A Wonderful Video on Georgian Wines

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A friend that I met at the International Wine Tourism Conference in Tbilisi Georgia recently posted a link to this great video that, in my opinion, really captures the people, the impact that wine has in the culture, and the winemaking history of the country. This video also features a few of the wonderful people that I met in Georgia, as well as some of the beautiful places that I visited in the Kakheti region, such as the Alaverdi Monastery and the town of Sighnaghi.

I hope you will take the time to watch this video as it’s very interesting and informative. It was made by ‘That Crazy French Woman’, Isabelle Legeron, MW – the only French woman ever to have become a Master of Wine.

Qvevri Wines of Georgia

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During the recent International Wine Tourism Conference in Tbilisi, Georgia, and the pre- and post-conference media tour, I became quite well acquainted with (not to mention a huge fan of) qvevri-made wines. A qvevri (pron. kveh-vree) is a clay vessel that is buried in the ground which can be of varying size, from a few litres to a few thousand litres, in which grapes are fermented into wine.Ikalto QvevrisQvevri2 Styles of qvevri-made wines vary just as much as European-style wines. Some are made with the intact grape clusters, others have been destemmed and crushed, some will have only a portion of whole berries, others only ferment the juice. Some of my favourite wines made in qvevri are referred to as “amber wines”, made with the white varietals as whole grapes, or a mix of grapes and juice (not just the juice pressed off, as most of us are familiar with here and elsewhere in the world for whites) which allows for up to 6 months of skin contact, and produces amazingly complex delicious amber-coloured wines: white wines with some tannic structure. It seemed to be an acquired taste for some, and others never acquired it, but I loved them from the start!

I had two amber favourites of the trip, one was the 2013 Mtsvane, made by Nikoloz Antadze from the Kakheti region. It spent 6 months on the skins, and had some Rkatsiteli stems added as well (they were riper than the Mtsvane stems were). The wine was pale orange with a watery rim. There was a hint of mushroom on the initial sniff, with some pepper and citrus in a complex nose. It was dry, with medium-plus acidity and medium-minus tannins. It was complex, elegant and well-balanced, with flavours of white pepper and citrus on the palate, and a long finish.Niki Antadze The other wine was the 2005 Kakhetian Royal from Kindzmaruli Marani Winery. It is a blend of Rkatsiteli, Kisi, Mtsvane and Khikhvi grapes. It was a medium amber colour with dried fruit, fruitcake, prune and raisin on the nose. It was dry with medium-plus acidity, medium-plus tannins, flavours of raisins and dried apricots and a very long finish – delicious!KM Kakhetian Royalamber wine!

I was also introduced to many new varietal names, and only a few of them are easy to pronounce, although I did become more familiar with them as the days went on. I quite enjoyed many of the Georgian pronunciations, with rolling Rs and the guttural kh combination that sounds a bit like Scots, i.e. Loch. Some of the white varietals include Goruli Mtsvane, Kakhuri Mtsvane, Rkatsiteli, Kisi, Tsitska, Tsolikouri, Chinuri, Krakhuna and Khikhvi. The red lineup included Saperavi (similar to a Syrah, but a bit lighter-bodied), Shavkapito, Tavkveri and Otskhanuri Sapere. I think all in all I tried about 16 new varietals, although apparently the ‘Zigu’ wine at Shumi Winery was made with a field blend of 294 Georgian varietals, plus 94 European varietals. Then it was fortified with chacha (grappa) and brandy – delicious!Zigu Also, one blend at Pheasant’s Tears Winery, Tibaani, claimed to be made of 400 varietals – I wish I had the list for the Wine Century Club! I loved the vast majority of the wines I tasted in Georgia, and my particular favourites were always those that had been made in qvevri, rather than those that were made in a European style. I just wish more were available here in BC!IMG_7032

No, not THAT Georgia…

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This Tuesday, I will be off on another BC wine-promotion adventure with Allison Markin of All She Wrote Consulting. She and I are flying to Georgia to speak at the 2014 International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC) and to take part in a media/FAM tour before and after the conference. Now, most of you may be thinking of Atlanta and Georgia Peaches and wondering why we would go there for a wine conference but in fact, we’re off to the other side of the planet, to the former Soviet Republic of Georgia; Tbilisi, Georgia to be precise.photo credit: Vladimer Shioshvili

photo credit: Vladimer Shioshvili

Georgia has an amazing history in growing grapes and making wine – many archeologists believe that the valleys of the South Caucasus are the source of the world’s first cultivated grapevines, dating back 8000 years, to the Neolithic era. The clay vessels in which the Georgian wines have traditionally been made are called Qvevris, and they have been added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.Gori_reis_08_(10)As part of the FAM tour, I will be able to experience Georgian culture, food and wine at an assortment of wineries,distilleries, monasteries and restaurants in and around Tbilisi, Telavi, Kvareli, and Sighnaghi. Some of the highlights will include the sparkling wine house Bagrationi 1882, brandy producer Sarajishvili, Jvari Monastery, Château Mukhrani, Alaverdi Monastery, Khareba Winery, Shumi Winery, Schuchmann Winery, and Pheasant’s Tears Winery. I look forward to some delicious food, wine and traditional Georgian music at Azarpesha Restaurant.

photo: kaukasus-reisen.de

photo: kaukasus-reisen.de

It will be a very busy 7 days (plus 3 days of travel to and from) but I am very excited for all the new experiences and people, not to mention the different wine varietals on offer! Georgia has over 500 of their own varietals; I’m sure I’ll only be able to taste a fraction of them to add to my Wine Century Club list! Please stay tuned here, or follow my Georgian adventures on Twitter @vinesanddesigns. Gaumarjos! (Cheers in Georgian)

Wine Century Club: Varietals 51 – 60

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Here is the next segment of my tasting notes for some of the wines that I will be including in my list of varietals for the submission for membership into the Wine Century Club.

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51. Kerner, 2012 vintage, SummerGate Winery, Summerland, BC, Canada: pale colour, almost clear, tropical notes on the nose, off-dry, medium-plus acidity, citrus, pineapple, floral hint on the palate, medium finish.

52. Macabeo, 2010 vintage, Altair (blend), Mas Amiel, Maury, France: pale straw colour, fresh nose of lemon and minerality, dry, medium-plus acidity, complexity on the palate, flavours of citrus and spice, long finish.

53. Muscat Ottonel, 2012 vintage, SummerGate Winery, Summerland, BC, Canada: very pale gold in colour, aromas of floral, citrus and white peach, slightly off-dry, medium-plus acidity, floral, spice, citrus & grapefruit on the palate.

54. Ortega, 2012 vintage, Celista Winery, Celista, BC, Canada: pale lemon colour, aromatic nose of citrus and floral, flavours of citrus and peach.

55. Petit Courbu, 2010 vintage, Torus Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh Sec, Madiran, France: pale lemon in colour, aromas of citrus, apple and floral, dry, medium-plus acidity, intense flavours of pineapple and yellow plum, long finish.

56. Ribolla Gialla, 2005 vintage, Ribolla Anfora, Azienda Agricola Gravner, Oslavia, Italy: medium orange in colour, complex aromas and flavours of tangerine, vanilla, rosehip, dry, high acidity, medium tannins, medium-plus finish. Such an interesting wine!

57. Schonburger, 2012 vintage, Gehringer Brothers Gewurztraminer-Schonburger, Oliver, BC, Canada: pale lemon in colour, floral, citrus, lychee on the nose, off-dry, medium-plus acidity, lychee, spice, floral, muscat flavours, medium-plus finish.

58. Seyval Blanc, 2012 vintage, Montauk, St James Winery, St James, Missouri, USA: pale gold in colour, aromas of citrus and melon, dry, medium acidity, flavours of green apple and citrus, medium finish.

59.Trebbiano, 2012 vintage, Hester Creek Old Vines Block 16, Oliver, BC, Canada: pale gold in colour, aromas of citrus, apple and some minerality, slightly off-dry, medium acidity, flavours of apple, grapefruit, some tropical notes, medium finish.

60. Chardonel, 2012 vintage, Stone Hill Winery, Hermann, Missouri, USA: pale gold in colour, aromas and flavours of apple, pear and citrus, dry, medium acidity, round mouthfeel, medium finish.

Wine Century Club: Varietals 41 – 50

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Here is the next segment of my tasting notes for some of the wines that I will be including in my list of varietals for the submission for membership into the Wine Century Club.

wwc-demi41. Bacchus, 2012 vintage, Arrowleaf Cellars, Lake Country, BC, Canada: apple, pear, peach aromas and flavours, also citrus and floral on palate, off-dry, medium-plus acidity, medium finish.

42. Tempranillo, 2006 vintage, Bodegas Lan, Rioja, Spain: medium-plus garnet in colour, cherry, red fruit, hints of liquorice and savoury on the nose, dry, medium acidity, medium-plus tannins, medium-plus body, cherry, plum, dried herbs, liquorice, savoury on palate, some nice complexity, medium-plus finish.

43 Touriga Nacional, 2008 vintage, Cortello, Vinho Regional Lisboa, Portugal: deep ruby in colour, black cherry, blackberry, hint of floral on the nose, dry, medium acidity, medium-plus tannins, dark fruits, hint of floral on palate, medium-plus finish.

44. Catarratto, 2011 vintage, Fazio ‘U Cantu, Erice, Sicily, Italy: medium gold in colour, apple and spice on the nose, dry, medium body, medium acidity, flavours of apple, spice, citrus, vanilla, medium-plus length.

45. Chasselas, 2012 vintage, St Hubertus, Kelowna, BC, Canada: pale lemon in colour, floral, apple and citrus nose, dry, medium-plus acidity, light body, flavours of apple, pear and lemon.

46. Clairette, 2012 vintage, l’Agathe, Domaine Rimbert, Berlou, France: fresh clean nose of pear and apple, nice aromatics, dry, medium acidity,medium body, flavours of apple, hints of floral and tropical fruits, medium finish.

47. Gros Manseng, 2012 vintage, Pacherenc du Vic Bilh Sec, Famille Laplace, Aydie, France: pale lemon in colour, light floral, peach and pear on the nose, dry, medium body, medium acidity, flavours of citrus, spice, complex nuttiness and fruitiness.

48. Barbera, 2011 vintage TesoAria Winery, Southern Oregon, USA: ripe tannins and flavours of dark berries, cocoa and coffee.

49. Cinsault, 2012 vintage, Les Travers de Marceau, Domaine Rimbert, Berlou, France: jammy nose of dark fruit, dry, medium-plus acidity and tannins, flavours of dark fruit and spice – a pleasant and elegant wine.

50. Mourvedre, 2012 vintage, Castano Monastrell, Bodegas Castano, Yecla, Spain: medium ruby with tinge of purple in colour, juicy red and purple fruit on the nose, dry, medium acidity, medium body, medium tannins (smooth), flavours of raspberry and blueberry, medium-plus finish.

Gaillac & Domaine Plageoles

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For the final leg in my journey around the South of France my base was in a suburb to the north of Toulouse. This allowed me easy access to the motorway that would lead me to the Gaillac region and the historic fortified town of Cordes-sur-Ciel. I drove up to the town of Gaillac, where I conveniently found the Maison des Vins, or house of wine, attached to the Tourist Information office.IMG_3145 This reminded me very much of the BC Wine Information Centre VQA store in Penticton, located adjacent to Penticton & Wine Country Tourist Information. Located in the old Abbey of Saint-Michel, it was beautifully situated beside the Tarn River. IMG_3137IMG_3154After getting some maps & guides in the Tourism office I wandered into the wine shop, which offered descriptions and images of the local grape varieties (some of which I had never heard of)IMG_3158 and the opportunity to taste some of the locally-produced wines. I opted to try one white and two reds. The white was the 2011 Les Grézels Blanc Sec, a blend of Mauzac, Loin de l’Oeil and Sauvignon Blanc. It was pale, almost clear, with aromas of citrus. It was dry, with medium-plus acidity and light in body, with flavours of citrus and green fruit with a medium finish, fresh and crisp.IMG_3161 The first red was the Cuvée Mélanie 2005 from Domaine Mas Pignou. It is a blend of 40% Braucol (also known as Fer Servadou), 10% Duras, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. It was medium garnet in colour with medium-plus intensity of aromas of cherry, plum, stewed fruits and some sweetness. It was dry with medium body, medium acidity and tannins with flavours of red fruits and dried cherries. It was not overly complex but very pleasant.IMG_3162 The 2009 Burgale Rouge from Domaine de Genouillac is a blend of Fer Servadou, Syrah and Duras. It was medium ruby in colour with medium-plus intensity of aromas of dark purple fruit and a hint of tar. It was dry with medium body, medium-plus acidity and tannins and pronounced intensity of flavours of red fruit, cherry, plum, spice, and some savoury and tar notes. It had a long finish and was quite interesting.IMG_3163 Gaillac has a very long history of growing wines; in fact the region’s tag line refers to producing wines since the year 972 – Gaillac, Grands Vins du Sud Ouest depuis 972. This was the year that the monks of Saint-Michel gained viticulture privileges from the Bishop of Albi.

I had been given some advice from other winemakers that I had met during my travels, as well as at the Maison des Vins, that if I was looking for single varietal production or monocépages I really must visit Domaine Plageoles as this is really what they specialize in, unlike most of the producers in the area who blend their wines. Domaine Plageoles has been making wine for six generations, since 1805, and focussing on the local varietals including Mauzac, Ondenc, Loin de l’Oeil, Braucol, Duras and Prunelart. Due to the deep clay and limestone soils in the region, the vines here escaped relatively unscathed from the devastation of phylloxera in the late 1800s, allowing the continuation of some ancient varietals that could have otherwise been wiped out. IMG_3170Domaine Plageoles is one of a small group that call themselves the “Terroirists”, who use natural/organic farming and winemaking methods with the least interference possible in order to truly express the terroir in the wine. They do not use any chemical fertilizers, herbicides, synthetic products of any kind and have farmed for the past 20 years using the Méthode Cousinié which is based on soil and vine analysis and achieving the best nutrition for the vine and soil health. IMG_3168My tasting began with the 2012 Mauzac, made from the Mauzac Vert (one of 7 varieties of Mauzac grown at Domaine Plageoles). It is a pale gold with a citrus nose of medium-minus intensity. It is dry with medium acidity and medium body and flavours of citrus and apricot with a medium-plus finish.IMG_3174 The 2012 Ondenc is pale lemon in colour with medium intensity of aromas of peach and stone fruit. It is dry with medium acidity and flavours of floral, peach and citrus with a medium finish – very pleasant.IMG_3175 The 2000 Vin de Voile is made from Mauzac Roux and is similar to a Vin Jaune from the Jura region. It is a dark gold/pale tawny in colour with oxidative qualities, aromas of nutty salinity and citrus. It is dry, with medium-minus acidity and very complex flavours including some rancio and salinity. These may not sound all that appealing, but this is a deliciously complex wine with a very long finish and I loved it!IMG_3176 Next up was a red varietal that has been around the Gaillac region since the 1400s and is a parent of Malbec. The 2010 Prunelart is medium ruby in colour with a hint of garnet and medium-plus intensity of savoury aromas of dark red fruit with some notes of tar. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium tannins and medium body with flavours of prunes, liquorice, spice, leather and hints of tar. This is definitely more of a savoury wine than fruity, with a medium-plus finish.IMG_3178 Conversely, the 2011 Prunelart is much fruitier. The 2011 is medium ruby in colour with medium intensity of fresh aromas of dark red fruit and purple fruit. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and tannins with flavours of plum, prune, spice and some hints of savoury notes. It has a medium-plus intensity of flavours and length of finish. The 2011 Loin de l’Oeil is a dessert wine whose grapes underwent passillerage where the grapes are dried out or raisinated prior to fermentation. In order to maintain the acidity in the grapes but that the grapes dry out, they pinch the stems. The wine is medium gold in colour with a pronounced intensity of aromas of honey and citrus. It is sweet and unctuous with medium-plus acidity, full body, very well-balanced with flavours of honey, peach and citrus with a lovely long finish. IMG_3179The 2008 Vin d’Autan is made from Ondenc Blanc and has also undergone passillerage in addition to some of the grapes being botrytis affected. It is a med-plus gold in colour with pronounced intensity of aromas of apricot, citrus and fig. It is lusciously sweet with medium-plus acidity and flavours of honey, raisin, apricot and marmalade with a deliciously long finish.IMG_3180 Domaine Plageoles also makes sparkling wine in the Ancestral Method, which is similar to how cider is made. Unlike traditional method sparkling wine, where the base wine is put into bottle with yeast and sugar and undergoes a second fermentation to capture the sparkle of the CO2, ancestral method captures the CO2 from the primary fermentation at very cold temperatures without the addition of sugar and without disgorging, and without the addition of any SO2. IMG_3184The 2012 Mauzac Nature is made from a blend of Mauzac Gris and Mauzac Rose. It has a citrus nose, tiny bubbles and a bit of a cider-like taste, with flavours of apple, pear and citrus.

Bernard Plageoles talking about his wines

Bernard Plageoles talking about his wines

I made my way up to Cordes-sur-Ciel, said to be the first bastide or purpose-built fortified town, dating back to 1222. It is perched 100m above the valley on the top of the Puech de Mordagne, which has cliffs on two sides, allowing the fortified city to only have to build two walls to help in the defense of the town. Cordes-sur-Ciel gained its name change, from simply Cordes, in 1993 by the phenomenon that happens in the spring and fall where the fog from the nearby river surrounds the base of the Puech de Mordagne, giving the town the appearance of floating above the clouds (Cordes in the Sky).

I spent a lovely afternoon hiking from the town below, making my way up the winding streets to the old fortified town. IMG_3205IMG_3211IMG_3218IMG_3228IMG_3281enjoying local wine for lunch with duck confit, aligot, salad and creme brulée

enjoying local wine for lunch with duck confit, aligot, salad and creme brulée

IMG_3331Perhaps it was due to not being overrun by tourists, but I much preferred my time at Cordes-sur-Ciel over the other fortified town that I visited – Carcassonne – and highly recommend it to anybody visiting the region. I also found a shop there that I really hope one day could be a reality in Canada, if liquor regulations could be relaxed (fingers crossed and ever-hopeful!) It featured local food products, including cheeses, foie gras, preserves, olives, charcuterie and wine all in one lovely little space.IMG_3240IMG_3234IMG_3236IMG_3239

This day trip made for a wonderful close to my time in France and I do hope that I will be able to return someday not too far in the future to explore this wonderful home of vinous and culinary delights in more depth. Santé!

Gascony & Cahors: Château du Cèdre, Clos Triguedina

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During my short time in the Gascony region of France I stayed at a lovely little farm in the countryside that produces the region’s specialty – foie gras! I had booked my accommodation through the Air BnB website and had chosen the place due to its central location (based on my touring) and for its lovely design/renovation.IMG_2960IMG_2776IMG_2771IMG_2958 I was a guest in the home of Olivier and Jean-Luc, owners of Auberge de la Gouardère in Roquelaure, which is situated approximately 10km north of Auch. On my second evening, my hosts invited me to join them for dinner, and to try several of the specialties from La Gouardère that Jean-Luc had made. IMG_2970We had foie gras, pâté, duck rillettes and a dried duck sausage. I contributed some wine (no surprise there!) so we enjoyed a beautiful 1996 Rivesaltes Ambré from Château Montner, which had been made by my previous hostess. The wine is a blend of 40% Grenache Gris, 40% Macabeu and 20% Grenache Blanc that was aged oxidatively for 48 months.DSC_4478 It was a fabulous pairing with the delicious duck dishes, with its rich flavours of dried fruits and apricots; very well-balanced sweetness with acidity. With the main course of a traditional Quiche Lorraine we shared some great conversation and a bottle of Grenachator that I had been given at Domaine Rimbert earlier in the week. I very much enjoyed my stay at La Gouardère and would hope to return some day.IMG_2968IMG_2977

I decided to take a bit of a leisurely scenic drive on my way up to Cahors so a spent a bit of time in Auch walking around the old town and cathedral, perched on top of the steep hill.IMG_2993IMG_3000IMG_3012IMG_3015IMG_3018 Then I drove north, via Fleurance, stopped in the cutest little village – Flamens, then continued through Valence, Lauzerte, and stopped in Tournon d’Agenais, an old fortified hill town that dates back to 1271! It was a nice little town to wander around and there were some great views from up there as well.IMG_3049IMG_3058IMG_3068IMG_3073 Then I continued on to my appointment at Château du Cèdre, located between Vire-Sur-Lot and Puy-L’Éveque, in the Cahors AOC. This is the region where Malbec (or Cot or Auxerrois as it is sometimes known there) comes from originally – the black wines of Cahors. The vineyards in Cahors are located on a series of alluvial limestone terraces, rising up from the Lot River. The lower terraces (1st & 2nd) produces supple fruity wines, the medium terraces (2nd & 3rd) produce fleshier wines, and the upper terraces (3rd & 4th) including the limestone scree produce the richest Cahors with the ability to age well. Also highly prized is the higher limestone plateau, which produces wines with less flesh but more finesse.IMG_3084

Château du Cèdre is owned by the Verhaeghe brothers – Pascal and Jean-Marc, who took over the family vineyard in 1988. Chateau du Cedre at a distanceIMG_3087Pascal is in charge of the wines and Jean-Marc is in charge of the organic vineyards. They began the process towards full organic certification in the early 1990s by banning all herbicides and were able to eliminate all chemical sprays by 2002. In 2009 they applied for organic certification and then in 2012 the first certified organic vintage was released. Approximately 70% of grapes that they purchase are also certified organic and this will soon be 100% as well. I was greeted at the winery and shown around the cellar and barrel roomIMG_3095IMG_3098IMG_3096IMG_3088 before Pascal came over to the winery to lead me through the tastings. I asked how the 2013 vintage was going so far and found out that it too would be delayed, as it was in many other locations throughout France. Also, there was a big problem with coulure (failure of grapes to develop after flowering, and Malbec is particularly susceptible) in Cahors this year, leading to the yield being almost halved. Most years, they are able to achieve 25-30 hectolitres per hectare but this year it would be closer to 15.

Pascal Verhaeghe at the tasting bar

In the tasting room, Pascal poured me the 2011 Chatons du Cèdre to begin. It is a blend of 90% Malbec and 10% Merlot, made in a very easy-to-drink style from bought grapes. It spent 15 months on fine lees in concrete tanks. It is medium-plus ruby in colour with cherry, ripe red fruit and spice on the nose. It is dry with medium acidity, softening tannins and flavours of ripe red fruit. It is well-balanced and rounded with a medium finish.IMG_3103 The 2011 Cèdre Heritage Malbec does have 5% Merlot added and the grapes come from the 2nd and 3rd terraces as well as the plateau. The fermentation process was kept at cooler temperatures in order to maintain the fruit. Punch downs occurred only at the start of fermentation (4 times per fermentation vessel) and after that the cap was just moistened daily for a couple of minutes. 80% of the wine was aged in tank for approximately 18 months while the remaining 20% was in older oak. It is medium ruby in colour with aromas of floral, darker fruit and a hint of savoury. It is dry with medium acidity and tannins – quite approachable. It is medium-bodied with flavours of dark cherry, berry and hints of spice.IMG_3102 Pascal offered me a comparison for the next wine – 2010 Château du Cèdre Cahors vs a tank sample of the 2011 vintage, as they had just completed the blending a couple weeks earlier. The blends and winemaking were the same but the weather had been a bit hotter in 2011 than 2010. The wine is a blend of 90% Malbec, 5% Merlot and 5% Tannat from vines that range in age of 17-30 years and are located on the 3rd terrace and higher. Maceration lasted 5-6 weeks and then the wine was transferred to oak barrels for the malolactic fermentation. The wines were aged for 22 months in oak – one third new, one third three-year-old and one third four-year-old. The 2010 vintage is medium purple-ruby in colour with blueberry, plum and cherry on the nose, medium-plus intensity of aromas. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and tannins and pronounced intensity of flavours of black fruit, blue fruit and spice. It is well-balanced with a long finish.IMG_3105 The 2011 vintage is medium-plus purple-ruby in colour. The nose is still a bit tight but I got some dark fruit, black cherry and spice. It is dry with medium acidity and a round mouthfeel. After giving it a bit more air, I found violets and blueberries on both the nose and the palate with soft, silky tannins and a medium-plus finish. I asked Pascal for the key to the phenolic ripeness and silky tannins. He says it’s down to the pips, or seeds; they must be 100% dark brown and if you bite into one it must even be a bit sweet, that’s the key. The 2010 Le Cèdre is 100% Malbec from 30-50 year old vines from the 3rd terraces. It has been aged for 24 months in 80% new and 20% old oak and has not been fined or filtered prior to bottling. It is a deep ruby-purple in colour with medium-plus intensity of aromas of ripe purple fruit, cassis and blueberry. It is dry, full-bodied with medium acidity and medium-plus tannins and flavours of blueberry, cherry and spice with a very long finish.IMG_3106 The ‘GC’ 2010 vintage is 100% Malbec from 50-62 year old vines and is made in a very “hands on” method. Each bunch is destemmed by hand and fermented in new 500L oak barrels with heads removed to allow access. IMG_3107The must is warmed or cooled accordingly with small water-filled pipes. After the wine has been pressed off, the same barrels are re-filled for malolactic fermentation and barrel aging of 24-30 months. This wine is starting to open up nicely; it is deep purple in colour with a rich, complex nose with pronounced intensity and aromas of violets, blueberries and black fruit. It is dry with medium acidity and medium-plus-plus tannins. It has flavours of dark fruit with some floral hints and is elegant, complex and a long finish – delicious!IMG_3104 We finished off the tasting with the Vintage Malbec, made from late-harvest grapes and fortified to 16.5% alc/vol. Pascal wasn’t sure of the freshness of the bottle that was open on the tasting bar but poured a bit for me to smell anyway, before opening up a new bottle. That first pour was highly floral but a bit oxidative and starting to lose its freshness. The pour from the new bottle was a deep ruby-purple in colour with aromas of walnuts, floral and black fruit. It is sweet, but well-balanced with the acidity. It has flavours of hazelnut, black fruit, spice and fruitcake with a long finish – quite lovely!IMG_3110 Pascal graciously sent me on my way with a bottle of the 2008 Le Cèdre, which I have not yet opened, but am saving to share on the right occasion with friends who will appreciate it.

After my visit at Château du Cèdre I drove just a short distance to their neighbour, Clos Triguedina, which has been in operation by the Baldès family for seven generations, since 1830.IMG_3132IMG_3122IMG_3121 The current proprietor is Jean-Luc Baldès. The name of the winery comes from the Occitan phrase “Me triga de dina”, which means “I am longing to dine”, which is what the Pilgrims of St Jacques de Compostela would say when they would stop here to revive themselves. The estate is made up of 65 hectares covering the 2nd, 3rd and 4th limestone terraces and is planted with 75% Malbec, plus Merlot, Tannat, Chardonnay, Viognier and Chenin Blanc. The vines are planted at the higher density of 8000 vines per hectare, which is double the required minimum of the AOC.

Christelle welcomed me into the tasting room and led me through their portfolio of wines. We started with the 2011 Le Sec du Clos, which is one of the Moon Wines, or Vin de Lune, picked early in the morning or at night to maintain the cool temperatures, aroma freshness and reduce oxidation. Named for wines from back in the 17th century when the peasants would pick the grapes at night to hide part of the harvest from the landowner in order to pay fewer taxes and deprive the king of part of his harvest. This wine is a 50/50 blend of Viognier and Chardonnay from the upper plateau. It is very pale in colour and has a fruity nose of medium-minus intensity. It is dry with medium acidity and an interesting palate with flavours of citrus and a hint of nuttiness.IMG_3124 Next up was something new to me – a sparkling Malbec rosé! The Bul’s by Baldès is made with 100% Malbec from the 2nd terraces. It is a pale salmon-pink in colour. It is very fresh with medium-small bubbles and red fruit on the nose and palate.IMG_3126 Next up I tried a series of three wines, all 100% Malbec and all from the 2008 vintage, but each from a different terrace to demonstrate the effect of the different terroirs. The 2008 Au Coin du Bois comes from the 2nd terrace, made up of red limestone with some areas that are silty or pebbly. It is deep ruby in colour, with dark ripe fruit on the nose, with some of the aromas starting to develop into more of the dried fruit/fruitcake spectrum. It is dry with medium acidity and tannins with flavours of dried fruits and dark fruit with a long finish. The 2008 “Les Galets” comes from the 3rd terrace, made up of clay limestone with soil deposits that date back 500,000 years with a strong presence of iron, calcium and lava residue. It is deep ruby in colour with a rich fruity nose with a bit of minerality and sweet spice. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium tannins and pronounced intensity of flavours. It has more complexity and elegance than the Au Coin du Bois, with flavours of dark fruit with a hint of menthol and a long finish. The 2008 “Petites Cailles” comes from the highest plateau, more than 200m higher than the others in the series, on clay limestone soil with a large presence of iron. It is medium ruby with hints of purple in colour with aromas of blueberry, violets and a real purity of fruit. It is dry with medium acidity and tannins. It has a lighter mouthfeel than the others, much more feminine, more elegant, lovely with a long finish. Although all were tasty, my favourite was “Les Galets”.IMG_3127 Probus is the Grand Vin from Clos Triguedina, named after Emperor Probus from the 3rd century who allowed winegrowers to once again plant vineyards in Quercy (the former province where Cahors is now located). The 2005 Probus comes from the oldest part of the estate, on the 3rd terraces, with the average vine age being 80 years old. All the work in this part of the vineyard is done by hand and only the best grapes go into this wine, aged 18 months in new French oak. It is a very deep ruby in colour with aromas and flavours of violets, blueberries and spice. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and softening tannins. This wine is still very young, and quite lovely!IMG_3128 Next we moved onto something quite different – The New Black Wine. Back in the Middle Ages, Cahors was famous for its black wines, where part of the grapes or part of the must would be heated to concentrate the flavours and colour and stabilize the wine. Jean-Luc Baldès recreates this by drying a portion of the grapes in large ovens used locally to dry prunes, and then adding those dried grapes in with the fresh ones for fermentation. IMG_3130The image on the label comes from the stained glass in the tasting room. The New Black Wine 1997 vintage is medium-plus garnet in colour with pronounced intensity of aromas of fruitcake, prunes and raisins. It is slightly off-dry with medium-plus acidity, pronounced intensity of flavours of fruitcake, some salinity, prunes and figs with a very long finish.IMG_3129 We finished with another Vin de Lune – Le Moelleux du Clos, which is a late harvest botrytized Chenin Blanc that spent 18 months in oak. It is pale gold in colour with a fresh nose of honey and orange blossom. It is sweet with medium acidity and a round luscious mouthfeel. It has flavours of citrus, spice, fruitcake and marmalade and is very nicely balanced.

As I was leaving Clos Triguedina, I noticed a great fence along the property across the street. I’m not sure whether or not it belongs to a winery, but the fence of barrel staves really caught my attention!IMG_3133

Château Montus & Château Bouscassé: Vignobles Brumont

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My second visit to a winery in Madiran lasted the better part of a day but it was a day filled with interesting tours, delicious food and wine, and wonderful hospitality! I had arranged for a visit to Châteaux Montus et Bouscassé prior to leaving on my trip and had been invited for a tour and tasting and to stay for lunch with the owner, Alain Brumont, his wife Laurence, and the staff. Alain Brumont became a pioneer in Madiran in the 1980s, developing the first 100% Tannat Madiran made 100% in new oak casks. In 1986, the ’85 Montus Prestige was presented at a blind taste test of Bordeaux Grand Crus and ranked among the top three, proving that Tannat has the potential to make exceptional world-class wines.

I drove through the lovely countryside of Gascony (even pretty in the rain) IMG_2780IMG_2783IMG_2934IMG_2788to arrive at the home base of Alain Brumont – Château Bouscassé. This is the historic property of the Brumont family, located in the village of Maumusson Laguian. When Alain Brumont inherited the property in 1979, there were 17 hectares of vineyard but Château Bouscassé now boasts 112 hectares of vines that range in age from 12-100 years old. I was welcomed in the tasting room, or salle de degustation,IMG_2785 by Sébastien who took me out in the 4×4 to show me some of the other properties. We drove about about ten minutes south to Château Montus, the property that Alain Brumont bought in 1980 to make the “wine of his dreams”. IMG_2820IMG_2790Château Montus controls 106 hectares of vineyard. It is located on a steeply terraced east-southeast-facing site with a driveway winding through the vines up to the Château and the winery facility. Upon entering the winery I was a bit in awe of the giant oak tanks in a beautifully restored old barn structure with its hand-hewn, gnarled wooden trusses and exposed roof structure. IMG_2794IMG_2793This is the one space in the winery that remains of the original building. The rest of the facility is a more modern addition, including the amazing three-storey tank room – referred to as “La Cathédrale du Tannat”, or the Cathedral of Tannat. IMG_2799The cellars of Château Montus are full of cutting-edge technology as well as some beautifully-crafted barrel art – mobiles suspended in almost every space. The middle floor acts as a large catwalk and working surface to access the tops of the tanks for pigeage (punching down the cap).IMG_2805 Following a spiral staircase up from this level is a large open floor with windows on all sides overlooking the vineyards. This is where the communal lunches take place during the harvest. IMG_2807IMG_2809IMG_2810This is a very family-oriented company. Not only are there daily communal lunches, but as the lands were acquired for the vineyards from smaller plots, there were also many houses that were acquired on those plots. These house many of the winery employees. We descended to the barrel cellars (via the elevator – I think this is a first in my winery tours) that were painstakingly blasted out of the ground in 1995. At the entrance to the cellar there are decorative openings in the walls that allow one to see the solid rock that had to be excavated to create this space.IMG_2818 I really did love this space full of hundreds, if not thousands, of barrels full of wine, with its beautifully vaulted ceiling. Very simple yet elegant.IMG_2813

From Château Montus we headed to visit a couple of the vineyards: La Tyre and Les Menhirs. La Tyre is a 12 hectare plot that has a steep, fully west-facing slope on the highest hill in the Madiran region. It is planted with Tannat that is cropped lower that the other vineyards and goes into a single-vineyard wine of the same name. To escape the sudden deluge we climbed up into the “treehouse” where Sébastien told me about La Tyre.IMG_2822IMG_2828IMG_2831IMG_2833IMG_2821 Next, we visited Les Menhirs, named for the large standing stone in the vineyard. It is planted with Tannat and Merlot, half and half, which constitutes the blend of the wine ‘Menhir’. IMG_2835IMG_2837We returned to Château Bouscassé just in time for a quick wander through the lovely grounds before lunch. IMG_2845IMG_2848IMG_2854Vincent, the export manager for Brumont, came to introduce himself to me and brought me into the dining room. I was introduced to Alain and Laurence Brumont as well as the other guests, including three couples visiting from Quebec.  Daily lunch for staff and guests of Châteaux Montus et Bouscassé is a communal affair in a large dining room, or outdoors in good weather. The chef prepares food that is local and seasonal, most of the ingredients coming from the large gardens on the grounds of Château Bouscassé. Chickens are also raised on the property (in the best hen house ever!), for eggs and meat.IMG_2939 The barter system is alive and well here too, with trades occurring with local hunters: some fresh meat for wine! Our lunch began with a light cream soup, followed by a heartier soup full of meat, fresh beets and carrots.IMG_2859 The main course was roast meat with a tasty medley of baked zucchini and tomatoes.IMG_2860IMG_2861 The wines through lunch included 2010 Château Bouscassé Jardins, 2005 Château Bouscassé Menhir, and 2006 Château Bouscassé Vieille Vignes, and a 1994 Château Montus XL!IMG_2865 We finished with a light dessert paired with 2008 Château Bouscassé Brumaire, coffee and then probably the smoothest Armagnac I have ever drunk – the “Collection privée d’Alain Brumont”.IMG_2864

After lunch, Vincent showed me the underground barrel cellar of Château Bouscassé, not quite as large as the one at Montus, but quite impressive especially for the store of large-format bottles.IMG_2878IMG_2881IMG_2884 We then proceeded to the tasting room where he and Thomas ran me through the entire range of wines produced by Alain Brumont, under the labels of Château Montus, Château Bouscassé, Torus, and La Gascogne selon Alain Brumont otherwise labelled as Brumont. We began with the Brumont 2012 Gros Manseng-Sauvignon Blanc. It is clear and very pale in colour with quite an aromatic nose with medium-plus intensity. It has aromas of gooseberry and citrus, is dry with high acidity and pronounced flavour intensity with citrus, gooseberry and a hint of floral on the palate. It has a long finish and is well-balanced.IMG_2890 The Torus 2010 Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh Sec is a blend of Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng and Petit Courbu. It is pale lemon in colour with medium-plus intensity on the nose with aromas of floral, citrus and apple. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and flavours of pineapple and yellow plum with pronounced intensity. It has a long finish and is quite delicious!IMG_2894 Next up was a bit of a treat with Le Chardonnay d’Alain Brumont 2009. Chardonnay is not a traditional grape in Madiran, but Alain Brumont has done it proud with this elegant wine. It is pale gold in colour with medium-plus intensity on the nose. It has quite a complex nose with notes of butter and citrus and some minerality. It is dry with medium acidity and medium body and flavours of citrus, nutmeg and a long buttery finish. This is my kind of Chardonnay; if I could’ve transported a case with me I would have done so.IMG_2896 The 2009 Château Bouscassé Jardins is a blend of 80% Petit Manseng and 20% Petit Courbu that was aged sur lies fines. It has an aromatic nose with hints of liquorice. It is dry with medium acidity and medium body and flavours of citrus and spice with some complexity on the palate. This would be a great food wine.IMG_2897 The 2010 Château Montus Blanc Sec is the same blend as the Jardins but from different terroir. It is less aromatic, more restrained, on the nose with more liquorice and less fruit. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, has a round mouthfeel, with flavours of citrus and some minerality. It is also quite spicy on the palate and has a long finish. The Brumont 2012 Rosé is a blend of Tannat, Syrah and Merlot. It is pale salmon in colour with medium-plus intensity of aromas of floral, red fruit and a bit of pepper. It is dry with medium acidity, medium body and medium-plus intensity of flavours of red fruit, citrus and spice. It has a long finish and would be nice for just sipping, or with food.IMG_2899

Now onto the reds… the Torus Madiran 2009 is a blend of Tannat, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon from younger vines (15 years old). As these vines age, the grapes will go into the production of Château Bouscassé. This wine is a medium ruby in colour with aromas of dark fruit, cassis and a hint of peppers and spice. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium-plus-plus tannins and pronounced intensity of flavour of black fruit and spice with a long finish.IMG_2900 The Brumont Merlot-Tannat 2012 is a 50/50 blend. It has medium-plus intensity of aromas of cherry, plum and some savoury notes. It is dry with medium acidity, medium-plus tannins and flavours of cherry, plum, cassis and savoury. It is very easy-drinking with a medium finish.IMG_2901 The Château Bouscassé 2009 is a blend of 60-65% Tannat with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. It is a medium-plus ruby in colour with aromas of cherry, cassis and liquorice. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and tannins, and pronounced intensity of flavours of cherry, cassis and spice, with a long finish.IMG_2902 The Château Montus 2009 is a blend of Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is medium-plus ruby in colour with aromas of cherry and cassis. Where the Bouscassé was more fruit-forward, this is more elegant, more restrained. It is dry with medium acidity, medium-plus-plus tannins and pronounced intensity. It has flavours of dark red fruit with a round mouthfeel. It is very elegant on the palate, very well-balanced with a long finish. Next we did a side-by-side comparison of two Vieille Vignes wines: The Château Bouscassé 1999 Vieille Vignes and the Château Montus 2002 Cuvée Prestige, both 100% Tannat.IMG_2913 The Bouscassé is a deep garnet in colour with a hint of ruby. It has pronounced intensity of aromas of fruitcake and savoury notes. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and tannins. On the palate it has savoury notes, dried fruit, black fruit, spice and a lot of complexity. This still-developing wine has a long finish. IMG_2914The Montus is deep ruby in colour with a hint of garnet, with aromas of deep ripe black fruit, hints of dried fruit and savoury. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, full tannins, tasting much younger than 11 years old. It has pronounced intensity of flavours of black fruit, dried black cherry, spice and a hint of raisin. It has a long finish, is elegant, well-balanced and beautiful! The Château Bouscassé 2006 Argile Rouge is a blend of Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Fer Servadou. It is medium ruby in colour with cherry and dark ripe fruit on the nose. It is dry with medium acidity, medium-plus-plus tannins and flavours of dark fruit and some dried fruit on the palate. This wine is still quite young and has a long finish.IMG_2918 The Château Bouscassé Menhir 2004 is a 50/50 blend of Merlot and Tannat. It is medium ruby in colour with a hint of garnet. It has dark fruit and some savoury notes on the nose. It is dry with medium acidity, medium-plus tannins and is quite fruit-forward, with flavours of dark fruit and spice. It is quite elegant and lovely, with a long finish. To finish off the tasting, Vincent poured me some Château Montus La Tyre 2007. This is 98% Tannat with 2% Cabernet Franc. It is deep purple with a hint of ruby, staining the glass. There is a hint of funk on the nose (the good kind), with dark fruit and some savoury notes. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, full tannins and pronounced intensity of flavour, which is I’m sure is owed in part to the fact that these vines are cropped to 5 bunches of grapes per vine. There is lots of concentration of flavour in this wine, with dark fruit, spice and savoury notes and a very very long finish – delicious!IMG_2919

I thoroughly enjoyed my day at Châteaux Bouscassé et Montus – their hospitality really knows no bounds. In addition to the lovely day, I was given a parting gift of a bottle of 2003 Château Montus La Tyre, which I managed to bring back to Canada in my suitcase and have very lovingly placed it in my wine rack to let it age another year or so.IMG_2921IMG_2909IMG_2898IMG_2893IMG_2887

Happy 2014!!

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Happy New Year from vinesanddesigns! I think 2014 will be a fairly exciting year for me, with some new adventures in store. There is certainly one theme that runs through all upcoming plans and that is, of course, wine! Beginning later this month I will be teaching Wine Sales to a new class of students, and I will look forward to using the new Wine Sensory Lab that will be opening at Okanagan College’s Penticton campus a bit later in the spring.

At the end of February I hope to be able to get away to Vancouver to attend this year’s Vancouver International Wine Festival, with the feature region being France and the feature style being Sparkling Wine!

Towards the end of March I will be travelling to Tbilisi, Georgia to take part in the International Wine Tourism Conference. I will be speaking at the conference, along with Allison Markin of All She Wrote Consulting, about the BC wine industry. I have been invited to take part in the Fam Tour for media and bloggers for a few days either side of the conference, touring wineries around Tbilisi and Kvareli, learning a bit about the 8000-year history of winemaking in Georgia.

Throughout this I will be steadily adding to my list of varietals for the Wine Century Club as well. I hope you will follow along the next leg of my wine journey! Happy 2014!

Wine Century Club: Varietals 31 – 40

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Here is the continuation of my tasting notes for some of the wines that I sampled on my trip to Europe in September, as well as some from my trip to Oregon and some local Okanagan wines, that I will be including in my list of varietals for the submission for membership into the Wine Century Club.wwc-demi31. Zweigelt, 2011 vintage, Upper Bench Winery, Penticton, BC, Canada: chocolate and candied cherry aromas and flavours, medium-minus tannins, rich mouthfeel, lingering finish.

32. Pinot Blanc, 2012 vintage, Ponzi Vineyards, Willamette Valley, OR, USA: clear, pale lemon colour, white floral, spice and lemon on the nose, dry, medium acidity, medium body, spice, citrus & complexity on the palate, medium-plus finish.

33. Syrah, 2010 vintage, Township 7, Penticton, BC, Canada: black cherry, raspberry, sweet spice on the nose, dry, medium-plus acidity and tannins, medium-plus body, cherry, plum, cranberry and spice on the palate with a long finish.

34. Semillon, 2012 vintage, Lake Breeze, Naramata, BC, Canada: citrus nose, dry, medium-plus acidity, round mouthfeel, flavours of citrus, gooseberry, tangerine, long finish. Tasty!

35. Mauzac Vert, 2012 vintage, Domaine Plageoles, Gaillac, France: pale gold colour, citrus nose with medium-minus intensity, dry, medium acidity, medium body, flavours of citrus and apricot, medium-plus finish.

36. Ondenc, 2012 vintage, Domaine Plageoles, Gaillac, France: pale lemon colour, peach and stonefruit on the nose, medium intensity, dry, medium acidity, floral, peach and citrus on the palate with a medium finish.

37. Mauzac Roux, 2000 vintage ‘Le Vin de Voile’, Domaine Plageoles, Gaillac, France: made in a style such as the ‘Vin Jaune’ from Jura. Pale tawny/dark gold in colour, oxidative qualities on the nose – nutty, saline, citrus, dry, saline, bit of rancio, lovely complexity, long finish.

38. Prunelart, 2010 vintage, Domaine Plageoles, Gaillac, France: medium ruby with a hint of garnet, medium-plus intensity, savoury nose with tar notes, dark red fruit, dry, medium-plus acidity, medium tannins, medium body, flavours of prunes, liquoirice, spice, hints of tar and leather – far more savoury than fruity, medium-plus finish.

39. Loin de l’Oeil, N/V, Domaine Plageoles, Gaillac, France: (undergone passerillage), medium gold in colour, pronounced intensity, honey-citrus nose, sweet, round mouthfeel, unctuous, medium-plus acidity, full-bodied, well-balanced, flavours of honey, peach and citrus, lovely long finish.

40. Petite Sirah, 2011 vintage, Nottinghan Cellars, Livermore Valley, CA, USA: deep purple colour, aromas and flavours of raisin, dark fruit, big chewy tannins, long finish.

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