Friday, January 28, 2011

France Day Two (pm)

France Day Two (pm)
For the evening the Robert Kacher team took it easy on us. We retired to our hotel for a night of Muscadet with the perfect pairing oysters, a traditional Loire buffet and to end the evening Calvados.

(Laurence and Gerard Vinet)

Domaine Vinet
Le Domaine Vinet was created in 1948 by Gustave Vinet. Today his two sons Daniel and Gérard, in assistance with Laurence Vinet, help to perpetuate his passion for the vine and wine. Located in the Loire Valley, near the Atlantic Ocean, they own and operate 60 acres of vines in the heart of the appellation Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, the best ripening area for the Muscadet grape (also known as Melon de Bourgogne).

Domaine de la Quilla: Muscadet de Sevre et Maine sur Lie 2009
Domaine de la Quilla is located in the village of La Haie-Fouassiere. Apparently this village is the origin of the famous wines of Muscadet. The Vinet's keep the wines "sur lie", or on the yeasts, for eight months before bottling. - Fragrant aromas and flavors of pear. 100% Muscadet.

Domaine Saint Martin: Muscadet de Sevre et Maine sur Lie 2009
Purchased by the Vinet's in 2000, Domaine Saint Martin is located in the commune of Chateau Thebaud, on the edge of the Maine river. Unusual for the Muscadet region, the Domaine covers 8 hectares on one lot. It was started in 1830 and documents show that a monk may be at the origin of the property. - Polished, with intense lemon lime zest followed by a clean finish. 100% Muscadet.

Clos de la Houssaie: Muscadet de Sevre er Maine sur Lie 2009
Clos de la Houssaie is a 1.7 acre vineyard located in the village of La Haye-Fouassiere and surrounded by a small stoned wall, which gives the grapes an ideal micro-climate to reach their peak maturity level. The Vinet's harvest and vinify these grapes separately from their other vineyards. - Mineral notes in the bouquet and palate. 100% Muscadet.

(Jerome Dupont)

Domaine Dupont Calvados
Located in the very heart of the Pays d’Auge in Normandy, the domaine is run by third generation Etienne Dupont since 1980, when he took over from his father Louis and his grand-father Jules. His son Jérôme joined the domaine in 2002. Over the years, Etienne improved the old orchards and planted a further ten hectares of small standard apple trees. Together there are 27 hectares of typical varieties, that is to say 9000 apple trees. Following the traditional methods of producing Calvados, the apples are hand-picked and rest in open wooden boxes called pallox to reach their highest aromatic peak. The juice is slowly extracted under low pressure and kept on its lees for 2 months to prevent any alteration of the cider’s flavor. The apple cider then undergoes a double distillation through a sophisticated Chalvignac copper still. The spirit is aged in 400 liter casks, made from Loire Valley oak, slightly toasted to provide vanilla aromas to the finished product.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

France Day Two (am)

France Day Two (am) in a larger map'>Map of the Day

Day Two (am)

We set out for the town of Anjou in the Loire region to be welcomed by the Duke of Brissac at his castle. Known as the tallest castle of France, Brissac with its seven stores and 204 rooms, is named as “The Giant of the Loire Valley”. Acquired in 1502 by René de Cossé, first Lord of Brissac, today it is the residence of the 13th Duke of Brissac. To learn more: . At the castle we tasted the wines of Domaine des Hauts de Sanziers, Domaine Les Grandes Vignes, Domaine des Rochelles, and Château de Suronde.

(Chateau Brissac)

(l.Dominique Tessier, c. The Duke of Brissac, r. Antoine Songy of Robert Kacher Selections)

(Jean and Dominique Tessier)

Domaine de Hauts de Sanziers

Located south of Saumur, the Domaine des Hauts de Sanziers has belonged to the Tessier family for 2 centuries. Today the estate covers 85 hectares in the appellations of Saumur and Saumur-Champigny, all worked organically and covered with grass. The soils there are clay and limestone.

Saumur brut Houet & Tessier NV – Not currently available in the US. A bright sparkling wine with lemon and lime notes. 60% Chenin Blanc, 30% Cab Franc, and 10% Chardonnay.

Methode Traditionnelle NV – Not currently available in the US. 100% Cab Franc red sparkling wine with bright strawberry flavors.

Saumur Blanc Hauts de Sanziers 2010 – Lemon zest with a lingering lime finish 100% Chenin Blanc.

Saumu Rouge Hauts de Sanziers 2010 – Light strawberry flavors with a delicate finish 100% Cabernet Franc.

(Jean-Francois Vallant)

Domaine les Grandes Vignes

The Domaine Les Grandes Vignes goes back to the 17th century, and has been in the Vaillant family ever since. The Vaillant family owns 55 hectares in the appellations of Anjou, Bonnezeaux, and Coteaux du Layon, and has been working organically since 2006.

La Varenne du Poirier Anjou Blanc 2010 – Peach scents and palate 100% Chenin Blanc.

Les Cocainelles Anjou Rouge 2009 – Plum notes accent this lighter style red 100% Cabernet Franc.

Rose d’Anjou 2010 – Crisp strawberry flavors.

(Jean-Yves Liberton)

Domaine de Rochelles

Domaine des Rochelles is located in the town of St Jean des Mauvrets near Angers, in the appellation of Anjou. The Domaine has been in the Lebreton family since the 19th century. Now, Jean-Yves Lebreton, the 4th generation runs this 60-hectare estate.

Roches des Rochelles Anjou Blanc 2009 – The slate soils show through with a mineral and lime essence 100% Chenin Blanc.

Les Millerits Anjou Villages Brissac Rouge 2009 – Flavors of red licorice and cassis in this weightier offering.

La Croix de Mission Anjou Villages Brissac Rouge 2009 – Lighter in style with red fruit and a slight tannic grip on the finish.

(Guillame MORDACQ)

Château de Suronde

Chateau de Suronde is located in the tiny village of Quarts de Chaume. A mold called botrytis or the noble rot is allowed to form on the grapes, which sucks the excess water from the Chenin Blanc grapes, leaving a high sugar ratio. The result is a naturally sweet wine. Suronde is farmed biodynamical by Guillaume Mordacq.

Quart de Chaume 2003 - A rich honeyed wine with layers of peach fruit and a lingering finish.
Quart de Chaume 1997 – The honey shows through a slight oxidized brown sugar flavor.

Monday, January 10, 2011

France Day One


I landed in Paris on Monday morning and rendezvoused with the gang from Robert Kacher Selections at the Place De La Nation square. Robert Kacher, who represents the wineries I will be visiting and tasting, is an importer specializing in small family owned wineries from France. We Saddled up and headed three hours southwest to the town of Saumur in the Loire Valley.

If you would like to play where’s mike? here is a map link:
View France Day One in a larger map

(View of the Loire River from Saumur)

Our first dinner was hosted by the very gracious husband and wife team of Kathleen Van den Berge and Sigurd Mareels, new owners of Chateau de Miniere in the region of Bourgueil. The estate, which dates back to the 16th century, has been handed down through a line of women for two centuries. In keeping with this tradition Kathleen will be in charge of the estate, while her husband pursues his career in mining consulting. The purchase of the estate was completed in 2010, but the current owners began involvement with the 2009 vintage and have retained wine maker Daniel Esteve. The estate is in the second of the four year process required to obtain their organic certification.

(Two generations of Chateau de Miniere)

(Sigur and Sofie Mareels with Yours Truly)

In addition Denis Pommier, owner of Domaine Denis Pommier form the Burgundy region of Chablis joined us for dinner. Denis established the domaine in 1990 with the inheritance of 2.5 hectares of Chablis vineyards from his grandfather. Today the estate encompasses 13 hectares. All white Burgundies from the Chablis village are made using the Chardonnay grape.

(l.Edward Labaye of Robert Kacher Selections & r.Denis Pommier)

We tasted Denis’:

2008 & 2009 Petit Chablis ($18.99*) – Both showed bright lemon on the nose that followed to the palate. The 2008 was a bit tighter while the 2009 was more welcoming, but with a little less punch. Both done in stainless steel.

2008 Chablis – Lemon and lime on the nose with hints of grapefruit arriving on the palate with a longer finish.

2008 Chablis single premier cru vineyard “Beauroy” ($29.99) - Contained all the citrus zest of Chablis with a light butterscotch note.

2008 Chablis “Cote de Lechet 1er Cru” – added rich pineapple flavors to the mix.

2009 Chablis “Croix aux mons” – Fruit was more forward, but not as rich as the 2008’s.

And a rare look at his:

Pinot Noir Bourgogne – had light red cherry flavors with a bit of tangy orange peel.

Kathleen poured her 2009 vintage out of barrel. The 2009 vintage is being heralded as a blockbuster in Bourgueil. Cabernet Franc is the only allowed grapes to be used in red Bourgueil. In general Cab. Franc is a light to medium bodied grape, which is less commonly seen as a single varietal, more often used as a blending grape in Bordeaux styled wines.

2009 “Chateau” – Showing Cab. Franc’s elegance with lively dark cherry and raspberry flavors. The finish contained a pleasing light tannic grip. The vineyards sourced are on average 15 years old.

2009 “Vielle Vignes” – meaning old vines. Sourced from 45 year old vineyards. A bit more concentrated flavor, with the tannins becoming more prominent, giving it a significant aging potential. The scheduled spring bottling should provide the time for additional polishing from barrel aging.

And a special treat, the first public tasting of a new bottling not previously produced, the 2009 “Cuvee Centenaire” – Coming from hundred year old vines comprising a single Hectare section of the vineyard. A darker fruit nose with raspberry and licorice flavors that trail off into a long finish with significant tannins. This limited cuvee will, depending on the wines progression, see bottle in the fall.


Hors d’oveurs:
Belgian endives stuffed with shellfish salad - The bitterness of the endive paired very nicely with the crispness of the Petit Chablis.
Traditional Quiche - The brightness of the Chablis cut through the creaminess of the egg and cheese.
First Course: Coquille Saint Jacques – Scallops, shrimp, crawfish and mussels in a rich cream sauce served in a pastry shell. The heftier premier crus Chablis’ held up well to the rich flavors, while the crisp acidity gave a lively lift to the succulent seafood.

Second Course:
Roasted young chicken and roasted chestnuts with caramelized onions in mushroom gravy accompanied by a pastry filled with garlic buttered potatoes – The complex Cuvee Centenaire blended well with the smoky flavors of the chicken and calmed some of the woodsy nutty notes of the chestnuts.

Cheese Course:
Warmed Roquefort over sliced pair – the lighter red fruit of the “Chateau” worked well to take some of the bite out of the blue cheese.

Crème’ Brulee and a Pear Tarte Tatin. I prefer to enjoy sweets on their own or with coffee.

I hope you enjoyed the first day. Get some rest, we start early tomorrow with a visit to a castle.