As we gear up for Independence Day, and the 100th Tour de France begins to roll, it is once again time to feature some of our favorite wines as we follow the greatest race on earth. Get excited for 2,200 miles over three weeks, and some of the greatest wine regions in and around France!
Cycling may be the most wine friendly sport in the world. Its three "Grand Tours" - the Giro d'Italia, Vuelta a España and the Tour de France - roll through some of the world's greatest wine regions every year. If you are an avid cyclist who likes to eat, drink and climb (not at the same time), you can saddle up a racing level Pinarello Dogma with our partner InGamba, where my good friend and former pro cyclist, Joao Correia will introduce you to some of Tuscany's greatest food, wine and rides (Bicycling Magazine calls it the "Best ride on earth"). Trust me, riding with Joao and visiting the likes of Castello di Ama will be one of the greatest experiences of your life. For the mere mortals among us, there are nearly endless options for enjoying cycling and wine around the world.
Wine and cycling are two things most identified with France. One of the greatest wine-producing nations on earth, Le Tour is also perhaps the most demanding athletic competition in the world, and the scenery is breathtaking. This year, we have already seen incredible scenery as the Tour visited Corsica for the first time. And there are few things more visually stunning than seeing a Peloton of color gliding through miles of vineyard roads.
Keeping with tradition, we will be following the Tour closely with a series of tastings to explore some of France's great wine-producing regions. Beginning in Corsica and on the Mediterranean coast at Nice and Marseilles, this year's ride will also pass through Provence, the Rhone Valley, Savoie, Languedoc-Rousillon, the Loire Valley and other wine regions. On Bastille Day, it will just miss the southern tip of Burgundy - a stage that the French riders always "reach into their suitcase of courage" to win.
With over 300 recognized appellations in France, the Tour is also a great opportunity to open some of our most oddball wines from France so you can get in touch with your inner wine-geek. Please check our tasting calendar and join us for some or all of these tastings. It’s going to be a fun few weeks!
I enjoyed a fantastic pairing diiner with a colleague last week at Buffalo's Ristorante Lombardo. Bravo to Tommy Lombardo, Jr. and his team for a great meal and great wine pairings. While Lombardo's remains one of Buffalo's classic Italian restaurants (over 35 years in business), Tommy is helping to transform the restaurant into an exciting vinoteca with one of the most exciting wine programs in town. He recently returned to Buffalo after spending time in New York City working around some of the hottest wine destinations in the city. He is clearly bringing a progressive approach with him, and I am excited to work with him and Lombardo's on wine events in the near future. In the meantime, I highly recommend checking out their themed wine pairing dinners. On our visit, we were treated to a partial preview of an upcoming Sicily-themed dinner. Some of the highlights were Murgo Brut Rose pairied with Blue Point Oysters and Horseradish Marmalata (one of the best pairings I've had in a long time), and Venturini Baldini Lambrusco with Tagliatelle Bolognese. Look for some of these wines at City Wine Merchant soon!
Our menu for the evening:
Murgo Brut Rose, 2009
with Tuna Tagliatta, blood oranges, fennel, arugula
and Blue Point Oysters with horseradish marmalata.
'Zagra' Valle dell'Acate 2011
with Grilled Octopus, pickled fennel, smoky white beans
'Quadrio' Valtellina Superiore, Nino Negri, 2009
with Wood Roasted Figs, gorgonzola, prosciutto
Venturini Baldini Lambrusco NV
with Tagliatelle Bolognese
COS Pithos Rosso, 2011
with Veal Marsala
Vigna la Miccia Marsala, Marco de Bartoli, NV
Happy July! It's time to gear up for Independence Day and the Tour de France...and it's one of the best times of the year to drink good wine. If you don't know already, I love wine and I love cycling. As always, the Tour's 2,200 mile, three week race, gives us an easy excuse to feature some of our favorite French wines. I've written before about how much I love this time of year:
I love this time of year. The sun is out, flowers are in bloom, the new vintage of rosé is here for all to enjoy -- and the Tour de France rolls out on what also happens to be the birthday of our Country and my only son. Pro Cycling is a pretty cool sport if you're a wine enthusiast. Its three "Grand Tours" run through some of the world's greatest wine regions every year -- the Giro d'Italia (Italy), Vuelta a España (Spain) and the Tour de France. Whether you ride or not, Le Tour is thrilling to watch. The race itself is perhaps the most demanding athletic competition in the world, and the scenery is breathtaking. There are few things more visually stunning than seeing a Peloton of color gliding through miles of vineyard roads. It is inspiring in every respect, and it always makes me want to drink wine.
Keeping with tradition, we will be following the Tour closely with a series of tastings to explore France's unique regions. As always, the race itself rolls through some of France's most well-known wine appellations. The early days will see the riders glide through Épernay in the heart of Champagne (although they will probably wait until the ride into Paris to actually drink Champagne on the saddle), and through the Vosges Mountains just west of Alsace. Stage 10 brings the Peloton back to Maçon, the southernmost city in Burgundy, just north of the hills of Beaujolais. Maçon will be a stage town for the fifth time, and has hosted important time-trials in the past. Look for some excitement here! If only because we're going to use this opportunity to open some awesome wine. And don't forget to plan your Bastille Day festivities around the Stage 13 ride out of the Rhone Valley and into the Languedoc-Roussillon -- this is one the French riders really push hard to win.
For every appellation you've heard of in France, there are probably ten you didn't know existed (there are over 300 recognized appellations)! And so this is also a great opportunity to open some of our most oddball wines from France so you can get in touch with your inner wine-geek. This is going to be a fun few weeks! We kick it all off with some wines from Champagne and Alsace on June 29th between 5-7pm. Check out our Events Calendar as we update all of our Tour-themed tastings.
If you really want to go crazy, come up with some sort of Tour de France Wine Game. Here's a creative one we sort of borrowed from (randomly) the Phoenix New Times:
• Each time Phil Liggett says a rider is "reaching into his suitcase of courage", take a drink.
• Each time Paul Sherwen says "The elastic has snapped!", open a new bottle, fill everyone's glass and take a drink.
• Each time Liggett or Sherwen corrects the other on some incorrect fact or observation, take a drink.
• Each time Bob Roll says "Tour-Day-France", feel ashamed to be an American and take a drink.
• Each time Liggett or Sherwen remark on the riders taking a "nature break", go ahead and take one yourself.
Spending a romantic afternoon dining outdoors is one of my favorite summer activities, and having the right wine, food and cheese is always on top of my priority list. I think living in New York City has forced me to perfect my picnic-ablity - meaning packing just the right amount of outdoor accessories,
proper disposable dining supplies and a smart amount of food and drink, without carrying a kitchen-sized beach bag into the park.
When I first tasted Château Roquefort Côtes De Provence Rosé Corail 2010, I mentally began rearranging my perfectly-packed-picnic bag to fit 2 bottles, instead of one. This crisp, refreshing Rosé is aromatic, fruit-forward and lively, but also displays an elegant softness with sweet hints strawberry and raspberry. As I swished the wine over my palate, I imagined rays of sunshine glistening off the crystal clear water, as I sipped this perfectly pink wine, aboard a sailboat in Provence…ok, back to reality…
Over the weekend, I opened up a bottle of Corail to enjoy in the warm weather, after stopping by Murray's Cheese for Crottin de Chavignol, a classic French chevre. At only $5.99 a nugget, I expected a nice, enjoyable pairing, but was given much more! This little French round is only a bit larger than a marshmallow; with a similar pillow-like rind and a lushious, gooey inside. Big flavors of salt and lemon tang are packed in this small, goat’s milk cheese, with a rustic, yet mild flavored white rind. A sweet and salty characteristic is drawn out when the two are paired together – the salt from the cheese becomes a perfect partner for the sweet berry flavors of the Corail (which is an equally perfect picnic value at $14.44 with our 6 bottle mix and match discount!) – what a sensational pairing!