The Riddle of Ziobaffa – Wine, Surfing and Filmmaking

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Ziobaffa wines

Ziobaffa wines

Ziobaffa Riddle:

  • What do  you have when you combine surfing with wine? An organic wine.
  • What do you get when you add Uncle to Baffa? Uncle Baffa
  • What do you have when you add together an Italian winemaker, a surfer and a filmmaker? Ziobaffa wine.

Ziobaffa (Uncle Baffa)  is leading the life that many people can only  pursue in their wildest dreams. Zio Baffa is a surfer and filmmaker. He travels around the surfing world with a surfboard and film camera. He seems to have two passions, surfing and wine.

Three of his short film clips can be viewed on the website Ziobaffa. The clips include: Bella Vita Trailer, Making a Wine and Ziobaffa.

Currently Ziobaffa is responsible for two Filmaker’s organic wines: Toscana Red and Pinot Grigio. Also very involved with the wine is Chris Del Moro a surfer-artist-environmentalist. Filmmaker Jason Baffa was fortunate enough to …

Planning Ahead for Mother’s Day

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Celebrate Mother's Day in a special way!

Celebrate Mother’s Day in a special way!

If you are planning to cook or bake to celebrate Mother’s Day, start by browsing the recipes below. These recipes have wine as one of the ingredients. I like to suggest serving any wine left after the recipe is completed with the meal.

Many moms will appreciate a homemade meal whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s one of the ways to make your mother feel special on Mother’s Day.

Below are some ideas to add to your menu for your special mom. All of the recipes plus many more are on the Wine Trail Traveler website recipe section.

Are you planning a special Mother’s Day breakfast?

Why not add Eggs Florentine to your menu?

A special breakfast beverage? Peach Mimosa

For lunch, perhaps your mother would like one of the following salads.

  • Fruited Chicken Salad
  • Jazzed-up Salad
  • Fruit Salad in Strawberry Wine Syrup

Dinner …

Mother’s Day is Coming Soon! Sunday, May 10

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Celebrate Mother's Day with wine and flowers!

Celebrate Mother’s Day with wine and flowers!

Mother’s Day is quickly approaching! Sunday May 10

Have you decided how to celebrate Mother’s Day? Take time now to decide how to make Mother’s Day special. (If you have unfortunately lost your mother, why not honor her with a bouquet of flowers to remind you of her love.)

If you are fortunate to still have your mother in your life, I’ve selected a few ideas that just might please your mom this Mother’s Day! If nothing else plan to spend time with your mom.

Après Vin varietal grape seed oils

Après Vin varietal grape seed oils

Mother’s Day Wine-related Ideas/Gifts

  1. Spend time with your mom while sharing a bottle of wine and appetizers
  2. Share a visit to a winery tasting room with your mom
  3. Aprés Vin specially made varietal grape seed oils are wonderful for cooking
  4. Aprés Vin also makes special soaps made with grape seeds
  5. Consider a …

1840s Champagne from Veuve Clicquot Analyzed

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Caves at Veuve Clicquot champagne house

Caves at Veuve Clicquot champagne house

A few years ago there was a report of the remarkable find of bottles of champagne found in a shipwreck at the mouth of the Baltic Sea. At the time it was thought the champagnes were produced during the first half of the 1800s. The champagne bottles recovered from the shipwreck were from  Juglar (now Jacquesson), Veuve Clicquot and Heidsieck & Co. According to the Aland website, the Veuve Clicquot bottles had dates of 1841-1850.

A recent article on BBC, “Champagne from 1840s Shipwreck Analysed” by Jonathan Webb was about the Veuve Clicquot wine tested in a lab. The discovered wine was compared with todays champagnes from the same winery. The study was led by Professor Philippe Jeandet at the University of Reims. By using scientific methods the researchers found that the wine was somewhat similar to the wines produced by Veuve Clicquot today. …

Old riddling rack at Veuve Clicquot

SOMM, the Documentary Film

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The documentary movie SOMM by Jason Wise provides an inside look at what candidates for the Court of Master Sommeliers Diploma go through before taking Level IV of the Master Sommelier Diploma examination. The film portrays the intensity  and time required of anyone planning to achieve the Master Sommelier Diploma.

SOMM focuses on four men intent on obtaining the elusive Court of Master Sommelier Diploma. Viewers of the film will see this small group of people interrelate as they taste wines working to identify the grape varieties, country origin, appellation and vintages. In order to successfully pass the examination, they must also know about the theory and practical side of restaurant wine service.

The beginning of the film shows images of grapes reaching a winery, pressing, barrel making, barrel filling, and bottling. Later the focus is on the four candidates tasting wines and talking about them. This emphasizes the amount …

Discover Texas Wine Country in 2015!

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Spicewood Vineyards, TX

With more than 8,000 wineries in the US, many are springing into an array of activities to entice people to visit and try their wines. A wide range of wines and events occur throughout the year but spring is a great time to start your very own wine journey. Check out our first book, A Wine Journey.

You will find boutique and large wineries. Each winery has its own uniqueness, wines and many have special events or ongoing events.

Texas Legato

Texas Legato tasting room

Texas, with more than 200 wineries, is one of the largest wine producing states although well below the number of wineries in California, Oregon and Washington. Texas boasts many wine trails. While some of the trails have wineries close to each other, others such as the Way Out Wineries take a considerable amount of driving to reach. Each winery has its own ambiance; when traveling …

Fredericksburg Winery
Messina Hof

Looking for an Icelandic Wine but Find Mead and Cider

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Icelandic Cider

Icelandic Cider

On the way home from the International Wine Tourism Conference in France, we decided to stay in Iceland for a couple of days. Iceland Air allows travelers the opportunity to spend a few days in Iceland without an additional  airline fee.

As we always do, before leaving home, we decided to find out if any wine is made in Iceland. To our pleasant surprise we came across a fruit wine supposedly produced in Iceland.

On our second day in Reykjavik we began searching for the fruit wine. We did find out that it was a blend of rhubarb, crowberry and one other berries. Unfortunately we were not able to find this Iceland wine. At one restaurant we learned that the wine is no longer made. Production ended about six years ago, or so we were told.

At the Icelandic Bar we were quickly greeted when we arrived and …

Whale in a Jar!

23rd Annual Wine & Herb Festival in the Finger Lakes

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Cayuga Lake, New York

Cayuga Lake, New York

Each spring the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail offers a great way to welcome spring. This year the Cayuga Wine Trail wineries are offering the 23rd Annual Wine & Herb Festival on April 24 to April 26 and May 1 to May 3.

On Fridays, April 24 and May 1, a limited number of wineries are participating in the event. However, on Saturday and Sunday 17 Cayuga Wine Trail Wineries are participating.

Start at a winery to pick up your wine glass, a garden plan and a plant carrier. At each participating winery participants will pick up a veggie plant or an herb. The wineries are also providing recipes.

At each winery you can taste herb-prepared cuisine and a wine to pair with the food. Festival participants will also be offered up to three additional tastings.

After you have completed the event, you can use your ticket to …

Dunking potato chips in champagne

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champagne and potato chips

champagne and potato chips

Kathy and I are leaving France for the next leg of our journey. We enjoyed several days in Champagne, tasting and writing about champagne, champagne houses and co-operatives. One experience we did not have is dunking potato chips in champagne. This is not a new idea. In the movie, The Seven Year Itch (1955) “the girl” played by Marilyn Monroe asks, ”Hey, did you ever try dunking a potato chip in Champagne? It’s real crazy!”

Finally in the ICARE lounge in Terminal 1 at CDG, I spotted a bag of potato chips. I already had a Champagne Collet Brut Art Deco champagne and thought, why not try dunking the potato chips in champagne and see if it’s crazy. Well it was more of a disappointment. The Lays potato chips did seem to match with the champagne; however, I would have preferred the potato chips to be saltier. I think the salt and fizz would play well together. Since the chips were not very salty, the combination was rather bland, detracting from both the chips and the champagne.

I’m anxious to try the pairing again, this time with saltier chips. I’m not at all certain if it is crazy. The only thing that I can think of being crazy is running out of champagne.

 ”Hey, did you ever try dunking a potato chip in Champagne? It's real crazy!"

”Hey, did you ever try dunking a potato chip in Champagne? It’s real crazy!”

The Champagne Collet Brut Art Deco  was a light yellow colored blend of 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Meunier. The dosage was nine grams per liter. Twenty percent of the wine was a blend of reserve wines that were several years old. The yellow colored champagne had multiple columns of beads forming a mouse around the glasses circumference. The wine offered a mineral aroma with a floral touch. The taste offered apple and pear notes.

I continued my potato chip challenge on my IcelandAir flight. For lunch, they served potato chips and a Mont Marcal Cava Reserva. The cava reacted the same as the champagne to the potato chips. One again, I think the chips needed to be saltier. Perhaps the trend of saltier potato chips was more common in the 1950’s.

The Mont Marcal winery was established in 1975 in the Penedes region of Catalonia. The yellow cava has several columns of beads forming a mousse around the circumference of the glass, a small mousse forms off center. Apple is predominant on the aroma and taste with a hint of tropical fruits. It seems fitting to depart France sipping on a cava. The 2015 International Wine Tourism Conference ended in Champagne and the conference’s sights are now set on Barcelona for 2016. The cava producers will have their task of showing off this sparkling wine and impressing the conference delegates, wine experience providers and press with cavas and tapas. Hopefully, one cava producer will pair cavas with potato chips.


Wine Tourism Statistics from Winery and Tourist Points of View

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There were a few presentations that I attended that included a dose of statistics from studies. I’ll mention some of these and offer a comment or two.

Miguel Lecuona discussed the winery survey that his company, Wine Marketing Guide, developed. Winery personal completed the survey. Two hundred wineries responded. The survey was developed using Survey Monkey. Survey Monkey is a powerful tool used to create surveys on the Internet. There is both a free version, great for simple surveys and a paid version that offers more features.

Miguel mentioned some of the findings in his talk, “National Tasting Room Survey.”

82% of the wineries that responded had production of less than 10,000 cases, this is inline with the case production of wineries in the United States. Most wineries in the US are small.

78% of the responding wineries wanted more of their wines in their portfolio tasted, this is one of the reasons for wine tourism. Wineries offer the only place that wine enthusiasts can taste many of the wines in portfolios, unless a winery only produces a couple wines.

54% of the respondents indicated that the winery owner or winemaker is in the tasting room on a regular basis. We do not experience this high of a percentage even though we have appointments and the staff knows we are writers. Of course what is open to interpretation is the phrase “on a regular basis.” That could mean just a few minutes a week.

66% indicated that they have 9 to possibly more than 15 wines on the tasting menu. This is more true of the United States than Europe. That is an astonishing number of wines to pour in a tasting room. Kathy and I try to limit our taste to five wines each. Some wineries would prefer that we taste their entire portfolio.

62% indicated that they charge $5 – $10 for a tasting. In the United States, the amount charged for a tasting is based on state law and wine region. We have seen some wineries that give free tastings while others charge over $50 for a tasting. There seems to be a correlation (material for a future research study) between the amount charged for a tasting and whether a visitor will purchase wine. There appears to be more purchases when tastings are free. I would like to see if there is a true correlation in this though.

69% of the surveyed wineries indicated limo or bus tours of 10 or more people is a problem. One of the problems is that visitors in bus tours seldom make purchases. The other problem with limo and bus groups is behavior. It is illegal to serve people if they appear drunk in the United States, this then causes friction. Limo tour and bus tour operators need to work with wineries to curb unacceptable behavior. In some states we have heard wineries explain that they will call ahead to the next winery if they had trouble with a …

A Busy Day in Champagne Wine Country

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Champagne at Dom Caudron

Champagne at Dom Caudron

Yesterday was delightfully busy with our small press tour group that followed the end of the International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC.) Following a quick, light breakfast at the Continental Hotel in Reims, we boarded a Champagne shuttle bus that took us to the Cathedral of Notre Dame. This historic building is on the UNESCO World Heritage site. The cathedral has many sculptures of angels, stained glass windows and a long history. Of particular interest to our group was the stained glass window that was donated to the cathedral. The colorful window depicts the growing of grapes and winemaking. Our guide conveyed his enthusiasm about the history and architecture of the building.

Our next stop was Champagne Taittinger in Reims where we walked through deep and long caves of chalk. After climbing down the stairs into the caves and then returning to the reception area, we were rewarded with the tasting of several Taittinger champagnes.

Our next stop was Dom Caudron, a champagne house in Passy-Grigny. Upon walking inside we saw numerous pieces of old winemaking equipment. Dom Caudron is a cooperative that works with 75 grape growers. On the same floor, an area was set aside for our lunch. We enjoyed a delightful assortment of foods with champagnes.

Our final stop was Champagne Charlie, a small family owned champagne house. The owner and her daughter provided a delightful champagne tasting in a room adjacent to the spacious tasting room. We also toured the winemaking area.

After returning to our hotel we met down stairs for quick tasting of two wines from India provided by one of our group. It was the first time I’ve had wines from India. I found the sparkling wine produced with Chenin Blanc grapes to be light and tasty. This sparkling wine would be good as an aperitif or it would pair well with food. The red still wine was produced with Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. The aroma and taste were of intense notes of cinnamon and cloves.

A short time later we walked across the street for dinner at FLO. For dinner we had salad followed by mashed potatoes and succulent, tender roast duck. Dessert was a yummy chocolate mouse.

Watch for more specific write-ups about these special places.

Looking forward to tomorrow, although we have an early start time.



WINETC Day 2 Overview

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Session 2.1

National Tasting Room Survey. By Miquel Lecuona from Wine Marketing Guide, LLC

Miguel Lecuona discussed the winery survey that his company developed. Winer personal completed the survey. Two hundred wineries responded. The survey was developed using survey monkey. Some of the findings include.

82% of the wineries that responded had production of less than 10,000 cases

78% wanted more of their wines in their portfolio tasted

54% indicated that the winery owner or winemaker is in the tasting room on a regular basis.

66% indicated that they have 9 to possibly more than 15 wines on the tasting menu

62% indicated that they charge $5 – $10 for a tasting

The majority of marketing is aimed at the general visitors

69% indicated limo or bus tours of 10 or more people is a problem

Session 2.1. Inter Vitis: The European &Cultural Brand of Wine Tourism

Presenter Phillippe Harant, Director of the Departmental Committee 

Inter Vitis is the European cultural. The organization has three goals: cultural objective,tourist target, and economic objective. The cultural objective promotes the country identity and heritage. The tourist target focuses on helping to meet the needs of tourists who to know about heritage. The last objective is about networking National and international destinations to promote local development.

041015aSession 2.2

Creating a Luxury Wine Experience by Susan Lanier-Graham, CWAS from

Susan Lanier-Graham began her presentation defining luxury experience. She said creating luxury is tapping into dreams. A luxury wine tourist is a female with average age of 51, highly educated with a higher than average income. But this is not the only tourist that can be included in luxury wine tourism.

Wineries need to offer a luxury experience that the public can not access, such as a Riedel wine tasting with different  Riedel glasses. Another example is to offer tours and tasting done by the winemaker. Consider offering gastronomic elements to a luxury experience. Onto lysis a luxury experience exclusive, it is also a privilege. Offer chauffeured tours or tasting reserve wines. The third component of luxury experiences is authenticity. Family stories and traditions help create an authentic experience.

Session 2.2 How to Find Wine Travelers Online

Presenter: Nic Myers from Wine Tourist Advisor

Nic Myers began the session with:

•Who are your wine travelers?

•Where are your wine travelers?

•What do your wine travelers need?

He said to be sure to answer questions online this will create more people following you. Surprisingly he noted that our average online attention span is eight seconds.

Wine travelers do not want to see your wall of medals.

Session 2.3

Young Talents of Champagne by Elodie Bier from Comité Départmental du Tourisme de la Marne

Elodie Bier talked about the Young Talents of Champagne was created as a means to add a human element to wine growers. Criteria for applicants included is that the members must be under 50 years old, their activity has to be less than 10 years old. They …


WINETC Day 1 overview

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040915aAfter the welcoming and open announcements by Anthony Swift, Wine Pleasures, the first two speakers also gave welcoming talks. Champagne causes eyes to sparkle and the region is anxious to see if Champagne will be added to the UNESCO list of world heritage sites.

Philippe Harant, Director of the Champagne Marne Tourism Office presented “La Champagne, a Sparkling Wine Tourism Destination.” He started with, “Champagne, what a wonderful word.” Philippe mentioned that there were 330,000,000 bottles of champagne sold world-wide in 2014. Philippe talked about many of the historical sites in the Champagne region including UNESCO sites. Philippe mentioned that visitors want to experience the vineyards and producers. Wine tourists can look for the label Vignobles and Découvertes for 450 Champagne tourism sites that will provide an excellent tourism experience.

Session 1.1 

Wine and Food Travel Is Most in Demand by Tatiana Livesey, Winerist

Winerist stands for wine tourists. Tatiana talked about Moldova, an off the beaten path for wine tourism. The company can help wine tourists know what wineries to visit, restaurants to eat and lodging. “Travel is not a reward for work, but education for the soul.” The trends in travel is to meet local people and immerse oneself in their culture. Wine travelers want to hear the story of the winemaker. Wine tourism is no longer a niche market.

Tatiana discussed some of the findings that Winerest discovered through a survey of 500 people that they conducted. Some of the findings included:

98% are wine and food lovers

24% basic 46% intermediate 30% advanced in wine knowledge

79% were interested in wine and food holidays

For what regions are your favorite wines from, France, Italy and Spain were at the top

Once starting wine travel, 79% are repeat wine tourists

The majority of respondents, 47% go on wine holiday for a weekend.

The majority of wine travelers spend between 75 – 150 euros per day on a wine holiday

76% book online.

88% buy wine at the winery.

Tatiana discussed some data about wineries, for example the majority do not provide online tools for booking even though the majority of people prefer to book online at the last moment. Most wineries do not have blogs and those that do, often do not blog enough during a week.

Session 1.1

Potential for Wine Tourism in India by Lavina Kharkwal of Highwines

Lavina spoke of the emerging wine industry in India. She said that the modern winemaking in India began in the 1990s. Today India has two wine regions.

Session 1.2

The Country of Diversity, Hungary by Gabriella Gónusz of Wine a’More Travel

Gabriella talked about Hungary as a wine tour destination. She showed us a map of the country and pointed out the plane and the Danube River. Gabriella mentioned Budapest as a destination city for gastronomy, architecture and history. For wine tourism, there are 400 small wineries where you can visit the cellars and stroll in vineyards. There is a …

First Day in Champagne

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040815aWe arrived in Champagne before noon taking the high speed train from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Reims high speed train station. The trip took only a half hour. We were then bused to our hotel, the Grand Hotel Continental. The opening International Wine Tourism Conference, IWINETC, event was scheduled for early evening so we made reservations to visit Champagne Lanson. It was a beautiful sunny day, so Kathy and I walked the mile and a half to the champagne house. We had a wonderful tour led by Anaïs Demard. We toured the hall of history, then Anaïs showed the group a map of the Champagne region. Our tour then led us to a small vineyard, still asleep from the winter. We then visited the tank room where there were a number of tanks. A second tank room had tanks assigned to specific villages where grapes were sourced.

We then went into the cellars, a maze of halls storing millions of bottles of champagne. Afterwards we had a delightful tasting of three wine: a 2005 Brut Vintage Gold Label, a Brut Rosé and an Extra Age Brut Blanc de Blanc. We enjoyed all three champagnes; however, the 2005 Brut Vintage Gold Label was my favorite. During the tasting we were pleased that Anaïs let us take our time. Kathy and I had a long conversation with two teachers from Ontario. I went into teacher mode and we were sharing stories about our teaching experiences. Unfortunately we had to leave and walk back to the hotel. We had a great tour and tasting at Champagne Lanson.

The opening reception of the IWINETC took place at the Reims City Hall, a magnificent public building. We had champagne and hors d’oeuvres. We took the opportunity to meet and greet acquaintances and meet new people. From the reception we walked back to our hotel where we had dinner with others in the media group and tour agents. It was a delightful day in Champagne and we are looking forward to the first day of the IWINETC conference.


From champagne to cava

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040615aOur trek to Europe reminds me of this year”s International Wine Tourism Conference. We started in the lounge at the airport with champagne. On board the IcelandAir flight to Reykjavik, we were served a  Mont Marcal Cava Reserva. The last session at the International Wine Tourism Conference is a presentation by next year’s conference host. Catalonia, Spain is the land of Cava. Perhaps we will taste a cava or two at the closing of this year’s conference.

The winery, Mont Marcal was established in 1975 in the Penrdés region of Catalonia. The yellow colored wine was a blend of Xarel·lo, Macabeo and Chardonnay. There was freshly baked bread aromas along with apple. The cava was crisp and paired well with the salmon served on our flight.

Next stop, Paris


Starting the Celebration Early

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040515bI have read so much lately about champagne and its use for celebrating. In a few days I’ll attend the International Wine Tourism Conference, IWINETC,  in Reims, France. Several champagne producers will have exhibits in the exhibition area. Many of them also will have champagnes in the Grand Tasting event that ends the first day of the conference. Lunches at the conference will also feature champagnes. Both evenings of the conference the media group will visit champagne houses for tour, tasting and dinner.

For the next few hours, I am waiting at the airport for my flight. This time we decided to go to Europe with Iceland Air, in part because on the return trip we will spend a few days in Reykjavik. At Dulles International Airport, Iceland Air uses the Air France lounge. After entering, I ambled to the bar. If this lounge is operated by Air France, they must have a champagne. Why not start the celebration early? After an hour’s drive to the airport long term parking and an equal hour to take a bus to the airport, check in and security passage, I was thirsty. Champagne would be a perfect thirst quencher. The lounge was pouring a Nicolas Feuillantte Brut Réserve. The champagne house is located in Chouilly only a bit southeast of Epernay. The Nicolas Feuillantte Brut Réserve will be served at the Grand Tasting at the IWINETC. The wine was a blend of Pinot Noir, Meunier, and Chardonnay. Aged for three years. The light yellow colored champagne had beads of bubbles streaming to the surface. The aroma reminds me of apples and pears. The taste was fresh and clean. The Brut Réserve was aged for a minimum of three years in the cellars. My second glass was from a bottle just opened. The taste was much stronger and it was easy to pick out the white fruit. There was a touch of freshly baked bread on the finish. I also noted what I consider minerality.

As a thirst quencher, it performed well. I would have liked to observe more bubbles, but was at the mercy of the lounge that served the champagne in a small glass not meant for champagnes. This detracted from the bubbles as well as the aroma. In the mouth, the champagne was alive and begged me to have more, perhaps with a touch of food. Luckily, I found a salmon sandwich. The champagne matched the delicateness of the salmon. Next I tried matching the champagne with blue cheese. I like blue cheese but it was a bit dominating. The champagne matched well with peanuts, but Kathy, who loves potato chips, was a bit disappointed with bar-b-cued chips  that over powered the champagne.


History Haunts Champagne

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040515aThe narrator in the film A Year in Champagne says, “History haunts the Champagne region, like a ghost at a party.” During my 2013 visit to the Champagne region, I did not have a sense of history. That visit was more about the vineyards and winemaking. This year, however, will be different. I have a better sense of the history of the region and the many wars that plagued the generations. I heard a remark that a war was fought in the area about every 25 years.

Some wars were bloodier than others, so much so that vineyards were watered by blood. Not only is the Champagne region a challenge by Mother Nature to grow wine grapes, it is a challenge for human survival. The crayères, Roman-Gallo caverns that now hold champagne, were used as a refuge for the war weary. “History haunts the Champagne region, like a ghost at a party.”

Not all the history is unpleasant. Reims became a royal city as 27 kings had there coronations in the city. Champagne producers, in what may seem like an unusual thought, turned some of the modern-day wars into marketing. Get the invading soldiers hooked on champagne, and they will turn into ambassadors for champagne when they return home to their countries. This also worked for allies. Walking through a vineyard, one gets a sense that what is there now includes the hard work of those that came before. The ancestors of the land spent their lives tending vines and making wine. “History haunts the Champagne region, like a ghost at a party.”

In was during the autumn of 2013 that my eyes were opened to the concept of history. Kathy and I were in a vineyard in Kakheti in the country Georgia harvesting Rkatsiteli when I began thinking of the thousands of people to harvest grapes from this land for several millennia. Like Champagne, Georgia has seen its share of invading armies. The one constant was wine. Both areas bear witness to the endurance of the vine and winemaking. In both regions, “History haunts the region, like a ghost at a party.”

On this trip to Champagne, I plan to take the time to really see the land and reflect on its past along with the present. During those lighter moments that are more party-like and less pressure to write, I’ll think about those ghosts whose hard work endured. “History haunts the Champagne region, like a ghost at a party.”


What I’m Looking for while in Champagne

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040415aWe are off to Reims in a couple days for the International Wine Tourism Conference. This will be a second trip to Reims. My first visit was during the summer of 2013. The group of winemakers and wine growers that Kathy and I were with visited four champagne producers. I feel much more prepared for my trip this year.

For the past several weeks I have been taking the Champagne Master level class through the French Wine Society. Although there are still a few weeks of the class left, it has vastly prepared me to visit the region. As far as the Champagne region, I have a better understanding of the land and its history. As we travel through the region on the media trip after the conference, I plan to note the villages we pass through. I’ll also note the terrain and soils.

Largest champagne cork in Champagne at Cooperative Champagne Beaumont des Crayèrers

Largest champagne cork in Champagne at Cooperative Champagne Beaumont des Crayèrers

When it comes to champagnes, there are many more criteria that I plan to investigate than I did a few years back. I will continue to want to know the grape varieties in the champagnes, but additionally I want to know:

Malolactic fermentation or no malolactic fermentation
Oak or no oak
Where the champagne fits on the scale between reductive and oxidative styles
The amount of sugar in the dosage

For non-vintage champagnes:
How many years are in the blend
How many different wines are in the blends

I am amazed with all the criteria that can alter a champagne from one producer to another. I am fascinated with the blending of non-vintage champagnes. My blending experience is limited to creating a Pinot Noir from a blend of six different vineyards. The group that I was with had similar preferences. We eliminated two of the vineyards rather quickly. Since we had a favorite vineyard we went with that Pinot as a base. What I discovered was that just a touch of wine, one percent or less can alter the aroma and taste. When it comes to champagne, some cellar masters have hundreds of wines to choose for their blends. Fascinating!

Kathy and I will revisit one champagne house as well as the Cathedral in Reims. Everything else on our itinerary is new. I hope to bring home a few bottles of champagne as well as some biscuits roses de Reims. I learned to pair the biscuits with a demi-sec champagne. As far as champagnes to bring home, I’d like to focus on a non-vintage brut. I’d like to get one that has gone through malo and one that has not. That way I can try them side-by-side with food. I’d also like to try one that is higher on the oxidative scale and one that is closer to the reductive side of the scale. Kathy wants to focus on the type of champagne she likes the most. She’ll have many opportunities at the conference to focus on different styles. Then we can look for some …

A Year in Champagne

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champy5A Year in Champagne takes the viewer on a wonderful journey through the Champagne region of France. What is the story behind the world’s post popular alcoholic beverage? The movie begins with the excitement of inflating a hot air balloon. After all hot air ballooning began in France. The balloon flies over vineyards, some established while others were recently planted. One of the passengers is Xavier Garnier, champagne maker. This is the first time he has seen his vineyards from the air. Another passenger is Martine Saunier. a wine importer who guides us to six champagne producers.


A Year in Champagne covers the four seasons during the year 2012. Spring is the first season covered in the film. The narrator talks about Champagne’s location and chalky soils. Stephane Coquilette inspects his vines in early April with Martine who imports his wines to the United States. Next Ghislain de MontGolfier, President of the Union of Champagne Houses speaks about the duo personality of champagne makers. On one side, champagne is used for celebrating and telling jokes, while on the other side, champagne is serious and hard work. Martine then visits Bollinger and speaks with the managing director Jerome Philippon, who talks about the uniqueness of Bollinger. The next producer, Diebolt-Vallois shows the two generations of the family that work producing champagne. Martine joins them for dinner and the next day tours a vineyard with Jacques Diebolt. The narrator speaks of the hardships and war that has plagued Champagne for thousands of years. Hardships abound today. In 2012, the sun disappeared and clouds covered Champagne for three months from April through June. Martine visited the cellars of Champagne Saint-Chamant led by Christian Coquillett past 750,000 bottles.


On a rare sunny day in June of 2012, Martine visits vineyards. Even though it is a Sunday, vineyard workers are busy in the vineyard. During the summer of 2012, the vineyards needed to be constantly sprayed to prevent mildew and rot. On the lighter side, we see the 40th birthday celebration for Xavier Gonet. The celebration did not last for long as the rains came and washed the spray away. And so it was a challenge in the vineyards during the summer of 2012.


Although 2012 was the year of the Champenois’ fears, August makes the wine. That month, the rains stopped and there was abundant sunshine. The weather was good during the harvest. The balance of sugar and acid in the grapes was one of the best in years, although the quantity of grapes was lower. Many behind the scenes activities of harvest and winemaking are shown. After harvest corks are popped at le cochelet, the end of harvest celebration.


How the cellar masters create a constant wine by blending is discussed. After blending, the secondary fermentation begins. The movie shows disgorging and dosage. Finally bottling is shown. Then the champagne is given time to rest.

The narration is in English and English sub-titles are used to translate the French …

Pinot Meunier: A Grape Variety

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Pinot Meunier (Vitis vinifera) is a grape frequently found in France. Pinot Meunier is one of the big three grape varieties allowed to be used in the production of champagne.

According to the UC Davis National Grape Registry, Pinot Meunier is a mutation of Pinot Noir.

Frequently the Pinot Meunier is also called Schwarzriesling; however, Pinot Meunier has many other synonyms including Millers and Dusty Miller. The name miller refers to the flour like substance found on the underside of the Pinot Meunier grape leaves.

Pinot Meunier and its synonyms can be found in many regions besides France including the US (California, Ohio, New York, Colorado), Canada, Germany and Australia.

Pinot Meunier can be found in cooler areas because it tends to flower later in the spring and ripen earlier in the fall.

Typically, Pinot Meunier is not found as a single variety wine, however, a few wineries make a rosé wine with the grapes. Most often Pinot Meunier is blended with other grapes especially Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Food Pairings:

Suggested food pairings includes a variety of seafood.

We are looking forward to the champagne tasting at the International Wine Tourism Conference in Reims next week. At the Grand Tasting we will taste numerous champagnes. Currently the list of champagnes to taste include one Premier Crus, two Grand Cru and the rest will be Crus.

The list includes champagnes from Champagne Dom Caudron which will have two 100% Pinot Meunier for the tasting.

  • “Prédiction” – 100% Meunier. Aged for eighteen months. Blending 2010/2011
  • “Cornalyne” – 100% Meunier. Aged for five years. Base 2010 (50% of the blending is matured in oak barrels.)