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France 2012 Winter Tour
Day 1: Settling In
It's that time of the year again. Louis/Dressner and twenty or so of our best customers are running amok in France, ready to taste, chat and laugh our way through two weeks of events,
The entire LDM staff, with the exception of Josefa Concannon, took a flight over from New York City, where I decided to to pass the time by watching Cowboys & Aliens, one of the worst movies I've ever seen in my life. I have this thing where I watch really bad movies on the airplane, because I feel that it's the only time I can justify subjecting myself to cinematic gold like this:
It was then a three hour drive from Paris to
We then went to a pool hall where it was karaoke night. As we walked in, three girls were butchering Bad Romance by NYC hometown hero Lady Gaga (444 million views! Damn!). This inspired Eben Lillie and I to rock the house down, which we promptly did with a stirring rendition of Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr.
Someone filmed it, and I'll post it at some point. We finished the night with an intense New York vs. Chicago foozball tournament (John from Marlow & Sons and I versus Jeremy from Telegraph and Jamie from Rootstock) where New York won. We weren't allowed to play right away because of an extremely competitive pool tournament that was going down, but after Les Pheonix reigned supreme, they removed their (home brought) pool cues from the table and we were able to play.
Today, we begin actually working by visiting the Grenier St-Jean in
Day 2 and 3: Renaissance des Appellations, Dive Bouteille, etc...
After a day off, it was right to work. We began our trip at
Pumped from the last night's karaoke and heavy consumption of Desperados (a tequila infused beer that John from Marlow & Sons thought was blended with Sprite), we were ready to taste some wine! Highlights included the de Moor 2010's, a
Dinner was at Les Canons, a wine-centric restaurant in the heart of
Instead, we all agreed it was best to head over to the Chateau de Brézé for the 13th annual
Much to our surprise (and delight), the organizers had done a great job with the heating this year, choosing to add a heater behind each vigneron. To top it all off, it was a mild winter day, so it was actually quite warm in there! This meant that layers had to be peeled off, and that we the wines could actually be tasted at a normal temperature. It ended up being a great tasting!
A ton of highlights, including Vincent Thomas' 2010
One producer I'd like to talk about in a little more detail is Louis-Antoine Luyt, who makes wine in Chile. Some of you may remember us bringing in his Clos Ouvert wines a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, the 2010 earthquake completely destroyed most of the wine already
Days 4, 5 and 6:
Monday was our final day of tasting at organized events, and we went to two: Salon des Vins Bio de la Loire and Les Pénitentes, a tasting organized by Thierry Puzelat, René Mosse, Hervé Villemade and Christian Chaussard. This is the first year this event took place, and it served as as "off" of the
It was good to catch up with the guys in a more intimate setting and to taste a whole bunch of 2011's. The skinny with the
It was snowing pretty hard all day, and while it wasn't too bad in
Maya said she started having vertigo at one point.
Finally, we got to l'Auberge du Centre in Chitenay. It's a beautiful hotel that is usually closed this time of year, but Puzelat is friends with the owner and every year we take the place over. This year, it was unofficially dubbed the Louis/Dressner Party Palace. We were all exhausted, and after the first of three great dinners at
Day 1 featured mostly Italians (as well as our two Spanish producers), and we got to taste with Chiara Vigo, Cascina degli Ulivi, Alessandra Bera, Cascina Tavijn, Francesco Maule, Francesca Padovani, Olivier Rivière, Fernando Garcia, Silvio Messana, Elisabetta Foradori, Mauro Vergano and Dominique Hauvette. Louis Antoine Luyt made a cameo appearance, and you can you can expect interviews from the Spanish guys, Chiara and Louis-Antoine on the site in the coming weeks. It was a great tasting, with everyone's wines tasting well across the board.
I had dinner at the kid's table (aka anyone under 40) and the conversation touched on many important issues, namely what the best Arnold Schwarzenegger quote ever was.
Some favorites included:
"Get to the chopper!" -Predator
"It's not a tumor!" -Kindergarten Cop
"Who is your daddy, and what does he do?" -Kindergarten Cop
"See you at the party, Richter!" -Total Recall
"Chill out!"-Batman and Robin (as Mr. Freeze)
"You're fired"- True Lies
After a loud and festive dinner, we returned to the Party Palace, where Jamie from Rootstock used his newly acquired
Day 2 was a France-centric day and featured Jean Paul Brun, Franck Peillot, Alain Coudert, Emmanuelle Desvignes, Julie Balagny, Marie-Pierre Iché, Guilhem and Palma Dardé, Michel Tête, Eric Texier, Laurent Barth, Tom Lubbe and Claude Maréchal. 2011 might have been a weird
Day 7: François Cazin and Clos Roche Blanche
After five days of tasting events, we were ready to visit some of our
We started the visit with a quick tour of the vines by the house and
It is believed to originate from
"50% of making a good
This is far from an exact science, and every year is different.
François also explained why you'll only find this grape grown in the 80 or so
When it was time to create the
We then did a flight of
Lunch was pretty crazy, simply because Claudie started us off with a ten pound bowl of rillettes (I'm not kidding, pictures coming very soon) and a pork terrine bigger than my head. Even though we barely dented either dish, people were in a feeding frenzy; I warned them to slow down because more food was coming, but they did not heed my warning. As a follow up, we had delicious wild boar in a mushroom sauce. As scrumptulenscent as it was, many people got way too full.
After lunch, we went to check out the legendary Clos Roche Blanche. While touring the vines, Didier pointed out the 117 year old
The vineyards were stunning as always, and the
Our visit ended with Catherine pulling out a 1964
If that wasn't good enough, Catherine reappeared with an unlabeled bottle and started pouring a deep brown liquid into our glasses. Everyone eagerly asked what it was, and we were in for a surprise: a 1911
We then went to another big dinner where everyone over ate and over drank. Fortunately, we were all overeating dishes rich in the goat cheeses made right there on the farm and over-drinking back
Day 8: Domaine de l'Oubliée and Luneau-Papin
After spending four days in the
Before touring the vines, Xavier explained the short history of his
The vines were formerly a part of Christophe Chasle's 18
Another huge advantage for Xavier is that he has very few neighbors, so most of his vines are completely isolated. Most
We started our visit to the vines with a tour of the
Moving along, we walked by an empty
Because Xavier and his wife Stephanie are awesome, they actually hired their buddy who owns a woodfire pizza truck to prepare us fresh flat-breads to spread our rillettes and cheese on. A homemade soup was very much appreciated as well. The 2010's were tasting great, as were the 2011's. The real suprise was an '09
After another meal consisting 90% of pork products, cheese and bread, it was time to visit the Luneau! Our car's built in GPS got us super lost (if you rent an Audi while in France and use its GPS, you will hate every moment of your car ride because of its absurd design and complete lack of functionality), which ended up being ok because we took a really scenic route full of inspiring winter sights. Ken was sitting in the backseat with me, and we got to talking about it being his first time to France. He felt funny because he'd been working mostly with French wine his entire career, and it was really great for him to put a place and a context to the wines he's been enjoying for so long.
Our visit at Luneau-Papin was quite epic. Our first stop was at the incredible Butte de La Roche
"Just past that river is Marc Ollivier's. And Jo Landron lives by that water tower!"
The one incredible particularity of the Butte de La Roche is its soil. The site is actually a geological landmark because it is the only place in the world where deep, deep
After another great dinner, it was time to say goodbye. Hands were shook, glasses were cheered, embraces were exchanged: everything was set and we were ready to go. Or so we thought...
We had just gotten in the Maya Mobile, aka Brown Betty, when the car in front us drove head first into the large ditch on the side of the road (to save them from the embarrassment, the driver will remain anonymous)! The front tires weren't touching ground and the car was at a 45% angle. We tried lifting it out manually while the driver backed up, but the car was too heavy for us. Pierre then decided to get the forklift and, you guessed it, attempt to FORKLIFT the car to level ground. This initial strategy proved impossible because of the angle of the car, and things only got worst when the very forklift that was supposed to salvage the vehicle from the fiery depths of the ditch got its wheels stuck in the ice! So now we had two stranded vehicles in the cold
"This happens all the time! I'll go get the truck."
Five minutes later he was back with the truck. Pierre attached a strap to the axle of the trapped car, and we all got ready to push our hearts out in a classic push-pull-pump the accelerator in reverse scenario. This was it, our last ditch effort (get it? Ditch!). I was convinced this was going to be a terrible failure, that the truck was going to rip the back axle straight off. But after counting to 1, 2, 3... everyone played their part and we were able to get the car out! David Sink, in one of the most hilarious hilarious moments of the trip, yelled "We did it! By the power of Excelsior! Excelsior!" For those of you who don't get it:
We did drink a bunch of it that night...
We were able to drive the car to the hotel but the heater was completely destroyed so it had to be returned the next day. That's what insurance is for, kiddos!
Day 9: Muscadet-a-thon:
Before I start this post, I must address a very serious issue. It was brought to my attention that there's been a a huge spike in demand for the Clos Roche Blanche
Muscadet-a-thon is a Louis/Dressner institution. Going 15 years strong, this annual visit to Marc Ollivier's abode has brought joy to those participating since its inception. The concept is simple: visit the vines, taste the current
Our visit started in the vines. We began in the Clisson
Marc also intentionally limits the number of
"I get about 40
After Clisson, it was time to check out the Chateau-Thébaud vines. These were acquired in late 2010, when Marc joined forces with his (relatively) new partner, Rémi Branger. Rémi is 26 years old, and has been working for Marc since 2006; prior to that he'd worked with his dad. In Rémi's own words:
"My father was a passionate
The two are currently renting the vines from Rémi's father, with the possibility to buy at some point. Most of the vines were planted in the 70' by Mr. Branger Senior, and the oldest are about 60 years old. A new
Our last stop was in the
"The wind is great for aerating the vines, and you always get great complexity with these grapes. But they take a long time to reach their full potential. Even with my father, we would always
Marc interjected that "more time" can sometimes be up to two or three years of
After the vines, it was time to taste the 2011's. For those who didn't read it yet, check out Eben Lillie's Pépière
For most, nature more or less balanced itself out, and teams of harvesters picked their hearts away in warm, sunny weather.
Marc used 2011 as a perfect example why
"I literally had my team splitting hairs with the
The good news is that the grapes that DID make to the
It was then the moment we'd all been waiting for: oysters, pâté and old
Funny anecdote about the Woodcock pâté. Last year, Jason from Marlow and Sons was on the trip. When John Connelly, who was on the trip this year, asked him about it, about all the sights he'd seen, the wines he'd tasted, the people he'd met, all Jason could talk about was the woodcock pâté.
"He didn't mention anything else about the trip, not even the flight of back
It was also John's favorite, and after a year of anticipation I'm glad it lived up to his expectations. We also had a wild boar Shepard's pie which was off the chain. It continued the new trend of me eating wild board hunted by
Note to anglophone
Let's talk about the back
But he found one and did it anyway. We all agreed that it wasn't the most interesting wine of the flight, but it was still in great shape. I think the best part of the 1986 vintage was that it featured an amazing "Serve Fresh" label which inspired a lot of bad 80's hip-hop jokes:
If I was more tech savvy I would have made an animated gif. out of that.
Day 10: End Game
Sunday was our "optional" visit to Closel that everyone was forced to attend. The snow from the last few days had settled, and our walk took us from the
After the visit we hung out at this terrible place called "Le Pub" in
The next morning we were ready for the
Our first stop was at Thomas-Labaille. The 2010's are serious! Jean-Paul describes it as a great
Our first stop was at François Pinon. The 2010's were showing great. One big piece of news: as of 2010 the
Our next stop was at Domaine Olga Raffault. Eric told us about their 2011, which echoed the story we'd heard over and over in France. He only had a few 2011 samples to taste, which all seemed well on their way. The 2010 current releases were fresh and vibrant, quite playful and fruity but still very "
After that we spent some time with Bernard and Matthieu Baudry. It's starting to sound redundant, but the 2010's were incredible; they were universally recognized by the group as some of the best wines we'd tasted the whole trip. Besides "Les Granges" which is already available, these were all
At this point it was lunch time, and after some pork and butter sandwiches, we decided to refuel with the ultimate palate cleanser: a coffee and beer. This strategy was taught to me by the very wise Jake Halper during last year's trip, and just like P.Diddy and Proactiv, Jake knew the secret way before any of us young ones. It totally works by the way.
During our break, someone stumbled on a wine called OVERDOSE in the official pamphlet. The description said: "the secret of its
We got to the stand and asked if we could try the "O" cuvée. Before even tasting it, I asked what the secret of its
"Ah, yes! The secret is that we age the wine in
At this point, I asked if by "old times" she meant with
"More work. First you have to bury it. Then you have to unbury it!"
The wine was the color of shitty American beer, tasted like an
A big part of how we bounced back from our malaise was by tasting with Christine and Eric Nicolas of Bellivière. The 2011's are all
Our last stop was Fredrick Filliatreau. Once again the 2010's were showing really well and the 2011
That was our trip. That night we had dinner at Une Île in