Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wine Wednesdays - Wine Tasting in Vouvray with Domaine Champalou and Domaine Huet

As we made our way east through the Loire Valley from Chinon to Amboise, we stopped in Vouvray for a tasting at two amazing producers.  First up, Domaine Champalou.

Catherine welcomed us into the tasting room and walked us through her small production wines.  It was my first experience with Champalou but the wines are pretty widely available in the states as the majority of her production is exported so you may see them on restaurant wine lists closer to home.  The wines really run the spectrum, from sec (dry) to semi-sweet to sweet, both still and sparkling, showcasing the varied potential of this region.  The Vouvray Sec was fresh and delicate, a perfect aperitif.  Le Portail was semi-sweet which is not usually my style but would make a great pairing with slightly spicy dishes.

Our second stop was Domaine Huet, where Johan welcomed us in the tasting room and gave a fabulous overview of the wines, terroir, and a tour through the caves.  Bonus, we got to meet owner Sarah, an American, who's been living in Vouvray since 2012.  Her family purchased the domaine in 2002 and has continued the legacy of creating some of the finest, age-worthy Chenin Blancs from this region.

We even got to see the last of the grapes being brought in off the vines.  Noble rot had set in so these grapes were destined for Cuvee Constance, the domaine's prized dessert wine.

I highly recommend visits to both places if you find yourself in Vouvray, as they are by appointment only, be sure to call ahead to book!   


Monday, April 23, 2018

Travelogue - Loire Valley Part 1: Nantes, Angers, Saumur, Chinon

If you've been following for a while now, you've seen me progress into a full blown Francophile.  It started in Paris (here, here, and here), followed me to Burgundy, persisted in Alsace, Champagne and now the Loire!  I just can't get enough.  

We started in Nantes at the "mouth" of the Loire and followed the river all they way East, ending at the northern tip of Burgundy in Chablis.  You will definitely need a car to hit all the spots; we spent a total of 7 days making our way, ending with 2 nights and 2 days in Paris.  

The Loire is a very large region and can generally be split into two halves, cities and towns comprising the areas east and west of the central city of Tours.  In part 1, I will focus on the first half of our trip and the region west of Tours.  

We flew into Paris and took a quick flight to Nantes where we picked up our car.  We spent the night at the Okko Hotel which I highly recommend.  Nightly happy hours and a substantial breakfast spread, centrally located, what more could you need??

Our first meal was at La Cigalle, a historic restaurant in the heart of Nantes.  I couldn't wait for my first sip of Muscadet paired with fresh oysters!  The table-side steak tartare was also amazing!  

The next morning we began our journey East.  Our first stop was the Sunday market in Angers to pick up picnic supplies.

Followed by a quick run through a brocante (antique market) at the castle.

We continued our drive to the town of Bourgueil where we found a picnic bench in the middle of the vineyards for our picnic!  The town was almost entirely shut down as it was Sunday. 

Our final stop was our home base for the next 2 days, Hotel Diderot in Chinon.

After checking in we walked around town, making our way up to the Chateau and stopping for an aperitif at Cave des Silenes, a wine bar that features the wines of local producer Charles Joguet.

And then it was time for dinner!  Much of Chinon is also closed on Sundays but we had a delicious meal at Les Anees 30 with the first of many cheese trays!

The skies cleared the next morning, showing off the beautiful hotel exterior!

Owners Jamie (an American!) and her husband Jean-Pierre carry on the Hotel Diderot tradition with an unparalleled spread of breakfast jams.  The banana jam with rum raisin made its way home with me and I'm still savoring the last few bites!  

After all those carbs (really just a vehicle to try every jam flavor!) we embarked on what was supposed to be a languid, easy bike ride along the river to Candes-Saint-Martin.  Choosing to follow the river meant a bumpy dirt road for most of the journey which turned our 1.5 hour round trip journey into almost stick to the paved bike route and you'll have an easy time!

We made it back just as Jared's pedal fell off his bike.....after a quick change we were off again.  Back to Saumur where we had lunch at L'Escargot before a tasting at Ackerman.

A word of warning when planning your trip, almost everything was closed for dinner on Sunday/Monday in Chinon.  We drove 25 minutes to L'Etape Gourmande in Villandry for some home-cooked French classics.

The next day we said our goodbyes to Hotel Diderot and continued to follow the river East.  We stopped at Chateau Villandry to admire the beautiful gardens, Rick Steves does not do this place justice and says to skip it unless you are a garden lover!  I completely disagree and it was quite possibly my favorite chateau because of the beautiful grounds.

We had a delicious lunch at Le Bistrot de la Liodiere in nearby Joue-les-Tours.

We spent the afternoon in Vouvray with a stop at Champalou and Domaine Huet.  More details on our tasting experiences on this week's Wine Wednesday!

Our final stop for this leg was Amboise where we spent the next 2 days.  Stay tuned for Part 2.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Wines of Marchesi Fumanelli - Pioneers of Amarone and Valpolicella

The Veneto region in Italy’s northeast corner contributes nearly a quarter of Italy’s total wine production.  Established in 1470, Marchesi Fumanelli is one of the largest and most historic estates of the Valpolicella region within the Veneto, combining traditional and modern techniques to produce outstanding wines that showcase the distinguished terroir. 

I recently had the opportunity to taste through their lineup and was really impressed with the wines.  The three standouts for me were: 

The “Superiore” designate requires at least 1 year of aging prior to release and a minimum of 12% alcohol.  A
blend of Corvina, Corvinone, and Rondinella similar to their Amarone, the wine is concentrated and ripe,

with dark fruit, spice from the 8-10 months of oak aging, and a medium+ body and finish.  I preferred the 2015 to the 2014 which to me was over the hill.
Price:  $29.99

Amarone is a true labor of love; the winemaking and aging process are extended well beyond the norm.
Grapes are harvested and left to dry for 120 days before undergoing an extended maceration and
fermentation period that can last up to 30 days.  Aged for 30 months in French oak, it’s another 8
months in the bottle before release.  Lucky for us, this dedication to the cause creates a rich, rounded,
smooth and velvety wine that bursts with ripe cherries, wild berries, and sweet spices.  We also tasted the 2011 which was a bit "dusty" while the 2013 was fresh and bright.   
Price:  $79.99

This is a next level wine, reinforcing Fumanelli as a pioneer in the production of Amarone.  Grapes are harvested from 40-year- old vines, left to dry for 120 days, fermented for 30 days, 48 months in French oak, and a final 8-12 months of bottle aging before being poured into your glass.  We tasted both the 2009 and the 2010, I preferred the 2009 for its juicy freshness and round finish; the 2010 was still rather tannic with a bite on the finish.  This wine would be lovely with your favorite roast game, grilled meats, or aged cheeses.
Price:  $149.99

As you can see, the price varies widely depending on the DOC level and aging requirements of each, giving a nice range of quality wines at various price-points, a little something for everyone and every occasion!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Wine Wednesdays - 2016 DaTerra Viticultores Gavela Da Vila

I have a fun and different wine for you today!  I recently enjoyed this white wine from Galicia over Spanish Tapas at Despana in Soho, fun fact, they have a wine store next door to the shop where you can grab a bottle then go next door and order tapas to enjoy with your wine!  

DaTerra Viticultores is the brainchild of Laura Lorenzo and her partner chef/artist Alvaro Dominguez.  Together they are changing the perception of wines from Galicia and showcasing all this region has to offer.  

She organically farms 4.5 hectares of vines, some ranging between 80-120 years old!  The Gavela Da Vila that we enjoyed is comprised of 100% old-vine Palomino, a variety I hadn't had any experience with prior, it's the primary grape used to make sherry.  Fermented with wild yeasts, aged on the lees for 6 months in neutral oak, and no clarification, cold stabilization or filtering at bottling preserves the rich texture and "bit of funk" in the wine.  Notes of white peach and apricot mellow into a long juicy finish.  There is a slight oxidative quality but nothing off-putting, it's certainly not full-on orange wine but hints at that style.  A perfect aperitif with our meat and cheese plate!   

Purchased:  Despana Wines
Price:  $32

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Wine Wednesdays - My Article on The Vintner Project - Weingut Pfaffl

I have some exciting news to share!  I'm officially a contributor to The Vintner Project, a website devoted to advocating for winemakers and sharing their stories in an effort to enable the reader to enjoy their wines on a deeper level!  Sounds similar to the philosophy of Chardonnay Moi, no?

Check out my first article, a highlight of one of my favorite Austrian producers, Weingut Pfaffl.

Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Wine Wednesdays - The Wines of Jean-Francois "Fanfan" Ganevat

I've discovered a new favorite wine bar in NYC, Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels.  We first went last Saturday and had the best time.  With one whiff, Jared guessed the mystery white wine and we won a bottle!  The "caccio e popcorn" buffalo chicken rillettes, and radishes with the most insane brown butter were all delicious snacks that deserve your attention as well.  They have happy hours 7 days a week and the bartenders are all so friendly and knowledgeable. 

After following them on Instagram, we saw they were having a special "Sommakase" flight of wines from Jura producer Jean-Francois Ganevat and so we returned, less than 48 hours later!  

I first had a wine by Jean-Francois in Vienna back in November.  He comes from a winegrowing family that dates back to the 1650s in the heart of the Jura.  He bio-dynamically farms 8.5 hectares for estate wines as well as sourcing from grape-growers as far north as Alsace.  He creates anywhere from 35-40 different cuvees every year, he's one busy man!

We tasted through 5 wines that all showcased a slightly different side of his winemaking style, from mild to wild!

First up, "La Combe" Cremant De Jura, 100% Chardonnay aged for four years on the lees with no dosage.

And then L'Ailleurs a white blend of Pinot Auxerrois, l'Enfariné and Savignin Vert - which tasted like a blend of seawater, Sauvignon Blanc and cider (in a good way!)

Grusse en Billat was a delicious 100% Chardonnay from 50+ year old vines.  My favorite of the night, even if perhaps a bit basic, it tasted like the most delicious blend of baked apples and sweet cream butter!

Le Zaune á Dédée took us to nerd-wine territory.  The joke of the night was this wine was "Traminer on Traminer" as the grapes Traminer and Savignin which make up the blend are very closely related in DNA.  

And the last wine, the only red, was J'en Veux Encore, apparently a hint at the second version of the label as the first was rejected by the TTB for being even more suggestive than this label!  A bright and easy drinking red made from Gamay and Trousseau.

Compagnie des Vins offers nightly "Sommakase" options at a variety of price-points.  I'd highly recommend checking them out next time you're in NYC (or Paris or London)!

The "caccio e popcorn" is a must order!


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