Monday, May 14, 2018


Lethbridge Wines

I first tried the Lethbridge Pinot Noir 2014 at the Langham hotel in downtown Melbourne. They have a very nice selection of wines with a gas system which allows them to serve you by the glass unique expensive wines. I was so pleased that I decided to go visit the winery.

At the winery, I was welcomed by the wine marker's themselves Maree and Ray. Both have PhDs, one in biology and one in chemistry. And you can tell from the wines.
It turns out that the wines are among the best in Australia. They are served at the most prestigious restaurants and hotels. And they are far from cheap.

I had an idea that Australian wines, because of the lack of regulation, are mostly made in stainless steel vats with wooden chips, at industrial scale. This is quite the opposite: Ray gave me a tour of the back room and we sampled wines from the barrels and even the fermentation barrels (yes, he ferments them in oak vats or barrels depending on the size of the harvest).

Also, I was very impressed with the variety of grapes they make wine from: I would say at least about 20 different grapes. And the styles go from Ripasso to Amphora Aged! I don't think I have ever seen such a diversity in grapes, and winemaking techniques. I would typically be afraid that a winemaker can't possibly excel at such a diversity of grapes and techniques but everything I tried made me think that they, in fact, do excel at all of them. Not to mention that they nearly always have about half a dozen young winemakers or interns from Europe and other parts of the world visiting to learn their art.

Anyway, I sampled all their production. And I strongly recommend trying the aged Chardonnays. They are unbelievable. I really loved, as expected, the Pinot Noirs. The single vineyard pack made from 4 different soils were extremely interesting but it is the blend of the 4 that I like the most.
I discovered the Aglianico. Very impressive as well.
And last but not least their Syrah was also very unique, a little salty.

I left with a case, via Indonesia, on the way home. And guess what? In the Bali airport, they threatened to confiscate my entire case after I properly declared it. Luckily, but still very sad, I managed to negotiate to leave 3 bottles only and keep 9. I am sure the customs officers "destroyed" the wine as soon as practicable.

Helen & Joey

While I didn't have time to visit more wineries around Lethbridge, the following day we went to Healesville Animal Reserve and on the way back home we had to stop at some wineries. There were so many of them! We picked the one with an interesting name and, we were told, a beautiful view. And indeed the view was really fun.

We were served a variety of wines by the charming front desk girls. The winery has 3 levels of wines:
1. Entry level. Inara. Un-oaked, very young. And honestly, I really don't like this style of wine. Very acid.
2. A mid-level that turned out to be our favorite. Layla.
3. The Alena, their high end.

And they also make a "unique wine every year", a wine that is made as experiments by the winemaking team. Each year a different experiment.

And we left with 12 bottles, which were shipped home. But honestly, I don't remember what we bought, lets see what arrives in the mail.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Cotes de Provence

The last day in Cannes I visited 3 Cotes de Proven wineries.
I strongly believe that they are wrong to focus on rose wine and that their reds and whites are underrated.

1.  Château Sainte-Roseline
I really liked their whites and reds. They have a particularly good red who beat some amazing Bordeaux at blind tastes. They even have old vintages still in stock surprisingly.

2. Chateau Font du Broc
Amazing view and garden, worth a visit but I didn't end up buying any wines.

3. Domaine des Planes
One of the oldest, in a much wilder set. I found their roses to stand out for their taste and diversity.

Short article, but to the point. It's late in Beijing and I need to sleep :)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Chateau Neuf Du Pape day 2


Today we visited the actual village of Chateau Neuf du Pape. It felt really special. Unlike other villages in Provence like Roussillon, Gordes,  Fontaine de Vaucluse or Isle de Sorge, there are a lot fewer tourists in the actual village of Chateau Neuf du Pape. That was surprising because it also has an amazing view and a lot of charm.

Overall Provence feels calm, quiet, warm, relaxing. It is probably among the best vacations we ever had. The food is amazing. The wine is even more amazing. And its diversity stands out.

1. Vergers des Papes.

The good: it is free, and the two tasters are extremely informative. In 15 minutes they really explain to you everything you need to know as basics about Chateau Neuf du Paper AOC, wines, region, wine makers, grapes... Everything.

What makes the Appelation d'Origines Controlee unique? Apparently it was the 1st one in France in 1936. Why is the wine special here? Apparently because when the popes used to live in Avignon they wanted nice wine (the church used a lot of wine) so they helped develop the wine in the region.

And what else is special about this AOC? They can use 13 grapes:
The best known one is Grenache which is the majority of the production. They also use Syrah, Mourvedre,  Roussanne, Clairette. But also a bunch I had never heard of: Cinsault, Counoise, Vaccarese, Picpoul, Muscardin, Bourboulenc, Terret Noir and Picardon.

And each wine maker decides who many go in each wine. So wines can go from 100% Grenache to 13 grapes. The old stile Chateau Neuf are made of all 13 grapes and farily strong ( Think: Chateau Nerthe) and the new style can be anything, soft and simple and elegant.

We tried a white Chateau Neuf ( only 6% of production) made of all 6 white grapes they have ( including white Grenach) , one new style Chateau Neuf (very new , 2016 vintage, needed more time to really express) and a 2009 Chateau Neuf as well. The bottles were really cheap by the way , around 25 Euros each.

Over all, the price to quality of the wine we tried was not bad but it did feel like the wine they sell to tourists in the tourist center because nobody else wanted to buy it.

The bad and the ugly: well all you taste here is 3 wines. That's it. And it's clearly made for tourists. So worth a stop perhaps if you are in the village already.

2. Les Girard du Boucou , Chateau Neuf du Pape,

On the way to the car from the Vergers des Papers I did have to stop by another winery and I picked the one that seemed artisanal and had the door open in a very friendly way. Great choice !
We were welcomed by the vinter's wife who was very polite.
We tasted their whites, and 3 reds. And we left with 9 magnums as some of their best wines were only left in magnums. And once you buy 3 magnums it's easier to pack only magnums than alternating normal bottles and magnums.

So I am really excited. With a case of Janasse from Day 1 and 9 magnums ( practically 1.5 cases) from Boucou, I think it's a good start.

But hontesly I feel we barely scratched the surface and 90% of the wine in the region is still to be explored. I think it's even richer then the wine from Burgundy and more diverse and I like it better. And then there is also the northern Vallee du Rhone, and Baume de Venise, and so much more!

I will be back and at least for a week and I will get more wine, for sure!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Chateau Neuf Du Pape

Today we visited Chateau Neuf du Pape.
The sommelier , Christophe, at l'Auberge de Cassagne restaurant ( amazing dinner by the way!) gave us some insider scoops:

1. Domaine de Janasse

We tried their amazing 2010 Chaupin over dinner and we had to go to the property.
They have an amazing Chateau Neuf , for 53EUR , called Chaupin that is amazing. Did I mention it was amazing yet? We liked it better than their 74EUR Vieilles Vignes too!
And we also loved their white Chateau Neuf called Tradition. We tried a 2009 bottle they were pouring in the tasting room but could only buy the 2016 one.
Apparently the 2015 and 2016 harvests are going to be amazing !
Amazing wine, will probably become a repeat buyer.

Also to be noted their Garrigues which is also 100% Grenache (Rouge) whihc is extremely rich with fruits but much less elegant.

Christophe also recommended the following we hope to get to before we leave:

To do :

Vergers des Papes: apparently a nice restaurant who in the basement has an amazing selection of Chateau Neuf you can taste as well. Closed on Monday so maybe tomorrow Tuesday?

Gigondas: apparently the winery to se is Santa Duc, Mr. Yves Gras. Have to go with recommendation from Christophe. He aparently ages the wine in old amphorae he brings from Italy.

And for Northers Valley Christophe recommended:

In St Joseph: Jean Gonon, in the village of Mauves
In Mercuroles, Yann Chave.

I don't think we will get to these last two. We may have to come back!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Burgundy - June 2 and June 4 2017

Last time I visited Burgundy I decided that I actually prefer white Burgundy wines over red ones. And I was lucky enough to drive by Burgundy again on the way to a wedding in Savoie ( it is in fact the road from Paris to Lyons, how convenient!).

So on Friday the 2nd I stopped by

Domain Patrick Javillier - Meursault
19 Place de l'Europe, Meursault

I got a bottle of their White Burgundy and a bottle of their 1st Cru Meursault white. They had 2 1st Cru that was being tasted, but the difference was striking: one was ready to drink and the other one wasn't. When I opened the bottles later the 1st Cru was truly amazing however the white Burgundy was barely ok.

However, they recommend I visit a small grower in Monthelie, the village next to Meursault:

Domaine Boussey Laurent - Monthelie
1 rue du pied de la Vallee, Monthelie

And on Sunday the 4th on the way back to Paris I stopped by the family winery I usually stop by, Domain Gauffroy.
They have red and whites. Some as old as 2008 ! And their Volnay starts around 17EUR  and the most expensive, Volnay 1er Cru is 27EUR. The Pommard in 2015 is for example 23EUR.
I tried and bought only some whites. They have nice Meursault, Monthelie, 1er Cru and villages as well. And their parcels are in fact across the line from most of the traditional amazing Grand Cru and 1er Crus. I will be back and worth the price for sure.

Domain Gauffroy - Meursault
4, rue du pied de la foret, Meursault

The son decided to continue the family winery so the parents bought the house next door, adjacent to their old house through the back yard wall. They took down the wall, and now they have a real cellar, tasting room and space for a real wine operation. Very different than the small bar/garage in a small yard I had seen a few years before.

I left here with quite a nice selection.Their best Meursault is 31EUR, yes! The White Burgundy is 10EUR and amazing, and their Meursault Village is around 20-21EUR. I also got some Puligny Montrachet around 23EUR. A great combination of price and quality. I strongly recommend and I will be back at the next occasion.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

How to buy Chateauneuf-du-Pape

In the US and in fact in many places around the world you just can't find Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine below $45 and in fact often even $60.
I have not visited the region and the wineries. From the price one would think that the wine is amazing. So waiting to actually go visit, I've been tasting some Chateauneufs on different wine fairs, mostly around Paris when I happen to be in Paris at the right lucky date. The bottles though still start at 25EUR at least.

Luckily for me, and I hope for you too, my friend Francois' father is a wine investor and has therefore acquired a significant amount of knowledge about what to buy and specifically how.

He strongly recommended this website :
It is an organization of the wine makers in Chateauneuf, and you can buy the bottles straight from the wineries at the winery price. They will ship it directly to you as well.

I looked at the Guide Hachette des Vins and picked 6 bottles of the CHÂTEAU LA NERTHE as they strongly recommended it. And I also picked 6 bottles of Bosquet des Papers which he strongly recommended. I couldn't find any of the "Gastaldi" , assuming I am spelling it right.

I will report on the quality, most likely on Vivino. However a case of , apparently, outstanding Chateauneuf for 372EUR including shipping (to France) I think can't go wrong. Compare this to a $65 wine from Napa for example. So exciting ... !

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Oct 2016 Napa Valley trip (the birthday trip !)


This trip was short, just 2 days and more relaxing than usual. A lot of fun none the less.


1. Jam/ Butter

When we arrived to our hotel we were offered a glass of cabernet sauvignon. I was very surprised how soft it was with sweet tannins and jammy flavors. The wine came from the tasting room next door.
Yes, I had heard of Butter, the Chardonnay. And I really appreciated how direct the wine was, cost effective at $16 or so and straight to the point. I didn't know about Jam though, their red wine line.

So on Thursday morning, being ready earlier , as usual, I went next door to the hotel to taste their entire range. I tried their Butter Chardonnay and their Napa Butter Chardonnay and was very pleased with the difference. I knew their cab from the day before, confirmed again of course. And the other wine that stood out to me was their Russian River Pinot Noir. A good start of the day.

2. Madrigal

After having the usual lunch at Rutherford grill ( you really can't miss that !) we were too early for our Larkmead appointment. Driving around randomly I usually find beautiful new gems. We stopped, down the road from Larkmead , to Madrigal. And I was very pleasantly surprised to discover yet another gem.
The Madrigal family has been in the vine management business for many years. They have planted and managed many famous vineyards.
As hey started making wine they seem to specialize in all kind of unique and interesting grape varieties.
We started with a Fume Blanc. And unlike what the name suggest, it has nothing to do with smoke. It reminded me a lot of a Chardonnay fermented on the skins, dark practically amber color, thick and flavourful. An amazing wine.
They are also known for their Petit Sirah (nothing to do with Shiraz also spelled Syrah, as we are often told and I shall repeat yet again). Thick and fairly tannic. Already amazing and I can only guess what it would feel like after a few more years. I also particularly loved their Cabernet Sauvignons. They had a large selection, all of them were complex and beautiful but a few of them, in my eyes, were outstanding !
Madrigal, at least for this visit, was by far my favorite experience. It is small, fun, diverse and the tasting room team was extremely welcoming. Please do visit !

3. Larkmead

Remembering how outstanding was my last visit to Larkmead I wanted to come back and try their latest wines. We tried their Dr Olmo, Solari and The Lark.
Solari was our favorite here and while Dr Olmo was really good, we were really exciting to taste The Lark. The Lark we tried was apparently rated 99/100 by Robert Parker and the next year one (2015 ?) which we haven't tried was rated 100/100. I am not Robert Parker, obviously. I have a lot more to learn about wine and I noticed that the palet changes over time. At my level I preferred the jamier cabernet sauvignons from Madrigal though.

4. 1996 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon

On Thursday evening I was treated to an outstanding , stunning and exquisite dinner at the 3 Michelin start restaurant in Napa At Meadowood. The food was exceptional. The best part though were the 2 red wines in the wine pairings. (The 2 white wines in the pairing were very discreet and delicate, and realistically nothing to write about for me).
We had a Rhys San Mateo Countyu Pinot Noir 2013 which was stunning with the flavors and the equilibrium. I added it to my wish list ($75 apparently).
And, le clou du spectacle, we had a 1996 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon. Caymus wasn't making their special reserve yet back then. It came from those same vines apparently. And the flavors in this wine were unbelievable. Apparently we can buy it online for about $120. I am excited to try some again at the 1st occasion.

Day 2

4. Rombauer

I have now clearly established that the Rombauer Zins are my favorite. We have therefore once again setup a tasting at Rombauer. They continue to be very strict and despite running a blog and writing about them regularly there was no way to be treated as industry. Which is fine. And yet once again we tried their amazing Zins. This time around, probably later in the season, they only had their normal Zin and their special Zin (Sierra) for tasting. Their normal was just ok, but their Sierra was jammy, sweet, thick, rich... Too bad it was $65. I wanted to leave with a case of the Fiddletown , perhaps next time.

5. Tulocay

And last but not least we visited probably the smallest winery in Napa, Tulocay. Bill, the founder, welcomed us as usual with a lot of character, humor and of course wine. Their dark Pinot Noir stands out as usual for me.
Bill also explained why the economic pressure of the price per acre for the vines in Napa, and the price per bottle of the different grapes, is forcing everybody to replace all vineyards with Cabernet Sauvignon. A good bottle of Cab gets $100 , while a good bottle of Zin $50-$60. And it became so hard to get Napa Zin grapes that he unfortunately hasn't been able to get any in the last few years. Does this mean the end of the Napa Zins ? Perhaps not. There are fashions. Do we need to look forward to the next wine crisis in Napa (yes, crisis happen, like with real estate in 2008) and for the overproduction of Cab and the price of Cab to drop in order get more Napa Zin ? I hope not.

And what's next ?

My friends have now recommended to me an amazing Zin winery in Sonoma, the Hamel Family Wines. I am very curious. Zins are still going strong in Sonoma luckily for me apparently.

I read that the Livermore wine region was the 1st US region to win a prize in a French wine contest in 1890. And that Livermore had as much vineyard as Napa in the 1960s before Napa become world famous.

And I am really curious to try some more wines in the Santa Cruz dry and difficult mountains. I loved Cooper Garod and Pichetti. What else is to discover there ?

So much more to try and learn from. More wines :)