Sunday, October 31, 2010

Wine Spectator Features Okanagan Valley As Wine Destination


By Lynn Alley   [Excerpted from Wine Spectator]

In late September, the terrace restaurant at Mission Hill Family Estate Winery is filled with suntanned tourists wearing shorts and sunglasses, sipping local wine, eating, enjoying the stunning view.

But this view isn't over the lush vineyards of Napa Valley. The happy visitors are in Canada, looking south over the Okanagan Lake in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley.


The vineyards at Mission Hill Winery look down on Lake Okanagan.


Although Canada's wine industry was prominent first in Ontario, its British Columbian arm has blossomed in recent years. The most successful wines from this western region come from the Okanagan Valley, a four-hour drive inland over the mountains from Vancouver, or a short flight from Seattle, Vancouver and other nearby Canadian cities to the tiny international airport in Kelowna, "gateway to the Okanagan."     Read More On Wine Spectator....


Profiles and listings for thousands of wineries around the globe.

Wine Spectator Monthly Pick:Cedar Creek Estate Winery, Okanagan Valley, BC


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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Confrérie des Vignerons des Côtes du Ventoux

Ventoux AOC Wine Region in Provence, France. During Crush, winemakers all sport the tell-tale sign of deeply purple tinted hands. Photo courtesy YR.

Confrérie des Vignerons des Côtes du Ventoux roughly translates to the Brotherhood of Ventoux Winemakers. Vignerons is one of those wonderful French words. The word itself sounds like Patron and Vine combined. It evokes the associative alliteration of "patron of the vines." And what is a winemaker, a vigneron, if not a patron of the vines? Someone who cultivates,  nurtures, tends and harvests fruits brought forth from deep-rooted vines.

And what is wine, if not an art?

AOC Ventoux is the wine region right next to the celebrated Châteauneuf du Pape. Not as famous as its neighbor, the area's wineries nonetheless produce outstanding wines. "We just have to say that we're next to Châteauneuf du Pape for people to recognize what we produce. It's the same terroir. The same vines," explained the proprietor and winemaker André Berthet-Rayne of Domaine Berthet-Rayne in Cairanne. He gestured to his fields of Bourboulenc, Grenache, Roussane and Clairette with the deeply tinted purple hands that are the tell-tale signs of the winemaker during crush.

Castel Mereio by Domaine Berthet-Rayne, Cairanne, comes in both red and white.

He also produces AOC Côtes du Rhônes wines including a Domaine Berthet-Rayne Castel Mireio 2008 from old vines, approximately 40 years old. This red has top notes of mushrooms, offers a waft of musky and finishes with a balanced acid, fullness in the mouth. It also comes in a white. Vignerons-Cairanne.

Confreries des Vignerons des Cotes du Ventoux

The Confrérie was revived in 1982 and today is the ambassador for Côtes du Ventoux wines.  It is made up of a small group of wine lovers who are expert on wine and the soils. Newly inducted members have to pass a tasting test, do some oath-taking and then they are allowed to receive the taste-vin engraved with the Poudadouïre, the symbol of the brotherhood.

Ventoux AOC Terroir

There are several distinctive soil types in the Ventoux wine region, a region that has more wineries than all of New Zealand combined, according to Morgan Williams. Williams is a New Zealand native and winemaker who currently works at Château Unang, a 9th century château and vineyard in the village of Malemort du Comtat. He will tell you straight up that none of the locals buy Châteauneuf wines. Not when you can get a Ventoux wine that's just as good and not nearly as expensive.

Altered Safre is one of the Ventoux soil types and exhibits a light, sandy texture combined with pebbles.   Ochre sands, (red earth),  and gypsum, (white rock), are also to be found on the natural steps that form the "Comtat Terraces," the geological formation between the plains and the Mont Ventoux mountain from which the AOC region takes its name. At the base of Mont Ventoux, in Bedoin, home to many noted wineries, the alluvial fan presents a variety of soils - brown, red and white -which lend themselves to growing the highly characteristic wines.

Mazan is a choice starting point for a journey of discovery of Ventoux wines, and not just because the Marquis de Sade, in 1772, held the first theater festival in Provence in the village of Mazan. [Nearby Avignon now holds its annual, world renowned theater festival during the summer]. It is also a wine heritage site with archeological digs unearthing wine storage amphorae from ca. 40BC, the Augustan era.

But most importantly, Mazan offers a number of outstanding and easy to access wineries and wine paths. Domaine des Cambades is a bit off the beaten path but still close to Mazan. Proprietor/winemaker Hervé Vincent will graciously meet you at the crossroads if you call in advance and tell him that you are coming by. Domaine des Cambades' vintage, Il Etait Une Fois makes a stop at the winery, every bit worthwhile and an absolute must.

For some oenogeek activity, an afternoon at the Château Pesquié is one to put on the list. The winery, located in Mormoiron, offers a path around the lovely 18th century château itself which is a beautiful specimen of Provencal architecture. The path offers sweeping views over Mont Ventoux and Mormoiron, a charming local village.  Along the path you will see the AOC Ventoux grape varietals: Carignan, Cinsault, Syrah, and Grenache for the reds and rosés and Clairette and Roussanne for the whites. The path is about 1 km and takes approximately 45 minutes to walk.  The cellar also shows cross-sections of the estate's soils.

Carignan is a grape very present in the Côtes du Ventoux appellation. It is Spanish in origin and is cultivated to produce low yields. Winemakers expect to get qualities of robustness, color, power and liveliness from the juice.

For three generations the family has been making wine at Domaine du Bon Remède.  Lucile and Frederic Delay say that 2010 will be a good year. They use 40-50 year old Grenache vines to blend with their 90% syrah, 10% Grenache Secret de Vincent vintage 2008. Their 2006 is all sold out and not even a wine cellar visit at the winery will get you a bottle, let alone a case. Their barrel and cask storehouse make the trek out to the winery still worthwhile.

Domaine de Fondrèche is another to mark down on your map. It's at the intersection of two ancient Roman roads. And, of course, Domaine des Anges, at the top of Notre Dame des Anges hill, with its splendid views of Mont Ventoux, lend a Ventoux wine tasting trip its deep red, dark fruit flavor, perfect for crush and the Autumnal season.

*Editor's Note: Truffle season, "Rabasse," in Provencal, begins in November.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Domaine Le Pointu, AOC Châteauneuf du Pape

Chateauneuf-du-Pape blanc. Domaine le Pointu.

Châteauneuf du Pape Is White It's like a natural reflex, certain wines, varietals, regions make us think automatically of a color of the wine. Red, White, Rosé. This is one of the most gratifying symptoms of entering more deeply into the world of wine, learning that, for example,a brilliant Châteauneuf du Pape comes in a white as well.

We've recognized it before and we'll say it again, good winemakers are always the first to say that wine starts in the vineyard, on the vines.  After seeing and participating in several harvests and talking to dozens of winemakers and vineyard hands, I couldn't agree more...with the caveat that the methods differ greatly from vineyard to vineyard with some focusing on vineyard farming as opposed to vine husbanding.

Tending AOC Chateauneuf-du-Pape vines through the seasons.

Vine Husbanding

 After a mere 5 years in the heart of Provence's Châteauneuf du Pape AOC, Patrick Coste, with wife Karine, has proven just what can be accomplished with vineyards and a cellar when good strong methods of vine husbanding are carried through from the vineyard to the fermentation tanks to the barrels and, finally, to the bottles. 

Domaine Le Pointu. Cotes Rhone.

It was only in 2004 that the first harvest of Domaine le Pointu went into their vats.  "Le Pointu is the name of one of our vineyard plots planted with white grapes; it is located on a hillside near the wood of Château Rayas," explained Mssr. Coste, the younger. Patrick's father, Maurice, is the former President of the Courthézon Cooperative Cellar. Courthézon is where the winery of the 27- hectare, 5 year old Domaine is located.  Six hectares of vineyards are in the Châteauneuf du Pape appellation, 11 in the Côtes du Rhône appellation and 10 in Vin de Pays.

Significant terroir. The rocks transmit the warmth from the sun to the vines at night. This creates a special ripening process for these AOC Chateauneuf du Pape grapes.

Le Pointu vines from that plateau butt up against the the renowned vines of Beaucastel, signaling the same terroir. Still, it does come down to technique. And there's quite a difference between farming and harvesting and husbanding and tending.  The signature terroir of these vines are large rocks that transmit the heat from the sunshine they absorb in the warm Provenςal days to the vines at night, thus aiding in the slow maturation and warm ripening of the grapes. The French term for this terroir is galets roulés.

Karine and Patrick Coste. Domaine Le Pointu.

Land of The Rising Sun Success has come quickly for the husband and wife team who named two of their best vintages so far after their first two sons, Clément and Mathieu.

With a combination of marketing and good, solid, French countryside people skills, Patrick was able, straight out of the gate, to get the attention of Japan's President of the Association of International Sommeliers, Kazuyoshi Kogai at Japan's Foodex Salon 2007. A contract with a leading Japanese cosmetics company has fallen into place since then which has Domaine Le Pointu supplying gift boxes of wines for the company during holidays.

On your next trip through Provence, be sure to stop at Domaine Le Pointu.

Domaine Le Pointu will also be the wine supplier for Paris-Dakar for this year's races.  Good vineyard practices, solid people skills and knowing when and who, to ask for advice seems to be the Coste's winning recipe here. The reputed Bordeaux wine consultant, Christian Prud'Homme, has been advising Patrick Coste on the vinification process, notably the barrels he uses at Le Pointu, which are all Bordeaux barrels.

And the wines themselves? Well, they've already earned the attention of Bettane & Desseauve, Robert Parker, Andréas Larsson and Jancis Robinson. Personally I would recommend anything from their 2007 run, whether it's their Côtes du Rhône  - especially Cuvée Le Vieux Chêne - or Châteauneuf du Pape, particularly Cuvée Clément and Mathieu, both made from vines 90-105 years old with a production of 10000 and 8000 bottles respectively. Each are Grenache noir and Cinsault noir and from different vintage years. 

But the wine that got me super excited was Domaine le Pointu's Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée Spéciale Feuilles d'Or (label pictured above). It is made with organically cultivated grapes, indeed the Domaine will be certified organic in 2011, from 90 year old vines. This wine is made from the famous terroir of galets roulés. White Châteauneuf du Pape wines represent only 4% of the total production of the appellation.  It has a delicate bouquet, floral with a touch of fruit, citrus. It makes a nice aperitif when young but you can keep it 2-5 years and pair it with herb-encrusted fish, veal and fresh cheeses.  Total of 2000  (two thousand) bottles.

Domaine Le Pointu, 255 Chemin de la Grande Allee, 84350 Courthezon, France.




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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Wine For Gen Y


After a stint in Australia, Bear Flag's winemaker won't use anything but Stelvin closures, otherwise known as "screw" caps.


Through her unique style of winemaking, Beth Cutler hopes to bring obscure grape varieties out of the underground, making them more wildly recognized and respected by both winemakers and consumers alike. Where some might use varietals like Touriga Nacional and Alicante Bouchet in small proportions for blending, Bear Flag allocates a hearty 20% of the bottle.


Shephard Fairey is a Fan!

The bottles’ artwork is another distinct touch that sets Bear Flag apart from the rest. The colorful cartoonish collage put together by Argentinean artist Eduardo Bertone has an eclectic punk rock aesthetic that perfectly illustrates Bear Flag’s mission, and Cutler’s style of winemaking.   Read MORE on BRAND X...





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Sunday, October 3, 2010


La saison des vendanges commence! [Transl. = Wine Harvest is Here!]

Vendange Bordeaux
Vendange Bordeaux
Vendanges Bordeaux

Vendanges Bordeaux
Vendanges Bordeaux
Bordeaux, Vendanges!





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