Tag Archives: Loire Valley

Eric Louis Pinot Noir “Vin de France”

Cost: Average price $14

Where buy now: Solo Vino, Zipp’s, Thomas Liquors, Wine Market, The Little Wine Shoppe, Perrier Wine & Liquor

Grapes: 100% Pinot Noir

Region: France

Vintage: 2012

Eric Louis Pinot Noir

Why not spend a cold winter’s evening with several people you don’t know, on beds of yoga mats and blankets, while administering massage to your partner and drinking wine. It may seem like the set up for a swingin’ 70s “keys in the fishbowl” situation. (Perhaps in an era frought with t-top camaros, not-for-charity mustaches, and leisure suits, it may have been.) Alas in 2013, it was simply a fun and unique way to spend a couple hours with your mate and like-minded folks.

Thai Massage Date Night is the brainchild of my co-host and friend, Mary Langfield Neaton.http://bit.ly/1bzVMB4/Mary Langfield Neaton She is a certified yoga instructor who studied in Chang Mai, Thailand in massage and was looking to add another component to the class. Voila – why not add wine? In fact, let’s offer wine and food to enhance the entire sensory experience.

Our evening took place at Revolution Cycle & Fitness in the yoga studio. Mary took us through an hour and a half of Couples Thai Massage. It was fun listening to couples laugh and bicker about pressure, technique and awkwardness.

Afterward, folks helped themselves to antipasto, salad, chocolate and of course, wine! One wine served was a lovely French Pinot Noir, recommended by my pal Fred, that I was quite excited to share with everyone. A common question I receive is, “What’s your favorite Pinot Noir under $15?” Well, there’s a reason I don’t often write about tasty budget Pinots, much like I won’t often sing the praises for budget sushi or some diamond-in-the-rough one-ply toilet paper.

In France, wines are named from the regions in which they hail. Pinot Noir, is known as “Burgundy” if the wine comes from the Burgundy region of France (French spelling Bourgogne). It is a finicky grape that requires the perfect combination of skill and climate to create. A wonderful film that documents the process is called, “A Year in Burgundy”: http://www.ayearinburgundy.com/A Year in Burgundy

This Pinot Noir doesn’t hail from Burgundy; but never you mind. Let’s meet the wine maker because soon you won’t care it’s not from THE Burgundy region. Eric Louis is not only a producer, but a grower committed to organic and biodynamic viticulture in the Sancerre appellation of the Loire Valley. He also firmly believes in minimal intervention in the cellar: no altering of natural sugar and acid levels, no coloring added, little to no filtering, plus the smallest possible amounts of added sulphur dioxide. Eric makes a Sancerre Blanc and a Sancerre Rouge from 100 percent estate fruit. (Sancerre Rouge is always 100% Pinot Noir.)

Clearly, this guy is not into cutting corners, so how can he produce budget friendly Pinot? Simply, because it doesn’t hail from THE Burgundy region. It also cannot be called Sancerre Rouge. Huh? I know, a bit confusing, but hang with me, here. Eric sources the fruit from sustainable growers just outside the Sancerre appellation in eastern Loire Valley. He is able to make this wine for far less than his Sancerre, and sell large quantities of it, which in turn, augments his small, boutique operation.

So how does a Pinot Noir made by a Sancerre producer with grapes from the non-Sancerre appellation of the eastern Loire Valley taste?

Pretty… freaking… fantastic! This Pinot is light to medium bodied and is chalk full of fresh cherry and raspberry flavors. No heavy tannins here, either, as this wine doesn’t touch a splinter of oak. But this is no watered down wallflower- it has swell personality with shy earthy and stewed fruit undertones. Color me impressed. So was everyone else, ESPECIALLY when I told them the bottle retails for under $15. I believe this is one of the absolute best Pinots for the money.

After the massage portion ended, our inhibitions finally subsided. Folks stood around for over an hour chatting and drinking the wine. If more Pinot Noir had been present, I think we might have needed a fishbowl after all.

La Forcine Vouvray

Cost: Average price $13

Where buy now: North Loop Wines & Spirits

Grapes: Chenin Blanc

Region: Vouvray – Loire Valley, France

Vintage: 2010

La Forcine Vouvray

Ladies and gentlemen, I have found my new sausage wine! I cannot tell you how happy this makes me. Why? I have a couple reasons. First, I love sausage. Juicy chunks of pork, fat, garlic, spices and goodness wrapped inside a casing. Second, the blissful flavor that oozes after snaping into a freshly grilled specimen is virtually unparalleled in the sensory world. To fully enjoy these fatty, salty, oozing flavors, washing it down with something complimentary is a must. For the standard brat, I’ve been all about a Riesling Kabinett, but alas, I’ve found my new Summer sausage staple: Vouvray.

Vouvray is an area in the Loire Valley region of France that produces white wine from the Chenin Blanc grape. While it is Chenin Blanc wine, it is named “Vouvray” after the area the grapes are grown and the wine is produced. I know, a bit confusing. Is it Chenin Blanc or Vouvray? The answer is “yes”. Perhaps think of it like this: Chablis is a type of Chardonnay made in the French town of Chablis; Champagne hails from the Champagne region. [Or, perhaps consider that Milwaukee’s Best originates from, well, you know.]

Alright, let’s get back to this wine. Many folks like Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Vouvray is like a marriage of the two. It’s qualities vary depending on climate and soil. The one I am digging on right now is La Forcine demi-sec. “Demi-sec” literally translates to “medium-dry”. (Think of it more like “medium-sweet”.) This Vouvray is refreshing with fragrances and tastes of green apple and pineapple. It is lively with a medium-body (unlike a Chardonnay, which is heavier) with acidity and sweetness balancing one another.

This wine is a marvelous value at around $13. I’m surprised this wine isn’t well known, or widely available in restaurants, as it’s so food friendly. The subtly sweet tastes, combined with the apple and pineapple flavors, pair amply with fatty boombalatty sausages. I recently scored bacon/cheddar brats from Nueske’s- truly a match made in heaven. If you don’t often have the privilege of driving across Central Wisconsin (sarcasm, anyone?) and stop at Nueske’s in Wittenberg, I say pick up your favorite butcher’s sausages, grill ‘em up and toast with this Vouvray. Before long, you’ll be licking your fingers, and when no one is looking, the rim of your glass.

Cuvée Catherine

Cost: Average price $8

Where buy now: Haskell’s – $7.99

Grapes: Cuvee Catherine: Sauvignon Blanc

Region: Loire Valley, France

Vintage: Table white wine

Cuvee Catherine

Yep, just another boring-ass Tuesday night. Sadly, our cable was recently turned off [we did ride the rails for over a year, but they’re still jerks] I needed some evening entertainment. Why bait depression by watching “The Biggest Loser” or bore myself with “Glee” (which IMHO, jumped the shark early in Season 2)?

I also needed to explore another white wine for this week. The bottle I chose is Cuvee Catherine Sauvignon Blanc. Andy (our new BFF- remember?) explained that Cuvee Catherine is a private label wine produced solely for Haskell’s by the Sauvion winery, named for the owner’s wife, Catherine. This translates to decent wine at a decent price. But wait, how sweet is that? I’d LOVE a wine to be named after me! I instantly started to daydream about this. Could there be just one? Would it be sparkly? Italian?

This is a nice Sauvignon Blanc, just a pleasant little number. It hails from the Loire [Lwahr] Valley in Northwestern France. An expansive and diverse region, the cool climates help create a light-to-medium bodied, dry white wine. It has hints of citrus (and dare I say a tinge of grass) yet remains balanced in acidity. It being a French wine, I wanted something “Frenchy” to go with it. While searching for recipes that incorporated ingredients I had on hand, I came across this humdinger: Chicken stuffed with goat cheese and basil. I even used the Cuvee Catherine to make the mushroom-wine sauce.www.epicurious.com/Epicurious-green Lighter fare like grilled fish, quinoa with herbs or mixed greens should pair equally as well.

Cuvee Catherine

When I took the dish out of the oven, the basil & green onion spiked goat cheese came oozing right out of the chicken. Oozing cheese=bliss! Poured some of that buttery mushroom-wine sauce on top MAN! Melted French bliss. A sip of this wine and it was like a Parisian spring day in my mouth.

After much daydream toil, my only conclusion was that any vino named after me MUST be a red, on account of my crimson locks. But, it sure beat sitting in front of the boob tube, sobbing as some morbidly obese ‘loser’ slipped below the yellow line. Or, worse yet, cringing at the faux-angst choreographed to a Madonna medley.