Loire Valley Week continued… Chinon

So, inevitably… Sunday’s post became Monday’s post, and Monday’s post became Tuesday’s post, then Tuesday’s post didn’t save and my computer crashed so… here we go… again! Let’s talk about Chinon.Chinon

Chinon is a small specific AOC of the larger AOC Touraine and even larger of the Loire Valley. In general, Chinon is not known world wide, but within France it is being recognized for producing different types of wine all from the single grape Cabernet Franc (we will talk about it in a minute). Chinon makes three broad types of Cabernet Franc- light and fruit forward, firm bodied, and fine. Each of these styles is a product of the terroir, more specifically the different soil types. Chinon is composed of sandy soil, clay and gravel soils, and limestone soil on the hillsides. It is really fun to taste all the different types of wines and the expressions of terroir- for a palate training searching for the intricate details came be overwhelming and I must admit I felt very out of practice, but still really enjoyed myself.. Chinon itself is between the Loire River and the Vienne River with a continental climate- meaning, at a very basic level, it has an extreme range in temperatures throughout the year.

Chinon vines

Now, there are other grape varietals allowed within Chinon, but for today I will be focusing on the Cabernet Franc and to be honest that is really the only grape of consequence. Cabernet Franc is most famous for being one of the five grapes of the Bordeaux region. I like to say it gives a backbone to the Bordeaux varietals- meaning structure and identity to the wines. It is like the grape varietal Mourvedre in the Southern Rhone. Anyway, it is a grape that prefers cooler climates because of early ripening and susceptibility to bad weather. It is also a varietal that can be served slightly chilled. Don’t be shocked if you order a bottle at a restaurant in the summer and it comes cold- its normal.

Chinon vines

So, that is a little bit of background on Chinon in general. Where we went to was the largest producer in Chinon- Domaine Baudry Dutour. This is actually two producers coming together create a large domaine. Christopher Baudry is a sixth generation winemaker in Chinon and Jean-Martin Dutour came to Chinon in 1993 passionate about wine. In 2003 the two came together to create Domaine Baudry Dutour; with four different parcels of vines they are the largest wine growing domaine in all of Chinon. The chateau itself is beautiful and there is a elephant hedge in the front…

Domaine Baudry Dutour

Anyway, here are my notes on the reds we tried…

Domaine de la Perriere 2011

Domaine de la Perriere 2011

Notes: 100% cabernet franc, 20 year old vines, sand and gravel soil on ancient river bottoms. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. Not big on the nose, bright red fruit on the front of the palate, long finish.

Domaine de la Perriere Vielles Vignes 2011

Domaine de la Perriere Vielle Vignes 2011

Notes: 100% cabernet franc, 45 year old vines, on sand and gravel valley with clay and limestone slopes. Nose of cassis, spices, wax and what I can only describe as varnish (sorry not a great reference, but it works). Unfortunately, the finish was not very long lasting. Thinking another three years.

Domaine du Roncee 2010

Domaine du Roncée 2010

Notes: 100% cabernet franc, sand soil with a little clay, herbal on nose, slightly musty, darker in color… with the nose and palate corresponding.

 

Domaine du Roncee Clos des Marronniers 2010

Domaine du Roncée Clos des Marronniers 2011

Notes: 100% cabernet franc, a specific parcel of 7 hectares, slight nose of dark, black fruit, dry on mouth with smokey notes.

 

That was the first round of tastings… Sorry for the ‘not as well rounded as I would like them to be’ tastings notes. The tastings are all in French and my notes are then a combination of French and English blurbs. A little frustrating and not the most effective, but I’m working on it. Anyway, next we moved on to a vertical tasting. Vertical tastings mean the same wine just different years. In this specific case, this is the wine Domaine Baudry Dutour bought from the previous owner/winemaker of Chateau de la Grille and now sell at their chateau.

Tasting Notes

Just like we talked about earlier in Anjou, the vintage years are important to take into consideration because they give us information about how the vines were at the time of harvest, therefore how the fermentation process might go, and ultimately the wine itself. In comparison with the Anjou wines however, these vines come from clay and limestone soils verses the schist of Anjou. Basically meaning that the vines do not have to work as hard in a bad year to find nutrients. So, let’s take a look at the vertical…

Chateau de la Grille 2005 – 100% cabernet franc, deep deep plum color, fresh blackberry, spicy on front of the palate (holy snap), needs cheese!

Chateau de la Grille

Chateau de la Grille 2007– 100% cabernet franc, cinnamon orange, christmas on the nose, light with tannins, 16 months on the barrel. Note: In the Anjou La Musee 2007 there were also hints of herbal notes, but the tannins and the acidity similar to Chinon, in general a lighter wine.

Chateau de la Grille 2009– 100% cabernet franc, barnyard nose, first harvest done by Domaine Baudry Dutour. Aged in one third stainless steel and two thirds neutral oak barrels, then left to rest in the bottle for two years before being sold.

Et viola… there you have a taste of Chinon. Next stop, Vouvray!

Loire Valley Week continued… Anjou

First stop was to the small area of Anjou-Samur.  Not known for its world wide exportation, this charming area in France makes everything for sweet wines, to bubbles, to dry whites, to fruity reds, and even robust full bodied reds.  It really covers a whole range of wine making styles and each winemaker comes with his or her own story.

Our first stop was at Domaine des Chesnaies.  I decided this domaine because I had used their wine before in a tasting, really enjoyed it, and I knew that the price/quality ratio was what I was looking for.  So, we made an appointment and thank goodness we did!  We had a great time tasting with Catherine.  She was incredibly knowledgable and answered my array of questions- and there were many.  We tasted 6 wines from their domaine and here is what we found….

Domaine des Chesnaies Petites BullesThe first was their Petites Bulles– or Crémant de Loire.  It stays 24-30 months on racks to create smaller, less aggressive bubbles.

Notes:  100% chardonnay, slightly acidic on first taste, but not too aggressive.  Smaller bubbles made for a more enjoyable drink.  Very elegant.

Fun Fact:  In the Loire valley you have to register your wine as crémant before July 1 in order to have the right to say ‘Crémant de Loire’… if you don’t turn in paperwork on that day (as a lot of people might forget to do) you do not have the right to use ‘Crémant de Loire’.  Therefore at Domaine des Chesnaies, when they forget to send the paper the wine that year is just ‘Petites Bulles’.

Next we tried 3 of their WHITE wines.  All coming for the grape Chenin Blanc.  The grape itself is most widely planted in South Africa and is one of the more versatile grapes.  It is a highly acidic grape that buds early and ripens late.  In the case of Domaine des Chesnaies- harvest often does not start till mid-October.

Domaine des Chesnaies Chenin BlancChenin Blanc 2012 was the first white we tried and as Catherine described it- it was an ‘easy drinking summer white’.

Notes:  100% chenin blanc, basic representation of the grape, slightly citrus and creamy, malolactic fermentation present, simple, easy to drink without complexities.  Refreshing.

Domaine des Chesnaies La Potardiere 2008Anjou La Potardière 2008 This particular parcel of land is sand, gravel and schist making the earth hyper porous for the vines.  It is fermented with natural yeasts and is aged on its lies in 600L neutral oak barrels.

Notes:  100% chenin blanc, green apple, floral nose, a little bit too aggressive on palate all alone- would like to try with a cream based sauce of some kind.

Domaine des Chesnaies Bonnes Blanches 2010Moving to the last white wine we tried- Anjou Bonnes Blanches 2010.  This had more of the conventional chenin blanc taste to me.  It comes form a parcel of schist that is ‘tres gras’ or super fatty.  It is also fermented with natural yeasts and is aged on its lies in 600L neutral oak barrels.

Notes: 100% chenin blanc, honey melon on the nose, round and creamy on the palate, little bit of a buttery taste.

Now the RED wines.  Here we tried only two.  Their Anjou La Musse 2007 and 2009.  This was really a cool thing to do, because in the Loire Valley the weather can be, more often than not, unpredictable.  Therefore the vintage years are really important to take note of.  If there is not enough rain one year the vines will actually stop producing- they are too lazy to work hard enough to find nutrients so they just stop.  In overly wet years the grapes will be engorged with water and have an uneven acid leave and little sugars.  It is important, as in all regions, to make note of the vintages.

Domaine des Chesnaies La Musse 2007Anjou La Musse 2007 is a specific parcel of land on schist.  In comparison this was the more balanced of the two years- and the wine certainly expresses it.

Notes: 100% cabernet franc, super green, asparagus (according to my husband), light and simple in structure, but round enough on palate.  Needs a good piece of meat to open it up, or even fish would be good.

Domaine des Chesnaies La Musse 2009

Anjou La Musse 2009 is from the exact same parcel of land on schist- the only difference being that 2009 was a warmer year.

Notes: 100% cabernet franc, deeper purple, cassis and hints of licorice, fruit forward explosion but then dries out the mouth all over.  Definitely a food wine!

Et voila… That was our first little tour in Anjour-Samur.  If you ever get the chance to go to the region, Domaine des Chesnaies is located in the small town of Denée and Catherine speaks very good english!  Tomorrow (maybe Monday) we will explore Chinon!

It’s the little things….

So, as most of you have read in my post Celebration I have been in the process of opening my own wine tasting business.  It is called From Vine To Wine and is focused on explaining French wines in english to tourists and people living in Lyon.  Anyway… the French administration system is not always the easiest to work with- more often then not they can be quite a downer to work with, in fact.  But, there are some things that make me happy, you know it really is all about the little things…

Todays little thing…

from vine to wine flyersWoot woot!!  1000 flyers printed and ready to be passed out!

Loire Valley Week

So, it’s been a while, but with great reason… I just took a week touring through the Loire Valley!  It was amazing!  I have to tell you- if you ever want to take a relaxing vacation in wine country the Loire Valley is the perfect place! The people are friendly and welcoming and the river is beautiful.  Seriously, if you have a week I highly recommend it!

Loire Valley

Anyway, we went to SIX different vineyards, THREE Loire Valley castles, and ate ‘n’importe quoi’ during a week.  Therefore, I have the world’s longest blog to write… and since I am not a novelist I am going to break things up.

Chinon Vines

So, let’s start with the Loire Valley in general… The Loire Valley River is one of France’s longest rivers and home to the most spectacular castles.  Before Versailles was built, the kings of France would build huge castles in the Loire Valley.  We decided to visit three (at some point they start to blend)…

Chambord, Chenonceau, and Cheverny.

In terms of a wine region, the Loire Valley follows the Loire River- one of the longest rivers running through France, therefore giving the widest variety of wines in all of France.  The grape varieties also range, but the big varietals to note are the Melon de Bourgogne, Chenin Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc in white and Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir in red.  However, with every twist of the river the expression of the wine changes.  Throughout this week we will look at the major regions and the different expressions of their wines.

For now, let’s look at the castles…

Chambord is the largest chateau in the Loire Valley.  Building started in 1519 by King Francis I when he was 25 years old.  The chateau itself was never finished by him and passed through the hands of many different kings, king’s brothers, and exiled kings.  There are 77 staircases, 426 rooms, and 282 fireplaces!

Chateau Chambord

Fun fact: King Francis I only stayed 72 days in the castle…

Chenonceau was a chateau built in 1547 from an already exsisting fortified castle and mill.  The chateau was donated to the kings ‘friend’ Diane de Poitiers- as I like to call her- in general it was a castle for ladies.  The castle has a HUGE gallery hall of sorts used mainly for parties and surrounded by gardens and a maze!

Chateau Chenonceau

Fun fact: During the war the castles was half in the occupied zone and half in the neutral zone… Therefore people would sneak through it to safety.

Cheverny was our third chateau.  This beautiful chateau became part of the state in 1922.  It is known for the hunting hounds that reside on the grounds- seriously like 100 dogs just barking away ALL DAY long.  Can you imagine?  Apparently the dogs are still used for hunting trips every so often.

Chateau Cheverny

Fun fact:  People still live in the left and right wings of the castle… Can you imagine calling that place HOME?!?

And this was just the first days… next we get into the wine.  SIX different wineries and over 40 different wines… Get excited… because here we go!

Happy Birthday to Me!!!

So, it was my birthday last month and I decided, well more stumbled, upon my birthday present while in Siegnosse last week….

Happy Birthday to ME!!

Alter Ego

Alter Ego 2007

I have been looking for this wine for a LONG time now… I have been talking to my husband about it for over a year now, so when I found it I naturally SNAPPED it up!  Alter Ego comes from the same house as Chateau Palmer in Margaux, a small appellation on the left bank of the Bordeaux Region.  Chateau Palmer is a top wine house in the Margaux appellation (if not the best).  It makes exquisite wines at high prices that are best drunk 20 years after being bottled.

When I started working in the wine industry and really started to study wine, I worked with someone who had an enormous wine cave filled with old wine.  I mean top of the line bottles.  And I was blessed enough to share some of those bottles.  I can’t remember everything I drank, but certain bottles will always stand out in my mind.  Alter Ego was one of them.  Really, I woke up the next morning with the finish still on my palate.  I think it was at that point I really fell in love with wine and my palate fell in love with the finish.  Since then I have yet to taste a wine with as much finish… but I keep trying!

Alter Ego is a wine made by Chateau Palmer to be consumed quicker than Chateau Palmer itself- still 5-10 years, but that’s faster than Chateau Palmer.  The winery has only been bottling Alter Ego for about 15 years, in my opinion (although, I do not know for sure) this is their bottle to get people interested in their wines.  It is a great ‘middle ground’ wine between the robustness of French terroir and the fruit-forward bombs of California.  Alter Ego is a refined balance between the two.

Not to mention… it’s BOMB!  I am one happy girl (who has to wait another 5 years before drinking her present), but happy all the same!

🙂 🙂 🙂

Sometimes the who is more important than the what…

We have all tried really great wine and sometimes really bad wine and sometimes we don’t care about the wine because the company is so great.  So- can a bad or mediocre wine change with the company?  This past week a friend and I went on a relaxing vacation to Seignosse, France.  A small town right on the Atlantic coastline mainly for tourists and summer vacationers, we went for a week of relaxation and just resting on the beach.  Unfortunately, it was maybe the worst week weather wise to vacation at the beach!  But we made the best of the 5 hours of sun we had all week!

Seignosse Sunny

So, back to my question… can the company change the wine?  After this week I think there might be something to this thought.  I went with a friend who is a sweet wine fan and maybe not as enthusiastic as me ;), we made our wine selections from the grocery store in the area- not top quality, but we weren’t there for a wine week, and we chilled.

So here are the 4 bottles we consumed and some thoughts on each…

First wine

Chateau La Croix de Berny, Puisseguin-Saint-Emilion 2011

Puisseguin Saint Emilion

Yes, 2011, but like I said it was just the grocery store and limited options.  I actually chose it because I had just tried a Lussac-Saint-Emilion and thought why not continue with that theme… The big difference between the two was that in this particular bottle I think they forgot to add the alcohol.  It was super light and grapey, juice.  In general, it is one of the smaller villages just north of the great Saint-Emilion and creates similar blends, but at a lesser quality and price (however, there are always exceptions).  Anyway, this was a basic blend at the very best.  Not so impressed.  Even with my friend, we decided this was not the best way to start the week…

Wine one- MF. Massive fail.

Second wine

Chateau de Respide, Graves 2009

Now, just a heads up- when ordering wine at a restaurant to share with someone, make sure beforehand that the other person will actually drink!  My friend has a one to two glass limit… meaning I had to have a five to six glass limit (let’s be honest, no problem, but still).

Anyway, Chateau de Respide makes standard bottles of wine.  What I mean by that, is they make a good and correct quality to price ration with good representation of the terroir, maybe a little on the fruit side, but still correct. I was looking for a basic Bordeaux red and this bottle was fruit forward, finished well, and balanced.  Went extremely well with my magret du canard!  We really enjoyed it!

Wine two- MS. Massive success.

Magret du Canard

Third wine

Tariquet, Les Premières Grives, Côtes de Gascogne, 2012

Tariquet

So, Tariquet is a bit of a ‘crack’ wine in France.  Along the same lines as we say about Rombauer, Frank Family, Wente Riva Ranch, and the list goes on.  For French woman their ‘crack’ of choice is Tariquet. This is definitely not my first or last experience with this wine, and each time I am not a fan.

Translated this bottle is called ‘the first frost’ making it between a late harvest and sweet wine.  Not my favorite, but I enjoyed it this time!  The company I shared the bottle with, changed my prejudices toward this wine.  We drank it colder than normal, slightly on purpose to cut a bit of the sweetness, and ate it with spicy sausage and veggies.  Have I mentioned we only had a very small BBQ for cooking and since it was raining like crazy we had to BBQ inside??  Anyway, with the company and the conversation- the wine was pleasant, dare I say, but I enjoyed it.  Super weird… but then it got weirder…

Third wine- MS. Massive success.

BBQ Seignosse

Fourth wine

Tariquet, Rosé de Pressée, Côtes de Gascogne, 2012

Tariquet Rose

Now, this is where is got interesting… Rosés and France.  We will have to take this into a deeper conversation a little later…

This was by far the best night with my friend.  We laughed, cooked a great meal, talked, and drank rosé.  I mean rosé is rosé, but this was great!  Critically- no, it was not the top ranking rosé I have had, but there is something about critiquing all the time that is tiring.  So, I gave up and just enjoyed my surroundings and really, the company changed my opinion of this wine and I really enjoyed sharing it with my friend. We again tried to barbecue, this time couscous with grilled veggies and grilled chicken.  The rosé and bbq is something I think might become a friend of mine (more to come…), in this case the smokey of the bbq and the light fruity of the rosé was nice and refreshing.

Fourth wine- MS. Massive success.

Chicken and Couscous

So… what do you think?

Am I completely full of it, or do you think the wine, when shared with specific company, can change?  I feel like there are many ways to drink wine… drinking to critique and judge, drinking to discover, drinking to forget (not recommended.), and drinking with company are among some of them.  My week in Seignosse was the latter, drinking with company.  The wine was not the focus- it was the company and conversation.

For myself, the critique of wine will always be there and I could always just focus on that aspect, but it is the overall experience that sometimes (and should) trumps the critique- did I drink the best wines, no, did I drink with great company, yes, therefore I drank great!

Overall week in Seignosse- MMS!  Massive massive success!

Seignosse

Wine for Thought…

So, as many of you have come to learn about me- I am really taking interest in this new idea of breaking down food and wine pairing stereotypes.  Most of this is based on a seminar I heard and book I am reading by Tim Hanni called Why We Like the Wines We Do.   What I have been more interested in, however, is how this new trend will affect he French.  Since I live here and, more importantly, drink here.  This morning I was having my coffee and something came to me…

In France, when you go to a dinner party you normally bring a bottle of wine, a simple thank you gift to the host for having you over.  In the states, the host then opens that wine and it is shared with the party guests.  The guest brings a bottle to be polite and the host opens the bottle to be polite.

Easy peasey.

In France however, the bottle of wine brought by the guest is usually not opened.  Most Americans I have talked to and who are living in France are flustered by this, they feel a bit of an injustice was done… not to mention if it was a nice bottle, they are a bit bummed they didn’t get to drink it.  The kicker is… it is not an injustice for the French.  When French people cook a meal and invite people over to their home, everything is already thought out- wine included.

So, how then are we suppose to separate food and wine?  In France, the one is so essential to the other…

vine guyot

A little bit of France, a little bit of Italy

I really am fascinated by this new desire to eat and drink with no concept of pairing- to take down the food and wine pairing concept. So- I have tried it again… and again it was not kind to me…

20130504-175232.jpg

A small pasta dish that I love with a wine that I also enjoy (tried this particular one for the first time and can’t really use the word ‘love’ to describe it). The pasta is super simple: tagliatelle with broccoli, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls. Basically, I cook the pasta, season it with some olive oil and sea salt, dump it on top of the mozzarella balls so they fondue a little and add the tomatoes and broccoli. It’s awesome, easy and fresh for a summer day.

The wine was something I bought at the store for a tasting I’m doing later this month. A Lussac-Saint-Emilion 2011- not something that I would stock up on but at 6€ the bottle it was not bad. Light and fruity with a mild finish at first, then as it opened, more robust flavors came out and the merlot began to express itself. For those of you you don’t know the area… Lussac-Saint-Emilion is one of 3 smaller villages behind Saint-Emilion that produce roughly the same type of wines as Saint-Emilion minus the robustness and price tag (and yes, I just created the word robustness). If you haven’t tried them I would suggest you explore the region!

Saint Emilion Map

As for the pairing… First of all, if you ever want to get a wine and food pairing correct, never put fresh tomatoes. They are a palate killer and will deaden anything you try to drink. However, if you ever know you are serving a bad wine- bring on the tomatoes! Now, with that said, my pasta had fresh tomatoes, but I did my basic tasting before eating the tomatoes, so it makes everything alright ;). But the freshness of the pasta, with the robustness of the merlot… not a winner. I would have preferred a white wine, something light and fresh to go with the pasta… let’s be honest. I would have preferred Eric Louis Menetou-Salon. Would have been great. And for the Lussac-Saint-Emilion, I would have preferred something in the meat category, maybe not a full steak, but pork with a nice flavorful sauce. Oh well, I will just have to do it again!

What a painful life I lead… haha.

Celebration

I love the sound of champagne as it pops! I mean what more do you need to say there is a celebration other than the popping of champagne bottles?

Today was a good day for me. I have officially registered From Vine to Wine as a business in France. After 4 years of living here, learning the language, and drinking any and everything- I am a small business owner. I have opened up a tasting room.

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To celebrate my husband and I went to a little cocktail bar and ordered a coupe of champagne- Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve. Now, having just read another blog post about the top 5 American sparkling wines under $20 from the drunken cyclist, this champagne is by far the most expensive I have had compared for the quality. Wow. But it’s a celebration. It’s a nice crisp champagne, but not something I would ever pay this much for again.

But what would a celebration be without champagne? So cheers!

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Challenge Part 2- Gewurztraminer and Mexican

Grocery Store vs. Small Producers

 gewurztraminer and tacos

Challenge Part 2- Gewurztraminer and Mexican

Oh man.  On a list of bad ideas in life this off beat pairing is by far the worst!  I decided to use the same wines from Monday night, but this time I paired them with tacos.  Man, that was stupid.

I started by again blind tasting these two wines.  Again missed which was which, and with people in front of me this time it was a lot more embarrassing.  Trying to give myself some grace… but ouch that hurt.

Anyway, I am sure most of you have tried wines and thought in your head immediately what you would like to drink with them… then other times tried a wine and thought to yourself that you need to remember the name of that wine so you never drink it again!  Today I would like to advice / warn you all NEVER try gewürztraminer and tacos…  It is a combination that will make your stomach churn.

So, now I have finished these two bottles… on to the next challenge?  Any suggestions? Criteria: 1) store wine vs. small producers, 2) French wines, and 3) within a newlywed, unemployed, opening her own business budget 🙂  What do you think? Go…