Category Archives: Wine Pairing

WOMEN OF BURGUNDY

Burgundy is a most storied wine region, its wine among the most expensive and highly valued in the world. The wines hailing from Burgundy are thought to be the pinnacle of viticulture, yet here are some who think that the wines and region are no longer interesting and a bit staid. Something many do not know is that many new exciting things are coming out of Burgundy—one of them is the proliferation of outstanding female winemakers. Women are adding fresh perspectives to the old boys’ network of winemakers, and are reviving Burgundy with feminine creativity.

1) Domaine Manoir du Capucin, www.manoirducapucin@yahoo.fr, has been a family run winery for many generations beginning with Chloe Bayon’s (MdC vintner) great-grand father who fell in love with Fuisse and helped to establish the AOC Fuisse in 1936. Chloé grew up in Nice with a passion for wine, which led her to study winemaking. In Nice, she found it difficult to be accepted because of her gender. Worked hard to prove her capabilities, then moved to Fussié 10 years ago to helm Manoir DU Capucin. Chloé manages the day-to-day operations of the 13 hectare winery along with two others, all while expecting her second child. Chloé’s goal in returning to Fussié was to restore the winery to the status of her great grandfather’s rich tradition of making great wines.

2) Domaine Feuillat-Juillot, www.domaine@feuillat-juillot.com, is owned by Francoise Feuillat-Juillot. Françoise has been making wine since 1989 with her father Nickel Juillot. Francoise’s passion for winemaking stems from a rich family tradition of winemaking. Getting to where she is now has been no easy feat. In Burgundy, if there are two children, female and male in a winemaking family, the boy is trained to become successor without regard to any winemaking talent the girl in the family may happen to display. That didn’t deter Francoise, her solution was to begin her own domaine. In 2004 she became owner and winemaker at Domaine Feuillat-Juillot where she manages 14 hectares with two other employees. She produces about 60,000 bottles yearly, 13 Premier Crus, and distributes is the USA.

3) Domaine Parent, www.domaine-parent-bourgogne.com, owned by sisters Anne and Catherine, is located in Pommard. Anne, fluent in English, travels the world promoting Domaine Parent wines and advocating for women winemakers. Anne and Catherine represent the twelfth generation of family winemaking in Burgundy. The family has been producing wine since 1635, and after 11 generations of male wine makers, the Parent sisters are in control of the domaine and have been since1998. Legend has it that Thomas Jefferson while serving as ambassador to France was a huge fan of their wines and a personal friend to Etienne Parent.

Anne and Catherine divide the responsibility of running the winery; Anne handles the wine making and Catherine handles the business of running the Domaine. Domaine Parent makes wine according to Burgundian classifications: Bourgogne, Village, Premier Cru, and Grand Cru. Anne’s personal philosophy on wine making is “There are no bad vintages, there are only bad winemakers”, she made this statement in reference to the extremely challenging 2012 vintage. Anne is also a big believer in organic and biodynamic farming and is moving her Domaine in that direction. Anne has had a passion for wine making from a very young age, but growing up with brothers, a father will choose males in the family to carry on the wine making tradition. In general women are left to explore other avenues to fulfill their passions. Anne went to university to study law then later returned to study wine making.

Once her brother left to start his own Domaine, Anne and her Catherine took control of Domaine Parent. Anne believes it is clearly more challenging for women coming up in the wine industry by having to prove themselves three times more than there male winemaker counterparts to obtain the respect they desire. An overall view of the wines from Pommard will find that they tend to be more masculine as well as elegant in style, this is also true of Anne’s wine. Her red wines from the Bourgogne and Village levels have dark cherry fruit with a peppery finish. The Premier Crus are rounder in style but still have a dark cherry acidity and a lingering peppery finish. Anne has created two amazing Grand Crus, upon tasting them the Burgundian classification system is fully realized. The 2008 Corton Grand Cru Les Renardes which was aged 16 months new french oak, has a deep garnet color, black cherry notes, round with depth on the palate. The finish is long with some spice, and you can sense that the oak is there but it doesn’t define this great wine.

4) Domaine Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet, www.francine-picard@m-p.fr, owner is Francine Picard. Founded in 1951 by her father Louis Felix Picard, owner of two hectares of vineyards in the town of Chagny. His children took over the winery in 1990 and they now have 13.5 hectares of land. Francine is also a true believer in the environment, and is steering her winery to become organic and biodynamic. Francine is the business mind behind Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet and incorporates a three-part business philosophy for running a winery: Organic Wine Making, Economics & Business, and the social aspects of managing a winery. Since 2006 she has directed and created a strong teamwork environment for her crew of approximately 30 employees

5) Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine, winemaker and owner Christine Dubreuil- Fontaine, Domaine@dubreuil-fontaine.com. Located in the Côte de Beaune Domaine. Dubreuil started as a family winery in 1879. They have over 20 hectares , its vineyards cover the villages of: Pernand-Vergelesses, Aloxe-Corton, Savigny Les Beaune, Pommard, Beaune, and Volnay. She makes wine on variety of levels, Bourgogne, Village, Premier Cru, to Grand Cru. Christine has been in charge of the winemaking and the business of the Domaine for the past 20 years, she works closely with her husband and 10 employees. Christine is fulltime business woman and a loving mother of two children ages 13 and 17. Christine attended wine school in Beaune and then business school in Paris. In addition she lived in the US for several months working at Simi Winery in California and a local wine store in LA. Ms. Dubreuil- Fontaine is a fabulous wine maker who takes a balanced approach to winemaking believing in the limited use of oak.
We tasted through many of her wines the 2010 Pernand-Vergelesses Village contains plenty of good minerality, the 2009 Clos Berthet Premier Cru is driven by a fresh mineral quality that rounds out the wine, Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru was explosive with citrus fruits, well balanced yet a powerful long lasting finish. Pernand Iledes premier cru 2009 crushed black cherry fruit with balance acidity and a spicy peppery finish. This wine is an excellent choice to purchase and enjoy now.
Corton Grand Cru, wow! From the moment I inhaled the amazing aromas and put this beautiful wine on my palate, I knew it would be something special, deep garnet in color with a bouquet of black cherry and spice, then on the palate those fruits explode with flavor, well rounded, a mouth full of joy and a long lingering finish.

6) Domaine Rion & Fils, Pascale-Rion contact@domaine-daniel-rion.com. Pascale is the business lady behind this Domaine’s success she is also fulltime mother of three children and a wife, experiencing all of the challenges of balancing family life and running a winery. It is Pascale’s two brothers that are at the helm of the Domaine Rion& Fils, as well as handle all winemaking. This is due to traditional family structure in Burgundy, the patriarchal structure states that the son of the father will be head of the Domaine and winemaking no matter how talented the females might be. I believe deep down Pascale would love to be a winemaker. In fact, Pascale shared a tasty wine with me that she made in 09. Domaine Rion & Fils make several excellent wines starting with the village level in new Niuts Saint George north and south, Vosne Romanée, to Echezeaux. Moving into The Grand Cru Clos Veugeot, cherry spicy with great mineralbility and balance throughout the finish of the wine.

7) Domaine Taupenot-Merme, Domaine.Taupenot-Merme@orange.fr. Ms Taupenot-Merme is President of the Association Femmes et de Bourgogne (www.fevb.net). Her Domaine is at the heart of burgundy and vineyards at Morey- Saint Denis, this estate is a place to discover the wealth of Burgundy wines. The winery spans 7 generations her father is from Coté Beaune and her mother is from Côte Nuit, Ms Taupenot-Merme attended winemaking school in Beaune France and studied business in Paris and New York, she also travel to San Francisco California to study how wine was made in the West. She returned to Bergen in 1995 and started working with her father making wine at the domain, but soon after her brother returned to the Domaine. Once again we see the patriarchal system at work as the son takes over duties as winemaker. Forced to give up her ambition of becoming a winemaker, her duties now include being in charge of all the business aspect of the Domaine. Being in control of the business aspect of the Domaine has not diminished her great passion to make wine in the future. Currently a full time mother of 2 children 2 and 6 years old, Ms. Taupenot-Merme is a working mother and a business lady all in one. Putting in 16hour days accepting and meeting the challenging aspects of the dueling duties of mother hood and handling the day-to-day operations with a staff of 11 employees of the winery head on. As with many career minded mothers there seems to never be enough time in a day to fulfill all of her obligations. Ms. Taupenot-Merme takes educating future generations of winemakers seriously and especially believes women should learn every aspect of winery operations so that one day they will have the capabilities of taking over as winemaker. She is the President and a founding member of the female wine makers Association in Burgundy, which now has approximately 39 female members.

8) Domaine Audoin, Marie-Françoise Audoin Owner wine maker for 35 years with her husband Charles and son Cyril, domaine-audion@wandoo.fr. They started this great winery with 2 hectares and through reclamation and purchasing new plots, they now have a total of 14 hectares, with most of the vines sitting hillside receiving the southeast exposure of Marsannay. Ms Audoin is a lovely engaging lady who communicated her passion and skill for winemaking to me effortlessly despite our language barrier. Marie tasted me through most of the wines that are produced at Audoin, along the way providing a history lesson on the rose Pinot Noir that is produced in Marsannay. Marsannay is the only area in Burgundy where the creation of rose of Pinot Noir is permitted. I would highly recommend Audoin rose of Pinot Noir. I tasted through the Audoin wines and found them pleasant, easy to drink and priced reasonably. The next generation winemaker at Audion will be their son Cyril , who has trained all over the world and in position himself to become a very prominent winemaker. As his parents begin to retire, Cyril is well prepared to take control of the domain and propel it to the next level.

9) Domaine Les Temps Perdus, owner winemaker Clothide Davenne, clotildedavenne@free.fr. After 17 years as a winemaker for the Brocard Winery, Ms. Davenne went about establishing her own Domaine in 2005. Ms Davenne is an experimental and innovative winemaker using Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay Pinot Noir and a locally grown grape called Caesar. She also creates an excellent sparkling wine from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Ms. Davenne is a driven, determined, hard working lady who has a vision of the future and knows how to accomplish her goals. She admits to being very controlling of the entire operation from wine making to the business side of her domain, and has little patience for others who are not as driven and as motivated as she is in completing their daily tasks. Ms. Davenne is a seasoned veteran winemaker who has traveled throughout the world to become the best wine maker possible. Clothide’s story is a bit unique as she does not come from a family of wine makers, the family farm she grew up on did not revolve around viticulture.
Her tasting journey into winemaking started with the family tradition of giving their children a spoonful of champagne around the age of 8 years old. I started tasting through numerous bottles of wine with Ms. Davenne and her trusted assistant. Starting with a sparkling Brut Rose which I have to admit it was one of the finest rose that I’ve ever tasted couple with a hard to believe price point at under 10 dollars, truly phenomenal. She also produces a fantastic Sauvignon Blanc as well as a very nice example of Pinot Noir, which is not typically grown in Chablis. Ms. Davenne’s other white wines are made from the Chardonnay grape and an excellent example of how a great Chardonnay can be made in Chablis. She also makes a Grand Cru from Chablis, which admittedly was the finest Grand Cru that I tasted in Chablis. Ms.Davenne has a Son, who is currently more passionate about thoroughbred equestrian competitions than winemaking, he does however return during harvest to assist with day to day operations at the Domaine. Ms.Davenne looks forward to the day when wine becomes his passion, so that he may take control of the Domain in the future.

I would be remiss in completing this article without another mention of the very unusual grape variety called Caesar that Ms.Davenne grows from 100 year old vines, which just happened to produce one of the best wines I tasted during my journey through Burgundy. Thank you for the great visit and delicious lunch in a quaint town.

10) Domaine Des Malandes, Owner Vigneronne Lyne Marchive, contact@domainedesmalandes.com. Ms. Marchive is from an old Chablis winemaking family: The Tremblay of Chablis and in 1972 Vigneronne started her own winery and naming it Domaine Des Malandes. Controlling 27 hectares has taught her a profound respect for the environment. Ms Marchive and her wine maker Guenole Breteaudeau attempt to produce wines with freshness, finesse and minerality that come from the kimmerdgian soil associated with Chablis. Ms. Marchive is an amazing woman who has had the passion for wine from a very early age at a time when it wasn’t socially except-able for women to become wine makers. Realizing early on that she had the gift of smell and with the support of her Father (Mr.Andre Tremblay) she refined her skills. Miss Vigneronne was accepted into wine school at the tender age of 14 years old and would have been the only female in her class yet made the bold decision to turn it down, understanding her best education would come directly from the vineyards and the cellar. Ms Marchive operates the Domaine as a world class business with the majority of her delicious production (92%) being exported to Norway. Ms. Marchive has come a long way in the wine business and has earned the respect and admiration of her colleagues in viticulture. I tasted through a wide range of Domain Malandes wines and they are exactly what Ms. Marchive has strived to accomplish, lovely acidity and freshness with minerality that lingers on the finish.

11) Domaine Chateau de Beru, wine maker and owner Athenais de Beru, www.chateaudeberu.com. The de Beru family has owned their historical Château de Béru for 400 years. The tragedy of the philloxera crisis also known as the great French wine blight caused all the vines to be uprooted in the 19th century. It wasn’t until 1987 that Éric de Béru, out of his passion for wine undertook the pain staking efforts to replant the entire vineyard, and in particular, the famous Clos Béru.
His wife, Laurence and their daughter Athénaïs are now running the Domaine, they have invested considerable means to improve the production quality and give a fresh start to the Domaine. These tremendous efforts and the choice to adopt organic farming are beginning to bear fruits, and are noticeable in the vintages that have been vinified by Athénais and her team since 2004. After facing the challenging rebirth of the family Domaine in 2003 she harvested her first vintage in 2005, then started her own brand “Athénaïs” based on a close selection of parcels and growers cultivating grapes in the respect of Chablis terroirs.

I tasted three wines from Domaine de Beru the 07 and 09 Clos Beru from Monopole, the grapes are harvested by hand and fermented in old oak barrels without fining and filtration. The wine is aged for 18 months. This is a very unique wine. It was well rounded with fresh acidity, minerality and salt/iodinated lime on the finish. This is a complex, well-structured wine with it’s own identity.
Chateau de Beru also has a wonderful B&B on the property that is managed by her mother who makes a great breakfast every morning. Thanks for the hospitality.

Washington state wine auction week, Journey to Walla Walla

My journey began on August 10 flying into Seattle’s airport spending the night and a relatively comfortable Marriott Courtyard hotel,  and getting up Monday morning August 11 and driving with a bunch of wine lovers down to Walla Walla Washington. As we were looking for the city of Yakima Washington and was not able to locate the downtown area, we stumbled upon two wineries Bernard Griffin and J Bookwalter these were two fabulous wineries.

We tasted approximately 15 wines at these two wineries and they are very good wineries within Washington state.  Our first stop in Walla Walla was long shadow winery and two of the highlights were The Pedestal one of the finer Merlot made in Washington state and 2011 Feathers.

Sleight of Hand Cellars, owner is Trey Bush this is a fun and exciting winery taking after their owner and the best way I can describe it is that he makes serious good juice. If you can find it you should buy it.

Va Piano vineyards established in 1999 and the owner is Justin they make a few different wines at this winery but his reserve Rhone blends are phenomenal. And worthy of exception praise.

The second day began with L’Ecole 41 a winery that has been extremely consistent in wine making for a very long time in Walla Walla and has recently received an award for their 2011 Ferguson Cabernet as Washington states wine of the year.

ABEJA, first of all I would like to thank Molly and John for their unbelievable hospitality during our visit. Their Chardonnay was the finest Chardonnay I’ve tasted in a Washington state, and their consistency in making a wonderful Cabernet is unmatched in Walla Walla.

Corliss estate, owner Michael Corliss is one of the great winemakers of Washington state and has consistently made great wines from Red Mountain and his 2008 Cabernet Franc is just one example.

Seven Hills Vineyard, Casey is the winemaker and owner he’s what you might call an experimental guy that likes to grow several different grape varietals and believe it or not he grows them all very well.  His top wines are from Red Mountain in Washington state. Ciel Du Cheval is a Bordeaux blend and Pentad 2012 red wine blend was an incredible complex wine and the best wine that we tasted at the winery that day.

Charles Smith winery, and we were hosted by the owner Charles Smith, he does not make anything small his wines are big lots of fruit, complex and built to give you great joy.

On Wednesday morning our first stopped on Red Mountain was Kiona the oldest winery on Red Mountain first planting grapes in 1982 a very good winery with some serious complex wines being made there. These wines are being made by the son of the owner, who calls himself “The one eye winemaker”

And finally Hedges winery these people have been making wine on Red Mountain for quite a long time and have been doing an exceptional job of not only making great wines but wines that are very affordable with excellent quality.

Bodega Catena Zapata

A little history about Bodega Catena Zapata:The Historic 1997 Nicolas Catena Zapata Tastings

 Nicolás Catena, sailed from Italy to Argentina in 1898 and planted his first Malbec vineyard in 1902. Malbec had been a blending grape in Bordeaux. But Nicola suspected it would find its hidden splendour in the Argentine Andes. Domingo, his son, inherited that dream and took the family winery to the next level, becoming one of the largest vineyard holders in Mendoza. 

By the 1960s, however, Familia Catena was struggling. The Argentine economy was in shambles and inflation rates were soaring. One year, Domingo realized that it would cost him more to harvest than to leave the fruit on the vines. He asked his twenty-two year old son Nicolás, a recent PhD graduate in economics, what to do about such a dilemma. Nicolás advised him not to harvest. Domingo could not follow his son’s advice with a clear conscience and picked anyway. Nicolás still remembers the sadness he felt for his father that year.

But in the early 1980s, Nicolás left Argentina to become a visiting professor of economics at the University of California, on the world-renowned campus at Berkeley.

Nicolás Catena returned to Mendoza with a vision in mind. From one day to the other, he sold his table wine producing company, keeping only Bodegas Esmeralda, the fine wine branch of the family business. At that time Argentina was perceived as a bulk wine producer and Nicolás was told by many of his colleagues in Argentina that he was “completamente loco” (completely crazy).

But Nicolás Catena is not someone to be easily discouraged. During the 1980s, Nicolás set out to discover the best places to plant vineyards in Mendoza. When recently asked why he decided to plant Chardonnay and Malbec in Gualtallary, at almost 5,000 feet elevation, Nicolás answered, “I felt that the only way we would make a leap in quality would be by pushing the limits of vine cultivation, by taking risks”. His own vineyard manager had told him that Malbec would never ripen there, but it did, and beautifully. Nicolás found that Mendoza was exceptional for vine growing, with each high altitude valley providing a unique flavor and aroma profile of the same varietal. He found that the poor soils near the Andes, discarded by the original European immigrants due to their low fertility, were actually ideal for quality viticulture. And that the desert climate was an asset because it allowed him to control quality and hang time through strict irrigation control. 

Then came the challenge of what to do with Malbec. Nicolás did not have his father’s confidence in Malbec. Domingo Catena fiercely believed that Argentine Malbec could make a wine as worthy as any first growth Bordeaux. Nicolás was not sure that Malbec would be able to age. In 1989, after his father Domingo died, Nicolás put all his sorrow into trying to see if his father’s intuition was right. It took 5 years of working on the 60 year old Angélica vineyard before Nicolás was satisfied enough to make a Catena Malbec in 1994. Then came the question of which clones to plant in the new vineyards. Since there was no existing Argentine Malbec clonal selection, Nicolás decided to bring clones from Cahors, France. The French Chardonnay clones had given him his best white. But results for French Malbec clones were disappointing. They grew large berries and bunches with rustic aromas and flavors. 

Nicolás set out to develop his own selection of Argentine Malbec clones planting 145 clones in the La Pirámide vineyard. Of these, he selected the best five and began to plant them in different terroirs and altitudes.

By 1994, Nicolás and his team felt that they had identified their best vineyard lots for Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. First with Cabernet Sauvignon in 1994, Nicolás bottled a small cuvée from the oldest and most uniform lots in the La Pirámide vineyard. Three hundred cases of Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon were made. In 1995, Nicolás bottled his first Chardonnay from cool climate Tupungato region, sourcing the fruit from Lot 4 of the Domingo vineyard for the Catena Alta Chardonnay. The next year, in 1996, two acres of lot 18 of the Angélica vineyard produced the best Malbec, and Nicolás made his first Catena Alta Malbec.

1997 was a phenomenal Cabernet Sauvignon vintage, and Nicolás Catena started plans to make another top cuvée, a wine that would fulfill those dreams that had started in the early 1980s. The wine, named Nicolás Catena Zapata (Zapata is Nicolás’ mother’s maiden name), was a blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec. It was released in 2001 through a series of blind tastings held in the USA and Europe where it was compared blind to Château Latour, Haut Brion, Solaia, Caymus and Opus One. The Nicolás Catena Zapata 1997 came in either first or second in every tasting.

Tasting Notes:

This winery makes serious wines for all levels of wine enthusiasts.  The 2012 Catena Alta Chardonnay made in a classic Burgundy style floral, lemon and citrus on the palate, 12 to 16 months aged in new french oak.  The acidity is perfectly balance throughout the finish.

2010 Catena Alta Malbec and Cabernet, wines that are rich in blackberry fruit, spices and luscious tannins structure on the finish.

2009 Nicolás Catena Zapata, is probably the best wine made in Argentina, 75% Cabernet and 25% Malbec. Black cherry, blackberry, spices and violets, 24 months in new French oak.  A great wine for the serious wine drinkers.

 

DAY 3 AND 4 IN NAPA, SONOMA VALLEY

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> DAY 3: Starts at Diamond Creek Winery. WOW what a magnificent piece of property to grow grapes! Nestled into steep hills, this vineyard has a natural spring and their own man made lake. We were greeted by Cidy, a lovely host that I had met at the Fountainbleau during South Beach Food and Wine Festival earlier in the year. They only have three wines for most people to taste but what a threesome: Red Rock, Volcanic Hill, and Gravelly Meadow. All of these wines grow on 44 year-old vines with roots often 30 feet deep so they don’t starve for water.

The 2009 Volcanic Hill can only be described as a mouth full of joy!  The 2010 Gravelly Meadow is a 300 case production– so virtually impossible to get–but if you like Bordeaux grown in Napa, this would please your soul. To show how well their wines age, Cidy very kindly opened a 2003 Volcanic Hill…..the fruit was like black cherry candy while the structure and complexity was truly amazing. This 03 tasted like a young baby. BTW, Lake Vineyard is their 4th wine but you didn’t hear it from me!

As a side note: Cidy presented us with an aesthetically beautiful and delicious cheese pairing to accompany the wine. All cheeses were locally made and finished with a fresh fig in a balsamic reduction. Heaven!

We finished the day with the lovely sisters:   Far Niente and Nickel &Nickel (N&N).  Both wineries make great wines but are vastly different.  Far Niente makes 4 wines:  Chardonnay, Cabernet, Pinot Noir, and the great Sauterne of California:  Dolce.  The first thoughts that came to mind upon tasting the Dolce were “delicious” and “liquid gold”.  Interestingly, and just for the record, the ‘07 was the best wine I tasted at both wineries.

The wines at N&N are mostly one hundred percent grape varietals.  The Merlot was a very good wine that shows how under-appreciated this grape is in California.  2011 Enroute Pinot was smoky-bramble with cherry fruit and a long, lush finish.  It reminded me very much of a Premier Cru from Burgundy. 

Although we tasted several 100% Cabernets,  I thought the ‘09 CC from Rutherford was an extremely special wine.  I’m beginning to really appreciate the fruit from Rutherford!

 

Day 4:  The last day started early at Caymus Vineyards…. one of the really special wineries in Napa. It was founded my Chuck Wagner at age 19, and is now slowly moving into the capable hands of his children.   In 1972, Charlie Wagner,  Lorna Belle Glos Wagner and their son, Chuck, built their winery among the vines planted on the family’s ranch in Rutherford, California  (the center of the Napa Valley). Just a short time later, in 1975, the Wagners produced their first Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, which remains the only wine to have twice been named Wine Spectator’s “Wine of the Year” (1984 and 1990 vintage).  

The winery now makes several different types of wine but their bread and butter are still the two Cabs:  The Caymus Cabernet and The Special Select Cabernet (which is 90% Cabernet).  Depending upon the year, I think the regular Cab can be better than the Special Select.

Caymus also makes world class Pinot Noir Meiomi and 4 different Belle Glos wines:  Dairyman, Clark & Telephone, Las Alturas, and Taylor Lane.  These are all big Pinot’s… I call them Pinot on steroids!

The surprise wine for me was the Zinfandel.  This was a lovely Zin with Raspberry, Clove, White Pepper and a spicy, long finish.  Easily one of the top 3 Zin’s that I have ever tasted. 

As a side note: Rosanne Acquistapace, our tasting guide was not only very familiar the wines but put together a cheese selection that was paired perfectly with the wines….and all readily available (Dean&Deluca,Whole Foods and Wms. Sonoma). Thank you!

 

Just when you think  you have seen the best piece of property and the best view in Sonoma and Napa , you arrive at Hanzell Vineyard  and quickly realize you  haven’t seen anything yet!  . 

Founded in 1948 by James David Zellerbach, who was not only involved in the design of the Marshall Plan but asked to implement it in Europe by President Truman .  While leading this forward-thinking and compassionate effort, Zellerbach was also at the helm of his highly successful business; Crown Zellerbach. It was during this time that J.D. Zellerbach discovered and purchased his first fourteen acres of private, oak woodland on the steep hillside of the Mayacamas Range, overlooking the town of Sonoma. 

As Mr. Zellerbach made his money in the Chemical business, he was in a perfect position to hire an accomplished chemist – Mr. Webb – as his winemaker.  It turned out to be a great decision!  For fifty years Hanzell has been the home of great innovation and invention:   from the first-in-the-world stainless steel fermenters and the first controlled malolactic fermentation, to our current day one-ton tankitos and clone and rootstock trials.

Our 90 minute tour and tasting of this great property was directed by Ryan Hortum, an extremely knowledgeable and engaging person who provided us with all of the historical details of Hanzell and more.  With total respect for the winery  I must add that after a two hour tour they only had 2 wines for us to taste! You can just imagine how thirsty we were after two hours of not drinking wine in wine country!  There are reasons for this:  first they only produce 5,500 cases of wines a year and second they only make 6 wines in total (3 Pinots and 3 Chardonnays).  Although 2011 was a very challenging year for every winery in California,  Hanzell lost 40% of their fruit hence the absence of Pinot Noir for us to taste.  

The 2 Chardonnay’s were fabulous and more than made up for it!  2011 Sebella  Chardonnay  was youthful with floral notes, green apple and good acidity,  with a lemon/lime finish.  2010 Hanzell Chardonnay had green apple on the nose,   very creamy honeysuckle on the mid palate and finally notes of pear with a rich lone finish.  If I closed my eyes and didn’t know any better I would think that I was drinking Chassagne  Montrachet from Burgundy.

Overall Sonoma and Napa Valley will continue to produce world class wines for the foreseeable future.  The scenery, the food and the people make the wine that much better!  It was another GREAT time…..!

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My First Two Days in Sonoma and Napa

Sonoma and Napa Valley are two of the greatest places on earth to grow great juice. These valleys have enjoyed exceptional weather for grapes to flourish for the last 10 years, with the exception of 2011 when rain came early and during harvest. I’m reminded by a great quote from a great wine maker in Burgundy, Anne Parent ” there are no bad vintages only bad wine makers”….
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> DAY 1: My visit began at Adobe Road tasting room in Sonoma Plaza. I had previously met Kevin Buckler (the owner of this fabulous boutique winery) ten plus years ago and his wines just keep getting better and better. We tasted through several wonderful wines, however some always stand out! The 2009 Cab Franc was truly outstanding. They don’t make a lot so it is definitely a must-buy if you can find it. The 2009 Cab from Beckstoffer Vinyards in Rutherford is a big, complex, and well balanced wine that shows the elegance of Rutherford. Adobe Road Winery is one of the hidden gems of the wine
world.
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> As a side note, there is a little restaurant on the north side of the Plaza called the Swiss Cafe -deceptively named since we had one of the best pizzas ever! Wonderful food, great service and friendly clientele….. added bonus: you can smoke cigars out front!
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>DAY 2 : This day started early at the ever pristine Pride Mountain where we were hosted by the fabulous Katrina. She guided us through several wines starting with their Viognier which is standing out as a star. The 2012 Cab Franc from barrel won’t be released until March 2014, but if the barrel tasting was an indicator you should get in line now to buy some. It won’t last long!
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> Our second stop was a short (and winding!) trip down the mountain to Spring Mountain Vineyards. We were met by Valli Farelli who already had thirst quenching Sauvignon Blanc poured while she reminded us of the vastly interesting history of the vineyard. In 1873 they planted Cabernet with most of the cuttings coming from Bordeaux. We tasted the both the 2001 and 2008 Spring Mountain Cab and
although both were very French in style, there is something very special about the 2001 Cab. I had tasted this on several other occasions and was not surprised to find it as magical as I remembered. Tasting like a very good first growth from Margaux, it is still one of my top five Cabernets ever in California.
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> The last stop of the day was Heitz cellars. Their 2007 Trailside Cabernet from Rutherford was a program of perfection: blackberry, spice box, and minerality all adding up to a very expressive finish. Another stand-out was the 2012 Rose of Grignolino, an Italian Grape that finishes dry and was very refreshing on a hot summer day.
As a side note, I can’t drive through that area without the required stop to Buster’s BBQ! It doesn’t get much better than hanging with Buster and Barbara and the dogs….. and do I need to talk about the BBQ??? P.S. They have more up their sleeves….coming soon! >  Day three and four to follow.

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WOMEN OF BURGUNDY

Burgundy is a most storied wine region, its wine among the most expensive and highly valued in the world. The wines hailing from Burgundy are thought to be the pinnacle of viticulture, yet here are some who think that the wines and region are no longer interesting and a bit staid. Something many do not know is that many new exciting things are coming out of Burgundy—one of them is the proliferation of outstanding female winemakers. Women are adding fresh perspectives to the old boys’ network of winemakers, and are reviving Burgundy with feminine creativity.

1) Domaine Manoir du Capucin, www.manoirducapucin@yahoo.fr, has been a family run winery for many generations beginning with Chloe Bayon’s (MdC vintner) great-grand father who fell in love with Fuisse and helped to establish the AOC Fuisse in 1936. Chloé grew up in Nice with a passion for wine, which led her to study winemaking. In Nice, she found it difficult to be accepted because of her gender. Worked hard to prove her capabilities, then moved to Fussié 10 years ago to helm Manoir DU Capucin. Chloé manages the day-to-day operations of the 13 hectare winery along with two others, all while expecting her second child. Chloé’s goal in returning to Fussié was to restore the winery to the status of her great grandfather’s rich tradition of making great wines.

2) Domaine Feuillat-Juillot, www.domaine@feuillat-juillot.com, is owned by Francoise Feuillat-Juillot. Françoise has been making wine since 1989 with her father Nickel Juillot. Francoise’s passion for winemaking stems from a rich family tradition of winemaking. Getting to where she is now has been no easy feat. In Burgundy, if there are two children, female and male in a winemaking family, the boy is trained to become successor without regard to any winemaking talent the girl in the family may happen to display. That didn’t deter Francoise, her solution was to begin her own domaine. In 2004 she became owner and winemaker at Domaine Feuillat-Juillot where she manages 14 hectares with two other employees. She produces about 60,000 bottles yearly, 13 Premier Crus, and distributes is the USA.

3) Domaine Parent, www.domaine-parent-bourgogne.com, owned by sisters Anne and Catherine, is located in Pommard. Anne, fluent in English, travels the world promoting Domaine Parent wines and advocating for women winemakers. Anne and Catherine represent the twelfth generation of family winemaking in Burgundy. The family has been producing wine since 1635, and after 11 generations of male wine makers, the Parent sisters are in control of the domaine and have been since1998. Legend has it that Thomas Jefferson while serving as ambassador to France was a huge fan of their wines and a personal friend to Etienne Parent.

Anne and Catherine divide the responsibility of running the winery; Anne handles the wine making and Catherine handles the business of running the Domaine. Domaine Parent makes wine according to Burgundian classifications: Bourgogne, Village, Premier Cru, and Grand Cru. Anne’s personal philosophy on wine making is “There are no bad vintages, there are only bad winemakers”, she made this statement in reference to the extremely challenging 2012 vintage. Anne is also a big believer in organic and biodynamic farming and is moving her Domaine in that direction. Anne has had a passion for wine making from a very young age, but growing up with brothers, a father will choose males in the family to carry on the wine making tradition. In general women are left to explore other avenues to fulfill their passions. Anne went to the University to study law then later returned to study wine making.

Once her brother left to start his own Domaine, Anne and her Catherine took control of Domaine Parent. Anne believes it is clearly more challenging for women coming up in the wine industry by having to prove themselves three times more than there male winemaker counterparts to obtain the respect they desire. An overall view of the wines from Pommard will find that they tend to be more masculine as well as elegant in style, this is also true of Anne’s wine. Her red wines from the Bourgogne and Village levels have dark cherry fruit with a peppery finish. The Premier Crus are rounder in style but still have a dark cherry acidity and a lingering peppery finish. Anne has created two amazing Grand Crus, upon tasting them the Burgundian classification system is fully realized. The 2008 Corton Grand Cru Les Renardes which was aged 16 months new french oak, has a deep garnet color, black cherry notes, round with depth on the palate. The finish is long with some spice, and you can sense that the oak is there but it doesn’t define this great wine.

4) Domaine Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet, www.francine-picard@m-p.fr, owner is Francine Picard. Founded in 1951 by her father Louis Felix Picard, owner of two hectares of vineyards in the town of Chagny. His children took over the winery in 1990 and they now have 13.5 hectares of land. Francine is also a true believer in the environment, and is steering her winery to become organic and biodynamic. Francine is the business mind behind Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet and incorporates a three-part business philosophy for running a winery: Organic Wine Making, Economics & Business, and the social aspects of managing a winery. Since 2006 she has directed and created a strong teamwork environment for her crew of approximately 30 employees

5) Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine, winemaker and owner Christine Dubreuil- Fontaine, Domaine@dubreuil-fontaine.com. Located in the Côte de Beaune Domaine. Dubreuil started as a family winery in 1879. They have over 20 hectares , its vineyards cover the villages of: Pernand-Vergelesses, Aloxe-Corton, Savigny Les Beaune, Pommard, Beaune, and Volnay. She makes wine on variety of levels, Bourgogne, Village, Premier Cru, to Grand Cru. Christine has been in charge of the winemaking and the business of the Domaine for the past 20 years, she works closely with her husband and 10 employees. Christine is fulltime business woman and a loving mother of two children ages 13 and 17. Christine attended wine school in Beaune and then business school in Paris. In addition she lived in the US for several months working at Simi Winery in California and a local wine store in LA. Ms. Dubreuil- Fontaine is a fabulous wine maker who takes a balanced approach to winemaking believing in the limited use of oak.
We tasted through many of her wines the 2010 Pernand-Vergelesses Village contains plenty of good minerality, the 2009 Clos Berthet Premier Cru is driven by a fresh mineral quality that rounds out the wine, Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru was explosive with citrus fruits, well balanced yet a powerful long lasting finish. Pernand Iledes premier cru 2009 crushed black cherry fruit with balance acidity and a spicy peppery finish. This wine is an excellent choice to purchase and enjoy now.
Corton Grand Cru, wow! From the moment I inhaled the amazing aromas and put this beautiful wine on my palate, I knew it would be something special, deep garnet in color with a bouquet of black cherry and spice, then on the palate those fruits explode with flavor, well rounded, a mouth full of joy and a long lingering finish.

6) Domaine Rion & Fils, Pascale-Rion contact@domaine-daniel-rion.com. Pascale is the business lady behind this Domaine’s success she is also fulltime mother of three children and a wife, experiencing all of the challenges of balancing family life and running a winery. It is Pascale’s two brothers that are at the helm of the Domaine Rion& Fils, as well as handle all winemaking. This is due to traditional family structure in Burgundy, the patriarchal structure states that the son of the father will be head of the Domaine and winemaking no matter how talented the females might be. I believe deep down Pascale would love to be a winemaker. In fact, Pascale shared a tasty wine with me that she made in 09. Domaine Rion & Fils make several excellent wines starting with the village level in new Niuts Saint George north and south, Vosne Romanée, to Echezeaux. Moving into The Grand Cru Clos Veugeot, cherry spicy with great mineralbility and balance throughout the finish of the wine.

7) Domaine Taupenot-Merme, Domaine.Taupenot-Merme@orange.fr. Ms Taupenot-Merme is President of the Association Femmes et de Bourgogne (www.fevb.net). Her Domaine is at the heart of burgundy and vineyards at Morey- Saint Denis, this estate is a place to discover the wealth of Burgundy wines. The winery spans 7 generations her father is from Coté Beaune and her mother is from Côte Nuit, Ms Taupenot-Merme attended winemaking school in Beaune France and studied business in Paris and New York, she also travel to San Francisco California to study how wine was made in the West. She returned to Bergen in 1995 and started working with her father making wine at the domain, but soon after her brother returned to the Domaine. Once again we see the patriarchal system at work as the son takes over duties as winemaker. Forced to give up her ambition of becoming a winemaker, her duties now include being in charge of all the business aspect of the Domaine. Being in control of the business aspect of the Domaine has not diminished her great passion to make wine in the future. Currently a full time mother of 2 children 2 and 6 years old, Ms. Taupenot-Merme is a working mother and a business lady all in one. Putting in 16hour days accepting and meeting the challenging aspects of the dueling duties of mother hood and handling the day-to-day operations with a staff of 11 employees of the winery head on. As with many career minded mothers there seems to never be enough time in a day to fulfill all of her obligations. Ms. Taupenot-Merme takes educating future generations of winemakers seriously and especially believes women should learn every aspect of winery operations so that one day they will have the capabilities of taking over as winemaker. She is the President and a founding member of the female wine makers Association in Burgundy, which now has approximately 39 female members.

8) Domaine Audoin, Marie-Françoise Audoin Owner wine maker for 35 years with her husband Charles and son Cyril, domaine-audion@wandoo.fr. They started this great winery with 2 hectares and through reclamation and purchasing new plots, they now have a total of 14 hectares, with most of the vines sitting hillside receiving the southeast exposure of Marsannay. Ms Audoin is a lovely engaging lady who communicated her passion and skill for winemaking to me effortlessly despite our language barrier. Marie tasted me through most of the wines that are produced at Audoin, along the way providing a history lesson on the rose Pinot Noir that is produced in Marsannay. Marsannay is the only area in Burgundy where the creation of rose of Pinot Noir is permitted. I would highly recommend Audoin rose of Pinot Noir. I tasted through the Audoin wines and found them pleasant, easy to drink and priced reasonably. The next generation winemaker at Audion will be their son Cyril , who has trained all over the world and in position himself to become a very prominent winemaker. As his parents begin to retire, Cyril is well prepared to take control of the domain and propel it to the next level.

9) Domaine Les Temps Perdus, owner winemaker Clothide Davenne, clotildedavenne@free.fr. After 17 years as a winemaker for the Brocard Winery, Ms. Davenne went about establishing her own Domaine in 2005. Ms Davenne is an experimental and innovative winemaker using Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay Pinot Noir and a locally grown grape called Caesar. She also creates an excellent sparkling wine from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Ms. Davenne is a driven, determined, hard working lady who has a vision of the future and knows how to accomplish her goals. She admits to being very controlling of the entire operation from wine making to the business side of her domain, and has little patience for others who are not as driven and as motivated as she is in completing their daily tasks. Ms. Davenne is a seasoned veteran winemaker who has traveled throughout the world to become the best wine maker possible. Clothide’s story is a bit unique as she does not come from a family of wine makers, the family farm she grew up on did not revolve around viticulture.

Her tasting journey into winemaking started with the family tradition of giving their children a spoonful of champagne around the age of 8 years old. I started tasting through numerous bottles of wine with Ms. Davenne and her trusted assistant. Starting with a sparkling Brut Rose which I have to admit it was one of the finest rose that I’ve ever tasted couple with a hard to believe price point at under 10 dollars, truly phenomenal. She also produces a fantastic Sauvignon Blanc as well as a very nice example of Pinot Noir, which is not typically grown in Chablis. Ms. Davenne’s other white wines are made from the Chardonnay grape and an excellent example of how a great Chardonnay can be made in Chablis. She also makes a Grand Cru from Chablis, which admittedly was the finest Grand Cru that I tasted in Chablis. Ms.Davenne has a Son, who is currently more passionate about thoroughbred equestrian competitions than winemaking, he does however return during harvest to assist with day to day operations at the Domaine. Ms.Davenne looks forward to the day when wine becomes his passion, so that he may take control of the Domain in the future.

I would be remiss in completing this article without another mention of the very unusual grape variety called Caesar that Ms.Davenne grows from 100 year old vines, which just happened to produce one of the best wines I tasted during my journey through Burgundy. Thank you for the great visit and a delicious lunch at LE Soufflot in a quaint town.

10) Domaine Des Malandes, Owner Vigneronne Lyne Marchive, contact@domainedesmalandes.com. Ms. Marchive is from an old Chablis winemaking family: The Tremblay of Chablis and in 1972 Vigneronne started her own winery and naming it Domaine Des Malandes. Controlling 27 hectares has taught her a profound respect for the environment. Ms Marchive and her wine maker Guenole Breteaudeau attempt to produce wines with freshness, finesse and minerality that come from the kimmerdgian soil associated with Chablis. Ms. Marchive is an amazing woman who has had the passion for wine from a very early age at a time when it wasn’t socially except-able for women to become wine makers. Realizing early on that she had the gift of smell and with the support of her Father (Mr.Andre Tremblay) she refined her skills. Miss Vigneronne was accepted into wine school at the tender age of 14 years old and would have been the only female in her class yet made the bold decision to turn it down, understanding her best education would come directly from the vineyards and the cellar. Ms Marchive operates the Domaine as a world class business with the majority of her delicious production (92%) being exported to Norway. Ms. Marchive has come a long way in the wine business and has earned the respect and admiration of her colleagues in viticulture. I tasted through a wide range of Domain Malandes wines and they are exactly what Ms. Marchive has strived to accomplish, lovely acidity and freshness with minerality that lingers on the finish.

11) Domaine Chateau de Beru, wine maker and owner Athenais de Beru, www.chateaudeberu.com. The de Beru family has owned their historical Château de Béru for 400 years. The tragedy of the philloxera crisis also known as the great French wine blight caused all the vines to be uprooted in the 19th century. It wasn’t until 1987 that Éric de Béru, out of his passion for wine undertook the pain staking efforts to replant the entire vineyard, and in particular, the famous Clos Béru.

His wife, Laurence and their daughter Athénaïs are now running the Domaine, they have invested considerable means to improve the production quality and give a fresh start to the Domaine. These tremendous efforts and the choice to adopt organic farming are beginning to bear fruits, and are noticeable in the vintages that have been vinified by Athénais and her team since 2004. After facing the challenging rebirth of the family Domaine in 2003 she harvested her first vintage in 2005, then started her own brand “Athénaïs” based on a close selection of parcels and growers cultivating grapes in the respect of Chablis terroirs.

I tasted three wines from Domaine de Beru the 07 and 09 Clos Beru from Monopole, the grapes are harvested by hand and fermented in old oak barrels without fining and filtration. The wine is aged for 18 months. This is a very unique wine. It was well rounded with fresh acidity, minerality and salt/iodinated lime on the finish. This is a complex, well-structured wine with it’s own identity.
Chateau de Beru also has a wonderful B&B on the property that is managed by her mother who makes a great breakfast every morning. Thanks for the hospitality.

In closing I would like to thank the Bourgognes, Bureau Interprofessionnel vins de Bourgogne www.burgundy-wines.fr for making this wonderful journey possible. My deepest gratitude for the 11 incredible women that I met along my journey through Burgundy and Chablis. It is because of their vision and passion for wine making that they are the future of Burgundy. These talented brave women have come together as one to announce that the traditional system of selecting males solely because of their gender to lead a Domaine is something that requires re-evaluation. For the past 25 years these women have proven that they are creative, passionate and beyond capable winemakers able to operate a Domaine as efficient as any of their male peers in Burgundy or Chablis. All the best ladies and many thanks again for your gracious hospitality, the world looks forward to many more delicious wines to come.