Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh AOC – The Other Sweet French Wine

by Paige Donner

The World of Wine has endless gems in store for you to discover. That is what's so riveting about continuing along the path of wine exploration. Just when you think you've come across most of France's highlights, there are still more yet awaiting your discovery.

pacherenc du vic bilh vineyards
pacherenc du vic bilh vineyards

Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh is one of these wines. In a culture that tends to evoke the wines of Sauternes and Barsac when discussing sweet wines, this is a lovely discovery that comes from a different region in France, the Southwest. AOC Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh is just 40 km from Pau and in fact faces the Pyrénées.

The real difference of this sweet wine is not the time of its harvest, as it's harvested late in the year, from mid-November up until mid-December, similar to other sweet wines and much like the famous German and Canadian ice wines. No, the real difference is that these wines take their sweetness from their maturation and not from botrytis (noble rot).

The first historical reference to this wine, Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh, is from 1745 in a document found that forbids harvest that year before November 4th in this particular region of Southwestern France. That year the harvest took place mid-November during what's known as a sort of Indian Summer in that area of France, locally called the Summer of Saint Martin, l'été de la Saint-Martin.

Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh Doux Saint Albert 2012
Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh Doux Saint Albert 2012

Named after the festival day during that Indian Summer, the cuvée Saint-Albert 2012 made by Alice and Paul Dabade (Barrique and Lot 7.1-7.2-7.3-7.4) is exemplary of this AOC Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh sweet wine. It's a blend of Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng and Petit Courbu.  It was harvested late in 2012, starting December 12.

For the bouquet you can expect rhubarb and mandarin orange. On the mouth, the silky suaveness of the sweet is balanced nicely by a fresh acidity that hits you on the finish. As it ages it picks up notes of white truffles. If you like sweet wines this is truly one of the privileged sweet wines and relatively unknown simply because so little of it is produced.

Pairs well with foie gras and Roquefort; Also as an aperitif. For dessert it goes nicely with a fruit pie or tart and also light fresh sorbets such as passion or lemon. Serve 8-10°C.

Awards: Gold Medal, 2013, Paris Agricultural Fair


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Monday, December 29, 2014

Gérard Bertrand’s Book About His Life In Wine

All photos by Paige Donner ©

SEE The FULL PHOTO GALLERY on Chérie du Vin 

Gérard Bertrand celebrates his Book Launch Faust Paris December 17 photo by Paige Donner copyright 2014
Gérard Bertrand celebrates his Book Launch Faust Paris December 17 photo by Paige Donner copyright 2014

Gérard Bertrand is one of those rare Frenchmen in wine - a former rugby star who took over the family business of wine when he retired from his illustrious sports career. Since his father George's death, Gérard has overseen the vast family business entirely, even launching the brand with considerable success into the US market in 2011.

A champion of bio-dynamic wines, Bertrand is also one of the biggest grower-producers in France's Languedoc region, a region that has historically been considered the wine barrel of France for its sheer volume of production. 

At his recent book launch at Faust in Paris, celebrating the release of his new book, Le Vin à la belle étoile, celebrated personalities from both the fields of sports and wine, as well as the Parisian demi-monde, came out to congratulate him - and to sip some of his new releases from his more celebrated estates of Cigalus (bio-dyanamic), Domaine de l'Aigle, and the wine from the Bertrand family estate, Domaine de Villemajou. 

If Domaine de Villemajou was a person it would be a generously proportioned Mediterranean woman with lots of charm to illustrate its rounded, silky, fine tannins.

The eight hectares that make up the plots of Villemajou are referred to as La Forge. These plots were Georges Bertrand's, Gérard's father's, favorite of his estates. It is part of the inland terroir of the Boutenac region in Corbières. These Villemajou plots, La Forge, reside on a Miocene hilltop.  The blend of the wine is of two emblematic regional varieties, Syrah and Carignan. 


♥Chérie Du Vin

Friday, November 28, 2014

Café en Capitale - Christmas Cakes from Chef Yannick Alléno

by Paige Donner

As noted earlier this month, Parisian chefs have a sweet tradition of rolling out their Christmas cakes, their Bûche de Noël (Christmas Yule Logs) here even before we in the U.S. have celebrated Thanksgiving. It's a charming custom and one that inspires much creativity amongst them. It's sort of like the grand unveiling of what myriad forms flour, sugar, chocolate, mousse, fruits and other sweet delectables can take on within the imaginations of these great chefs and the skillful execution of their staff.

It's also the sign, at least in the Parisian culinary world, that the Holiday Season has begun!


Chef Yannick Alléno explains his creative inspiration behind 2014's Christmas cakes. Flanked in the background by his chef patissier. Photo by Paige Donner copyright All Rights Reserved.
Chef Yannick Alléno explains his creative inspiration behind 2014's Christmas cakes. Flanked in the background by his chef patissier. Photo by Paige Donner copyright 2014 All Rights Reserved.

This year, Chef Yannick Alléno, one of France's most distinguished chefs, paid tribute to his terroir, Paris, in his re-imagining of these customary holiday cakes. He harkens from île-de-France, the county that encompasses the city of Paris, and has built a career and his successful brand upon highlighting what he calls Terroir Parisien.

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For this year, his Christmas gateaux (cakes) have taken on the role of representing, in delicately edible patisserie form, several of the great monuments of Paris.

Café en Capitale

The café gourmand is a dessert that you will find on many French menus. It's a delightful little smattering of bite-sized desserts, often miniatures of the full portioned desserts on the menu. It's served with coffee and is a nice dessert to share or also have when you're too sated by a good meal to devour more than just a few nibbles afterwards.

Alléno's twist, however, is to shine a spotlight on three of Paris's beautiful monuments, namely the Grand Palais, the Opéra Bastille and the Notre-Dame and offer each of these namesake cakes in turn, consecutively, throughout the holiday season.

Let The Sweet Festivities Begin!

l'Opéra Bastille cakes at Terroir Parisien. Photo by Paige Donner copyright All Rights Reserved.
l'Opéra Bastille holiday cakes at Terroir Parisien. Photo by Paige Donner copyright All Rights Reserved.

l'Opéra Bastille

And it all starts on December 1st. Beginning on the 1st of December you will be able to enjoy l'Opéra Bastille at Alléno's Bourse district Terroir Parisien. Of course, the famous pâtissier, Gaston Le Nôtre is who created the even more (now) famous cake, l'Opéra.  The form of this small, just a bit bigger than bite-size very chocolate délice with a creamy center, pays tribute to the dome of the Opéra Bastille, the landmark theater which crowns the Place de la Bastille.  This dessert will be served with coffee following lunch or dinner at the popular bistro in the 2nd arrondissement.

La bûche du Grand Palais

Ah, now for the main act... The form of this cake, crowned with a remnant of the celebrated Parisian monument, the Grand Palais (albeit in patisserie, not in actual steel or concrete!) has a heart of pear from Ile-de-France that is covered, actually, nearly smothered and entombed, in chocolate.  The metal edifice of the Grand Palais, the creative child of Gustave Eiffel, is what is represented by this avant-garde cake decoration.  Even the presentation of the cake pays homage to the metal-work detailing of Eiffel's in this monument of and to Paris that is the Grand Palais.

*These cakes can be ordered for takeaway as well when ordered in advance.

La Galette du Parvis de Notre-Dame

After the New Year, here in France there is another cake that you will see in all the bakeshop windows: it is called the galette du Roi.  It celebrates Epiphany or the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem. You can read more about the tradition here. The cakes are much-loved by children because of the little fève (which translates as bean but is really a little ceramic lucky token) that is placed inside each cake which bequeaths the winning slice with a wish come true.

The form of Alléno's Galette Notre-Dame is in the form of the celebrated rosette window, the rosace, of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame. And rather than filled with just the traditional almond paste, here you will find a mixture of chocolate-almond paste. It's like Alléno and his patisserie team really just couldn't get enough chocolate this year. And Hallelujah for that! This rosace form represents as they appear at Notre Dame flowers of Paradise and rose petals. "It's a treasure hidden inside an historical holiday cake tradition."

Le Montsouris

And last, but certainly not least, is the bite-sized flaky cake-cookie, Le Montsouris. This creation is dear to Alléno's heart because of its inspiration: the very last farm that exists within the city of Paris is set to soon be demolished. This farm is in the 14th arrondissement at  26 à 30 rue de la Tombe-Issoire and is the last of over 450 such farms that once existed within Paris city limits (until about 1895 when they started to be demolished and buildings constructed in their place).  Since Alléno is devoted to creating his cuisine with local produce, he wanted to pay homage to this last Parisian farm before it slipped into our collective distant memory. The flaky cookie-cake is filled with apple compote.

TIP: The first 300 Galette Notre-Dame sold offer the chance of winning a dinner for two at Alléno's newest restaurant, the elegant Pavillon Ledoyen. There is one extra winning fève (token) hidden inside one of the first 300 galettes. (Yes, sort of like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory : ) ).  To hear a review of this restaurant, listen to my upcoming Paris GOODfood+wine episode on World Radio Paris.


And for a chance to taste or take away any or all of these cakes mentioned here, go to Terroir Parisien, at either location 28 Place de la Bourse or 20 rue Saint Victor.


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♥Chérie Du Vin

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Christmas Yule Logs And Paris - A Sweet Tradition

by Paige Donner

(all photos copyright Paige Donner)

Every year about this time, as the leaves turn their gold, yellow, orange and red, a sweet tradition overtakes Paris. That tradition is the annual presentation by France's superstar chefs of their creative interpretation of the Christmas Yule Log Cake, a staple on every French Christmas Dinner table.

Autumn is like a second Spring

With each falling leave like a flower 

(seen posted as a sign in French as I walked yesterday evening along rue Fbg. St. Honoré)

​​​​​The 68 Guy Martin Christmas Yule Log inspired by Guerlain Fragrances and named "A Scent of Shalimar". Find it at 68 Guy Martin at 68, Champs Elysées, Paris.
2nd Photo: Le Grand Véfour Buche de Noel, in the shape of a champagne bottle
Top Photo: ​​Chef Guy Martin and Team, Paris

The French bûche de noël 

Over the years these Yule logs have become more and more creative. No longer are they a simple cake with frosting that has been rolled into a log form. Oh, no sirree!

Now, with the creative artistic inspirations of Chefs like Guy MartinJean-François Piège and Christophe Michalak, the yule log has taken on incarnations of everything from a Champagne bottle (Guy Martin) to steamer trunks (Michalak – chocolate covered, of course!) to Christmas Gifts wrapped up in a Santa's Belt (François Perret).

This year's Chef Guy Martin creations span the globe and are all infused with "fun" and the sense of traveling. For example his bûche de noël for the 68 Guy Martin, his elegant restaurant nestled inside the Champs-Elysées Guerlain flagship boutique, is derived from essences dreamed up by the famed parfumeur and Thierry Wasser, its celebrated "nose."

This Christmas cake is called "A whiff of Shalimar' and has hints of bergamot and cardamon laced within its lemon and mandarin mousse. All this light fluffy fruit mousse is placed on a vanilla butter cookie crust. It's sheer heaven and, true to this artist-chef's signature, is a delicate, almost ethereal play on senses, tastes and aromas.

Below here are some of the Christmas Yule Log cake "Stars" of Parisian Christmases past:

Michalak's 2013 version of the Buche de Noel (for Le Meurice)

Christmas Yule Log cake by François Perret, from season 2013

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♥Chérie Du Vin

Friday, October 24, 2014

Montmartre Museum, Renoir and Champagne

by Paige Donner

Wine and food pairings. A natural.

Wine and music pairings. Love the original inspiration of this since a few years back.

Wine and Renoir pairings?

This was the theme of a recent champagne tasting in Paris held at the picturesque Musée Montmartre's Jardins Renoir or Montmartre Museum's Renoir Gardens which overlook the Clos Montmartre in the shadow of the Sacré-Coeur.

A more idyllic location in Paris on a sunny early Autumn evening could not be imagined.


Musée Montmartre Jardins Renoir - photo by Paige Donner copyright 2014
Musée Montmartre Jardins Renoir - photo by Paige Donner copyright 2014
Musée Montmartre Jardins Renoir - photo by Paige Donner copyright 2014

Musée Montmartre Jardins Renoir - photo by Paige Donner copyright 2014
Musée Montmartre Jardins Renoir - photo by Paige Donner copyright 2014
Musée Montmartre Jardins Renoir - photo by Paige Donner copyright 2014

Musée Montmartre Jardins Renoir - photo by Paige Donner copyright 2014
Musée Montmartre Jardins Renoir - photo by Paige Donner copyright 2014


All photos copyright 2014 Paige Donner All Rights Reserved

And there was method to this artistic madness... A group of champagne houses from the Aube region, around the village of Essoyes, to be exact, banded together to show off their champagnes and display them with the particular Renoir painting they felt paired the best with their chosen cuvée.

The historical reference is that Renoir lived in Essoyes with his wife and children during the summer months starting in 1895. There is now a foundation established to restore this heritage house where Renoir kept an atelier on the ground floor, overlooking the garden. 

Today the village welcomes art enthusiasts and Renoir-lovers in its L'Espace des Renoir et l'Atelier du peintre. They have fondly named this area the Côté des Renoir.  The participating champagnes located in and around the Côté des Renoir are Champagne de Barfontarc, Champagne Jacques de France, Champagne Drappier, Champagne R. Dumont & Fils, Champagne Rémy Massin & Fils, Champagne Thierry Mercuzot, Champagne Richardot, Champagne Cristian Senez, Champagne Charles Collin and Champagne Chassenay d'Arce. 

More information, including photos of the paintings each house chose to represent their champagne, can be found at www.renoir-essoyes.com

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♥Chérie Du Vin

Friday, October 3, 2014

All-New! Cooking from The New York Times

Introducing our new Cooking website
The New York Times r
The New York Times   Cooking
NYT Cooking
Reset the table
Start with expert food journalists and cooks. Add more than 16,000 time-tested recipes. Mix in a beautifully simple design and search function. And the recipe for the perfect food site is born.

Welcome to New York Times Cooking.
  New York Times Cooking features:
•  More than 16,000 recipes
•  Easy search by ingredient, by cuisine, by chef or by occasion
•  Ability to save favorite dishes to your recipe box

Now enjoy unlimited portions of our recipes, journalism and expert knowledge absolutely free.

Take your first taste at New York Times Cooking or download the app now.

Download at the App Store
Why not sign up for our weekly newsletter where we clue you in on all things gustatory, written by our food editor, Sam Sifton.

New York Times   Cooking

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Moby Chimes In With Hollywood Food Voices


by Paige Donner

Check out this new video, just dropped today, West Coast time, by Moby and Hollywood Food Voices:

"We Need Our Bees A Lot More Than They Need Us" - Moby paraphrasing Einstein



"If the bees go, we're next," Moby said during an appearance on TakePart Live. "A huge percentage of our food supply is dependent on ...

a guided tour of Moby's four-acre home atop the Hollywood Hills, where over 30,000 bees dwell

full interview with Moby where he discusses his passion for bees, airing on TakePart Live on September 25th, and see snippets of the video.

Airs 7pmPST/10pmEST on PIVOT TV.


  honey bee colonies in the U.S. has dropped from over 5 million in 1940 to less than 2.5 million today


"Hollywood Food Voices" is an engaging and entertaining new platform whose goal is to create excitement, awareness, and a sense of empowerment within a wide demographic of viewers and concerned citizens.


BEES - indicator species - meaning their presence, absence, and their well-being is indicative of the health of our environment as a whole. So the plight of the bees is our plight as well.


Over the last several years, scientists have increasingly attributed pollinator declines to the indiscriminate use of systemic pesticides, most notably a class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are up to 10,000 times more toxic to bees than other insecticides, and their use can have both immediate and long-term effects. So while these bee-toxic pesticides are not theonly cause of declining bee populations, they are a primary contributing factor and certainly one we must do something about — fast.


The full video can be seen online starting September 26th at: http://www.hollywoodfood.org/bees

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♥Chérie Du Vin



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Winners of the 10th Annual Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Awards

Posted by Paige Donner

LRWWA_2013_BookFinalistThe jury is in, and the winners announced last week for the 2014 Louis Roederer International Wine Writers' Awards.

Held in London's Piccadilly at the Royal Academy of Arts, the ceremony was attended by an international assortment of members of the wine trade and publishers from around the world as well as writers and journalists. It was noted that the event is becoming ever-increasingly more international.

To commemorate this tenth edition of the Awards ceremony, a special cuvée of Cristal 2006 was served in flutes, called Jamesse champagne flutes, that were designed by the head sommelier at Reims' Les Crayères restaurant.








Various from thewinemonkeys.com



Reports from www.timatkin.com



                                           Jon Bonné



Columns from New Statesman



World of Fine Wine



Articles from Stella Magazine, The Sunday Telegraph

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Chilled Avocado Soup

The Avocado tree is native to Mexico and Central America...

avocado images

The vitamins and minerals contained in this recipe can do everything from speeding cell turnover (to reveal healthier skin underneath) to protecting skin from the sun's damaging rays. Get plenty of moisturizing vitamin E from the avocados. Not only does vitamin E ease dry skin, but studies show it also may reduce free radicals and protect against damaging UV rays. Cucumbers are a great source of silica which, as a precursor to collagen, can help fight wrinkles. 

I like to serve this soup in individual glasses as a delicious appetizer. Sprinkle with a little dill and sprouted pumpkins.

chilled avocado soup

In a blender, mix the following ingredients:

  • 3 medium avocados, peeled and pitted and perfectly ripe
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and cut into smaller pieces
  • 1 cup cold water (start with 1/2 cup; you can always add more)
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup packed mint leaves
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • Salt to taste

Pour in individual glasses and chill for a couple hours.
If you have no time to chill, lower the water content and replace with ice cubes.

Sprinkle Options
Chives, dill, mint & dehydrated pumpkin seeds, roughly chopped.

Inspired by Green Kitchen Story


♥Chérie Du Vin

Fast Food Solution

by Paige Donner





With these three goals in mind, is it any wonder then that Fast Food Solution caught my eye in a big way?!

North Americans spend more time watching Cooking Shows than cooking their own meals!

I just had to see what these guys were all about… So I've dived right in, ordered up the program (a humble $37 as a Beta launch price) and am learning from Nick and Gen, two young Canadians, how to eat healthy, cook my own meals in 15 minutes or less and spend less than $5 per meal.


Where have you been all my life?! Is all I can say.

The coursework is abundant and I've only just started on their integrated platform of videos, MP3 downloads and PDFs (including cheat sheets with rich visuals).

So check back with me in a few weeks once I've worked through some of the recipes in my own kitchen.

But for starters, the support is terrific, their layout is SUPER user friendly, and they've sliced and diced all the information down into very bite-sized and digestible pieces.

Plus, here's a few stats from their website. (Now you don't want to be one of those TV-watching, overeating porkers do you?!)

Just as guilty as the 100 million folks who are subscribed to the Food Network and watch endless hours of Top Chef, Hell's Kitchen and other epic cooking shows every single day.

The numbers don't lie…

The average American watches more than 5 hours of TV every single day, but spends a mere 27 minutes cooking food.

and check this out…

Every single week, a whopping 89.7% of the US adult population
– 228 MILLION people — is getting scammed at the grocery store.

In plain English…

Everyone who is trying to eat healthy is basically WASTING $123.91 and 41 minutes every single time they visit the supermarket.

Why? Simply because they end up buying the wrong foods, and falling for the clever marketing tactics and fattening
traps that the Global Food Conglomerate has set up in every aisle.

We know it's hard to believe.

But if you buy any of the foods below, the food companies have already found an easy way into your wallet…(read more on Fast Food Solution).


♥Chérie Du Vin

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Flora Springs Winery (St. Helena) Summer Movie Night Series

(sponsored post) 


Flora Springs Announces Summer Movie Night Series


St. Helena, Calif. – Flora Springs Winery & Vineyards has announced the return of its popular Summer Movie Night Series at The Room starting with an August 16th showing of the movie Cement Suitcase

The Series will continue with two more dates, September 20th and October 18th, and fans of the winery (and of the movies!) are invited to help select films for those dates on Facebook and Twitter.



Each Flora Springs Summer Movie Night Series begins with live music in The Room's Vineyard Courtyard overlooking the western vineyards and hills of St. Helena. Attendees can bring their own picnic or reserve a table by pre-ordering a Vineyard Courtyard Picnic or Flora's Dinner Pail, with many options all featuring delicious wine country fare. Flora Springs wines will be available to purchase by the glass or bottle. Movies are shown in The Room's comfortable Rooftop Lounge where fans can enjoy a selection of classic movie candy and a popcorn bar. General admission price is $20.00. Food and wine prices vary. The Room, Flora Springs' popular St. Helena tasting room is located at 677 St. Helena Highway (Hwy. 29). More information and tickets are available at https://www.florasprings.com/events/ 

Summer Movie Night Series Details:

Dates:                   August 16 (Cement Suitcase), September 20 (movie tba), October 18 (movie tba)

Time:                     6:30pm – 8:30 pm

Place:                    Flora Springs The Room, 677 St. Helena Highway, St. Helena, CA

Admission:          $20; food & wine prices vary


About Flora Springs Winery & Vineyards

Founded in 1978 by John and Carrie Komes and Julie (Komes) and Pat Garvey, Flora Springs Winery & Vineyards is located at the base of the Mayacamas Mountains in the northwest corner of Napa Valley's Rutherford appellation. Named after John and Julie's mother, Flora, and for the natural springs on the winery property, Flora Springs has been a family affair through three generations. As both artisan winemakers and growers, the family is committed to the traditions of fine winemaking and the responsible stewardship of its 650 acres of vineyards. Today, ninety percent of Flora Springs' red wines are sourced from its organically-farmed estate vineyards.


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