We have lived and loved many cities – but dare I say, we have a particular weakness for Paris, city of brave St Geneviève and brave St Elizabeth, city of erudition, of romance, of high standards for all that encompasses gastronomy, wine and pleasure.
So joy it was indeed to be back in Paris last week when dear friends Dominique and Jacques hosted a Vertical Tasting of our wines in their home.
To spoil our tasters we went to one of the finest cheese shops in Paris, as only the Parisians can boast, for they take first pick of the best cheeses in France. As we described the wines we would present, the cheese-master accommodated us in white-gloved fashion – like a sommelier choosing the wine to pair with your cheese, but in reverse. Only in Paris.
We like to think it was edifying as well as amusing for a varied gathering to taste each wine in sequence and understand their (and our) evolution. From vintage 2011 Merlot 100% – now in adulthood and holding strong, through to the new kid on the block, our rich but un-ready, 2015 Cabernet Franc-Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon.
We plucked the 2015 out of her beauty sleep for the event, precisely because she is still too young for drinking. Still a bit rough around the edges, still maturing. People who like wine are often intrigued to taste something that is “not ready,” and then come back a few years later for another sip to discover – “ah – this is what they meant by aging.” This is what patience in winemaking is about – forget the hurry, forget the consumer push for “the next cool thing,” forget the short cuts so you can bring out the vintage quickly – this is the what it takes when you want the adjectives: “smooth, complex, full and round.” Wine for grownups. Grownup wine.
The Tasting was also an opportunity to unveil our first barrel-aged vintage, La Tourbeille 2014 “Le Sceptre.”
We hesitated about venturing into barrel vinification since we have no liking for the recently trendy “oaky” taste. To avoid that smack in the forehead vanilla flavor, we opted for barrels made from French oak rather than American oak. The experts at the tonnelleries guided us toward wood types that would best allow the sucrosité of the wine to emerge; to enhance the flavors rather than smother them. The result is the rich wine of vintage 2014, rendered – finer. Thumbs up from the public; orders commenced at once.
People asked us about the special label for this cuvée en barrique. The sceptre of course is a symbol of governance and protection. A royal version of the shepherd’s staff. Over the years, Henri and John have carved a dozen staffs for the family out of hard, hazelnut wood – the wood of magic wands. We don’t have sheep (yet) but we use our staffs all the time for climbing up and down our cliffs and hills and in and out of the woods. They also come in handy for herding impertinent cows back into their enclosures, calming the winds of a hurricane or fending off an errant boar. Because we are so aware of the blessing of these 100 acres, we feel strongly the obligation – and authority – to protect them. Thus little by little le sceptre became our family inspiration. Even Jeanne, the young lady of our Rosé, knows to carry her staff valiantly.
So there we were in beloved Paris, come back with the fruits of our labor. Hardly epic, nothing like St Geneviève who secretly brought food from the countryside upriver to a famished population, when Childeric (464 AD) held the city in siege. But then again, in Paris wine is considered essential sustenance…
While there, I was drawn to one of my favorite places, the Mont St Geneviève, where the city’s patron saint is buried. She is always a reminder of the monumental, history-changing surprises that can occur when courage and faith are powerful beyond measure. And like a little postscript as we left, Paris blew some magic dust our way and donned one of our wines with a silver medal, via the Concours de Paris. Thank you Dominique and Jacques, thank you St. Geneviève, thank you Paris.