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Lively White from the French Alps!

Spring is almost here and the warm weather is approaching. In fact, here in Florida we are already feeling the upper 80s temperatures one hopes to not experience until Summer. The best cure for that is to start opening some lively whites! So today I cracked open a 2011 Domaine Eugene Carrel Vin de Savoie-Jongieux.

This wine is made from 100% Jacquère, which is a grape that makes up fifty percent of the vineyards in the region of Savoie in France. The wine is somewhat rare, for mountainous Savoie is better known for the tourists who spend most of their time on the slopes of the French Alps, not for their wine. What a shame that is! Although wines made from the Jacquère grape in this region are finding themselves on the shelves of wine stores in the U.S. a lot more often than even just a few years ago, they are still uncommon.

This particular bottling is named for the village of its provenance, Jongieux. The wine is aged sur-lie (or on its lees) until it is bottled, which gives it a fun effervescence! The color is light straw with a touch of a green hue. On the nose are citrus and white flowers. The palate provides light and crisp lemon, lime, green apple, pear and just a touch of spice. The finish is lean and has a bright minerality, but the fruit persists. The Domaine Eugene Carrel Vin de Savoie-Jongieux would pair beautifully with many foods, but I keep dreaming of having it with a local Savoie specialty, fondue with big chunks of hearty bread for dipping.

If you’re a fan of Sauvignon Blanc, give Jacquère a try!  You won’t be disappointed!


2009 Les Vins Jean Claude Debeaune Fleurie Clos des Quatre Vents

I love this time of year.  The change of the seasons is finally approaching.  Here in Florida the change is slight, but I relish the heat and humidity slowly diminishing.  The cooler evenings encourage me to sit on my deck and open a bottle of red instead of white.  And what better red is there to transition from summer into autumn than a light, fruity Gamay?  It’s slowly becoming a Beaujolais time of year!

With my husband on a recent adventure in Beaujolais!

In case you’re not privy to all things Beaujolais, here’s some information in a nutshell:

Beaujolais AOC is considered the most basic, and will also be the least expensive.  The grapes for these wines mainly come from less distinguished vineyards in the southern part of the region.  A large portion of this appellation is sold as Beaujolais Nouveau.

Beaujolais-Villages AOC is the intermediate category as far as the classification goes.  These wines come from 39 villages located in the midsection of the region where better quality grapes are grown.  Beaujolais-Village are often a blend from several villages.  Some wines from this appellation are also sold as Beaujolais Nouveau, but that is not very common.

Beaujolais Cru is the highest category of classification here.  In Beaujolais the phrase “cru” refers to 10 special villages, where in other parts of France “cru” refers to a specific vineyard.  The 10 Cru villages (more or less from North to South) are:

St. Amour – pretty, delicate wines

Juliènas – similar to St. Amour, but slightly beefier

Chénas – often keenly acidic, with notable minerality and fine tannin

Moulin-à-Vent – a top cru, very complex and muscular

Fleurie – aromatic, pungent wines that age well

Chiroubles – at their best, these are raw, gamey, and delectable

Morgon – another top cru; powerfully ripe fruit, amazing depth

Regnié – fresh, clean wines; generous, not terribly complex

Brouilly – dark wines, with notable bouillon flavors and strong tannin

Côte de Brouilly – a top cru: intense minerals & richness on the palate

The 2009 vintage in Beaujolais is considered to be brilliant.  Even Georges Duboeuf, the so-called “King of Beaujolais”, was quoted as saying “”For me 2009 is the vintage of the sun – in fact, this is the best vintage of my lifetime.  The [2009] Beaujolais Crus are opulent, exceptionally full-bodied and fabulous. This vintage will be talked about for years to come.”

So, the wine I cracked open to celebrate the beginning of fall was the 2009 Les Vins Jean Claude Debeaune Fleurie Clos des Quatre Vents!  I could see the opulence in the glass.  It was much darker in color than most Cru Beaujolais I’ve had.  I loved the aromas of jammy strawberry and black cherry, as well as violet.  The palate was elegant with strawberry, cherry and some great minerality.  This wine is a winner, and it has a nice price tag of about twenty bucks!  If you can find it at your local retailer, be sure to grab a few bottles!

Considering Beaujolais Nouveau is released next month, you may very well see my blog visiting this region again soon!

Visiting the Northern Rhone Valley

Syrah is my favorite varietal, so I was very excited to visit its “homeland”, the Northern Rhone Valley in France.  Syrah is the only red varietal used in all five of the appellations located in the Northern Rhone:  Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Saint Joseph, Cornas and Côte-Rôtie.

My husband and I stayed in Tain l’Hermitage, a beautiful town set right on the Rhone River.  Hotel Les 2 Coteaux was the perfect spot to call home while we were there.  The view from our window had vineyards, the river, and an adorable pedestrian bridge that connects Tain l’Hermitage to its twin city Touron-sur-Rhone.  The proprietor was very kind and made us feel at home immediately.

Our first tasting was at the famous Rhone Valley producer Maison M. Chapoutier, often referred to simply as Chapoutier.  They have a beautiful tasting room right in Tain l’Hermitage where we tasted many of their wines from the Northern and Southern Rhone.  My favorites included the 2010 Côte-Rôtie Les Bécasses, which has violets, spicy earth and bacon, the 2011 Les Granilites St Joseph Blanc, big on the palate with honey, apricots and nice minerality, and the expensive but unbelievably impressive 2010 Le Pavillon Emitage, with a deep purple color, dark fruit flavors, superb concentration and a long finish.  This wine needs to spend many years in the cellar before cracking open.  Another fun fact about Chapoutier is that their labels are also in braille!

Our next visit was Cave de Tain, also right in Tain l’Hermitage.  While waiting for them to open after lunch, we witnessed some vineyard workers across the street.  It was fascinating to see the use of horse and plow in the fields.  This is not an uncommon practice in the Northern Rhone, because of the steep hillsides and the popularity of biodynamic and organic farming practices.

At Cave de Tain we tasted a large range of Rhone wines, from everyday bottlings for as little as 5 euro, a nice Cornas at 23 euro, all the way up to a nice Hermitage in the 70 euro range.

Next on our list was Domaine des Remizieres located in Mercurol.  This is a family winery with some wonderful wines.  The 2011 Cuvee Christophe Crozes-Hermitage is 100% Syrah and is quite aromatic with plenty of dark fruits and some licorice and earthiness on the nose.  The palate is lush with fruit and some pleasant toastiness.  The 2011 Saint Joseph is lush with fruitiness and vanilla.  It can be drunk young (I’ve already consumed the bottle I bought and wish I had more!), but will get even better with a couple of more years in the bottle.

Our final tasting in the area was at Domaine des Entrefaux, which is located in the village of Chanos-Curson.  This winery is set in a beautiful location, up on a mountain overlooking vineyards.  The tasting room was perfect, complete with a table and chairs in which to sit and an adorable wine dog.  The gal pouring for us was delightful, and I had the opportunity to use my much practiced, although somewhat limited, French.  We communicated fine, though, and had a wonderful tasting.  Known as one of the most reputable producers of Crozes-Hermitage, it wasn’t surprising that we were thrilled with the quality of the wines we tasted.  Father and son team Charles and Francois Tardy have 21 hectares of Syrah and 5 hectares of Marsanne.  They began using organic practices in 2000 and received official organic certification in 2012.  It was difficult to pick a favorite.  I bought a bottle of each of the 2011 Crozes-Hermitage Les Pends Rouge and Blanc.  I couldn’t wait to open the red, so I’m drinking it tonight. There is blackberry, cassis and some white pepper on the palate.  At only about $20 a bottle, this wine rocks!

If you’re a fellow lover of Syrah, the Northern Rhone Valley is a must visit.  The people are lovely, the views are incredible, and the wines are very special.


Caves Madeleine in Beaune, France

While visiting Burgundy last month, my husband and I re-visited a restaurant from our past.  We had a wonderful dinner a few years ago at Caves Madeleine, so when we decided to visit Beaune again, we knew that we had to go back.  We were not disappointed.

Caves Madeleine is located in the heart of Beaune.  A popular spot for locals, this is a small restaurant with a long waiting list.  We saw scores of hungry people get turned away.  The owner, LoLo, usually has only one seating per night, but he was kind in recommending those without a reservation to head to some of his personal favorite spots.  

Caves Madeleine has four tables lined against one wall, with rows and rows of wonderful wine lined up against the opposite wall.  Between these walls LoLo has a large communal table shared by different dining parties.  No one seems to mind!  The table is actually an old monk’s table that is hundreds of years old.  We asked what the drawers on the sides of the table were for, and LoLo told us it was where the monks put their bread!

We had one of the solo tables, and sat down to begin what we knew would be a lovely evening.

We asked LoLo, who is also a Sommelier, to select the wines for us.  We decided to start with a local white, as I’m a lover of white Burgundy, so he brought us a bottle of the 2005 Butterfield Meursault.  I loved this wine, and it complimented our onion tart starter beautifully.  This straw colored wine has an expressive nose of white flowers, lemon curd and hazelnut.  On the palate there is a lovely touch of oak, with good minerality.  I was in heaven!  I only wish we could purchase Butterfield wines in the States.

The red wine LoLo chose for us was a 2004 Domaine Simon Bize & Fils Savigny-lès-Beaune Les Fourneaux.  Some raspberry and pomegranate still linger on the palate, along with some licorice.  There was a wonderful smokiness that paired nicely with my husband’s entrée selection of game hen, accompanied with a cabbage and bacon salad.  I ordered the black truffle ravioli, which harmonized beautifully with the earthy mushroom essence of the wine.

We finished the wine with an assortment of cheeses to end the meal.  We were stuffed and happy as can be.

Once again, the food was divine and the service was impeccable.

If you have plans to visit Beaune, France in the beautiful Burgundy region, be sure to make a reservation at Caves Madeleine for a very memorable meal.


Visiting Maison Capitain-Gagnerot in Burgundy

On my recent trip to France, the first destination was Burgundy.  The beautiful scenery, ancient city streets and fabulous meals were only upstaged by one thing: the wine!

Of the many tastings we enjoyed, one stood out by far. Maison Capitain-Gagnerot was not only fun to visit, but their wines are first rate as well.  And we hadn’t even planned a set appointment!  While having a quick lunch in Beaune we were chatting with our server about different wineries to visit.  He told us that his wife’s family had a winery.  He called and squeezed us into a French speaking tour for the next day!

The small wine village of Ladoix-Serrigny sits where the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune meet.  This village (sometimes referred to simply as Ladoix in the wine world) has been home to Maison Capitain-Gagnerot since Simon Gagnerot founded it in 1802.  The domaine was one of the first wineries in Burgundy to actually sell estate-bottled wine directly to consumers.  Traditionally wine sales went through negociants instead.  Mr. Gagnerot’s son, Jean-Baptiste, later entered into a partnership with his son-in-law François Capitain.  This is where the name Maison Capitain-Gagnerot comes from. 

Today the domaine remains a family affair.  Patrice and Michel Capitain, along with Patrice’s son Pierre François and the rest of the family, run this lovely winery.

We were very fortunate to have Pierre François himself conduct our tasting.  He escorted our group down into the cellar and began the presentation.  My husband and I were the only two in the group who aren’t fluent in French.  Luckily I speak enough to get by, and Pierre François was very gracious with making sure we understood everything.  His English is superb, and so are his wines!

We tasted a wide selection, starting with their 2011 Cote de Nuits-Villages and moving through their reds, tasting some of their Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines along the way.

One of my favorites was the 2010 Ladoix 1er Cru “La Micaude”, which had a nice nose of currant and cassis, and strawberries and lovely acidity on the palate.  I also enjoyed the 2009 Corton “Les Grandes Lolières” Grand Cru, with rich, ripe cherries on the palate, balanced with a wonderful spiciness and some earth.  My favorite white was the 2009 Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru.  With some tropical notes on the nose, this wine has pear and peach on the palate with a beautiful hint of oak that isn’t overbearing.  It also has great minerality.  I had to have a bottle!

After the tasting Pierre François took us on a brief tour, showing us the cellar and letting us take a peek at the Caveau de Famille, where the family’s stash is stored!  Oh the fun of seeing the dusty bottles of wine, some of which have been in the bottle for close to a century!

Before moving on to our next tasting, Pierre François helped with our purchase and chatted with us for a bit.  What a talented and nice guy!

If you’re heading to Burgundy, be sure to look into setting up a tasting appointment for Maison Capitain-Gagnerot!

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