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!

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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!!

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!

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!

Did you know?!?!

Did you know that if you don’t write a blog post no one else will?!  I mean crazy right?  Okay, not really… but I am looking for some great excuse as to why I have not blogged in two months- all I have come up with is that it has to be someone else’s fault.  Maybe I am becoming too French.  It is my fault.  I have lacked the motivation and the self-discipline to get my act together.  BUT not to worry- I have still been drinking!  Some things I am HIGHLY motivated in and need NO self-discipline!

So what have I been doing?  Well, I have the idea to change the blog up a bit.  I am an expat living, breathing, AND drinking in France.  Sometimes the life takes over the drinking and sometimes the drinking overtakes real life.  For those of you living abroad or have aspirations to live abroad one day I think you should know it is horribly wonderful and amazingly bad all at the same time.  Since this blog was about creating conversations about wine and daily life, I have to add some daily life to the mix.  Quite frankly- french wine comes with stories, history and roots.  Since I am starting to create roots here, why not tell you all some of my stories and how my roots are being grounded?  And since I am in France and becoming more and more French… you can take it or leave it, but I’m still gonna do it.

So, here is some of my life through a wine glass…

Wine glass

On y va.

Never going back…

sunset front of boatFour weeks…  4 weeks…  once you go for 4 weeks you never go back!  What am I talking about?  French vacation of course!!!  Minimum 4 weeks, well 5 actually.  Once you take a month off somewhere it is hard to come back.  I never really took a 2 week vacation when working in the states so 4 weeks is super-lux!  Also, it is the reason I have been absent from blogging… not absent from drinking mind you… just from blogging!

I’m back though.  Four weeks of wines tasted all ready for the writing.  My husband and I have a deal that when we travel outside of France we never drink French wines- now I did move to France on a whim because the wine is amazing, but what I realized is that there are no imports (well, a little, but not enough).  So we made the agreement that we drink whatever country we are in and if we are in a non wine growing country we get to mix it up a bit.  I have a lot of fun going to wine stores trying to pick wines that represent the California or Washington or Oregon… sorry east coasters haven’t drank much from you all recently, but I’ll get there.  I try to find monocepages that represent something of the terroir.   My husband, being French, hasn’t drunk a whole lot outside France and it is really fun to get to open his palate to be more international.

So, 4 weeks= over 15,000km flying (10,000miles), over 1,500km driving (900miles), over 2,800km in a boat (1,740miles) to cover 3 different states over 65km hiked (40miles) with 2,300m in elevation change (7,500ft) and enough beer and wine to make us come home the happiest of people!  We spent 5 days in San Francisco, 5 days in Seattle and the rest in Alaska splitting time between land and a cruise through the inner passage- it was our honeymoon!  We splurged (and have the added kilos to prove it)!!sunset back of boatSo be prepared for the next couples weeks of wine, wine, wine and none of it French 😉

Welcome to la rentrée in France!

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- Day 2

A little background on me, with all things considered- I have the back of a 75 year old man.  So, when it comes to exercise I often find that I get ‘beat up’ rather quickly.  Yesterday’s hike was up and down and on all over the place leading to some severe pain and inability to walk… My Day 2 of Bliss didn’t involve wine, but some heavy painkillers and a lot of sleep…

Still blissful, but not really the same :(.  Thank goodness for codeine! Bliss Day 2Hopefully tonight will be better…