Sunday, October 26, 2008

Monday in the Minervois

Talk about "garagiste": David and Jo in front of their winery's door

I found myself in the ancient walled city of Carcassonne after a lovely weekend in the Cahors visiting my family and one of my wineries, Château Gaudou. I was met at the train station by Château La Bouscade’s winemaker, David Cowderoy. With a bright warm sun and blue sky, this was a nice change from the cold dampness of the Muscadet region or the foggy mornings in the hills of the Cahors. Now, I was in the South of France.


After a quick drive to the tiny village of Puicheric, we got down to business: breaking into David’s house as he’d forgotten his keys… He grabbed a ladder from the open winery and made his way to the roof, finally finding an open window. Aaaah, the vagaries of the wine business…

The racking system in the tiny winery

We quickly began tasting the 2007 Syrahs from a plot of land called the Stone Shed for the dilapidated building in the vineyard. David had put the wines in different oak barrels to see how they’d react. It was fascinating, even though every Syrah had a certain common streak (gorgeous dark fruit and minerality) they were all marked more or less by the wood, as would be expected. The French oaks imparted more smooth tannins and lighter tastes, the American oak was what you’d expect, big and brawny with rough tannins, and the Russian oak added a perfumy aspect to the wine that I hadn’t been expecting. In any case, 2007 looks to be a good vintage for David.

David pointing out how he makes his wines

The TINY pneumatic press

Stealing some wine with the wine thief (pipette)

Pouring barrel samples

We also tasted some whites like a late-harvest Vermentino/Macabeo which was lovely but still undergoing fermentation and almost painfully sweet. Tasting still-fermenting wines, either red or white, was an interesting experience but it was tough to judge the quality of something that hasn’t really grown into itself. By the end, my hands and teeth were stained black and my mouth was super dry from all the tannins.

Caught red-handed!

Bacchus the guard dog

After a quick scrub-down, I sat down for a lovely and long and copious dinner of BBQ’d duck breast (amazingly tasty and succulent), scalloped potatoes, and assorted fresh veggies, with a lovely Syrah and herb reduction. We began with David’s 2007 Chardonnay, a lovely rendition with just a hint of oak and refreshing acidity. We then moved onto his 2005 QED, a 100% Mourvèdre. The QED program is made up of whichever grape does best in each vintage, and in 2005 the Mourvèdre was stunning, offering a wine of incredible intensity but beautiful balance. Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous.

Then, with some stinky cheeses, he poured the 2006 Septs Vents, the next vintage of the wine I’ve placed in New Jersey and New York. Not as big as the QED, this was still a beautiful 100% Syrah. Best yet, it’s under screw-cap, so no worries about TCA!

Finally, David offered a small half-bottle of the late-harvest Macabéo/Vermentino, a nice sweet ending to a lovely dinner where we ate, drank and laughed in equal amounts (ie a LOT). It was a perfect example of why I’m just so happy in this business: you are surrounded by folks who are passionate about what they are doing, and who love sharing that passion with others.

Gobelet-trained vine

Walking through the vineyards

The next morning we set out for David and Jo’s plots, walking through the beautiful vineyards until lunchtime. David showed me the work they were doing in their parcels, working the land as naturally as possible so as to make the best wines possible. In a few years, a new winery will be built, all of it planned to be as environmentally-friendly as possible. David is extremely ambitious and proud of his parcels and I don’t blame him, the potential for greatness is definitely there.

The rocky soil

Vines in the stony soil

Gnarly old vines

More old vines

Next: Two Days in the Languedoc.

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