to tell not even their parents about their line of work, in case they boast about it. Its main rival in Europe, the Gault Millau, takes itself as seriously, awarding points on a scale of 20 instead of a star rating. This score, too, is decided by a team of anonymous inspectors. – From The National
|1||Up 2||Noma||Denmark||The S.Pellegrino Best Restaurant in the World, The Acqua Panna Best Restaurant in Europe|
|2||Down 1||El Bulli||Spain||Restaurant Magazine Chef of the Decade|
|3||Down 1||The Fat Duck||UK||The Chef’s Choice sponsored by Electrolux|
|4||Up 1||El Celler de Can Roca||Spain|
|6||Up 7||Osteria Francescana||Italy|
|7||Up 3||Alinea||USA||The Acqua Panna Best Restaurant In N.America|
|8||Up 33||Daniel||USA||The Highest Climber sponsored by Cocoa Barry|
|10||Down 4||Per Se||USA|
|11||Up 29||Le Chateaubriand||France|
Here’s all that a day of gathering cooking ingredients, locating a place in which to cook, and finding some regional cooking “advisors,” can be when you’re on The Island:
Book yourself into a farmstead that doubles as a B&B. We found Smith Lake Farms in the Comox Valley to be an ideal setting, especially if we had brought the children with us. Upon check-in we were handed two fresh eggs just gathered from the coop for our breakfast the next day.
Pattison Farms of Black Creek in Comox Valley, run by Gerry and Dagmar Pattison, is the stuff of legends. The certified organic farm keeps two gigantic greenhouses under year-round cultivation and grows three kinds of cauliflower, “but none of them are white,” Gerry will tell you. White cauliflower is too mundane for Pattison Farms purposes where Gerry has firmly established himself a niche of growing the absolute best varietals of spinach, tomatoes, heritage apple trees, blackberries and loads more for renowned B.C. Chefs such as Ronald St. Pierre of Locals and John Bishop of Bishop’s. St. Pierre even features a picture of Pattison on the wall of his Courtenay flagship Locals Restaurant.
Out on that quaint country road in Comox Valley it’s not surprising to hear Gerry talk about the farm stand he keeps open for most of the year right at the gate of his property that operates on the honor system. “The most we’ve ever had go missing is two heads of purple cabbage,” he says, clearly communicating that he doesn’t sweat the small stuff. What is surprising to hear is that this unassuming organic gourmand ingredient farmer hosted racks of news crews and a sit-down lunch on the patio and in his backyard/ farm fields when John Bishop launched his cookbook several years back. What you’ll find over and again in the Comox community is that people who know, know; and your best bet is to make friends with those people who are in the know.
Some of those people you’d be lucky to know are the ones who run Beaufort Vineyards. They are an Island culinary destination and have focused their 27 plus years of wine making toward crafting vineyard and winery practices that are people, animal and environment-friendly.
Just a hop skip down the road and you’ll find yourself in Courtenay, the jewel of the Valley. Grab yourself a cup of coffee at Mudshark’s and be sure to pop in next door to Bramble’s Market. Opened last summer by husband and wife Angeline and James Street (www.bramblesmarket.ca) it is B.C.’s only grocery store stocked with 100% local food and products, promoting a “50 km diet” of eat local, something that is actually quite possible to do when you live in the Comox Valley.
The notion of eat local is a popular one throughout the Island. However, as James and Angeline, hard working new business owners, will confide, “The people you would expect to come in and buy from us regularly…don’t. Our regulars are people who drive up in old beater cars but who really love good food. They’ll come for the meats, the cheeses, the breads and the other quality fresh ingredients we keep stocked because they just really love good food… and they know they can count on what they buy from us to taste great.” We stock up for our cooking class that we’ve scheduled for later, with informational assistance from Tourism Vancouver Island.
On our drive South, we pass Wal-Mart, Thrifty Foods, which is locally owned and does stock some local foods, and Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, an artisanal cheesemaker who specializes in “squeaky cheese,” which is really a form of curds and which Canadians love to liberally sprinkle on hot french fries, slather in gravy and call “Poutine,” a veritable national dish. Little Qualicum Cheeseworks also makes a goat cheese that Tigh-Na-Mara’s chef is using for his April “Earth Month”-inspired 100-mile diet menu in the Cedar Room.
We pull up to the Painted Turtle Guesthouse just a block up from the harbor walk in Nanaimo with our appetites barely in check. We’ve heard about the Mon Petit Choux bakery that supposedly does croissants better than anyone this side of Paris. Lucky for us, it’s just adjacent to the Painted Turtle so we tuck into it for a quick pick-me-up and indulge in not just the coffee (fantastico!) and a butter croissant, but also a Brioche that’s filled with pastry crème and fresh blueberries. The organic bread, and in fact all the baked goods, are made using only local ingredients and the roomy interior invites you to hang your hat for awhile. Owner Linda Allen is a throughbred of the Island Foodie Tribe and her other venue, the Wesley Street Cafe’, was rated a top-five Vancouver Island restaurant by Vancouver Magazine.
A sip, a chomp and we’re off. On the second floor of the Painted Turtle there is a spacious communal kitchen that is clean and bright and inviting. There is a comfortable sitting room adjacent to the open walled kitchen that looks out over the boutique-laden Bastion Street from airy corner windows that span from wall to wall.
Carrie and Karen, our cooking “advisors,” are a.k.a. Local Food For Nanaimo and are the resident Local Food Champions and experts. After just a few minutes of talking with them, it seems there’s nothing they don’t know about the local food scene on the Island, in particular in Nanaimo.
Here are some of the facts they readily shared and more can be found on: http://localfoodfornanaimo.blogspot.com
- Nanaimo has 10% of the farmland within the Vancouver Island Health Authority
- The majority of Nanaimo cropland is for grains and 72% of that grain goes to livestock feed.
- The most commonly produced vegetables are sweet corn, pumpkins, broccoli, squash/zucchini, green beans and beets.
- Most commonly produced fruits are grapes, apples, raspberries and blueberries.
- In 2006 there were 41 hectares of fruit farms, 25 hectares of vegetable farms compared to 2,120 hectares of grain farms.
- More Info: http://www.nanaimofoodshare.ca
They boast a wealth of knowledge about local food in the region which is a little surprising given that both young women are trained Marine Biologists and have undertaken extensive research assignments at prestigious facilities such as Rutgers University in the U.S.
But food is their passion and it’s never more apparent as when Karen’s face lights up as she describes to you the last poultry swap she went to which takes place every 1st Sunday of the month. Carrie is just as quick to jump in and tell you about Seedy Sundays where 300-400 people show up to swap seeds and talk to seed experts.
They’ll tell you all this, mind you, as they teach you how to prepare fresh Gnocchi flavored with “Nesto,” the Island Pesto made from Stinging Nettles. Both women regale you with the fun they’ve had teaching kids this recipe, as the youngsters especially enjoy rolling out the dough and splaying the little nubs with a fork. It’s a disarmingly simple recipe and is mostly potatoes, flour and an egg.
Karen and her beau have recently taken to farm living so she’ll tell you all about the over-abundance of potatoes they planted – and are still harvesting – this year and how they’ve learned more than they need to know about “headlamp farming,” (note: headlamp farming refers to farmers who hold down full time jobs and work a farm as a hobby. Meaning, after “work,” you put in your hours in the field. There have been times, she says, when she’s looked up and realized it has gotten pitch dark out somehow….). The Gnocchi is delicious, the Nesto a mild and sweet flavor, the Qualicum cheese salad with tender baby kale greens a fresh delight. The Painted Turtle Kitchen and “Great Room,” a perfect place in which to enjoy it all.
Unbelievably, we still have room for a bit more. So, since we’re in Nanaimo, we head out in search of a Nanaimo Bar. This is a chocolatey, creamy, coconutty bar that you see at nearly every coffee shop in Canada. No one really knows its origins for certain, but everyone knows and has eaten at some point, a Nanaimo Bar. We don’t have to wander far before we find ourselves in what feels like a Vancouver hipster joint, with exposed brick walls and trendy, large pieces of art hanging on the wall. We are in the Modern Cafe’ in downtown Nanaimo. We glance through the menu at the bar noting that the place is packed for an early dinner seating. And then, we spot it, the perfect top-off to our perfect Comox Valley/ Local Food Nanaimo Day: the Nanaimo-tini. And right at that moment, that’s perfectly local enough for us!