Thursday, June 25, 2009
A Week in the South of France
Yeah, there are worse places to be in early summer. Sometimes, despite all the difficulties, there are some nice aspects to this job. I spent a week travelling back and forth between the Languedoc and the Rhone, visiting my current and potential wineries.
I started off at La Bouscade, my Minervois producer that is making some great, juicy, but not over-the-top wines right outside of Carcassonne. Between visiting the vineyards and tasting the wines, I helped replace the tire on a tractor in the middle of a field.
I had time to take some pictures of the vines under the bright, warm sun, tiny berries just starting to appear as the summer started.
It was such a pleasure to see David, his lovely wife Jo, their kids, and taste their wines. We had a fantastic time catching up and visiting, their wines are really something special and are doing really well in NYC, I am happy to say.
Next I headed East to Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the ancient capital of the Avignon Papacy and heart of the Rhone's wine-producing region. This hilly land is overseen by the ruins of the castle, towering over the town itself and the rocky vineyards around it.
In Chateauneuf, I joined some travelling friends from the US for a lovely lunch at Domaine Pegau, the reputed Chateauneuf producer. There, Laurence Feraud, the winemaker, took us for a tour and tasting before opening her heart, cellar and kitchen to us.
When we came to the house, we were greeted by a lovely table. Here, we shared in Laurence's generosity with a delicious meal and good friends.
Oh, and of course, some quite nice wines.
We also had a chance to visit other domaines, including Bosquet des Papes, the classic Chateauneuf winery. To say the 2007s are good, well, that's an understatement of massive proportions.
We also stopped in at a favorite of mine, Pierre Usseglio. Again, we tried the 2007s, and were rewarded with beautiful, fresh fruit and vivid acidity. 2007 is indeed a wonderful vintage, from what I've tasted in the Rhone so far.
Vieille Julienne was another stop, and here the 2007s were also fantastic, with some differences in style and price of course. But still, WOW.
I ended my visit to the Rhone with one of the best, if not THE best, meals of my entire trip to Europe. Dinner at Gerard Alonso was really good, with pristine ingredients, a beautiful setting, great wines (2005 Allemand Cornas les Chaillots - yum!), and good friends. The chesse tray alone is worth the visit!
The next day, I hopped on a train and headed South, to the border with Spain. The train was clean, air-conditionned (wow!) and on-time, a real pleasure to take between cities. How come we don't have anything like this here in the US???? For about 28 Euros, I could travel for hundreds of kilometers in a comfortable environment. It is ridiculous and shameful to think that the leader of the Free World can't make a train system that works well.
It was such a pleasure to find myself back in the wine-producing areas of France. The weather was great, the food was delicious, and of course the wines profound. Best of all, it's always a thrill to find oneself among people who are passionate about what they do. And, I am thrilled to say that the 2007s are just gorgeous, real beauties to taste and drink.