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.

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!

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.

6 Days of Bliss- Day 3

SuisseOh, and what a blissful day it was! Waking up early after my codeine induced sleep, we got the morning started with a hike over to the Swiss / France border. My husband likes to laugh at me because while I have gone to Swiss many a time, it is never more than 5km inside. Today’s hike took us to a waterfall, two different lakes, up a chairlift, down to a valley floor, then a thunderstorm caused us to have to walk up from the valley floor (we were hoping to chairlift back up, especially after taking a beer to wait out the storm… raté there)!Lac VertBut still incredibly beautiful views the entire hike. We were laughing because the clouds were ominous and looming, but we tried to walk a little in the sunlight. We even stopped to have lunch by Lac Vert- the other side of this lake is a deep valley and gorgeous! We have hiked in the Alpes many times, but this Swiss / French Alpes hike took my breath away. Unfortunately, by the time we finished eating the clouds had caught up with us.G, me, and a waterfallOur hike ended up lasting us a little longer than expected due to the storm that rolled in towards the end. It was cool to be able to take the chairlift to different parts of the mountain for hiking, but with thunder and lighting the chairlifts stop- that means a LONG walk home…

We decided on the walk back up from the valley floor that we had earned a good dinner and some good wine to go with it. So we set out to find everything and create our most wonderful meal! My husband had brought with him our friends homemade foie gras, so we had toasted(ish- all we had was a microwave) foie gras with a Vouvray 2003 Moelleux or sweet wine. I have talked about this wine before from our trip to the Loire Valley, but it was in a tasting. Here we paired it with the toasted foie gras… Vouvray Moelleux 2003Tasting notes: In general, I am not a fan of sweet wine. The residual sugar that is left on my palate just doesn’t seem to be my thing. But, when you take the saltiness and the fat of the foie gras in conjunction with the sweetness, the sugar is cut through and creates a refreshing blend. The Vouvray showed notes of honeysuckle, elderflower and mild citrus with a long finish and harmony with the foie gras. Excellent!

Next came the duck! A little background: I have had the great pleasure of finding a mentor in France who has opened a cooking kitchen in Lyon called PLUM Lyon and is constantly helping me as I get From Vine to Wine up and running. She has been amazing and is where I was introduced this amazing duck recipe (she has a TON on her blog if you need some good French recipes). Anyway, this recipe came from a class I attended at Plum and thought my husband would adore- and oh, how I was right!

So, here is the making process. Step one- de-quill the skin of the duck, cut into the fat in a checkerboard manner, then rub it with a salt, paprika, and herb rub. Step two- slowly render the fat out, leaving the duck to cook slowly fat side down for a good 20-30mins. Step three- while the duck is cooking take some of the fat that has been rendered to cook your potatoes (yes, sooo healthy) and I even added some of the salt rub that was left over to the potatoes making them nice and crispy. Step four- when the duck is finished rendering, broil it for 3-5 minutes while simultaneously making the sauce (pic 3). The sauce is a sweet sauce made with white wine, maple syrup and that all important butter! Yes, this is not, I repeat not a healthy, diet friendly meal. This is home cooking, we deserved it after our LONG day of hiking, meal! Step five- cut the duck up, serve, and enjoy!

So what wine to go with it? Hmm… duck that is tender and slow cooked, with a spicy rub, yet a sweeter sauce and potatoes cooked in duck fat (ps. every time I say that, the fat girl inside me starts drooling). Hmm… we went with an older wine, not yet completely aged, but a nice balance of fruit and spice with a finish that would hold up to the sweet sauce. What do you think of our choice….Guigal Chateauneuf-de-Pape 2005Guigal Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2005

Tasting notes: It was a contrasting bottle of wine and I thought at a basic level the two were so good alone, nothing could go wrong. And while that was true- there was also an aspect of competition in the pairing. The Chateauneuf-du-Pape was complex, fruit forward and spicy on the finish, lingering on my tongue, but never really blending with the duck. Ironically, amazing with the potatoes! So, a little disappointing, but at the same time the two were SO good alone it was okay. We even took the bottle outside after the meal to digest a little and watch the sun go down…Day 3.12Bliss. Simply bliss.

6 Days of Bliss…

BLISS= 6 days, 8 bottles of wine and just my husband and I.  Bliss.  Simply BLISS!

My husband and I are in Morzine, more specifically Avoriaz in the Alpes.  We are spending a week vacation hiking, hanging out, cooking and drinking :).  Best kind of vacation in my humble opinion. We arrived today and for the next 6 days we will be cooking and pairing and hopefully blogging.  But before we get into that… here is the view from where we will be drinking all week- our balcony.  Thats right, morning coffee and evening aperitif… man, life is hard. MorzineSo, we have an array of wines- California, Spanish, French, Sparkling, and Sweet wines.  Tonight’s dinner was a bit of a pate and charcuterie for the aperitif, followed by an artichoke, and finished with a basic steak cooked rare with a mild BBQ sauce and salad.  We choose to pair this dinner with Ridge Geyserville 2007 because a.) my husband has never drank a Zinfandel based wine and b.) it is a spicy, full bodied wine that could help with the fact that I forgot to prepare fully the meal and it was our ‘lazy’ meal. Ridge Geyserville 2007Verdict / Tasting notes: Super spicy and robust.  Really grabs your attention right away, stand alone wine and not French.  Thank goodness.  It was bright fruit, cherries, maybe cranberries with that sense of acidity in the wine.  Cracked pepper all over the back of the palate and long lasting. Not something to drink with artichokes, but the steaks and pate / charcuterie combination was really good.  The spices and the meat complimented each other, while the fruitiness stayed on the palate.

All in all not a bad start to 6 days of bliss.  See you tomorrow for more drinking :).

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!

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

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…