the maritimes, they are a-changin’

The official story is that I was waiting for the list of ingredients from our wine pairing dinner in Halifax over the holidays; but a slightly more true reason is that I’ve been enjoying the down time a little bit too much. Between the…. erm.. let’s call it ‘steady’ pace of work at Unilever, and the equally intense pace of what I expect entrepreneurial vineyard development to look like post-Master, I can’t help enjoying being a little lazy now and then, while I can. You got me, I was catching up on sleep! (An alternative fact of the matter is that the pairing portion of the story started getting too long, so I’m separating it into its own blog post, and also I got distracted making some pretty charts and graphs for the audit I’m working on. You know how it goes.) Read More

off to visit iberia

No, I blame YOU. (Dammit…he has a point.)

It must have been a case of wild optimism to expect to finish a blog post while in the home of a toddler over the holidays. I had every intention (for the first three days or so) of writing – had actually sat down to write, taking advantage of the time zone change and resulting lag in my own circadian rhythms and the fact that I was waking up 2-3 hours before everyone else in the house. Only to realize that said toddler was ALSO waking up 2-3 hours before everyone else and instead of writing, I was busy playing lullabye versions of rock songs (it’s never too soon to start a musical education), tearing up various food stuffs into tiny hand-sized portions, making faces at said toddler, and wiping aforementioned food stuffs off various and sundry surfaces. (Were those writer’s blocks that I just stepped on?). Read More

when autumn leaves start to fall

Harvesting the Pinot Gris from the steep slopes of Rangen calls for smaller baskets.

Harvesting Pinot Gris from the steep slopes of Rangen calls for smaller baskets.

It’s been six weeks since my last post, as I’ve been preoccupied with the busy harvest days, and the lead-up to the end of my stage (and therefore my return to Bordeaux). The days pass by in a blur. There’s a rhythm to this faster pace particularly around the end of September, although it is punctuated by slow days when we’re not harvesting due to unreadiness of certain grapes and parcels.

In broad, broad terms, the harvest begins with the grapes in the Pinot family: Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Auxerrois, and even Pinot Noir, the only red grape we have. This is followed by the Muscat, Chardonnay and Riesling, and Gewurztraminer tends to be the last to be ready. I emphasize broad terms because many factors can impact the decision to harvest each varietal: the geography – the plains tend to be harvested before the slopes (the generic wines before the Grand Cru wines), and the soil – the granite tends to ripen earlier, and the volcanic rock later. Additionally, the type of wine desired also impacts the timing decision: grapes for drier wines will come in before grapes for sweeter wines, like the Late Harvest planned for some of our Pinot Gris. Read More

(ve)raison d’être

The yellow star is where I live and (mostly) work. This domaine has vineyard parcels as far north as Hunawihr and as far south as Thann, all in the Haut-Rhin.

I started sending postcards to my wee nephew the summer I walked the camino, ostensibly in an effort to augment his 5 year old view on culture and geography, but in reality because I was going to miss our bi-weekly skype sessions, and was terrified he would forget who I was. The postcards have now expanded to include my nearly-4-year-old niece, while I wrack my brain to write a) neatly and b) topically, or at least simply enough that they have an idea of what’s going on, on this side of the ocean. I am under strict instructions to send postcards with maps, by all parties involved, as it seems to be a fun pastime to try and identify where-in-the-world-is-Aunt Cat. With that in mind, I’m going to do the same thing for you, as I haven’t really written about the region of Alsace since the introduction to my stage search, and my February visit.

Frankly, it’s a little intimidating to write about this wine region as there are so many different terroirs (13, officially), a big range of grape varietals (4 white grapes – and a 5th exceptionally – and 1 red are considered Grand Cru worthy, although other white grapes are permitted), 51 Grand Crus (!), and many lieux-dit (‘named’ places that are recognized but not considered as high quality as Grand Cru).

I’m currently located in the Haut-Rhin, the high-Rhine, or the south of Alsace. The higher slopes of the Vosges confer better sun exposure and water drainage for the grapes, thus the best wines tend to come from the Haut-Rhin rather than the Bas-Rhin, or northern Rhine. The domaine where I work has vineyard parcels in 5 of the Grand Crus, and 6 of the 7 ‘official’ Alsace grape varieties; in white: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Muscat (no Sylvaner), and in red: Pinot Noir, in very small quantities. Read More

a prime(u)r on bordeaux wines

this guy is my hero

this guy is my style icon

I see him standing in front of the Cahors booth, burgundy-trouser-clad and scarf elegantly draped, modish black-framed glasses resting on top of his head, holding back his chin-length salt-n-pepa locks. He casually swirls the wine around in his mouth, gesticulating with glass in hand, and nodding emphatically at his friend (presumably) in appreciation for what he is tasting. And then I see it; a liquid Arc de Triomphe that leaps from his lips and dives into the spit bucket on the floor one foot away from the tip of his pointed shoe, with barely an errant splash; clothing, countenance and dignity intact. I am immediately and intensely jealous. Read More