Tuesday, December 02, 2014

A rainy day in the Rhone Valley

Its harvest time and most domaines are busy crushing their harvested grapes and don't accept visitors. However we manage to squeeze our way into this small but amazing domaine. yes, Domaine Clusel Roch in Cote Rotie, North Rhone valley.

Our very first maiden visit to the Rhone Valley. RHONE!!! with the emphasis on the RRRRRRR on its pronunciation. So we were pretty excited already before even stepping outta our car. Before the chauffer could stop the roomy Black Mercedes, we've already opened its door, all ready to jump out.
Interview with Madame Brigitte Roch, the owner of the vineyard. She's tenacious and very much in control of her business, her grapes and the winemakings. Domaine Clusel Roch has already been very much enjoyed over the years for its refined and biodynamics wines in this part of France.

The business passed down through generation and today is being run by both Madame Roch and her husband Clusel. Today they are also helped by their son whom we also met. He has just completed his wine studies and now contributing back to the family with his new found knowledge.

I usually find that bcoz this type of business is being passed down from generation to generations, due to the land acquisition, pride, ownership etc....it usually ain't easy bcoz the next generation will have their own ways of managing all aspects of the business. I guess one needs to find balance between old and new school and come in equilibrium to achieve the maximum output for their own business module. Each business is different and unique in its own way. Even for vignerons, everyone has got different parcel of land, soil, weather and techniques in viniculture and finally preference. So equilibrium is the key word here today. :))))
Monkey was thinking hard, reflecting on the difficulties faced by all these vignerons. It's tough to be working on the field. It's like farming. Prior to embarking on this family business, Madame Roch was a teacher and soon she took over, things were never the same and the quality of wines from her vineyards evolved as well. When you put love, efforts and passion, you will reap the results.

We had a tasting of a few wines, a multi cepage wine made mainly from the Syrah grapes, the wines of Cote Rotie are meant to age for at least 20 years before consumption. However tasting the wines of Domaine Clusel Roch, it really surprise us that the wines can be so good at this young age. Perfect balance of acids, fruits and soft tannins. Indeed a revelation. So again, equilibrium is the key word....balance in taste and characters.

It was so nice of Madame Roch to entertain us albeit her hectic schedule and she spoke so passionately about her vineyards and winemaking. Merci beaucoup and we wish you good luck for the next vintage!!!

Cote Rotie covers about 500 hectares and is also home to the famous Domaine Etienne Guigal who owns the famous parcels of La Landonne, La Turque and La Mouline. The weed infested undergrowth is evidence of the absence of weed killer, fertilizers, etc. Yes when you are bio u don't use chemicals.

Well-fed fat grapevines = lazy
and their roots run horizontally absorbing the fertilizers and on the contrary skinny under-fed grapevines = hard working
and their roots reach deep into the bedrock looking for water and in return absorbing the intense aromas and flavors of the bedrock hence giving the wines character and complexity.

Cote Rotie translates to "roasted slopes". Funny thing...... we did not see any sun roasting the slopes for the entire day :) it was raining the whole day!!! The slopes generally are south to south east facing and receive the most sunlight hence the name. But I must conclude that they receive more sun than Burgundy though.

Working on the steep slopes of Cote Rotie is rather demanding!!! To plough the ground, you literally need a winch to drag the plough uphill!! No horse or donkey is gonna cooperate with you!! I guess the "dangle a carrot" technique no longer work today hahahahaha.  If I'm the animal, I'll prollie go back to my barn, pack my bag and tie on a stick and neigh "heeeee haaaaa au revoir" to my owner. Am not gonna work uphill!! it's so difficult!!!! GAH!!!

As for harvest you need a winch to transport the grapes down safely to the bottom of the valley. Indeed wine making in this terroir is back breaking but rewarding.

Then we head down further south to a small town - Condrieu.
This is Le Rhone at Condrieu, an area in North Rhone famous for her white wines made mainly from the Viognier grapes.

One pic by the majestic might Rhone River which stretches 813km from Lake Geneva in Switzerland, passing through the borders into Lyon, then to major cities along south of France from Valence, Avignon, Arles and finally out into the Mediterranean sea which form a huge River mouth that 's Camargue. Camargue is famous for its sea salt.

Monkey enjoying the perfect view of Rhone River while having a simple slow lunch, watching the swans swim by. Swans and mandarin ducks can only survive here in this part of the world without having to fear for their lives. Oh well in Asia, they will end up as Peking Duck or roast goose pfffftttttt

Will post bout our luncheon here which happens to be  part of Relais & Chateau property :)))

After our lazy and slow gourmet lunch, our journey continues even more south. At this juncture, we were sleepy except our chauffeur who was so enthusiast about bringing us to many other places.

Look at the view!!! That's the town of Tain l'Hermitage and the Rhone river snaking lazily towards the Mediterranean sea.

Over looking the town is the famous AOC of Hermitage with well renown vignerons such as Paul Jaboulet Aine, Jean Louis Chave, etc. The Hermitage hill is generally south facing and is made up of granite bedrock which stores the heat in the day and emits heat at night hence encouraging the grape to ripen more fully especially the less exposed side of the hill.

Unlike Burgundy, the vines are grown on stakes rather than wire running horizontally. Located in North Rhone, Syrah grapes dominates the cepage and Hermitage is consider the home of Syrah!

The monopole parcel of La Chapelle belonging to Paul Jaboulet Aine lies on the Hermitage hill. The La Chapelle refers to the the chapel where St Christopher lived. This property was acquired by the Jaboulet family and it is where the most prestigious and premium wine of Hermitage comes from.
For us to travel over 160km south from Lyon, there must be some incentive or objective or quest to fulfill. Yes, this is the place we wanna visit, see, touch, feel and if possible drink :)

Look at the iconic Chapel with the cypress tree appears on the label of every bottle of the wine.
This pic was taken from JS's private cellar collection at home. I didn't even know he has these bottles.....hmmmm.....oh yea it's quite normal that we hid from each other on our purchases.

No complains though, coz I get to enjoy all his wines :))))))))))) In fact it's the journey to discovering these wines, through reading and discussion that leads me to deeper understanding and appreciation. 

We travelled and navigated over 160 km to visit this parcel of La Chapelle. On seeing the chapel it was a relieve and it felt like a sense of achievement. Indeed it was a quest fulfilled. As we hurried towards the chapel, we wanna see, touch, smell and feel this place so every minute spent here was so precious as we soak up the sense of the place.

Unfortunately the weather was not on our side as thunder and lightning soon dominated the sky of Hermitage hill and sending us scurrying down towards Tain l'Hermitage!!

Our chauffeur was running around holding my umbrellas, sheltering my from the drizzles, as I was dashing everywhere on ground with JS nowhere to be seen.

"Madame!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! attention!!! ce est dangereux!!!"
yea chauffeur was having a lot of mild heart attacks bcoz of me....with stones and hill slopes here, he's afraid that I may fall and roll down the hill. Wahahahahaha. He must be thinking never again will he chauffeur Asians like us!!!! hahahahaha.

BUT...............We will not be defeated.......We will return to fight another day :) Yes fight the hilly slope. I wanna have a picnic here next time JS.....shall we? We can have some really nice charcuterie and a bottle of Hermitage. Let's come again next Spring :))))) when the weather is more forgiving.

and so we were ushered into the black car before the heavy downpour hits us, and took a slow drive back to Lyon. When we arrived back in Villa Florentine, the Manager of the property apologised for the terrible weather. Oh it's not ur fault but never the less we had such a beautiful day.

and yes....we will be back :)))

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