French connections

So let's start with the wine. We're in Châteauneuf-du-Pape outside Avignon, summer headquarters for the 14th-century breakaway Papacy. The crumbling palace looms over the village and its rocky vineyards.

Chateauneuf du Pape1.JPG Domaine du Banneret1.JPG Jean-Claude in the cellar1.JPG
Châteauneuf square dominated by castle ruins, Banneret's cellar, Jean-Claude Vidal

Jean-Claude Vidal owns six tiny vineyard parcels here (interactive map) planted with old, old vines. There's mourvedre down by the Rhone riverside, syrah and grenache on the slopes. But that's not all; a whole fruit cocktail, 13 traditional varieties, are authorized for Châteauneuf and this wine, Domaine du Banneret, is probably the only Châteauneuf that actually uses them all in its red wine (including six white grapes that bring freshness and acidity to the blend).

The wine is simply stunning. First, it's made the old-fashioned way, without destemming, so the wine benefits from the mineral salts in the stems of the traditional old vines. (Robert Parker, who pretty much put Rhone wines on the map for American wine drinkers, prefers the newer, sleeker style of Châteauneuf produced by the likes of Beaucastel and Vieux Télégraphe.) Very limited production, too: usually 10 to 12 thousand bottles a year.

Jean-Claude is descended from a family that included a governor of Illinois, back when it was French-Indian country. "In memory of my ancestors, I'm not going to make just any old wine," he says.

There's a lushness to this wine, even when young, with power, concentration and complexity. Surprisingly, it's about 15.5 percent alcohol yet smooth on the palate. The 1999 was evolving beautifully, with some leather and spice notes; the 1990 was brick-colored, with raisiny flavors and some serious "animal" notes in the nose.

Jean-Marc in the cellar1.JPG Jean-Marc tee-shirt.jpg
Jean-Marc Espinasse, Banneret shirt

Now then. You already know Kristin Espinasse, expat author of the totally charming blog French-Word-a-Day. Now meet her husband, Jean-Marc, wine merchant and author of his own blog, French-Wine-a-Day. Among his many, many activities, Jean-Marc sells t-shirts stained with the lees of Banneret on his website. 19 euros! Great idea!!

But wait, there's more. There's even a Seattle celebrity connection. Jean-Marc sells Banneret through Seattle importer Riservati Wines. One of Kristin's relatives is Eric Lindstrom of Veil. on Lower Queen Anne. Ichiro had a bottle with dinner there one night and liked it so much he promptly bought a case!

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on October 16, 2006 10:59 AM.

Garden of delights was the previous entry in this blog.

Marseille: Fish Story is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.