June 14-26, 2008


When GrapeRadio received an invitation to visit the Cognac region, we were delighted to accept. When we found that this also afforded us an opportunity to slip into Bordeaux, we were ecstatic!

Here was our itinerary for the 10-day period:

Monday, June 16

  • Château de Cognac/Otard – with Nicolas Fagot
    Discussion, tour and tasting
  • Cognac Meukow – with owner Philippe Coste
    Discussion, visit and tasting, followed by lunch at restaurant La Courtine
  • Cognac Frapin – with Olivier Paultes (cellar master) and Patrice Piveteau (Director of the domaine) followed by dinner with owners Max Cointreau and Jean-Pierre Cointreau at Château Fontpinot

Tuesday, June 17

  • Cognac Hennessy - with Jean-Michel Cochet (Commercial Director)
    Discussion, tour of aging cellar, tasting with Laurent Lozano (Director of Research and Enology), folowed by lunch at the Château de Bagnolet (Hennessy Guest House)
  • Alambic Pruhlo – with Philippe Tizon (Commercial Director)
    Observe fabrication – discussion and interview
  • Cognac Courvoisier – with Jennifer Szersnovicz (Techinical Director), followed by Tasting with Patrice Pinet (Director), followed by Dinner at Le Château (Guest House)

Wednesday, June 18

  • Grower Interview - meet with local grower for Courvoisier
  • Tonnellerie Doreau – tour of barrel making operations with Béatrice Bernard (BNIC)
  • Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac - with Jérôme Durand (Director of Marketing and Communications, BNIC, followed by Lunch at the Bistro des Quais.
  • Guided visit to MACO (Musée des Arts du Cognac), and tour Old City of Cognac
  • Cognac Paul Giraud - with Paul-Jean Giraud
    Discussion and interview in vineyard, followed by tasting in home
  • Depart Cognac to Bordeaux

Thursday, June 19

  • Château Palmer, Margaux - with Thomas Duroux
    Tour and tasting, followed by lunch
  • Drive to St. Emilion hotel
  • Dinner at L'envers du décor, St. Emilion

Friday, June 20

  • Château Fonplegade - St. Emilion, with Marjolaine De Coninck, Eloi Jacob, and Karine Queron. Tour of Adams properties with Eloi Jacob and interview with Stephen Adams, followed by lunch at Château De Bel Air, followed by tours of other Adams French Vineyards properties: Château de Candale, Château Lagarosse
  • Dinner at Lard et Bouchon, St. Emilion

Saturday, June 21

  • Guided tour of Saint Emilion
  • Lunch at La Côte Braisée, St. Emilion
  • Drive around Liborne, Pomerol and Sauternes
  • Dinner at L'envers du décor, St. Emilion

Sunday, June 22

  • Château Teyssier - with Jonathan Malthus
    Discussion, tour, tasting and interview
  • Lunch at L'envers du décor, St. Emilion
  • Dinner at La Tupina, Bordeaux

Monday, June 23

  • Château Petit Village, Pomerol - with Serge Ley
    Visit, tasting and tour, followed by lunch with group tasting of Pomerol wines
  • Leave for Pauillac
  • Dinner at La Salamandre, Pauillac

Tuesday, June 24

  • Château Suduiraut, Sauternes - with Pierre Montégut
    Visit, vineyard tour, followed by tasting and lunch
  • Château Cheval Blanc, St. Emilion - with Pierre Lurton
    Interview and tasting
  • Dinner at Au Bonheur du Palais, Bordeaux

Wednesday, June 25

  • Château Pichon Baron Longueville, Pauillac – with Jean-René Matignon
    Vineyard visit and tour, followed by tasting, followed by lunch at Château with Christian Seely
  • Dinner at Le Lion d'Or, Margaux

Cognac was an eye-opener. I knew a little something about brandy, but got a whole new appreciation for the Cognac production methods during these visits. Given the extended aging process, it takes a long time to make Cognac - or, as one of our guides was to say, "...with vodka, they make it on Monday, bottle it on Wednesday, ship it on Thursday, it's in the store on the Friday, purchased on Saturday, and out of the customer by Sunday." Touche!

We were shuttled about and guided during the Cognac portion of the trip, making the quick pace of the itinerary relatively easy. Beginning with our arrival in Bordeaux, however, we were driving ourselves - that is to say, I was doing the driving. The distances between properties on the left bank seem more spread out than those on the right bank, and we managed to rack up nearly 1,000 miles on the odometer during the last week. Of course some of that was due to return visits to St. Emilion, Sauternes, and the city Bordeaux.

Bordeaux was other-worldly. Here we were driving by each of the Chateau names that were so familiar to us - maybe not as bam, bam, bam as say Hwy 29 in Napa Valley, but still, here they were right in front of us. It would be very hard to identify a highlight - there were too many. But, among them would have to be enjoying a dinner paired with multiple vintages of Chateau Suduirat and barrel sampling the '07 Cheval Blanc with Pierre Lurton. But, probably the Pièce de résistance of the trip was the final day - a day that included a 2000-2006 vertical of Pichon Baron, followed by lunch with the 1990 and 2001 Pichon Baron, followed by dessert with a 40 year-old Tawny from Quinta do Noval, followed by passing the time on the steps of the Chateau with Christian Seely over a '67 Quinta do Noval. "Priceless" somehow seems insufficient to describe our last day in Bordeaux.

As always, I took plenty of photos (~1400). Some of these should be up in a few weeks, so check back here for a link, or check out the "What's New" page.


June 13, 2008

BOOK REVIEW - The Billionaire's Vinegar

The scene, several people are bidding during a 1985 a Christie's wine auction for what seemed to be the rarest of wine bottles - a bottle of Château Lafite apparently once owned by Thomas Jefferson. Thus opens Chapter One of a book combining the attributes of a great chase with a who-done-it, and with more than a little expose thrown in to boot.

The bottle ended up selling to the Forbes family for $156,000, making it the most expensive bottle in the world. Where did it come from, and who brought it to light, consigning it to Christie's for this monumental sale? And, were there other rare bottles available?

This well-documented book by Benjamin Wallace provides a fascinating look at the world of rare wine buying and selling, with particular concentration on the dealings of the mysterious Hardy Rodenstock - a collector and seller of fine rare wines - and the consignor of this "Jefferson bottle" to Christie's.

The [true] story evolves over a ten-year period, as Hardy Rodenstock apparently has no trouble locating very rare bottles of wine that are then sold to collectors for large sums. Rodenstock has established himself in this business, as a man with an impeccable palate, a generous man who thinks nothing of treating 20-100 guests to wines from his own rare wine collection. Opening bottles of old Yquem, Latour, Lafite and the like, we wonder -- is he indeed this very generous man, or is he merely salting the mine for future sale.

While suspicions are aroused early-on as to the provenance and sheer availability of the bottles offered by Rodenstock, it seems that through their own compulsion, avarice or greed there is no shortage of willing buyers. No small part of the story is dedicated to describing the personalities involved, and protagonist and antagonist alike are vividly drawn - to the point that it seems difficult not to admire what each is doing to the other. Even the ending of the book - which arguably doesn't satisfy the need for closure - leaves one looking for heroes.

While this book is easily approachable by those with little knowledge of wine, genuine wine lovers will get a kick out of the sprinkled references to so many people in the wine world, including Michael Broadbent, Jancis Robinson, Robert Parker, and Marvin Shanken. Wine people always seem to want confirmation that so-and-so was just like they thought them to be - be it expert or dilettante.

I generally will only read two or three chapters of a book at one sitting. However, this is a feast as the author cleverly sets the hook at the end of each chapter - making it nearly impossible to put down. Highly recommended.

Crown Publishing Group (NY)
ISBN: 9780307338778

June 7, 2008

JAMES BEARD AWARDS - Grape Radio Wins!

Today it was announced that we won the James Beard Foundation Award in the Broadcast Media - Webcasting category, for our short film, Stewards of the Land: Russian River Valley. The film is posted on the GrapeRadio site at the following location: Stewards of the Land.

Considered the Oscars of the food and beverage world, receipt of a James Beard award is every reason to celebrate. We at GrapeRadio are obviously very excited to have received this award - nearly as excited as we were during our involvement in the project itself.


June 6-7, 2008

2008 AUCTION NAPA VALLEY - Napa Valley , CA

Once again, Grape Radio was in attendance at the annual Auction Napa Valley. Arriving Wednesday evening, we immediately headed for Taylor's Refresher before heading to our St. Helena guest house at Tudal Winery.

Thursday began with a full-on tour of each of the hospitality events held throughout the valley. From here on, it was Auction Napa Valley time.

Photos and tasting notes should be up in a few weeks, so check back here for a link, or check out the "What's New" page.



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