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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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

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 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…

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 :).

Nothing like some morning drinking!

A little midmorning drinking is just what the doctor ordered!  Yesterday, some American friends and I started our day off at Domaine Ogier in the Côte Rôtie.  Domaine Ogier is a family run winery with 15 different parcels of land within the AOC Côte Rôtie region.  They also produce some wines in St. Joseph, Condrieu and the Collines Rhodaniennes.  We started with an amazing barrel tastings of the 2012 vintage.  Barrel tastings are fun because you can get a hint of what the next years vintage will look like, but at the same time experience the ‘before’ aspect of wine as it develops.

In barrel number one, we tasted a 100% syrah from a non-AOC of Côte du Rhône called La Rosine.  This small single vineyard wine comes from a the southern tip of the Côte Rôtie area, outside the border of the AOC Côte Rôtie- unfortunately.  We then tasted beside it the 2011 vintage La Rosine that had been in bottle just 6 months.  What a contrast!  Barrel TastingTasting notes:  La Rosine 2012 from the barrel was bright fruits and cherries, light tannins with a stark finish mid-palate, but at the same time feminine and great potential for age.  La Rosine 2011 from the bottle was mature and floral, with the same bright fruits, but this time the finish was longer.

In barrel number two, the winemaker gave us a preview of the Côte Blonde single vineyard wines…  Followed by barrel number three tasting of a Côte Brune single vineyard wine.  Now, a little background…  Côte Rôtie is split into two sides- the northern part generally referred to as the Côte Brune and the southern part generally as the Côte Blonde.  As the stories goes, these were the two hair colors of the founder of Côte Rôtie’s daughters.  The blonde being young, feminine and for early drinking.  The brune being firmer, long lasting, head strong.  Now, as a brune myself… that is a pretty good description :).

Tasting notes:  Côte Blonde was full of floral notes, roses most of all- ironically smelled a lot like my wedding bouquet, it was fruity and pleasant, easy going.  The Côte Brune was robust, full of spices and tannins (just like us brunes of the world)!

After that the wine flowed…

 Beginning of the vertical photo (9)Normal Wednesday MorningThe winemaker took us through all the blends of Côte Rôtie, St. Joseph and some outside the AOC near Vienne wines he produced.  By the end we had tasted 6 different red wines ALL the same varietal- 100% syrah, yet no two bottles were alike.  It is an amazing tribute to the notion of terroir in France.

However, the winner of the tastings was…

La Belle HeleneThe Côte Rôtie single vineyard, La Belle Hélène 2009.  This domaine has 15 different parcels of Côte Rôtie that normally are blended to create their Côte Rôtie bottle, however in an exceptional year the wine maker will choose to do a single vineyard bottle.  And thank goodness he did!  She was rounded, full bodied, fruit forward with spices that just tickled the back of my throat.  It was almost a shame to drink it so young.  It needs another 6-10 years before it is really shining!

Oh, what a wonderful morning… 🙂

WOW! Four years…. WOW!

 I woke up yesterday and realized it was July 1, 2013…

HAPPY 4th BIRTHDAY FRANCE! 

LyonFour years ago I took this crazy trip to Paris to get a break from life- turns out I actually came out here to start a new CRAZY life.  So, four years later- I am married to a wonderful Frenchman, living in Lyon- a place I LOVE, speaking French more than English, and have opened my own wine tasting business.  I mean, crazy right?!  I am constantly in awe, and sometimes shocked, but how fast and filling these last four years have gone by…

And what was my birthday present here in France… The French Wine Scholar study manual was delivered to my apartment yesterday!!  I am officially back in school and loving it (yes, I know it has only been 2 days)! FWS manualLife has taken so many turns, but I feel like I am finally getting back ‘into the swing of things’ and balanced again…

So, what wine to celebrate with….???

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!