Lessons from a Biodynamic Winemaker in France

I take a notes like a squirrel on the bird feeder – fast and and full, getting it all down before someone changes the subject. You’ll know me by my notebooks. More often than not, however, the stuff that really sticks with me doesn’t require a scribble. My memory serves in certain moments where everything just makes sense, when it links up with something in my genetic code and delivers clarity.  This happened last year when I met the SAUREL family at their fifth-generation domaine, Montirius in Sarrians, which is located near Gigondas in Provence, France. The name Montirius contains part of the surname of each of Christine and Eric Saurel’s children: MON (Manon) – TI (Justine) – RIUS (Marius).
Provence Wine, Rhone Wine, Biodynamic Wine
Erik SAUREL and his daughter Manon share the story of making biodynamic wine in Provence. Credit: Jill Barth
The Montirius Way
The SAUREL family runs a completely biodynamic shop. “Our ...
Mount Ventoux, Biodynamic Vineyards, Sarrians, Provence Wine
What is biodynamic? Biodynamic winemaking.
Montirius Biodynamic Vineyard, Vegan Wines, Organic Wines
Organic wine, biodynamic wine, France
Biodynamic domaine in Provence.
Barrel samples, wine Gigondas, Vacqueras

Périgord Wines: Bergerac and Duras

Bergerac Vineyards in Périgord Dordogne France
A view of the vineyards in Razac-de-Saussignac in the Bergerac wine district. Credit: Jill Barth
It was the roses – and the view – that made us pull the car over. Though everyone wanted to make good time, we were compelled to stop, even as other cars whizzed past while we weaseled into a spot across the street from the local cave. Cameras are made with the panorama setting for this purpose: stopping the car in Southwest France’s Périgord. We’d entered the village of Duras, naively thinking we’d quite literally stop and smell the roses, pop a few images and get back on the road to our hotel. We’d woken in Ventenac-en-Minervois and we would hit midnight in the city of Bordeaux. In between: Périgord. This is actually an apt realization of what this part of the country means to Americans – not the Languedoc and not Bordeaux. Yes, ...
The village of Duras in Sud-Ouest France
Vignerons Indépendants du Lot-et-Garonne, Périgord Wine, Dordogne Wine
Wine of Sud-Ouest France
Duras, Périgord Château
Sud-Ouest French vineyards
Organic Biodynamic Vegan French Wine
French country luxury hotel.
Sud-Ouest Wines, French Market, Périgord

Alpine Wines of Italy

Italian wines of the Alps.
.Alto Adige Wine with a view! Courtesy: Alto Adige Wines
Several years ago my husband and I drove through the Alps of France and Italy, leaving me with a sense of admiration for the natural abundance as well as the man-made influences of the mountains. We drove through the Fréjus Road Tunnel which connects Modane, France to Bardonecchia, Italy under massive Col du Fréjus. 80% of the commercial road traffic between the two countries travels via the tunnel.
Italy, Switzerland and France - road trip made possible by Alpine passes.
Our European road trips have offered some excellent Alpine views. Credit: Jill Barth
We’ve also crossed the French border into Switzerland on Alpine roads, checking in at the crossing to purchase our road-tax sticker, or vignette. The concept of crossing so easily from country to country, over and through astoundingly huge mountains is fascinating. Writing about the Alpine wines is, for me, one way to understand the lives of the communities ...
Alpine pass from France to Switzerland
Alpine wines of Italy, Alto Adige

Fresh Wines from Lazio and Umbria: Falesco

When I wrote in my notes…
Create curiosity and knowledge.

…I knew I’d come to admire Dominga Cotarella.
Dominga Cotarella of Falesco, Italian Winemakers
Dominga Cotarella in the vineyards. Credit: RB Design
Dominga (I’ll use first names throughout, to avoid confusion) is a second-generation producer in the Cotarella family winemaking business, Falesco, originated in 1979 by her father Renzo Cotarella and her uncle Riccardo Cotarella. Dominga and her cousins Marta and Enrica eased into the Falesco leadership roles in 2015. The first generation was all-male, the second generation is all-female. The energy that Dominga and her cousins bring to the transition is indicative of what it takes to maintain buoyancy in the modern landscape of making wine. My conversation with Dominga happened in an entirely modern way, over Skype. We shared a tasting of her wines and a discussion that covered everything: wine, creativity, progress, art, terroir, cuisine and family.  Her theme seems to be the ...
Italian Merlot advocates and growers.
Montiano Merlot from Lazio, Italy
Second-generation female winemakers in Italy.
Tellus Chardonnay from Umbria, Italy
Italian vineyards in Lazio.
Italian Merlot
A lineup of fresh summer wines from Umbrian and Lazio

Dog Friendly Wineries in California

So where are the top dog friendly wineries in California? On a recent trip to Napa I found myself charmed by all of the friendly faces in the tasting rooms – not just staff and visitors, but the pets that seem to feel as at home in a winery than at a dog park. It turns out that many California wineries are pet-friendly, making a wine tasting trip with your furry pal a reality.
Dog Friendly California Wineries include MUMM Napa
A pup enjoys a shopping break at MUMM Napa. Credit: Jill Barth
This story, published in my column over at California Winery Advisor, includes tips for your pup when she/he visits wineries and five suggested spots to visit.
Find the story here.

Historic Vineyards of Mâcon

Burgundy, known as Bourgogne in France, is one of the world’s most incredible wine regions. Due to an intense history dedicated to winemaking, there are stories to be told, lifetimes to preserve. Let this video, from Bourgogne Wines provide an introduction:


Vineyards in Burgundy have been cultivated for over 2,000 years, first by the Romans and eventually established by the church as nobility and monks and dukes not only cultivated vines and crafted wine, but spread the word about what was being done in their region. It was here that the barrel became more popular than the amphora for wine transportation and terroir became a notable practice for finding the perfect place to grow grapes. When the French Appellation d’Origine Protégée (then Controlée) system was established in 1936, Burgundy vineyards were among the first to adopt the system.
The Abbey of Cluny
In the village of Cluny in ...
Travel in Burgundy, Macon, Abbey of Cluny
Burgundy, Bourgogne, Mâcon
Map of Vineyards in Mâcon Burgundy

Wine for a Summer Cookout

Many years ago I hosted a cookout party for family and friends to celebrate my sister’s achievement of earning her Masters degree in Early Childhood Education. I made, truly, the best pulled pork this side of the Mississippi and I thought to myself (as I often do): Rhône reds.  Turns out, I had a houseful of white wine drinkers, people that actually asked me specifically for a glass of white wine. I learned two things about cookouts that day: first, at parties go with variety…second, always have an over-sized bottle of white wine. Wine for a Summer Cookout, Grill or BBQ It sounds simple, but I don’t see any reason why a cookout shouldn’t be simple. Too much fuss turns a hostess into a stuffy, boring swirl of no-fun. In American we are in the heart of cookout season – grills are fired up from here to September and beyond and everyone needs a little something to drink. ...