Gamay, Beaujolais Nouveau and Wine Tasting Adventures
First, let me start by saying that being Wine Esquire and having a baby are not always so compatible. Little baby fingers like to grab things they shouldn’t; and little baby lungs like to cry as soon as you sit down to type/sleep/drink wine/fold laundry/eat/shower, etc. I’m writing now with a baby on my lap. This is a first and he’s suddenly discovered that his life’s burning desire is to type! But we’re working through it, slowly but surely. One glass at a time.
I’ve also noticed that my palate is totally different post-Baby. Going wine-free for 9ish months clearly had an impact. My favorite big, smoky Cabs now find me smacking my lips and looking for a glass of sparkling water to cleanse my palate. Instead, I’m now gravitating toward lighter grapes like Pinot Noir, Gamay and Pinotage.
This evening’s glass is a lovely French Gamay; an easy drinker, perfect for my new sensitive palate.
Slight traces of sweet raspberries on the soft pretty nose make way for a soft, silky and jammy sip of wine with a touch of sparkle on the finish. Now this is what I’m talking about!
… fast forward one week and I’ve finally gotten the chance to get my computer open again…
The bottle was the 2015 Georges Duboeuf Juliénas Château des Capitans, 100% Gamay grown on the grounds of a 19th-century castle in the heart of the AOC Cru Juliénas, on a tiny plot of land known as Les Capitans. Juliénas is a village named after Julius Caesar; local vintners believe this area was home to the first vines planted in Beaujolais by the Romans during their conquest of Gaul.
Unbeknownst to me when I opened last weekend’s bottle of Gamay, it
was Beaujolais Nouveau release week! Never heard of Beaujolais Nouveau? On the third Thursday of November, the winemakers of Beaujolais, France release the product of their most recent vintage. The wine, having just been picked weeks before, is fresh, new and ready to drink right away. Georges Duboeuf essentially introduced the Beaujolais Nouveau holiday in the US in 1982, and quickly gained recognition with his iconic, colorful wine labels. He is perhapss the most well-known producer from the region, and he’s not just a fly by night marketing genius, his family’s history of wine making spans four centuries.
Beaujolais Day happens to arrive just in time for Thanksgiving every year… coincidence? I think not! Light, fruity Gamay is PERFECT to pair with turkey and all the fixins.
Given that it was a wine celebration week, I continued on the Beaujolais path and attended a fabulous tasting at Max’s Oyster Bar. This was my first wine event since Baby Wine Esquire and I have to admit, I was a bit rusty, but it was a great reintroduction to the wine world, confirming that I’m ready to be back.
The tasting started with the 2017 release of Terres Dorées L’Ancien by Jean-Paul Brun, paired with an excellent pate de foie gras. The wine was super juicy and screamed of bright cherries. Jean-Paul Brun ha been a staple in Beaujolais since the late 1970s, producing 400,000 bottles per year from grapes planted on his 40 acres throughout the region.
As the tasting moved on, with a delectable Soufflé au Homard, Bourride Pyramidale and Poulet en Fricassee Louhaannise, so did the ages of the Beaujolais. It’s important to remember that not all wine grown in Beaujolais is the unaged nouveau release; Gamay ages quite beautifully. The next selections were all beautiful wines, but the rusty WineySquire forgot to take home her notes. I’ll be better next time. Promise.
The important takeaway here is that Gamay from Beaujolais is a serious winner, with lots of stunners for less than $25. So if you haven’t shopped for Turkey Day yet, head out and try some Beaujolais!
My fellow bloggers know how difficult it is to get something published as it is; now with a little bundle of joy bopping around, it’s been proving even more difficult.  It was 9 “ish” because this baby took 41 weeks to make his world debut and by the end, he was fully cooked, and a little bit of wine did us both a lotta good.  And by “this evening” I mean last Sunday. #winebloggerproblems  Baby Wine Esquire is currently amusing himself by trying to eat his crinkly and squishy Very Hungry Caterpillar Book … #teething  A sample I received from Quintessential Wines. Merci!  If that’s the case, then you probably live under a rock!  Beaujolais is a region, not a type of grape. Roughly pronounced Beau-ju-lay.  Similar to Bordeaux’s En Primeur concept, only this wine is very drinkable right after harvest.  Speaking of which, I’m so excited for all the fixins. #sweetpotatoparsnsipsandgreenbeansohmy  So much so that I left the menu with my notes on the table. #amateur  Lobster Soufflé  Fish Stew  Braised Chicken  BTW, during the course of finishing this blog, Baby Wine Esquire became completely disinterested in his crinkly book, got super fussy and is now napping. #thankgodmybabylovestosleep
Well, later this month I’m heading back to Bordeaux for a few days to get my taste and tour on. My best good friends at Millesima have invited me to return to re-taste the 2015 vintage and see what a year has done to those incredible Bordeaux wines. This will be mere weeks before the 2016 vintage is released for the wine world to taste.
I can’t wait to return to beautiful Bordeaux city. I’ll certainly be heading over to La Cité du Vin, Bordeaux’s Disney World of Wine Museum.
Have any Bordeaux vineyard/restaurant/tourist suggestions I need to try? I’ll have a bit more time to explore on my own this time around. Thanks again to my good friends at Millesima for the opportunity!
Cheers my friends. Until the next glass!
 #sorrynotsorry  Alas, this year I will not be among them, as a new crop of wine bloggers have risen up to take our places. I wish them well. Remember to pack your wine wipes! #wineteeth  I had to ask what a “combi” was. I thought it was some sort of British slang like Whirly Windy Pops that I hadn’t heard of before. Turns out “combi” is just short for “combination van”. I love the Brits.
I don’t know about you, but this is one of those wines I gloss over on the wine list, walk past at the wine shop, and avoid saying out loud at all costs. At #WBC16, I was lucky enough to cure the problem, and let me tell you, it’s about damn time!
Pronounced, Geh-VIRTZ-trah-MEE-ner, the grape originally hails from Italy’s Alto Adige region, an ancient wine growing community in the Dolomites bordering Austria and Switzerland. Italy’s smallest wine growing region makes around 40 million bottles of wine on a yearly basis and is the oldest German speaking winemaking area in the world; they’ve been honing their craft for the last 3,000 years.
The bottle of Gewürztraminer I sampled was an absolute gem. Breakout sessions were scattered throughout the conference, and I had the foresight to attend May Matta-Aliah’s session on the Wines of Alsace. We sampled three typical Alsatian varieties, a Riesling, a Pinot Gris, and finally, the Gewürztraminer. The Riesling and Pinot Gris were both lovely; soft, light and elegant. The Gewürztraminer was a slam dunk. My tasting notes started off with “Wow” and “Incredible”. It was one of those tastes where spitting would be a crime…so I didn’t.
As we were sipping, my new wine friend Laura explained how the word is broken down: Gewürz translates roughly to aromatic or seasoning, Tramin refers to Tramin an der Weinstraße, often abbreviated to Tramin or Termeno, the specific location where the grape comes from, and er means “of”. So, Gewürztraminer pretty much means “aromatic seasoning of Tramin”.
A high residual sugar content (45 grams per liter) made this one a bit on the sweeter side. Not something you’d want to drink with dinner, but after dinner, before dinner, with dessert, without dessert, would all work just fine. I got a bright, full mouthful of pineapple and a slight minerality on the extra-long finish. The wine kept going and going; I didn’t want to let it go. It was almost moist, a great, lush mouthfeel; very reminiscent of my Sauternes tasting experience in Bordeaux. This Gewürztraminer has characteristics similar to the Sauternes I tasted, being a sweet wine with great depth and body. I’ll have to try some more of these Alsatian Gewürztraminer beauties and let you know if they’re all as amazing. In the meantime, grab one of these if you can find it.
Maybe not a wine to throw back with your beer-guzzling neighbor, as it will set you back at least $70 if you can find it, but it is certainly something to be shared with loved ones. A highly acclaimed vintage, Wine Enthusiast rated the Zind-Humbrecht 2013 a 94 and Decanter bestowed a 97. Not too shabby.
Grapes for this bottle were grown in the Zind-Humbrecht Hengst Grand Cru vineyards in Wintzenheim, Alsace. The Zind and Humbrecht families joined forces in 1959; their ancestors have been growing grapes in Alsace since 1620.
Is there a wine you’re scared to pronounce? Get on the Google and don’t let it stop you! You could be missing out on an amazing wine!
Until the next glass, Cheers!
Lawyer Footnotes  You can read my first recap of the conference here.  Practice it in the privacy of your home and you’ll be good to go. #thatsnotweird  The Wine Folly has a great overview of Alto Adagio and the grapes grown there. Check it out.  The Dolomites have been on my travel bucket list forever, but I had no idea there was wine! Another addition to the Wine Bucket List!
 To put that number in perspective, in 2015, the State of California produced 229 million cases. I don’t understand how this could be possible because that is two billion seven hundred forty-eight million BOTTLES. But, I found it on the internets, so it must be true.  Wait, but I thought this was Italy? Given that it’s been making wine for 3,000 years, you can imagine that a lot has happened in the area over the past few millennia. A power struggle between Italy and Austria has been going on, pretty much forever, and tensions still run high. Also this.  America was born in 1776, or 240 years ago. To put that in perspective, this small area of Italy has been producing wine for 2,760 years longer than America has been around. WOW.  I’m super good at tasting notes.  #bilingual  Residual sugar generally refers to the sugar content remaining in the wine after fermentation stops or is stopped.  Ahhhh #FancyinFrancey. That was fun.  Like your good friend Wine Esquire here.  Viognier is Vee-own-YAY. Blaufränkisch is Blahw-FRAHN-keesh. And here’s a link to more pronunciations. You’re welcome.
So, you may recall that day three started out with a lot of wine, continued with a lot of wine, and just when we thought we were done, we went on another journey, to drink more wine. Having so much wine to drink in one day is an awesome problem to have, and though there was a bit of grumbling about sore gums, black teeth and palate fatigue, we all powered through and had a freaking blast at Château Sigalas-Rabaud, a beautifully quaint family-run operation in the heart of Sauternes, France.
We arrived and found the tasting set up in several rooms in the historic château. Each place was set with a tasting mat with room for six glasses at a time, a personal spittoon, a bottle of sparkling water, and a bowl of crusty bread to share with your neighbor. Though it was raining, I loved that they allowed the natural light to sweep in through the floor to ceiling windows; the ancient fireplace mantles in each room were adorned with family photos and (empty) bottles from historic vintages. This was a quiet tasting, meaning we weren’t just going from table to table, dodging people at the common spittoon and chatting about what we tasted; we were sitting and tasting silently. As we would finish each group of six, the servers would magically appear, ready to fill us up with the next round. At first, this quiet concept seemed as though it would be rather a tough challenge for our chatty group, but the peace and quiet was a nice change of pace.
We sat down and I was actually dumbfounded when I realized our tasting consisted of 26 Sauternes. 26 more wines to taste. This was going to be an adventure. I laughed (quietly) out loud, grabbed my handy pad and paper and started stream of conscious blogging.
Here’s what I got:
1st 2: Delicious; sweet and fruity
3: More mineral and citrus (I can’t remember if I spit or not on this one)
Side note: Good thing I learned how to do that gurgling, swishing thing.
Break time: I can’t really fathom how much incredible wine is being thrown away right now, at all the tastings. I know that’s how it goes at wine tastings, but I feel like it’s such a crime. I mean, there’s thirsty people in the world somewhere! It’s also funny how we’ve been drinking wine since 10:30 a.m. and I don’t even have a buzz. All this spitting really does work. I’d like to note that it is much easier to taste the whites than the reds. There’s no harsh tannins to speak of. I actually can’t believe these Sauternes aren’t ready to drink. I’d drink them all day erry day. This morning’s tasting was loud, busy and crowded. My mouth was overpowered after the first taste, but the whites (Sauternes included) are truly enjoyable. This peaceful, quiet tasting is actually a very nice change of pace.
There’s a similar color palate on all the Sauternes; varying shades of light golden straw to bright gold.
7: May have tasted this one twice (can’t remember, but it tastes the same as the last one)
8: Sweet, but in such a good way
I just came up with the bright idea to pour out the wine after I taste it in order to keep track. I think I’ve doubled up on a few already because they all look the same.
9: Touch of minerality, hint of citrus. Not as thick or syrupy as some of the others
10: Really nice
Writing Break: I don’t know how fast we’re supposed to be going. I’m next to two real journalists on laptops typing feverishly away. They seem to have a whole lot to say about all these wines. Neither of them have cracked their sparkling water bottles. My personal spittoon is getting a bit heavy. I found that it’s much cleaner to lift it to my mouth to spit after each taste, otherwise I’d be dripping spittle all over the place. I think I’m on track in terms of timing, though Jeremy is next to me and plowing through these babies like nobody’s business.
Side note: Where’s the overpowering mustard I’ve come to associate with Sauternes? It’s completely absent in these wines. Instead, scintillating notes of fresh honey are rampant. Sauternes is seriously my new favorite thing. Ok, back to tasting, I’ve still got a ways to go.
12: Bright; not too heavy or thick
13: A bit cloudier but still bright gold. Maybe a hint of grapefruit. A bit more complex. Really lovely.
Had to take another breather and eat some bread. My hands are a bit sticky and the journalist next to me may have just burped a little. I’m not sure if there’s an art to spitting. I’m gonna need to look into this.
14: Smells very nice. Tastes very nice. Almost a hint of classy cotton candy.
15: Also very nice.
Eleven more to go?!
Oh, the beautiful hearty crusty bread. A girl could get used to this. I’m taking another break. A nap would be nice. Somebody’s son is helping to pour the wine and he can’t be more than 16 years old. He’s a bit nervous and he may have just poured Jeremy a second set of the same wines. But it’s France, and it’s wine, so who really cares?
16: Tastes like Anguilla. Really fruity, almost like a rum. Delicious!
17: A touch of alcohol on this one, though my mouth may be getting tired.
18: Really lovely; sweet and rich
19: Lighter but delicious
20: Peach, sweet, medium body A+
People are serious about this gurgling thing. Yikes.
21: Served a bit colder than the rest; I get herbs; ehhh
22: Really nice
23: Lemon on the nose; almost bubble gum; light bodied
25: Really nice. (Did this one 2x. Oops)
26: Nice. But I can’t taste anymore.
26: Tasted this again after another little break. Green grass, bubble gum, green apple. Really beautiful.
I made it to the end! I wasn’t the first or the last one done; the real journalists had come and gone, so we took some time to just sit, maybe close our eyes for a few seconds, and waited for Fred, our guide/photographer from Millesima. Fred was far behind the rest of the group because he would taste a wine, then get up and take some pictures, taste another wine, then take some more pictures. We soon noticed that the next round of tasters were ready to come in, so we waited for Fred in the entrance vestibule.
We got to chatting with Laure de Lambert Compeyrot, the current owner who had taken over management of the chateau from her father. She told us to head to the cellar where he was giving a small tour. We made a mad dash through the rain and landed in another beautiful cellar room where we found Gerard chatting happily away in French.
He motioned for us to come over, not really caring that we couldn’t understand him. He recruited Madelyn to translate…and I think we pretty much got the gist. His daughter Laure is the sixth generation to manage the chateau and it was so heartwarming to feel the happiness in his voice when he told us about his wines.
We took some photos, said our goodbyes, and then it was finally time to go and make our way to the next leg of the day, the welcome dinner at Château de Fieuzal.
The dinner is held at the start of En Primeur each year; the purpose is to get the wine makers, chateau owners and journalists together in one room for an evening of food, merriment, and most importantly, wine. The wine makers are invited to each bring several bottles, and, not wanting to be outdone by their fellow wine makers, they bring the good stuff. We’re talking bottles from ’99, ‘02, ‘03, ‘05, ‘09, and they were flowing like water. We were seated at long tables, 15 people on each side, alternating wine maker, blogger, wine maker, blogger. We were each given four glasses so that we could taste all the wines throughout the evening.One at a time, the wine makers would get up and proudly pour a taste for each person at the table, it was such a beautiful thing.
The evening was magical, the wine incredible, the people poetically beautiful. Much like everything else up to that point, we were welcomed with open arms and treated like royalty. By time we got back in the car, we were well sated, a bit tipsy and blissfully happy. It was a late night, and in just a few hours we’d be off on our next adventure.
Until the next glass! Cheers!
 #FancyInFrancey  Or at least could have a few hours break before dinner…  I could totally deal with that being the stressful part of my job…#lawyerlife  Website in English coming soon…  Sauternes, like Champagne, is actually a region. Only wines produced in that area can bear the name Sauternes.  At the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux.  Except for everyone’s gurgling, swishing and spitting.  I later pocketed theirs since I clearly finished mine.
 #thestruggleisreal Mike wasn’t the only one with a case of the Windy Pops!  Obviously, there is an art. I think the best thing you can do in practice, and just like with anything in life, it’s really all about confidence. Thanks to my fairytale trip to France, I’ve now spit enough where, even though it may not look pretty, and I may get the occasional left over spittle, I feel comfortable enough where I’m just gonna go for it. So maybe watch a few videos, read a few tips and pointers, but you gotta just get out there and spit!  After doing some research, the whole tasting process should last only a few seconds. I was recently told to try to keep the length the same for each wine in order to give them the same baseline. Five to six seconds should do the trick.  Beautiful barrel rooms were going to be a trend this week.  Note that there was no spittoon bucket here, and Wine Esquire may have been a touch tipsy after all the booze excitement.