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Swiss Mandement “Caves Ouvertes” Day a Winner

May 30, 2011 1 comment

The May 28, 2011 Swiss Mandement Open House Day , or “Caves Ouvertes” was fantastic. It was definitely a local affair in these ancient wine villages with people hovering about the stone “mas” or farmhouses, clustering around barrels or small tables in the makeshift tasting/bottling rooms and spilling out into the streets. Not checking any sources, I went straight for the town with my favorite vineyard walks and restaurant, Auberge d’Dardagny in—of course—Dardagny.

Looking down the main street of the village of Dardagny.

Now, I can’t really do this whole experience justice. In fact, I am trying to get ready for a trip to Florence, Italy in a couple days. So, I will just have to write a few quick notes and I’ll finish it off in a couple weeks after we get back from bella Italia. I have a lot of notes.

"Le Mandement"--the Swiss villages of Satigny, Russin, Dardagny and the many communes enclosed within.

Vines in Dardagny

Fancy chefs serving up some scrumptious sausages.

Other than the fact that the surroundings are beautiful vineyards and lush meadows, the calm, enthusiastic nature of the crowd was very pleasant. No, this was not the same drunken rambunctious crowd of the autumn harvest festival in neighboring Russin. There was the odd “oompa loompa” band here and there and ever-present at any Swiss fête. There were free shuttles running through the main villages of Satigny, Russin and Dardagny. There were traditional German/Italian/French Swiss food stands: bratwurst, polenta and sausage, Tartiflette. It was like sailing with a cool breeze on a clear sunny Genevois day.

Some of the music entertainment in Dardagny.

Free bus stop "Chasselas" in Dardagny.

Alison with the huge polenta skillet.

My friend Alison, and I went straight for the Domaine du Centaure that I had heard about from another friend. It was actually quite disappointing. In fact, I am not even going to mention any of the wines we tasted. We tried the oldies: Chasselas (watery)  and Gamay (very light) and then the new ones, Gamaret and Pinot Noir. I later found out that I should have tried the dessert wines…but I’ll have to do that another time. So we took a couple steps and went to the Clos du Pins (no website) which turned out to be a little better. Most of the wines were light and pleasant, but no major stars here as well.

Clos des Pins wall display that meets you before anything else. Photo by Alison Ball

The beautiful "mas" or farmhouse of Clos du Pins.

What I really want to write about is Domaine de la Planta. It was truly a wonderful experience and I will go back. The whites were good. First, we tried the Meridienne Blanche (Chasselas) 2010. It was definitely a summer drink but this Chasselas was not the usual watery white. This Chasselas was definitely fresh and fruity and also had some pleasant lemony hints. The Sauvignon Blanc 2010 had hints of apricot flavors and Alison noted, floral scents. I meant to buy a bottle of this, but somehow, I didn’t. Too much going on at the same time. It was also difficult to take photos! The Blanc de Pinot Noir was very buttery and smooth. It was a delight.

Domaine de la Planta Blanc de Pinot Noir 2010.

I liked the reds at this vineyard even more. La Revolution 2009 (Gamay aged in oak), was fine, but the Pinot Noir 2009 (aged in oak) was excellent. It had the smell of an older wine, ever so slightly a hint of mold almost at the first instant and then the deep smell of richness. The taste started kind of tart, but then mellowed to caramel and had a smooth finish. I really enjoyed it.

Domaine de la Planta Pinot Noir 2009 (aged in oak) One of my favorites of the day.

The Gamaret 2010 (aged in metal cask) was good with notes of cinnamon and spice. It was very “rond” but still not that really deep, smooth one I enjoyed, which I actually think was from the Cave de Genève. Surprisingly, the Gamaret 2009 aged in oak was not better. I expected it to have more flavor and to be smoother, but it was spicier and took me by surprise.

Domaine de la Planta "Esprit de Genève" 2009 50% Gamay, 30% Gamaret, 10% Merlot, 10% Syrah.

Esprit de Genève actually reminded me of a French côte du Rhône with some allspice notes. I could imagine it chilled slightly and sipped with some morel pâté on a fresh baguette!

It’s also worth mentioning that the vinters here were very charming and so enthusiastic. My friend mentioned that I was writing amateur notes for a blog and one of the vinters spoke to me in perfect English and gave me a chip with photos of the vineyard on it! Look for those in a future post. Also, the owner, Bernard Bosseau was at the cash box and was happy to have a couple snapshots with me. The short story is that the domaine had been in the same family for many generations, but when before the last heir passed away, he chose Bernard, from Nantes, France, who had been making a name for himself in wine circles of the village, to take over the family business. It appears to me that he is doing a fantastic job! Merci beaucoup to Chris the vinter and to Bernard for making such lovely wines.

"Vigneron, tonnelier, vigneron, courtier en vins" --the owner of Domaine de la Planta, Bernard Bosseau. Photo by Alison Ball

Here is where I will have to take a break and get ready to go on the road. When we get back, I’ll introduce you to the other star of Dardagny. I have also found out that I need to go to Satigny as it has the most volume and the oldest history for making wine in Switzerland. If anyone has suggestions for wines in Florence, Italy, please let me know!

Swiss “Caves Ouvertes” Preview

May 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Aaron and I managed to squeeze in a lunchtime tasting before the official “caves ouvertes.” I noticed that some of the caves would be open earlier than usual on Friday. So I convinced Aaron and the girls to go and off we went for a 90 minute adventure. We simply stopped at the first open cave since Aaron was on his lunch break. I had vaguely heard of “Cave de Genève” because I had stumbled upon some wine tasting at a grocery store the other day and they had a couple wines from their cave. This was one of the first times I had the infamous gamaret grape (only found in Swiss cantons of Valais and Vaud). It is rumored to be a cross of Gamay and Reichensteiner. It tastes more like Grenache (to me!) than Gamay, but it’s lighter. I really liked it.

Here's the first (and only) cave we hit today (Friday).

It was a huge warehouse type of place—no old buildings–all metal. The casks were metal as well. No oak in sight. Well, there were some barrels in the seating area, but according to Michel, the man pouring the wine, all wine here was aged in metal casks.

Cave de Geneve

No oak in sight!

Michel was very very eager to answer any question, but he didn’t want his picture taken. He said that they make some 4,000,000 liters a year. The number didn’t actually mean very much to me since I have no context for it. It sounded like a lot to me, but he looked at me like I would be disappointed with that number. I wondered why it is so difficult to get any Swiss wine outside of Switzerland. He had a very interesting answer. First, of course, there just isn’t the volume as with other countries. They are a small country and there isn’t a lot of surplus. The other answer was really interesting. It was until about 15 years ago that the Swiss vineyards were only growing Gamay and Chasselas grapes, so these were the only wines available and had no big following for export. Although, I do remember that in 2000, we used to be able to get bottles of Fendant in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. (It may be because of the large number of physicists who came from CERN and wanted to make fondue or raclette!) So it is only recently that they have been growing a great variety of grapes throughout Switzerland. Michel said that he hoped that in time, they would be able to develop a larger foreign market and be able to produce enough wine to export to North America. He said that they export to France, Germany and Japan. I found this website with the grape varieties of Switzerland in English. I didn’t realize there are many varieties that are indigenous and only found in Switzerland!

The wines.  The Cave de Geneve has two sets of wines. One is called “Les Personnalités de Genève.” Michel explained that these wines were mixed with different famous people of Geneva in mind and sounded like an interesting marketing idea as far as I could tell.

L'Humaniste

We went straight for the Gamaret which was called “L’Humaniste,” a mixture of 2010 Gamaret and Syrah. He said he didn’t know the percentages. It wasn’t as smooth as the first one I had tasted months ago, but we liked it. Michel was very helpful and confirmed that it was spicy with a hint of cloves. Aaron liked this one the best.

L'Humanist (Gameret Syrah) 2010

There is even one named after a famous Swiss feminist named Emilie Gourd, called “La Rebelle,” who was a Swiss suffragist, educator, unionist and anti-fascist, but Michel moved us onto the second group of wines called “Le Découvertes de Genève.” I wil have to taste “La Rebelle” next time! These wines are of a higher quality he told us. These wines are named after famous places in Geneva. The first one we tried is called, “Rue des Belle-Filles” (street of the beautiful girls) which is apparently a well-known street in old town Geneva and currently has a different name. This one turned out to be my favorite.  It is a Cabernet Franc 2009 19.50 CHF (Swiss francs).

Rue des Belles Filles, Cabernet France de Genève 2009

Rue des Belles Filles

It was so rich and smooth. Michel said, “tres round.” I could have drunk that one with Aaron’s magret du canard and frites and I would have been in heaven. I’ll have to ask him to make it later. Of course we got a few bottles.

Tasting some Gamaret at Cave de Genève

The next wine was called “Les vin de Phillipe Chevrier” who is apparently a famous chef in Geneva. There are a couple of wines that are mixed just for him. It is a mix of Merlot and Cabernet Savignon 2009. It was spicy, curry-like and michel said, “tannic.” It was one that I had to imagine might be better with a meal, but I thought it was too much on the spicy side. Although, now I am really curious about this chateau that is just a couple minutes away. Maybe we’ll go for lunch!

The last red wine we tasted was “La Clemence,” named after a famous bell in St. Peter’s Cathedral (famed to be Calvin’s pulpit) in the center of vielle ville, Geneva. Gamaret 2009: peppery, hint of cloves and allspice. I liked it, but it still wasn’t the Gamaret that I remembered, maybe it needs to sit for another year?

We ended with a dessert wine called “Intuition.” It tasted like summer. Savignon Gris, Muscat 2010: pear, peach (Michel said, “passion fruit”) very light. Delicious!

So, the operation definitely produces enough wine to supply a major grocery store chain (COOP) and has the slick, no frills tasting room and selling area. This place is about efficiency and cleanliness. Everyone was very friendly.

Since we had to get the girls back to school and Aaron had a meeting, we had to zoom off. They had a great setup complete with a full meal available, wine scent activities (boxes with scents in them), tours of the cave and we even got our “Caves Ouvertes” t-shirts. I’m looking forward to Saturday!

Picking up our selections behind the tasting area.

Bienvenue à la Suisse! Welcome to Switzerland!

May 27, 2011 2 comments

I have a confession to make. Living on the Franco-Swiss border, I used to turn my nose (short one at that) at the Swiss wines here at the source of the Rhone river. I thought surely nearby Bourgogne, Bordeux, Provence, Cote du Rhone, and Beaujolais have more to offer than this small patch of vines. I was soooo wrong! Here, right outside my window are really delicious wines, and just meters away!

Salut! Greetings from Meyrin, Switzerland. I am much more of an “amateur” than a “connoisseur” of wine in every sense! Yet, I will try to make my small contribution to this blog!

We (my husband , two daughters and I) are here to see my husband through a year of smashing protons in the French-speaking area of Switzerland known as the canton of Geneva. We are from Lincoln, Nebraska, USA. So, needless to say, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!” (Almost literally!) He is doing high energy physics at CERN and I, an English teacher by training, am doing a year of learning French and navigating our daughters through the public school system in Meyrin, Switzerland (just minutes from central Geneva, Switzerland). It has all been very exciting, fun, frustrating and enlightening! So here we go…

CERN (on the left) and Meyrin Apartments (on the right) Wheat and Grapevines (center)

This weekend is the 25 year old “Caves Ouvertes” where all of the wine vineyards are open in the canton of Geneva. I won’t be able to go to all 80 of them, but I will do my best to sample a few. This is, after all, the source of the great river Rhône, tucked between the limestone Jura and Saléve mountains (or hills–compared to the Alps!). Many mornings you can find me taking a walk through the vineyards with a very good friend of mine who has lived here for many years. It’s truly beautiful and you can feel the love for the craft. There are even signs posted with some explanations of the grapes. Signs are proudly displayed on the vinter windows with opening and closing times displayed. In France, you’d never see opening and closing times! (subtext: Always open!) I am looking forward to tasting more of the Gamaret grape and really anything goes. If you have any recommendations, let me know and I’ll seek it out! But, you’ll have to hurry, it’s tomorrow!

Roundabout on the way to Satigny from Meyrin

The "mandement" region on this side of the Rhône; All wine villages!


Vineyards of Satigny, Switzerland in May