Beaujolais and a change of pace!

Beaujolais

This past week my friends and I took and impromptu trip up to Beaujolais to visit Domaine Monternot and a change of pace for little bit. I really enjoy the Beaujolais because it seems to be filled with generations of winegrowers who all bring a stories to a tasting.

In my humble opinion, Beaujolais is the victim of itself. They created worldwide recognition with the Beaujolais Nouveau festival, but then never marketed what Beaujolais wines could be after the ‘nouveau’. Beaujolais wines- when they become an actual wine– are wonderful. Light and fresh, fruity with a certain acidity, and made like no other wine in France.

Tasting Domaine Monternot

Domaine Monternot is a place I have visited multiple times.  It was first introduced to me by the cheese man at the cheese shop I frequent.   The domaine itself is run by two twin brothers- one that specializes in the vineyard and the other in the cave.  As fourth generation winegrowers and winemakers, they have stories to tell- but what I appreciate most of all is that they look at each year as something completely different.  We were fortunate enough to get a look around the cave and how their wines are made.

The twins is great at explaining and answering questions.  We were at ease the entire time.  Plus, the wine is super!  They won the grand slam this year- all Gold Medals!  If you are in Beaujolais (and speak French) I recommend this Domaine!  Otherwise, give me a call!  I am happy to return!

Wine is one of those things that can be crazy confusing and super pretentious, but for me wine is something to share with good friends, old friends, and the making of new friends.  The community of wine is as much a part of things as the making of the wine.  Beaujolais is 45 minutes away from Lyon and a great place to go change your tête a little bit.  I needed it that day, and still do… but for now I will just keep drinking 😉

Until the next time… Cheers!

Wine and Cheese! Yes please!

Last night was the first wine tasting with From Vine to Wine and it was GREAT!  A wine and cheese private tasting event to introduce a new couple to Lyon.  Two white wines, two red wines and four different cheeses.  It really is a great way to spend an evening- and this group was fun, energetic, and curious.  Best kind of people for a tasting!  So what did we have?

To start us off….

Crottin de Chavignol

Wine:  Eric Louis Menetou Salon 2012 Sauvignon Blanc

Cheese: Crottin de Chavignol, goat cheese

Pairing:  We often think of goat cheese being paired with red wines, mainly pinot noir.  The Sancerre / Menetou Salon region, however is known for their goat cheese (or Chavignol) and white wine pairing.  Together, the creaminess and mild taste of the goat cheese with a vibrant Sauvignon seemed to smooth the palate.  Difficult to wrap white wine and cheese together, but overall expressive and light on the palate.

Next…

Comte FruiteWine: Domaine Monternot Beaujolais Blanc 2011 Chardonnay

Cheese: Comte Fruité, cow cheese

Pairing: This chardonnay comes from the Beaujolais region and has seen no oak :).  It is light, high acidity with green apple and stone fruit flavors.  The comte fruité is flavorful and bright for a cow cheese.  Together, the two complimented each other with the fruit notes.  Was not the favorite of the group, however.

Moving on…

Selles-sur-CherWine:  Domaine du Roncée Chinon 2010 Cabernet Franc

Cheese: Selles-sur-Cher, goat cheese

Pairing:  Cabernet Franc from Chinon is a fruity wine with structure and a backbone to it.  Usually served a little below room temperature to express more of the fruit notes.  The cheese comes from the Loire Valley region as well and is a creamy, mild goat cheese that lingers on the sides of your cheeks.  The two together are magic!  The fruit of the cabernet franc with the creaminess of the goat cheese blends very well on the palate.  Making this the winner of the evening!

Last, but not least…

Matilde and cheeseWine: Domaine la Visoniere Matilde 2007 Mourvedre

Cheese: St. Marcellin, cow cheese

Pairing:  Matilde is a wine that is tannic and dry on the palate.  A ‘big’ wine that needs to be opened an hour in advance to soften a bit.  St. Marcellin is a creamy cow cheese with lots of flavor.  It is the cheese of Lyon- and by that I mean a cheese you find on every menu at a restaurant.  Together the creaminess and flavor of the cheese help to calm the tannins and dryness of the wine.

The favorite of the night was, by far, the Chinon and Selles-sur-Cher pairing and with good reason.  It was delicious!  I’m thinking I need to make this a regular tastings.  I could eat cheese and drink wine everyday- it is part of the reason I came and stayed in France!  Yummy!

Sun is out… FINALLY!

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Finally sunshine has come to us here in Lyon!  Thank goodness too- people here were looking pretty pastey!  To celebrate… Strawberry Spinach Salad with a crisp Sancerre from Domaine Thomas Labaille- L’Authentique 2012!

Ingredients for the Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/2 pint fresh strawberries

1 cup olive oil

2 Tbs balsamic vinegar

1/4 tsp tarragon

1/4 tsp honey

salt and pepper

Blend it all together and adjust to your personal taste.  I personally add a little bit more tarragon, then spinach, red onion, and strawberries.  I add grilled chicken and candied pecans to the salad, but you can do it as you like!

For the wine- a crisp summer Sauvignon Blanc is amazing!  L’Authentique 2012 from Domaine Thomas Labaille (if you live in the states you might be able to find his wines).  Slightly closed nose, fresh on the palate.  Mild acidity that combined beautifully with the strawberry vinaigrette.

Et voila… I’m going outside to enjoy this sun!

Loire Valley Week continued…. Vouvray!

So here we go again… today’s destination Vouvray!

What do you know about Vouvray- not much?  GREAT!  That means I’ll sound super smart :).  Vouvray is an AOC found within the larger AOC Touraine of the Loire Valley.  Legally it is always made with 100% chenin blanc- but it can be anything from sparkling to dry, sweet to creamy, and everything in between.  Vouvray is located north of the Loire River where the climate temperatures shift between continental and maritime, giving the vines different growing seasons each year, and therefore creating radical characteristic changes in chenin blanc.  We have talked a little bit about chenin blanc in the region Anjou, however in Vouvray it is the soil changes from Anjou, the vines grow atop the riverside tuffeau. And of course when we talk about making chenin blanc we have to mention the residual sugar.

Residual Sugar, at a basic level, is the amount of sugar remaining after fermentation is completed.  It is something that can be determined at the time of harvest.  If the grapes are harvested with a high degree of sugar density they will most likely have a higher degree of residual sugar.  Sugar in the grapes is measured by the density of the grape juice using Baumé (french), Brix (american) or Oechsle (german) measurements.  Each measure is a bit different, ie. 1° Brix is roughly 1% alcohol, 12° Baumé produces roughly 12% alcohol, and in the german system you have to be quite the mathematician … and unfortunately I am not that.  Basically, we need to understand that the Baumé measurements are taken before harvest and can help determine when to harvest, what wine the producer will make, how much yeast at fermentation, and the list goes on… Lets move on also, before our heads start to hurt…

We went to Domaine Georges et Nicolas Brunet for our Vouvray tasting.  This dad and son combination is the eighth generation of winegrowers in Vouvray, making the whole range of chenin blanc.  We were lucky enough to meet up with Nicolas, the son, for our tasting and he showed us around the cave.  Domaine Georges et Nicolas Brunet is 14 hectares and everything on the vines is done manually by hand.  Fermentation is done with natural yeasts, there is no chapitalization (thank goodness), and no malolatic fermentation.  We care about the malolatic fermentation because often when we have wines with a high residual sugar the acidity can help balance the flavors.  You will see what I mean in a minute.

limestone with flint layer

This Domaine actually has their caves built into the sides of the hill under tuffeau (rock type found mainly in the Loire).  Here is a picture showing the limestone then a layer of flint- creating porous ground for the grapes to grow but also, the grapes have to work extremely hard to find nutrients at deeper levels through the flint layer.  When you touch the wall you can see how soft the limestone is and then how hard the flint layer it.  The flint layer was extremely small, only 2 maybe 3 inches thick, but extremely hard.  The other thing was seeing and touching the fossilized river bottom shells found in the vineyards.  It is always something I hear about, but my mind goes to pictures of dinosar fossils :), it is nice to put a picture to the name.

fossilfide shells

So, the wine…  We tasted in pairs- same wines, just with changing vintages. In general, Nicolas explained to us that it is the vines that dictate the wines produced that year, based in part by the Baumé measurements.  Meaning that he does not produce dry wines if the vines produce grapes for sweet wines and vise versa.  Again, Nicolas talked extremely fast and in French, so the tasting notes are not what they might have been, my apologies.

Domaine Brunet Sec Domaine Georges et Nicolas Brunet Vouvray 2008 Sec

Notes:  100% chenin blanc, 13,5% alcohol, 2 grams residual sugar, light gold/ yellow in glass, smells of fresh fruit, lightly creamy, light and refreshing on mouth, lingers.

 Domaine Georges et Nicolas Brunet Vouvray 2009 Sec

Notes: 100% chenin blanc, missed the alcohol percentage, 4 grams residual sugar, similar in color to 2008 with a similar nose, really changed on palate- higher acidity with more fruit, generally appreciated more than 2008.

Domaine Brunet Demi-SecDomaine Georges et Nicolas Brunet Vouvray 2007 Demi-Sec

Notes: 100% chenin blanc, 22 grams residual sugar, yellow, golden bright hues, super balanced on palate, green apple, fruit forward, fresh and crispy, long lasting.

Domaine Georges et Nicolas Brunet Vouvray 2005 Demi-Sec

Notes: 100% chenin blanc, 25 grams residual sugar, super (yes I use super a lot, it sounds the same in both languages) golden yellow, expressive nose, but nothing distinct, needs more time in bottle to be really great, high acidity.  Definitely a wine to wait another 10 years.

Domaine Brunet Moelleux

Domaine Georges et Nicolas Brunet Vouvray 2011 Moelleux

 Notes:  100% chenin blanc, 13% alcohol, 55 grams residual sugar, honey fruit, dried apricots, high acidity, little too much sweetness for my personal taste, high acidity makes me think it needs LOTS of time in the bottle to settle.

Domaine Georges et Nicolas Brunet Vouvray 2003 Moelleux

Notes: 100% chenin blanc, missed the alcohol percentage, 55 grams residual sugar (same as 2011), more typical of what my head thinks as moelleux, yet softer than the 2011, honey and beeswax on nose.

Et voila, Vouvray!  Next stop… Sancerre!