Provence. Cassis and Bandol. Chapter 1

You may be familiar with Bordeaux, Champagne and Burgundy but, have you heard of Cassis?  Not many people know that Cassis was the first Appellation D’Origine Contrôlée in France.  So, it is only fair that we begin our adventure in Provence, in Cassis.  We stayed in a cute farm-house surrounded by vineyands, in the valley between the Medieval towns of Le Castellet and La Cadiere d’ Azure.  Our friends, Kim and Todd found the house on VRBO.  It is in the heart of Bandol and the perfect location for our base of operation.

Le Castellet

Le Castellet

 

 

 

Cassis Harbor

Cassis Harbor

 

 

Cassis is located on the French Riviera.  It has some nice beaches and it  is  surrounded by cliffs known as the Calanques.  The Calanques provide spectacular views of private beaches only accessible by boat.

Calanques

Calanques

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wines of Cassis

The red and rosé wines are Grenache based blends, with Syrah and Cinsault.  The white wines are a blend of Ugni Blanc, Clairette, Marsanne and Rollé.

Domaine du Bagnol.  White wine: Marsanne, Clairette and Ugni Blanc, aged in stainless steel.  This one reminded me of a Sauvignon Blanc from Cuvasion, Napa Valley.  The rosé is 48% Grenache, 34% Mourvedra and 18% Cinsault.  Domaine Bangol produces 100,000 bottles per year.  Our next stop was Domaine du Paternel.

Domaine du Paternel produces approximately 450,000 bottles per year.  They produce a GSM + Cinsault and Rollé aged in stainless steel.  Their Blanc de blanc is a blend of Clairette, Marsanne, and Ugni Blanc.  Their red is a blend of Grenache and Mourvedra aged for one year in oak.  Our final stop of the day was at Le Moulin de la Roque.

Moulin de la Roque was established in 1950 and it is located in the AOC of Bandol.  They produce 1.3 million bottles per year.  They are a co-op of different vineyard owners.  They bottle under five different labels to showcase their five different terriors.   In the Bandol AOC, the red and rosé wines has to be a minimum of 50% Mourvedra.  The Blanc is made of Ugni Blanc and Clairette.  The rosé is Mourvedra, Grenache and Cinsault.  The red is 90% Mourvedra, 10% Carignan.  They have a second blend of 95% Mourvedra and 5% Carignan.  I found the Mourvedra in this region to have a lot of minerality , lite fruit hints and tannins from the mid pallet to a short finish.  Our host was Tim, was kind enough to give us a tour of their facility.

Moulin de la Roque

Moulin de la Roque

We ended the day with fine dining at a Michelin Star restaurant Todd found.  Le Goguette is located in the Medieval town of Le Castellet.  Dinner was superb.  Wine with dinner was Domaine Richaud ,Cairanne 2015.  A well balanced blend of Claret, Bourboulenc, Roussane, Vigonier and Marsanne.  The red was from La Sagesse.  A blend of 95% Grenache and 5% Syrah.  I highly recommend Le Goguette and Domaine Richaud’s Cairanne 2015.  Perfect paring.

Carrot puree with lemon vinegar. Artichoke with mushroom and carrot puree. Fras Gras with strawberries and basil. poisson of snapper. Chocolate cake with ginger ice cream.

Carrot puree with lemon vinegar. Artichoke with mushroom and carrot puree. Fras Gras with strawberries and basil. poisson of snapper. Chocolate cake with ginger ice cream.

Au Revoir for now.

Silverado Trail Challenge 2017

Last year I had high hopes of visiting half of the wineries  on the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley.  Unfortunately, that lofty  goal was not realized….not even close. But, 2017 is a new year and an early start. The rest of the our group had prior plans and could not start the wine adventure just yet.  I am sure they will join me on the next excursion. So, I grabbed a couple of friends that never say no, we all need friends like that. And we headed up to Napa Valley.  Our first stop was Judd’s Hill.

Judd"s Hill

Judd”s Hill

Judd's Hill

Judd’s Hill

 

Judd’s Hill is by appointment only so, call ahead.  We didn’t know that when we arrived.  We were met by a staff member who politely told us they were by appointment and they did not have an opening until 3 pm.  A current release tasting is $25 and a Reserve tasting is $45.   It was 1 pm when we arrived.  He then offered to pour for us on the patio.  Fortunately for us, there was a break in the weather and it was a beautiful day.  A little chilly but beautiful non the less.  We accepted his kind offer and sat down by an outdoor heater.  His polite kindness and the quality of their wine would earn them a new wine club member.  The first wine he poured was their 2013  Reserve Chardonnay.  I have to admit that I am not a big Chardonnay fan but this one was exceptional.  It was fruit forward and not buttery.  It had aromas of citrus and pear, and was lightly oaken.  At $50 it is an expensive Chardonnay.  The price point reflexes how unique this Chardonnay is.  The next one was their 2009 Meritage.  The Meritage is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, Petite Verdot.  Black cherry jam notes on the front, light oak, and a hint of vanilla on the finish.  Also $50.   2012 Syrah.  Well balanced acids and tannin’s with notes of Blackberry, jam and tobacco. $42.

We were treated to an additional tasting of their 2013 ZSM.  If you like a well balanced, complex and layered wine, with dark berry fruit,  and balanced tannins, You will love this one.  It had to come home with me.  $40.   2011 Founder’s Art Reserve Cabernet.  I found it to be a complex and full bodied wines.  Well balanced with notes of dark berry fruit.  $85.  I have to admit, I enjoyed every wine we tasted.  Which is very unusual and a credit to the quality of wine being made at Judd’s Hill.  The price points are in the range of  wines in Napa Valley.  These wines are exceptional and I look forward to another tasting flight.

Regusci Winery

Regusci Winery

 

Next up, Regusci Winery.  Well, you would have thought we would have learned from our experience at Judd’s Hill, to call ahead.  Regusci Winery is also by appointment.  Lucky for us, they were also gracious enough to accommodate us.  The tasting room has a great vib and it was an enjoyable experience tasting there.  The first wine on the list was the 2013 Merlot.  Black berrry and black cherry on the tongue with notes of tobacco and chocolate.  Full bodied and well balanced. $55.  2013 Syrah.  Full bodied, well-balanced with black berry fruit and smooth finish.  $60.  The Elder’s 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Full body,  Black berry fruit with notes of vanilla, typical tannin structure and spice on the finish. $65.  2013 Patriarch. The Patriarch is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  I experienced aromas of red fruit, charred oak, smoke and coffee.  On the palate you may experience red fruit, leather and vanilla. $90.  Angelo’s  2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is a big full-bodied Cab with bold dark fruit and tannin’s.  $140.  The wines were enjoyable but, the price points were a little more than what I would feel comfortable paying.

Regusci Winery

Regusci Winery

 

All in all, not a bad start for 2017.  Stay tuned for the next stop on the trail.

Salute

 

 

Paso Robles Harvest 2015

If you have never been to Paso Robles during the harvest season, you have missed an excitingly crazy time.  Most wineries were having pairing or serving hors d’oeuvre with their wines.  Lucky for us, we arrived at the tail end of events and got to taste some really good wines in a low key atmosphere.  Wine brings people together.  It’s not just the wine, it is also the experience.  We visited seven wineries.  We met good people and had a great experience.  I highly recommend visiting them.

Kukkula Winery is one of my favorites.  If you like fruity, well balanced, complex Rhone blends that linger just right on your tongue and lead to a silky smooth Finnish (All the wines have Finnish names.. I couldn’t resist.), you will love Kukkula.

TH Estate Wines (formerly Terry Hoage), has a variety of Rhone Blends and GSM’s.  The price points are good for the style and quality of theses wines. Continue reading

Going home: Red cups and ribs

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I recently went home to Virginia to visit the family.  My parents are getting up there in years and other relatives are dropping like flies.  I met up with friends from high school, toured the Capitol with Hill, and we even had time to hit a couple of the local wineries. Pearmund and The Winery at La Grange. The tasting room at La Grange is circa 1790.

The one thing I looked forward to is hanging out with my sister and brother-in-law.  Naja and Biggie (his nickname is fitting), epitomize values we were raised with.  Family, friends, love and humor.  All are present in their home all the time.  Also present in their home all the time Is food.  Biggie loves to cook and I love eating Biggies cooking.  Ribs, chicken, mac and cheese, collard green, potato salad, all the standards we love.  Everyone has their own recipes for sauces and cooking techniques but no one will share.  Biggies is no different.  He made a flank steak that was marinated in one of his concoction, absolutely delicious.  He still hasn’t told me what was in it.  Even if he did, I wouldn’t tell.

This visit, the cocktail was Zaya  Rum and coke.  I like it with diet coke.  If you have not tried it, you will appreciate the vanilla and oak notes and smooth finish.  To me, the diet coke does not over power or cover the characteristics of the rum. 

Artist talk about the love, sweat and pride they put into their creations.  Biggie is no different, except for the sweat.  You can taste the love for his family and his pride in every bite.  I’m getting homesick thinking about it.  Until my next visit, love your family and be good to them.    -Brax

Silverado Trail part 1

I have decided to challenge myself, this summer, to visit all the wineries along the Silverado trail.   I know i know.  It is an ambitious under taking, that will be limited by hours of operation and state DUI laws.  But I am up for the challenge.  I have no plan or order in mind.  My wine glass will be my guide.  I will keep it Short and sweet and try to help you decide if the winery is worth a visit or not.  The first three on this adventure, I believe,  are all worth a visit. Black Stallion and Darioush have beautiful tasting rooms. Darioush is modeled after an ancient Persian palace and all the stones were imported from Iran.  First stop, Black Stallion.

Black Stallion.  I did the all red tasting.  We started with the 2013 los carneros Pinot Noir. $35.

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Black fruit and spice.  Aromas of black cherry.
2012 Napa Valley Merlot. Dark fruit and oak on the nose.  Silky black cherry on the tongue lite tannins. $40.
2012 Napa Valley  Syrah. Aromas of spice and blackberry.  Medium body wine with flavors of berry fruits and hints of vanillla. Nicely balanced. $40
2011 napa valley Cabernet sauvignon. Bold black fruit on the front incooperated into a medium bodied wine. A little dry for my tastes but still enjoyable.  $75.  Next stop Darioush. Continue reading