Domaine Le Pointu, AOC Châteauneuf du Pape

Chateauneuf-du-Pape blanc. Domaine le Pointu.

By Paige Donner

Châteauneuf du Pape Is White It’s like a natural reflex, certain wines, varietals, regions make us think automatically of a color of the wine. Red, White, Rosé. This is one of the most gratifying symptoms of entering more deeply into the world of wine, learning that, for example, a brilliant Châteauneuf du Pape comes in a white as well. We’ve recognized it before and we’ll say it again, good winemakers are always the first to say that wine starts in the vineyard, on the vines.  After seeing and participating in several harvests and talking to dozens of winemakers and vineyard hands, I couldn’t agree more…with the caveat that the methods differ greatly from vineyard to vineyard with some focusing on vineyard farming as opposed to vine husbanding.

Tending AOC Chateauneuf-du-Pape vines through the seasons.

Vine Husbanding

After a mere 5 years in the heart of Provence’s Châteauneuf du Pape AOC, Patrick Coste, with wife Karine, has proven just what can be accomplished with vineyards and a cellar when good strong methods of vine husbanding are carried through from the vineyard to the fermentation tanks to the barrels and, finally, to the bottles.

Domaine Le Pointu. Cotes Rhone.

It was only in 2004 that the first harvest of Domaine le Pointu went into their vats.  “Le Pointu is the name of one of our vineyard plots planted with white grapes; it is located on a hillside near the wood of Château Rayas,” explained Mssr. Coste, the younger. Patrick’s father, Maurice, is the former President of the Courthézon Cooperative Cellar. Courthézon is where the winery of the 27- hectare, 5 year old Domaine is located.  Six hectares of vineyards are in the Châteauneuf du Pape appellation, 11 in the Côtes du Rhône appellation and 10 in Vin de Pays.

Significant terroir. The rocks transmit the warmth from the sun to the vines at night. This creates a special ripening process for these AOC Chateauneuf du Pape grapes.

Le Pointu vines from that plateau butt up against the the renowned vines of Beaucastel, signaling the same terroir. Still, it does come down to technique. And there’s quite a difference between farming and harvesting and husbanding and tending.  The signature terroir of these vines are large rocks that transmit the heat from the sunshine they absorb in the warm Provenςal days to the vines at night, thus aiding in the slow maturation and warm ripening of the grapes. The French term for this terroir is galets roulés.

Karine and Patrick Coste. Domaine Le Pointu.

Land of The Rising Sun

Success has come quickly for the husband and wife team who named two of their best vintages so far after their first two sons, Clément and Mathieu.

With a combination of marketing and good, solid, French countryside people skills, Patrick was able, straight out of the gate, to get the attention of Japan’s President of the Association of International Sommeliers, Kazuyoshi Kogai at Japan’s Foodex Salon 2007. A contract with a leading Japanese cosmetics company has fallen into place since then which has Domaine Le Pointu supplying gift boxes of wines for the company during holidays.

On your next trip through Provence, be sure to stop at Domaine Le Pointu.

Domaine Le Pointu will also be the wine supplier for Paris-Dakar for this year’s races.  Good vineyard practices, solid people skills and knowing when and who, to ask for advice seems to be the Coste’s winning recipe here. The reputed Bordeaux wine consultant, Christian Prud’Homme, has been advising Patrick Coste on the vinification process, notably the barrels he uses at Le Pointu, which are all Bordeaux barrels.

And the wines themselves? Well, they’ve already earned the attention of Bettane & Desseauve, Robert Parker, Andréas Larsson and Jancis Robinson.  Personally I would recommend anything from their 2007 run, whether it’s their Côtes du Rhône  – especially Cuvée Le Vieux Chêne – or Châteauneuf du Pape, particularly Cuvée Clément and Mathieu, both made from vines 90-105 years old with a production of 10000 and 8000 bottles respectively. Each are Grenache noir and Cinsault noir made from different vintage years.

But the wine that got me excited was Domaine le Pointu’s Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée Spéciale Feuilles d’Or (label pictured above). It is made with organically cultivated grapes, indeed the Domaine will be certified organic in 2011, from 90-year-old vines. This wine is made from the famous terroir of galets roulés. White Châteauneuf du Pape wines represent only 4% of the total production of the appellation.  It has a delicate bouquet, floral with a touch of fruit, citrus. It makes a nice aperitif when young but you can keep it 2-5 years and pair it with herb-encrusted fish, veal and fresh cheeses.  Total of 2000  (two thousand) bottles.

Domaine Le Pointu, 255 Chemin de la Grande Allee, 84350 Courthezon, France.  www.domaine-le-pointu.com

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Saint-Chinian

St.-Chinian, AOC

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.

Saint-Chinian Roquebrun, Languedoc Roussillon, Sud de France

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.

La Grange Leon, Saint-Chinian, Rouge “l’Audacieux”

Voilá

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.

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Château Capion

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.

Château Capion

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.

Château Capion Vineyards overlooking Mt. Baudile.

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.

Château Capion Vineyards

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.

In the Gassac Valley where St. Aniane first planted vineyards, Sud de France.

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.”

Working in the cellar at Château Capion, Sud de France.

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 MagazineGuide 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.

16th c. Château Capion, Languedoc-Roussillon

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.”

Collection Cardinal

“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.

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Mas de Daumas Gassac

“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.

 

Daumas Gassac vineyards and aromatic Mediterranean garrigue, Aniane.

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.”

 

Mas de Daumas Gassac. Estate, Winery, Vineyards, Tasting Room.

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.

 

Daumas Gassac red, glacial soils. A terroir specific to the estate.

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.

 

Pere and Freres Guibert, Mas de Daumas Gassac.

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

 

A Guibert with his grapes.

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.

 

Winemaker Samuel Guibert, Mas de Daumas Gassac.

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.

 

Mas de Daumas Gassac barrel cellar. French oak used not to influence taste but to enhance age-ability.

The Cellar

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.

 

Fermentation cellar at Mas de Daumas Gassac. Was once an underground water tank.

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

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Terrasses du Larzac

by Paige Donner

Terrasses du Larzac

Terrasses du Larzac, Coteaux du Languedoc, AOC.

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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Seghesio Family Vineyards, Sonoma

Seghesio Family Vineyards, Sonoma County

Seghesio Family Vineyards, Sonoma

The Seghesio Story begins in 1886 when Edoardo Seghesio departed his family’s vineyards in Piedmonte, Italy for a new life in America. Like so many immigrants, he was drawn to Northern Sonoma County and the Italian Swiss Colony, to follow his passion for winemaking.

Because Zinfandel was the first vine that Edoardo planted, the Seghesios maintain their commitment to the varietal they are most known for. The Sonoma Zinfandel and the Cortina Zinfandel is full of complex, concentrated berries. From their Home Ranch and San Lorenzo vineyards, Seghesio also produces single-vineyard zinfandels. The Old Vines Zinfandel is made from the three single vineyard sites.  Seghesio also produces two Italian white varietals from their Keyhole Ranch estate in the Russian River Valley, an Arneis and a Pinot Grigio.

Angela Vasconi and Edoardo were married in 1893. In 1895, they purchased a modest home in northern Alexander Valley, less for the home than the surrounding 56 acres Edoardo recognized as ideal vineyard land. They planted the “Home Ranch” that year to what has become our family’s lifeline – Zinfandel.

Seghesio Zinfandel, Homegrown Californian

Edoardo remained at the Colony while building his own winery in the evenings after work. Upon its completion in 1902, the young couple began Seghesio Winery while raising their five children.

Seghesio produced jug wine before and after Prohibition, and produced wine for other wineries from World War II until 1983. They began producing wines under their own label, which ended up being mostly mediocre Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Then, in the early 1990s, the IRS knocked on their door and delivered a $4 million bill for back taxes, forcing the Seghesios to make some difficult decisions.

After a considerable amount of soul searching, the Seghesios realized they were building a brand that simply wasn’t sustainable. Pete Jr. reflected, “Ted and I were tired of making cheap wine. But, we had a tough time getting the older generation to believe in us. They produced jug wine their entire lives – it’s all they knew. Then one day Uncle Ed said, ‘We’re going to be the Jordan of Zinfandels,’ and I knew that he got it.

By 1993, the Seghesio brand had grown to 130,000 cases of not only the family’s zinfandel and Italian varietals, but also Chardonnay, Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc and both red and white table wine.  It was in that year that control of the winery shifted to the younger generation.  They turned their focus to the vineyards and eliminated all but the wines they grow reducing production to 30,000 cases.

Today, they are proud to passionately produce almost exclusively estate wines, some from those same vineyards Edoardo and Angela first planted in the late 1800s.

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2004 Château La Bienfaisance ‘Sanctus’ Saint-Emilion Grand Cru

Fellow Wine Spies know that the wines from Saint-Émilion Grand Cru have been treasured since the times that the Romans initially cultivated Bordeaux’s vineyards of the Rive Droite. -Local Food And Wine Continue reading

Argentina Trapiche Malbec – Goooaaallll!

Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard wines keep amazing palates. Two of the most prestigiousinternational wine magazines, Wine Spectator from the United States and The World of Fine Wine from the UK have recently published an article in which our successful Single Vineyard wines are quoted.

Wine Spectator titled the article: Daniel Pi builds a track Record. In the picture he appears next to James Molesworth, Senior Editor of the magazine and the responsible for tasting the wines from Argentina.

The prestigious wine critic made a vertical tasting of Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard and these were his scores:

Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard Viña Adolfo Ahumada 2007 I 91 points
Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard Viña Domingo F. Sarmiento 2007 I 92 points
Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard Viña Fausto Orellana de Escobar 2007 I 93 points
Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard Viña Cristina y Bibiana Coletto 2006 I 91points
Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard Viña Adriana Venturín 2006 I 92 points
Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard Viña Federico Villafañe 2006 I 91 points
Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard Viña Francisco Olivé 2005 I 91 points
Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard Viña Eleodoro Aciar 2005 I 91 points
Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard Viña Fausto Orellana 2005 I 92 points
Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard Viña Carlos Gei Berra 2004 I 90 points
Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard Viña Victorio Coletto 2004 I 90 points
Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard Viña Pedro González 2004 I 90 points
Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard Viña José Blanco 2003 I 90 points

On the other hand, three of the most prestigious wine critics from the UK and
collaborators for The World of Fine Wine* magazine: Tim Atkin MW, Gerard Basset and Anthony Rose, devoted a full article to Malbec from Argentina versus Malbec from Cahors.

They did a blind tasting of 40 Malbecs, 21 from Cahors and 9 from Argentina, among which our Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard 2007 Viña Domingo F. Sarmiento, Viña Fausto Orellana de Escobar and Viña Adolfo Ahumada were rated with excellent scores.

The journalists agreed that Malbec is capable to offer a greater range of styles in
Argentina than in Cahors, mainly because of the differences in latitude and altitude.

Following please find scores:
Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard 2007 Viña Sarmiento: 17.5
Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard 2007 Viña Orellana: 16.5
Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard 2007 Viña Ahumada: 15.5

*The World of Fine Wine is one of the most prestigious and professional wine magazines in the UK. Fine Wine uses a very professional punctuation system: blind and open tastings are at the center of the magazine. They use a distinctive and rigorous tasting protocol, which makes their tastings an impartial and invaluable guide to the world’s finest wines. 20-point scale, calibrated specifically for fine wine, strikes the best balance for our purpose.

*Local Food And Wine*

Pic Saint-Loup

Pic St. Loup in the northern part of Languedoc-Roussillon.

Pic Saint-Loup in Côteaux du Languedoc produces some of the finest wines in the Midi. As a sub-appellation of the Languedoc AOC, it is petitioning vigorously, and successfully, to become its own appellation. Many foresee that it soon will succeed in these efforts.

“The vignerons of the Pic Saint-Loup have been very smart to identify their appellation with the majestic mountain of Pic St. Loup,” comments a compatriot winemaker from the Murviel-les-Montpellier sub-appellation just to the south of Pic Saint-Loup.

The Coteaux du Languedoc appellation was replaced by the appellation Languedoc AOC in 2007, but the two names will run concurrently until 2012.

The majestic peak of the St. Loup mountain is a dominantly identifying landmark for this notable region in Sud de France and it conveys the inextricably linked mark of the terroir, that of its cooler elevated vineyards which are set apart from the lower, and hotter, Languedocien plains.

Pic St. Loup, left; Hortus Mountain, right.

The Pic Saint Loup and Hortus mountains are at the cross-roads of Legend and History. According to a children’s story, they were born from the blow of a club given by a giant who had flown into a terrible rage. Since then the mountain weeps from the Mascla spring. Pic Saint Loup also evokes the name of the sainted knight Loup who, in memory of his lady, became a hermit, singing his undying love from the top of this rocky peak…This is a land of vines and olive trees, crossed by shepherds and coal makers of every origin supplying the cities on the sea shore with wool and charcoal…

READ the complete Myth And Legend of Pic Saint Loup Wine Region on Domaine de l’Hortus

Garrigue of Languedoc

Thirty kilometers from the southern French coast, the climate is Mediterranean with the characteristic aromatic haut garrigue perfuming the terrain. The topography of the area, dominated by these two distinctive mountain peaks – Montagne de l’Hortus and Pic St. Loup itself – to the north and east means increased diurnal temperature variation which is an essential factor in the development of balanced acids and sugars in the wine grapes.

Pic Saint-Loup Sub-appellation, in Languedoc, Southern Coastal France

The Pic St. Loup is only red and roses. White varietals are grown in the appellation but are not bottled under the Pic Saint Loup AOC classification. Only reds are honored with that with the whites receiving a Coteaux du Languedoc, or the local Vin de Pays du Val de Montferrand also for the roses.

In fact they wineries have been quite strict in setting up their qualifications for the sub-appellation AOC:

The principal grapes must be Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah; a vintage must contain at least two and must comprise at least 90% of the blend. At least 20% of that must be Syrah, a vine that is not indigenous to the area, but was planted early last century, along with Mourvedre and Grenache, as cépages améliorateurs, during the re-planting of the country’s vines. Maximum yield is 45 hl/ha, minimum alcohol is 11.5% and the vines must be at least 5 years old. These conditions will only become steeper when the INAO accepts their petition for AOC classification. Other varieties in the blend can be Carignan and Cinsault which are allowed a maximum of 10%.

The mesoclimates of this limestone dominated terroir allow for the viticulturists to plant the heat-loving Mourvedre in the warmer, lower vineyards and use the higher vineyards to grow a more elegant style of Syrah, which responds well to the cool mountain nights.

Pic St. Loup Facts

  • Size: 13 villages north of Montpellier, stretching 25 km north–south and 10 km east–west
  • Area of production: 1500 hectares, with 800 ha planted to Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre
  • Producers: 3 caves co-op, 36 (and counting) individual producers

Clairette du Languedoc

Roman wine press, antiquity. Operational in 10 A.D. in Aspiran, Languedoc-Roussillon.

Many people know claret as a sweet white wine the English liked to drink back in the day. But this old-fashioned vine has the prestige of being the varietal found to have been cultivated on the oldest European vineyard discovered to this day.

That vineyard is in Aspiran, the Languedocian village in Sud de France. It once belonged to Quintus Iulius Primus who maintained the claret vineyards under cultivation as early as the year 10 A.D. when nearby Bezier was still a Roman outpost. The varietal is indigenous to this Languedocien region in the Herault.

Ancient claret vineyard of Quintus Iulius Primus of Aspiran, Languedoc from ca. 10 A.D., France.
Excavation of ancient claret vineyard from Roman times, ca. 10 A.D. in Aspiran, Languedoc region in the Herault, Southern France.

In 1948 Clairette du Languedoc was pronounced its own Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC), the first in the region.

Claret, both the dry white and sweeter varieties of the wine enjoyed popularity all throughout the Middle Ages. It is said that Rabelais and Oliviers de Serre both mentioned “Cleretz,” also called “Hypocras,” in their writings. At nearby Montpellier Rabelais lectured on the ancient physicians, Hippocrates and Galen. In 1532 he was a physician at Hôtel-Dieu, a general hospital in Lyons, the city that was France’s commercial and cultural center at the time. In the same year he published his famous comedy, Pantagruel, under the pen name Alcofribas Nasier – an anagram of Rabelais’s real name.

French Renaissance writer, Franciscan monk, humanist, and physician, whose comic novels Gargantua and Pantagruel are among the most hilarious classics of world literature, François Rabelais’ heroes are rude but funny giants traveling in a world full of greed, stupidity, violence, and grotesque jokes. The true target of his satire was the feudal and the ecclesiastical powers, and the world of the learned. Rabelais’ books were banned by the Catholic Church and later placed on The Index librorum prohibitorumon (the Index of Forbidden Books). … Read More Here

Hypocras and Cleretz were the ancient names for Claret.

During the Renaissance, in 1533, Francois The First drank claret wines in Beziers. It is said that when Moliere spent a winter in Beziers ca. 1654 he drank the famous Hypocras, “clairette moelleuse” of the age.

Claret vines like the hot, arid conditions and poor, dry soils of the Mediterranean. It tends towards high alcohol content and is often referred to as clarette blanche and blanquette. The wine was big business for the Hérault region all through the Middle Ages. After the French Revolution, claret began losing its market share in European trade. It wasn’t until 1900 when, due to phylloxera, claret vineyards fell into declining production.

Today, in addition to Aspiran, where Chateau Malautie‘ grows claret vineyards right next to the fields once maintained by Quintus Iulius Primus two thousand year ago, you can also find wineries producing claret in the villages of Adissan, Le Bosc, Cabrières, Ceyras, Fontès, Lieuran, Cabrières, Nizas, Paulhan, Péret, and St-André-de-Sangonis. There’s about 70 hectares in total under cultivation in this appellation.

In addition, claret makes (minor) appearances in blends including Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Tavel Rosé, Côtes-du-Rhône, Lirac and Blanquette de Limoux. Clairette du Languedoc production centers may also produce red or rosé Coteaux du Languedoc wines.

The archeological Museum, Musee‘ Archaologique Lattaria, in nearby Lattes, just wrapped up a half-year long series of conferences, “Wine, Nectar of The Gods, Muse of Men.”

*Local Food And Wine*