Friday, April 01, 2011

TexaCali Ali is NOT Foolin' in France!

Day 4 in France. Soo much to share with you all, I'm having a hard time narrowing down what to write. It's been a week of visual & tasty inspiration. I'm mellow today, trying to decide what has been the biggest impression on me so far, it's all lovely and soo incredibly beautiful here. But the PEOPLE... I've been so fortunate to meet and spend time with are who and what has made this week in France so very special for me.
Tons of photos, books, websites, marketing materials all list and show off the terroir of the region and a gazillion important wine facts, but none of these things can capture of the true spirit of the Rhone Valley- the people here. I've had some of the best French winemakers on my home-turf back in Texas over the years, I so prefer to be here with them,on their dirt and see their soul.

On Wednesday, I had the great privilege of spending the afternoon with Daniel Brunier - ‘Wine is my life”, sure we had plenty to talk about regarding his wineries, projects and the juice, but Daniel’s story, past and present was most impressive. He’s now in the midst of planning and running his 5th winery – both in France and Lebanon. Daniel spoke fondly of his 2 teenage children, his wife who runs an advertising agency and how he loves to spend quality time with them up in the mountains of the Ardeche. He smiled a lot during our tasting but his biggest smiles of the day came when speaking of his family. The lineup of wines were fascinating, Les Pallieres, Domaine La Roquete, Le Vieux Telegraph and Massaya. Each producer poured separately and vertically 2008 – 2010 (most were barrel samples).

Highlight for me: 2010 Domaine La Roquete, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, ( “Echantillon – means sample bottle”). 1/3 Grenache Blanc 1/3 Clairette 1/3 Roussillon. It was everything I like to taste from a CdP Blanc!

Thursday brought the hustle!! I was warned that the day would be at least 12 hours long of tastings. Yes it was and let me tell you, I loved every second of it. At exactly 8:27am as I was brushing my teeth hear a knock at the door and it’s Laurent Terrisson the owner of arriving to take us around for the day.

I seriously met my French Match – he runs a company much like how I ran TexaCali Wine Co.  from 2005-2010, here from the South of France. He met us with the day complete -  a printed list of wines to be tasted during the day in hand, set appointments for the day and great tunes on the car radio as we climbed into his “gentlemen farmer’s truck” and began the day.
Laurent was full of life yesterday, telling us jokes, flirting a bit but buttoned up to the very smallest detail of the day. I loved it. It was such a breath of fresh air to be “on the other side” for the day and see someone else’s mindful planning play out. Laurent made a point to close each tasting with a reminder to my travel partner of what she needed, already ordered, pricing if she ordered more and etc. Always on point, always leading the dialog and questions into the sale. The thrill of the game for sure, I soaked up every minute of it.

This day was hardest for me - I am without my Blackberry during this entire trip and seeing him on it and conducting multiple business tasks all day was KILLING me. ARGH. I can't even recall the last time I've been without it!! I know - this makes many of you roll-your-eyes. 

Moving on...Laurent too spoke of his family, his life outside of work and his future travel and business ambitions.  So very much in common, I can't wait to tell a joke he shared with me to the appropriate crowd "Alison you must perfect the punchline!" and find the "Allison" song from England that he belted out all day.

Next, Laurent took us to meet the two brothers of , we tasted their Domaine Courtois – and I seriously liked them all   - - beautiful wines for the price.  Upon leaving the winery, we were shown a few vineyards located in one of the most Northern parts of the Southern Rhone (or most Southern parts of the Northern Rhone!). Freaks me out a bit how similar the soils are to Texas – our West Texas soils to be exact.

They day went onto a DELICIOUS tasting with Jean-Francois Gras & Jean Louis Colombier. It’s so fun to hear about who they love doing business with both in Texas and California, we are very like-minded this way! We all spent lunch together in Gigondas, talking about the biz, hearing about their recent travels to Germany (Redbull & vodka are evil) and hearing about life around the Rhone.

My first sighting of a goofy French bull dog in a dining room happened as well, oh Henley would have loved France. Toward the end of lunch, my heart sank a bit as I hear about the afternoon for them ahead, attending a funeral of a small child who fell into a well. We left lunch together wishing rainbows appearing in the sky…

Off to Châteauneuf-du-Pape to meet one of Decanter Magazine’s “Winemaker of the Year” - Alexandre Favier Alex is only 29 and a total hardworking STUD!

Due to his father having 2 heart-attacks when Alex was 17 – he stepped up to the plate at a very young age. He does everything, and means it. We tasted 4 reds and a white, the white was totally mind-blowing by the way. Think French Pressed Apricots!! His red CdP’s were amazing, a real treat, I’d like to track down the 2008 vintage when back in the US. The 2009 is singing too…the Vielles Vignes is made from 70-80 yr. old vines and made my head spin.

Right as we left the winery I asked Alex if he enjoyed working in the cellar more or out in the vineyards, quickly he replied “the vineyards, the wine is about the vines and the terrior” with a big sparkling smile of course. I told Laurent he needs to send him to the US to make a few sales calls, he quite reminds me of dear Luis Reginato, a famous young winemaker and vineyard expert I admire in Argentina.

So our day with our "Cheerful-Handler" closed with a big Northern Rhone tasting in a wine lab in Rasteau with Laurent. Seriously, he worked every minute of the day to the fullest, Oh Snap! You Rock Laurent.  Very sweet to know how well you treat your profession of representing winemakers. Bravo.

Laurent left us in the good hands of Valerie Aigron @ Cave de Rasteau who took us to a wonderful dinner at a “Natural” wine bar in Vaison La Romaine. Valerie travels the world for her COOP in Rasteau and when we asked her how she was doing…”my life is perfect, I love my job”. Over dinner she shared with us how she was in Japan then China a few days ago, then off to Canada next week. I’ve got nothing on her miles…

This post is getting rather long and I have a full afternoon ahead to tell you all about ------my special tasting and experience with young Thomas Jullien on Friday @ …stay tuned, I’m still pinching myself.

The people here with whom I've met this week - they’ve shared their passions, opened their hearts and are so very grateful for their following in the USA. I’m honored to have spent this time alongside so many folks in the Rhone that are just doing what they love…Cheers -  TexaCali Ali

PS - pardon my typos, writing without spellcheck, after exercise for the first time in a week and now a bottle of 2010 Tavel Rose tonight!

No comments: