Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Wine and Gastronomy tour called 'Burgundy on a Plate'. I saw the 'Heart of Burgundy' and the trip was action packed !!!

I recently joined in as part of a very small group of no more than 5, on an exclusively private Wine and Gastronomy tour by Burgundy on a Plate. For an outstanding tour by tirelessly run by Sue Boxell. It is action packed! It is educational and it is good to be on a tour where the host and the wineries 'have' and 'try' to have a good relationship! This is where you see and get a feel for the etiquette and comportment of the French folks. I loved that!

The departure point is from your hotel in or close to Beaune or from Beaune station. There are no set tours as each tour is organized individually.

This tour was GO! GO! GO! From the start! I was happy for that!  It was all in whirlwind week!

The Burgundian’s are very cool and ironically have a lot in common with American mid-westerners and old school Cuban’s. You have to be there to understand it.

This is not Paris or the South of France. Family and Property Rights are very important and are in veins of this place. They love American Music, Understand ‘what living off the land’ is and have a free spirit.

There is so much history to see…From the French Revolution to Religious symbolism…and of course the…WINE and the FOOD!  Lot's of tastings, scenic routes, wine caves, castles, medieval places, fresh markets, churches, and sudden flights of fancy... 

These are some of the things we did (it is updated with info from Sue’s Website click on the link)

Vineyards of Côte de Beaune

Enjoy private wine tastings in villages famous for Chardonnay, such as Meursault, Puligny Montrachet & Chassagne Montrachet &  Pinot Noirs from Pommard or Volnay amongst others. Enjoy stunning views of the upper slopes & renowned grand cru vineyards, lunching in the pretty village of Volnay for some of the finest regional cuisine of the area dining out on the terrace when fine.

Vineyards of Côte de Nuits 

Cote de Nuits is famed for its pinot noir from such villages as Nuits St Georges, Vosne Romanee, Morey St Denis, Vougeot & Gevrey Chambertin.  Enjoy private cellar visits and a delicious lunch from the best of local cuisine as well as a leisurely drive through famous vineyards, stopping at the site of the legendary Romanée Conti vineyards, learning and tasting during the 8-hour tour.

Luxury Wine Tour in Côte de Beaune 

Visit the vineyards of the famed white wine villages of Puligny Montrachet , Meursault & Chassagne Montrachet and enjoy visits to the winemaker’s cellars for in depth private tastings of both chardonnay & pinot noir. Learn to appreciate colours, aromas and flavours tasting regional, village, premier and grand cru wines.  After a leisurely lunch at a 1* Michelin restaurant (or top regional cuisine if preferred) enjoy a afternoon tasting including grand cru at a beautiful chateau in our own private tasting room.

Luxury Wine Tour in Côte de Nuits

The renowned villages of Gevrey Chambertin, Morey St Denis, Vougeot, Vosne Romanee or Nuits St Georges are on the menu today, tasting from village to grand cru wines at some exceptional cellars.  A three-course gourmet lunch off the beaten track is included at a Michelin quality restaurant (or top local restaurant serving the best of Burgundy’s regional cuisine).  Stop at the site of the legendary Romanee Conti vineyards (the most expensive wine in the world) & drive through stunning vineyard scenery, with a brief stop at the famous Château de Clos Vougeot.

Beaune Prestige Tour

The charming and historic medieval town of Beaune is Burgundy’s wine capital and is the focus of our new gourmet wine tour for 2015!  You will discover this charming wine capital with your guide who will take you to taste chardonnay & pinot noir at two of the most prestigious wineries in Beaune.  In addition, there will be a privately guided visit to the famous 15C Hospices de Beaune (important in Burgundy’s wine history) and an excellent 3 course lunch at a notable 1* Michelin restaurant.

Medieval Burgundy, Wine Tasting & Sightseeing

Enjoy a relaxed day in two stunning medieval villages filled with flowers and boasting gorgeous views.   Flavigny sur Ozerain, classed as one of the most beautiful villages in France (of 'Chocolat' fame) is our morning destination with a fun & informative tasting of local wines followed by lunch at a Ferme Auberge run by local farmers’ wives with produce from their farms & gardens.  After lunch, a leisurely walking tour through Flavigny’s delightful streets before driving across country to Chateauneuf en Auxois with its fairytale 12C Chateau. Time to explore the village & visit the château before our return to Beaune taking the scenic route through the beautiful Ouche Valley

Wine & Food Tour Selection

Private Cooking Course, Lunch, Vineyard Tour & Tasting 

Learn to cook traditional Burgundian fare with our French chef in his home or modern French cuisine in a professional kitchen (exclusive to our clients) inclusive of aperitifs and a three course lunch.  After lunch we tour the famous vineyards & villages of the Cote de Nuits, stopping for an excellent cellar visit, tasting from village to grand cru wines. For groups of 4+ I can offer a session in a 1* Michelin restaurant also inclusive of lunch & tastings.   No French needed as the classes are in English.

Cheese & Wine Tasting in Cote de Nuits

An ideal tour for the real cheese lovers amongst you, you will discover & learn about some of the most traditional cows’ milk cheeses from the Burgundy region, paired with both chardonnay and pinot noir. Your guide will take you through the art of cheesemaking before. moving on to a private cellar visit in a renowned wine village.  After a delicious lunch from regional specialities, we take a leisurely drive through the famous vineyards and villages of Cote de Nuits, stopping at some famous landmarks before our final wine tasting of the day.

In partnership with a local artisanal chocolate maker and an excellent wine producer, we are pairing some of these melt in-the mouth chocolates with different types & styles of wine for a fun and enjoyable afternoon.  The day begins in Cote de Beaune tasting some famous chardonnays & pinots of the ‘Cote’ at small family owned wineries and lunching at one of the best restaurants in the area for regional cuisine, such as coq au vin.  After a tour of the grand cru vineyards in the afternoon, we begin our superb wine & chocolate tasting (with the opportunity to purchase both)
I hope you enjoyed this write up and consider this trip!
*article recently update in 2014

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Top 10 2006 Wines - A Special Report by Ralph Del Rio Wine Correspondent -Great Wines and Great Values

By Ralph Del Rio, Wine Correspondent

2006  Has come and gone and there were a lot of great and memorable wines. I found a lot of values from Australia. Big Blockbuster types...I also found great values from Spain and Eric Solomon's group of wines in particular kept me quite interested in Spain. There is going to be good things to come in the new world.

My Picks for 2006 contain two overriding things to keep in mind. They are all excellent in their own right and are also obtainable which in many case it's not easy to find wines that you are reading about in the magazines.

So here list for the best of 2006

2004 Yangarra Estate Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvèdre McLaren Vale Cadenzia
I enjoyed the Shiraz as well. This wine with its dark chocolate, anise, herbal essence and raspberry bouquet.  Nice flash of peppercorn spice too.

2003 Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta Colchagua Valley

A dark inky figgy wine. Can stand up to the best of the Bordeaux and Napa Cabs. Big tannins with juicy red fruit, plums, cherries, and coffee notes. Nice sweet vanilla spices on the finish

2006 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc - Marlborough

Loaded with fresh Grapefruit and gooseberry an outstanding wine tropical fruit hints…also fresh cut grass, lemon grass. Like a benchmark!

2003 Archery Summit Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Arcus Estate  

Big Pinot Noir from Oregon! Totally as good as the best of Burgundy. Deep ruby color. Burnt Cherry Pit and cola flavors, blackberry, licorice and a touch note smoke. Pretty Nose! It’s that Blackberry!

 2004 Green Point Shiraz, Victoria Australia

White Pepper with spicy nose. It’s this spice that keeps bringing the nose back. It’s not a Pinot! It’s a Australian Shiraz with  Elegant mouthfeel, almost plush, deep with nice length. This is a very smooth wine but totally awake.

2004 Glaetzer Wallace Shiraz Grenache, Barossa Valley South Australia

Beautiful nose, full bodied fruity, long, very classy wine that has structure. A Shiraz that can pair well with a lot of European food. You sense it. So much going on with the fruit flavors. Great, grilled steak wine.

Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee Sublime Demi-Sec NV, France

Great zip to this superior non-vintage demi-sec, exploding with candied citrus fruits and barbecued pineapple and a handful of nuts. Goes down nice; Before a meal. After a meal.

2004 Seghesio Family Vineyards Sonoma

The 2002 was a knockout Zin for me. This one reminds me of it with its lush briar patch feel and Spicy, blackberry fruit. It has structure too. It’s balanced though and the tannins integrated, good stuff, layers.

2003 Provenence Cabernet Sauvignon

Excellent! With it’s ripe, blackberry flavors, licorice and chocolate caramel with a hints of vanilla and toast. It’s rich and has that cocoa powder dust sensation that Rutherford is known for. Get this just for that sensation!

2004 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Russian River Valley

Great acidity mixed with big tannins. Right up front for a Pinot Noir. This is intense but it has this relaxing feel to it. It’s inviting. You get black cherry, raspberry fruit that's in your face and persistent, ending with sense of wet rain.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Willamette Valley, Oregon Growing!...A Great and Interesting wine region to visit; Envious Terroir!...makes for some beautiful wines!

A great and interesting wine region to visit is the Willamette Valley, Oregon. The focus is the farming. It’s less glamourous than Napa. Just as good though…In a way it really echoes Burgundy, France. Great Terroir! I have had the opportunity to tour the area in some detail.

Here are some of my insights…

The Willamette Valley was Oregon’s first official American Viticultural Area (AVA). It was created in 1984. Unofficially, it is cut into north and south halves along the 45th parallel (Burgundy, France and Piedmont, Italy are in range of that parallel) and covers from Portland up north all the way down to Eugene in the south.

The Willamette Valley has grown to 15 AVAs in Oregon and 6 sub-AVAs in the Willamette Valley. The latest AVA is Chehalem Mountains. These sub-AVA designations have started to show up on the wine labels. They Willamette Valley to give more specifics on the wine.

The soils in Willamette is what’s getting everybody motivated. There are two main types: (1) red volcanic basalt soils known as ’Jory’ from 13 million year-old lava flows, and (2) brown marine sedimentary soils known as “Willakenzie’ laid down under the ocean 20 million years ago. The hillsides with vineyards are situated in places from 200-1000 ft. in elevation.

The valley floor is exciting too. It’s composed of rich, alluvial soils which are appropriate for crops such as grain, grass seed, and fruit trees. This is just a big plus for local foods and restaurants as well. Along with the area seafood and the cheeses. Wow!

Anyways, all this soil action makes for some nuances wines!

I am going to give a synopses about flavor and style of Pinot Noir that can be made for the appellations based on the differences in soil type.

The AVAs with Jory soils like Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills and parts of Chehalem Mountains and McMinnville tend to produce Pinot Noirs with bright red fruits including cherry and raspberry, and are softly textured.

The Pinot Noirs from AVAs with Willakenzie soils like Yamhill-Carlton, Ribbon Ridge, and some parts of Chehalem Mountains and McMinnville seem to offer much more darker fruit, spice (cola, five spice, anise), and forrest floor, musty flavors and have bigger tannins and structure. (this is where you can find similar to California...but not so much... ;-) )

The best way to get a feel for the Willamette Valley terrain is to visit.

All of the appellations are can be easily explored by car over the course of a few days, and only a 45 to 90 minute drive from Portland!

Vintages in Oregon are, like Burgundy, at the mercy of climatic conditions during the growing season. Then there was a run of good vintages from 1998 until 2002.

In 2003 the weather was the hottest and driest year on record in the Willamette Valley. The Pinot Noirs had elevated sugar levels, high extraction, high alcohol, and raisiny flavors. The 2004 and the 2005 are of great quality.


I have barrel tasted the 2006. It’s boundless. I really liked them. Which may sounds frivolous; but they hit the spot for me. Beautiful nose and palate. I have tasted Archery Summit, Domaine Drouhin, Domaine Serene, Rex Hill, Chehalem , Sokkel Blosser Elk Cove, Ponzi, Benton Lane, and Argyle and several more.

…According to the the Oregon Wine Press the 2006 Vintage is superb

…According to, the following vintages were “great”: 1998, 2000, 2001, and 2003, and the remaining ones “outstanding”: 1999, 2002, and 2004.