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!
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.
Wines from Beaujolais, where the Gamay Noir grape varietal is grown, are some of the finest and most underappreciated quality wines on the market today. One of our favorites is the 2009 Domaine des Terres Dorées Beaujolais L’Ancen Vielles Vignes .
The owner and wine maker is Jean-Paul Brun and he has worked hard to make his wines some of the best and most consistent in the region. The domain is situated in the south of Beaujolais, in the village of Charnay-en-Beaujolais, and he also produces "Cru" wines from different classified villages including Fleurie (the 2009 Brun Fleurie is also outstanding). He practices 100% organic farming, and uses only native yeasts in the fermentation process. The wine is sourced from some of the oldest vines on the lot, where there are fewer grapes per vine, resulting in a more concentrated and robust flavor.
2009 was an outstanding vintage in Beaujolais; David Schildknecht of the Wine Advocate awarded this wine 90 points. Coming in at $16.99 per bottle, it is an outstanding value for a wine of this quality. It is deep red in color, contains refined soft tannins, a beautiful bouquet of bright red fruit, and spice. Delicious!
Beaujolais is one of the more versatile and forgiving wines to accompany food, and I recommend exploring different pairings with a variety of foods. It is an interchangeable selection with many traditionally white wine pairings, but it can hold its own with richer and heavier foods.
It was a perfect selection to complement tonight’s dual meal, surf and turf of Prime dry aged NY strip steak with a spice rubbed grilled sea scallop. The richness of the beef was cut with the soft tannins and the spice, and the fruit forwardness of the wine softened the spice rub on the scallop.
With a Prime Dry Aged Strip steak I don’t like to fuss much with it. I want the rich flavor of the quality beef to shine through without being covered up by herbs or spices. Coat with extra virgin olive oil, fleur de sel (French grey sea salt), and coarse fresh cracked pepper, and grill to one’s liking.
For the scallops, I also coat with extra virgin olive oil and a spice blend (recipe below) or there are some quality pre-made rubs from Penzys. Make sure the grill is hot and well-oiled before placing the scallops atop. They only take about 3-4 minutes per side.
Scallop Spice Rub:
1 tbsp. Hungarian Paprika
1 tsp. Onion Powder
1 tsp. Cumin powder
½ tsp. Cayenne powder
½ tsp. Garlic powder
½ tsp. Fennel Seed
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 tsp. Fresh Ground Pepper