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

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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!

C’etait MAGNIFIQUE!

So, last night my husband and I, with another couple went out to dinner at our favorite restaurant in the second district of Lyon called Ponts et Passerelles.  We love this place for lots of reasons; they do some of the most amazing varieties of traditional French dishes- and the desserts are AMAZING!  We also have fun with the owner talking about wines and different regions in France, most of which I have not heard of because they are so small.  Last night turned into another fun tasting night of sorts and, fortunately for me, I knew all the regions this time!  I feel like I’m getting somewhere with my small French wine regions.

So, stay with me a while and we will go through the three bottles in order…

Aperitif wine:

Eric Louis 2011 Menetou-Salon

Menetou-Salon

To start we had the Menetou Salon- well, I choose this one for my aperitif wine.  I always choose this for a starter.  Menetou Salon is the closest wine I can find to being like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, or maybe it’s the other way around.  But it had aromas of citrus and grapefruit all mixed together on the nose, then a cool, crisp, refreshing taste on the palate.  It doesn’t stay very long and won’t age forever, but it is nice and fresh on a hot day.  I think it’s gorgeous!

Menetou-Salon itself is located in the eastern most part of the Loire Valley near Sancerre and Pouilly Fume.  It is actually closer to Burgundy than most of the Loire Valley wines, therefore giving it unique soil and climate characteristics.  It reminds me of New Zealand because it has so much citrus and grapefruit on the nose- however, for myself, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc must also have the smell of fresh cut grass in it.  The soil near Menetou-Salon itself is mainly limestone and considered to be ‘lesser’ than the Sancerre just next door, but I find it more crisp and explosive than some Sancerre…  You will have to find a bottle and see for yourself!

Dinner wine:

Domaine Jaffelin 2007 Pernand-Vergelesses ‘Clos de Bully’

Pernand-Vergelesses

Moving on we had wonderful bottle of 2007 Pernand-Vergelesses with our main dish.  Ironically we all had a chicken stuffed foie gras dish- not something you would normally pair with chicken stuffed with foie gras- but, since I am trying to break down this idea of ‘pairing’ , we decided to try it.  Again, a little disappointed with the pairing.  A great dish with a great wine, but when put together it wasn’t horrible, but definitely did not enhance anything.

The wine itself is from the most northern part of the Cote de Beaune, as far north as you can get before it becomes the Cote de Nuits.  Meaning it has some similar terroir to the great red pinot noirs of the Cote de Nuits (while not the same price tag).  The things I love about Pernand-Vergelesses is that it is rather round and fruit without being alcoholic- normally.  The bottle we shared was a little more on the dried fruit side (because of the age of the bottle) rather than bright fruits and also was a little hot on the back of the throat (which I would contribute to the vintage).  A bummer for me, mainly because I had a preconceived notion of what the bottle should taste like, but not entirely a bad bottle.  Again, not helped however by the chicken stuffed foie gras.

Dessert wine:

Domaine Bernhard & Reibel 2011 Muscat Vin d’Alsace

Alsace Muscat

And to the surprise of the night- Alsace.  You know how every once in a while someone will pull out a bottle of wine and your heart just moans because you know you aren’t going to like it… then you taste it… and BAM!  Not at all what you thought, could have ever imagined, and to your surprise, you loved it!  I just got off the phone with the ladies at Domiane Bernhard & Reibel because I wanted to order a case of this wine.  One hundred percent Muscat- dry, and refreshing with just trace amounts of residual sugar on the tongue.  Man it was good!

I have found in France that there is a tendency to start the night off with sweet wines in the aperitif and finish with sparkling wines at the dessert.  In the states, we seem to do the opposite.  Therefore, when the owner came out with a sweet wine my heart moaned a little bit, because while I have a large sweet tooth, I do not have a huge palate for sweet wines.  This Muscat was so balanced and fresh with just the right hit of residual sugar it was very pleasant for the end of the meal.  I can’t wait to get my case ordered!  Maybe even plan a trip up to Alsace soon…

Wine Tastings all the time!!!

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This past week has been a crazy week of wine tastings- I loved it!  I love to do wine tastings.  To help people enjoy and understand it a little better wine, while at the same time just having a good time!  French wine, after all, is about the community you drink it with…  I have been doing wine tastings for almost 5 years now and every time it is a different group, different dynamic, different wine, but always a great time!

Wine, especially French wine, can come across as perplexing, pretentious and intimidating- especially if you taste with someone who calls himself or herself a ‘sommelier’.  Now, while I am technically allowed to use the word sommelier and have passed exams to earn that title- I often don’t.  I enjoy making wine something accessible to everyone.  I enjoy breaking down the barriers of ‘correct’ and ‘right and wrong’ techniques when tasting.  It should be about what each person finds within the glass.  The glass, by all measures, is constantly changing.  From the time the grapes in the vines are picked, to the fermentation process, to the bottle, to the continued changing in the glass, the wine is constantly changing.   Wine for each person will present itself differently, and in that same idea, every person is different.  We cannot all claim to smell and taste the same thing.

I, as a sommelier, will guide you- but I choose not give you the answers. 

After all these tastings, I am constantly surprised at how people find different smells and tastes.  This past week someone described the smell of a wine as ‘like a carrot being pulled from the ground’.  I loved that!  I will often say that a wine smells like Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, Washington because I worked there for a year and remember smelling the fresh flowers at the beginning of the day and then the stomped on flowers at the end of the day.  For me there are some wines that remind me of that smell.  To each person, wine will change and bring about different memories.  I can’t teach someone what a fresh pulled carrot smells like, nor can I explain Pikes Market at the end of the day.

It is my memory.

French wine is perplexing, but if we start with our own palate and our memories we can begin to discover French wines in a new way.  We can begin to discover what specific tastes about wine we like and how they might differ from other people’s palate.  I love to start with the palate.  With the basic question- do you like the wine?  Yes or no.  After this we start the tasting by trying to answer the very basic, yet much more complex to answer, questions of – why or why not?

This past week I have had the joy to do three large group wine tastings- a total of about 60 people.  All different palates, all different smells, all different dynamics.  It was great!  I hope to get a small post of each of the wines tastings this weekend… until then Happy Easter!