Today broke like any other. Alarm, bird song, coffee. A rush to dress and gas and nudge onto Hwy 17 towards San Francisco for a day of tastings and bubbles studies.
No time to check social media. Until the first ping.
“Are you ok?” Ping “?” Ping. “Fire in Sonoma.” Ping. “Fire in Napa.” “Are you ok?!”
Ping. Ping. Ping. Scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram brings a bombardment of incomprehensible images – images of trees, homes, wineries in flames. Wineries I recognize. Homes of people I know. Trees that once shaded memorable drives through remarkable Wine Country.
Napa and Sonoma burning.
And then reality intrudes. My reality. My wine writer life. Car parked, roster checked, spit cup and wine glass presented, and wine tasting begins.
Wines presented by importer+distributor Veritas Wine at High Treason for Becky Wasserman & Co., a bespoke Burgundian wine agency representing an elite portfolio of artisan domaines. Expect more on this bedrock of Burgundian wine culture in future posts.
But not today. Today thoughts and prayers go out to Napa + Sonoma.
You can find out more about how to help by following the Napa Register.
My instructor at BIVB once described Chardonnay as the drama-free, fair-haired child that gets along with everyone. But every family has at least one problem child passed over in lieu of a more popular one.
In Burgundy, it’s Aligoté, Burgundy’s ‘other’ white varietal, a more angular version of sibling Chardonnay. A thin-skinned, rather tart white grape grown in Burgundy, styles vary from unctuous to austere.
While Chardonnay dazzles wine lovers from Chablis to the Mâconnais, Aligoté resides primarily in the Côte Chalonnaise village of Bouzeron. Notably, the village grows the superior Aligoté Doré varietal, rather than the lesser clone, Aligoté Vert.
This does not mean that other areas of Burgundy do not cultivate Aligoté. Pockets of producers include Alice + Olivier de Moor of St. Bris in Chablis, Domaine Naudin-Ferrand of Magny-les-Villers, which straddles Hautes Côtes de Beaune and Hautes Côtes de Nuits, and Domaine Ponsot, Burgundy’s only Premier Cru Aligoté from Monts Luisants in Morey-Saint-Denis. I’ve also discovered some fuller, more luxurious Aligotés produced in Meursault.
One must admire Aligoté’s perseverance. Despite relegation to blending, segregation to Burgundy’s Bouzeron, and integration into the Kir Royale, Aligoté endures, and may yet prevail. With global warming on the rise, interest in this early-ripening grape increases across the wine region. (S)he who laughs last, may indeed laugh best.
A. & P. de Villaine counts at the top of Bouzeron’s Aligoté producers, today’s featured wine. If the name sounds familiar, the ‘A’ in A. & P. de Villaine stands for Aubert de Villaine of fabled Domaine de la Romanée-Conti in Cote d’Or; his nephew Pierre de Benoist directs the domaine.
Wine: Domaine A. et P. de Villaine Bouzeron Aligoté
Spec (Note: Thanks to Soif Wine and Bar in Santa Cruz for stocking this wine.)
Robe: Clear, pale gold hue.
Nez: Discrete notes of mustard blossom, lemon, fleurs blanches.
Bouche: Tart lemon zest, bright minerality; dry, light-bodied, vivacious.
Recipes from the Châteaux of Burgundy, Giles & Bleuzen du Pontavice. Photographs: Claude Herlédan. Editions Ouest-France.
I’ve chosen to pair this wine with a traditional recipe for gougères (cheese puff pastries) featured in the authentic French cookbook “Recipes from the Châteaux of Burgundy” by Gilles and Bleuzen du Pontavice, with photos by Claude Herlédan.
“Aunt Thérèse’s gourgères,” pg. 61
“50 cl. milk, 5 g. salt, 125 g. butter. Bring these ingredients to the boil. Remove from the heat and add 250 g. of flour. Stir for a minute over the heat to dry out the pastry. Remove from the heat and add eight (8) eggs, two by two, followed by 125 g of diced gruyere. Put into a greased ring-shaped baking tin or in small heaps onto a greased baking sheet. Bake in a hot oven.”
The recipe omits oven temperature ( Try 450 F.)
Good luck improvising with your own cheese variations – part of the charm of using these old recipes.
June 17th 2017
concludes my guest hosting of
The French #Winophiles
A Virtual Tour of Burgundy, Part 2: Côte Chalonnaise, Mâconnais & Beaujolais.
For those unfamiliar with the program, The #Winophiles are a group of wine writers and bloggers that love French wine. Each month we focus on an area or aspect of French wine, with topics ranging from regions, routes, food, travel, and history, to profiles and tastings…we expand widely and seek to learn.
Burgundy is the focus of the May and June 2017 #Winophile program.
Please join us May 20th as we taste through Chablis and the fabled Cote d’Or from 10-11 a CST via Twitter using hashtag: #Winophile.
Here’s our May 20th Burgundy Tour Guide for your perusal:
Jeff Burrows of foodwineclick lures us to “Northern Burgundy Served Up With Rabbit.”
Jill Barth of L’Occasion schools us on “Thomas Jefferson in Burgundy.”
Michelle Williams of Rockin Red Blog tipples towards “A Journey Through Burgundy, Part 1 Chablis and Côte d’Or.”
Take a Tour of Burgundy with the French Winophiles!
Join us for this month’s French Winophiles!
What: A Tour of Burgundy Part 1 | Chablis + Côte d’Or
When: May 20, 2017 | 10 am CST
Burgundy Wine Region Quick Facts:
Stretches 140 miles from Chablis to the Mâconnais.
South 3.5 hours by car or 1.5 hrs. by train from Paris.
Enjoys a semi-continental climate.
Comprises 6% French wine production.
Produces 62% white wines, 28% red wines, and 10% sparkling (*BIVB – 2017.)
Contains 20% of all French Appellations (AOC’s):
33 Grand Cru AOC’s
635 Premier Cru AOC’s
44 Village AOC’s
Primary varietals: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Côte d’Or (Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune)
Beaujolais – Administratively only (Technically, Beaujolais belongs to the Rhône department.)
Burgundy: Some history….
Benedictine and Cistercian monks oversaw wine production in Burgundy from 909 AD until 1789, introducing stone walls, or clos, around vineyards, codifying named sites, or climats, and cultivating Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as the region’s primary varietals.
Prior to the Revolution, France’s royal Dukes of Burgundy ruled the region from 1363-1477, outlawing Gamay.
Burgundy established the first Hospices de Beaune wine auction at the Hôtel Dieu in 1851.
Chablis Quick Facts:
Chablis also includes the Grand Auxerrois and Châtillonnais sub-regions.
Chablis boasts distinctive chalky limestone clays composed of dead oyster fossils. The biomass originated in a tropical sea that once covered the region, long before glaciers formed, tectonic plates shifted and crusts uplifted.
Fun Fact: These dead baby oysters settled into layers, eventually morphing into clays with a chalky consistency. With each plate shift and uplift, the chalky sea bed layers dispersed, forming a ‘ring’ which today includes the cliffs of Dover, Chablis, Champagne’s Aube region, and the Upper Loire’s Sancerre region.
Chardonnay accounts for 100% of Chablis’ wine production, with the following exceptions:
The village of St. Bris may cultivate Sauvignon Blanc.
The village of Irancy may produce César-Pinot Noir blends.
The village of Vézelay may grow Melon de Bourgogne.
Chablis’ AOC Hierarchy includes:
Chablis Grand Cru
Chablis Premier Cru
Chablis has (1) Grand Cru with (7) distinctive climats:
Côte d’Or Quick Facts:
Also know as “La Route des Grands Crus” the ‘golden slopes’ of the Côte d’Or encompass Burgundy’s celebrated Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune.
Côte de Nuits produces 89% red wine, and contains 24 Grand Cru, all red but one (Musigny).
Côte de Beaune produces 57% red, 43% white wines, and includes 8 Grand Crus, all white but one (Corton).
HOW TO JOIN US
If you are a wine writer or blogger, this is your invitation to join in! Posts on travel, food, wine and lifestyle in Burgundy are all welcome.
Contact me to tell me you’re in: Include blog url, Twitter handle, and any other social media details. If you know your blog post title, include that…but you can also send that a bit closer to the event. We’d just like to get a sense of who’s participating and give some shout-outs and links as we go. Contact me below.
Send your post title to me by Wednesday, May 17th to be included in the preview post. I will prepare a preview post shortly after getting the titles, linking to your blogs. Your title may or may not include “#Winophiles.”
Publish your post between 12:01 a.m-8:00 a.m. EDT on Saturday, May 20th. You can always schedule your post in advance if you will be tied up that morning.
Include links to the other #Winophiles participants in your post, and a description of what the event is about. I’ll provide the HTML code that you can easily put in your initial post — which will link to people’s general blog url.
Get social! After the posts go live, please visit your fellow bloggers posts’ to comment and share. We have a Facebook group (French Winophiles) for participating bloggers to connect and share, too. If you need an invitation please let me know.
NOTE: Sponsored posts are OK if clearly disclosed. Please be sure to disclose if your post is sponsored or if you are describing wine or other products for which you have received a free sample.
Welcome to my latest installment of Wine Writer Confidential, where I spill, thrill and chill you with all the news unfit to print about my world of wine writing.
It’s no secret that a virus laid me low last week, rendering me useless, and unable to taste. However, the down time allowed me to ponder a few things…
On Wine, Words, Burgundy, and Battling Shyness in an Extroverted Industry
Recently, a wine blogger whom I respect sent me this:
“…I just finished an ARC of Cork Dork and the writer is talking about Burgundy and there is a line in there are a few sentences that made me think of you.
“I’ve never watched someone open what was supposed to be an outstanding bottle of Burgundy without a look of mild terror on her face. The wines oxidize, they get reductive, they are fickle in mediocre vintages, and they go through awkward phases in their youth. The people who adore these wines tend to have a masochistic streak, and when you meet a Burgundy fanatic, it’s hard not to puzzle over what trauma – were they hugged enough as kids? – might have compelled them to attempt to master this region.”
Not to say this is you, but it made me think of you, a Burgundy expert…”
Was this a backhanded compliment? An underhanded backstab? A bit of both? I replied ‘guilty’ to the charge of Burgundy fanatic, ‘definitely’ to lack of hugs as a child, but balked at ‘mild terror’ when opening a bottle of the noble juice.
Which got me thinking about my life as a wine writer with a particular passion for Burgundy. It’s no accident that I fell down the rabbit hole of Burgundy. It appeals to those of us reserved in nature. Burgundy requires determination, diligence, and discretion, not only as a vigneron, but as a disciple of the region.
Also no accident that writing chose me as a profession. Suffice it to say that reading “Alice in Wonderland” at age seven opened my eyes to the wonder and power of words. By age eight writing had chosen me, though it took a lifetime of maze-milling before leaping full-time into freelance word-smithing.
But wine writing? For a shy person, wine writing presents an unholy challenge, because the wine industry as a rule attracts extroverts – people who thrive on the company of others. For introverts, incessant socializing exhausts, rather than excites. A fact I tried to ignore at first, with disastrous results.
As a neophyte wine writer, I forced my self to work in a series of tasting rooms – family, corporate, niche, boutique – to learn the nuances of the industry, as well as the artistry of winemaking. But these experiences took their toll, both on me and others. Reserved people as a lot do not understand the social dynamics necessary to lubricate a tasting room; most miss important social cues that others take for granted. The same frustrations held true during my initial wine maker interviews.
Sadly, while the social torture continued, morale did not improve – until a wise mentor told me to ‘flip the script,’ positing that the story problem offered a different narrative. He was right.
I write about what Joseph Campbell coined the ‘Hero’s Journey,’ sharing wine makers’ leaps of faith, overcoming obstacles, and a final battle – usually in a cave – followed by a victorious return with the boon, or treasure – in this case wine, the redThread™ that binds us all.
As an introvert in an extrovert’s industry, I identify with these people I write about, because I’ve followed their same journey. I understand the courage needed to follow one’s passion, to overcome obstacles, to do battle in order to create something out of nothing, something that hopefully inspires others.
I’ve also learned that the social liability of shyness – right up there along other no-no’s like bad breath and acne – actually proves an asset as a writer. Talking less means listening more. Seeing more. Feeling more. Sussing out the subtext while others talk all over the obvious.
Do I ever wish someone could wave a magic wand and make me an extrovert? Sometimes. But introversion helped me find my voice. Brought me to Burgundy. Led me to wine makers with stories worth telling. And taught me to stop trying to be something I’m not. In this time of renewal, may you embrace whatever you are. Cheers.
Pssst…hope you like the new website look! Feel free to share your thought below…
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