Something big…

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy having a blog.  I mean, when I think about it- who wants to read what I have to say?  Not to mention- how can I come back to blogging after Poitiers?  But at some point, something big was going to happen and I was going to have to get back in the game… but what would it be?

Chassagne-Montrachet

That’s right.  That is my wine being filtered using a tea kettle and coffee filter.  The story?  Gosh, I have no idea how it happened… but I will try anyway.

My husband and I are on a ski vacation in Montchavin Les Cloches- a little ski station in the French Alps.  Tonight we had an amazing raclette dinner paired with a Gruner Veltliner and this 2006 Chassagne-Montrachet.  For those of you who know me you know my love hate relation with Chardonnay… for those of you who don’t know me you should try to get to know me, I’m a pretty cool person.

Anyway, I have opened up a LOT of wine in my life- my mom would say WAY to much wine in my short life. BUT I HAVE NEVER EXPERIENCED THIS….

wine cork shreaded For starters- this is how the cork came out.  My husband pulled the larger part you see here, breaking it in two.  I then went in to recover the damage only to find the cork was LITERALLY in pieces.  Like it was completely dissolved or something.  Normally, when you split a cork you then have to push your cork screw in sideways and gently pull the rest out without having it fall into the wine.  As you can see here there was no way in hell I was going to get the cork out.  I tried and tired and tired.  The result….

cork through bottleCan you see the hole going THROUGH the cork?  It came out in such a weird way that I made a HOLE THROUGH THE CORK????  WHO DOES THAT?? Someone please explain to me how this happens?  I mean at this point I am a little out of options for getting this cork out and at the same time becoming widely fascinated with what is happening.  Now- remember I am in the mountains with very little resources… So what do you do next?  I mean now we HAVE to try this wine…

decanting fail

I managed to ‘decant’ the wine- slash pour the wine out through the hole in the cork.  However, since the cork was so destroyed we couldn’t even drink it without getting cork in our glass…

It was time to get creative.  It was time to let out the inner girl scout we all know and have nightmares from….  Fortunately for me, I married a very creative man.  Coffee filters.  Unfortunately for me, I married a man who wanted to pour the wine through the coffee machine.  Compromise.  Compromise in marriage is everything…

Enter the tea pot.  Now, I know what you are thinking… ‘Great idea, but you are going to kill the wine.’  This is the point where you have to get to know me because my response is always- “It’s just Chardonnay”.

filter sucess

Our 2006 Chassagne-Montrachet was nothing special to being with… It was a bottle we received from a large domaine in Bourgogne and decided to see how it would age.  Taste wise- just Chardonnay.  Oaky and butter forward with a crisp acidity to the back palate making it refreshing while still being heavy.  To be honest, opening it was more fun then drinking it…

And just like that… I’m back.

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And on the 8th Day…. God created Poitiers…

When living in France you quickly learn that the French are attached to their roots.  That where each of them was born is the BEST place in France, the MOST beautiful place, and sometimes you get the feeling that if God where to flood the world again there is no way in hell he would take their hometown.   Ironically it is rare to find these people still living in those towns… oh, the French…

This weekend I had the chance to visit one of those amazing, majestic, even God wishes he lived their towns…

Poitiers.

Never heard of it?  What?  Never heard of Poitiers?  Well, if you have never heard of it you are clearly not living life to its fullest potential.  Bah ha ha.  You’ve probably never heard of Poitiers because you have probably never met Nico, Simon, Thierry or Momo.  These are the boys within my circle of friends that think Poitiers is God’s gift to everyone.  Really, Poitiers is just another small town with a lot of history about people dying and then monuments constructed to mark their death.  Ironically, not a lot of monuments marking people who lived…

What is in Poitiers however, is Nico’s father’s wine cave.  And IT is a thing of beauty!  An entire basement dedicated to wine.  Oh, mon rêve!  I had the pleasure of participating in a wine tasting with Patrick (Nico’s dad) last year and was SO impressed by his nose and ability to pull out all types of aromas from the glass.  I found myself by the end wanting to verify everything I smelled with him!  It was really fun!

Anyway, this weekend Patrick generously opened up his wine cave and gave us a tasting tour… Now, I don’t know about Poitiers as a town, but Poitiers as Patrick’s wine cave… Majestic.

Here’s what we drank day one

Chateau Phelan Segur 1994Chateau Phélan Ségur 1994 Saint-Estèphe

Drank for the aperitif with charcuterie and smoked duck.

 Tasting Notes:   Unfortunately, this gem was a little past its time.  The color a brick ruby red.  The nose still very vibrant with hints of fresh red fruits and vanilla, a little bit of tobacco, but not as much as one would expect to find from a 1994.  The palate soft with little expression of Saint-Estèphe on the back of the throat.  Still pleasant and light of an aperitif, but definitely not the expression of what it was, or what it could have been.

Corton-Charlemagne 2009Domaine d’Ardhuy Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2009

Now, my love for Chardonnay is limited, I’m not gonna lie to you I would actually rather eat my foot.  BUT when given a Grand Cru Corton-Charlemagne for lunch, my love for Chardonnay increases 10-fold.

Tasting Notes:  This little gem was creamy and smooth, but not aggressive.  These days Chardonnay is being so over chapatilized that the grape is dying and creamy, buttery, sugar bombs are whats left. This was in NO WAY like that.  It was complex on the palate.  Round and finished for a long time.  Very agreeable for a non-Chardonnay drinker.  Now, if I could only get my husband to buy some…

Oh- and for lunch we had rabbit.. LIKE the ENTIRE rabbit.  I like to think that I do well with French food and their sometimes funny and stomach turning combinations… BUT, nothing prepared me for what part of the rabbit Nico’s mother liked best…. Corton-Charlemagne 2009 and Rabbit Head I did try it.  I had some of the poor guys cheek (delicious by the way), but oh man… that’s a rabbit head.

Moment to pause while you stare at the picture contemplating how someone would go about eating that… and right, we aren’t done yet…

Pommard Tete de CuveeJacques Girardin Pommard Tête de Cuvée 2008

The wine with cheese… the cheese was green.  Literally.  Green.

Tasting Notes:  Pommard and I have an amazing relationship.  I love it and it loves me.  Something about the velvet cherry of Pinot Noir with the strong tastes of goat cheese make for a harmony on the palate.  The nose slightly hidden, strawberries and cherries with a hint of herbs behind.  Smooth on the palate.  Coating the entire mouth in harmony while presenting with a complexity that begs for another glass.  In general, Pommard is a stronger Pinot that needs time in the bottle to settle and round out.  Only 6 years old, this wine is just going to become more and more developed.  Yummy!

That was just day one too… Sunday lunch to come… I can still taste some of these wines as I write this.

Putain, c’était bon.  Merci Poitiers.

Some success…

Last Wednesday I wrote a rather depressing post about not feeling so great about my success at the moment.  Well, I am happy to report that by Friday things had turned around a bit.  I had two tasting in one day and a handful of email requests!!!!!

I welcomed my first group to a bubbles tasting- three guys super interested in wine and more specifically the sparkling wines of the Rhone Alps region.

Champagne Glass Bubbles Flight – From Vine to Wine

We drank together a Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé Demi-Sec, a Crémant de Bourgogne Brut, and a Clairette de Die.  I was somewhat nervous at the beginning because Clairette de Die is not a part of my daily drinking spectrum.  But in the end it was the favorite in the group.  Surprising was how the sparkling wines changed with food.  The group had an overwhelming dislike for the  Crémant de Bourgogne Brut, but when we added cheese to it and retasted… wow.  It is so fun to watch how perceptions of wine and the taste of wine can change so drastically with food.

Later that evening I welcomed two more people to a What the French Tasting

Glasses with CheeseWhat the French? Tasting – From Vine to Wine

We went to Alsace and the Loire Valley for our whites and then to Bourgogne, Northern Rhone and Bordeaux for the red.  This tastings is always fun in terms of the broad spectrum of wines used, but to explain all the regions of France and how they operate… it is sometimes a daunting task and I can watch peoples brain turn to mush before my eyes.  I had a small amount of fear when I started talking to these two- hoping that their confusion would be settled in the end I served some larger tastes than maybe I normally would have- for educational reasons of course!  Good thing too, because at the end of two hours we had not only gone through the five regions and the french system, but we sent one of them home with a homework assignment and a blind tasting list.

I really love teaching people about French wines.  It gives me a natural high.  These two tastings were completely different- the people, the wine, the conversation.   Sometimes the people coming to taste with me are new to wine, or returning to wine.  Others are so passionate about wine even I get intimidated.  But that is the beauty of it.  Like the terroir changes the wine ever so slightly sometimes, the people and where they come from can also change the way the wine is perceived… sometimes it changes how even I perceive the wine.  An amazing way to end my rather down week.  I look forward to this week and where the wine will take me!

photo 2 photo 4 photo 5

Here is the new tasting room!  Just missing the maps, but I love it!

Sunday Dinner – Grenache Noir

Man what a day… I mean seriously, an entire day of sitting on the couch watching House of Cards.  If that doesn’t merit a good dinner and a beautiful bottle of wine than I don’t know what does ;).  Yes, thats right… ALL DAY, ALL DAY watching House of Cards.  Lyon has turned from cold to freezing… this California girl is FREEZING.  So we stayed indoors all day, caught up on our good American TV series, and then rewarded ourselves with a wonderful meal.  What was our wonderful meal… Sunday dinnerPorterhouse Steak with a smoked paprika mayonnaise accompanied by Domaine Ogier Côtes du Rhône Le Temps est Venu.  This wine is a base of grenache noir and syrah.  Let’s talk grenache noir a little bit…

Grenache Noir is a grape with a sugar content… HIGH sugar contact equals HIGH alcohol content.  Therefore it often ends up having high alcohol content and less fruit taste.  The winemaker has a difficult job of keeping the alcohol level down, while simultaneously converting all the sugar to alcohol.  Not easy.  Most often it is blended with other grapes of a lower sugar content and therefore a lower alcohol content.  When made as a single varietal, often times, because of the high sugar content it is a wine that works very well as a late harvest or sweet wine.

Le Temps est Venu is a bright fruit, strawberries and tart cherries with higher alcohol and mild tannins.  For me it is difficult to drink all by itself, but explodes with the right food.  For Sunday dinner, I choose to pair this wine with a very flavorful piece of steak as well as a mild fat sauce in the smoked paprika mayonnaise.  What I did, was cut a little bit the hot alcohol of the grenache noir and made it mild with the addition of the fat.  Together, they made for a wonderful winter dinner!!

French wine and food… a match made in heaven!

Often times the dinner I make is based SOLEY on the bottle of wine I want to drink… Last nights dinner was exactly that.  Here was the wine…Domaine Coste-CaumartinDomaine Coste-Caumartin 2009 Pommard 1er Cru Le Clos des Boucherottes

This is a wine that my husband and I bought about 2 years ago and you can see that since being in our cave, the ticket has started to mold off.  Fortunately, however, the wine had not spoiled at all!  It smelled like a barnyard in my glass- and I LOVE THAT (like really love that)!  The nose was dirty, dirty, dirty!  After about 5 minutes with my nose in dirt- I moved past that dirt- hints of violet, cherry, black cherry, even blueberry.  Again I have to mention my nose is being worked on.  Like everything else, if you don’t practice it fades.   My apologies- I’ll keep on practicing!  On palate it was round, light tannins, tickled my throat, but finished a little short :(.  Unfortunately… we drank it too soon.  It needed another year in the cellar before really being amazing.  But its okay- we have another bottle for next year.

So, what did we eat with it?  Well, I wanted something basic, easy to make, and wintery.  It is currently SNOWING in Lyon, so warm plates are a MUST these days.  I decided to go with my favorite food of the moment- butternut squash.  I know what you are thinking… NO!  not with a Pinot, but let me finish…Butternut Squash PastaButternut squash and sage pasta with grilled chicken.  Now, with the Pommard- you all are right… not the match made in heaven as I had expected, but there was a little something that made it quite interesting.  With the acidity level in the wine and the sage in the pasta the match was in competition, yet brought out the flavors of each.  I actually really enjoyed the pairing.  It was untraditional and you had to give it a sip or two to confirm it worked, but it worked!  I was very happy :).

Sometimes we focus to much on the HAVE TO and SHOULD DO and loose the ideas of just TRYING.  I live of life where I try and I fail, I get back up, I try again and succeed, then try something new.  IF you can’t branch out and try something new or risk something… You’re never really going to GAIN anything.  Am I right?

Also.. I bought a fish to keep me company during the day.  Meet Maximus.  He is named by my husband after the film Gladiator because he is a warrior and will fight for what he wants- and wins! Maximus Welcome to the family Maximus!

Edelzwicker in all her glory

Edelzwicker… ever heard of it?  No worries if you haven’t, its like the two buck chuck of Alsace- only given the grapes start at a better quality in the beginning it might be more like four buck chuck.  Tonight, however, I made sweet and sour chicken thighs to go with it… not exceptional, but a fun pairing.sweet and sour chicken with edelzwickerAnyway, Edelzwicker is not a very well know wine in anywhere but Alsace.  I found it when I was recently at the Salon des Vins des Independents.  Domaine Gerard Metz is always are first stop when we go to the salon.  He makes really bright vibrant wines that hold up to time and are really great expressions of the grapes.  Normally, I go specifically for the Pinot Gris, but this year it was a little too sweet for my taste- normally I drink it with a little bit spicy food or when I want a fresh wine with a heavy dish.  This year I took a bottle of the Edelzwicker instead of the Pinot Gris.

Truth be told- Edelzwicker is a blend of different grapes and really nothing to write a blog about.. ;).  In terms of AOC, it is a basic Appellation Alsace Controlée and can be a blend of any of the authorized grapes in Alsace.  In this case, it is 50% Sylvaner and 50% noble grapes, aka. Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Muscat.

Tasting Notes:  Simple wine, light fruit notes, lots of citrus- green apple and lime rind.  Nice and refreshing when served at the right temperature- too warm and it is very flat on the palate.  Short finish, not a thinking wine.  Just sipping.  With sweet and sour it was a nice refreshing touch- didn’t add and didn’t take anything away from the plate.Domaine Gerard MetzDinner tonight- Sweet and sour chicken thighs with  carrots, onion and garlic topped with cilantro.  So good! And pretty easy.  Generally, I rubbed the chicken thighs with paprika and cinnamon, pan fried 5 minutes (they were small thighs) and set to the side.  Added the carrots and onions to the chicken juice and sauteed about 5 minutes.  Added garlic to mix.  Re-introduced the chicken thighs, turned heat to medium-low, added 1/2 water, 1/4 lemon juice and 1/4 honey to mix and simmered till I was so hungry I had to eat it.  Topped it with cilantro and…Sweet and sour chicken thighsviola!

Dinner tonight took less than 30 minutes, was the first time I attempted this recipe AND  I didn’t get in a fight with my husband!!!  Woot woot!

Happy Thursday!

Community….

Where would we be without it and holy hell can it get annoying!

Tomorrow starts a wine tasting series with the French Wine Society– where I am currently studying for my French Wine Scholar- and I am looking at buying six bottles of wine to drink all alone.  Now, I LOVE the concept of doing a tasting through the Wine Society, but I am having this deep sadness due to the absence of a community.  Today I went to a tasting at Sofitel near Bellecour in Lyon and met an American girl working in the marketing department as well as getting her WSET training.  She and I talked for almost an hour about wine, French wine, American wine, all wines!  It was an hour that I loved because I was simply in community- sharing, exchanging, learning from each other.  I am sorta bummed to sit tomorrow behind my computer all alone for this tasting :(.  I hope tomorrow, being the first one, will be something of a surprise and hopefully create opportunities to come into community with fellow students.

Now, there is this concept of TOO much community, I mean too much of people’s opinions and statements.  I do not think wine should be shared with people in order to get them to understand what is good and bad.  Wine is an art.  And everchanging art at that!  It takes education and community to help people find their personal palates and preferences.  We don’t taste wines to say they are wrong or bad, we taste wines for the pleasure of it.  Equally today I was tasting with my friend’s father who had an amazing nose- I mean really spectacular!!  It was in that moment I wanted him to tell me everything and I mean everything he was smelling.  I wanted to attach words the way he did to the smells I was smelling.  He and I didn’t share the same palate or preference for wine, but could equally learn from each other.  He didn’t force his opinion on me or mine on him, we just shared.

I want, I hope to, build a community with From Vine to Wine… Talk about a dream come true!Burgundy Vines

Salon des Vins des Vignerons Indépendants

Whoever decided to put 550 wine producers in the same room and charge people very little to sip as often and as much as they want- deserves a MEDAL!!!

The Salon des Vine des Vignerons Indépendants comes to Lyon once and year – 4 days, 550 producers and thousands upon thousands of bottles of wine.  It’s like heaven to wine lovers everywhere, but still French.  My meaning being that 90% of the salon seemed to come from wine producers within the area – the other 10% coming from all over France.  Now, I have an issue with France not wanting to import any wine from around the globe, but you would think that at a wine exposition at the very least ALL of France would be equally represented… Again, I am not stupid so I understand that in Lyon people only drink what comes from Lyon, but I think it is a bummer.  There is SO much good wine, different wine, to at least taste.  When I go to these events I know there is no way I can make it through the entire salon – I can drink, don’t get me wrong, but 550 in 4 days.  No thanks.  I carefully mark my map with wine producers that interest me and the regions I don’t get to drink often enough.

Bordeaux.

Bordeaux, in my opinion, has the ultimate love – hate relationship with French people.  You have to be careful who you talk to about your love for Bordeaux.  They are know, outside of Bordeaux, for being more arrogant, more expensive and too much in terms of taste.  While, within Bordeaux they are super friendly towards others and really work to make a great wine.  It is this weird paradox to enter into.  Yesterday, I took my chances and braved going to Bordeaux.

Here’s what I drank…

Chateau les Tuileries Médoc – Sometimes Bordeaux is hard to drink because they have to be held for at least 5 years before drinking, so in a tasting of the ‘new’ vintage you really have to taste for potential.  This stand had verticals.  They were pouring 2009-2011 to give people an idea of how the wine improves and ages.  My preferred bottle was their 2010 Prestige des Tuileries.  A young wine with strong fruit forward notes and yet tickles the back of my throat.  The tannins were mild enough without being too aggressive.  It has aging potential, but easy drinking right now.

Château Cluzet and Château de Côme Saint – Estèphe – This little gem I wish I could buy cases of – Saint Estèphe is the northern most appellation on the left bank of the Gironde river.  Médoc technically is north of Saint Estèphe, but also everywhere on the left bank, so we will say that Saint Estèphe is the most north.  It is the masculine counterpart to the feminine Saint Julien, with Pauillac in the middle as the perfect balance of the two.  This stand was also giving verticals to show how their wines develop- two bottles from 2007 and then the new 2011 vintage.  The Château Clauzet 2010 had that masculine, round, tannic taste I love in a Saint Estèphe.  Makes you want steak right away.

Château la Fon du Berger Pauillac – So, this was kind of a bummer.  This producer did not have a lot of wine left – I think my friend had acutally bought most of it the day before!  So, we did not get to taste their whole range of wines, but it was okay… Once you put your nose into the first glass you were home in Pauillac.  I love Pauillac, it is probably my favorite region in France.  It is a great blend of tannins and fruit, oak and juice, terrior and grape.  It smells dirty and drinks smooth.

Château Mongravey Margaux – So much fun tasting at this stand. The people were friendly, lively and answered all my questions!!!  Even knew their producers in the states!  Anyway, my preferred wine was the Mongravey 2002.  We tasted it in comparison with the Mongravey 2011.  The 2011 for my palate was lacking that certain pazzaz that comes with Margaux, it was elegant and round, but missed the finish, missed the tickle at the back of my throat that makes me what to buy it and hold it for 10 years.  The 2002 was excellent however.  Round, spicey, light in tannins, with a structure that made my heart happy.  The finish was long and velvety- what I think a Margaux should be after 9 years.

Chateau Pontac-Lynch Margaux – Came upon this stand just after visiting Chateau Mongravey, honestly we went there to compare the two since they were the only stands representing Margaux.  Chateau Pontac-Lynch is a smaller family owned and operated winery that adds some Petit Verdot to their Margaux wines.  I am constantly amazed at how the terrior can change the wine so much.  The two where similar, yet completely different.  The Cru Bourgeois 2011 was young, but tickled my throat.  Man- a good throat tickle and I am a happy girl!  The soft tannins made this a drinkable bottle right now as well as giving it aging ability.

Now, these are all left bank wines, I know.  I do appreciate the right bank too, but can’t write anymore!  Haha.  Tomorrow maybe? or next month?  You never know with me!

A demain!

6 Days of Bliss- Day 5

Day 5 of bliss was dedicated to my husband and it comes in the form of raclette.
Raclette and Apremont
We choose not to do any hiking today because our feet needed the break- badly needed the break!  Instead we had a relaxing morning, reading, writing, and hanging out.  By the end of the afternoon, however, a storm had rolled in and the temperature dropped.  What else can you do, but have a traditional Savoyard mountain meal!

And the wine to accompany it also traditional Savoie wines…Chignin-BergeronApremont and Chignin-Bergeron.

Little bit of background on Savoie wines- in general they are meant to be drunk with big mountain meals.  Cheese, meat and potatoes.  In a  sense, they are never truly the best representations of themselves until you had the food.  They are not stand alone and are not drunk to be remembered.  With that said, we like to drink them with our raclette and other mountain meals.

Last night, we compared two different types of Savoie wines.  Apremont is made from 100% of the white varietal jacquère.  Jacquère makes up roughly half of all Savoie wines because it buds late in the season and therefore reduces its risk of spring frost.  As a varietal it is acidic with not a lot of depth- making it good for the fats in cheese.  Chignin-Bergeron is made from 100% roussanne- not like that found in the Cote du Rhone.  This one is acidic and floral, not a lot of sweet notes.  By far the more structured of the two wines.  It is the acidity levels with the food that really help everything come together.

However, by the end of the meal (and two bottles of wine) we were pretty done with Savoie and decided the night cap would be ‘Savoie piscine’ or ice in our wine.  Don’t judge.  It was bliss…

6 Days of Bliss- Day 4

Morzine ValleyToday’s bliss came in three different parts… Well, three parts in terms of wine and three parts in scenery.  We have come to Avoriaz, France to hike, break in our new hiking boots, and be together!  After three days, two hikes (one that was 3 hours longer than expected), and about 10 miles later… our feet are killing us!  Today’s hike= short, cheese in the middle, and flat.Day 4.2Thank goodness for the flat.  I mean really, thank goodness for the flat!  Part one of the scenery bliss= flatness.

After our little, flat hike with cheese was lunch.  Part one of wine bliss was lunch.  Saucisson canard, fresh Abondance cheese, the Chateauneuf-du-Pape that was left, and a fresh baguette.Day 4.4Saucisson, cheese, wine.  Really, need I say more?  The spice of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape and the fat of the saucisson canard and the abondance… all comes together.  Makes your feet stop hurting and your heart happy :).

After lunch, we took a small walk to digest and found this…Day 4.3Green.  Mountains.  Green.  Scenery bliss part two.

Part two of wine bliss- the celebration of From Vine to Wine!!!From Vine to Wine CelebrationAfter 2.5 months From Vine to Wine has officially being TAXED!  Yes, that sucks- but it does mean I am a REAL business!  Clients are low and taxes are high- I must be in France 🙂

Tasting notes:  Bubbles, holy snap, bubbles.  Cava Meritum Brut Nature Grand Reserva Freixenet 2007… bubbles, bubbles, bubbles.  On the nose it was soft with green apple and citrus, but on palate is was bubbles.  Really amazing.  It was like liquid pop rocks in my mouth!  Really the cava for a celebration!

So, what could possibly make this blissful day better?  How about a summer storm and bottle of Pauillac?Day 4.5The storm rolled in mid-afternoon and was an explosion of lightening and CrAzY thunder!  We sat on the terrace all night long watching the storm.  I don’t know about you all, but I LOVE summer storms!  Moreso, when I can sit on the terrace and enjoy it!  Part three of scenery bliss was this storm.

And what could be better (for me) than to share this moment with my wonderful husband and Pauillac, my second love.photoExcuse me for the photo quality.  The sunset after the storm was wonderful.

Tasting notes: Chateau la Fon du Berger Pauillac 2009 was Pauillac.  A mixture of fruit and oak with some gentle tannins to add structure.  It was simple, yet complex.  Big nose with butter, vanilla, and notes of strawberry while at the same time gentle on alcohol.  The palate was refined and finished long.  Perfect for those summer terrace nights of talking, people watching, and sunsets.  Wine bliss part three- Pauillac.

Bliss.