Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wine Tasting at Chateau Chenonceau and Chablisenne

The Loire River
We spent the night in the small town of Amboise with its ancient castle, pedestrian walkways, rose covered houses, and colorful cafes all nestled along side the Loire River.
The next day we drove the short distance to Chateau Chenonceau, the famous castle that spans the River Cher and was the home of both Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici.  We had 1.5 hours to tour the castle and magnificent gardens, and though it was raining a bit, it was still an enchanted place.
Chateau Chenonceau
Chateau Chenonceau
At 10:30 we all met in the wine cellar for a private tasting.  Called La Cave de Domes, it is in the AOC of Chenonceau and was started in the 15th century when Diane de Poitiers was living in the castle.  They have 12 hectares of vineyards in front of the estate and produce around 6,000 cases, which they sell 100% direct to castle visitors.  We tasted a sauvignon blanc, a rose of grolleau and a cabernet franc.  All were well-made, and served with delightful appetizers of goat cheese, pork pate, and brie.
Toasting with Rose Wine at Chenonceau Wine Cellars
Tasting Rose in the Cellars of Chenonceau
After the tasting, we climbed aboard the bus and drove 3 hours to the small town of Chablis in Burgundy.  We stopped halfway so everyone could experience how fancy the French gas stations are along the freeways – very large with multiple stalls of clean bathrooms, and small grocery stores and restaurants.
Visiting La Chablisenne Coop in Chablis, Burgundy
We arrived in Chablis just in time for our 3:30 appointment at La Chablisenne, one of the largest and most famous cooperatives in France.  We were welcomed by the winemaker, Vincent, who described the wine-making process and led us through a tasting of 6 wines.
Everyone was fascinated to learn about the special Kimmeridgian soil of Chablis, which is a combination of limestone and ancient shellfish.  He showed us a large sample of the soil and pointed out to small seashells imbedded in the slightly yellow rocky substance (see photo).
Chablis Winemaker with Kimmeridgian Rock
Chablis Winemaker with Kimmeridgian Rock
Chablisenne was started in 1923, and today they have 250 winegrowers who sell their chardonnay must (harvested, destemmed and crushed in advance) to the coop.  Altogether they farm 1300 hectares and produce around 9 million bottles of Chablis per year.
We left Chablis around 5pm and arrived in Beaune around 6:30 to check into our hotel, the Le Panorama situated in the vineyards about a 20 minute walk from the center of the walled town.  After quickly unpacking most of us headed back into town to eat in the many scrumptious restaurants of Beaune.We  proceeded to taste through these areas starting with a 2012 Petite Chablis which was delightfully crisp, fresh and lemony.  Next was a 2012 Chablis with high acid and salty minerality.  The 2011 Mont de Milliuer Premier Cru that followed had seen 25% oak and was more complex, but the two 2010 Grand Cru’s which followed were both amazing, with layers of complexity, mineral, lemon, and a very long elegant finish.  They were the 2010 Gran Cru Blanchot and Chateau Grenouile Grant Cru.

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