Monthly Archives: January 2009

A celebration of women in the wine industry

On a bright sunny winter’s day in deepest Sonoma, Southern Wine and Spirits invited 50 women, their clients and sales representatives for a Celebration for Women in the Wine Industry.

The beautiful Lancaster Winery on Chalk Hill was the location chosen by SWS Facilitator Judy Donahoe for this day away. 50 ladies from Northern Californian arrived by car and coach, sipping mimosas of the way, to be welcomed by the wine maker Jennifer Higgins.
After a delicious lunch and the time to get to know each other the first exercise, this was work not just play, was a blending exercise tutored by Consultant Ellen Flora from Newton Vineyard. Selecting varietal wines from this vineyard Ellen explained the notion of Puzzle a wine made from particular parcels of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, the blend changing each year as a function of the vintage. Each sample of 2006 varietals was striking in its typicity and delicious in its expression however the exercise worked it’s magic as the participants all created their own blend, each team presenting and justifying their choice to the audience and christening it with names such as Femme Fatale, The Harem, and Venus!

The consensus definitely for a blend lead by Cabernet but the Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot found an important role to play alongside the Merlot also. This matched up with official blend of the 2004 Newton Puzzle presented by Ellen at the end of the exercise.
The subject of blending lead perfectly on to the Bordeaux Seminar I was invited to give, presenting the typicity of the different styles of red Bordeaux illustrated with a tasting of 5 Red Bordeaux : Chateau de Sales 2004 from Pomerol, Chateau Lascombes 2005 from Margaux, Château d’Armaillhac2005 from Pauillac, Chateau Coufran 2005 from the Haut Medoc and the Château de Siaurac 2006 from Lalande de Pomerol. The subject was Is Bordeaux better? An interesting subject when surrounded by the vines of California – the question Better than what? The answer Better than it used to be! 

The tasting finished with the 2005 vintage of Lancaster Estate commented by our host and winemaker Jennifer Higgins. 

Always short of time when there are wines to taste and discuss a few bottles also made it onto the bus for the tasting to continue on the way home. A great introduction to Bordeaux for many of the participants and a sharing of the similarities and the contrasts between these 2 great Wine regions.

Ellen Flora, Jennifer Higgins, Wendy and Judy Donahoe in teh Lancaster tasting room

Bordeaux women welcome the Napa women in Wine

Last January Napa Women in Wine invited their Bordeaux counterparts to discover the Napa Vineyard. This year was the return match.

From the 11th to 15th January, The 16 ladies from Napa travelled the length and breadth of Bordeaux from Pomerol to the Medoc, Saint Emilion to Sauternes and Pessac Leognan visint gproperties where women plys a major role either as wine makers, owners or managers. Included on the itinerary were Château La Lagune, Château la Tour Bessan, Château Margaux, Château kirwan, Château Paloumey, Château Franc Mayne, Château Teyssier, Château Troplong Mondot, Château Sigalas Rabaud, Château Yquem, Château Haut Bailly and Château de Seuil.
It was not just tourism; several conferences on themes including marketing, understanding Bordeaux, a presentation on the role of the negociant by Paz Espero and ‘Tasting Terroir’ by Nicole Croft.

The participants from both sides of the Atlantic were

From California 
Jane Ballentine – William Cole
Pavi Lawson – Pavi Wines
Heidi Barrett – La Sirena
Cherie Melka – Melka Wines
Sandy Blecher – Arns Family Winery Beth Milliken – Spottswood
Carissa Chappellet – Chappellet Winery
Mary Novak – Spottswood
Carolyn Duryea Smith – Hourglass Suzanne Pavitt – Phifer Pavitt Wines
Ursula Hermacinski – Screaming Eagle
Pam Starr – Crocker & Starr
Sharon Harris – AmiCellars
Pierette Titus – Titus Vineyards,
Erin Lail – LailVineyard
Michele Torres – Trincharo Family Vineyards

And from Bordeaux 
Sandrine Garbay, Wine Maker – Château d’Yquem- AOC Sauternes.
Laure Compeyrot, propriétaire – Château Sigalas Rabaud – AOC Sauternes.
Myriam Ruer, négociant propriétaire de Vinprod
Nicola Allison, propriétaire – Château du Seuil – AOC Graves
Griet Laviale, propriétaire & Laurence Ters, Wine Maker : Château Franc Mayne, AOC saint Emilion Château de Lussac, AOC Lussac Saint Emilion – Château Vieux Mallet – AOC Pomerol
Caroline Frey, propriétaire – Château La Lagune , AOC Haut-Médoc
Sophie Thierry, propriétaire – Château Kirwan, AOC Margaux
Martine Cazeneuve propriétaire & Babara Engerer, RP Château Paloumey, AOC Haut-Médoc
Marie-Laure Lurton, propriétaire – Château de Villegeorge , AOC Haut-Médoc- Château Duplessis, AOC Moulis – Château La Tour Bessan, AOC Margaux.
Lyn Maltus, propriétaire Château Teyssier, AOC Saint Emilion Grand cru
and my good self !

Food and wine matching at Château d’Yquem

Food and wine matching is a subject on everyone’s lips, but with all the weird and wonderful suggestions everyone is making one subject often remains the poor relation : sweet white wines. They are usually relegated to dessert – when they can be one step too far – or to Foie Gras which is so politically incorrect these days, it can also be argued that these fine wines are best enjoyed alone. 

This was proved so wrong at a recent lunch hosted at Château d’Yquem and I can’t think of a better place to test this finest of sweet wines with food. 

Spicy and exotic dishes with Asian over tones of ginger and lemon grass work so well with these wines that seeing them served in Hong Kong and Japan is no longer a surprise but the chef at Château Yquem showed us that classic matches can work so well. 

Three vintages of d’Yquem : 2004, 1998 and 1988 were a perfect illustration of how these wines develop becoming more complex and more food friendly with age. 

The 2004 is still young, full of ripe fruit but with an elegant balance between sweetness and acidity, it complemented beautifully the lobster roasted in blood orange emulsion – the perfect foil for the citrus almost marmalade aromas of this younger Yquem. 

The more evolved 1998 with its vanilla and toasty notes adding depth to the floral and fruit was served with Ris de Veau and Truffles – the truffles perfectly bringing out the earthy aromas reminiscent of the botrytis character. The freshness of the acidity perfectly cut through the rich texture of the dish in its creamy sauce.

 A Classic finish for a classic vintage – The Château finished picking this 1988 vintage on All Saints Day (1st November!). Candied fruit, floral and slightly spicy nose, a classic Sauternes combination was served with a classic match : pineapple and passion fruit. Never underestimate the power of presentation – one of the many pleasure associated with these wines is the pleasure of admiring the rich amber colour of Sauternes with some bottle age that looked so beautiful with the gold and yellows on the dish. 

For more food matching and recipe ideas visit :