Home Posts tagged 'French Wine'

Posts Tagged ‘French Wine’


John Herbstritt

Vineyard Dispatch Part 2: Direct from France

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Domaine de Sulauze

The winds in San Francisco are fairly regular, which is perhaps the reason they do not have names, as far as I know. The climate breathes in and out each day according the sun and the pressure of the torrid Central Valley, and we accept that this is the way of things. A well-known wind in Provence is theMistral that blows down theRhône Valley between the Alps and the Massif Central. It is a cold, dry, hard wind that nevertheless conjures images of olive groves, pissaladière, and red-tiled roofs. It was this wind that was blowing as we entered Provence the other night. We came to attend a gathering of organic vignerons at the Domaine de Sulauze, a largish estate that makes biodynamic rosé that is both typical and delicious. We ate and listened to music and tasted lots of wine. Small plates of hand sandwiches were passed. The Tramontane is another such named wind which I encountered yesterday as we drove from Provence through the Languedoc and up into the Roussillon, the Catalan part of southern France. It is also worth knowing.

France Crispeels

France Crispeels of Domaine de Réveil

Tramontane: tra – meaning over or across, and montane – mountain. It is a wind that here in the Roussillon passes between the western edge of the Massif Central and the Pyrenees to the Southwest. It blows air from the Atlantic coast into the South, howling through the mountains and gathering speed as it descends. We had come to the Roussillon to meet a Belgian vigneronne named France Crispeels from the Domaine de Réveil. We met her down by the coast at her winery in a little warehouse where she makes wine naturally and without sulfur. Her 2013 harvest had gone well, and the reds had finished fermenting and were in vat waiting it be transferred into the large concrete tanks she uses for aging. The Carignan Grenache blend that we tasted first was reduced, funky still. The wine needs air in order to mature. But the Syrah was sublime, bright purple fruit, black pepper, a hint of lavender, just enough animal to keep things interesting.

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Domaine de Réveil

Then we followed her up into the higher altitudes to see the vines. She farms biodynamically, working hard to bring life to the vineyard so that the vines and the wine will be lively too. Picturesque old stumps of Carignan and Grenache with mountains in the behind, blurry clouds moving swiftly in the background. Scraggly wild herbs perfumed the air. A neighboring conventionally farmed parcel with its moonscape blasted look stood on stark contrast to the vibrancy o f her plots. Back at her home she served us a meal of locally made seed bread and homemade tapenade (black olives with pits, garlic, olive oil, anchovies, capers, c’est tout!) veal steak from her favorite ranch which raises the calves until 18 months of age and lets them wander free, a chicory salad with garlic lemon vinaigrette and avocado, and simple brown rice. We tasted the current vintages, all delicious. Réveil means to wake up. A nice black coffee finished us off.


John Herbstritt

Vineyard Dispatches from France

Here at Bi-Rite we love to celebrate the awesome wine made right here in California. Passionate winemakers like Chris Brockway of Broc Cellars, Ross Cobb at Hirsch Vineyard, and Angela Osbourne of Tribute to Grace are forging their own paths and making food-friendly, vibrant and delicious wines that have a sense of place. I also love to taste things from where they started; every wine buyer has his or her own wine Mecca. For me it’s France. I admit it, je suis un francophile. I love French food, I love French culture. I love the people and their language. And I love their wine. I lived in Paris in dingy apartment for a year teaching English to little French kids, and even though I was pinching my pennies I still managed most days to eat the most delicious baguettes I have ever had to this day and indulge in a bottle of Cahors every once in a while, the first appellation that I ever fell in love with. So it is with great excitement that I am departing to go on a two-week long tour de vin around the country to visit with some of my favorite producers from an importer that we work with, Return to Terroir.

We will be traveling by car in a giant circle around almost the entire country. Landing in Paris we will depart immediately for Champagne, then onto Burgundy and the Northern Rhône and into Provence. We will spend a day or two in Montpellier for the giant organic wine expo Millésime Bio and then head North (to Cahors!), Bordeaux, and Sancerre. We will stay in Saumur for a day or two to check out the Dive Bouteille, the incredible natural wine fair hosted yearly by Catherine and Pierre Breton. From there, back to Paris and a long flight home.

Why am I going? To taste new wine, meet new people, learn a thing or two about what makes winemakers tick, to be sure. I will also be in search of new and exciting wines to bring back home for you, our guests and wine friends; but what I really want to explore is a topic that I mentioned above. That sense of place, terroir as they call it in France. What is it? The best wines from California have an unmistakable feeling of being from here, right now, in the moment. I’ve visited some of these places. Time to check out those other terroirs. I will be making posts here on our Bi-Rite blog to keep all your internauts at home informed about what I will be doing, where I’m going, and hopefully talk about some new wines that are going to make their way over the pond and onto our shelves. Keep checking and see you all when I get back!

A bientôt!

John