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Mercurey Rising: Tour de Vin Bonus Round

Friday, July 31, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

My little Tour de Vin was a grand success. Drinking nothing but French wine for a month once again reminded me that I don’t drink enough French wine. There are so many different wines to try, I felt like I was just barely scratching the surface, so of course I’ll continue to incorporate French selections into my regular wine-tasting column.

For a study in contrasts, and as a foreshadowing of what may be Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France victory next year on the new RadioShack team, I’m going to go all-American in August – tasting wines and cheeses from the good ol’ U.S. of A. But before I embark on the new voyage, I’m making one last stop in Burgundy – after all, we are still in July.

The Château du Cray Mercurey 2006 ($19) is much lighter in color than the Pommard that I tried earlier in the month, with very fragrant floral and shitake mushroom aromas, along with some pencil shavings and a dash of cinnamon. The flavors are classic Burgundy: some good strawberry and cherry fruit, but also intriguing minerals and a wisp of hickory smoke. I found the finish a bit abrupt, but that doesn’t take away much from what is an excellent value Burgundy.

Quaffability Rating: 89

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Wine and Cheese Pairing: Tour de Vin, Final Stage

Thursday, July 30, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Spanish rider Alberto Contador cycled into Paris still wearing the yellow jersey to take his second Tour in France. So in homage to Contador’s victory, I’m ending my Tour de Vin tasting adventure with a Spanish wine and pairing it with a delicious Spanish sheep's cheese.

The wine: Fuentes Priorat Les Mines 2005 ($15) is a bold wine at 14.5% alcohol. The Grenache blend exhibits aromas of dark chocolate, dark fruit and spices. The name Les Mines refers to the terrain of the winery, which is built on an old mining territory with a slate and quartz mix, producing wines with intense mineral flavours and deep fruitiness. I liked the wine’s plum and bitter chocolate flavours, and its satisfying richness.

The cheese: I paired the Mines with a Don Heliodoro Romarin sheep’s milk cheese with rosemary rind. This fragrant cheese is a bit like a Manchego, but less crumbly. The texture is soft enough that you can slice it easily, but dry enough to create a nice, slight crumble in your mouth. It has a little kick to it, but it’s overly powerful. The rosemary rind infuses the whole cheese with a herbaceous flavor that melds well with other fruity and floral notes. The Romarin tastes good on its own, but its dryness begs it to be washed down with some good Spanish wine, which is exactly what I did with the Mines. The spicy, rich red takes the rosemary flavors of the cheese to new heights and the floral flavors of the cheese round out the boldness of the wine.

Cheers to you, Alberto.

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Tour de Vin, Stage 6

Friday, July 24, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

It's about time I hit Bordeaux. After a few weeks of zigzagging around French wine regions, I have finally arrived at the iconic area of Bordeaux. The Quaffer focuses on value wines, so I won't be tasting any Premiers Grands Crus Classés. Instead, I picked up a bottle of Chateau Côte Montpezat Côtes de Castillon 2003 ($20) and paired it up with an intense, earthy raw-milk French cheese.

Côtes de Castillon is a fairly recent appellation that is home to some good-value Merlot-based wines. The 2003 vintage was big success and the Montpezat shows it. The nose of plum, dates and rosemary leads to palette-pleasing array of interesting flavors, including smoky oak and more plums, and vanilla.

This would go well with beef tenderloin wrapped in bacon, but I matched it up with an incredible cheese, the Comté Arnaud, a raw-milk cheese made in the Jura mountains in the French Alps along the Swiss border. Arnaud's Comté takes 15 months to mature in its nesting place inside a natural cave system high up in the mountains. The site is actually a former Napoleonic fort and now houses some 40,000 giant wheels of Comté. And I saw giant because its the largest cheese in French, each wheel tipping the scale at 88 pounds. The cheese's deep, smoky flavors come to life when paired with the Montpezat. Hitherto unnoticed flavors of mushroom and spice come to the forefront. The wine has enough tannins to withstands the deep complexity of the cheese.

Quaffability Rating: 88

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Wine and Cheese Pairing: Tour de Vin, Stage 5

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Blanc Moingeon and Saint Nectaire cheese

We’re back in Burgundy with a toast to the Tour de France riders who have survived the grueling bike race thus far. Only four stages remain: an individual time trial, a flat stage, a high-mountain stage and the finale in the Paris. To mix things up on the wine front, I tried a bottle of sparking wine from Burgundy that was recommended by Captivate’s resident French wine expert, Montreal editor Min Roman, who lived in Paris for 10 years. For a mere $15 US, the Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Blanc Moingeon tastes like a much more expensive Champagne. It’s made in the same style as its pricier cousin, using the “Méthode Traditionnelle,” but sells for considerably less than a decent bottle of official Champagne.

I paired the Crémant up with a Saint-Nectaire semi-soft cow’s milk cheese from Auvergne in central France. This is a subtly flavored, nutty cheese with some earthy notes. The fine bubbles in the sparking wine bring out some of the acidity in the cheese and accentuate the nuttiness. The cheese is mellow enough that it doesn’t overwhelm the fine floral aromas and pear flavors of the wine. Both the wine and the cheese have hazelnut flavors that complement each other. Overall, a very nice combo.

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Tour de Vin, Stage 4

Thursday, July 16, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

So far, I’m enjoying this Tour de Vin, tasting nothing but French wine for the full month of July during the Tour de France. I normally favor Californian and Italian wines, so it’s a good excuse to push me into trying new things. And drinking wine is so much easier than cycling 2,200 miles.

For today’s wine, I splurged a bit and spent $30 on a red Burgundy: the Duvergey-Taboureau Pommard 2006 ($30 US). The Pommard region produces Pinot Noirs that are on the heavier side. You can tell this one’s going to be a more robust wine as soon as you pour it into the glass. It’s not quite as dark as a New Zealand Pinot, but it definitely has dark cherry hues. I sniffed out tart cherry and cedar on the nose. My first swig revealed more cherry, raspberry and pepper, and other taste brought out damp forest leaves and some hickory smoke. The wine’s racy acidity could use some smoothing out with a few more years in the bottle, but it does have some backbone of complexity that makes Pinot Noir such a special grape. It’s a palate-pleaser, but I expected more magic for this price. Try it with roast pork.

Quaffability Rating: 88

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Wine and Cheese Pairing: Tour de Vin, Stage 3

Wednesday, July 15, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

I’m running a bit behind the Tour de France race with my wine tasting tour. The cyclists are on Stage 12 and I’m still puttering along on my third French wine review, but I’m not far behind in location. Today’s wine and cheese combo features an affordable red from Côtes du Roussillon, at the southwest edge of France near the Spanish border. The riders climbed the Pyrenees here a few days ago en route to Barcelona. The appellation’s dry, hot summers can produce some equally dry and spicy wines, but the Château de Jau 2006 ($15 Cdn) is an uncharacteristically lightweight red with a bit a thin taste. It does have the advantage of being it approachable, but this bland blend of Syrah, Mourdevre and Grenache Noir didn’t do much for me.

I paired the Jau up with a Chaumes cheese, which is also from the southwest of France. My four-year-old daughter went crazy for this cheese, saying “Mmm, it’s like goo.” Chaumes is a very soft – and yes, gooey – cow’s milk cheese with a distinctive orange rind. The delicious fattiness of the Chaumes combined well with the dry Roussillon. The wine and cheese were both somewhat blah on their own, but together they brought out the good aspects of each. The cheese improved the finish of the wine and the wine injected some flavor to the cheese's creamy texture.

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Le Tour de Vin

Friday, July 10, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Wine Review: Domaine Galevan ‘Paroles de femme’ Côtes du Rhône 2007 ($15)

As the Tour de France heads west into Spain, I’m going to start my own Tour de France of wine – which goinig to dub “Tour de Vin” – in the Rhône region in the southeastern region of France. The famous bike race passed near this area in the first and second stages – and the dramatic second-last stage of the race runs up the brutal Mont Ventoux, along the northern edge of the Rhône region. The area is very exciting for those who appreciate wine, with many different styles of wines packed into a small viticultural area.

The Domaine Galevan ‘Paroles de femme’ 2007 is from the major Côtes to Rhône region that produces.mainly rich reds from Grenache, Mourdevre, Cinseault and Carignan. For some reason it's called “Paroles de femme,” which translates roughly as "woman’s words." I don’t know the story behind that one, but the wine itself is just plain good. Violet aromas grow out of the glass and a swig quickly shows deep cherry, woodsy and herbaceous flavors. It’s not a stunning bottle, but for $15, it’s great to sip on its own on a warm summer day, or as a barbecue wine.

Quaffability Rating: 87

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Wine and Cheese Pairing

Wednesday, July 8, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Louis Jadot Bourgogne Chardonnay and Mild Gouda

Light gold hues make the Louis Jadot Bourgogne Chardonnay 2007 ($18) shine out of the glass. Aromas of grapefruit, pear and vanilla float into the air with a good swirl. The flavors are supple, with a backbone of orange peel and lemon zest. This is an inexpensive way to enjoy the fruits of the Burgundy region from a fine producer that's celebrating 150 years in the winemaking business.

Try serving this bottle at a party along with some cubes of mild Gouda cheese, but make sure not to overchill the wine as it will mute the aromas. Even the mild version of Gouda has a bit of an acidic bite to it, which plays well off the mineral and fruit-zest flavors of the Jadot.

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Michal Kapral has been enjoying wine at home since way before he was of legal age. The editor-in-chief of Canadian Running magazine runs marathons to burn off all the calories he consumes on wine and cheese. Kapral spent some time living in Italy as a teenager, solidifying his appreciation for all things wine-related. In his days as a journalism student, he was likely one of the youngest – and poorest – subscribers to Wine Spectator magazine. In 1999, Kapral turned down a job at a winery to work at Captivate, where he spent 11 years as a news editor.


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The Quaffer

Highlighting the best new wines from around the world, in the price range of $10-40, Michal "The Quaffer" Kapral reminds viewers some of the finer things in life are most definitely within their reach. This feature focuses on North American wines and includes reviews, food pairings and news from the world of wine.