Madeleine: "A Delicious Drink"

MadeleineI think at this point, it comes as no surprise that I like the wines from Carmel Valley and Georis Winery, in particular.  They’re my favorite winery, in fact, from my favorite appellation.  So, what could be just as awesome as my favorite winery’s, appellation-specific wine?  A new wine from the winemaker from my favorite winery in my favorite appellation, of course! Damien Georis, winemaker for Georis Winery (no relation…maybe) has released the second chapter of his personal label, Madeleine.

Damien Georis has been the winemaker for Georis Winery for the last 3 vintages.  As the story goes, Walter Georis, Renaissance man (surfer, surf musician, artist, restaurateur, winegrower) and art/music/wine leader in Carmel Valley needed a new winemaker.  Like anyone else searching for anything these days…he Googled it, on a whim.

Madeleine: Damien GeorisHe was pleasantly surprised to find another Georis in the wine world and one that was working at Château Olivier, Premier Grands Cru Classé, in the Graves region of Bordeaux, no less!  He gave a ring to the Château and found that Damien had also had a stop at Château Nénin in Pomerol, only the premier wine-growing region for Merlot, which also happens to be Walter’s favorite variety and wine region, as well. A ‘Georis a Georis’ bond was formed and by 2005, Damien was installed in the Valley as the new winemaker for Walter’s own Château.

Also around that time, Damien got the itch to produce his own line of wines.  Taking inspiration from the quote philosopher and theologian Thomas d’Aquin: “La sobriété n’est pas abstinence, c’est la mesure de cette boisson délicieuse” (roughly: Sobriety is not abstinence, it is the measurement of this delicious drink), he endeavored to make the best red wine from the best fruit available for each vintage…Madeleine was born.

Madeleine WineI tasted the first vintage 2005 briefly, while at one of the many glorious Georis wine club events up at the winery in 2007.  I’m already a big fan of Cab Franc, but this medley of red/black fruit, silky mouthfeel and earthy undertones made me a believer of this inaugural vintage!  The second vintage is a different take on, more of an unusual blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, the 2006 Chapitire II, that I received as a sample from Damien the last time we were at the Georis tasting room.  This was somehow an improvement on the luxurious ’05, however.  It featured that same decadent mouthfeel, yet had the balance that I look for in a truly fine wine, with its deep depths of fruit that feature red, black and even blue flavors, coming from the Syrah.  The oak is integrating nicely already and the tannin and acidity scream for a dish from one of Walter’s many great establishments.  The finish is long and peppery, with some tasty black cherry at the very end.  At only $18 a bottle, this has some crazy QPR, grab some while you can as he typically only has a few barrels each vintage!  Future plans for Madeleine include a wider range of wines and a French wine import endeavor…Damien shall be busy, indeed!

Please check out my full reviews of Damien’s wines through the link below, or add them to your own WineLog.  Enjoy!

Madeleine Monterey Chapitire II – Sur Une Nappe a Carreaux 2006

Madeleine Monterey Chapitire I – Reves De Tuffeau 2005

Be Goode, but Vote Dirty!

A Really Goode Job - Murphy-GoodeMaking perhaps, one of the biggest viral marketing coups in the nascent wine social mediasphere, Murphy-Goode Winery in Healdsburg has blown up the interwebs with its A Really Goode Job search and marketing campaign.  The basics are these:

– Live near the property in northern Sonoma Valley, right off the square in Healdsburg in a furnished private home.

– Work by using all means of social media to promote Murphy-Goode and its wine and the whole of Sonoma County with the provided camera video camera, handheld device and/or smartphone.  You’ll “need” to taste hundreds of wines for free and eat all over the Valley, as well…shucks.

– Get paid 10K/month for a 6 month contract.

– Flexible working hours (though I imagine you’d WANT to be “always on”).

– Learn all that you can from the winemaker David Ready Jr. and the rest of the staff at Murphy-Goode about their winemaking and vineyard practices.

Hardy Wallace - Goode to be First– Work with David to create a special wine to commemorate your time there!

Holy crap, *I’d* love this job, but I’m afraid that I am unable to apply.  What’s the next best thing, however?  It’s voting for my personal favorite and one that you should vote for too!

I met Hardy Wallace (Twitter) of Dirty South Wine and now Goode to be First on Twitter last year and then had a blast hanging out with him and learning from him at last year’s WBC.  He’s extremely knowledgeable about wine, can deliver in a very accessible manner to both millennials as well as older peeps and is just plain fun to be with as well as quite charismatic.  Evidence of his social media skills are present all over the web, in tons of blogs and all over Twitter and Facebook, and even Blip.fm! He’s currently in a solid second in the public voting at the website!

With all that said, I sayVOTE FOR DIRTY!!


Help Your Favorite Wine Blogger!

Wine Bloggers' Conference Scholarship BadgeThe reach and influence of wine bloggers and wine social media mavens have exploded over the last couple of years, particularly in the last 12 months.  Major wine critics have have noticed and responded, wineries and all three tiers of the wine business oligarchy have also taken notice and begun to capitalize on that influence (or are already playing catchup).  The recent exhaustive and outstanding industry whitepaper by VinTank, Wine & Social Media is the first to encapsulate and quantify this influence and serves as a very important reference for these interactions between wine business, their consumers and the key social media mediators (human and software/websites) of these connections.  It is a groundbreaking accomplishment and a signpost of the rapid, continuing maturity of the wine social media sphere.

VinTankSome of those (human) key social mediators are your favorite wine bloggers that tirelessly catalog their personal wine explorations for all of you, their readers, in a straightforward, accessible (and free!) style. Virtually all them (99.9%) do all of this on the side and as a result of their own unstoppable passion for artisanal products that result from the equally unstoppable passion of the winemakers and winegrowers working in the wine regions of the world.

WBCLast October, an earlier signpost in on the path of wine social media maturity was constructed with the highly successful and influential inaugural Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC) in both Europe and the US.  The support for the conference from both the local (Sonoma) and foreign (eg. New Zealand) wine industry was immense and delightfully surprising in its fervor…they “get it!”  While the expenses for the conference were kept almost unreasonably low compared to the activities that were offered, they remain quite significant for people who do not get paid for their efforts and need to take time out of work in order to attend.  These costs rise dramatically if you are not local to NorCal, the location of both the last WBC and this year’s WBC09, scheduled for the end of July.

WineBlogger.infoKeeping these costs in mind, a group of wine bloggers who are already registered and have paid for their conference stay (my own has be partially subsidized by WineLog) have joined together to drive a Wine Bloggers Conference Scholarship Fund, led by the inimitable Luscious Lush and Vinquire ambassador, Thea Dwelle (Twitter, Twitter2).  Anyone and any business may donate and all funds go into a pool that are then distributed to those needy wine bloggers who have applied for scholarship consideration.  Any blogger may also apply for consideration, including those whom may be your own favorite wine bloggers!

Wine Bloggers' Conference Scholarship BadgeWe have already received kind donations from a number of individuals and wine businesses from across the industry spectrum and the globe.  These donors include: VinTank, Cruvee, Vin65, HelloVino, Travessia, Caveman Wines, Wine Lovers Journal and Come For the Wine.  The resort and conference center that is again the site of this year’s WBC09, The Flamingo in Santa Rosa, has also generously allocated a highly discounted block of rooms for our future scholarship grantees.  Those who donate will undoubtedly receive considerable mentions and thank yous on a number of wine blogs and social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Open Wine Consortium, WineTwo, Cruvee, Must Love Wine, TasteLive, etc) and have the comforting thought that they will have helped to exponentially increase the wine knowledge and sphere of influence for a needy wine blogger, as we saw with the great success of last year’s conference.  Further details and specifics can be found at our blog and website, Wine Bloggers’ Conference Scholarship.

So please, consider donating a little or a lot or whatever you can spare to our fund and become a part of the wine blogosphere!  All of us will appreciate your kind act:

Thea Dwelle: @winebratsfwine blogger and social media champion

Megan Riley Kenney: @sonadorawine blogger

Liza Swift: @brixchick_lizawine blogger

Joel Vincent: @joelvincentwine industry professional and Wine Blogger Conference Organizer

Catie McIntyre Walker: @catiewine retailer and wine blogger

Ward Kadel: @drxenowine blogger, West Coast Ambassador: WineLog.net

Skalli: South of France at CAV

Skalli Family Wines AmericasLast April Fool’s day, I received what seemed to be a nicely written, yet rather surprisingly nifty wine event invite in my inbox asking if I’d like to meet with Laurent Sauvage, winemaker for the leading family of wines from the Languedoc in the South of France, Robert Skalli Wines.  We were to meet with Laurent at CAV, the outstanding wine bar and restaurant along Market in the Opera District of San Francisco (and part-owned by none other than Doug Cook (Twitter), founder of Able Grape).

I left directly from work and hopped onto the GenenBus, heading back into the City for the tasting.  CAV is nicely situated near Civic Center Bart and it was a rather nice walk in the gloriously warm Spring evening.  CAV SFI actually arrived a little early, which was rather ironic considering I had been terrified all day that I’d arrive late and last!  I snuck up on my blogger friends for the night, Brix Chicks Liza (Twitter) and Nesta (Twitter), my usual partners in wine crime.  Just a few moments later, the infamous Julie spectacular wine blogger extraordinaire, Luscious Lush Thea (Twitter, Twitter2) strolled in, proclaiming her parking prowess.

CrémantWhile our guests of honor were navigating the dreaded afternoon Wine Country traffic, we were treated to a tasty glass of bubbly and some apps, courtesy of the organizer of the evening’s activities, Tia Butts (Twitter) from Benson Marketing (thanks so much, Tia!).  The sparkling vino was Domaine de Montbourgeau Crémant from the Jura region of France. A Crémant is sparkling wine made in France, but is not made in Champagne, nor is it always made using the labor-intensive methods that required in that more famous region.  You can usually find some phenomenal values in range of bubbly, however, as we did with this one!  While we were almost finished polishing off our sparkler, Vintuba founder and Benziger Retail Sales Director Chris (Twitter) and his wife walked up to complete our blogger table.

Wikipedia - LanguedocPerfectly timing our empty glasses, Tia and Laurent arrived, carrying a delightfully full box of wine and plenty of informative props about the Languedoc region.  The Languedoc region is in the Southeast portion of France, bordering the Mediterranean and roughly enclosed by the Gironde?? and Rhone?? rivers. It is longtime wine region in France (what isn’t??) but is one that is currently greatly increasing its quality of wine and gaining in international recognition.

While there is currently the Coteaux du Languedoc appellation, there is a successful movement afoot to replace this with a Côte du Languedoc designation, similar to the highly successful Côte du Rhone appellation and it will be launching soon.  In addition, while there is always a notoriously long, bitter and sometimes wildly dynamic battle surrounding such things, there will also be Village-designated sub-appellations and even a Grand Cru designation, hopefully within the next 5 years.  The Skalli family, Robert Skalli himself in particular, have been major proponents of these changes, both in designation and in actual strides in wine quality.

Skalli FamilyThe Skalli family was first active in the winemaking biz in Algeria, starting in the 1920’s. Following the Algerian independence in the ’60’s, the entire Skalli clan moved out of that country and founded a Corsican vineyard and property, followed by properties and vines in the South of France, near Marseilles.  When Robert joined the family business at the tender age of 24, he immediately set about increasing quality at all levels of the family business.  He demanded better wines out of their Algerian import business, Les Chais du Sud and then focused on increasing the quality of fruit and wine at their own properties.  He determined that a global tour of wine regions was the best means to that end (don’t we ALL wish that could be a solution to our problems!) and during those travels he happened upon a burgeoning wine region in the US state of California, called Napa.  There he met a feisty Italian known as Bob Mondavi to his many friends and associates and it was there that he learned about the latest technological advances that were being tested and put into practice in the New World in both the vineyard and the winery.  Later, he would buy some property along the famed Highway 29 and opened St. Súpery in 1982.

Laurent SauvageFast forward to 2000 and Mr. Skalli would meet a young gentleman by the name of Laurent Sauvage, who worked his way around many facets of the wine industry, including as an importer and a winemaker/oenologist, fitting those oenological activities around his passion for playing the drums. Mr. Skalli then hired Laurent to become Head Winemaker for Robert Skalli Wines Americas (SFWA), a position he has held ever since the turn of the Millennium. As you can see in the photo on the left, Laurent is a quietly intense, mid-thirties Frenchman with a very patient and dynamic personae.  I found him to be very welcoming of any and all questions that I and the rest of us blogger bandits tossed his way, regardless of their origin.  He was extremely interested in spreading the word about not only his own wines, but also about all of the winemaking and progress that was being made in the Languedoc by its  many producers and growers…reminding me of two other dynamic personalities that have personally lifted up their own wine regions, the Italian gentleman mentioned above and Walter Georis of the Carmel Valley (not to mention, Robert Skalli himself!).

FortantRobert Skalli WinesLaurent had brought a number of wines for us to try, spanning the value-driven brand Fortant, as well as the next step up in the portfolio of wines that are offered by SFWA, Robert Skalli. All of us were struck, myself included, by the distinct value and outstanding QPR that virtually all of these wines possessed.  The Fortant wines, all with a suggest MSRP of $6, could easily have been priced much higher in the $10-15 range.  The Robert Skalli wines showed tremendous QPR, with an MSRP of ~$19, but would have also done nicely in the lower $20’s, to my palate.  These wines are being rolled out in the US as we speak, so do your best to find them and then proceed to buy them in bulk as your daily wine.

Robert Skalli Vin de Pays d’Oc South of France Chardonnay 2006We started appropriately enough, with the whites.  They were labeled varietally, as are most SFWA wines and a rarity in France, but something that Skalli has pioneered in the Languedoc.  The ’06 Fortant Chard was doing very well as as tasty, fruit-forward Summer quaffer, with great acidity and no oak to detract the focus from the purity of fruit and just a tough of delicate cream underneath.  Laurent has designated the entire Fortant line to be devoid of oak treatment to keep this focus upon the fruit.  The ’06 Robert Skalli Chard was much more complex and showed its divergence from the Fortant line with much more complexity and definite toast, spice and a fuller mouth from the ML, but all were still nicely balanced by good acid and fruit.  We finished this set with the Rosé.

The reds followed similar trends as the whites, in that the Fortant were wonderfully pure expressions of unoaked fruit that outlived their price-range and Robert Skalli’s showing more complexity and balance and also showing demonstrably great QPR.  Robert Skalli/Fortant Tasting @ CAVHere I found the ’06 Robert Skalli Pinot Noir to be a star, with very tasty dusty red fruit nicely balanced by the earthy, savory tones in the nose and the palate showing more of a steely red fruit with good spice and white pepper.  The ’06 Fortant Merlot showed just crazy value with its dark, dark cherry and blackberry fruit and great food-friendly acidity.  I loved the final wine of the tasting, the ’07 Robert Skalli Coteaux du Languedoc Reserve Syrah Grenache.  This is an A.O.C. wine and made up of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah.  It had such savory characteristics in the nose and on the palate that it literally made my mouth water.  That salivary goodness was backed up by cool black and blue fruit that evolved in the mouth to more of a darker, peppery black anise fruit by the time you got to its long finish.  A tasty wine if I’ve ever had one!

Skalli South!Following the tasting, we ordered a fantastic meal, where I had some scrumptious English Pea Ravioli that I paired with both the Skalli Chard and the savory Côte du Languedoc Reserve, each to great success.  I want to sincerely thank Laurent for his time, as he had merely flown in from France the day before, spent that night hosting a tasting, then all day in Napa, followed by our tasting that night and then was catching the red eye to NYC to do it all again the next day!  I also want to warmly thank Tia (Twitter) for organizing such an intimate and special tasting and for inviting me to the wine dalliances that night.

Please check out my full reviews of each Fortant and Robert Skalli wine that we had that night at CAV, listed below.  If you would like to list these in your own WineLog, they are all tagged with “Skalli2009CAV“. Enjoy!

Domaine de Montbourgeau Crémant du Jura Brut A.O.C. NV

Fortant Vin de Pays d’Oc Chardonnay 2006

Robert Skalli Vin de Pays d’Oc South of France Chardonnay 2006

Robert Skalli Vin de Pays d’Oc Merlot Rosé 2007

Robert Skalli Vin de Pays d’Oc South of France Reserve Pinot Noir 2006

Fortant Vin de Pays d’Oc Merlot 2006

Fortant Vin de Pays d’Oc Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Robert Skalli Vin de Pays d’Oc Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Robert Skalli Coteaux du Languedoc Reserve Syrah Grenache A.O.C. 2007