Well…the long wait is over! If not for my fellow #Vinopanions, at least for my own incessant #wine cravings and the need to blast out my ramblings de vinos. WardKadel.com is finally live, as we are in the process of shutting down the long-running WineLog.net. With this relaunch, you will find more content combining my two passions of #triathlon & wine, as well as a newfound love of cooking and of course, the chronicles of our life in #Napa.
Indeed just last night, with the Lady (featured left in the vineyards of Domaine Chandon) in NYC for a fashion convention, I knocked out two very enjoyable recipes from Blue Apron, which has been a life-changer for me to finally learn and love to cook.
My super fine readers would have to be asleep not to know about my longtime wine project as Le Wine Buff (WineLog) for Enjoy Bordeaux (Twitter, WineLog). Well, recently I sat down to lunch with reporter Ryan Flinn alongside my fellow ‘Buff Rebecca Chapa (Twitter, Facebook) and we discussed our efforts to get the word out about the quantity of affodable, high quality Bordeaux wine. Lo and behold, Ryan Flinn put together a great article discussing just how relevant affordable, high quality Bordeaux wines within the context of the sky-rocketing prices of über-premium wines due to the rise of fine wine culture in China. The article has already been picked up by Bloomberg, BusinessWeek and SFGate, so check it out at any of the prior links. Cheers!
Yes, yes, yes…I *know*! It’s been some time since my last post. Well, that’s just what going on vacay for 2+ weeks to Carmel Valley, Spain and Portugal will do to you. Actually, I take that back. It’s what going back to work AFTER that vacay, that will get ya! Anyhow, I’m back and ready to reengage my fellow vinopanions and boy do I have two cool pieces of vino news to disseminate!
First up, one of the coolest pieces of wine news that I’ve come across in some time, Clos LaChance (Twitter) is the very first winery to be sitting directly on the course of a PGA Tour (Twitter) event. They are also one of the Frys.com Open‘s main sponsors and have the lucky vantage point overlooking the 15th hole at CordeValle. This should prove to be a very exciting event and I’m quite interested in seeing how Clos LaChance and the PGA Tour integrate their activities during the week. The golfing should be spectacular, featuring a field that includes David Duval, Justin Leonard, John Daly and Rickie Fowler. The Murphy family has been making wine in San Martin, CA since 1992, utilizing many members of their family to produce their unique wines. I’m also fired up to finally get a chance to try some wine from this buzz winery! Tickets are still available online, so purchase yours today and come and hang with us!
One a completely different note, I’m very humbled to have been picked for the “Spotlight on Bloggers” section of the very cool Center of Wine Origins (Twitter) website. The hard-working folks at the CFWO have reprinted an article I wrote here awhile back about how much I enjoy sharing wine with my friends (Vinopanion = wine + companion).
The CFWO has taken on the very important job of clarifying and protecting the names of wine regions around the world, through collaboration with similar organizations in the wine countries of the rest of the globe. This means that they work to ensure that wine labeled “Champagne” is only sparkling wine that comes from Champagne, France. Or perhaps they lay the smackdown on anyone that uses the name “Napa” on wine that doesn’t come from Napa County, CA. It seems like a simple enough concept, but it can be quite difficult to define these names and regions globally, and it can be even harder to enforce the exclusivity of these wine naming conventions. Fortunately, the CFWO has some very competent people to regulate and collaborate!
So come out to CordeValle and Clos LaChance this weekend if you’re in the area and sift through the great content on the CFWO website. Cheers!
Our pre-foie gras fitness activities accomplished, Alan and headed back to the Normandie for a shower and some breakie. As we approached the hotel, I realized that I needed to get my espresso on and I peeled off to the commuter café that was across the tracks. Here was I was determined to order on my own, with no interpreters. Whether I really was successful in communicating my coffee request or they were just really kind baristas, I got my double espresso with no communication issues to report.
Following a shower and a very fast breakfast, we all piled into our shuttle for the first excursion of the trip, heading into Entre-Deux-Mers and the alluring St.-Émilion, which was one of my favorite spots on the whole trip. It was quite a feeling to look out across the rain-swept land that was outside our foggy windows…it was one of the tens of times on this trip that I found myself almost shell-socked by the beauty of Bordeaux and the fortuitousness that allowed me to appreciate it in person. With more than a little tingling of anticipation, we pulled into the driveway of the very first Chateau of the trip, Château Sainte-Marie, named for the Virgin Mary.
Our host that day was none other than the 5th generation vigneron, Stéphane Dupuch, himself. He is a burly man, but with a youthful, happy face and is as quick to tell a joke as he is to give an opinion on French wine. The winery proper was originally built in the 14th century and owned by monks. The vineyards are situated on chalky-clay soils, perfect for their production of 50:50 red and white wines. Stéphane believes that their land and climate is best suited for Merlot-based blends, but definitely not for Cabernet Franc, which is commonly paired with Merlot in such blends. He compares the three white varietals in their Entre-Deux-Mers whites to the best parts of a woman: “Sauvignon [Blanc] is body, Sémillon is the dress and Muscadelle is the makeup.” His whites were crisp and filled with citrus and minerality. His Clairet was also a big hit, featuring racy acidity, a light to medium body and quite the juicy cherry and raspberry berry flavors, with virtually no tannins. Clairet (not the traditional “claret”) can be compared to a fuller and bigger Rosé, or “Rosé on steroids”, as Rob aptly describes them.
After a visit with a boarder’s deer and the estate parrot and pooch, we headed off for to a Chateau for which I hold great excitement. Château Bonnet, while the largest single estate in Bordeaux, has always been a favorite house of mine for wines that feature exceptional affordable value for their quality. It is just above the small commune of Grézillac and features some 300 hectares of vineyards. We were greeted by one of the luminaries of Bordeaux, André Lurton. Among many incredible accomplishments during his fascinating life, Lurton helped form the Entre-Deux-Mers and Pessac-Léognan AOCs, is the 40-year mayor of Grézillac and acted as director of the Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB) for two separate terms. Lurton looks and is surprisingly young for someone that has lived in the same room in which he was born for some 86 years!
Following a brief tour around the winery by Lurton, we were treated to an estate tasting within the very cool enclosed winter garden of the Château. The wines were very vibrant, featuring medium bodies and great, food-centric acidity in the entire line, covering white, rosé, clairet and red. Lunch was held in the main dining hall of the Château, featuring a fascinating collection of artwork collected over the decades and plenty of well constructed, balanced wines from Bonnet. Besides the delish fare, the real treat of the lunch was a secretive Lurton bringing out a decanted 1982 Bonnet Bordeaux AOC that featured dried fruit and herbs of black cherry, portabella mushrooms, tobacco and anise and completely altered my understanding of this entry-level AOC: these wines can age.
Our last chateau of the day had an air of Great Expectations to it, with the chateau proper completely empty inside, yet looking somewhat well-kept on the outside. The winery however, was all modern, with beautiful stonework. Château des Laurets is very unusual in that it’s very large 150 hectare estate (90 under vine) actually spans two different appellations and is still the largest within the prestigious Saint-Émilion, Puisseguin-Saint-Émilion and Montagne-Saint-Émilion. The estate is very old (built 1860), but has recently been purchased by the by Benjamin & Ariane Rothschild in 2003 with the intent to gradually restore the estate back to an elite status. We were greeted by winemaker Fabrice Bandiera and given a tour of the newly constructed and restored winery. He was interesting in that he was one of the most progressive winemakers that we were to meet on our trip, even endorsing the use of such new technologies as staves and wood chips, if needed, in moderation. The wines here were pretty impressive, particularly the flagship 2004 Les Laurets, that featured a luscious nose and palate of menthol, graphite, wet earth, and very dark chocolate with deep black fruit. It had phenomenal balance and it’s bit unusual for France, made up of 100& Merlot.
Our final stop of this brilliant first full day in Bordeaux was in what I now consider to be the most beautiful hamlet that I’ve ever had the fortune to visit. Saint-Émilion proper was almost devastatingly beautiful, with it’s ancient cobblestone streets, all stone buildings and the weather that alternated between sunlight, short heavy showers and floating clouds and rainbows…yes, and that was only in the first 2 hours there! We only had a short time to tour the town, unfortunately, plus enjoy our Crémant de Bordeaux apéritif. Indeed, during a delightful dinner at L’Envers du Décor with Stéphane Derenoncourt collaborator Frédéric Massie, I heard so much about its monolithic church, carved from a single block of limestone cliff-face that I excused myself and sprinted down the hill to check it out mid-meal.
Happily exhausted by the end of our long meal, we piled back into the shuttle for a very late trip back to our Normandie homestead and some welcome relaxation. Our first full day was complete with full stomachs and full minds of many memories.
Finally. It’s quite similar to that feeling of gloriously painful anticipation that you once experienced before every birthday as a child…I was finally going to Bordeaux as part of Le Wine Buff program for Enjoy Bordeaux! I have been a ‘Buff since late last year when the pilot program first kicked off. The Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB) sponsored the trip and we’ve been working for and with them and CreativeFeed to help educate the public on the thousands of affordable, high quality and downright tasty Bordeaux wines that are imported to the US. These wines are the majority from Bordeaux and don’t cost the same amount as the many techno gadgets I brought along with me on the trip. So there I was…in Bordeaux and yet I had never even been to Europe!
I was also able to finally meet the rest of the crew in person.
Indeed, other than a brief encounter with my fellow Bay Area Buff Rebecca Chapa, I had yet to meet any of these vinopanions IRL until now. I had also wrangled in the men who comprise Mutineer Magazine to embed themselves in our vinous midst, so now we’d have shoots for both our documentary and photo ops for articles in the finest beverage magazine on earth…sweet.
I landed off my Air France flight with the Mutineers in tow and we made it to our homebase, the Hôtel de Normandie dead center in the middle of the city of Bordeaux. We arrived with nary a minute to spare before taking a guided tour of the ancient city (it’s only a couple of thousand years old…give or take a decade…). Breathtaking was a word that was used once or twice and the depth of knowledge of our tour guide was just as impressive. Brigitte’s enlightening tour was provided as a courtesy of the Office de Tourisme de Bordeaux. Walking around an ancient city was bound to stir up an appetite and well, a thirst! Here we were surrounded by fantastic appellations or A.O.C. of vineyards and I had yet to have tasted a drop of that tasty fluid known as wine.
Fortunately, the CIVB predicted this predicament and we landed for what was to be the first of a long string of epic dinners, at a restaurant just a few blocks from the hotel, Chez Jean. Yum. More walking around after dark provided some great photo ops as you can see in some of the pics below.
All of the wines from this trip will/are tagged with “LWB2010BDX” and my photos and HD videos can be found by day (Day 1 for instance) and are also all tagged with “LWB2010BDX” on my Flickr. Enjoy Bordeaux also has a set of fantastic photos at their own Flickr. All of our tweets used the hashtag #LeWineBuff. I will continue to upload the wines as I write these recaps and then compile all of the links in one final post for this series about Le Wine Buff in Bordeaux.
So what was the final tally?
12 Chateaux, 8 A.O.C., 9 restaurants, 2 hotels, ~110 wines, ~9GB of photos and videos, 11 pages (10pt MS Word font) of notes typed on my iPhone and 22 hours of sleep, whew.