Archive for the ‘Winery Visits’ Category

A Visit to the Pierre Usseglio Winery

March 23rd, 2012 by Sébastien Gavillet

I recently toured the Rhône wine region in the company of France-based American Sommelier, Kelly McAuliffe. Naturally, my wine tour of the region included a visit to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where I (and company) visited the tasting room of the Fédération des Producteurs de Châteauneuf-du-Pape (FEDCN) to sample some of the wines of the Appellation. After our FEDCN stop, we all headed to Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils for a visit with Thierry Usseglio.

The Pierre Usseglio Estate was founded by Thierry’s grandfather, Francis Usseglio, who in 1931 left Italy for Châteauneuf where he got a job as a vineyard worker. In 1948 he acquired his own vineyard and started producing his own wine.

Francis Usseglio had two sons: Pierre and Raymond. Pierre took over the property from his father, while Raymond went on to establish his own estate (Domaine Raymond Usseglio & Fils). Today, Pierre’s
two sons (Jean-Pierre and Thierry) run Domaine Pierre Usseglio, which encompasses 21 hectares of vineyards divided into 15 different parcels across the Châteauneuf-du-Pape Appellation.

The Usseglio brothers make excellent wines and are, in fact, one of the best Châteauneuf-du-Pape producers today. For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Domaine Pierre Usseglio wines, here are brief tasting notes on a couple of them:

Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée de mon Aïeul

The name of this red wine roughly translates to “Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee of my Ancestor,” which is fitting since this wine is the Usseglio brothers’ tribute to their grandfather’s wine making legacy. A special blend of grapes harvested from carefully selected vines from the winery’s La Crau, les Bédines and/or les Serres plots, this is a Grenache varietal wine (aged 50%  in cement tank, 40% in wooden vats or cuves
and the rest in oak barrels).

The wine is day-bright, ruby to purple in color. It presents aromas of bilberry, raspberry, with hints of spices, herbs and grilled meats. On the palate, the wine has medium plus body. It is elegant, beautifully balanced and velvety with silky, perfectly integrated fruit and wood tannins. This is one wine you’ll find very hard to enjoy in moderation.

Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils Châteauneuf-du-Pape Réserve des Deux Frères 2009

Like the Cuvée de mon Aïeul, this red wine is bright, ruby to purple in color. It presents aromas of bilberry, blackberry, toast, Indian spice, and herbs with hints of licorice, smoke and truffle. On the palate, the wine is full bodied, rich, very intense, and mineral – a wine I very much look forward to revisiting in a decade.

Cheers!

Châteauneuf-du-Pape

February 07th, 2012 by Sébastien Gavillet

My Rhône Valley trip wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Fortunately, it was part of the itinerary set by Kelly McAuliffe, the France-based, American Sommelier who gave us the delightful tour of the Rhône wine region.

A Brief Background on Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a village on the side of a hill overlooking the Rhône Valley and the Rhône River in Southeastern France. It is also a world-renowned Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) wine region, which spans the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and three other neighboring villages; namely, Bédarrides, Courthézon and Sorgues.

The name Châteauneuf-du-Pape actually means “The Pope’s New Castle,” which refers to the Papal Château that used to tower over the village. This Papal Castle was built in 1320 by Pope John XXII. At that time, the seat of the Papacy was in Avignon instead of Rome (the period from 1309-1378 is
commonly known as the Avignon Papacy for this reason). Since the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape lies between the villages of Avignon and Orange, it was the ideal site for a Papal summer castle; it was close enough to Avignon to make it easy for the Pope to keep an eye on Papal matters, yet it was far enough from the Papal Palace that the Pope could gain temporary respite from the daily pressure of his office.

Today, only ruins remain of the Papal Château in the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Mercenaries looted the castle when Pope John XXII died. The Protestants of Montbrun destroyed it in 1562, the start of the French Wars of Religion. It suffered further damage during the Germans’ retreat in 1944.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tasting at FEDCN

Kelly organized a visit to the Fédération des Producteurs de Châteauneuf-du-Pape (FEDCN) – the organization of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine producers. The FEDCN is also the place
Robert Parker comes to every year to review many of the wines from the region.

As a matter of fact when we arrived at the FEDCN, we were informed that Robert Parker (or “Bob” as the French calls him) is also in town and has just been to the tasting room for a wine tasting. So we all proceeded to the tasting room with Michel Blanc, the director of FEDCN, who invited us to taste the same wines Robert Parker had sampled earlier. That special treat is definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

As we were finishing up with the tasting, we were greeted by the son of Baron Le Roy. For those of you who do not know, Baron Pierre Le Roy de Boiseaumarié was the man behind the proposal to institute the AOC system in France. He wanted to protect the region from wine producers who claimed to produce Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines even though their estates lay outside Châteauneuf boundaries. In 1933, the French Court of Appeal affirmed Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s production regulations that
set the Appellation’s production guidelines and boundaries.

I had a truly great time sampling wines at the FEDCN. Our tour of Châteauneuf-du-Pape was far from over, however. We had another scheduled stop: a visit to Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils, where we were warmly welcomed by Thierry Usseglio – but that’s a story for another post.

Cheers!

My 2011 Rhone Valley Food Trip

January 20th, 2012 by Sébastien Gavillet

I promised Kelly McAuliffe that I will visit him in Southern Rhône the next time I’m in Europe, so when I went to Europe to participate in the Mondial du Pinot 2011 I decided it was time to make good on my promise.

The only American Sommelier in France, Kelly McAuliffe used to work for none other than world-renowned chef, Alain Ducasse. Now he consults with winemakers, educates novices and professionals alike, and provides private wine tours of the Rhône wine region. He chauffeurs you around, which is great because you don’t have to spit out the wines during tastings. And the best part is, you get what is essentially an exclusive, “backstage” access to top Rhône wineries (many of which received 100 points for their wines from Robert Parker in 2007).

Kelly is hands-down one of the best tasters around, a great story-teller and an excellent educator (and I don’t say such things lightly). So if you want to
get to know the Rhône wine region – and I mean, really get to know the place – look him up (kmcauliffe@hotmail.fr).

We stayed on the outskirts of Avignon, in Les Angles where we resided in a beautiful villa that Kelly owns and rents out. It’s very conveniently located; sitting right next to Kelly’s home, it’s just a 5-minute drive from the villa to the heart of Avignon, which makes it so easy to get in and out of town.

Avignon, a historic medieval city, is one of those places you must visit if you ever go to France. The culinary capital of Southern France and the capital of the Black Truffle, this place is ideal for discovering the exquisite delights of southern French cooking.

Speaking of culinary delights, let me tell you about a must-visit restaurant in Avignon.

Restaurant Gérard Alonso

After spending the morning sampling wines with Christophe of
Domaine de la Janasse, we proceeded to Restaurant Gérard Alonso in Sorgues, a few minutes’ drive from the Janasse Estate.

This restaurant is a true treasure. Gerard and his wife run the entire restaurant by themselves. Every dish is prepared to order, yet the timing is perfect and the presentation so impeccable it is hard to believe this is basically a two-“man” show.

The cheese platter is extraordinary with its superb selection of perfectly ripe cheeses. Now, that says a lot about a place! The restaurant has a first-rate wine list with a huge selection of Burgundy, something you don’t often see in Southern France. And the prices – they’re extremely reasonable considering the quality of the food, wine and service.

Restaurant Gérard Alonso is definitely a restaurant you should not miss if you’re ever in Avignon. I’ll go so far as to say that this is one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to this year. I agree with Kelly; this restaurant
could easily get a Michelin star if Gerard wants it.

I can spend all day telling you about how incredibly good this restaurant is, but – a picture being worth a thousand words and all that – I figure I’ll let the pictures above do the talking. Again, I urge you to take the time to visit this restaurant. You will not regret it. FYI we paid Euro 29 per person for the lunch menu (wine extra)!

Enjoy!

Villa Poggio Salvi di Montalcino

August 30th, 2010 by Sébastien Gavillet

After making our way through the scenic countryside of Val D’Orcia in the Tuscany region of Italy, we reached the gates of Montalcino. Nestled on top of a hill, Montalcino offers a superb view of the surrounding region. Instead of entering the gate, however, we veered left and traveled on a dirt road towards the boundary of the Montalcino appellation. A few miles down, we reached our destination: Poggio Salvi di Montalcino, home to the renowned Italian wine producer, Villa Poggio Salvi.

As we made our way through the estate, we could see the vineyards and the lavender bushes that surround the estate’s vineyards. We visited the estate’s cellars, the barrel (vat) room where the wines age for up to 3 years depending on the wine type, and the rest of the estate’s wine production facilities. We also visited the private tasting room, which offered a spectacular view of the estate’s vineyards and the surrounding lavender
fields. The wines we sampled – every one of them – surpassed all of our expectations. Villa Poggio Salvi’s aim is to make traditional Italian wines more approachable to new world markets; hence Villa Poggio Salvi Brunellos tend to open up sooner than traditional Brunellos.

Villa Poggio Salvi: Estates

Villa Poggio Salvi has two estates: Poggio Salvi in Montalcino (the estate we visited) and Casavecchia in Monteriggioni. Both of these estates are ideal for growing wine grapes. The soil is rich in marl, while the breeze blowing from the Tyrrhenian Sea provides great ventilation, helping prevent rot and other vine diseases.

Poggio Salvi di Montalcino: Poggio Salvi is located on a Montalcino hillside facing the Tyrrhenian Sea (Mar Tirreno). This unique location plus its altitude (some 300 to 500 meters above sea level) gives Poggio Salvi its fresh and clean air. This has made Poggio Salvi or “Safe Knoll” a favorite refuge among the
people of the Maremma region in times of plagues and epidemics.

In 1979, Pierluigi Tagliabue bought and started developing Poggio Salvi. Now, this area serves as Villa Poggio Salvi’s headquarters and houses Villa Poggio Salvi’s winemaking facilities. Poggio Salvi is also home to Dr. Luca Belingardi, who is in charge of Villa Poggio Salvi’s day-to-day operations.

Villa Poggio Salvi owns around 23 hectares of vineyards in Montalcino. All of these vineyards are planted with Sangiovese grosso grapes.

Casavecchia: Monteriggioni, like Montalcino, is located on a hillock and lies around 200 meters above sea level. Villa Poggio Salvi’s estate in Monteriggioni spans some 20 hectares of vineyards planted with Sangiovese and Merlot grapes.

Villa Poggio Salvi: Winery and Wines

nVilla Poggio Salvi knows the value of modern technology in wine production. To further improve its productivity and wine quality, Villa Poggio Salvi’s winemaking facilities in Poggio Salvi di Montalcino has been undergoing renovation over the past few years. The side of the hill on which Villa Poggio Salvi di Montalcino lies – even the land on which the Villa stands – has been extensively excavated in the spirit of modernization. Newly built structures now dot the landscape. Old buildings and facilities have also been revamped, restored or improved.

Villa Poggio Salvi makes DOCG, DOC and IGT wines.

DOCG wines

  • Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello di Montalcino (red wine)

Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello di Montalcino is made according to the winemaking rules of the Montalcino DOCG. It has two variants: Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello di Montalcino Annata and Villa Poggio Salvi
Brunello di Montalcino Reserve.

Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello di Montalcino is 100% Sangiovese grosso. To make this wine, Villa Poggio Salvi uses only grapes harvested from its best, southwest-facing Montalcino vineyards. The grapes for the Reserve come from vineyards 300 to 520 meters above sea level. The grapes for the Annata come from vineyards 320 to 480 meters above sea level.

After fermentation, Brunello di Montalcino Reserve undergoes 40 months of aging in Slavonian oak and 6 or more months of aging/refining in bottle. Brunello di Montalcino Annata, on the other hand, undergoes 30 months of aging in Slavonian oak and 6 months or more of aging in bottle.

  • Villa Poggio Santi Caspagnolo Chianti Colli Senesi (red wine)

Villa Poggio Salvi Santi Caspagnolo Chianti Colli Senesi is made using grapes from the Villa Poggio Salvi estate in Monteriggioni. As the name suggests, Caspagnolo is made using grapes from the Colli Senesi (
Siena) sub-area of the Chianti wine region and according to the Chianti DOCG appellation rules. Caspagnolo is 90% Sangiovese grosso and 10% Merlot. Before public release, Caspagnolo is aged briefly in Slavonian oak barrels then refined in bottle for about 3 to 4 months.

DOC wines

  • Villa Poggio Salvi Rosso di Montalcino (red wine)

Villa Poggio Salvi Rosso di Montalcino, made according to Rosso di Montalcino DOC rules, is 100% Sangiovese grosso. This wine undergoes a shorter period of aging than the Brunello DOCG wine. Specifically, it is aged in Slavonian oak for 12 months then aged in bottle for 2 or more months.

  • Villa Poggio Salvi Aurico Moscadello di Montalcino (white wine)

Moscadello di Montalcino is a Montalcino DOC wine that is steeped in history and tradition. Montalcino has been making this
wine since the 16th century. The appellation accepts three Moscadello wine styles: still, sparkling or late harvest.

Villa Poggio Salvi makes the third type. Villa Poggio Salvi Aurico Moscadello di Montalcino is a late-harvest wine. This dessert wine is 100% Moscato bianco (white Muscat). Villa Poggio Salvi lets the grapes dry directly on the vines then, in mid-November, the withered grapes are handpicked then pressed. The must undergoes oak fermentation and the resulting wine is aged in oak for 2 years then aged in bottle for 6 months or longer.

IGT wine

  • Villa Poggio Lavischio Toscana Rossi (red wine)

Villa Poggio Salvi Lavischio Toscana Rossi is 100% Merlot. It is made using grapes harvested from Villa Poggio Salvi’s vineyards in Monteriggioni. It undergoes 3 months of
Slavonian oak aging and 5 months of bottle aging.

Other wines

Apart from the wines listed above, Villa Poggio Salvi also makes the following wines:

  • Brut Rose Spumante: This pink sparkling wine is made using Sangiovese grosso grapes (100%).
  • Vaio: This red wine, made according to the rules of the Morellino di Scansano DOCG appellation, is made using grapes from the village of Scansano. This Morellino varietal wine undergoes 3 to 4 months of bottle aging in Poggio Salvi di Montalcino cellars.
  • Vermentino: This white wine belongs to the Toscana IGT appellation. This Tuscan white wine is made using Vermentino bianco grapes from Scansano. It is aged in stainless steel tanks, after which it undergoes bottle refining for 2 to 3
    months.
  • Tosco: This Toscana IGT red wine is 100% Sangiovese grosso, made using grapes from Villa Poggio Salvi’s Monteriggioni vineyards. It is aged in Slavonian oak for 10 months then refined in bottle for 4 months.

Grappa

Villa Poggio Salvi also makes its own pomace brandy or grappa. When Villa Poggio Salvi makes Brunello di Montalcino, the grape skins that remain after pressing the Brunello grapes are carefully screened. Only the choicest grape skins are used to make grappa; these are distilled at the Nannoni Distillery within 24 hours of pressing.

Villa Poggio Salvi makes two pomace brandy variants: Grappa di Brunello and Grappa di Brunello Reserve. Grappa di Brunello is a young grappa while Grappa di Brunello Reserve is a Grappa Riserva. Grappa di Brunello Reserve is simply
Grappa di Brunello that has undergone 4 years of aging in French oak.

That’s it for now. Next stop: Tenuta Greppo – Biondi Santi.[1] Cheers!


[1] Italian wine producers Villa Poggio Salvi and Biondi Santi have joined forces, creating a formidable entity that would represent to the world the passion of Montalcino winemakers as well as the quality and history of Brunello di Montalcino and other Montalcino wines. Incidentally, the families that run these two great estates are related.

An Afternoon at the Biondi Santi Estate

August 12th, 2010 by Sébastien Gavillet

As I journeyed through Italy, visiting one sumptuous winery after another and meeting winemakers and colleagues I have either worked with or befriended through the years, Luca Belingardi of Poggio Salvi told me he had arranged a very special visit for me.

And what do you know. It was a visit to Tenuta Greppo, the Biondi Santi Estate where I met with none other than the great Dr. Franco Biondi Santi himself. Now 88 years old, Dr. Franco Biondi Santi remains at the helm and still has final say on the Biondi Santi Estate’s wine production. For the benefit of those who don’t know, the Biondi Santi Winery makes superb wines. In fact, the 1955 Biondi Santi Reserve is one of Wine Spectator’s Top 12 Wines of the Century – and it is the only Italian wine on that list.

The Biondi Santi Estate and Cellars

Tenuta Greppo,
nestled in the spectacular hillside of Montalcino, is more than a century old. It (and the rest of Montalcino) is part of Val D’Orcia, which was declared a “World Heritage Site” by UNESCO in 2004.

[Word of advice: If you are ever in Val D’Orcia, beware of the Carabineers or the Italian Police!]

As we walked through the cellars that still echo the sounds made by winemakers past, our translator pointed out four old casks. He said they hold what’s left of Biondi Santi’s famed first vintages. Today, these vintages are still being used to “soulify” Biondi Santi’s 6-month-old wines. I was also shown the Biondi Santi’s valuable wine collection. The oldest vintage on hand is a Reserve 1888.

The Biondi Santi Topping Up and Recorking Ritual

In 1927, Biondi Santi started topping up and recorking estate-owned bottles of famous Biondi Santi Reserve vintages. By replacing the cork and
topping up the wine, Biondi Santi ensures that its wine collection is correctly preserved and will always remain in perfect condition.

In 1990, Biondi Santi started offering its topping-up and recorking service to its clients. Every year in June, Biondi Santi clients can send back their bottles of famous Biondi Santi vintages to Tenuta Greppo. Dr. Franco Biondi Santi opens each bottle and checks the wine it contains for flaws. Any bottle that passes his inspection is topped up with the correct vintage from Biondi Santi’s own collection, corked with a Biondi Santi-branded cork and sealed with a red Biondi Santi-branded hood. It also gets a recorking certificate, proof that the wine is in a perfectly preserved state. On the other hand, any bottle that doesn’t pass his inspection (i.e. found to be flawed due to incorrect storage) is not topped up. It is simply sealed with an unbranded cork (minus the hood) and returned to its owner.

Owners of topped-up bottles are
charged for every mL of wine used to restore the wine content to the correct level and for the time spent by Biondi Santi staff in the topping up and recorking operations.

Tip to Biondi Santi Wine Collectors

In my Biondi Santi visit, I was taught the proper way of enjoying Biondi Santi wines. Apparently, Biondi Santi wines should not be decanted in a traditional decanter. Rather, you should uncork it, pour out a small amount of wine (until the wine level is only up to the shoulders of the bottle) then let it set for 8 hours.

Cheers!

A Visit to Viticoltori De Conciliis in Campania, Italy

July 28th, 2010 by Sébastien Gavillet

As per my Nuschese wine tasting post, Bruno de Conciliis’ invited me to visit his winery the next time I was in his neighborhood. For those of you who don’t know, Bruno’s winery, Viticoltori de Conciliis, is in Cilento in the Italian region of Campania.

Just recently, I decided to take Bruno up on his offer. As I was rather unfamiliar with Cilento, I decided to stay a few days so I can acquaint myself with this former Greek “colony.”

Our journey started in the city of Naples, where we rented a car with which to make our way to Bruno’s winery. For those of you who have not been to Naples yet, forget everything you learned in driving school and trust your instincts instead. There’s no such thing as a red light or a stop sign in Naples – at least not to
the locals, that is.

As we made our way out of the city, through the more rural areas of the Salerno province and on towards Cilento, the heart of Campania, the urban stress we felt gradually lifted and in its place, we could feel something similar to what Jaime Oliver must have felt while driving through Italy.

Cilento captivated and drew the eyes with its picturesque scenery, its beautiful coastlines and the endless rows of olive trees that dotted the entire Mediterranean countryside. As we drove up the hill road amidst Cilento’s olive tree plantations, we saw glimpses of the vineyards facing the Mediterranean Sea. In this part of Italy, Aglianico, Fiano d’Avelino and Falanghina vines, which thrive in the area’s hot and sunny climate, are the most common varietals. As we pulled into the De Conciliis Estate, Bruno and his dog were there to greet us.

The Viticoltori De Conciliis Winery was founded by Bruno’s late father in
1996 after Bruno convinced him to abandon their poultry business and go into the winemaking business, instead. Bruno and his family then left Milano, where Bruno worked as an architect, to go back to his hometown. I mention this because many of the Italian winemakers I have visited or will be visiting in the future have either inherited the business or have been in viticulture for generations.

Today, the De Conciliis Winery is very successful and its wines are sold in numerous countries worldwide. This success is probably largely due to the uniqueness of the De Conciliis family. Bruno’s approach to winemaking significantly differs from that of other wine makers. He constantly changes his winemaking techniques, continuously adapting them to the needs of the times.

The De Conciliis are also great jazz fans. In fact, they have a wine called “Naima,” a tribute to the song of the same name by John Coltrane. There is
also a De Conciliis wine called “Selim,” which is a semordnilap of “Miles” (i.e. “Miles” spelled backwards) and a tribute to jazz artist Miles Davis. By the way, Selim, which is 70% Fiano and 30% Aglianico, is the first ever sparkling wine produced in Campania and quite probably its finest.

The next morning, we set out to explore the estate. The beauty of the landscape and the friendly employees (most of whom are De Conciliis relatives) made our tour of the winery extremely enjoyable. Olive trees surround the De Conciliis Estate, and its vineyards share its side of the hill with olive tree plantations.

After our tour of the winery and after sampling Bruno’s latest vintages and blends, we headed to the fresh produce market to shop for the dinner party we were planning to hold in the estate’s tasting room that night. At the market, we got just-picked
vegetables plus still-squirming fish and calamari (squid) fresh off the fishermen’s nets.

Back to the estate, I, Bruno and Dino Tantawi (president and owner of Vignaioli Selection, the NYC-based importer of fine wines) cooked on firewood stoves while jazz music played in the background. Meanwhile, our families mingled, chatted and sipped superb De Conciliis wines while waiting for dinner to be served.

Bon Appétit!

Jean-René Germanier – Switzerland’s Premier Boutique Winery

May 19th, 2010 by Sébastien Gavillet

As I continued my journey into the heart of Switzerland’s only Grand Cru wine making area, I met up with Gilles Besse of Cave Jean-René Germanier. He is, in my humble opinion, one of Switzerland’s top wine makers.

The Jean-René Germanier Winery

La Cave Jean-René Germanier was established in 1886 when Urbain Germanier planted his first vineyards and founded a winery in Vétroz, a small village at the very heart of Valais (see the post about Rene-Favre & Fils Winery for more information on this region). Today, 3rd- and 4th-generation oenologists Jean-René Germanier and Gilles Besse produce wines that rival those of the
world’s best producers, although Jean-René Germanier – while still very much involved and passionate about wines – now spends most of his time playing politics as he is a member of the Swiss Parliament. Apart from wines, the Germanier Estate is also known for its remarkable eau de vie (i.e. fruit brandy). Another Germanier ancestor, Francis Germanier, was the first to make eau de vie from the now-famous Williams pears, giving birth to Germanier Estate’s Bon Père William.

The Germanier Wine Varietals

The Jean-René Germanier Estate produces both white wines and red wines. The following is a list of the grape varieties used in making Germanier wines:

White wine varietals

Red wine varietals

Remarkable Germanier Wines

Jean-René Germanier & Gilles Besse have achieved star status in Switzerland and around the world for their superb, award-winning wines. Cayas, Champmarais and Mitis are just three of these notable Germanier wines.

Cayas Syrah Du Valais: Wine Review and Tasting Notes

Cayas Syrah Du Valais is a Syrah varietal red wine. It resembles any great Rhône Côte-Rôtie or Crozes-Hermitage wines, but surpasses most of them.

Cayas has an intense garnet robe. It is very elegant; the nose is complex yet surprisingly delicate for such a full-bodied wine. It presents the aromas of blackcurrant, blackberry, redcurrant, some spice (with hints of licorice and pepper), leather, vanillin, and a touch of earthy mineral-like notes.

There’s an almost-perfect balance between acidity and tannins, which gives Cayas a surprisingly crisp and harmonious finish for a Syrah. To put it simply, this is the type of wine you can drink, glass after glass, without having to force yourself one bit.

Proof of its excellence can be seen in all of its awards. Among its many awards is a Gold Medal in Vinalies Internationales Paris and
a Gold Medal as well as the distinction of being one of the Top 10 Best Syrahs in Syrah du Monde 2009. It is also the only Swiss wine you’ll find in the wine list of the famous La Tour d’Argent in Paris.

As you all know, the purpose of my visit into the Swiss wine country is to introduce you and the rest of the world to unique Swiss wines. As remarkable as Cayas is, it’s still a Syrah varietal – and Syrah is not a grape variety native to Switzerland.

If you are hankering for wines uniquely Swiss, then you’d love my discussion of the next two Germanier wines: Cornalin de Champmarais and Mitis Amigne De Vétroz.

Cornalin de Champmarais: Wine Review and Tasting Notes

Cornalin de Champmarais
is a red wine. As its name suggests, it is made using the Swiss wine grape, Cornalin.

Now, as anyone who has had Cornalin wines would tell you, wines made of Cornalin often have a great nose and superb finish but tend to be lacking on the mid-palate. Not this time, though. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with Champmarais, which embodies all of the positive characteristics of the Cornalin varietal but none of its faults. No wonder Cornalin de Champmarais belongs to the growing list of Germanier wines with a Gold Medal from Viniales Internationales Paris.

Cornalin de Champmarais owes its full body from superior wine grapes and a unique fermentation and maturation process.
At Cave Jean-René Germanier, the grapes used all come from a single vineyard, ensuring great grape quality control. These select Cornalin grapes are fermented in 400-liter barrels made of new oak. The resulting wine is then aged, again in 400-liter new oak barrels for 2 years.

Champmarais is a day-bright, pigeon-blood-red wine with purple hues. It is a rich, complex and highly fragrant wine with excellent aging potential. It presents the aromas of raspberry, blackcurrant, morello cherry, and hints of spices (peppercorn, vanilla). On the palate, the wine is elegant and velvety, with the fruit and wood tannins perfectly integrated. This is one wine you’ll find very hard to enjoy in moderation.

Mitis Amigne De Vétroz: Wine Review and Tasting Notes

Mitis Amigne De Vétroz, an Amigne varietal white wine, is another premium wine from the Germanier Estate. This sweet
dessert wine, made using botrytised grapes, is aged on its lees in new oak for up to 18 months. It can rival any top-of-the-line Austrian and German wine of the same style. In fact, Mitis Amigne De Vétroz 2007, has just been awarded a Gold Medal in Vinalies Internationales Paris 2010.

This amber-colored, full-bodied wine presents the aromas of quince comfits, linden, honey-roasted hazelnuts, a touch of Cointreau-like orange peel, and a hint of vanilla bud. This succulent wine enrobes your entire palate, leaving a smooth but lingering caramel or toffee finish. In a word, Wow! Just writing about it is making me salivate.

The Germanier Cellars and Winery

All Germanier wines are made, aged and bottled at the Germanier Estate. Red and white wines are kept separate, and each has its own dedicated “caretaker.” The Jean-René Germanier Winery is a modern
production facility. It has undergone some renovations over the years to meet the ever-increasing demand for its wines. More changes are expected to be instituted in the near future.

Germanier wines are available for sale at the tasting room, which is elegant and spacious enough to accommodate large parties. If you are ever in the neighborhood, I urge you to take the time to visit the Jean-René Germanier Winery and sample its wines. You can tell them I sent you.

Just one thing, though: please drink responsibly. There are just so many great wines in that tasting room you’ll find it very hard to spit all of them out. Can’t or won’t take my word for it? You can ask my father who was with me on this particular visit. Let’s just say he had a little too much to drive… Cheers!

Rene Favre & Fils – The Princes of Petite Arvine

May 06th, 2010 by Sébastien Gavillet

My journey into the Swiss wine country included a stop in St. Pierre-de-Clages, a village in the municipality of Chamoson in the canton (state) of Valais. There, I met up with Mike and John (Jean-Charles) Favre of the Rene Favre et Fils (Rene Favre & Sons) winery.

The Wine Region of St. Pierre-de-Clages, Chamoson

The wine-growing area of St.Pierre-de-Clages and Chamoson is the largest in Valais and home to around 30 different wine grape varieties. The soil in this area is mostly limestone. The vineyards are situated on the right bank of the Rhone River, and most of them are on gentle slopes. The unique location of the St.Pierre-de-Clages – Chamoson vineyards gives them a southern exposure that makes the proper maturation of wine grapes possible, and it is at the heart of this exceptionally located wine-growing region that you’ll find the Rene Favre & Fils
Estate.

Rene Favre & Fils Winery

The Rene Favre & Fils winery specializes in Petite Arvine wines produced from the world’s oldest Petite Arvine vines. This family winery is currently run and operated by the Favre brothers, Mike and John.

John Favre first studied at the agricultural school of Chateauneuf in Valais. Next, he went to L’ecole Superieure de Changins, the best viticultural and oenology school in Switzerland.

Mike Favre took a slightly different route. He studied Economics before going on to study Oenology and Viticulture in the state’s engineering school. Then, he set off to the US where he lived and made wines for 7 years before returning to Switzerland and the family estate. Today Mike is Vice President of Vinofed, among other
things.

Mike and John Favre represent the new generation of winemakers. Bold, forward-looking and passionate about their wines and vines, they are revolutionizing the industry by introducing and applying new techniques to viticulture and winemaking.

The Favre Vines

The Favre vineyards are easily identifiable by the way the vines are planted. Specifically, the vines are arranged into two tight rows and one larger row (see picture gallery).

The vines were planted this way mainly for efficiency. This configuration gives grape pickers better access to the grapes. It also makes the vines more accessible to a specialized machine that removes extra leaves. The removal of extra leaves increases air flow within the canopy. This helps prevent rot and other vine diseases and, consequently, the Favres don’t need to use pesticides on their vines.

The Favre vines are, in fact, some of the cleanest I have ever seen (see it for
yourself by checking the picture gallery), and I have seen plenty in my trips to vineyards worldwide.

The Favre Wines and Wine Production

The Rene Favre & Fils winery produces a diverse range of wines. Their white wine production consists mainly of Petite Arvine, Johannisberg (Sylvaner) and Fendant (Chasselas). Their red wine production, in turn, consists mainly of Pinot Noir, Gamay, Humagne Rouge, Merlot, Syrah, and Diolinoir.

All Favre wines are made in the estate, and all of them are fermented in stainless steel vats. Most of the whites never see oak, but all the reds do. The profiles of Favre wines are typical of the region, with the exception of a few blends which Mike and John have produced for a more international palate.

My personal favorite in the Favre white wine lineup is the “old vines” Petite Arvine (i.
e. Petite Arvine wine made with grapes harvested from very old Petite Arvine vines). This wine is fresh with a medium body and balanced acidity. It has the aromas of lemon, grapefruit rind and rhubarb and some floral notes, too. It also has noticeable minerality (limestone) on the palate and a pleasant touch of salinity.

My favorite Favre red is the Renommée St. Pierre, which is surprisingly rich and fruit driven for a Suisse Pinot Noir. This is wine aged for 18 months in oak, and I highly recommend it to any Pinot lovers.

This is all for now. Watch out for more posts about Swiss winemakers and Swiss wines. In the meantime, you can read the first two installments in the Swiss wine series: Swiss Wine Facts and The Adrian and Diego Mathier Winery.

Cheers!

The Adrian and Diego Mathier Winery

March 23rd, 2010 by Sébastien Gavillet

As you know from my post, Swiss Wine Facts, I have been to Switzerland recently. There I met with half a dozen winemakers and visited their wineries. The Adrian and Diego Mathier Estate was one of the wineries in my itinerary.

The Mathier Family and their Estate

The Adrian & Diego Mathier Estate is located in Salquenen, in the Swiss Canton of Valais. The Mathier family has been living in this wine producing village since 1387. The Mathiers have been making wine for four generations. Their domain extends to a total of 25 hectares (62 acres) of vineyards in Salquenen and Chamoson.

Wine is more than just a business to the Mathiers. It is their way of life. As with other Swiss wine producers, quality is the Mathier winery’s topmost priority.

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Distinctive Salquenen Soil

Salquenen soil is unique in Valais. Salquenen soil is rich in lime and magnesium. On the other hand, the soil in most other wine producing areas of Valais consists of slate and gravel.

Winemaking Particularities

The grapes are not crushed. A centrifuge is used to separate the grapes from their stems. After fermentation, the grapes are pressed using a pneumatic press (applying pressure not exceeding 1.5 bars).

The Mathier Estate practices what I call “individual plot fermentation,” which is when grapes from a certain area (plot) of a vineyard are selected to be fermented by themselves rather than in a mixture with all the grapes of the same varietal harvested from the entire vineyard. This lets the Mathiers “experiment” and/or separate better quality grapes from lesser ones.

The Mathier family does not chaptalize their wine. Mathier vineyards get close to 330 days of sun
per year! Additives may be added or used in the course of winemaking. Such additives include yeast, sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide, calcium dioxide, and fining agents.

Wine may or may not be aged in oak. When it is, a type of French oak is used. Specifically, the Mathier family uses Quercus petraea (Sessile Oak) and Quercus robur (Pedunculate Oak).

Wine Production

The Mathier family produces more than 45 different types of wine and distillates. One of their most notable products is Glacier Wine (vin du glacier), a late harvest (noble rot) wine stored in ice chambers dug right into the Aletsch Glacier. These ice chambers make a perfect storage for late harvest wine. The ice acts as an electromagnetic shield, protecting the wine. This plus the low ambient temperature (just above freezing level) and the highly humid air all work together to preserve the wine.

The Mathier family’s wine production facilities are
modern and very well maintained. (No surprise there; this is Switzerland, after all.) There are small, stainless steel tanks which the Mathiers use for individual plot fermentation (see the “winemaking particularities” section). Over the last few years, the winery’s facilities have undergone massive construction/renovation. This modernized operations and increased productivity without sacrificing quality.

The Adrian & Diego Mathier tasting room is open to the public. So the next time you are in Switzerland and find yourself in Valais (perhaps you’re on your way to visit the alpine resort of Crans-Montana or Zermatt – home to Switzerland’s, if not the world’s, most famous mountain, Matterhorn – or maybe you’re just traveling by train to Italy), be sure to make a quick stop in Salquenen and sample some of Adrian & Diego Mathier’s award-winning wines (that’s 150 gold medals over the years). I highly recommend it!

Cheers!

Oregon Pinots: Wines with Plenty of Personality

August 12th, 2008 by Agi Toth D.W.S.

Finally!  My chance to participate in the Oregon Pinot Camp has arrived.  “Camp?” my friends’ incredulous faces stared back at me.  “Your work is taking you to Oregon to drink wine for four days?”  Well… when you put it like that… I guess I have to say, “Yes!”

Every year, 50 of Oregon’s wineries or wine companies come together and invite over 250 hospitality and wine professionals to explore and experience the Oregon wine country.  In the last 30 years, Oregon’s Pinot Noirs have gone from being unknown entities to international “celebrities,” receiving recognition and acclaim from wine industry professionals worldwide.  Wine lovers who had previously stocked only Burgundies in their wine cellars have now started stocking Pinots produced from the wine grapes grown in Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills and Yamhill County.

The Oregon Pinot Camp

I and the other wine professionals participated
in six workshops.  We learned about the history of Oregon wine making and explored Oregon wines’ vintages and wine styles.  We also discussed and tasted Oregon’s white wines.  Winemakers took us to their vineyards to discuss terroir.  You know what?  There’s nothing like squeezing dirt clods (oops, excuse my indelicate faux pas… should I say soil samples instead?) if you want to understand the difference between sedimentary and volcanic-based earth.

The star of the show?  The Pinot Noir, bien sûr (of course) – that persistently persnickety grape that perpetually puzzles and perplexes even the most devoted winemaker.  In order to make the wonderfully elegant and silky wine that we call Pinot, vine growers dedicate their lives to combating this thin-skinned grape’s proneness to rot.  They have to stay up at all hours of the night, zipping through their plots, tasting, chewing, spitting, and tasting again and again – until the grapes
finally “whisper” to their caretakers that full ripeness has been achieved and the right moment to begin harvest has arrived.

The Pinot wine tasting focused on the 2006 vintage, a year that pleased many winemakers and yielded high-quality grapes.  It is clear that Oregon winemakers strive to produce wines that are true to Pinot’s varietal characteristics.  Although the wines at the wine tasting were very young, they displayed a variety of aromas and flavors that ranged from bright, fresh, red berries to riper, dark blackberries and plum.  The various uses of oak were apparent, and the flavors ranged from the more subtle (e.g. elegant Pinots from the Domain Drouhin winemaker) to fuller-bodied, spicier versions that expressed more cedar, vanilla and tobacco (e.g. Pinots from the Panther Creek and Witness Tree vineyards).

As a group, Oregon Pinots exhibit a mouthwatering acidity, firm tannins, fruit complexity, and a lengthy finish
all of which are important elements of quality and agreeability.

The Pinot Gris was also featured, and this grape reigned supreme among the whites.  The Pinot Gris wines we sampled were deliciously crisp, clean and refreshing.  They can accompany many a dish.  Gee, I suddenly have this craving for seared scallops and asparagus – but, I digress.

The winemakers from Oregon are also being creative and are experimenting with other varietals such as Chardonnay.  A wonderfully refreshing example is Soter/Argyles’s sparkling blanc de blancs.  The Ponzi Winery makes a lovely Arneis; others are dabbling with more aromatic varietals such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer.

As we floated over the vineyards of Oregon in our hot air balloon (mais oui!) one morning, I thought about the Oregon winemakers.  Although they
have initially looked to Burgundy for inspiration, they remained true to their goal of discovering their own style and unique expression of terroir.  They are succeeding quite well in this department, too.  In fact, they have started attracting the French.  French owned Willakenzie Winery had fun in mind when it produced Plaisir à Trois, a unique blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Gamay Noir.

The Oregon wine country deserves our praise, indeed.  It’s a place worth watching, especially for those people who have a predisposition for particular Pinots.

Cheers!<!–:ru– >

Наконец-то! Мне выпал шанс побывать в «Oregon Pinot Camp» (рус. «Орегонский лагерь Пино»). «Лагерь?», – будто-бы говорили недоверчивые глаза моих друзей. «Тебе просто по работе надо съездить в Орегон и четыре дня дегустировать там вина?». Ну что ж, если Вы видите это так… должно быть я должен сказать «Да!».

Каждый год 50 орегонских винодельческий заводов и винных компаний собираются вместе и приглашают более 250 профессионалов из области организации приемов и винных специалистов для исследования и изучения орегонского района виноградарства и виноделия. За последние 30 лет орегонские Пино Нуары прошли путь от никому неизвестных вин до мировых «знаменитых» напитков; они получили признание и одобрение специалистов винной индустрии со всего мира. Винные ценители, ранее так привязанные только к бургундским винам, нынче начали заполнять свои винные погреба Пино, изготовленным из винограда, выращенного в долине Вилламетт, на Холмах Данди или в Ямхилл Кантри.

О «Oregon Pinot Camp»

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Я и другие участники были поделены на шесть рабочих групп. Мы узнавали про историю виноделия в штате Орегон, а также знакомились с марочными винами и винными стилями этого штата. Мы также обсуждали и дегустировали белые орегонские вина. Виноделы проводили нам экскурсии по своим виноградникам, чтобы мы могли обсудить терруар. И знаете что? Нет ничего лучше, чем сжимать в руках грязные комья земли (ой, просите мне мою грубую оплошность… вероятно, мне следовало сказать образцы грунта?), если Вы хотите уловить разницу между осадочными и вулканическими породами.

Кто же был гвоздем вечера? Пино Нуар, bien sûr (конечно же) – этот неизменно привередливый виноград, который то и дело запутывает и сбивает с толку даже самых искусных виноделов. Чтобы сделать на удивление элегантное и бархатистое вино, которое мы называем Пино, виноградари посвящают всю свою жизнь борьбе с его склонностью быстро портиться. Они проводят всю ночь на ногах, бродя по своим виноградным плантациям,
пробуя на вкус, жуя, выплевывая, и снова пробуя вновь и вновь – пока виноград в конце-концов не «скажет» своему заботливому хозяину, что он уже полностью созрел, и настал самый подходящий момент для сбора урожая.

Винная дегустация Пино была ориентирована на вина урожая 2006 года, года, который удовлетворил даже самых придирчивых виноделов, ведь он был щедр на виноград наивысшего качества. Очевидно, что орегонские виноделы стремятся произвести вина, соответствующие сортовым характеристикам Пино. Хоть вина на дегустациях и были достаточно молоды, они отображали все богатство ароматов и вкусов данного сорта: от ярких, свежих красных ягод до спелой темной ежевики и сливы. Использование дуба при изготовлении вина было очевидно, благодаря этому вкус варьировался от более тонкого (например, элегантные Пино винодельни Domain Drouhin) до более насыщенного, наполненного ароматами кедра, ванили и табака (например, Пино виноградных хозяйств Panther Creek и Witness Tree).

Как
группа, вина Пино проявляют аппетитную кислотность, устойчивые дубильные вещества, сложность фруктового состава, и продолжительный конечный вкус – а это и есть самые важные элементы качества и приятного вкуса.

Виноград Пино Грис также был представлен на дегустации, и он выгодно выделялся на фоне белого винограда. Вина Пино Грис, которые мы попробовали, были восхитительно бодры, прозрачны и имели освежающий эффект. Они будут прекрасным дополнением многих блюд. Боже, я вдруг внезапно захотел жареных гребешков и спаржи – но, пожалуй, я немного отвлекся от темы.

Виноделы из Орегона, будучи чрезвычайно креативными людьми, не упускают малейшего случая проэксперементировать с другими сортами винограда, такими, как Шардоне. Примером такого необычайного освежающего вина могут быть игристые вина Блан де Блан Soter/Argyles. Винное хозяйство Ponzi Winery производит великолепное вино из сорта Арнеис; другие производители занимаются более
ароматными сортами винограда, такими как Рислинг и Гевурцтраминер.

Когда одним прекрасным утром мы плыли в небе на тепловом аэростате (mais oui!) над виноградниками Орегона, я как раз подумал о виноделах этого региона. Хоть они изначально и черпали воодушевление в бургундских винах, все же, они остались верными своей цели – открыть свой собственный стиль вина и неповторимый терруар. И они весьма преуспевают в этой области. Фактически, теперь их вина стали привлекать к себе огромное внимание французов. Винодельня Willakenzie Winery, принадлежащая французам, произвела прекрасное вино Plaisir à Trois, уникальную смесь Пино Нуара, Пино Менье и Гаме Нуар.

Орегонский район виноградарства и виноделия на самом деле достоин похвалы. Это место стоит увидеть всем, но особенно тем, кто отдает предпочтение винам Пино.

Ваше здоровье!