Sunday, July 25, 2010

My mood about the world and the heat in New York and “Oryx and Crake” by Margaret Atwood

Saturday July 24th, 2010, another day in the furnace. This year, during the month of July, New York has experienced some of the highest summer temperatures (yet) ever recorded in Manhattan (98 degrees Fahrenheit today). And apparently, it is not finished yet and August seems quite promising too.

When I came out of my apartment this morning to go to work, it was already hot in the corridor and the difference between my air-conditioned nest and the staircase was mind-boggling. By the time I walked down the few flights of stairs, too impatient to take the lift, I was already overwhelmed by the heat.

Once outside in the street, it was surreal, everything was quiet, New York seemed sleepy or resting, silenced by a powerful sun to a tranquil and gentle attitude, far from the usual brouhaha caused by the traffic and other street annoyances and behaviors even as early as it was, around 8.30am.

I walked down the street to the train station, with not a soul around to accompany me. No early birds, no dogs, no locals, just a few cars and in the sky, a big, bright, shinny sun conversing with the ever consistent, incessant and always-annoyingly-around rotating fan sounds of all the air-conditioner units hanging out of nearly every other window on site in every street of the Big Apple. Inevitably coming with the also unstoppable sound of dripping water drops on the pavement.

It makes me think, somehow, that New Yorkers are too spoiled. I’m too spoiled. While the world is fighting a huge economical and financial global crisis, with political tensions and an ever-growing population with no jobs, no education, no food, no potable water, facing daily violence and relentless wars, very uncertain future and doubting faith in pretty much everything and everyone; topped with natural and unnatural disasters, climate changed, manly made mistakes and who knows whatever else... topped with layers of years of asking people to recycle, be greener, use less water and electricity, diminish their carbon footprints, and more… So much trouble in the world, and New Yorkers still push up to the max their air-conditioner at the first rising temperatures of the summer and keep it like this for at least 3 months like nothing else. Pumping the juice... consumption is key! Who cares? That's B******t!

We are far from the long adopted European habits of paying attention to their personal consumption of gas, electricity and water since World War II. Far from their recycling methods, which have been in place for generations as an everyday logical thing to do to preserve the environment, thus avoiding unnecessary daily superfluous trash and plastic pollution.

Here, in New York, and in most of the other mega-metropolis and "mégapole" scattered all around the world, easily recognizable from the sky, due to their shinning luminosity that could deceive you by making you think that it is just after noon at midnight, the switch off button doesn’t exist: apartments and offices stay alight all night, water runs freely for longer than needed, rotten wasted food and constantly overflowing trash, advertising boards glowing of all their marketing eye-catching power, the streets stink and reek like the bad habits of the people that populate them and couldn’t care less, prisoner of their own little world, under pressure from a growing individualism and self awareness…

People think that they are important to everyone else, permanently wired on obviously needed small complex devices "wirelessly" connected to the internet and expressing themselves to the world in less than 150 characters to describe nearly each minute of their day thinking that somebody will care or will be interested because of course they have nothing else to do and everybody has to know… distracting themselves from the everyday hard reality of our retracting world… ignoring the repetitive warnings from their surroundings and the discouraging news… thinking that nothing can touch them… nothing will happen to them…

But look at it… we were about 1 billions in 1820; 2.5 billions in 1920-40; 4 billions in 1980 and we are now about to be 7 billions and growing… we multiplied our estimated world population by 7 in less than 200 years… technology has evolved at lighting speed over the last 100 years … and now even go faster than ever… changing a bit more as I write these words… the science fiction of yesterday inspired the reality of today… the world is more elitist than ever… more in competition… who's the greediest?... but when are we going to measure the consequences of certain of our actions before it is too late?… why succumb to money, power, individualism and greed when we need urgent solutions to preserve our world and make it a better place where people are and should be aware of the whole picture and not only their immediate surroundings and interests without even paying a minute of attention to what is going on and what we are about to become…

However, once again I get carried away with my idealistic ways ... and this is too vast of a subject to only be taken on board by just a handful of concerned people that try to change the world and mankind with their everyday actions, concerns and willingness to help, even if just a little bit… everybody should think about it and act responsibly to change things…but more and more people are just self aware and not preoccupied anymore by the innumerable problems that our planet and all its living things are encountering everyday… piling up problems and concerns into a gigantic wall that will one day shadow our closed-eyes-and-closed-mind's attitude... and then we will really have to find a solution... let's hope it won't be too late! Our kids deserve a better future and right now it is not looking so good... But I need to be positive and take action for my kid and my family! It is important...very important!

Did you ever realize that New York could be some much nicer and surely less suffocating place without for example, all the AC units sucking on hardcore all that somewhat wasted power?

Think about it, it is always the same thing every summer, (and if scientists are correct it may get worst in the near future). Usually by end of May-June, each year, the “ronronnement” (French for cat purring) of the hundreds of thousands air-conditioner units in New York awake, ringing up the arrival of the hot coming months. Yet with them, strangely enough, comes the soggy, high humidity micro-climate that we all know too well and hate. Although New York is great, New York in July and August is pretty awful and unbreathable. It stinks and reeks. And the subway stations become ovens for sweaty locals that couldn't flee elsewhere for some summer vacations and unaware tourists who thought that it was probably better to visit New York under the sun during summer months (by now they should know better, March-April-May and September-October are the best months for sightseeing the skyscraper's city).

All these cold, refreshing breezes blown out from the multiple overworked AC units to cool down your apartment, your store, your office and whatever else room you want cold, come with a high price for the city: rejected hot air from the same units adding heat to the street (paradoxical isn’t it?), higher street humidity partly due to dripping water and huge over-consumption of electricity, sometimes resulting in blackouts (remember the ones from 1977 and 2003). Already surrounded by water, the island of New York's streets are acting as greenhouse, keeping the humidity and hot air prisoner in between buildings, mixed with the pollution from gas and other dirty fumes from trash, etc...

But, yes, I know what you are going to say, without AC, New York will be unlivable and I’m myself using it like anybody else, because I don’t have the choice. The pre-second World War brick buildings should keep the air moist and cool inside, but no, it is the opposite, it is “suffocatingly” hot and unsupportable. They really should invent better insulation system to save energy and preserve New Yorkers and everybody else from the heat and so many other things… yet the human race brought upon itself so many things that it could and should has been years, decades, that we have been warned.... the science fiction of yesterday inspired the reality of today… but what about tomorrow?

All these comments about how, and why, and what should be invented in this world to make things better (or worst depending on the inventions and their purposes), make me think about the book that I’m reading right now, “Oryx and Crake” by Margaret Atwood.

“Oryx and Crake” is a great book definitely not too far from our reality that will make you ask yourself some questions about all the above often rejected and ignored subjects that populate our everyday life, but for what ever reasons leave most of us indifferent to what may result from such a fast paced evolution accessed only on individualism, self-awareness, and self concentrated technology that keep us, 24 hours a day, away from reality to be more essentially in contact with mostly unimportant controversial edited news and images, text messaging, emails and unearthly manners, topped with total refusal to acknowledge or even less, take action regarding the way we are evolving and the damaged world that we are leaving for the future generations… We should stop looking at ourselves and look at the world, even if only just a minute a day.

“Oryx and Crake” follows the reasoning and way of thinking of Snowman, the apparently sole human survivor of the inevitable result and consequence of our relentless current way of living in a future which is not so distant. Through out back and forth passages of his life, the book plunge us in a desolated, devastated, somewhat strange yet so recognizable world, where Snowman remembers and recalls to himself the memories of the past and slowly help the reader to comprehend how it happened, why, and what could have happened if... The book also counts the story of Oryx, the somehow unreachable love of Snowman and Crake, Snowman's long friend and the mad-scientist of this tale with idealistic visions who wanted to created a different world. But I already said too much, just read it.

I highly recommend “Oryx and Crake” to frighteningly-close-to-the-reality science fiction book amateurs and good writing connoisseurs. Margaret Atwood’s prose is delightful and complex, with easy to grab ways to describe the cynical human nature and demeanor in its entire splendor.

Thank you Margaret for such an eyes opening book. (I will be reading your award winning book “The Blind Assassin” next).

You can find a great description of the book on the following website or simply click on the following link at


LeDom du Vin

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines (and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

2007 Wolffer Estate Cabernet Franc Sagaponack Long Island New York

Recently someone ask me: "What do you think will be the best Long Island wine to pair with a grass fed local steak if money is absolutely no object (and what's great about the wine, or the producer, or why it's great with steak)? Here is what I answered.

In my opinion, money isn’t always synonymous of quality and when it comes to Long Island wines, it is definitely true. Although, usually, Money rhythms with hand-harvested, low yield and therefore limited production, long oak ageing and targeted markets and customers; sometimes, the high demanded price of a wine also often reflects the cost of the winery’s investments, marketing and yearly structure and vineyard maintaining: new barrels, new stainless steel tanks, etc… and probably a touch of greed added to the overall equation.

On Long Island, even if quality tremendously rose over the last 5 years, as well as the number of producers, only a handful of producers distinguish themselves from the bunch for their consistency. And Wolffer Estate is definitely one of them, more especially their Cabernet Franc, which is the benchmark of their portfolio and a standard for the region as far as grape variety characteristic, is concern.

Wölffer Estate Vineyard is unquestionably a beautiful place. But the creation of it spanned over three decades and required a creative vision, an ability to bring dreams to reality and a great deal of dedicated hard work by many people. Christian Wölffer possessed the vision and with the meticulous care of his professional team that built this special place – Wölffer Estate Vineyard - that was created, first and foremost, to be enjoyed by people. The original parcel of land was a potato farm with an old farmhouse in what is now the middle of the estate.

Over the years as more acres were acquired, paddocks and stables were added and in 1987, the vineyard was founded. This 55-acre winery is part of a 175 acre estate with boarding stables, 30 paddocks, an indoor jumping ring, and a Grand Prix field. Both the stables and winery have a European character and these former potato fields have become the foundation for world-class wines. Wölffer Estate Vineyard is an American Winery in the Classic European Tradition. As for the wine, the 2007 Wolffer Cabernet Franc will greatly suitable to pair with local grass fed steak.

2007 Wolffer Estate Cabernet Franc Sagaponack Long Island New York
Suggested retail price $17-$19
Distributed by Winebow Inc. in NYC

As for the wine, the 2007 Wolffer Cabernet Franc will be very suitable to pair with local grass fed steak, due to its present yet integrated tannic structure, balance and complexity of flavors, which combine European elegance and earthiness with the typicity of their Long Island Terroir. These factors will surely enhance the substantiality of the meat and complement its taste. Beside its medium, bright ruby color, the nose is redolent of dark and blue berries, white pepper, cedar and vanilla aromas. Slightly restraint at first, the palate, which needs decanting, is elegant, focus and expanding with ripe fruit flavors intermingled with peppery, slightly vegetal nuances, framed by soft tannins and balanced by bright acidity into a smooth, earthy finish. Despite steak, it will also pair well with hearty and meaty dishes like Duck confit, Cassoulet and slow cooked Beef short ribs (a great combination).


LeDom du Vin

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide. "Commerce Equitable" or "Fair Trade" is evidently and more than ever a needed movement connecting producers and customers, to be aware of others and their cultural and traditional products based on high quality, natural components and craftsmanship.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

2008 Parker Station Pinot Noir Santa Maria Santa Barbara California USA

Fess Parker Santa Barbara California

Fess Parker? The name rings the bell? No? May be you’re too young or may be you don’t know your American classics.

In memory of him, because he was once, as Walt Disney's Davy Crockett, one of my heroes, when I was really young watching this old American classic on the French TV, I couldn't resist writing a little post.

Here is to refresh your memory: Late Fess Parker (1924-2010), who just recently passed away, was an actor who was cast, in the mid-fifties, for the role of "Davy Crockett" (King of the Wild Frontier, Walt Disney, 1955). It was one of his most inspiring roles, which deeply influenced his life and many fans and generations in the same time all around the world.

But what the fact that he was an actor has to do with wine, will you tell me? Well, Fess Parker was an entrepreneur and during his acting period bought a 714 acres plot of land in the Santa Ynez Valley where he could watch his little family grow and started a different career as hoteliers on his own Domaine.

Realizing the potential of Santa Barbara County as a premium grape-growing region, Fess and his son, Eli, originally set out in 1989 to plant a small vineyard and sell fruit to local producers. The Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard now farms almost 700 acres on four vineyards throughout Santa Barbara County.

Working as a family has always been a great source of pride and pleasure for the Parker family. Eli Parker began in the family business as assistant winemaker in 1989. After several years of learning the craft at the side of renowned and accomplished winemakers, Eli took the reigns as winemaker himself with the 1995 vintage. A leader of the winery since its inception, it was in 1996 that Eli formally assumed the title and responsibilities of President. In the early 1990’s, Ashley ran the first tastings out of the barrel room and represented the winery at trade shows. In 1998, Ashley became Eli’s partner, working on the public relations and sales and marketing teams. The presence of Fess and his wife Marcy as the founding visionaries of the winery is a vital and enduring one.

After years of commitments, hours of passion and hard work, the Fess Parker winery is proud to produce a wide range of different high quality wines made with grapes like Chardonnay, Viognier and Riesling for the whites; and Pinot Noir and Syrah for the reds. And I invite you to visit the winery’s website to discover their selection at

Our wine of the day, although not listed on their website, is a side project of Fess Parker winery, called "Parker Station".

Parker Station was created to offer you a high quality Pinot Noir at an affordable price, especially compared to other Pinot Noir produced in this area. The back label describes this wine in one very appropriated sentence, especially for a Californian Pinot noir wine: “The best Pinot Noir you afford to drink daily.” Intrigued, I refreshed my memories a few days ago, during a tasting at the store and was pleasantly surprised.

2008 Parker Station Pinot Noir Santa Maria Santa Barbara California USA
Suggested retail price $11-$14
Distributed by Verity Wines in NYC

Unlike many budget Pinots from California in general (there are always exception, granted! But so few overall…), Parker Station offers ample varietally correct fruit and attractive features at a reasonable price, especially for a wine made from grapes sourced in different locations.

The grapes were partly sourced from Santa Barbara and Monterey counties; and about a 1/3 of the resulting wine was aged in French oak for about 6-9 months.

The 2008 Parker Station has a medium ruby-garnet color and expresses attractive, slightly spicy, ripe yet fresh red cherry fruit on the nose. The palate is light, clean, fairly crisp yet soft and balanced, offering well-rounded and delicious flavors of red cherry and strawberry, which persist through the mid-palate and the refreshing fruity finish.

Overall, gentle, easy going and medium-bodied with a juicy finish full of the same lingering red fruit, this versatile Pinot Noir is somewhat a touch reminiscent of certain European style Pinots rather than Californian due to its lighter, ripe yet harmonious structure enhanced by good acidity. Although, don’t get me wrong, the freshly crushed omnipresent riper red fruit profile with less earthiness denotes more of a new world, warmer climate style. Surprisingly enjoyable and approachable at this price, especially compared to the ocean of other Californian Pinots that are usually for this quality much more expensive. Drink it your way with or without food.


LeDom du Vin

Info above partly taken and edited from the winery website at

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines (and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

2001 Heredad de Baroja Gran Reserva Rioja Álava Spain

Heredad de Baroja Rioja Alavesa Spain

Established in 1964, by the way one of the best vintages of the 20th century in France and Spain, Bodegas Heredad de Baroja, located in the village of Elvillar, Rioja Álava (South of the Basque country), was born from the initiative of its current owner, Fernando Meruelo, who named it after a famous Spanish Basque writer.

He started by producing young wines (tinto) under the name of “Cautivo” and gradually enhanced his “Cautivo”selection by crafting Crianza, Reserva and Grand Reserva as the vines were getting older, thus producing better, richer, more complex wines.

Exporting activities started in 1989 and now represents more than 50% of his production and total sales. The construction of a new cellar and winery, the success of the newer style wines “Cautum” and “Lar de Paula” and revamping the image of his more traditional style “Cautivo” wines led to a new era for Heredad de Baroja. His wines, especially the newer modern style received instantaneously a lot of praises and accolades from critics and press.

Now equipped with state of the art technology in both facilities, the old and the new cellars, will also help to achieve the goal of selling about 2 million bottles a year, of which half will be high-end wines ageing between 14 to 36 months depending on the final wines. The company went from roughly 400,000 bottles at the beginning to more than 4 times more nowadays.

The winery portfolio comprehends wines like the classic "Rincon de Baroja" (and "Heredad de Baroja"), which I previously wrote about and which is part of his fairly new wine selection that includes: Cautum "Alta Expresión", Lar de Paula "Cepas Viejas", Rincon de Baroja CO2, Cautivo Maceración Carbónica; as well as the new labeled Cautivo brand and Cautum.

However, today's wine is a bit of an odd and peculiar wine through out the winery portfolio for different reasons:

  • first, it is nowhere to be seen on the winery's website which seems to focus only on the two more modern brands named "Cautivo Gran Reserva" and "Cautum Gran Reserva".

  • secondly, the wine bears a classic Rioja label with the famous and unmistakable netting around the bottle (and reddish-gold lettering), which is a classic sign of old traditional Rioja wines, usually more commonly attributed to wine like Marqués de Riscal (odd if you compare it with their newer modern labels). Experiencing a renaissance to please younger markets, they must have revamped their entire label portfolio compared to what it used to be before (see picture below for previous labels).

  • thirdly, not only it looks but also it tastes much more traditional than their other labels, especially compared to "Cautum Gran Reserva".

2001 Heredad de Baroja Gran Reserva Rioja Álava Spain
Suggested retail price $28-$31
Imported / Distributed by Moonlight Wine Co. by friend Tony Gibson

The 2001 Heredad de Baroja Gran Reserva is, in my opinion, a delicious Tempranillo based wine that offers layered complexity and classic aged Rioja aromas and flavors at a very decent price for a Gran Reserva and more especially for a 2001 vintage which was, in Rioja, surely one of the greatest vintage of this decade.

Made from 100% Tempranillo aged for 36 months in French and American oak barrels, then 24 months in bottle before release, the 2001 Heredad de Baroja Gran Reserva possesses a medium garnet color with hint brown-orange reflects on the rime. At first a bit discreet, it evolved after about an hour in the decanter.

The nose is quite expressive with
ripe red and dark cherry fruit aromas intermingled with slightly earthy, spicy, chocolaty toasted notes, touch of vanilla, cedar wood and secondary hints. The palate opens with great juicy dark cherry and other dark fruit flavors combined with chocolate, spice, toast, wood and earth, and some underbrush notes. As it expands, it is rather smooth and medium-to-full yet a bit dry, earthy and somewhat a touch rustic, but overall attractive and fairly complex. Fairly integrated and definitely approachable yet young and promising with a good texture and overall balance, it seems to be supported by fine fruit tannins that are a bit dry and still need a bit more time (which is nothing strange for this particularly great vintage).

In short, some may find the finish a bit dry or even a touch short, yet I thought that it had an elegant, lingering earthy cedar cherry finish where the acidity and the tannins were playing key roles. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised and found this wine very satisfying under $30, but there again I love my traditional Rioja wines, which are for me some of the best wines in the world (but you must already have discovered that if you read some of the other Rioja articles that I previously wrote my wine blog). Enjoy with beef burgers, steaks, rack of lamb or grilled lamb chops and other hearty meats.


LeDom du Vin

Info above partly taken and edited from the winery website at

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines (and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability.

Joyeux Bastille Day on the Quatorze Juillet at Heights Chateau

In 1789, The French cut the head of their king! Oops! Wrong.... It wasn't until 4 years later that Louis XVI lost his head when he was tried by the National Convention, found guilty of high treason, and executed by guillotine on 21 January 1793. He was the only king of France ever to be executed.

The 14th of July has an all-together different meaning, and over the different political periods that came and passed over the last 217 years, the meaning for this celebration has changed and had been slightly modified a number of times.

... in 2010, we continue to celebrate that day for reasons that are surely long forgotten by many people, except may be by the generation of my grand-father on my father side, which by the way, will be 100 years old in December (it will be interesting to ask him what he thinks about that last century and where all this will bring us all...).

However, "le 14 Juillet" is always a good occasion, wherever you are in the world, to have a good time and promote France's wines and culinary traditions by inviting family and friends and enjoy the day with specialties like: Foie Gras, all sort of cheeses, Paté, Cornichons, Cuisse de Grenouilles, Escargot a la Persillade, Magret de Canard, Casserole de Lapin, all sort of Game and poultry, Champagne, Cognac, Armagnac, Pruneaux d'Agen, Agneau de Pauillac, Cassoulet de Castelnaudarie, Saucisse Lentilles de Toulouse, Pieds de Cochon, Jambon de Bayonne, Poulet de Brest, etc...

Come and celebrate Bastille Day at the store ( and take advantage of this opportunity to buy the above wines at discounted prices, and why not discuss "Bastille Day" with a glass of French wine to agreement the conversation, which when it comes to the French, always seems to have an underlying tone of rebellious revolution.

"Bastille Day" is the French national holiday which is celebrated on 14 July each year. In France, it is formally called “La Fête Nationale” (National Celebration) and more commonly le “Quatorze Juillet” (the fourteenth of July). It commemorates the 1790’s "Fête de la Fédération", held on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789.

The anniversary of the storming of the Bastille fortress-prison was seen as a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation, and of the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic, during the French Revolution.

The storming of the Bastille was more important as a rallying point and symbolic act of rebellion than a practical act of defiance. Shortly after the storming of the Bastille, on 4 August feudalism was abolished and on 26 August, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen proclaimed.

The Fête de la Fédération of the 14 July 1790 was a huge feast and official event to celebrate the uprising of the short-lived constitutional monarchy in France and what people considered the happy conclusion of the French Revolution.

Vive la France, its wines and food traditions and culture, and not to forget the most cliché portrait of the French: a cyclist with a beret, carrying a Baguette, a Camembert, a Saucisson and a newspaper in a little basket on his bike.


LeDom du Vin

Info above partly taken and edited from the wikipedia article at

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines (and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Nat Decants”, Natalie MacLean’s new “Wine and Food app” for smartphones

Wow! I’m so impressed and stunned at the same time. I just opened my last emails and realized that Natalie MacLean, a famous wine writer who has won many prizes, accolades and gathered some much attention with her bestselling book: “Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass”, just asked me if I could write a little news byte about "Nat Decants", her new mobile’s “Wine and Food app” for devices such as “iPhone”, “iPod Touch”, “BlackBerry”, “Droid” and other smartphones.

I’m honored and flattered that she personally asked me to do it, but I’m just very surprised, because I’m far from having the same international recognition as her and my wine blog doesn’t attract as many people as her website… But hey! If promoting her new “Wine and Food app” (called “Nat Decants”) can help her and in the same time help my customers, followers and me to find more information about wine (and food) in an informative and practical yet fun way on cell phones, why not?

This new app has thousands of wine and food pairings, wine reviews, recipes, articles, glossary terms, virtual cellar notes, winery directories and other info. And, although brand new, it has already received a lot of praises and very positive critics.

It is the ideal solution for persons in quest for a last minute wine buying choice in a Wine & Spirits retail store, or to make a food and wine pairing decision for a lunch or a dinner with family and/or friends, or simply to find and gather all the most interesting info and articles about a specific wine and suggested food parings all in the same app. Sounds very useful to me. It is like having your own personal Sommelier in your pocket at all times!

Therefore, if you haven’t discover “Nat Decants” yet, Natalie MacLean’s new “Wine and Food App”, go to:

For iPod Touch or iPhone, visit iTunes:

For BlackBerry, visit App World:

For Droid, Nexus One, Nokia, Palm Pre and other smartphones, use the mobilized web site here:

For more info about Natalie MacLean, visit her website at


LeDom du Vin

Info taken from one of Natalie MacLean's emails, as well as the phone picture taken from her website at

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines (and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Valle d'Aosta and Ermes Pavese Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle Vallée d’Aoste Italy

Summer afternoon, about 2pm on Monday July 5th, Manhattan – New York, 97 degrees Fahrenheit outside or 36 degrees Celsius, and rising, no matter how you see it, it is hot out there, very hot for New York’s standards. It is like a furnace. Difficulty to breathe, rapid dehydration, suffocating hot heavy air, medium to high humidity and only one choice to fight back, stay inside with the air conditioner on maximum.

Yet, you may think that even these pre-second world war brick buildings could keep freshness and moisture inside. Well unfortunately, that is not the case. It is hot as hell and suffocating inside without the AC, and uneven from one room to another due to lack of central air system. May be some of the once-historical-but-forgotten-and-deteriorated-nowadays-turned-into-multi-million-dollars brownstone houses, of what is now view as some of the most sought-after neighborhoods in the Big Apple, might keep a bit of cool air inside. But without a decent amount of “dough” in your bank account, you might as well forget about trying to find out.

However, some may know! The rich and famous living in the many remaining brownstones scattered in the few highly exclusive New York City neighborhoods, like the Upper East and West sides, and more especially in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Fort Greene, Prospect Heights and Bedford Stuyvesant. In Harlem too, the brownstones in disrepair are now getting refurbished, attracting younger and wealthier generations. New York City brownstones are highly desired, and usually cost several million dollars to purchase and quite a few thousands to rent when divided in multiple apartments.

In resume, like for anything else in Manhattan, it is very difficult to get a naturally fresh cool house or apartment at a decent price. It makes me miss my country and the old limestone house of my mother where it is always cool and moist, even during a midsummer day in the midst of a heat wave.

Old houses and estates are the beauties of the old continent. Europe, and more to my own knowledge, France, is full of these stone-houses that can seem a bit unwelcoming, dated, austere or even cold for some of you, but that are jewels representative of our traditions, culture and especially history.

You wouldn’t believe how fresh, cool and moist one of this stone (and concrete brick) houses can become, if you just remember to close the window’s shutters when the heat starts to rise. Not having a car to go to the nearby beach and not having a pool to cool down at home, the house of my mother being in the middle of the vineyards in the northern countryside of Bordeaux in the Côtes de Bourg, I remember spending countless hours inside reading, watching TV, listening Radio, drawing and writing while waiting for the temperature to drop a little to go back to play in the garden.

The house I grew up in was built in the late 1890s with large rectangular limestone rocks from the multiple “carrières” carved along the Gironde river in the limestone plateau that goes down from Blaye to the south of Bourg-sur-Gironde. These 15th-19th century porous limestone caves forming endless galleries and kilometers of labyrinths in the Gruyère-like underground maze, were once used to built Bordeaux and the surroundings communes and villages in Gironde, but also to hide the “resistance” during the two world wars. Due to hazardous collapsing conditions, they are now mostly abandoned yet some have been consolidated and sometimes used, like in Saint-Emilion, as underground natural cellars to stock bottles of wines at constant temperature and ideal moisture to allow perfect ageing.

Indeed, I’m daydreaming in New York of old French countryside houses and limestone caves, and my AC seems not strong enough to fight the heat and cool me down. I could drink an ice-cold soda or lemonade or even a beer (hmmm, I would love a good beer “Blanche” with a slice of lemon…), but it means that I would have to go out and fight my way through the sunny blazing hot afternoon… but I feel to lazy for now to go out and brave out the weather to quench my thirst. What to do? An ice cream may be?

An ice cream… I don’t know why but it reminds me of the mountains, more particularly the Alps and the Pyrenees where I have been many times as a kid and teenager but also in a more recent trip, the Patagonian Andes in the south of Chile, with their fresh and crisp pure air, evergreen pastures and forests, and descending from the glaciers and eternal ice caps, the icy spring water gently caressing the riverbed rounded rocks and boulders before cascading in magnificent falls and slowly calming down when reaching the lacks and/or the bottom of the valley. What a beautiful and refreshing image! Especially when it is that hot outside…

Mountains bring me back to the white wine that I wanted to write about… here is the solution to my heat problem, drinking a nice satisfying glass of cold and mineral white wine from the mountain. What bliss of an idea!

The wine of the day is from “Morgex et de la Salle” in the Aosta Valley… Never heard of it? Well, that is, once again, why, in my quest of introducing you to rather unknown wines and lesser talked about wine regions, I decided to introduce to a lovely, refreshing white wine from this tiny mountainous wine region, perfectly “à propos” for this type of weather.

“Valle d’Aosta”

The Valle d’Aosta (or Vallée d'Aoste in French), is a reclusive area squeezed in the northwestern part of Italy, between France to the west, Switzerland to the North and Piedmont to the south.

With an area of 3,263 km2 (1,260 sq miles) and a population of about 120,000, Valle d’Aosta is the smallest, least populous, and least densely populated region of Italy. It is an Alpine valley that with its side valleys includes the Italian slopes of Monte Bianco, Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn; its highest peak is Monte Bianco (the “Mont Blanc”).

The climate of the region is severe, especially when compared with other places in the Western Alps. This is probably due to the mountains blocking the mild winds from the Atlantic Ocean. Places with the same altitude in France or western Switzerland are not as cold as the Aosta Valley. Despite the harsh climate, vines are grown there at about 1,200 meters above sea level; making the Vallée d’Aoste home to the highest elevated vineyards in all of Europe.

The principal winemaking region of the Valle d'Aosta are found along the eastern banks of the Dora Baltea river with the city of Aosta serving as the central winemaking location. The region is divided into three main vineyard areas: the upper valley “Valdigne”, the central valley “Valle Centrale” and lower valley “Bassa Valley”.

“Morgex et de la Salle”

The “Valdigne” valley is the upper part of the Aosta Valley. It is traversed by the Dora Baltea, a tributary of the Po River and includes the area surrounding the villages of Courmayeur, La Salle, La Thuile, Morgex and Pré-Saint-Didier.

Consequently, part of the Valdigne valley, “Morgex et de la Salle” is a small Italian DOC located in the upper northwestern part of the “Valle d’Aosta”.

“Morgex et de la Salle” DOC is comprised between the two eponymous French-sounding villages of “Morgex” and “La Salle” on the Italian side near the French boundary, about 20 kilometers west of Aosta and about 17 kilometers southeast of the Mont-Blanc, the highest mountain of the Alps culminating at 4,810.45 meters above sea level (15,782 ft).

Both villages, Morgex and La Salle, reside along the road “SS26” running parallel to the infamous road “E25” (also known as “N205” in France and “A5” in Italy), the only and always-stock-with-hours-of-traffic-jam road that goes under the “Mont-Blanc” by the eponymous tunnel to cross the boundary between France and Italy.

This unique and somewhat remote Alpine wine region encompasses the highest vineyards in Italy, where grapes are cultivated at about 1200 meters (about 4000 feet) of altitude. Although some Gamay based reds are also produce in Aosta (like the magnificent Gamay from “Grosjean” described in one of my older post), “Morgex and de la Salle” mainly produces bright, mineral with medium to high acidity floral white wines, crafted with various grape like with Petite Arvine, Mayolet and Fumin, but also and more predominantly the unknown, indigenous “Prié” white grape variety. The resulting whites are sold under the Italian-yet-French-sounding appellation “Vallée d'Aoste Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle” DOC. Fruit agriculture, viticulture and tourism during both summer and winter seasons constitute the main economy of the area, with some handicraft activities.

As stated above, the region’s white wines, either still or sparkling, are made from the delicate “Prié” Blanc grape variety, which is also grown in the Valais region of Switzerland (where it is also known as Bernarde). Prié Blanc is a fine grape that produces a lovely, delicate yet complex white wine that beautifully captures the omnipresent underlying minerality of the mountainous rocky soils. The vines are usually planted and tended with the "Pergola Bassa" method (low to the ground) and surrounded by terraced rock walls built to protect the vines against snow falls and icy winds while allowing the grapes to fully ripen and the vines to absorb the heat released at night by the surrounding stones.

In 1983, the state government of Vallée d’Aoste established “La Cave du Vin Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle”, a cooperative with the primary goal of saving the viticulture traditions that have been practiced for a millennium in the breathtaking Alpine décor surrounding the communes of Morgex and La Salle.

This bucolic wine region counts approximately 90 winegrowers, most of whom supply their grapes to the cooperative, from a patchwork of small individual holdings, and the remaining ones, which are about 20+, produce and bottle their wine at the estate, which is the case for "Ermes Pavese Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle" (imported by Madrose / Rosenthal in NYC).

No doubt about that, Madrose/Rosenthal continues to fascinate me by the quality of their portfolio; I just love their wines. And in my honest opinion, they are part of a handful of Top tier wine importers/distributors in the US markets, which startled me consistently each time I tasted their wines: Rosenthal, Kermit Lynch, Louis Dressner, Peter Weygandt and Becky Wasserman (just to name a few of my favorites amongst the best).

Continuing to explore the mountain passes of the Vallée d’Aosta in search of unique wines of character and class, Neil Rosenthal and its team recently discovered the tiny Ermes Pavese winery and now have the privilege to carry in their portfolio a stunning wine from the highest vineyard site in Europe: the scintillating Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle.

The work with the Grosjean brothers outside of Aosta has paid multiple dividends. Madrose have received an overwhelmingly positive response to Grosjean's carefully crafted wines and through them, they have networked into a relationship with Ermes Pavese.

Ermes Pavese Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle Vallée d’Aoste Italy

Ermes Pavese is a youthful grower in the commune of La Ruine just outside of the town of Morgex in the high Alps just beneath the “Mont Blanc”.

Ermes pavese established his winery in 1999, following the advice and experience of his family. He planted his 1.5-hectare(+) of future vineyards exclusively with the autochthon Prié Blanc grape variety. Protected from the Phylloxera due to the altitude, these vines are free of American roots, and even today cuttings are selected from the vines themselves instead of being grown artificially in green houses.

In 2001, Ermes decided to first experiment the quality of his vines and the wine they will soon produce, supporting the production of Vin Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle DOC.

He produced his first vintage in 2005, with a total production of 8,000 bottles: 6,000 bottles of “Vin Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle” and 1,000 botlles each of 2 other wines that he named after his children: “Nathan” (a Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle aged in oak barrels with great ageing potential), and “Nineveh” (a sweet wine from overripe grapes left to wither on the vines and harvested after the first frost, usually the first days of December).

The 3 wines are produced with 100% Prié Blanc grapes, and if they bear the name of his children, it is because after all, all producers’ wines are usually to be pampered, loved and followed as a child.

Although other growers work with Petite Arvine, but also Mayolet and Fumin grapes, Pavese works exclusively with the native grape known as Prié Blanc, hand harvested from barely two hectares of high elevation vineyards, about 1200 meters above sea level, from which he produces approximately 6000 bottles of this streamlined, mineral white which is the flagship of his winery and the landmark of this tiny DOC.

Since Madrose first purchase of 1200 bottles of the 2006 vintage, this wine has received a huge ovation in the US from wine buyers and connoisseurs like me. I rather precise that, because some people may tell you that this type of wine is not their thing: too light, too crisp, too much acidity, not enough fruit and ripeness, etc.... Ok, it is not your everyday wine and it could be surprising if you are not necessarily acquainted to the vivid light, pure and crispy taste of mountain whites, granted!

Yet, I just tasted and bought the 2007 vintage, which I found extremely satisfying and perfectly suited for the temperatures that we are recently experiencing (like today, 37 degrees Celsius in the middle of the day, melting the asphalt of the already beaten and poorly maintained streets and avenues of Manhattan). It was like drinking the icy water of a mountain spring after hours of trekking under the sun, revitalizing.

2007 Ermes Pavese Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle Vallée d’Aoste Italy
Suggested retail price $22-$25
Imported/distributed by Madrose/Rosenthal in NYC

Made from 100% Prié Blanc vinified in stainless steel tanks, the 2007 Ermes Pavese Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle is very pale, almost transparent/fading yellow color with light gold-greenish reflects. The nose is dry, fresh and mineral, yet quite discreet and delicate with lovely yellow stone fruits aromas and consistent floral and white blossom notes redolent of the mountain meadows. The palate is crisply dry, refined and elegant, subtle and complex, yet super light but with a surprising tenacity. The persistence of the lingering and mineral finish is delightful and inviting for another glass.

Overall a fresh, balanced and greatly approachable vivid white, layered and ultra refreshing. Enhanced by a lively acidity, this pristine wine, like most of the mountainous whites that I adore (i.e. Savoie, Jura, etc..), is one of the perfect summer contenders to enjoy at anytime on its own or with food, more especially sea food like oysters, mussels, clams, shrimps and other Fruitti di Mare and fish in sauce. Boasting only 10% of alcohol, plan ahead to buy a few bottles because it will be too easy to drink, especially if temperatures continue to rise and linger like this ‘til September.


LeDom du Vin

Winery info partly taken and edited from the importer website at and from

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