As we drove south from Champagne through Paris to the Loire by way of the Chartres Cathedral, Sue anxiously searched for accommodations on Air B N B while I tried to negotiate the highway, particularly the tolls. (At some point, the tolls won and my ignorance lost because I ended up with a ticket.)
We were making our way to Chateau Chambord to compete in the World Wine Tasting Championship as members of Team USA 2019– and we weren’t exactly taking the most direct route there.
We weren’t even exactly sure where there was — other than the Loire Valley — famous as “The Garden of France” because of the number of orchards, vineyards, and fields of vegetables. Along the banks of the Loire, you’ll find 6200 wineries, 57,200 acres of vineyards and 51 appellations of origin; no wonder the Loire Valley is the third largest French winemaking region!
We knew two of the wineries we wanted to visit — Chateau Yvonne and Clos des Quarterons — wineries that produced biodynamic beauties we’d learned about earlier in the year– and we knew we wanted to visit Chinon which is so famous for Cabernet Franc and in fact was home to the first Cab Franc that I fell in love with. Sue loves Cab Franc and
as far as we’re concerned, the Loire is the best place in the world to be for a Cab Franc lover…
Hungry and tired and hoping to hear back from an Air B n B host, we pulled off the highway and headed toward the beautifully lit castle above the river and town in Saumur where we found ourself first in a construction zone (likely driving the wrong way in an area we shouldn’t have been!) and next in an English style pub where Sue had fish and chips. As the driver, I just wanted to get where we were going and get a glass of wine along with some of the food we’d bought at a grocery store in Reims! I’ll admit it, I was getting cranky; I had been up since 5am to get some work done, I’d been driving much of the day, and it was after 8pm.
Fortunately, our slightly incredulous Air B n B host was convinced we really did want to come that night– and right away– and he agreed to have us.
We followed his directions to find a freshly renovated, sparkling clean studio with a queen for Sue and a double futon couch which we converted into a bed for me. There was an efficiency kitchen with plenty of room in the fridge, a few burners and pans to cook with, and everything we’d need for a few days while we explored the Loire.
Soon after our arrival, our host met us at the studio. When he learned we were wine writers with an interest in biodynamic wine, he told us he had an open bottle in his fridge — a locally made bottle leftover from the previous night — and as it lacks sulfites and he was concerned about it lasting until he would drink it, he asked if we wanted it!
We couldn’t believe our good fortune! A lovely place — and a biodynamic wine!
“Fat Head” is made from two plots on limestone – likes lot of water the plant is never really stressed. An easy going wine, with mild tannins, very restrained.
Then even more good news– he had a connection to the winery and he could hook us up with an appointment the next afternoon!
And from looking at a brochure in the studio, we learned a castle that allows visitors and had wine tasting was a quick 10 minute walk away. Looked like there would be plenty to keep us occupied– and plenty to write about too.
In a later post, I’ll discuss the winery and winemaker Guillaume Reynouard who we talked with in the tasting room then met on the crushpad as the final grapes of harvest came in. For now, know that the Manoir de la Tete Rouge has been certified organic since 1998 and biodynamic since 2010. Specializing in Cabernet Franc, they have a total of 18 ha. About 30% of Manoir de la Tete Rouge goes into export sales to the United States, Canada, Denmark, the UK, Austria and Japan, so you can ask your favorite wines store to carry it in these countries.
After staying three nights in the sweet studio we then headed toward Chateau Chambord and at about the halfway point we stayed in a troglodyte which is a home carved into the hillside. Sue and I each had a bedroom suite on a floor to ourselves, and we shared the kitchen and living room with our host. Honestly though, we were all about the hot tub! More on our stay there next week!
That night Sue put out a spread of local cheeses and charcuterie to pair with the “Bagatelle” Cab Franc from Manior de la Tete Rouge. Our thoughts on the wine and our pairing follows.
2018 – Manoir de la Tete Rouge – Bagatelle – Saumur – 14% alcohol SRP 9.50 euros (about $10.50 if purchased from the winery)
Color: Dense and rich in color, deep plum like the skin of a super ripe plum, with a magenta rim
Nose: Fruit forward, lively, fresh cherry juice and chocolate, menthol, the high menthol note clears the passages, earthen slate, forest flowers, violet, as it opens up there is fresh plum. As it opens up there is more rich ripe fruit.
Palate: Fresh mint and Italian parsley, bright tart cherry juice, velvety tannins, nice acidity. This wine does not have the vegetal herbal notes that we think of when we think of Cab Franc. There is also sweet tobacco and leather on the back of the palate, leaving you with a long lingering finish. Such a beautiful clean fresh lively wine.
Pairing: You do not usually think of pairing Cab Franc with goat cheeses, but this Cab Franc works with the local goat cheeses. The goat cheese with thyme brings out a lovely herbal quality in the wine. The charcoal rind cheese brings out a lovely even quality to the wine, and the washed rind cheese brings out a lovely fruit in the wine. The wine and the pate dance together bringing out a lovely richness in the pate and tart cherry fruit in the wine. I needed a bit of bread to balance out the contrast.
The wine is a bit austere as a 2018 and you would think that it should lay down a bit more, but then when you bring on the food, it dances and sings.
We had a bit of smoked pork tenderloin on our cheese plate and it was absoutely fabulous together, but my favorite of all was the port rillettes the fatty richness and the spice goes together like a perfect marriage. We had some left over paella that we had obtained at the local farmers market and even that went well with it due to the freshness of the wine. The paella brings out an earthy chocolate characteristic in the wine that is rich and decadent as a team. The subtle yet complex spice in the paella makes it a perfect combination for this young Cabernet Franc. When Sue tasted the two together, she pointed out that it was the saffron. It just works. While I enjoyed the paella, Sue couldn’t get enough of the smoked pork loin with the wine, making her think that it would be a great wine for smoked meats, like a smoked brisket, or even slow cooked smoked ribs. It adds a sweet fruity element to the wine that is not as present when drinking the wine on its own.
Once again in France we found ourselves eating and drinking at 10pm, loving the food, the wine and the experience of it all. As we always say to each other “We are so fortunate”
PS Hope you had a great Cabernet Franc Day yesterday!
And happy Repeal Day today!