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Sipping Hamilton Russell Oregon Pinot Noir

 

We have a soft spot for South Africa after a visit to the wine country and the bushlands in late 2006. So, it was a pleasure to visit with Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell, proprietors of Hamilton Russell Vineyards, a producer of estate-grown wines in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley near the fishing village of Hermanus in Walker Bay. It’s one of the southernmost wine estates in Africa and benefits from a cooler maritime climate, ideal for producing their Burgundian style Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. (listen The Connected Table Sips)

Hamilton Russell Vineyards is one of the southernmost wineries in South Africa

Now, after producing 40 vintages in South Africa, the Hamilton Russells have spread their wings and have invested in making wine in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Their first two releases, vintage 2018 deliver classic Pinot Noirs with opulent fruit and spice balanced with masterful restraint and purity. The wines are available through Vineyards Brands in the U.S.A.

The couple had looked into investing in Burgundy but decided the Willamette Valley offered a better opportunity to work with some of the region’s best AVAs, Eola-Amity Hills and Ribbon Ridge.

Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell in South Africa with Vineyard Manager Johan Montgomery and Winemaker Emul Ross

The Eola-Amity Hills AVA is recognized for its iron- rich volcanic soils formed by ancient lava flows combined with marine sediments and alluvial deposits. The maritime climate allows for a steady cooling sea breeze during the long, warm growing season Ribbon Ridge is a sub-appellation within the Chehalem Mountains AVA. Here, the soil is uniformly marine sediments with fine silt, sand, and mud.

“After sanctions (in South Africa) were lifted in 1992, we knew we wanted to expand long-term. We visited the U.S. often and saw an extraordinary opportunity in Oregon with Pinot Noir. While Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir from South Africa exhibits a bit more austerity, the Oregon wines capture the more purity of fruit. Interestingly, the alcohol levels, acidity and PH balance are almost the same,” said Anthony Hamilton Russell.

Hamilton Russell Oregon wines, both 2018, are like fraternal twins. They share a similar DNA – Willamette Valley Pinot Noir -but exhibit different character, due to terroir. Olive Hamilton Russell has a culinary background and is a passionate forager. She shared some pairing tips for each wine.

 Zena Crown Oregon Pinot Noir 2018, Eola-Amity Hills is aged 14 months in French oak.  SRP $85.99. Olive says, “This wine has darker fruit and spice. It exhibits more austerity and fine tannin. I suggested pairing with a rack of lamb, slow roasted meats, or a mushroom risotto.”
Bramble Hill Pinot Noir 2018, Ribbon Ridge is aged 14 months in French oak. Bramble Hill Vineyard is recognized for producing grapes for some of Oregon’s finest Pinot Noirs. SRP $85.99. Olive says, “Here, the wine has more open red fruit and lively minerality. Consider pairing with turkey and cranberry sauce with Brussels sprouts and date syrup; cod and miso or duck with orange sauce.”

Listen to our podcast with Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell #TheConnectedTableSips (under 12 min.)

 

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Lirac – Stylish Wines from the Rhône Valley’s Right Bank

One of the Côtes du Rhône’s first cru appellations (established in 1947), AOC Lirac is a wine lover’s gem. The wines were prized among European nobility and the Avignon papacy in the 14th and 15th centuries. In the 18th century, local magistrates in Roquemaure started to authentic the origin of Lirac wines by branding the casks with “C.d.R.” Lirac wines were the first in the region to use the term “Côtes du Rhône.” Today, Lirac wines continue to draw a strong following among sommeliers and other wine aficionados.

Lirac is rare among the 17 Rhône crus for its range of red, white, and smaller amounts of rosé wines. AOC guidelines require all to be blends, mainly using indigenous varieties. Red wines, which comprise 85 percent of Lirac’s production, must contain a minimum of 40 percent Grenache. The remaining amounts are usually Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre or Cinsault (the latter is popular for rosés). Around 10 percent of production is white. Clairette is the superstar white variety in Lirac followed by Bourboulenc, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne and, to a smaller degree, Picpoul and Ugni Blanc. The white wines lean toward aromatic with balanced acidity. While overshadowed by the reds in the global market, Lirac’s whites are well worth seeking out.

A windy day among the vineyards in Lirac. In this vineyard vines date back 140 years.

During our visit in early March 2020 (thankfully before the travel shutdown), a robust mistral blew in, practically knocking us over. The locals are used to the mistral wind which average 180 days of the year. Lirac’s climate in the southern Rhône Valley is Mediterranean, but a mistral can have you reaching for scarves and jackets even under a brilliant sunny sky.

These winds, unique to this part of France, combined with more than 220 days of sunshine, play a key role in shaping Lirac’s terroir. They help purify the air to keep humidity low, chase away pests and nurture healthy vines.

The round river rocks in Lirac’s vineyards are called “galet roules”

Another key factor are Lirac’s three soils. Alluvial river soils scattered with large round stones, known as galets roulés, produce intense red wines with dark fruit and savory spices, offering long aging potential. Limestone soils deliver minerality and aromatics, a hallmark of the whites which are fruit and floral with balanced acidity. Sandy soils produce fresh lighter wines, low in tannins, ideal for Lirac’s fruitier style of rosés

Sunday at the covered market in Avignon

Avignon serves as a great base to visit both Lirac and Tavel, its next -door neighbor which only produces rosé wines. If you stay in Avignon, a visit to the Palais du Papes (the Popes’ Palace) is a must, and allow plenty of time (advanced reservations are suggested.). We had the chance to spend a Sunday in Avignon where locals and tourists gather at the covered market for casual Sunday dining or to pick up provisions. It’s great people watching!

bottles Lirac wines
A selection of Lirac wines we discussed on The Connected Table Sips

We visited with several Lirac producers during our trip. When asked how they would define “Lirac style,” they all underscored “freshness and lush” as a backbone of the wines and what they refer to as “the Rhône Valley’s “right bank style.” In contrast, left bank wines, such as those in Chateauneuf-du-Pape just across the river were described as “concentrated and more intense.” A number of producers in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, have invested in vineyards in Lirac.

Melanie and David in the vineyards
In the vineyards at Chateau de Montfaucon with owner, Rodolphe du Pins
With Fabien de Chaunac, Château de Ségriès
Map showing Lirac
For more information visit www.vins-rhone.com

Lirac is home to many independent wineries; many are family-run Here are the producers we met and their U.S. importers.

Château de Ségriès. This historic winery is one of the first in the appellation. by Count Henri de Régis de Gatimel inherited Château de Ségriès in 1940 and was one of the first to replant vines in the region. The Count was the first to petition that Lirac be awarded AOC status, which occurred in 1947. (U.S. importer: Kysela Pere & Fils).

Château de Montfaucon.  The center piece of this estate is a lovingly restored fortress dating to the 12th century owned by a noble family. Proprietor Rodolphe du Pins showed us a pre-phylloxera vineyard dating back 140 years. (Winebow)

Domaine Maby. Owned by the Maby family for generations, the estate’s sixty acres covers Lirac, Tavel and Côtes du Rhône. (DB Wine Selections)

Domaine La Lôyane. Started by a family of growers dating back four generations, the winery is run by  Romain Dubois and his wife, Laure.  Organically run, this winery is home to five vineyards including one whose Grenache vines are 150 years-old!  (Elixir Wine Group)

Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine  The Lafond family has been making wine in the Rhône Valley since 1780. “Roc-Epine” was established in 1970 and started to bottle wine in 1978. The name commemorates “Roquepine,” a famous horse race.  (Skurnik Wines)

Château Mont-Redon. The original name, “Mourredon,” dates to 1344, when the property was part of the Pope’s land; it was recognized as a vineyard in the 18th century. Today this winery, is owned by the largest landowner in Chateauneuf-du-Pape who saw the potential in making wine in Lirac.  (F. Wildman)

La Maison Ogier. In 800 A.D. with “Ogier the Dane” fought with Charlemagne’s soldiers and settled in the area. The family entered the wine business in 1859.  Ogier was founded in 1948. Today it is a leading negociant in the Rhône Valley. (Folio Fine Wine Partners)

More info: www.vins-rhone.com

With Lirac producers
With Laure Dubois,  Domaine la Lôyane, and Jean-Baptise La Fond, Lafond Roc-Epine at Restaurant la Louisa in Lirac.
At La Fourchette restaurant in Avignon with Pierre Fabre, Château Mont-Redon, and François Miquel, Ogier

 

With Richard Maby, Domaine Maby
With Richard Maby, Domaine Maby

Listen to The Connected Table Sips. Discover Lirac!

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Sipping J Vineyards Sparkling Cuvées

We're Sipping J Vineyards’ Sparkling Cuvées at Home

Everyone needs a versatile sparkling wine on hand to enjoy with home-cooked meals and to uncork for impromptu entertaining. J Vineyards & Winery is one of Sonoma’s top sparkling and varietal wine producers whose cuvées are made in the traditional method. The six vineyards are all located in the Russian River Valley, a cool climate setting that delivers wines of exceptional, fresh fruit crispness and balanced acidity.

Underscoring the popularity of these wines for casual entertaining, J Vineyards & Winery’s tasting room near Healdsburg offers special culinary experiences. A popular one is the J Bubble Room, a gastronomical experience led by Executive Chef Carl Shelton and Winemaker Nicole Hitchcock, which includes both sparkling and varietal wines. Chef Shelton shared, “Many of our visitors come to taste the sparkling wines and leave with the Pinot Noir and Chardonnays.”

The Bubble Room at J Vineyards
The Bubble Room at J Vineyards where exceptional wine and food pairings take place.

What we tasted:

J Cuvée 20 Classic Brut. The winery’s twentieth anniversary is a blend of 51% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, 9% Pinot Meunier with aging on lees to add complexity. It delivers notes of toasted almond and brioche toast, baked apple, white peach and Meyer lemon. Pair with creamy brie, seared cod, poached lobster, grouper and truffle pasta. SRP: $38

J Vineyards & Winery Brut Rosé gets its soft salmon pink color and ripe red cherry and strawberry aromas and flavors from Pinot Noir. The blending of 32 percent Chardonnay into this wine adds notes of slivered almond, kaffir, jasmine and lemon meringue. We recently enjoyed our J Rosé with a harissa spiced  shrimp over rice.  SRP: $45

Photo of J Cuvees

Both wines are available nationwide through many retail outlets, and you can order direct from the winery.  www.jwine.com

Chef Carl Shelton, J Vineyards & Winer
Chef Carl Shelton, J Vineyards &Winery

J Vineyards & Winery Executive Chef Carl Shelton joined us on The Connected Table Sips to share  pairing tips. Listen here (link) or click below:

 

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Sipping Louis Martini Cabernets with Chef Jeffery Russell

There is nothing like a Cabernet Sauvignon paired with grilled steak or a perfectly cooked leg of lamb. One of California’s iconic names in Cabernet is Louis M. Martini Winery, which has produced world-class wines from exceptional vineyards in both Napa and Sonoma counties for over 85 years. Louis M. Martini Winery dates to 1933 and was one of the first wineries to open after Prohibition. The winery’s namesake, Louis M. Martini, was a founding member of the Napa Valley Vintners and a force behind the appellation’s pursuit of wine making excellence.

Monte Rosso Vineyards
Monte Rosso is a single vineyard owned by Louis Martini since 1938. The name “Monte Rosso” means “red mountain” and refers to the nutrient-rich red volcanic soil found in the vineyard.

Following a major restoration in 2018, the winery offers an expanded tasting room and visitors’ center focusing on culinary experiences overseen by Executive Chef Jeffery Russell. A native New Yorker from the Finger Lakes region, Russell studied at the Culinary Institute of America, and worked with the Chef Charlie Palmer in both his New York and California restaurants and at the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs.

During a podcast recording with us, Chef Russell shared that working at Louis M. Martini Winery is like having a “culinary playground” to create one-of-a-kind tasting events, cooking classes, lunches and dinners. Tip: Join the wine club for special offers!

Louis M. Martini’s new visitors center offers special culinary experiences.

 

But one doesn’t need to fly to California to taste these wines. They are available nationwide through many retailers as well as direct through the winery.

We tasted two wines made by Louis M. Martini winemaker, Michael Eddy.

Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Napa Valley is the brand’s flagship. Grapes are sourced from three vineyards, Sun Lake, Cypress Ranch and Sage Canyon. This wine was aged 21 months in French and American oak barrels (30% new). It’s a full-bodied Cabernet flavors of black currant, dark plums, sage, tar, leather and cacao and muscular tannins envelope your mouth at first taste. Suggested retail: $40

Louis M. Martini Monte Rosso Vineyard 2015, Sonoma County is sourced from the Monte Rosso Vineyard  in the Mayacamas Mountains at about 1,300 feet altitude. This is a full-bodied with black cherry, cedar, toast and spice notes and silky tannins that characteristics of Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignons. The wine is aged for 28 months in 75 percent new French oak, the rest in new American oak. This is an outstanding wine made for long aging. SRP $100

Where to Purchase

Louis M. Martini wines are available nationwide at many beverage retailers. Here is a link to buy direct from the winery: www.louismartini.com  Shipping is included on 3 or more bottles.

Also available for delivery via Instacart, Vivino and Drizly.

Follow on Instagram @louismmartiniwinewinery

Louis M Martini Winery Executive Chef discusses pairing tips on The Connected Table SIPS.

In this edition of The Connected Table SIPS, Chef Jeffery Russell recommends pairings and explains the differences between the two styles of the two Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignons we tasted.  #listen iHeartRadio #share

Podcast link or click below to listen:

 

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Tasting Georgian Wines with Khareba Winery

Khareba Winery
Khareba's underground qvevri
We tasted four wines made from indigenous grapes:
Khareba Krakuna. A dry full-bodied white with aromas of apricot. peach and citrus. Great acidity! Pair with seafood cheeses. Sip on this: Krakhuna wines  age well, becoming more complex with time.
Khareba Qvevri Mtsvane. Made in the traditional qvevri, this dry white wine has a golden-apricot hue and notes of dried orange, mushroom and hazelnut. Pair with fish, white meats and vegetarian stews. Sip on this: Georgia is a leading producer of hazelnuts.

Khareba Saperavi.  Saperavi is an indigenous black grape that produces wines loaded with cacao, spice, tobacco and tar. This is a wine for grilled and roasted meat and game but would also work with a meatier fish. Sip on this: Saperavi means "place of color." Unlike many other red grapes whose flesh is white, Saperavi's skin and flesh are both red.

Khareba Saperavi Classical 2016. A more modern style red aged in new French oak for eight months. Dark spicy berry notes with a touch of smoke. Enjoy with hearty pasta dishes, pizza and vegetarian casseroles. Sip on this: Khareba Winery's cellars are located in a deep tunnel cut into the Caucasus Mountains measuring  7.7 km (4.8 miles). Currently more than 30,000 bottles are being aged in the tunnel

Listen to The Connected Table SIPS with Vladimer Kublashvili. Click here:

 

The Connected Table SIPS are custom content podcasts  spotlighting brands, producers, destination and the business of wine, spirits and food. Listen on iHeart
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The Connected Table SIPS creates custom content and generates guaranteed coverage to share your brand or campaign story or message.

Attention importers and wine and food companies and the talented people who work with them. Let us help you spotlight your brands and programs this Fall and beyond through custom podcasts on The Connected Table SIPS on iHeart Radio and more.

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All our SIPS broadcasts can be found on multiple podcast platforms, including iHeart.com/iHeart App, Apple Podcasts, Spreaker, Stitcher, among others. You can also find us at The Connected Table page on Sante Magazine, one of the food and beverage industry’s leading digital trade magazines.

Please show your support by taking a SIP (or a few) with us. Sign up for a custom podcast series and let us share your special story. Email: melanie@theconnectedtable.com and david@theconnectedtable.com (also the email to schedule all show bookings)

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Sipping with Stefano Chiarlo, Michele Chiarlo Wines

Home to some of the world’s most sought after wines including Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, and Moscato d’Asti, Piedmont is regarded as one of Italy’s great wine regions.  Michele Chiarlo Wines, founded by Michele Chiarlo and now run with the help of his sons Alberto and Stefano, has been a leader in the region since 1956.

Alberto, Michele and Stefano Chiarlo

Always family owned and operated, Michele Chiarlo owns vineyards in three of Piedmont’s most important growing regions: Langhe, Montferrato, and Gavi, and focuses exclusively on making single vineyard wines. Their vineyard in Cerequio, in the heart of Barolo, is considered one of the finest plantings of Nebbiolo in the region and is recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site. The same is true for La Court, the Chiarlo Vineyard in Barbera, which also caries the UNESCO moniker.

Cerequo vineyards

Purists at heart, the Chiarlo family creates their wines exclusively from indigenous grape varieties including Barbera, Cortese, Nebbiolo, and Moscato, and over the years has helped lead Piedmont’s quality revolution in both winemaking and farming practices in through leadership, innovation, and dedication to their craft. “Preserving this land for the future is vey important to us,” says Stefano Chiarlo, who oversees wine production, “therefore we helped establish standards of quality for the DOC winemaking laws in Piedmont, and spearheaded green harvest practices, for all of Italy, in 1984.”

Never comfortable to rest on their laurels, The Chiarlo family is constantly working to find the next big wine and as such has heavily invested in the region’s new Nizza DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, Italy’s highest level of quality for wine), in order to build that new winemaking appelation’s reputation for quality in the marketplace.

Michele Chiarlo Barolo Vineyards

 

The following selection of Michele Chiarlo wines are a good way to get to know this iconic brand, which is imported into the United States by Kobrand Wine & Spirits.

Le Marne Gavi DOCG: Made in the Gavi region, and area known for its white wine production from the Cortese grape variety, Le Marne shows citrus and mineral notes and jumps on the palate with lively acidity. A perfect white to pair with food.  SRP: $19.99

Cipressi Barbera Nizza DOCG: Grown at Le Court, the Chiarlo estate in Barbera, this 100% Barbera wine is shows classic notes of ripe cherry and red fruit through a lush, yet elegant palate. A perfect wine for lighter meats and pasta dishes. SRP: $29.99

Tortoniano Barolo DOCG: 100% Nebbiolo from Piedmont’s pre-eminent wine region, the Tortoniano Barolo spends 2 years in barrel and one year in bottle prior to release. A highly structured wine, yet also quite approachable at an early age, this wine is a wonderful food wine perfect for pairing with meats, pastas, and aged cheeses. SRP: $59.99

 

Listen to The Connected Table SIPS with Stefano Chiarlo. Click this image and stream:

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Exploring AOC Costières de Nimes, Rhône Valley

Costières de Nîmes was a pleasant discovery for us, far from the more heavily visited areas of Provence to the east. The Rhône Valley’s southernmost wine region sits on a plateau that stretches north from the Camargue delta region 50 kilometers to the south. From some hilltop vineyards, one can see Arles and an outline of the Frank Gehry-designed The Luma Arts Foundation complex, which has turned that ancient Roman city in Provence into a contemporary arts destination.

View from a Costières de Nimes vineyard

Vines have been cultivated in Costières de Nimes since the days of Ancient Greece. The area was also occupied by the Romans after they conquered Egypt during the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. The region and its namesake city, Nîmes, display the imagery of a crocodile tied to a palm tree, from the pavement to street signs and a few whimsical sculptures positioned here and there. The crocodile represents Egypt, and the palm tree is the Roman symbol of victory.

You can find the crocodile and the palm tree throughout the city of Nîmes.

Winemaking began to flourish in Costières de Nîmes during the Middle Ages, and the region’s wines became the preferred selection of the 14th century Papal Court when it occupied nearby Avignon. A boost to the viticultural economy occurred in the 20th century with the construction of both Pierre-Paul Riquet’s Canal du Midi and Philippe Lamour’s Canal du Bas-Rhone which facilitated transportation from the region.

An AOC since 1986, Costières de Nîmes‘ production is red wines (55%), rosés (40%) and whites (5%).  Mourvèdre, Grenache, Syrah are the dominant red varieties (80%); Carignan and Cinsault are also used.  Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Roussane are the three main white grapes, followed by Bourboulenc, Clairette, Vermentino and Viognier. The reds are sultry and juicy with dark blackberry and raspberry notes; the whites are aromatic with a touch of salinity thanks to the region’s proximity to the sea and the soil. The climate is classic southern France – Mediterranean Sea breezes mixed with cool mistral winds from the north and more than 200 days of sunshine.

Rockin the vineyards with Jérôme Castillon, Château L’Ermitage, AOC Costières de Nîmes, Nimes, Rhône Valley

Our first visit was Château L’Ermitage. Owner Jérôme Castillon took us on a bumpy open-air Land Rover ride through the hilly vineyards to shows us the rocky terrain covered with garrigue, a particularly herbaceous Mediterranean brush that contributes to the earthy herbal character of the wines. Thanks to the proximity to the Rhône River, the soils are alluvial with many large pale pebbles, called galets.

More rocky vineyards with Costières de Nîmes vignerons, Anne and François Collard, Château Mourgues du Grès

Later, we visited more, even steeper and stonier vineyards at Château Mourgues du Grès with proprietors François and Anne Collard. At their winery, which was formerly a convent, a few other local producers joined is to present their wines along those from  Château Mourgues du Grès, including: Maison Gabriel Meffre (Anthony Taylor), Mas des Bressades (Cyril Marès), Château de Valcombe (Nicolas Ricome).

A tasting with Costières de Nîmes vignerons. (left to right): Nicolas Ricome (Château de Valcombe), Cyril Marès (Mas des Bressades), Anthony Taylor (Maison Gabriel Meffre), Ann Collard, François Collard (Château Mourgues du Grès)

In the evening, we had dinner in Nîmes at the Museum of Roman History (Musee de la Romanate. This is a newer addition to the city of Nîmes. It’s a large modern edifice with a rooftop garden and panoramic views. We read in this article that the architect, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, was inspired by a Roman toga. We’re not sure we get that, but we did get – and enjoyed -the wines we tasted during our meal at museum’s on-site restaurant, La Table du 2 Brasserie by Michelin Star-rated Chef Franck Putelat. The producer was fourth generation vintner Fanny Boyer, Château Beaubois.

Maison Carrée (“square house”) is a perfectly preserved Roman temple in the heart of Nîmes

If you visit the region, seeing Nimes is a must. It’s filled with history and is nice for strolling and spotting crocodile and palm tree imagery. Among the many sights of historical note, two include the giant ancient amphitheater that now serves as a performance space and the Maison Carrée,  a completly preserved the ancient Roman.  More on visiting Nimes here.

We also recommend this article in The New York Times Style Magazine

Domaine des Clos was formerly a winery. Now it is a lovely hotel restored and owned by Sandrine and David Ausset.

A note on where we stayed…We loved our two nights at Domaine des Clos, a boutique apartment-hotel with spacious grounds and very good food (we had three meals there- breakfast, lunch and dinner). Owners Sandrine and David Ausset, both native to the region, left their corporate jobs in Paris to spend years renovating this abandoned 18th century wine estate. Sandrine is passionate about ayurvedic health and offers special retreats.

We came; we saw; we tasted- and enjoyed- the wines of Costières de Nîmes, Rhône Valley

Our trip was arranged by Inter-Rhône which has very helpful information on the Rhône Valley on its website www.vins-rhone.com. We also recommend www.costieres-nimes.org

Listen to The Connected Table SIPS with Anthony Taylor, Maison Gabriel Meffre, who discussed the region and styles of wine produced in Costières de Nîmes.

Ir’s considered Good Luck to touch the nose of the crocodile in Nimes.

 

 

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Lavender Fields Forever: Sipping Luberon Rosé in the Rhône Valley

When July rolls around we’re longing for Provence and the chance to see first-hand the lavender fields in bloom. It’s still on our bucket list; we are not there, yet, despite having spent many lazy, late summer days visiting friends with a house in the Luberon, usually end of August.

Lavender fields in bloom in the Luberon during summer The wines have timeless appeal year-round.

But we did have the chance to visit the Luberon in May for a wine tour of  the southern Rhône Valley.  The weather was warm and dry, and the buses of tourists were still thankfully sparse. May is a great time to visit before the summer crowds descend. While no lavender was in bloom, there were other blooms a’plenty. Numerous bright yellow wildflowers and orange-red poppies dotted the fields, and orchards were filled with blooming cherry and apricot trees. 

We’ve always been fans of Luberon rosé and tasted several during our visit. The styles of rosé in the Luberon can range from crisp and dry to fresh, floral and fruity. Rosé wines make up 52 percent of the wines produced in AOC Luberon  which was established in 1988. Vines are cultivated on both sides of the Luberon mountain range at altitudes of 200 to 350 meters above sea level, which adds to the wines’ freshness and purity. The primary red grapes are Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault. Soils vary from limestone to clay and red sand. The climate can range from Mediterranean warm to very cool nights.

It was a busy market day when we visited the Maison de la Truffe et du Vin du Luberon in Ménerbes to taste a few wines with three producers:  Lionel Bourgue, Domaine de la Citadelle,   Nathalie Margan, Chateau La CanorgueChristian Ruffinatto, Domaine Ruffinatto –  and Thomas Montagne Chateau de Clapier.

At Maison de la Truffe et du Vin Menerbes with Christian Ruffinatto, Domaine Ruffinatto; Nathalie Margan, Chateau La Canorgue and Thomas Montagne, Chateau de Clapier

Later in the afternoon, we visited Château la Canorgue, a 200-year-old family-owned estate in Bonnieux and the first organic winery in the Luberon.  The winery is run Jean-Pierre Margan with his daughter, Nathalie, who represents the fifth generation of winegrowers. The wines are recognized around the world.

Vineyards at Château la Canorgue in Bonnieux.

Visitors may recognize Château la Canorgue from Filmmaker Ridley Scott’s “A Good Year,” with Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard. The estate was a setting for the movie. The Margans remain nonplussed when tourists arrive to snap fan photos. While at Château la Canorgue, we sat down with Nathalie Margan to discuss  styles of AOC Luberon rosé, which range from a light pink grapefruit citrus squeeze to an embrace of fresh wild strawberries.

AOC Luberon Rhône Valley rosés possess terrific minerality, complexity and freshness. These are not one-size-fits all rosés; a sense of place is evident from the first sip. You just want to reach for a salad chèvre chaud, fresh grilled seafood with vegetables drizzled with local olive oil.

 

Simple, fresh-grilled vegetables are perfect with Luberon rosé wines

 

Listen to our visit with Nathalie Margan on The Connected Table SIPS. Click image below or visit iHeart.com at this link

For more information on AOC Luberon and its wines, visit: www.vin-luberon-fr

 

 

We love the Luberon! With Nathalie Margan at Château la Canorgue

 

 

 

 

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Access Meets Awesome- Sipping with Wine Access

When you choose a nice bottle of wine to drink, what are you looking for besides balance and structure? How about Authenticity and a touch of Awesome? And if you are selecting a wine to sell, would you stake your reputation on it? That’s the thought process behind the team at Wine Access (www.wineaccess.com) whose management team say they take the guesswork out of selecting wine.

Wine Access offers a selection of curated wines from around the world from both established producers and new discoveries, as well as a selection of sakes. Wine Access  also features a selection of proprietary wines created in partnership with top winemakers and sold exclusively through their online platform.

Launched 20 years ago initially as a web hosting platform for brick and mortar stores and wine publications, Wine Access has grown to become one of the leading direct to consumer wine companies in the United States. Wine selections are offered both online and through a daily email offers.

The Connected Table sat down with Joe Fisch, Wine Access CEO/CFO, and Vanessa Conlin, Head of Wine, to discuss how Wine Access works and what sets it apart. Fisch and Conlin were quick to address their #1 priority- offering their customers access, expertise and ease when it comes to buying wine.

Recording The Connected Table SIPS! podcast with Joe Fisch and Vanessa Conlin, Wine Access, at Colangelo & Partners offices in Manhattan. Wine Access has offices in Napa and San Francisco.

“Wine Access is all about going the extra mile. For example, we won’t just post a short description and photo of a wine bottle; we’ll share the brand’s story in a 500 to 1000 word write up. We also produce informational content through video and articles that help inform our customers about different wine regions, styles of wine, buying and cellaring and other features,” said Fisch. “We also leverage our relationships in the industry to offer our members a selection of proprietary wines that we make in collaboration with some California’s top winemakers such as French native and in-demand wine consultant Julien Fayard.

Idiosyncrasy is one of Wine Access’s proprietary wines produced in collaboration with some of California top winemakers. This Cabernet Sauvignon (2016 vintage) is from Atlas Peak in Napa. Its winemaker is Julien Fayard, who is recognized for making 99-point Cabernet Sauvignon wines for Purlieu and Le Pich

The Wine Access tasting team consists of a Master Sommelier, two Master of Wine candidates and other seasoned industry wine professionals. Conlin noted that the wine team at Wine Access regularly travels to scout out wineries and meets weekly to taste and evaluate wines. “Of the thousands of bottles, the team tastes, only around one percent are accepted. We have to all agree unanimously on a wine before adding it as a selection. We each ask ourselves: ‘Would you stake your reputation on this wine?’” said Conlin.

The Wine Access tasting team: Eduoardo Dingler, Neil Mechanic, Vanessa Conlin, Robert Emery, Sur Lucero MS

But it is not only creative content and high caliber wine offerings that matter. The Wine Access team believes it’s important to engage its customers beyond online communications through experiential events.  Examples include private Château Margaux and Château Lafite Rothschild tastings for 25 VIP customers. That’s the “awesome” part, they say.

“Who wouldn’t want to experience those tastings,” said Conlin, “we are always looking for new ways to share experiences and stories about wine producers and places with our members. It’s about offering both access and authenticity to the world’s finest wines.”

www.wineaccess.com

We’ll drink to that!

Listen to our podcast with Joe Fisch and Vanessa Conlin here on The Connected Table SIPS. Click image below or click here

 

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Botas De Barro- The Story of the “Muddy Boots”

Nicola Thornton grew up in the U.K. but fell in love with Spain after attending university there. She moved and entered the wine industry. We first met Thornton when she was working for a well-known producer in Toro.  We’ve stayed in touch over the years and were delighted to spotlight Thornton in two podcasts for The Connected Table SIPS.

 

 

The first podcast discussed the expert set up called Spanish Palate. Thornton says she looks for independent producers that are “magical little gems with great stories,” giving them a voice and introducing them to international markets. Working with a largely female team, Thornton has helped over 100 wine producers from 20 different regions in Spain find their place in over 40 countries, al in under three years.  www.spanishpalate.es Facebook/ Instagram: spanishpalate

 

But that’s just the start of Thornton’s efforts. While working the business she said she became acquainted with local grape growers and aware of the hardships they faced.  She created Botas de Barro (named after the farmers´muddy boots) to help give them renewed hope and support, encouraging them to continue to nurture their low-yield, ancient vineyards, many over 100 years old. Grapes are sourced from small independent grape growers throughout Spain to produce its portfolio of wines. www.botasdebarro.com. Facebook: botasdebarro

 

Nicola Thornton with one of Spain’s many old vines

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This podcast is part of our special series recognizing women in wine and spirits. A donation has been made to Les Dames d’Escoffier, an organization to supporting women in the fine food and beverage industry through education and advocacy www.ldei.org . For information on featuring a dynamic women for this series, contact melanie@theconnectedtable.com.

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Sipping with Eileen Crane, CEO, Domaine Carneros

For anyone who’s ever visited California wine country, one of the of the most popular places to stop and taste is Domaine Carneros Winery, which is recognized for its méthode traditionelle sparkling wines, estate vineyards and breathtakingly beautiful château. Domaine Carneros was founded in 1987 by Claude Taittinger of the Champagne Taittinger family. Located entirely within the Carneros AVA, between Napa and Sonoma, Domaine Carneros comprises six vineyards on 400 acres. The château is inspired by the 18th century Château de la Marquetterie, the Taittinger family residence in the Champagne region.

Domaine Carneros sits majestically on a hill overlooking the vineyards/

To oversee management and production of its first méthode champenoise wines in the U.S.A. Taittinger tapped sparkling wine specialist Eileen Crane to be CEO and Founding Winemaker. Crane, who holds a degree in enology and viticulture from University of California Davis, as well as a master’s degree in Nutrition from University of Connecticut, had been working as winemaker and vice president at Gloria Ferrer since 1983, and prior to that at Domaine Chandon.

Eileen Crane has been called “The Doyenne of American Sparkling Wines.”

We visited with Crane on The Connected Table SIPS to discuss her approach to making sparkling wines in cool-climate Carneros, as well as what the visitors can expect when they visit the winery. Crane underscored that Domaine Carneros is all about delivering an exceptional tasting experience and offers a selection of wine and food pairings and settings to enjoy them.

Caviar tasting at Domaine Carneros

We’ve had the pleasure of tasting wines at Domaine Carneros when we visited in 2017 and most recently with Crane for our SIPS podcast. Here’s what we tasted:

Domaine Carneros 2015 Brut Cuvée – Made from Chardonnay 51%, Pinot Noir 47% and Pinot Gris 2%, an elegant wine with notes of key lime, honeycomb and lemon curd on the nose and baked pear, lime blossom and lemon meringue on the palate for a creamy, long finish.

Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour – This sparkling rosé is named for Madame la Pompadour, paramour to French King Louis XV, who reportedly said, “Champagne is the only wine a woman can drink and remain beautiful.” Made from 100% Pinot Noir using the rose de saignée method, allowing the grape must and skins to macerate for a several days, after which a small amount of Pinot Noir wine is added to enhance the color, which is a deep salmon. Pair with roasted salmon or duck or even fresh berries for dessert.

Domaine Carneros 2012 Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs – Made from 100% Chardonnay, this tête de cuvée represents Claude Taittinger’s dream (rêve in French) to make one of America’s finest sparking wines, which it has been frequently named. La Rêve has notes of white flowers, Meyer lemon, poached pear and a touch of grilled grapefruit and a fresh, long palate that opens to honeysuckle and crème brûlée. Pair with delicate seafood dishes such as poached scallops, cracked crab or Dover sole, or with double or triple crème cheeses.

All photos courtesy of Domaine Carneros Info: www.domainecarneros.com

Hear more from Eileen Crane. Listen to this edition of The Connected Table SIPS on iHeart.com. Click image below:

This podcast is part of our special series recognizing women in wine and spirits. A donation has been made to Les Dames d’Escoffier, an organization to supporting women in the fine food and beverage industry through education and advocacy www.ldei.org . For information on featuring a dynamic women for this series, contact melanie@theconnectedtable.com.