Detours from Wine on my Loire trip

My trip to the Loire was pretty much just wine, wine, and more wine. but there were a couple detours from meeting wine makers and tasting in caves with them.  Here are some of the other wacky things I managed to get into.

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Laurent and I were driving back from Touraine and he decided to stop to show me a famous cathedral on the banks of the Vienne river.  I think it was the Cathedral of St Martin.  It was cool and all, but then we walked down to the Vienne river.  I'd been threatening to jump into the Loire, but Laurent hadn't believed me and I decided that I might not get a better opportunity during the trip than this. I don't know why, but I just had this feeling that visiting the Loire would be more real if I jumped into it. 

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Here I am considering the idea.

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In process

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and into the water. 

It really was actually pretty nice, but I didn't stay in for long.  We had more places to go and I'd accomplished my goal, or close enough, the water in the foreground is the Vienne. Technically the Loire is on the far side of the sand bar.

That night Laurent's children stayed with friends so we could go out for dinner at a little wine bar in Bourgeuil: Cafe de la Promenade. They served mostly just charcuterie and cheese for food and had a huge room off at one end of the bar stocked with wines from floor to ceiling; almost all local.  You could just go in, pick up a bottle, and bring it to the bar to be opened.  There happened to be a good selection of open older bottles on the bar that wine makers had dropped by, most weren't even labeled and just had names and vintages written on them with a grease pen. The owner just kept pouring things, we didn't know what they were but it was a lot of delicious mature Cab Franc.  We ordered and after some baked escargot (snails) I had this huge Foie Gras Hamburger.

Foie Gras Hamburger

As I was working my way through this mass of beef, mushrooms and foie I realized I'd had nothing but cured meats, cheese, and bread all day.  Oh well.  I went into the wine room and ended up selecting a Bourgueil that looked interesting.

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Laurent said it was from a producer named Pierre Breton who was in fact a very good wine maker, but who had a tendency to moon people a lot.  I was intrigued and I launched into a discussion on how funny mooning people can be and listed some of my proudest moonings.  I was all for going to visit the winery and then mooning Pierre but in the end Laurent talked me out of it.

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A big componant of the bar was the personal service from Dorothee, who was more quintessentially French than a rooster crowing the Marseillaise.  She and Laurent got talking about different local wine makers until she totally forgot the apple dessert pizza and burnt it.  See above.  It was served with flaming Calvados poured on it and still hit the spot, even slightly brulee.

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Ned's off to the Loire for a week....

On Sunday the 18th I (Ned Swain, Chief Wine Geek at Devenish) am taking off for the Loire Valley and specifically Bourguiel.  You can see it in the center of the map below, it's the little pink region conveniently located next to Vouvray and Chinon.  Loire_map

I expect I'll be eating a lot of fantastic food, drinking a lot, probably running from town to town (literally), and not getting enough sleep.   I'll have you know that I take this seriously, though!  This is work!  I've actually been training for this situation.  Over the past weekend I worked a long moving job all Saturday and then ate a fantastic meal cooked by Chef David Levi.  I think I had four helpings of risotto and about as many of a beef roast that he had cooked sous vide.  We also polished off a 2006 Bordeaux blend from Lebanon, a bottle of Jurancon Sec, a bottle of Bardolino from Veneto Italy, and most of a bottle of excellent Pinot Noir from Illahe.  Then we moved on to scotch.  So what with the time change I got about 5 hours sleep.  I woke up at 7, rather bleary, and dragged myself to the gym where I pulled 20 km on the rowing machine in a perfectly respectable under any circumstances 1:25:50.  Then I went to work, went for a run in the afternoon, and followed that up with hosting a wine tasting.  So I'm confidant that I'm ready for a week in France.

In a week I'll be here.  Domaine de Chevalerie

The Loire is the heart and epicenter of the natural wine movement and seems to have some interesting things in common with Maine's local food culture.  There are a lot of fiercely different regions along the length of the Loire and like Maine there is a bit of a "back to the land" movement.  A mix of cantankerous veterans too stubborn and passionate to ever give up their traditions and younger people trying to reclaim a direct connection with the land are driving this movement.  Although broad, basically the goal is to make wines that are unique expressions of the climate and vineyards that produced them.  Letting the land speak and even seeking to amplify it's voice and quirks is the common cause of this disparate movement.  Rediscovering traditional wine making techniques and also experimenting with new methods, guided more by passion, it's a sometimes illogical and not a cohesive movement.  You may not like all the wines, but that's kind of the point; wine from different places and cultures should taste different.  Not all the wines are good, I'll admit that.  I've had some that were seriously flawed, but that's what happens when people are taking risks and experimenting.  I think the wines that are are transcendent successes are worth the necessary failures that happen along the way.  Farming grapes and making wine is a dirty in-exact art; the results won't always be perfect or replicable year to year. 

So with all of the above taken into consideration, I think it's important that I go and get a fuller picture of where these wines come from and all those unique variables that produce them.  I always talk about "wines that taste like where they come from"; it will be really interesting to see if the real experience matches the picture I've developed in my hand based on the wine's flavours.  Yup, you might be a wine geek if you think you have a sense of what some distant place is like simply from drinking it's wines.  Some of my reporting will be over people's heads, but hopefully the stories I'll pick up and the exciting new wines I'll try will be enjoyable by everyone.

Comprehensive report from Galicia

It's still hard to get my head around my recent trip to Galicia.  At the time it was surreal and now it's acquiring a dream like patina.  I'm not used to being chaperoned around by beautiful women and just wined and dined constantly.  I had no idea what to expect and was ready for anything.  I certainly did not expect to be put up in amazing luxury hotels and be consistently fed amazing food at all the wineries we visited.  And the setting!  Ribeiro is a sequence of gorgeous steep valleys of granite and deep green undergrowth. 

John and Erica at the first wine tasting

The hotel in San Clodio was a beautiful faithfully restored Cistercian Monastery appointed as a luxury hotel.

Cindy and Simon looking out from our rooms in the monastery.


The view from my window over the monastery's garden and a small vineyard.

The Galicians priorities were always in the right place.  First thing we did on arrival at the hotel was eat a large lunch.  Then, after a siesta, we piled back into the van and headed out with the DO's Technical Director to tour the region.

Here is Pablo talking about the extremely high amount of granite in the soil

The chaperons paid for everything and just kept asking if we wanted more food or to go to another bar.  I think I ate cured pork for every single meal while I was there. 

Dinner at a local bar.

 Capping it all off was a big final day.  We toured four smaller wineries that were making a real effort to get their wines out and build a reputation for themselves.  However none seemed that interested in actually selling us wine.  For the entire trip we were scratching our heads trying to figure out why the DO was spending so much money on us!  The only solution we could come up with was that they were trying to promote the DO itself.  Of the group we visited on Wednesday morning one was sold out, another already had an importer and the third was available but the wines weren't particularly great. 

Afterwards we headed over to the Co-op winery for the afternoon.  We had to suffer through hours of technical explanation as they showed off their giant 173,500L tanks (below)


After being subjected to every centrifuge and tank they had for hours we finally got to the moment of truth; tasting the damn wines!  They were surprisingly good!  Nicely aromatic and tropical but drinkable and smooth.  We were impressed; not the royal We, but the group of us.  Instead of telling us what they might cost us though the president of the winery, a Bill Gates look alike, went into an adjoining closet and came back out dressed as a wizard.  Yes, that's right boys and girls, like a wizard.  We were a bit caught off guard.  It turned out they had a whole closet full of medieval dress up clothes and wanted us all to dress up for dinner.  I couldn't help it and grabbed the one red outfit, a bright red womens gown which fit me like a glove.  I posed for a few pictures with the President/wizard and then we all went in to eat our medieval feast by candle light. 

The trip was amazing and I may get some of the wine from the Co-op, it would be the best way to introduce people to Treixadura and then maybe make it easier to bring in the more exciting wines. 

And I do intend to take advantage of my connections to organize a 2-3 day wine tour of the region this coming spring.....updates on that to come.