John Keats’ (1795-1821) hauntingly beautiful description of ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ in his poem celebrating autumn come to mind as I look across the Dordogne valley in SW France on a chilly November morning.
Autumn mists over the Dordogne Valley
On this day, the mists over the Dordogne Valley are celebrated at the same time as the roses are blooming at the end of lines of vines at Chateau Court les Muts. Roses are planted near vines as an early warning signal of mildew: if the roses have mildew then it’s likely the vines will too. These roses look very healthy!
Red roses at the edge of the vineyard
This beautiful imagery of roses and vines with their striking and complimentary colours are part of the inspiration for this silver and enamel decanter wine label made to celebrate Saussignac and its wines of the area. It was created by English silversmith and enameller, Jane Short, MBE.
Silver and Enamel Saussignac label by Jane Short MBE
Silver and enamel wine label by Jane Short MBE
Saussignac Appellation d’origine Controlée (AOC) is one of the 13 AOCs of the Bergerac wine region and one of the six sweet white Bergerac wines including Côtés de Bergerac White, Côtés de Montravel, Haut Montravel, Monbazillac, Rosette and Saussignac.
Saussignac AOC is a liquoreux wine that can be served young or kept for many years. The grapes, Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle are harvested late when they are partially dried and this gives the wine its sweetness.
For wine and food pairing, it can either be served chilled as an aperitif or with foie gras or later in the meal with blue cheese like Saint Agur or Roquefort. That juxtaposition of sweet and salt is always delicious, or it can be served with a dessert.
The Saussignac wine in this decanter is from Chateau Monestier La Tour, 2013. The Chateau advises drinking this 2013 wine, which has been barrel aged, from 2019 through to 2025.
Saussignac is a little known AOC, often overshadowed by Monbazillac wines, or by Sauternes from the Bordeaux region. However, Saussignac wine has its own remarkable merits and is a recommended choice for the festive season.
A recent visit to Nicosia and dinner with friends at a favourite restaurant introduces us to a different way of serving halloumi cheese, which I really like and want to try making myself. Attempting to replicate interesting dishes is a favourite kitchen pastime!!
Halloumi is a particular Cypriot cheese made from sheep and goat milk. It has been produced by Cypriots for many centuries and is an important part of Cypriot culture and diet. It is semi-hard with a rubbery texture and a distinct salty flavour. It is a popular choice for many dishes as an alternative to traditional cheese due to its high melting point. As mentioned, it’s quite salty and usually served fried with slices of lemon. Delicious in its own way, I am ready to try a different style of serving halloumi.
I buy fresh halloumi from a farmer in the Paphos fruit and vegetable market and am always happy with her cheese.
The Nicosian restaurant, Beba, serves halloumi in a different way: halloumi baked on a tomate base. The server told me the base was tomato marmelade; tomatoes with various ingredients reduced to a marmelade consistency.
Part of the fun of my kitchen pastime is searching the internet for suitable, approximate recipes that I play with a bit, depending on the situation. In this way, I found a tomato marmelade recipe that I modified, particularly by reducing the sugar and replacing that ingredient with stevia.
Together with the tomatoes, the following ingredients of olive oil, onion, garlic, sweet red peppers, ground cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, balsamic vinegar all find their way into the pot. During the one hour simmering phase, I add some water so it doesn’t get too think. After cooling, this is puréed into a smooth marmelade consistency rather than a ‘chunky’ marmelade.
Sliced halloumi on tomato marmelade ready to go in the oven
Baked halloumi with Tomato marmelade
To replicate the baked halloumi dish we had enjoyed, I spread tomato marmelade onto a glass cooking plate and add the halloumi on top, sliced horizontally rather than the typical vertical slices.
This goes into a hot oven for 20 minutes and is served with a salad of lettuce and cucumbers. Because of the high melting point of halloumi, it retains its shape and softens rather than melting.
Choosing an appropriate wine is part of the pleasure and definitely choosing a Cypriot wine is important to me for this quintessentially Cypriot dish. Given the saltiness of the halloumi cheese, and following typical wine pairing convention, a wine with some acidity seems right and so we open a chilled bottle of Xynisteri, a white wine from Andreas Tsalapatis, a wine maker in Polemi, a village in the hills about 30 minutes from Paphos. It is a successful match with enough acidity to balance the saltiness in the halloumi but soft at the same time with flavours of citrus and stone fruit and a whisper of nuttiness at the end.
Tsalapatis Winery, 100% Xynisteri 12.5% VOL
Xynisteri is the main indigenous white-wine variety of Cyprus. It is used to make light, refreshing white wines. Xynisteri wine is typically produced as a single varietal wine and for sake of comparison is similar to Sauvignon Blanc.
Applause at the dinner table is music to my ears as we enjoy the results of this kitchen experiment, inspired by the restaurant Beba in Nicosia.
After so much time dreaming of holidays during lockdowns, here’s a wonderful opportunity to engage with the wine community in Sigoulès, near Bergerac in SW France by signing up for the summer event on July 24th of the Confrerie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès. A parade, a lunch and much fellowship awaits when you step outside your comfort zone and into a wonderful traditional event.
Taste Vin – Confrerie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès, SW France near Bergerac.
Check out the Confrerie website for all the details, menu and registration.
facebook: confrérie du raisin d’or
Summer festival Confrerie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès July 24
Nothing beats a local wine event for authenticity, comraderie and learning opportunities.
1st Wine & Zivania Exhibition
1st Wine & Zivania Exhibition
With good fortune, a friend told us about such an event in Koili, a village in the hills above Paphos, Cyprus, organized by the Koili Regional Educational Centre for Rural Professionals.
This centre in itself is an important initiative in support of the agricultural and viticultural nature of the area and the development and leverage of skills in the related workforce.
Once away from the increasing urbanization surrounding the towns, Cyprus is largely an agrarian community in which viticulture and wine making plays an important role. Agrotourism is an important sector focussed on agricultural products, vineyards and the production of Zivania, a strong Cypriot spirit.
This particular event in Koili is the First Wine and Zivania Exhibition and it is held in the impressive and purpose built large hall of the educational centre.
When we arrive the winemakers are arranging their wine bottles and displays and the DJ is playing music, all to build the lively atmosphere for the event.
First things first, I go in search of wine glasses, which are nicely stamped with the name of the event, and I am given a small pot of a traditional “amuse-bouche” for each person in our party. This is like a rose water sorbet / mousse consistency and I believe it is known as Mahalebi, usually served as a summer dessert.
Inscribed Wine glasses and Mahalebi rose water dessert.
Visitors have the opportunity to taste wine and Zivania from wineries in the wider area, while they are informed about the correct way of serving wine and the indigenous grape varieties of Cyprus, one of my areas of interest
In her greeting, the Governor of Paphos states that the wine sector is considered as an important pillar of development that can lead to the full recovery of the wider agricultural sector. The consistent quality of the wine produced in the Paphos District is also commented on as well as the production of Zivania..
I have to admit that I am not familiar with Zivania and it’s interesting to me that it is highlighted in the event. However, when I think about this, it makes sense, especially as we are informed that Zivania has been protected within the framework of EU Regulations as a unique product of Cyprus.
After visiting various wine displays, the main event starts. This is about the right way to serve wine.
Demonstration: the right way to serve wine
This is innovative and well done as instead of a lecture, there is a ‘show and tell’ demonstration of decanting a bottle of red wine and then pouring a tasting quantity in appropriate glasses for a couple of attendees seated at a properly laid table, as though in a restaurant! and once the individuals taste the wine and indicate their approval, their glasses are refilled. The Viticulturist/Oenologist, Dr Andrea Emmanuel talks us through the demonstration.
Following this, we visit more winemaker displays and I discover some indigenous varieties I am not aware of, discover a white wine at 10.5% ALC Vol and a winery producing small bottles of wine – all topics I am interested in!
More to come in my next blog post…
References: Koili Regional Educational Centre for Rural Professionals
Saussignac, a small village of approximately 420 people in SW France in the Dordogne area of Nouvelle Aquitaine, really is a village of wine.
Route to Saussignac village
Dusk at the end of a hike in the Dordogne – the outline of Chateau Saussignac
Bergerac Wine Region showing Saussignac and Sigoulès
Apart from being the name of the village, where the chateau dates from the 17th century and is on the site of a much older building, Saussignac is also the name of the Saussignac Appellation D’Origine Contrôlée. The wines of this appellation are a late harvest botryrized wine made mainly from Sémillon grapes. This is a distinct category of the natural sweet wines produced from withered, shriveled grapes; a Vin Liqoreux, on the same honeyed track as a Sauterne or a Monbazillac. These wines of liquid gold can be savoured best with foie gras or a blue cheese, like Saint Augur or Roquefort, a dessert or even as a chilled aperitif. Several wine makers in the Saussignac area make these delicious wines, which should definitely be savoured by anyone visiting the area.
Saussignac is home to several wine makers, many of whom are organic farmers.
One such innovative organic farmer, writer and educator is Caro Feely from Château Feely. Caro is hosting a free zoom virtual presentation and discussion on the Climate Change Crisis on Friday, November 12 at 5.00 pm UK or 6 pm France. To sign up, Caro can be reached at email@example.com www.chateaufeely.com
An addition to the local community wine makers are Frank and Riki Campbell, new proprietors at Chateau de Fayolle in Saussignac. Their goal is to promote the wines of the area on a global level.
Chateau de Fayolle, under the new ownership of the Campbells, is offering platters of cheese and charcuterie with wine tastings in a newly renovated and up to date wine tasting room, which has wonderful views over the rows of vines. Great recommendations of the wines and ambience have been received from wine loving friends in the area and visitors from Bordeaux, so it’s well worth a visit. Check out details on their website: http://www.chateaufayolle.com
To complete the picture of Saussignac as a village of art and wine, I would be remiss not to mention the creative work of Mike and Lee McNeal Rumsby at Le 1500; the boutique hôtel, bistro and painting retreat in the middle of the village opposite Château Saussignac. Lee managed some of the world’s finest hotels and Mike’s paintings are sold internationally, so Le 1500 is definitely a place to visit and enjoy. http://www.le1500.rocks
The village of Saussignac continues to live up to its reputation as a place of Art and Wine.
A beautiful, peaceful garden awaits you: the sun is shining yet there is shade from the heat, bees are buzzing, birds are singing, the oleanders are blooming and the sky is dazzlingly blue.
The gardens at Oleander and Lantana Stone Houses, Lemona
Village views, hillside walks, old stone houses surround us and a winery to taste and buy wines is close by. What more could anyone want who may be seeking a time and place of true calm to restore the spirit?
A half day painting in the idyllic garden of Marcelina Costa in Lemona, in the foothills of the Troodos mountains about 1/2 hour from Paphos Airport, introduced us to this wonderful space where complete rest and rejuvenation would be possible.
Painting in Lemona
En plein air painting!
Filling the canvas en plein air!
Two independent stone houses, Lantana and Oleander, set within this meandering garden are available to rent through both Booking.com and Airbnb.
Ever a gracious host, Marcelina is multilingual in Greek, English, German and Polish and delights in explaining the history of the village, highlights local walks, and offers her homemade jams, lemonade, and baked goodies.
What makes Marcelina’s stone houses even more appealing to the wine lover is the proximity of Tsangarides Winery, literally around the corner in Lemona village, making white, red and rosé wines from indigenous grapes, Xinisteri, Mataro and Maratheftiko as well as the noble grape varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Chardonnay, Tsangarides is always a favourite winery of mine for their consistency and high quality.
I have met with Angelos Tsangarides, who with his sister are fourth generation proprietors of the winery and I have previously written about their wines in 2016 and 2018. Since then, in addition to its traditional vineyards, the winery has cultivated organic vineyards and produce a series of organic wines as part of its overall portfolio of wines.
Map to Lemona and Tsangarides Winery – courtesy Tsangarides Winery
This painting excursion to Lemona reminds me to visit the Tsangarides winery again, and soon!
Creative endeavours have helped many people get through the challenges of the past pandemic year and I am grateful to Marcelina for the opportunity to paint in her hillside garden and to be reminded of the beauty of Lemona, including Tsangarides Winery and the surrounding countryside.
These beautiful late 18th Century enamel labels for Cyprus wine illustrate that the wine industry has a long and elegant history.
Late 18th Century enamel labels for Cyprus wines, courtesy of Dr. R Wells
The four enamel labels most likely are for Commandaria wine, which is a Cyprus sweet dessert wine, sometimes fortified but always with a high alcohol level. The label marked Malvoisie de Chipre refers to ancient grape varieties, known as malvoisie, used for dessert wines. Commandaria wine dates back to approximately 800 BC and was popular during the time of the Crusades in the 11th and 12th centuries and subsequently exported widely within Europe.
I wrote about Commandaria wine in a 2013 blog and described it as follows:
‘As a fortified wine, Commandaria travelled well and was exported throughout Europe. It was popular in England, for example, not only in the 13th century but later and was a favourite of the Tudor Kings including King Henry V111.
Commandaria is made only in a defined region of 14 wine producing villages in the Troodos foothills about 20 miles north of Limassol. The wine production for Commandaria has remained true to traditional methods. The production is small and it maintains its ranking among the world’s classic wines. In 1993, the European Union registered Commandaria as a protected name and geographic origin.
Commandaria is regarded as an eastern mediterranean equivalent of its western mediterranean cousins, Port and Sherry. We found it had both similar and different characteristics and was more refreshing and lighter with higher acidity. ‘
For a fuller description of this fortified wine please look at my earlier blog post:
The various spellings of Cyprus on the four enamels in the photograph suggest a robust export of Cyprus wines in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Chypre is the french spelling for Cyprus and this label is early French in origin and the Chipre and Malvoisie de Chipre are early English. The Cyprus label is more recent.
2020 will surely be remembered as an extraordinarily difficult year for wine makers. From my conversations with several over the years, including members of Confrèries, I realize that they are used to overcoming a variety of challenges including weather, soil and pest conditions as well as market changes. This year they have again demonstrated their ability to tackle a new challenge with innovation and creativity.
These exquisite and historic Cyprus enamel labels, shown courtesy of Dr. Richard Wells, help to remind us of the longevity and resilience of the wine making industry and the pleasure it brings to so many people: past, present and future.
I wish all wine makers and their families everywhere a successful year in 2021.
Happy New Year!
Reference: http://www.drrwells.com Enamel Wine Labels: refer to Dr Well’s blog for a full description of enamel labels.
Caro Feely walks through the Marche de Noel in Saussignac with her usual friendly and confident air.
Caro Feely, Co-Proprietor, Chateau Feely, Saussignac SW France
We smile and greet each other. I congratulate Caro on her recent important win in the world of wine tourism. Chateau Feely, of which she is Co-Proprietor with her husband Sean, is one of the 9 Gold Trophy winners in the first French National Wine Tourism Awards: Trophées de l’Oenotourisme. Chateau Feely won Gold for the Category: Education and Valorization/Recognition and Valuing the Environment.
This trophy award is significant as it puts the achievements of Caro and Sean at Chateau Feely on the national scene. With their January 2020 inclusion in the Forbes Travel Magazine list of 5 best places to learn about wine, they are now on the international map. This is tremendous recognition for their hard work and commitment.
Château Feely owned by Caro and Sean Feely
In addition to the sale of their organic and now biodynamic wines, Chateau Feely situated in the village of Saussignac, part of the Bergerac Wine Region, offers the visitor a broad repertoire of activities and events. Wine and Spirit Education Trust wine courses, the organic/biodynamic learning and education trail through the vineyard, ecologically built holiday accommodation are available. Wine tours and events such as wine harvesting days, the wine club and recently added yoga lessons taught by Caro, a qualified yoga teacher, round out the vacation experiences. There are also Caro’s three books providing a personal and entertaining insight into their experiences at Chateau Feely over the years.
I ask Caro if I can take her photo and write about what Chateau Feely has achieved in my blog. She is happy with both suggestions.
I’ve known Caro since about 2007. When we first met Caro and Sean, with their two young daughters, they were starting to make their way in the wine world in this beautiful part of SW France with their wine farm on the edge of the small village of Saussignac, about 20 mins from Bergerac.
Sean focuses on the farming side of the enterprise and Caro, with her background in marketing in the world of technology, moved the business forward in terms of visibility. Her leadership skills of focus, strategic thinking, perseverance, entrepreneurship and commitment to action have all contributed to where they are today.
Saussignac, this small village of about 420 residents, resting in the shadow of the 17th Century Chateau with 12th Century and earlier roots, is very much a part of the local wine community, having its own Saussignac Appellation for a late harvest delicious wine made by various wine makers in the area.
Route to Saussignac village
The village of Saussignac plays a leading role in wine tourism in the area and highlights the importance of community engagement and collaboration. Led by a dynamic group of local people, the village hosts weekly wine tastings on Monday evenings in July and August presented by a different wine chateau each week. The Confrérie du Raison d’Or de Sigoulès organizes weekly walks in the surrounding countryside during July and August. The village supports periodic Art Shows, theatre and music productions. A new restaurant in the village, Le 1500, with its welcoming courtyard, offers delicious and interesting meals. Le 1500 and Chateau Le Tap, an organic winery adjoining Chateau Feely offer excellent accommodation.
The Bergerac Wine Region has seen a steady growth in organic and biodynamic wineries, certified or following organic farming principles. I have written about several of them in the past: Chateau Le Tap, Chateau Lestevenie, Chateau Court les Muts, Chateau Monestier La Tour, Chateau Grinou, Chateau Hauts de Caillevel, Chateau Moulin Caresse, Chateau Les Plaguettes, Chateau Tour des Gendres, Vignobles des Verdots and Chateau Feely.
So what does wine tourism mean? In France, it is interpreted to encompass the countryside, heritage, history, culture, wine of course and all the people involved. It’s a broad perspective.
The objective of the Trophées de l’Oenotourisme is to shed light on initiatives taken by these winning wine chateaux and their proprietors, who like everyone in the wine industry, work hard every day to put in place strong and attractive wine tourism offerings to suit the changing demands of clients and to encourage others through these examples.
The opportunity to share wine tourism ideas is particularly important as the market for wine changes due to various issues including a gradual change in consumption, the effects of climate change on the grape varieties grown in wine growing areas and the positive focus on quality not quantity. It’s a sector under pressure and the sands of the wine industry are shifting.
This first national award scheme of Trophées de l’Oenotourisme for wine tourism is a collaborative initiative of the French wine and lifestyle magazine, Terre de Vins and Atout France, France’s national tourism development agency.
The list of the 9 Gold Trophy winners is noted at the end of this article. I have looked at the websites of each of the winning chateaux and found that exercise interesting and informative. In addition to these 9 chateaux, there are many others throughout France pushing the envelope on wine tourism.
When considering how people choose to spend their discretionary money, it is interesting to look at the world of retail. It appears people are buying fewer ‘things’ and spending their money on experiences. This seems to be a trend in vacation planning. As Caro says: “Our clients are looking for more, that extra something, when they go on vacation, and we provide that through our educational and environmental approach”.
We live in an age of increasing stress with the many diverse demands place on individuals and families. Mental health is a significant workplace safety and wellness consideration for individuals and organizations. A vacation in the countryside where one can have enjoyable experiences learning about nature, the environment, benefit from exercise, fresh air, good fresh food and excellent wine sounds like a healing proposition.
What are the lessons one can take away from observing what is happening in the world of wine tourism? These include:
Keeping up to date on trends, particularly about the evolution of the mature wine market.
Learning new skills and expanding knowledge of relevant topics
Using technology effectively to communicate with potential visitors
Investing time, energy and money (sourcing development funds where possible) to remain current
Collaboration and networking
To benefit from this awards initiative, one way of looking at these Wine Tourism Trophies and their 9 categories is to see them as case studies of success and adaptability. In this way, they offer value to students and observers of wine tourism. One new idea can have far reaching results. In an era of change in the wine industry, these learning opportunities take on greater significance.
Here’s the list of the 9 Gold Trophy winners:
Les lauréats des premiers Trophées de l’Œnotourisme:
Catégorie Architecture & paysages –Château de Pennautier (11610 Pennautier), Catégorie Art & culture – Maison Ackerman (49400 Saumur), Catégorie Initiatives créatives & originalités – Château Vénus (33720 Illats) , Catégorie Œnotourisme d’affaires & événements privés – Champagne Pannier (02400 Château-Thierry) , Catégorie Pédagogie & valorisation de l’environnement – Château Feely (24240 Saussignac) , Catégorie Restauration dans le Vignoble –Château Guiraud (32210 Sauternes) , Catégorie Séjour à la propriété – Château de Mercuès (46000 Cahors) , Catégorie Valorisation des appellations & institutions – Cité du Champagne Collet (51160 Aÿ-Champagne) , Catégorie Le vignoble en famille – La Chablisienne (89800 Chablis). I googled the chateau names to look at the websites.
Do you have vacation plans in the Dordogne this summer? If you have your sun hat, comfortable walking shoes and a bottle or two of water, then the above agenda of walks in the Dordogne has your name on it!
Bergerac Wine Region showing Saussignac and Sigoulès
Each summer, the Confrérie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès organizes walks through the bee-buzzing, bird-singing rolling countryside of the Dordogne, always ending with a wine tasting. The starting point is the village of Sigoulès.
Other local opportunities to enjoy casual, friendly wine tasting events take place each Monday evening in the nearby village of Saussignac. Apéro Vigneron offers wine tasting and al fresco food in the village main square.
These are memorable vacation opportunities to meet local wine makers and taste their selections of Bergerac Region wines in casual, village environments, far from work-a-day city crowds.
Sunflowers saluting the sun
The flag of the Confrérie du Raisin d’Or de Sigoulès
In the first few moments of visiting Chateau Monestier La Tour, in Monestier, SW France near the town of Bergerac, I discover that the motto chosen by the proprietor, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, is a quotation from Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917), the eminent 20th French sculptor.
Château Monestier La Tour. Time and the passage of time: Auguste Rodin quote, the sundial symbolising the passage of time and the watchmaking career of the Proprietor, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele and the Chateau Monestier la Tour emblem of the Crane.
Rodin said that: “However you use time, time will respect that”. The exact quotation is: “Ce que l’on fait avec le temps, le temps le respecte”. In other words, the decision of how to spend time is up to us; time itself is neutral.
Line drawing of Château Monestier La Tour with the Rodin quote
I remember seeing Rodin’s great sculpture: “The Thinker”: the seated man with elbow on knee, fist on his chin, deep in thought. Rodin is still famous for this sculpture, which is often used to represent philosophy.
This quotation and the remembered image sets the tone for the visit.
We can probably all remember our parents saying things like: “Don’t you have anything better to do with your time!” or words to that effect, while we, as teenagers, lollygagged around!
At Chateau Monestier La Tour, one of the ways in which time is figuratively measured is by the illustration of the sundial, or Cadran, over the entrance to the winery office and chai, showing the subdivision of time and the changing of the seasons. This illustrates another aspect of time; the time and patience required for goals and aspirations to manifest once set in motion. These symbols reflect the career expertise of Karl-Friedrich Scheufele as a watchmaker and Co-President of Chopard, famous Swiss watchmakers.
Winery office, Chai and presentation square
A way in which time is literally measured at Chateau Monestier La Tour is in the development and execution of short and long-term plans. A long-term strategic plan relates to the winery restructuring program to be completed by 2025. This has included the redevelopment of the vat room and barrel cellar, all ‘state-of-the-art’ and designed for quality results, effectiveness and the convenience of the winery employees.
New Vat Room
In the shorter term, the quest has been for Chateau Monestier to become certified as an organic farm. This, after several years’ effort and hard work regenerating the land, the vines, the farming processes and transitioning to an organic framework, has been achieved in 2018 from Ecocert.
When the Scheufele family became owners of Chateau Monestier in 2012 they made the decision to improve the existing domaine and its winemaking and pursue biodynamic viticulture. These improvements included grubbing up some of the plots and replanting vines.
One key initiative has been the planting of a specific garden with herbs to nourish and support the soil and vines. The herbarium contains drying and storage facilities for the plants as well as to make the tissanes or teas with which to treat the soil and vines.
The herb drying room, Chateau Monestier La Tour, with the descriptions mounted on the wall..
Herb Drying and Storage Room
Herb Drying and Storage Room
Stéphane Derenoncourt, consultant and his team, who have biodynamic viticulture expertise, oversee the vineyards and wine making at Chateau Monestier La Tour. They use this expertise for making the tissanes from the different herbs, which require different temperatures to release their oils.
It’s this focus on using herbs to treat plants and soil as part of the biodynamic agricultural practices at Chateau Monestier La Tour that fascinates me. The opportunity to see where the plants are dried and the description of their uses is of particular interest. By way of example, I have described below three commonly known plants from the nine listed in the herbarium, the description of their uses, as well as the description of biodynamic compost.
Dandelion, known as Pissenlit in French (a very descriptive reference to its diuretic qualities) is used to support the vines in resisting diseases by strengthening the cellular structure of the plants.
Pissenlit or Common Dandelion
Nettle, known as Ortie in French, (yes, those nettles that sting aggressively if you brush by them) full of nitrogen and iron is used to stimulate plant growth. Nettles are used to prevent mildew.
The herb drying room at Ch Monestier La Tour – nettles in the left foreground
Comfrey, known as Consoude in French, full of potassium and iron is used as an insect repellent.
Biodynamic Compost. Use of quality compost to fertilize the soil is key to biodynamic agriculture. Composting works with manure from organic farms and is used usually with six specific mineral elements supplied by plants.
Biodynamic compost description
As a side bar comment, all this sounds reminiscent of the work of Nicholas Culpeper, (1616 – 1654), botanist, herbalist, physician and astrologer. He was the best-known astrological botanist of his time, pairing plants and diseases with planetary influences. I was brought up with the idea of acknowledging the power of plants and a copy of “Culpeper” was readily available in our home for reference.
I feel on familiar ground here.
Back to winemaking and the impact of these practices on the wine produced within this regime. These practices are regarded as homeopathy for plants, preventative not curative and the impact takes time so that the wine produced shifts over time as the biodynamic practices create beneficial change.
Five wines are produced using 6 grape varieties in the various blends. Two levels of red blends of Cabernet Franc and Merlot; white wine blend of Sauvignon and Sémillon, a rosé which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and the special late harvest wine particular to the area, Saussignac AOC which is a blend of Sémillon, Muscadel and Sauvignon. As a fan of red wines, their grand vin, Chateau Monestier La Tour, Côtes de Bergerac AOC, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, particularly catches my attention. I immediately appreciate the fine quality of this wine, which is full bodied but not heavy with good structure and with the Cabernet Franc will age well.
The Tasting Room, Chateau Monestier La Tour
The range of wines at Chateau Monestier La Tour
I have visited Chateau Monestier La Tour twice now and each time I am conscious of the timeless nature of the place. It feels very grounded. Each time, I have felt a sense of calm and peacefulness here. I feel this especially in the barrel cellar room, where I can almost feel the wines breathing and in the herbarium with the subtle fragrances of the herbs. The warm welcome from the Administrator at the Chateau is very much appreciated. I will be returning to look at the herb garden in bloom and thinking about what ideas I can use in our garden!
Chateau Monestier La Tour and the Scheufele family are making a significant values-driven investment in money and time in this small village in the Dordogne.
Victoria, British Columbia offers that mix of Western Canadian history and urban charm itself. This is why we enjoy our summertime visits there so much.
Iconic Empress Hotel, Victoria
Munro’s Books, Victoria
Elegant 19C architecture: Union Club, Victoria
Rogers Chocolates : Delicious chocolates since 1885
Only in Canada: moose humour
Inner harbour, Victoria
Captain Cook who sailed into Nootka Sound in 1778 with MidShipman George Vancouver
These photos represent all the things we look forward to when visiting Victoria: browsing and buying books at Munro’s books, always a highlight of our visits; sampling delicious chocolates at Roger’s Chocolates, and generally taking in all the small town charm of British Columbia’s capital city. Each visit, I re-read the history of the early explorers on the statues around the inner harbour; quite often there is a seagull perched on Captain James Cook’s head.
On our most recent visit in June we discovered a restaurant new to us: 10 Acre Kitchen, one of three 10 Acre restaurants in downtown Victoria. This enterprise offers local farm to table imaginative cuisine and serves interesting wine. A definite recommendation for future visits.
We enjoyed beet salads and Dungeness crab cakes – light and delicious with a Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blend white wine from Lock and Worth Winery in Penticton, British Columbia; also new to us!
10 Acre restaurants in Victoria BC
Lock and Worth Winery, BC : a new discovery
Lock and Worth Winery: Sauvignon blanc and semillon
I particularly enjoy this Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blend. To me, this is the classic Bordeaux White wine blend that I am familiar with in SW France. It’s another opportunity to think about the wine related connections between SW France and Western Canada! What I enjoy about this blend and find very drinkable is that the Semillon gives depth and gravitas to the acidity of the Sauvignon blanc. At Lock and Worth, the winemakers produce wine that is un-fined and un-filtered so the wine is slightly cloudy. The winemakers say they make wines without pretense and this approach is behind their plain label bottles I will definitely plan to visit this winery on a future visit to the Okanagan Valley and taste more of their wines.
It’s always fun to discover new restaurants and wines and incorporate those experiences into familiar venues. I am looking forward to a return visit already!
References: 10Acres.ca Group of restaurants, Victoria BC
lockandworth.com. Lock and Worth Winery, Penticton BC
Meet two women wine and food entrepreneurs who, in different ways, connect SW France and Western Canada: Caro Feely in SW France and Marnie Fudge in Alberta, Canada.
Château Feely owned by Caro and Sean Feely
Marnie Fudge is co-proprietor of Cuisine and Château Culinary Centre
Caro Feely is an organic wine farmer and producer with her husband Sean at Chateau Feely, an organic wine estate located in the Dordogne in SW France. She has just returned from a book tour in British Columbia, Canada where she presented to Canadian audiences the latest of her three books, which describes the challenges and triumphs of building an organic wine business and raising a family while learning a second language.
I feel exhausted just thinking about it!
Caro’s books are called: Grape Expectations, Saving our Skins and her latest book Glass Half Full was released in April 2018.
In addition to writing about her family’s experiences, Caro and Chateau Feely offer organic wines made on site, Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) level 2 wine courses, Wine Weekends and luxury ecological accommodation. Check out Caro’s books and all information about Caro and Sean’s initiatives at Chateau Feely on their website below.
I have known Caro for many years and admire her hard work and innovative ideas.
Marnie Fudge is the co-proprietor with her partner, Thierry Meret, of Cuisine and Chateau, an interactive culinary centre in Calgary, Alberta. Marnie and Thierry offer cooking classes in Calgary, corporate team-building workshops based on teams cooking together and culinary tours. The culinary tours are a gastronomical weeklong adventure through the Périgord region of SW France enjoyed while staying in a 16th Century chateau.
I met Marnie on a business related course some years ago and subsequently introduced her to the Confrerie du Raison D’Or de Sigoules as they share common interests in the presentation of local wines and wine and food pairing.
I will quickly add here that the Confrerie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès is about to start their summer program of guided hikes and wine tastings in the Bergerac Wine Region. These are listed on their website below.
For many years, Marnie and Thierry have been bringing Canadians to enjoy the wine and food of SW France on a foodie adventure. During this stay, the group enjoys an evening with the Commander of the Confrerie du Raison D’Or de Sigoules who describes local wines and conducts a wine tasting focussed on a gastronomic dinner. I have been fortunate to attend one of these excellent events when, by chance, I was in France at the same time as the group.
Bergerac Wine Region showing Saussignac and Sigoulès
The Confrérie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoulès
Marnie and Thierry are bringing their 2018 tour group to France this month in June. Their 2019 Culinary Tour dates are posted on their cuisine and chateau website below.
Chateau Feely and Cuisine and Chateau are great examples of the international nature of the wine and food culture and sector. Bravo and Hats Off/Chapeaux to Caro and Marnie; these two women entrepreneurs are connecting SW France with people from Canada, and around the world.
Château Feely chateaufeely.com
Cuisine and Chateau cuisineandchateau.com
Confrérie du Raisin D’Or de Sigoules confrerieduraisindor.com