FWT Magazine: food wine travel - Issue 3, Spring 2016

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fine beverages

food wine travel

A Taste of Tasmania Costa Rica • Temecula • Santa Lucia Louisville • Graubünden • Ticino Nova Scotia • Boursault • Lacassine South Australia • PaternosterSardinia • Tasmania • Provence Bordeaux • South Africa • Colorado San Francisco • Austria • Chile

explore! savor! live!


7 8



9 30




62 44



56 86






contents 12 18 24 30 38 44 50 56 62 68 74 80 86 92 98

Hahn Family Wines Viva la Grischa! The Complex, Versatile Wines of Ticino, Switzerland depts Sparkling Nova Scotia Contributors 4 Château de Boursault First class reporting from around the world. The Spirit of Louisiana From the Editor 5 Welcome to Issue Three The Gin Renaissance Wines & Spirits 6 Provence How Blade and Bow Blends Tradition and Innovation “No Pisco, No Disco.” Craft Brewed Sake in San Francisco Austria Cin-Cin: Under the Sea, the Drink’s in the Drink Bordeaux Reinvented My Hometown 11 Temecula Wine Country’s Hidden Treasures Breckenridge Distillery Last Shot 102 Harvest time along the Route de Vin The Epicurean Way A Taste of Tasmania Fifty Shades of Gold Pursuing the Perfect Cup of Chocolate in Costa Rica

fine beverages



More information and links for individual authors at the end of each article.

Kirstie Bedford

Hilarie Larson

Anita Breland

Francesca Mazurkiewicz

Anita Breland is an avid traveler who delights in sharing her discoveries of culinary traditions and experiences around the world.

Francesca Mazurkiewicz is a Chicago-based writer and travel blogger, and working mom of two.

Tricia High Conover

Carmen Micheli

Jim DeLillo

Maurie O’Connor

Tom Fakler

Rebecca L. Rhoades

Linda Fasteson

Christine Salins

Kristin Henning

Cori Solomon

Tonya Jennings

Christine Tibbetts

Cassie Kifer

Kathleen Walls

Kirstie Bedford started her career as a news journalist more than two decades ago and has been writing professionally ever since.

Tricia Conover is the Wine Editor, PRiME Magazine, and freelance wine writer for JustLuxe.com, FWT Magazine, and Signature Bride.

Jim’s photojournalistic, reality-based, eclectic style provides a refreshing break from stiffly posed shots.

Guest Photographer Tom Fakler travels globally, capturing award-winning images.

Linda Fasteson views travel as a way to to better understand the people, places and events of our world.

Kristin Henning is a writer and constant traveler. Read her stories at TravelPast50.com.

Chef Tonya Jennings operates Cooking on the Bay Cooking School in Melbourne, Australia.

Cassie Kifer is a freelance travel writer and photographer who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, California.

Julien Lafille

Julien Lafille is a professional journalist and sommelier based in Quebec City. His goal is to contribute to the democratization of wine.

John Lamkin

An award-winning journalist and photographer, he started travel writing as an escape from the drudgery of being an aerospace engineer.

Hilarie’s passion for wine began in the1970s while in the European hospitality industry.

Carmen Micheli is a freelance wine, food, travel and music writer/photographer living in Temecula Valley Wine Country.

Maurie O’Connor loves jazz, oysters, books, films and craft beer in no particular order.

For travel writer Rebecca, the joy of new destinations comes from sampling local food and beverages.

Christine Salins is an Australian writer traveling the world in search of the next great experience.

“My writing epitomizes ‘write what I know,’ and I share my experiences and joy with my topics in a passionate, candid, caring and entertaining way.”

Christine Tibbetts is a veteran journalist with 40+ years in news, editorial, marketing and travel writing, bridging classical journalism with social media.

Kathleen Walls is the publisher, editor and general go-for at American Roads and Global Highways

Elizabeth Willoughby

Since the late '90s Elizabeth Willoughby has been writing professionally about travel, food and wine internationally.

Eugene Yiga

Eugene has written for over 60 different websites, newspapers and magazines.



From the Editor

elcome to Issue Three of the quarterly FWT Magazine. It gives us great pleasure to bring you another issue, this one themed “Fine Beverages.” In this issue you will sample (judiciously, we hope) Chilean pisco; wine in its many forms, including sparkling and rosé; Kentucky bourbon whiskey; artisan sake; premium and craft gins; rum; and brandy (if you think brandy is just a way to make Coca-Cola taste better, think again). By the way, we also sample chocolate and coffee on this journey. And, if “still on your feet,” you will travel on this quest to Costa Rica, South Africa, Australia (has some of the oldest grapevines in the world) and its island state of Tasmania; in France: Champagne, Bordeaux, and Provence; to Austria, Switzerland, Nova Scotia, Sardinia, and Chile. And, in the USA: Louisiana, Breckenridge (not to ski this time), San Francisco, Central Coast of California, and Temecula. Enjoy the journey.

food wine travel

FWT Magazine: food wine travel Publisher IFWTWA Publications

Executive Editor • John Lamkin Associate Editor • Rebecca L. Rhoades Assistant Editor • Christine Salins Contributing Editor • Susanna Starr Contributing Editor • Melanie Votaw Editorial Assistant • M’Liss Hinshaw Creative Director • Dan Kuehn Dan Frank Digital Design Advertising Director • Alexa Hokanson Wine Consultant • Hilarie Larson Publications Adviser • Allen Cox Webmaster • Timothy Lack Charlotte County Websites. Social Media Team • Tom Westerhof • Rochael Teynor • Mary Lansing • Debra Schroeder

I hope you enjoy this issue, and please let us know what you think of our magazine! Cheers, John Lamkin, Executive Editor “Alonso of Aragon was wont to say in commendation of age, that ‘age appears to be best in four things: old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust and old authors to read.’” ~ Francis Bacon, 1624

FWT Magazine is published in English, however, our audience is global as are our contributing writers. Each contributor writes using the form of English; with which they are most familiar, thus you may see international variations on spelling, grammar and phrasing. We hope this eliminates any confusion.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Thank you. – the Editors FWT Magazine: food wine travel is published by IFWTWA Publishing of International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association ifwtwa.org

Executive Editor John Lamkin with Executive Chef Ivan Osorio Velazco of Rancho Encantado Resort & Spa

© IFWTWA 2015-2016

Contact: IFWTWA: admin@ifwtwa.org FWT Magazine: editor@FWTMagazine.com Advertising: ads@FWTMagazine.com Submission Guidelines


If you have a product you would like us to try email editor@FWTmagazine.com




Wines & Spirits How Blade and Bow Blends Tradition and Innovation An Interview with North American Whiskey Ambassador Douglas Kragel


not to be a whiskey fan. My passion continued through working in the service industry and then within sales and distribution. I quickly discovered that what I love about this business is educating trade and consumers. I want to give some of my passion to everyone I meet.

old-medal winner at the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits FWT: Please explain how Blade and Bow is such a unique piece Competition, Blade and Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon of bourbon history and why paying homage to Stitzel-Weller is so Whiskey is the perfect blend of tradition, history and important. innovation. There are two variants of this new Diageo premium Kragel: Blade and Bow pays homage to the artful passion spirit: Blade and Bow and renowned craftsmanship of the legendary Kentucky Straight Stitzel-Weller Distillery. Blade and Bow is named Bourbon Whiskey and after the two parts of a skeleton key – the blade shaft Blade and Bow 22-Yearand the ornate bow handle – part of the iconic Five Old Kentucky Straight Keys symbol found throughout the legendary StitzelBourbon Whiskey. Both Weller distillery. These keys represented the five steps are produced in the Stitof crafting bourbon: grains, yeast, fermentation, zel-Weller distillery just distillation and aging. More importantly, these keys outside Louisville, Kengrew to symbolize the southern traditions of hospitucky, which was open tality, warmth and enjoying the finer things in life. To from 1935 until 1992. this day, the five keys can be found throughout the When Blade and Bow distillery. Blade and Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon took over the property, Whiskey is born from some of the oldest remainit came with a number North American whiskey ambassador, Douglas Kragel ing whiskey stocks to be distilled at Stitzel-Weller, of barrels left over from using the solera aging system to preserve the original the Stitzel-Weller days. stocks. This solera liquid is then mingled with other This is where the innovation comes in. Diageo employs a fivefine whiskeys, aged and bottled at Stitzel-Weller. tiered solera aging system to ensure that an amount of bourbon from the remaining Stitzel-Weller supply is included in each new FWT: What’s your advice for the uninitiated Blade and Bow bottle. drinker? Best way to enjoy it? North American Kragel: I always say, try it neat to start. This way you can Whiskey Ambassaunderstand exactly what it tastes like. Then maybe add some dor Douglas Kragel, water; cutting down the proof will open up a whole new spectrum explains the imporof flavor in the whiskey. After that, I say drink it however you tance of honoring the like. Blade and Bow can be enjoyed in classic cocktails like the Stitzel-Weller tradiManhattan or Presbyterian. If you choose to enjoy Blade and Bow tion while providing whiskeys, please do so responsibly. These whiskeys have been premium bourbon aging for years, so be sure to enjoy them slowly. whiskey for modern palates, his passion Blade and Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, as well as for Kentucky whiskey, the 22-year-old variant, can be found in Chicago, San Francisco, and how enthusiasts New York and Louisville. (By print time, Blade and Bow should be can best enjoy Blade available in other markets but still with a limited footprint.) and Bow. FWT: What prompted your passion for whiskey? Kragel: It’s in my blood. I was born in Lexington, Kentucky, and when you’re from Kentucky it’s hard

Francesca Mazurkiewicz Francesca Mazurkiewicz is a Chicago-based writer and travel blogger, and working mom of two. Francesca aims to show that working parents can still enjoy what they fancy in life, even after having kids. For Francesca, it is travel—with and without her family—and premium beverages, including craft beer, bourbon, and whiskey. For a full author biography and profile please visit http://ifwtwa. org/author/fmazurkiewicz.


Captain Arturo skillfully maneuvers the Grey II up close to an iceberg to collect glacial ice for the pisco sours.


“No Pisco, No Disco.”


n associate on my trip to Patagonia was fond of the saying, “No Pisco, No Disco.” Every night we were served pisco sours before dinner. Every night I would hear that refrain. She had tried pisco sours at a club before the trip, and the revelers who introduced her to Chile’s national liquor introduced her, as well, to that phrase. Pisco is a brandy made from grape wine distilled into a highproof spirit. It is considered the national drink of Chile (although Peru wants to lay some claim to that title). Chilean pisco is from wine with grapes grown only in the Atacama and Coquimbo regions, with the primary varietal being muscat. The distilled spirit is sometimes aged in oak barrels and diluted down to 40 percent. Pisco is naturally sweet, so adding sour mix tempers that, making a drink that’s too easy going down. The real treat is drinking pisco sours with glacial ice. On Lake Grey, the captain of our ferry maneuvered the boat right up close to cobalt blue icebergs. Blue ice occurs when snow falls on a glacier, is compressed, and becomes part of the glacier. Pressure squeezes the air bubbles out, and ice crystals enlarge, making the ice appear blue. While stopped, his deckhands scooped up cinder-block-sized pieces of the ice out of the water with nets. The amazing thing about glacial ice is that has no air bubbles in it. It is crystal clear and takes longer to melt. It may have been my imagination, but the drink seemed colder than that made with regular ice.

The Chilean version of the pisco sour uses juice from limones de pica—small, round, thin-skinned limes from the Pica region of Chile—syrup and ice. In Peru, Key limes or lemons are used, and they add Angostura Bitters and egg white. Pisco is available in the United States at most liquor stores, and a whiskey sour mix will do just fine. I can say that the drink was such a heady concoction that I felt after only one drink, “Let’s stop there.”

Jim DeLillo Jim DeLillo is a travel and adventure photographer who specializes in creating transporting imagery, capturing local color in travel, editorial, and commercial photography. His expansive landscapes are layered, narrative, and rich in tone. They are lit from within having a luminous quality and show a strong attention to detail, composition, and production. His 35+ years of experience includes international publications including Woman’s World Magazine. His photojournalistic, reality-based, eclectic style provides a refreshing break from the stiffly-posed shots. Based near NYC, Jim is available for assignments globally. Jim has recently added Milky Way photography to his skill set.




Wines & Spirits a creamy texture. All of Sequoia’s sakes are unpasteurized and “alive”—they must be kept refrigerated and have a limited shelf life (opened: two weeks; unopened: six months). There’s no shortage of creative local food experiences in the Bay Area, but San Francisco-made craft sake is a unique one to add to your list.

If you go Sequoia Sake, 50 Apparel Way, San Francisco, California

Sequoia Sake

Craft Brewed Sake in San Francisco


he next exciting new brewery in your neighborhood may not actually be brewing beer. An artisan sake movement is taking hold in the United States, spurred by the growing interest in locally made and traditional foods. Japanese brewers have been making the fermented rice beverage since before recorded history so they have had a lot of time to perfect their craft. For decades, much of the sake sold in the U.S. could not live up to these traditions. Much of it was low-quality and fortified by cheap grain alcohol—something that will get you drunk, but nothing you can savor or enjoy. New start-up sake breweries are now trying to reverse that trend in the U.S. Sequoia Sake is leading the charge in Northern California, as San Francisco’s first sake microbrewery, producing vibrant sake that stands with the Bay Area’s renowned wine and craft beers. Sequoia was founded in 2014 by husband and wife team Jake Myrick and Noriko Kamei. Kamei was born in Japan, and Myrick lived there for 10 years. When they moved back to the states, they were inspired to bring the fresh flavors they loved in Japan home to California. They opened their Bayview brewery in 2015 with partner, Warren Pfah, Myrick’s childhood friend. Sequoia makes only premium(“nothing added”) sake using only four ingredients: finely milled rice; water; koji, a mold used to convert the rice’s starch to sugar; and yeast, which ferments the sugar and turns it into alcohol. Sequoia was inspired by Japan but is truly the taste of California. The company uses Sacramentogrown rice and Sierra-source water, and it pairs well with bold American foods. I visited the brewery for a tasting last month, and several different brews were being poured: Nama, a slightly sweet, smooth-bodied and lower alcohol sake (14-15%); Genshu, a floral and full-bodied and higher alcohol sake (18%); and Nigori, an unfiltered, homestyle sake (14–17%). The residual rice gives it




The brewery is open for tasting every Saturday from 11a.m3p.m. You can find Sequoia Sake at a number of restaurants, ramen shops and izakayas in San Francisco and the East Bay. The sake is sold retail at Bi-Rite Market and True Sake in San Francisco, and Umami Mart in Oakland.

Sequoia Sake brewing

Cassie Kifer Cassie Kifer is a freelance travel writer and photographer who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. She is the founder and editor of Ever In Transit (www.everintransit. com), an adventure & culinary travel blog offering travel tips, stories, and photography from destinations in California and around the world. For a full author bio, see http://ifwtwa.org/author/cassie-kifer.

Cin-Cin: Under the Sea, the Drink’s in the Drink BENCAST

Seven hundred bottles of AKÈNTA sparkling wine gets lowered into the sea to ferment for six months.


he northwest of Sardinia, the second largest island off the coast of Italy, is well-known to Italians who frequent its white sand beaches and clear blue waters, but not so well-known to the rest of the world. Its food, produced according to traditional techniques, and the quality wine made in the region are also known primarily to locals. Most Sardinian farmers plug along from season to season, applying age-old methods of husbandry on the farms and generational practices in their kitchens, usually yielding enough for local needs only, which suits most producers just fine. Sardinia’s home-grown food is said to be healthier and tastier than what the grocery stores import, the proof of which might be that, at last count, Sardinia comes second only to Japan in having the most centenarians. Being an island, the sea, naturally, also plays an important role in Sardinian cuisine, where succulent seafood appears frequently and is a staple, particularly on coastal restaurant menus. The Mediterranean plays a role as well, one that you probably wouldn’t have guessed. It’s now a wine cellar for fermenting sparkling wines. Yep, undersea storage of which King Triton would appreciate. Set 32 meters deep in metal cages on the seabed at an atmospheric pressure of four, along with the natural light diffusion and water movement, it’s a completely different atmosphere for the vermentino grapes fermenting in the crates of bottled Spumante, called AKÈNTA, which means “cin-cin.” Clearly, this is not the effort of a typical winery. It’s an experiment being conducted by Cantina Santa Maria La Palma, a cooperative of vintners surrounding Alghero. Exactly 70 years ago, following the Agrarian Reform after World War II, farm workers were able to claim plots of land, and in 1959, 100 of them formed the cooperative. Cultivating the earth that separated from what is now France 300 million years ago, they embrace and exploit Sardinia’s terroir, which gives up different taste influences than mainland Italy’s. Today, there are over 300 farmers working

700 hectares of land, and this cooperative has a view to the market both on the island and beyond. In collaboration with Area Marina Protetta (a marine protected area), Parco di Porto Conte where the grapes are grown, and Blue Service Alghero diving centre, the first experiment saw 700 bottles of AKÈNTA settled underwater for six months. The result, says Mario Peretto, president of the co-op, was rave reviews by six wine specialists, who said it was the best sparkling wine they had tried. “Now, we are involved in an 18-month submersion experiment, and next we will try 36 months to see what the results are,” says Peretto. “Great wines are not born by chance.” Cin-cin to that, too. Vermentino di Sardegna DOC – AKÈNTA (sparkling wine, extra dry) Color: Straw-yellow, hints of green, perlage fine and persistent Bouquet: Intense, fruity, reminiscent of fresh flowers, suggestion of crusty bread Flavor: Well-balanced, structured, smooth Serving suggestions: aperitif, seafood dishes Serving temperature: 6°C-7°C Alcoholic content: 12.5-13%

Elizabeth Willoughby Since the late '90s Elizabeth Willoughby has been writing professionally about travel, food and wine, maintaining home bases in North America, South America and Europe. Hopscotching across the globe to gather stories and photos, she is the author of “Tales from the Road,” the adventure travel page at worldguide.eu, she designs the ultimate wine and cuisine road trips for writeshots.com, and for a time she wrote two regular columns for Brazil’s only bilingual newspaper, Sunday News, on South American travel and culture clash.




My Hometown Temecula Wine Country’s Hidden Treasures

Old Town Temecula hosts yearly art and street-painting festivals, the famous Rod Run Car Show, Taste of Temecula, Western Days chili cook-off, New Year’s Eve Grape Drop and 4th of July and Christmas parades. Our restaurant vibe here is outright impressive. With all the neighboring farms and restaurants who believe in supporting local, I’m convinced we have the best food culture around. EAT Marketplace, The Goat and Vine, Crush and Brew and 1909 are just a few that use our local farms, artisans and winemakers, creating unique and addicting culinary masterpieces that keep me happily coming back for more. Temecula is truly a treasure, and I’m content to call it home.



y hometown is Temecula Valley Wine Country, in sunny Southern California. Living here has obvious perks, such as immediate access to several award-winning wineries, wines and wine-themed events, along with spectacular vineyard and mountain views. However, in my 15 years of being a Temecula resident, I have come to appreciate the lesser known, unique treasures of my town: history, art, farms, festivals, theatre and restaurants that prepare fantastic locally sourced food. The local farms and gardens near us are nothing short of spectacular. I adore trips to Temecula Berry Farm in spring with my two young children to pick blueberries. We also enjoy an occasional “Family Movie Night” projected on the side of the Berry Farm barn under the stars. Summer months mean delicious visits to the Temecula Strawberry Farm for strawberry and watermelon picking. I crave our leisurely family strolls through the Rose Haven Heritage Garden, maintained by Temecula Valley Rose Society and home to roughly 1,600 roses, hybrid teas, floribundas, climbers and succulents – not to mention the gorgeous variety of birds, butterflies, dragonflies and other critters attracted to the flora here. In autumn, it’s a short drive to the Temecula Valley Olive Oil Company’s Olive Harvest Festival at Olive View Ranch. I love to watch the locally grown olives being harvested and pressed into the oil we buy regularly at their shop in Old Town. Old Town Temecula is one of my favorite places. There are many historic buildings still intact, and replicas of the old wood plank roads used during the early 1900s are used as sidewalks, keeping the old western town feel alive. Old Town Community Theatre is the place to go for theatrical, orchestral and dance performances year-round. It’s a beautiful 361-seat proscenium theatre, accessed through the historic landmark Mercantile Building from the 1890s. The Temecula Valley Museum and Pennypickle’s Children’s Museum always have intriguing events that feature notable artists, educators, worldly exhibits and galleries on Temecula’s rich local history and art. At Old Town Spice and Tea Merchants, we enjoy access to the very best teas, herbs and spices hand-selected from around the world. Temecula Valley Cheese Company provides world-class cheeses, house-made mustards and other foodie lovers’ delights to satisfy my frequent lust for the perfect cheese platter.

Picking strawberries at Temecula Strawberry Farm

Carmen Micheli Carmen Micheli is a freelance wine, food, travel and music writer/photographer living in Temecula Valley Wine Country. Food, family and her love of animals and nature fuel her passion for photography and writing about life’s adventures. An amazing home chef, mother of two and wine aficionado, she writes about those in-theknow and on-the-go. With a pulse on the latest in dining, entertainment, events and more, Carmen writes and photographs for printed and online publications, delivering the latest news and happenings around the city, and showcasing the best that Temecula Wine Country and the SoCal area has to offer.




Hahn Family Wines

Discovering the Secrets of the Santa Lucia Highlands Story and photos by Cori Solomon

(except as noted)

Falconry demonstration at Hahn Family Wines


o some, the Central Coast of California is a wine lover’s best kept secret, especially since California wine only means Napa and Sonoma to most people. Yet, the wines from the Central Coast are equally as outstanding as those from their northern counterparts. The Central Coast and Santa Lucia Highlands wineries now play an important role in the production of wine. One of the largest family-run wineries is Hahn Family Wines. You might even call its owner the “Robert Mondavi of the Central Coast.” Like its northern competitor, who went into winemaking against the odds in 1966 and ultimately brought acclaim to the Napa region, Hahn Family Wines under the stewardship of Nicky Hahn was one of the early pioneers to




establish a winery in the Santa Lucia Highlands in the late 1970s. Hahn and his wife, Gaby, have also played a pivotal role in the creation of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA and have been instrumental in educating the public about this Monterey County region. The diversity of climates throughout Monterey County enables the various AVAs in the area to produce a wide variety of styles and varietals. The Santa Lucia Highlands is surrounded by what is known as the Blue Grand Canyon. Its proximity to the coastline influences everything in Monterey County, bringing marine fog and wind to the grape-growing regions. Essentially, Monterey Bay acts like an air-conditioning unit for the vineyards. The Santa Lucia Highlands is 18 miles long and 2-2.5 miles wide. The appellation was established in 1991 and is known for its cool climate for wine-growing of predominantly chardonnay, pinot noir and

syrah. The terraced vineyards are planted on the slopes of the Santa Lucia Range, which overlooks the Salinas Valley, and the terroir consists of ancient alluvial soils. Directly across from the Santa Lucia Highlands is the Gabilian Range. This is important because the morning fog, cool breezes and afternoon maritime winds that come in from Monterey Bay are funneled through the valley between these ranges, creating an ideal diurnal climate for growing grapes. In 1979, Nicky Hahn purchased the Smith and Hook Vineyards, and his first vintage was released in 1980. Ten years later, he acquired the land that is now Doctor’s Vineyard, named in honor of his daughter, Carolyn, who is a veterinarian. Several years later, he bought the Lone Oak Vineyard, which gets its name from the lone oak tree that stands in the middle of the land. Today, Nicky’s son, Philip, runs the 650 acres. In addition to the four vine-

A falcon used for pest control in the Hahn vineyards

yards in Santa Lucia Highlands, the family owns two vineyards in the nearby Arroyo Seco AVA. Hahn Family Wines is a sustainable winery that is SIP-certified. The green practices were initiated by Andy Mitchell, Director of Viticulture, and include the use of falconry to rid the vineyard of pests. Falconry is becoming a popular practice as more wineries embrace sustainability. This method of predator abatement is certified green. The falcon works off a lure and is enticed and rewarded with bait to watch over various sections of the vineyard, protecting the vines from rodents and birds such as the pesky starlings. Owls also play an important part in the falconry program to protect the vines against mice and rats. Hahn’s winemaker is Greg Freeman, who holds a bachelor of science degree in microbiology and chemistry. His background in chemistry made him an ideal candidate to join Hahn as a lab technician. Once he started with Hahn, he quickly worked his way up to winemaker. Greg’s eclectic life has included working at a nuclear chemistry lab, bartending and traveling with an African band. His musical bent also plays a role in the winemaking process. Often, he can be found in the barrel room or the vineyards playing an unexpected instrument – the bagpipes. Perhaps the grapes like his musical serenade. Might it even assist in the grape-growing and aging process? After tasting Hahn’s wines, you know it doesn’t hurt. Hahn Family Wines is made up of three labels. The Hahn label represents wines from across the Hahn vineyards, both in Santa Lucia Highlands and the Arroyo Seco. The label is adorned with a rooster, which is what “Hahn” means in German. You might consider this the family crest. The varietals under the Hahn label are pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris, cabernet sauvignon and merlot, and there is a GSM blend. Wines under the second label, Hahn S.L.H., are deemed worthy of paying tribute to the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA. The Lucienne label represents the highest quality, vineyard designated pinot noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands. This label got its name from Nicky Hahn’s middle name,

Lucien, and is decorated with a crown with lit candles, representing the crown worn by Santa Lucia, patron saint of light. The expression of each vineyard in Hahn’s wine is defined by the amount of fog and wind that venture through the vineyard. The Lone Oak Vineyard is the furthest north and retains the fog layer longer. There is less wind, the vineyard itself is at a lower elevation, and the skins of

Tapas served with Hahn Family Wines Lucienne Pinot Noir.

the grapes are thinner. Doctor’s Vineyard lies on a similar elevation as Lone Oak but is further south, so the fog leaves early in the morning, making this vineyard warmer. It also has the most intense winds of all Hahn’s vineyards. The Smith Vineyard has the highest elevation, making it warmer and less windy. The Hook Vineyard is quite similar in its climate to Smith, but due to its lower elevation, the vineyards are also ideal

for growing Rhone varietals like grenache and syrah, as well as malbec. Our tour of the winery started with an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) ride. It was fun to traverse the backroads of the vineyard in this mode of transportation. You will hit some bumps along the way, however, or lose your cap if you don’t hang onto it. The winery is set against a hill above the bench that divides the agricultural farmlands from the vineyards. The views of the Salinas Valley floor were exquisite from our

highest vantage point. From the vista overlooking the valley with the Pinnacles Monument in the distance, we enjoyed a sampling of the Lucienne wines from the 2013 vintage. The wine was paired with yummy tapas prepared by Hahn’s executive chef, Dyer Foster. After tasting the pinot noir from four different vineyards – Lone Oak, Smith, Hook and Doctor’s Vineyards – a favorite was the Lone Oak because at this point in time, it’s the softest and mellowest of

the four. It is medium-bodied with silky textures and bright cola and cherry flavors. The Smith Pinot Noir expressed more peppers with the cherries, while the Hook was mellower. Doctor’s is probably the biggest and richest wine of the four. Following the Lucienne tasting, we ventured to the tasting room, which also has magnificent views of the valley. Sitting on the deck overlooking the winery is a real treat. It definitely enhances your wine tasting experience, giving you the true flavor of

The view from the the highest elevation at Hahn Family Wines in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA.




Greg Freeman, winemaker at Hahn Family Wines playing the bagpipes.

the Santa Lucia Highlands. There is a consistency and balance to the wines, and you must not miss Hahn’s Pinot Gris, as it is quite refreshing and the perfect wine for savoring the gorgeous views. Visiting Hahn Family Estate is a unique experience, as the winery offers several options for touring. Even just visiting as the sun begins to set over the valley can make for the perfect end to a day and an ideal way to discover the beauty and wines of the Santa Lucia Highlands.


Cori Solomon


My writing epitomizes “write what I know” and I share my experiences and joy with my topics in a passionate, candid, caring and entertaining way. Like my art where I am looking beyond the eyes to find an animal’s inner soul and spirit, I am looking for the story that is behind the restaurant, chef, winery, winemaker, artist or animal.




Viva la Grischa!

Swiss Spirits and a Little Romansch Story and photos by Linda Fasteson

Clostra Son Jon, Val M端stair, Switzerland


e were enjoying one of Switzerland’s great scenic train rides, The Glacier Express, when we passed by a mountain region and heard about the unique language spoken by less than 1% of the population. Switzerland, a country about twice the size of the state of Massachusetts, has four national languages. Since it is surrounded by Germany, Austria, France and Italy, it is not surprising that German, French and Italian are the three official languages.




But what about the fourth national language — Romansch? How did it come about and survive to this day? We decided to travel to this area to learn more. Graubünden, the largest, easternmost and most sparsely populated of Switzerland’s 26 cantons, was long isolated by the eastern Alps. It is known for its respect for tradition and independent spirit. In fact, Graubünden did not join the Swiss Confederation until 1803. The growth of Graubünden’s tourist resorts like St. Moritz, Davos and Kloster led to the development of modern-day roads, railways and communication, and most of the canton is German-speaking. However, in more remote mountain villages and hamlets, Romansch, the language left

behind by Roman conquerers, lives on. We planned our route to Val Müstair. To get there we took the Rhätische Bahn railway to the end of the line at Zernez. En route we practiced some basic words and phrases like allegra (welcome), bun di (good morning), buna saira (good evening), a revair (good bye), per plaschair (please), grazia fit (thank you), anzi (you’re welcome) and viva (cheers). Many houses in this region are elaborately decorated in a style known as sgraffito. A yellow Postbus was waiting at the station to take us on a spectacular journey through the alpine wilderness known as the Swiss National Park and the high alpine pass known as Often Pass before heading to

House with Engadine-style design known as sgraffito, Val Müstair, Switzerland

guests arrived with mules and horses. The fresco on the balcony wall, painted in 1497, depicts the Madonna and a plague-stricken St. Rocco. Medieval pole weapons known as halberds lean against the wall in the entryway that also features a family tree that traces the owners’ lineage in Val Müstair to the 14th century. The fresh mountain air was filled with the soothing sound of bells from local cows and, at prayer time, from the convent. Meals are served in a room with walls of fragrant local pine known as arven

the villages in Val Müstair. The bus stopped to drop off mail, hikers and cyclists along the way. Our destination was the Hotel Chalavaina Romansch for Calven, a short walk from the Clostra Son Jon (Convent of St. John) bus stop. The two crossed swords of Hotel Chalavaina’s sign proudly commemorate the military victory against German Emperor Maximilian and the Austrian Hapsburgs that led to Swiss independence. Orders for the Battle of Calven were given from the hotel’s terrace in 1499 by Benedikt Fontana, Commander of Graubünden (Grison) forces. Bricked-up light slits in the foundation indicate that the inn was built before 1300. The large stable was constructed when

Luciano Beretta, Beretta distillery, Tschierv, Switzerland

(dschember in Romansch) and are prepared using local foods, including vegetables from the garden. Alpine cheese, local meats, yogurts and freshly baked traditional rye bread were staples of breakfast. Dinner one evening included local wild boar. Nearly all foods and farmers are organic, referred to here as biological or bio. The Swiss were known for their concern for the environment long before sustainability became a marketing buzzword. Nowhere is it more evident than in this UNESCO

Beretta distillery, Tschierv, Switzerland

Biosphere reserve area. It was in the village of Tschierv that we found the essence of the area in a bottle. There were many secrets Luciano Beretta shared with us through a translator when we visited his distillery, Antica Distilleria Beretta. Mr. Beretta has won numerous gold medals for his products, which are made entirely from ingredients found in the




valley. “Nature gives me everything I need,” he said, “and there is no waste. Everything goes back to nature.” His wife’s family has owned rights to produce special liqueurs since 1792. They are the only ones in Graubünden with this privilege.vv The first secret is the grain, high quality Gran Alpin from the convent, that he preheats to retain aroma and flavor. The lower

high-altitude boiling point for his clear distillate base prevents the alcohol from burning off and, he says, is the secret to his gold medals. The color comes from the flavorings he adds — things like pine cones, nuts, apples and flowers such as edelweiss and hayflowers that are collected at altitudes above the cow pastures to ensure a clean product. He also makes the labels and wooden

Glattfelder vodka, Beretta distillery, Tschierv, Switzerland

over $200. Group tastings and opportunities to see the production are offered, as are meals of local fare, all with advance reservations. Which is Luciano Beretta’s favorite? We don’t know. He doesn’t drink.

Linda Fasteson

stands. Mr. Beretta’s Alpiner Heublumen Likör, a hayflower flavored liqueur, was awarded 20 points, which is a perfect score. He distributes 1100 bottles annually to Scuol and St. Moritz, where gourmet chocolates flavored with his Gran Alpin distillate are also sold. High-end distributor Glattfelder sells his Gran Alpin in a distinctive 500 ML translucent bottle at Badrutt’s Palace for

Linda Fasteson is an award-winning writer who specializes in baby boomer travel with emphases on history and culture, grand and historic hotels, waterways and railways, educational vacations, and food and wine. She views travel as a way to to better understand the people, places and events of our world. In addition to her Sunday newspaper travel feature stories, Baby Boomer Travel and Travel Deal columns, and website, NotableTravels.com, she has been a panelist for major publications and international tourism boards and is a contributor to a variety of magazines, forums, and cruise reviews.




The Complex, Versatile Wines of Ticino, Switzerland By Anita Breland Photos by Tom Fakler

Ticiino, Switzerland


first tasted white merlot at a restaurant in Ascona, Switzerland. It was a soft summer evening on the shores of Lago Maggiore, and the restaurant was packed. The wine was served as an aperitif while my husband and I waited for our table, and it came with a plate of olives and salami. At first, I thought it was a glass of pinot grigio, but this wine had more character, plus a hint of dry minerality. Later, on a crisp autumn evening in a cozy grotto (a traditional restaurant, perhaps with a vine-draped arbor for outdoor dining in summer), another merlot surprise came our way. This one, an amerone-styled red, was rich, sultry and smooth, and proved a divine accompaniment to roast lamb with polenta, a specialty of northern Italy and Italian-speaking Ticino. Both merlots were superb, yet startlingly different in every way possible. And they are just the end points on a production line that includes a widely divergent range of merlot styles and flavors. It sometimes surprises visitors that Switzerland produces wine at all. Swiss wine is made in luxuriously small quantities, and just 2% of it is exported. Most is consumed in-country by the Swiss and lucky holiday-makers. Visitors to Ticino are treated to complex, versatile wines – including red and white merlot – perfectly suited to the hearty Italian-influenced foods of this mountainous region. What makes the merlot from Ticino special? Is it terroir? Cultivation practices? Production methods? In fact, all these things contribute to the diversity and depth of the merlot experience.




From Bordeaux to Switzerland

Several grape varieties are cultivated in Canton Ticino but the predominant variety – more than 80% – is merlot, introduced early in the 20th century. The vines on myriad terraced parcels, some of them quite small, date from the region’s recovery from the devastating phylloxera scourge that wiped out vineyards across Europe in the late 19th century. Phylloxera came late to Ticino, which meant that much trial and error in how to deal with the problem had already been undertaken. Ticino merlot got its start in Bordeaux, France, when the grape was chosen to replenish destroyed vineyards. The Swiss canton’s merlot story began on the Vallombrosa estate of Giovanni Rossi in Castelrotto near Lugano. There, in 1906, Rossi, a physician, politician and philanthropist, introduced merlot rootstock, combining efficient agricultural practices with a healthy

dose of political will. It took 60 years and the imagination and perseverance of winemakers to build a viniculture of prize-winning quality. There are now about 3,600 grape-growers in Ticino and 200 or so winemakers. Approximately 1,000 hectares are devoted to viticulture, much of it around Mendrisio and Lugano.

Terroir and Microclimates “Merlot’s remarkable affinity for the land, and its ability to show its many faces so well here, account for the grape’s dominance in Ticino.” –Swiss Wine Promotion Ticino is split geographically in two parts by the Monte Ceneri pass, and wines produced in Ticino reflect differences in terroir and, just as importantly, the varied

Merlot grapes ready for harvest at the highly regarded vineyards of Gianfranco Chiesa – Vini Rovio Ronco

microclimatic features of the canton. In mountainous Sopraceneri, the northern region, the sandy soil is acid, light and porous. In the southern part, Sottoceneri, the soil is more alkaline. The Sottoceneri rewards merlot’s preference for moist clay soil, warm days and cool nights. In the hands of Ticino winemakers, the thin-skinned grape also receives the careful tending it requires, resulting in wines that are complex in character, perfumed and elegant. The vintners say it’s the diversity of microclimates within such a small region that provides them with interesting base products for winemaking.

My Wine, My Way

Some Ticino producers surely have winemaking in their blood: Claudio Tamborini, Gianni Gialdi, Guido Brivio and Angelo Delea, to name just four. In fact, these vintners who trained in Bordeaux in the 1980s not only have their individual prestige wines, but also have banded

together to produce a cuvée that celebrates vintage years. Quatromani is produced when the four contributing winemakers declare a year’s production to be vintage. They take it in turn to handle blending and aging of successive issues of the wine. Not everyone aspires to producing merlot in the style of Bordeaux, however. Some, such as Christian Zundel, have taken another approach entirely. Zundel cultivates his vines by the phases of the moon, and produces prize-winning wines in very small quantities, experimenting with various fermentation vessels, from egg-shaped cement tanks to stainless steel. For him, the key is the affinity of wine with the hearty foods of the local kitchen. Individual vintners also apply their own philosophies to ensuring quality wines. Guido Brivio makes excellent wine, but does not cultivate grapes. Instead, he and partner Gianni Gialdi source their grapes from as many as 400 small growers and put their energies and talents into ensuring quality through the production and

aging process. Brivio in particular is a big proponent of excellence in barrels, replacing approximately one-third of them each season. He works with the barrel-maker to achieve the desired levels of wood aging and toasting to suit the requirements dictated by each year’s harvest.

Tasting Swiss merlot

With so little of annual production exported, about the only way to enjoy most of Ticino’s merlot is in-country, and it can be problematic to find these wines even in Switzerland. Wine tourism in Ticino is not along a well-labeled, mapped-out route. A visitor must take a different approach, combining a taste for the grape with opportunities to sample some of the canton’s signature foods and settings. It can be useful to start with any of the artfully designed tasting rooms at the vintners, and continue explorations at restaurants and festivals. Ticino’s sloping terraced vineyards, large

The Fattoria L’Amorosa, a farmhouse-style retreat and restaurant with nine rooms, is a project of Angelo Delea, one of the canton’s top wine producers and a former restaurateur.

and small, are also great for hiking. I’ve enjoyed excellent regional wines with local specialties – from polenta to unique cheeses to seasonal flavors such as sausages with saffran risotto – in the grotti of Ticino. My favorite way to explore the region’s food and wine, though, is to stay in quaint hotels with a view of the Italian/ Swiss lakes or in the midst of a vineyard. The numerous harvest festivals in Ticino, such as Ascona’s Chestnut Festival, also feature regional wines. The annual Cantine Aperto (Day of Open Wine Cellars), sponsored by Ticinowine, is a great time to discover flavorful wines of very limited production. Ticino vintners also promote




their wines at Switzerland’s many wine fairs, such as the Expovina Wine Ships, which dock in Zurich for the first two weeks in November each year.

If you go Swiss Fine Wine identifies and rates wines, for sommeliers and wine enthusiasts alike. Search the site by region to identify high-quality wines from Ticino and other Swiss regions. Paolo Basso, World Sommelier of the Year in 2013, has a wine shop in Lugano

and produces his own wine. In addition to teaching about wine, he offers Selezione | Séléction, a handy list of the year’s best from Switzerland, France and Italy. The Swiss Wine Directory, the official online portal of all of Switzerland’s winemakers, aims to facilitate wine cellar visits, providing information about reception services, languages spoken on-site and more. In Switzerland, a hotel with a good kitchen and a knowledgeable sommelier is a fine way into pairing foods and wines of Ticino. Swiss Tourism’s website provides details for atmospheric, quality lodging in Ticino at various price ranges.

Guido Brivio produces highly regarded Ticino merlot.

Enrico Trapletti has 10 wines listed in sommelier Paolo Basso’s Selezione | Séléction 2016, several of them prize-winning merlots.

Valentina Tambourini, of Tambourini Vini, pours a taste of Castelrotto at the Basler Weinmesse (Wine Fair).

Anita Breland Anita Breland is an avid traveler who delights in sharing her discoveries of culinary traditions and experiences around the world. A passionate foodie based in Europe, she is on a never-ending quest for good food and the people who make it. With her husband and fellow blogger, photographer Tom Fakler, Anita chases tasty plates and cultural experiences and serves up the long-running blog, Anita’s Feast. She has contributed guest posts and articles to several anthologies, including Lonely Planet’s A Moveable Feast. She has worked with numerous tourist boards and destinations in Europe and Asia. Anita is a member of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association (PTBA), Geneva Writers Group and Thin Raft Writers (Basel, Switzerland).




Sparkling Nova Scotia

The Annapolis Valley, Home of World-Class Sparkling Wines Story and photos by Julien Lafille

The Bay of Fundy, which is known to have the world’s highest tides, has a great influence on the nearby vineyards.

Most sparkling wines in the Annapolis Valley are produced by the méthode traditionnelle, just like in Champagne.


hen people first planted vines in Canada, they were not called visionary. They were called crazy. How could such a cold, northern country produce fine beverages from grapes, which need a milder climate? Well, without that cold weather, Canada wouldn’t have become the world leader in ice wine, for example. And if you take a closer look, you realize that regions across Canada have managed to create admirable wines, from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, to the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario, or even in the Eastern Townships in Quebec, just to name a few. And now, Nova




Scotia, on the East Coast, is also rising as a high-quality wine producer, especially when it comes to bubbles.

Vines with Acadian roots

Pop! The sound of celebration. It can be heard all over the cellar at L’Acadie Vineyards. This 30-acre vineyard is in Gaspereau, less than 100 kilometers northwest of Halifax. But nope. Nobody is getting married, nor celebrating a birthday. It’s actually the sound of bottles being disgorged. This is the last of many steps used to produce méthode traditionnelle sparkling wines — a second fermentation in the bottle — just like in Champagne. In fact, a lot of equipment in this cellar is imported Benjamin Bridge produces one of the most famous sparkling wines in Canada.

directly from Champagne, including the magnificent traditional wooden pupitres, or riddling racks, that still have the word “Epernay” on them, which is the most renowned town for Champagne production. The choice of equipment and method of production are no coincidence. It’s only because winemaker Bruce Ewert wants the

best, to produce the best. No wonder the head of L’Acadie Vineyards is considered a pioneer in the area. About 10 years ago, he saw the potential for sparkling wines. “When you can ripen grapes in our unique climate and have good acid retention and moderate sugar levels, you have excellent conditions for sparkling wines,” he says. “You can’t get any cooler than our climate here and still grow grapes. We’re right on the edge, but being able to do that, when

you have those conditions, sparkling wine really thrives, much like in Champagne, it’s always on the edge.” L’Acadie Vineyards is also the first certified organic vineyard in Nova Scotia. Not an innocent choice. For Bruce Ewert, it’s a way to ensure a true reflection of terroir. “Because the soil is living, we’re encouraging microorganisms living in the soil, and there are a lot of mineral flavours in the wine, thanks to the roots that go very deep

in that rocky, gravelly soil.” L’Acadie is not only the name of the vineyard. It’s also the name of the main grape used to produce their sparkling wine. It seems that everything here has Acadian roots, even the vines, that are part of the Grand Pré landscape, which UNESCO named a World Heritage Site in 2012. The place really is rich in Acadian history. At the heart of this wine region is the Grand Pré National Historic Site, where the 1755

Pupitres, or riddling racks, used for traditional “remuage” at L’Acadie Vineyards.

deportation of the Acadians, known as the Great Expulsion, is memorialized.

A “Bridge” to Champagne-quality level

Less than 5 kilometers from L’Acadie Vineyards, just across the Gaspereau River,

is Benjamin Bridge Vineyards. It’s now one of the most famous wineries in Nova Scotia. Whereas L’Acadie uses hybrid grapes, Benjamin Bridge grows vitis vinifera, including the three grapes that are used in Champagne: chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. All it took was winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers’ determination.

“It’s not without a challenge”, he says, “but the efforts and the risk are worth it.” What makes the Annapolis Valley a perfect place to produce sparkling wines is its location — in a cool climate, of course, but tempered by the Atlantic Ocean. According to Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, the ocean is not the only element that has an influence. The vineyards are close to the shore of the Bay of Fundy, known to have the world’s highest tides. “The Bay of Fundy has a very important moderating effect, and it gives all our wines a signature. They all have this typical freshness, with a great sensation of minerality.” The Benjamin Bridge winemaker qualifies the future of Nova Scotia sparkling wines as “very promising.” Bruce Ewert, of L’Acadie Vineyards, adds: “Nova Scotians have embraced the culture of sparkling wines, and now we’re ready to show the world.” In fact, some of the Nova Scotia sparkling wines have already won awards during international wine competitions. “That really turned the heads of wine writers in France and in the United Kingdom,” says Bruce Ewert, laughing. The fine persistent bubbles, the bread-like aromas, the saline flavours, the creamy texture, the perfect ripeness and acidity … the result is that Annapolis Valley méthode traditionnelle is to Canada what Cava is to Spain: a high quality sparkling wine, with a true identity. Now, how crazy is that?

The signature of Nova Scotia sparkling wines is mainly the freshness, and a sensation of minerality that brings saline flavours.

If you go Plan at least two days to enjoy the Annapolis Valley and its vineyards. Nova Scotia is also a great place to learn more about the Acadian history, especially around the Grand Pré National Historic Site, which is open from mid-May to mid-October. Benjamin Bridge Vineyards www.benjaminbridge.com L’Acadie Vineyards www.lacadievineyards.ca Domaine de Grand-Pré www.grandprewines.ns.ca Grand-Pré National Historic Site (Parks Canada) www.pc.gc.ca Annapolis Valley Tourism www.valleytourism.ca

Owner and winemaker Bruce Ewert of L’Acadie Vineyards.

Head winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers discussing the 2015 vintage during a meeting at Benjamin Bridge Vineyards.

Julien Lafille Julien Lafille is a professional wine journalist based in Quebec City. He has been writing about the food and wine industry since 2012, mostly for Radio-Canada, Canada’s French speaking national public radio, where he has over 10 years of experience as a reporter. Julien is also a professional sommelier, and in 2015, he received the “Jacques Orhon” prize, recognizing him as one of Canada’s best new sommeliers.




Ch창teau de Boursault A Wonderful Discovery in Champagne Story and photos by Tonya Jennings

Chateau de Boursault, Champagne, France, in the glorious parkland gardens


iscovering Château de Boursault— a magnificent Champagne House in the tiny village of Boursault, just off the Route du Champagne—was one of those special experiences we love to have when in France. From Paris, we drove along the Route du Champagne to Toul, Lorraine, the permanent home of our barge, the Betty B. After lunch at La Table Sourdet, a gem of a restaurant in the tiny village of Dormans, we continued along the scenic Route Touristique du Champagne, with vineyards of pinot noir and chardonnay on each side of the road and up the hillsides. Having not seen any châteaux along the route, we were surprised when we saw a magnificent one high on the top of a hill, surrounded by fields and a forest, encircled by a large stone fence. We turned onto a narrow, windy road to have a closer look, and found it was Château de Boursault, a château vineyard with a cellar door. Its very old, character-filled tasting room was full of fabulous paintings, pictures, books and Champagne accessories. Above the cellar entrance was a large portrait of Madame Veuve Clicquot, who built the château between 1843 and 1847. What a treasure with a fascinating history. André greeted us at the cellar or “cave” door and led us into the tasting room. He spoke English as well as I speak French, so it was an interesting conversation. However, I understood as he explained the history of the château and the connection between

Chateau de Boursault welcome sign at the huge front gates

Beautifully ornate towers on roof-top of the Chateau

Château de Boursault and Raymond Blanc, one of my favorite chefs, whose photo was on display in the cave. Madame Veuve Cliquot built the château on the site of a 16th century fortified castle built by the Barons of Boursault. She later gave Château Boursault to her daughter Clémentine and great granddaughter, the Duchess d’Uzès. On the façade facing the Marne Valley, a sealed plate above the pediment of the central window bears the inscription “natis mater,” which is translated as “mother to her children.” Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons restaurant in Oxfordshire, England, serves a Château de Boursault Champagne as its house Champagne. On display in the cave were photographs of Le Manoir’s 25-year anniversary celebration with Blanc and the Boursault Champagne, bottled under their own label to mark the occasion. André presented our tasting. The Manoir house Champagne was nice with a good nose and those tiny bubbles typical of Champagne. The other two – the vintage Champagne Millésime and the Brut Tradition – were fabulous. After the tasting, we were delighted that André granted us a visit to the Château and its gardens as a special favor. This was a perfect, unexpected beginning to our time in France. We now visit Château de Boursault each time we go to our barge. André is usually there, and besides the delight in seeing him and the Château, we always need to restock our supply of Champagne. Recently, after hearing of our love for their Champagne, Alex, the son of the owner, invited us on a special, private tour of the cellars and vineyards. Whenever friends visit us on the barge and are going through Champagne, we ask them to visit Château de Boursault on our behalf and to help restock our barge cellar. Everyone enjoys their visit with André! After returning to Australia, I often intend to contact them to see if it’s possible to have Champagne sent to us, but I never have. So, Château de Boursault Champagne

its name. The château's park is completely walled and therefore is a genuine “Clos.” Designed by the architect, Fransquin, it covers 11 hectares with extensive gardens, sweeping paths and a very long driveway. There are numerous statues and an enormous greenhouse the size of a tennis court, which would have been magnificent in its heyday when the château was occupied. Unfortunately, no one lives in the château anymore, and although the greenhouse is in disrewill always be enjoyed and savored even pair, the château appears to be in excellent more, as it will be reserved for our wondercondition, at least on the outside. There ful daily 6pm ritual aperitif on our barge in are a few other lovely buildings still in use, France. one for the Champagne tasting room and Château de Boursault Champagne is the the office, plus the wine-pressing buildings. only Champagne to be grown and vinified Fortunately, all are in exceptionally good at the château, so it is unique in the Marne order and look very attractive. Valley in that it bears the word “château” in The estate is planted with pinot noir,

Chateau de Boursault tasting room with André




Betty B is our 100-year-old barge we live on and travel in when in France.

pinot meunier and chardonnay. Each year, the blends vary slightly according to the harvest and maturity. The vines are cultivated with respect to the soil and the environment, and each year, the estate is moving nearer to its goal of complete organic status.

If you go Champagne Château de Boursault

Tonya Jennings Chef Tonya Jennings operates Cooking on the Bay Cooking School in Melbourne, Australia. Tonya’s food philosophy is to cook fresh, locally produced, seasonal food, to cook for taste and to cook food simply, enhancing the natural flavours so the food looks and tastes delicious. Students are encouraged to celebrate the richness and diversity of our food and are inspired to enjoy cooking for their family and friends. Tonya teaches excellent home cooking in the beautiful setting of her home overlooking the bay in St. Kilda, Melbourne. Tonya Jennings is passionate about food, cooking, reading culinary books, France and writing. For full author biography and profile visit http://ifwtwa.org/author/tonya-jennings




The Spirit of Louisiana Not the Most Rum, Just the Best Rum By Kathleen Walls

Fountain in front has a pelican feeding her young, Louisiana’s state bird.


o-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!” When Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island, he was thinking of the Caribbean islands but today, you can get a bottle of rum traveling down the bayou instead of the ocean. Louisiana Spirits in Lacassine, Louisiana, produces Bayou Rum, which it calls “The Spirit of Louisiana.” And why not? Sugar cane has been grown in Louisiana since 1751. The distillery, the largest private label rum in the U.S., is a fun place to visit even if you don’t like rum­. Lacassine is in the heart of Cajun County just a little east of Lake Charles. When you step into the visitors center/ gift shop, you will be greeted with typical Louisiana hospitality by one of the clerks or possibly one of the co-owners of the distillery, brothers Trey and Tim Litel and their friend, Skip Cortese. This is a very hands-on business. Skip met us and took us on the tour. He was a fountain of interesting information, giving us a good insight into a business that is both as old as Louisiana’s European culture and filled with the most advanced distilling technology. The first stop was the viewing room, where we watched a film that reminded us of sugar cane’s place in Louisiana’s culture. “Jesuit priests first brought sugar cane into south Louisiana in 1751, and it has been grown there ever since,” Skip pointed out. We started in the bottling section, the actual end of the product, which starts at the loading dock and ends at the loading dock. The bottles are rinsed with rum,” Skip told us. “What a good sanitizer, and we don’t have to worry about cross-contamination down the line.” According to Skip, for an alcohol to be “rum” it must be made from the sugar cane

plant. It could be molasses or unrefined granulated sugar. “We use two products in our rum, molasses and unrefined granulated sugar. This will make better rum. Caribbean rum is made from molasses. We’re not going to make more rum than the Caribbean. Not going to happen,” he said. Louisiana Spirits makes about 25,000 cases a year and is distributed in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and just recently in Canada. Skip led us from the fermenting tanks to the heart of the operation, the distiller. The distilling tank is a thing of beauty in shining copper and commanding the space in the center of several stainless storage tanks. It brings to mind the old mountain stills, blended with high tech. Skip told us they are expecting another copper still within several weeks, so when you visit, there will be two of these beauties working hard to produce a fine spirit. The new one is from Vendome Copper & Brass Works in Louisville, Kentucky, which makes the stills for most of the big bourbon producers like Jim Beam. The difference is that these stills are “pot stills” used to make handmade smaller batches. Jeff Murphy, the distiller, was busy at work when we stepped up to the still. Skip

Skip Cortese leading the tour of the rum distillery




explained how the process works. “The still separates the alcohol from the remaining material, bringing the distiller’s beer from 8% or 9% by volume to 40%. percent. What remains is called the vinasse. We will send that off to a cattle food company.” This is one of the things I really like about Bayou Rum — it is very “green.” It uses all Louisiana cane to make the rum, and the byproducts are not thrown on some garbage heap to pollute the earth. The rum goes through nine distillations altogether, bringing it up to about 90%. Then, they draw off the first alcohol called “heads,” which has poor flavor. When it reaches its optimum point, that is called the “heart” and this is what is used to make the rum. At the end of the distilling process, the alcohol again loses its flavor. This is referred to as the “tails.” Heads and tails are sold off to make fuel. Nothing wasted! The heart that’s left is tested in an on-site lab to decide which type of rum it Rack of aging barrels of rum

Copper pot still at Louisiana Spirits

is best suited to make. Here is where the high tech pays off. Skip pointed out a small machine that, he says, “looks like a microwave and costs like a house”. It’s called a gas chromatograph and takes all the guesswork out of deciding which rum that batch of alcohol is best suited for. Louisiana Spirits produces White Rum, Spiced Rum, Satsuma Rum and Bayou

Select Barrel Reserve. The Bayou Select is a special blend, some of it dating to the earliest days of the company when it was still producing rum on a 10-gallon pot still. Bayou Select has been aged up to three years in charred oak bourbon barrels brought in from Kentucky. Skip explained that you cannot use a new barrel or your rum will taste woody and oaky.

The mural of a bayou rum maker and his Cajun cabin with a still on the porch over the bayou

I asked if rum has an equivalent of the “Angel’s Share” of bourbon. Skip assured us that just like bourbon, a portion of the rum is lost as it ages, about 10% the first year and three to five every year after. There is a unique mural there which represents the “Spirit of Louisiana.” It was painted by Skip’s brother, Peter Cortese, depicting a rum-running operation set




The tasting bar at Louisiana Spirits

Kathleen Walls Some of your choices of Bayou Rum

on a Louisiana bayou with a Cajun house, complete with a shining copper still. Set over the water on stilts is T-Boy, a colorful Cajun in a pirogue, setting out to deliver his rum. A figurine of the same T-Boy sits alongside the mural with a “no smoking” sign around his neck. That’s a good point since alcohol, including rum, is highly flammable. The next stop was what we were all eagerly waiting for: the tasting bar. It’s separated from the gift shop by a wroughtiron fence, recycled like so much of the well-crafted shop with its exposed beams reclaimed from an ancient North Carolina textile mill, aged bricks and many touches of Cajun country. We got to sample each of the rums. The basic White Rum was a pleasant surprise. It had much more flavor than the average “big name” rum and a nice fruity taste. The Spiced Rum was much stronger-tasting due to the spice, which is very present but not overpowering. It was hard for me to




Kathleen Walls is the publisher, editor and general go-for at American Roads and Global Highways (www. americanroads.net). She writes fiction books, non-fiction books, and travel books. Her choose a favorite between the next two – travel and food related articles the Satsuma Rum, which is a blend of rum and Satsuma, giving it almost the feeling of have been published in Woodall’s Publicaa cocktail, and Bayou Select, the three-year- tions, Family Motor Coaching, Amateur Chef, Georgia Magazine, North Georgia old aged blend, which has a very smooth Journal, Georgia Backroads, London, Enflavor. gland’s Country Music People, many of the I would have to agree with the way visit***online.com sites and others. Skip summed it up when he explained the She is a photographer also with many of difference between Bayou Rum and a bigher original photographs appearing in her name rum like Captain Morgan: “It’s like travel magazine as well as other publicaa cake you buy at the grocery or one you tions. Her in print travel books to date make yourself. You know which will taste are Last Step, Georgia’s Ghostly Getaways, better.” Finding Florida’s Phantoms, Hosts With Ghosts and Wild About Florida: South Florida, Wild About Florida: North Florida and Wild About Florida: Central Florida. She has several travel guides online as well. Tours are held Tuesday-Saturday at 10:00 AM, 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m., Her fiction, which often leans heavily on 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.. You must be there her travels, includes Last Step, which was made into a feature movie of the same 15 minutes early to confirm your spot. name by Forbes Productions, Kudzu, Man Reservations are recommended. www. Hunt—The Eric Rudolph Story, Under A bayourum.com Bloody Flag and Under A Black Flag.

If You Go

The Gin Renaissance

Premium and Craft Gins Define its Rebirth By Tricia High Conover

Porters Gin – Advanced Technology – Exotic Botanicals – Aberdeen, Scotland

versity of Leyden in The Netherlands. In the mid-1700’s he created a spirit harnessing the “medicinal properties” of juniper, supposedly a cure for bladder and kidney ailments. It contained a neutral grain spirit and was sold in pharmacies. The root of the name gin comes from geniver/ in has enjoyed a colorful history. jeniver, Dutch for juniper, which masked The ancient Greeks and Romans the roughness of the spirit of that time. are thought to have distilled juniThe term “Dutch Courage” came from the per berries, but the earliest documented history of distillation came from the 7th and practice of Dutch sailors taking a sip of gin before battle. Some said it was hard to find 8th centuries. a cabin boy sober enough to climb a mast.


The Early Years

Gin Blamed for England’s Social Ills

Gin became widely adopted in England where it is credited with creating major social ills. A surge in gin’s popularity occurred when England’s King William III, ruler of the Dutch Republic, banned



During the Black Death era 1346-53, Italian monks ineffectively gave a juniper-infused spirit concoction to patients as a Bubonic Plague remedy. The recognized father of gin, however, was Franciscus Sylvius, a physician and scientist at the Uni-

“Gin Lane” by William Hogarth.




one that your grandparents drank at their country club or retirement village. In an interview with Barbara Werley, MS, Pappas Bros. Restaurants, she noted the resurgence of gin after 1985 and credited the rise to Bombay Sapphire and its “lighter style of gin that competed well with the increasingly popular vodka.”

Gin Production and Premium Gin Crafters

Gin is produced from a neutral spirit distilled from mash cereals but can come from sugarcane, potatoes, sugar beets or other agricultural products. The gin process calls for second distilling of that neutral spirit with a mix of botanicals sitting inside in a “gin basket” infusing the gin with their flavors and aromas. Historically the dominant botanical was juniper. Botanicals in six categories are used today in the production of gin: seeds, herbs, bark, citrus peel and others like almond and clove. Top selling gin such as Hendricks uses botanicals infused with roses and cucumber and other unusual combinations of botanicals. The Slow Food and farm-to-table movement Monkey 47 Gin, 2011 Gold Medal Winner – World Spirits Award has transformed gastronomy and influenced gin The Roaring 20’s and botanicals towards those locally freshly USA Prohibition (1920-33) brought us sexy picked, organic and exotic. Craft distillers flappers. They drank “Bathtub Gin” named such as Orange County Distillery, Caliafter a New York City speakeasy, where fornia, use local botanicals: lemon balm, the gin was crudely and illegally made. lavender, ginger mint, all freshly picked Bartenders argued about garnishes and verand added directly to a gin basket in their mouth strength while crafting the perfect column still. DryFly makes fly-fishing Although Ian Fleming’s James Bond Martini. In the 2014 book, The Spirit of Gin, inspired gin in Spokane, Washington using author Matt Teacher discusses gin’s history made us love the sophistication of the raw materials grown locally at sustainable and the famous gin drinkers of the 30’s and martini, “shaken, not stirred,” the true farms. Matt Teacher believes the major renaissance of gin did not occur until the 40’s: Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Wolff, factor in the revival of gin is the farm-tolate 1990’s. Drinkers sought the retro-cool UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill bottle movement. He interviewed Gin Masauthenticity of a spirit with real intrinsic and USA President Franklin Roosevelt. ters who emphasized the quality of every flavors. The 1996 movie Swingers starring Winston Churchill liked his Martini extra ingredient, “the water source, the grain or Vince Vaughn glamorized cocktail-lounge dry and was said to “whisper” the word source fermenter, everything.” culture. Martini’s once again made gin the vermouth over his gin cocktail. Monkey 47 is crafted in a premium disspirit of the day. The 2007 Emmy-award Winston Churchill once said, “Always tillery on a farmstead in Outer Vogelsberg winning Mad Men TV show brought back remember that I have taken more out of in Germany’s Black Forest. This 2011 Gold the Madison Avenue two-Martini lunch. alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.” medal award-winning gin (World Spirits Hannah Spencer, a What Culture contribAward), made amid orchards, meadows utor, comments about Mad Men, “The and woods in state-of-the-art “Apparagimlet is a simple but fruity cocktail that’s tus Alembicus” distillation equipment, is The 60’s saw the Vodka craze and its been favored by Betty, most notably when proliferation of sweet mixes soar, while she needed some ‘Dutch Courage’ for sexy handmade to achieve perfectly balanced layers of complexity and aromas. Porters gin’s image began getting tarnished. Gin adventures in Season 2.” Meanwhile, gin Gin is crafted in one of Scotland’s top was viewed as the older generation’s drink, bars like D.C.’s Wisdom are proliferating.

Bathtub Gin Defines the Roaring 20’s

The New Cocktail Culture

Vodka Steals the Scene





imports of French spirits while fighting the French in the Nine Years War. Old Tom gin was heavily consumed at an average of 14 gallons per each adult male. The English gin distillate was crude and made in unlicensed back-alley stills. The famous painting Gin Lane, by William Hogarth, depicted the depravity and socially destructive drunkenness which some called “liquid madness” linked to a lower-class status. In the mid 1800’s British sailors spread gin to the rest of the world. The British East India Company promoted the world’s best tasting anti-malarial medicine made with the tonic/ quinine water and London Dry gin. The cocktail was used to mask quinine’s bitter taste. The G&T (Gin & Tonic) was thus born.


Hendricks Cucumber Martini by Della, Sugarbacon Proper Kitchen

Aberdeen bars using old and new distillations technologies with a distinct recipe of rare botanicals like Muira puama, China’s Buddha’s hand and calamus root.

The Spirit of Gin by Matt Teacher 2014

The Economics of Gin and Its International Appeal


The economics of distilling gin are sound. Whiskey and Bourbon distillers have jumped into the gin market. Gin has a quicker cash flow than many of the brown spirits (Whiskey, Scotch, Bourbon) with no need to tie up capital for years in barrel aging. “It takes eight hours to make a batch of gin, then it’s on the shelves in a week”, says Simon Buley, Master Distiller, Balmenach Distillery. Speyside Whiskey maker Gleann Mor does make gin with a very short aging scheme. Their gin is “rested” in American oak casks to give it a golden color and rich creamy vanilla tones. The UK and the USA have witnessed a gin revival, with British-made gins surging 18% the last two years. The UK is the biggest exporter of gin in the world, with about 70 per cent of total production going overseas to 180 countries. Even in economically challenged countries like Spain, gin bars proliferate with Spain rumored to have 250 different gin expressions. Smaller markets like South America continue to rise in consumption, and Argentina’s first gin, Princepe de los Apostoles, has been launched. The US is a huge gin market




Tricia High Conover STEVE CONOVER

Best Selling Gin, Sugarbacon Proper Kitchen

even in non-traditional gin-drinking areas. Johnny Carros, owner/general manager of Sugarbacon Proper Kitchen in McKinney, Texas, notes, “Of course the brown spirits are king in Texas, but I’m noticing more well-crafted gins than ever before. The Botanist is my favorite.”

Gin Tourism and Its Future

The big gin brands are now focused on consumer tourism with investments in new, beautiful distillery venues. Bombay Sapphire opened a new distillery, Laverstroke Mill, creating a visitor attraction and premium tasting experience. Beefeater is redesigning its distillery and tasting room in London. The WSAT Wine and Spirit Trade Association promotes a London Gin Trail with maps for tourists. Premium gins nw have the potential to gain a cult following similar to single malt Scotch. Today’s ambitious and skilled bartenders admire the complex flavors and bouquets of gin. Its perceived sophistication is a step up from more mainstream spirits. Since craft gin represents only 2% of the gin market, gin has room to grow. Local foods with local craft gin derived of authentic ingredients ensure gin’s continued growth and international appeal. The cocktail culture is expanding. This is the Golden Age for gin, and its future looks bright.




Hendricks’s Cucumber Martini (Sugarbacon Restaurant) 1.5 oz. Hendricks’s gin 0.5 oz. Cointreau Splash of Agave Syrup Cucumbers, sliced Directions: Mottle the cucumbers. Add spirits and Agave. Shake and strain.

If you go The London Gin Trail– for trail maps contact: info@wsta.co.uk Wisdom Bar – 1432 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Washington D.C. 20003 Tel: 202.543.2323 Email: info@dcwisdom.com Sugarbacon Proper Kitchen – 216 W Virginia, McKinney, Texas 75069 469-9525150

Tricia Conover is the founder of GrapeStone Concepts, an L.L.C. dedicated to wine and travel writing. She believes it’s never too early in the day for a great glass of bubbles. Tricia is a WSET® Diploma of Wine candidate and is a Certified Advanced wine professional. She is the Contributing Wine Editor of “PRiME”, a Magazine for Women in Their PRiME. Tricia is a freelance journalist for several magazines including JustLuxe.com, FWT Magazine, and Signature Bride. She has written extensively about her travels to the wine regions of the USA, Italy, Greece, France, and Spain. In 2015 Tricia interviewed Celia Welch, a leading California winemaker, who made the wine for Scarecrow Vineyards, netting the highest price at the annual Napa Auction, $4300/bottle. This interview is part of Tricia’s “Women in Wine” Series of articles for PRiME Magazine. Her interviews have featured Carissa Mondavi, Continuum Estates, Kathryn Hall, Hall Wines, Barbara Werley, M.S., Pappas Bros. Restaurants, Jennifer Eby, Wine Director, The Mansion on Turtle Creek, and Jean Arnold Sessions, Hanzell Vineyards. Tricia was a 2015 Associate Judge, IWALondon, International Wine Challenge. Tricia holds a B.S. from Purdue University in Environmental health and has practiced as a clinical microbiologist. She was an executive with several software firms. Tricia graduated from the Wine Immersion program at the Culinary Institute of America, Napa Valley as a C.W.P., Certified Wine Professional. Follow the conversation on Twitter: @WineGrapestone


Where RosĂŠ Found its Roots By Hilarie Larson CSW, FWS

Terraced vineyards of Domaine de Pibarnon in the Bandol region of Provence


o other style of wine embodies springtime better than rosé. And although rosé is produced in many parts of the wine world, there is one place that stands out: Provence, France. For most people, Provence is lavender, sunshine, Brigitte Bardot, movie stars and yachts. But it’s also green hillsides, ancient Greek and Roman ruins, small fishing villages, winding roads through deep river gorges and vineyards. Lots of vineyards. This is where the rosé story really began and where it continues to evolve. Not only is Provence the largest producer of “pink” but it is also the benchmark to which other regions aspire. So, what is it about this particular part of southern France that gives it the privilege of being known as the homeland of rosé? Perhaps the fact they’ve been making it for over 2,000 years has a little something to do with it! The Phoenicians, and later the Greeks, were the first to bring viticulture to the region around 600 BCE, and they founded the city of Massalia, now known as Marseille. The wine they produced for both local consumption and for trade was, according to scientific research, a pale-colored wine. The reason for this can be traced to the fact that their means of production were pretty basic – harvest the grapes, crush them to release their juice and then let that juice ferment. The idea of skin contact and deep-colored red wines was to come to the fore later in history. As the age of Greek domination waned, the Roman Empire rose up and began its expansion through Europe. By 121 BCE, the area became the first of the Roman provinces (hence the name Provence from the Latin “Nostra Provincia” or “our prov-




The Hotel de la Tour in Sanary-sur-Mer and waterfront.





Winemaker Agnés Henry knows every inch of her family’s vineyard.





ince”). The new residents expanded the vineyards and began exporting more and more rosé throughout the empire. The Roman influence may have declined in the 5th century AD, but rosé wines remained the style of choice, becoming even more popular when, in the 14th Century, Pope Clement the Fifth moved the Papal seat of power from Rome to a little town called Avignon in the southern Rhone Valley. The weather was often warm, and the Popes adored the crisp, fragrant and refreshing rosés. And what the Pope loved, everyone in his sphere of influence loved as well, making rosé the wine of choice for the royal houses of Europe and the aristocracy for generations. Today, when we talk about the wines of Provence, we are looking at a geographical region that is only about 150 miles long by 100 miles wide, bordered on the south by the Mediterranean Sea, on the east by the Cote d’Azur (almost to the Italian border), the Rhone River to the west and the Durance River to the north. (This is said to be “where the olive trees end”.) Provence is a land of diversity with a vast array of terrains. Small, independent mountain ranges or “massifs,” rise from the sea and also appear further inland, forming natural amphitheaters, sheltering vineyards from the cold northern wind known as the Mistral. Rivers flow from the foothills of the Alps, carving deep scenic gorges, and some vineyards are planted on the limestone cliffs that jut out of the azure blue sea. The climate here is varied, too. Near the sea, the vineyards bask in what’s known as a Mediterranean climate with warm sunny summers and mild winters. Further inland, and for vineyards at higher altitudes, the temperatures are naturally a bit cooler, with even a chance of a dusting of snow during the winter. Grapes ripen slowly and fully, developing incredible character. The soils of Provence are different, depending on location. In general terms, the vineyards to the west are planted on mostly limestone and clay, remnants of an ancient prehistoric sea that covered what we now know as France. Further to the east, you might find volcanic soils or crystalline schist. For “terroirists,” or those of us who believe that the soils in which the grapes


Provence rosé can be many shades of pink as seen here during a blending session at Mirabeau en Provence Wines in Contignac, France.

Hilarie Larson CSW, FWS

are grown are part of the final influence on the wine they produce, limestone may lend a bright, clean acidity and minerality. Clay can provide good tannins and subtle, dark fruit aromas, while the schist often gets credit for body and structure. Another quintessentially Provençal influence is garrigue, the term given to the wild herbs like rosemary, fennel, sage and thyme that cover the hillsides and, according to many a wine-lover, influence the character of the wines. Although most of the rosé is made using similar grape varieties, grenache, syrah, mourvèdre and cinsault being the most

Hilarie’s passion for wine began in the1970’s while in the European hospitality industry. In 2003 she began her wine career in earnestin her native common, the styles and shades of Provence British Columbia, Canada, rosé are as diverse as the region itself. You’ll working at several Okanagan find wines ranging in color from delicate Valleywineries where she was able to assist shades of onion skin or salmon through in the vineyard and cellar as well as thetastpinky/orange mango, all the way to rosy ing rooms. pink. But don’t be fooled into thinking that Along the way, she acquired her certifthe color indicates quality or taste. A pale icatefrom the Court of Master Sommelier, hue doesn’t mean a wine is more subdued worked for an international wine broker than its darker counterpart. andas ‘Resident Sommelier’ for wineries in Provence is indeed the homeland Washington State and California. of great rosé wines – refreshingly dry, Hilarie’s greatest joy is spreading the food-friendly wines that reflect the history gospel of wine,food and travel. For a full and diversity of this enchantingly beautiful author biography and profile, please visit: part of France http://ifwtwa.org/author/hilarie-larson





A Modern Approach To Ancient Tradition By Christine Salins


Autumn in Burgenland. Š Austrian National Tourist Office / Photographer: H.Wiesenhofer.

Vienna has a surprising number of vineyards within city limits. making it unique among capital cities.

Wine has been a part of Austrian culture for more than 2000 years. Even today, Roman cellars, medieval villages and Baroque monasteries and estates can be found throughout the country’s wine regions. Winemaking skills have been lthough Austria produces just a passed down through the generations, and tiny fraction of the world’s wine, this picturesque European country despite the industry’s modernization, there are very few big wineries. Most are smalldeserves to be on the itinerary of any scale family-run wineries – more than 9000 traveller who appreciates a good drop. An exciting crop of dynamic young winemak- of them at last count. Respect for tradition ers are taking Austrian wines to a new level, runs deep. Austrian wines derive their unique attracting a growing and very enthusiastic character from the country’s geographical following for their world-class wines. position. Although it sits at the same latiTheir cellar doors are showing an tude as Burgundy, temperature differences increasing level of sophistication, many of are more dramatic. The hot summer days them as noteworthy for their architecture and design as for the wines they are selling. and cool nights produce crisp, aromatic, full-bodied yet elegant wines. Even the traditional and much-loved They are some of the world’s most heuriger (wine taverns) are adopting new, food-friendly wines, especially the flagcontemporary styles, serving fine food to ship Grüner Veltliner, a variety that sits match their décor.






comfortably alongside styles from Mediterranean to Asian, ethnic to fusion and everything in between. This aromatic white accounts for more than one-third of the country’s plantings. Once considered to be little more than a high-volume producer, it has been completely re-defined. Innovative winemakers have improved quality by reducing yields, increasing ripeness and planting on prime sites in regions such as Wachau and Kremstal. Visitors don’t have to travel far to see what all the fuss is about. Vienna has a surprising number of vineyards within city limits – making it unique among capital cities. Wine is as integral to the culture of Vienna as St Stephen’ s Cathedral, Schönbrunn Castle, the Vienna Boys’ Choir and the city’s fabulous old coffee houses. As our guide Gabriela declared: “There is a saying in Vienna that psycotherapy is replaced by the heuriger and the coffee house.”


To experience the relaxed atmosphere of the Viennese heurige, look out for the “Ausg’steckt” sign and the fir branch, which indicates that the tavern is open and that it sells only wines that are self-produced. About 700 hectares of vines are planted in the Vienna region, the vast majority of it white, cultivated by some 320 winemakers. Six of the leading producers belong to Wienwein, a group created in 2006 to promote Viennese wine and define new standards. Thanks to their efforts there has been a renaissance in the Gemischter Satz or “field blend”, a Viennese tradition where vintners commonly planted up to 15 different varieties of grapes mixed together in a single vineyard. Fritz Weininger says the wine is a perfect reflection of its origins, the geological conditions and the microclimate. “It is a wine that tells a story and a wine that one can tell stories about.” Weininger did internships in the United States before returning to take over the heuriger his parents ran. He produces a simple, fruity field blend as well as a more complex blend, Nussberg Alte Reben, produced from old vines and a huge hit in Austria and abroad. He is also known for his red wine, particularly his Trilogie blend of zweigelt, cabernet sauvignon and merlot that is also exported to the USA. Weininger is a prime example of Austrian winemakers re-purposing old buildings to create sophisticated new facilities. His winery in Vienna-Stammersdorf is built around an 18th century monastery cellar combined with a radically modern working wing. Renowned for its food served in a charming atmosphere, the Weininger heuriger is a great alternative to the more touristy taverns of Grinzing. Weingut Hajszan is another Viennese winery that has done a spectacular job of transforming an historic building. In the 18th century, the cellar was a bathhouse, which German composer Ludwig van Beethoven visited seeking a cure for his liver disease. The hot springs ceased to exist when the Danube canal was completed, and the building underwent other uses before Stefan Hajszan began rebuilding it in 2007. Large walls of glass enable diners to see into the barrel hall and winery, which Loisium wine museum in Langenlois, where wine meets architecture.

boasts all the latest equipment. Hajszan produces his wine biodynamically and many of the dishes on his menu use organic ingredients. Austria’s easternmost province, Burgenland, is the country’s least visited wine region, which is a pity because it not only has beautiful scenery and a favourable climate (more than 300 sunny days a year), it also produces some fine wine. The gorgeous town of Rust with its cobblestone streets and charming restaurants is just a few hours drive from Vienna, making it ideal even for a day excursion. “Rust’s history has been written in wine,” says Michael Wenzel, a 13th generation winemaker whose family property dates back to 1647. His winemaking has been profoundly influenced by vintages he has done in the New World, and in 2006 he followed the Australian and New Zealand lead by bottling his wines under screwcap. Yet his winery is steeped in tradition, and to visit the 300-year-old tasting room is like stepping back in time. The Höpler Wine Estate also has a rustic cellar door, located in an old Burgenland farmhouse, brought firmly into the 21st century with sleek, modern fittings. Don’t miss Höpler’s Five Senses of Wine experience, where you are invited to poke your head into a wine barrel, touch the soil and discard all preconceived ideas about

wine, experiencing how colours, aromas, flavours, textures and sounds influence your emotions. Christof Höpler worked for an investment company in Boston and did vintages in the USA and Australia before returning to the family fold in 2003. He regards cabernet merlot and blaufränkisch as Höpler’s flagships, but his most popular wine is the fresh and vibrant grüner veltliner. This northern part of Burgenland, he says, is capable of producing excellent whites, reds and dessert wines: “That’s what’s so special about it.” Höpler exports to the United States and throughout Europe. Like Höpler, the Kollwentz Wine Estate does a great range of whites, reds and dessert wines. Family-owned since 1775, it has a private cellar with 3000 bottles for sale from all over the world. Anton Kollwentz was the first to plant cabernet sauvignon in Austria in recent times. He planted it in 1981 but it still accounts for only about 10% of Austria’s wine production. Again, you have to take a deep breath and soak up the history: the stone in the cellar comes from a Roman quarry. Before leaving Burgenland, schedule in a visit to Esterházy, a stunning Baroque palace whose origins can be traced back to the 13th century. It has a lovely restaurant in the old stables, and a wine bar for tastings. It produces its own wine with a regal-look-


by grüner veltliner with surfaces of green glass and brushed metal, reflecting the earth and sky. The Loisium encompasses the modern Steininger winery, one of Austria’s most important sparkling wine producers. There is also a shop selling regional and heirloom foods (including grüner veltliner sausages) and a vinotheque selling wine from Lower Austria’s eight winegrowing regions. The entire facility is smart, stylish and brilliantly executed, projecting an image befitting the new face of Austrian wine.

Austrian wines, especially the flagship Grüner Veltliner, are some of the world’s most food-friendly.

ing gold-embossed label. In Lower Austria, the country’s most famous wine region, Wachau, is best known for its grüner veltliner and riesling. The Danube River winds through the Wachau Valley, its banks lined with steep terraced vineyards, monasteries and castles. A stay in the charming town of Dürnstein is highly recommended. Schloss Dürnstein, an elegant Relais & Châteaux hotel in a 17th century castle, is famous for its terrace overlooking the Danube. It’s a great spot to enjoy some of the local food and wine. Nearby Domäne Wachau is the largest cooperative in the region with 600 members and 420 hectares of vineyards. Premium vintages are stored in historic cellars built by Augustinian monks under an exquisitely restored Baroque castle that features on the wine label. The cellars connect the castle with an impressive wine shop and tasting room. At the other end of the scale is Weingut Holzapfel, a boutique winery and distillery with a four-room guesthouse and delightful restaurant. Just over half their production is grüner veltliner and riesling, the rest is schnapps made from fermented fruit, including apricot, pear, quince, blackcurrant and amarena cherry. Further along the Danube, the charming town of Krems with its medieval





alleyways is one of Austria’s oldest cities. It is surrounded by vineyards including those of Salomon Undhof, a wine estate with a history dating back to 1792, and a major exporter to the United States and Australia. Bert Salomon has vineyard interests in Australia and his Australian wines are available at the cellar door, alongside his Austrian wines and olive oil. Winzer Krems, Austria’s largest wine co-op with 1300 members and 1000 hectares of plantings, bought an old cellar and transformed it into a facility offering a fantastic interactive experience, complete with a floor map that lights up underfoot, and a film in which you’ll feel the cold wind blowing and smell the aromas of apricot, peach and cherry wafting out. A short distance away at Langenlois in the Kamptal wine region, the Loisium is a glorious marriage of wine and architecture. Designed by American architect Steven Holl, the cube-shaped visitor’s centre takes visitors on a fascinating journey through the history of winemaking. It’s easy to spend hours getting lost in the labyrinth, experiencing the sensation of grapes being pressed, identifying aromas and even walking into an old farmyard complete with the sounds of chooks and lambs. Smack bang in the middle of the vineyard is Austria’s first design hotel, inspired

If you go Hotel Schloss Dürnstein GmbH 3601 Dürnstein 2 Tel: +43 2711 212 www.schloss.at Loisium Wine & Spa Resort Loisium Allee 2 3550 Langenlois Tel: +43 2734 77100-0 www.loisium.com www.vienna.info www.wienerwein.at www.wienwein.at www.wachau.at www.krems.info

Christine Salins Christine Salins is one of Australia’s most highly regarded food, wine and travel writers. She spent more than 20 years as a newspaper journalist, including nine years as Food & Wine Editor for The Canberra Times, the major daily in Australia’s capital city. She has freelanced for print media since 2003, and together with Maurie O’Connor manages www.foodwinetravel.com.au, bringing all their great loves together in their award-winning website.

Vineyard near Dürnstein on the Danube.


Bordeaux Reinvented

As wine tourism continues to grow in popularity, Bordeaux, France, raises a glass to visitors. Story and photos by Rebecca L. Rhoades

Built in 2006 across the street from the Place de la Bourse, the Miroir d’Eau, or Water Mirror, has become a popular public gathering spot in Bordeaux.

Located on a steep hill overlooking the Garonne River in the Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux appellation, Château Biac produces multiple reds and a single white wine.


s wine tourism continues to grow in popularity, Bordeaux, France, raises a glass to visitors. It is my first morning in Bordeaux, France, and instead of exploring the city’s cobblestoned streets and neoclassical architecture, I’m sitting in a sleek modern classroom, rapidly scribbling notes about appellations, châteaux, first growths and vintages. Going to school might not be at the top of every traveler’s list, but for visitors to Bordeaux, France, a morning at the École du Vin, or Bordeaux Wine School, is a must in order to understand both the city and its most famous product. Bordeaux’s history and identity have long been intertwined with viticulture. As

early as the 12th century, wine trade with England helped the city flourish. By the 18th century, the almighty grape had brought the city great wealth and financed grand buildings and elegant mansions. In 1855, Napoleon III called for a classification of the “best” Bordeaux wines, a list that today still dictates the hierarchy and prices of many wines. The list cemented Bordeaux’s status in the prestigious pecking order of all that is wine, even though the city itself soon fell into decline. “When most of Bordeaux was built in the 18th century, it was known as Bordeaux the Blonde because of the lovely golden stone that was used,” says Maxine Colas, my instructor and guide for the week. “By the 1960s and ’70s, with the introduction of a lot of cars, the city was rechristened Bordeaux the Black because of all the pollution. Bordeaux at that time was a very dark city.” But thanks to the efforts of Mayor Alain Juppé, the city long known as Le Belle Endormie (Sleeping Beauty) had by 2007, like a phoenix, risen from the ashes of its former self. The blackened façades

One of only five biodynamic wineries in Bordeaux, Château d’Arcole is known for its fruity, intense red.




were scrubbed clean, the boulevards were opened to pedestrians and a new high-tech public tram system was introduced. Just one year earlier, in 2006, the city had commissioned what is now one of its defining attractions, the Miroir d’Eau, or Water Mirror. Located across the street from the Place de la Bourse, on the shores of the Garonne River, the reflecting pool, which also serves as a popular public gathering spot, is one of the largest in the world at more than 37,000 square feet. Today, more than half of the city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Tour Like a Sommelier

While Bordeaux’s rebirth and tourist-friendly outlook has made it the second most-visited city in France next to Paris, it is still the region’s wine that brings in the crowds. Surrounding the city are almost 300,000 acres of vineyards in appellations with such famous names as Saint-Emilion, Paulliac, Pomerol, Graves and Médoc. For those unfamiliar with wine terminology, an appellation is simply a sub-region. Bordeaux has 57 appellations, which is why a pre-tour class is so important. Driving through the lush green countryside punctuated by large swaths of perfectly aligned rows of gnarled branches, you feel a sense of heritage and noblesse oblige. Grand châteaux rise from the vines, looming like forbidding castles over manicured gardens and imposing iron gates that seem to scream “keep out!” And until recently, keep out was exactly what curious travelers were meant to do. “In the late ‘90s, wine tourism in Bordeaux was non-existent,” says Colas. “Châteaux would only open their doors to professionals. At the time, Bordeaux had a very insular image.” The first château to allow public tastings was Château Prieuré-Lichine in the mid-’80s, followed by the famed Château Mouton Rothschild. Today, more than twothirds of the region’s approximately 10,000 wine-producing chateaux offer public tours and tastings. Many of the smaller chateaux, as well as some of the Grand Crus like Chateaux Pichon-Longueville in Paulliac, also feature B&Bs.

the design is found on every bottle of their merlot-cabernet sauvignon blend. In Barsac, I visit Château Piada, a family-run winery known for its sweet white wines. Owner Frédéric Lalande shows me the secret to his wine’s concentrated flavor: botrytis cincerea, also known as “noble rot.” Botrytis is a fungus that attacks the grapes, causing them to shrivel up, thus increasing the sugar levels. The sémillon grape, which comprises 18.5 of Château Piada’s 20 acres, is particularly susceptible to this fungus. At my final stop, Château Jean Faux, just outside the appellation limits of CasThe secret to the sweet flavor of Bordeaux’s whites is botrytis cincerea, a fungus also known as tillon, owners Pascal and Chrystel Collotte “noble rot.” The Sémillon grape is particularly susceptible to this fungus. serve a hearty traditional lunch complete with homemade cured sausages, foie gras, scrambled eggs with black truffle and chicken roasted over an open flame fueled by cut vines. As Pascal cooks, he talks. In the Saint-Emilion region, I meet three children, they restored the property “We have a way of life,” he says. “I love Veronique Barthe and her partner Philippe and winery and now produce multiple reds this place because this building [he points Gardère, owners of Château d’Arcole. A featuring such grapes as merlot and caber- at the château] was renovated in the 17th small winery — approximately 12 acres of net sauvignon and a single white, sémillon. century. Renovated. There is a tradition. vines that produce about 30,000 bottles of That same year, Philippe and Chantal And the time is not so fast here than elsea fruity, intense red annually — it is one of Miecaze purchased Château Léognan, a where in the world.” only five biodynamic wineries in all of Bor- 17th-century estate on more than 1,300 If that’s not enough to entice you to deaux. More than just organic, biodynamic acres. They, too, restored the then-dilapivisit Bordeaux, the city is slated to open a farming follows the cycles of the moon for dated property, which includes a stunning wine center, the Centre Culturel et Tourisplanting, care and harvesting. In the center castle home as well as a small chapel. Antique du Vine, at the end of 2016. The $63 of the small vineyard sits a comfortable cient tile found on the chapel floor features million center, designed to resemble a drop guesthouse, complete with multiple guestwo birds drinking from a chalice, a symbol of wine swirling in a decanter, will provide trooms and an outdoor spa. of the resurrection of Christ and rebirth. visitors with a great understanding of wine No stay at Château d’Arcole would It also symbolizes the new life the couple — not just from Bordeaux but from around be complete without a visit to the nearhas after purchasing the winery. Today, the world. by medieval town of Saint-Emilion. This postcard-perfect town, a UNESCO World Heritage site built on a hill, is filled with steep, narrow cobblestoned pedestrian-only walkways, dozens of wine shops and a monolithic church carved into the hillside. It’s also the birthplace of the macaron. At Fabrique de Macarons, they still use the original recipe dating back to 1620. Like Château d’Arcole, Château Biac in Langorian in the Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux appellation and Château Leognan in Pessac-Léognan also offer guesthouses. Both are also owned by newcomers to the region. In 2006, Tony and Youmna Asseily of Lebanon acquired the 37-acre Château Biac, which sits on a steep hill overlooking the Garonne River. Together with their




Château Léognan in Pessac-Léognan appellation in Graves produces an award-winning merlot-cabernet sauvignon blend.

If you go Rebecca L. Rhoades

Water to Wine

While Bordeaux is easy to reach by air (it’s just a quick connection from Paris), it’s also easy to reach by water. The city welcomes dozens of ships annually, ranging from the small boutique ships of Uniworld to large cruise vessels from Azamara, Regent Seven Seas, Holland America, Crystal Cruises and Oceana Cruises. Best of all, most ships dock at the main cruise terminal, Port de la Lune, or Port of the Moon, on the Garonne River in the heart of Bordeaux. Located directly in front of the Place de la Bourse, the port is literally steps from all of the city’s main attractions. Cruisers can just about walk off the ship and into the Miroir-d’Eau. And while the Place de la

Comédie, the unofficial main square of the city, is only a short 15-minute walk away, a tram stop is also readily available. Two additional cruise ports also serve Bordeaux: Bassens and Le Verdon sur Mer. Located 5 minutes from Bordeaux, Bassens is the main cargo terminal for the city, but it also hosts cruise vessels. Charter buses transport cruise passengers into the city. Large ships dock at Le Verdon, which is about 62 miles from Bordeaux, at the end of the Gironde Estuary. Bus rides take about two hours to reach the city. For more information, visit bordeaux. com/us.

Château Piada owner Frédéric Lalande samples one of his award-winning sweet whites in the vineyard’s tasting room.

As an award-winning travel writer, Rebecca believes that much of the joy of exploring new destinations comes from sampling the local food and beverages. Recently relocated from the East Coast to sunny Phoenix, she is now enjoying learning about her new home state. When not writing, she enjoys sleeping late, discovering great restaurants, and searching for the perfect margarita. Rebecca’s work has been featured in numerous AAA publications, Destinations, Christian Science Monitor, Culture: The Word on Cheese, South Jersey, The Culture-ist, Societe Perrier, Sing Out!, and many others.




Breckenridge Distillery Out of Thin Air and Snowmelt By Kristin Henning

Even in the fall, snow lingers in the mountains above Breckenridge, Colorado

Snowmelt waters from the tips of the Rocky Mountains are laden with minerals.

distiller at Breckenridge Distillery, but his related history includes consulting with hundreds of novice and established distillers, as well as forays into wine and brewery enterprises before joining Nolt in 2007. Originally from Hawaii, Via came to the mainland for college and earned a degree in uring a recent phone call to the biochemical engineering. His Breckenridge Distillery offices, nerdy background suits Nolt the casual atmosphere of this and the distillery well, and business in Colorado’s prime ski territofellow workers find his detailed ry came chiming through. An office dog knowledge of the Farmer’s barked, some background jokes interplayed Almanac (“he memorizes it with our conversation, and someone was, every year”) entertaining and reportedly, exiting the property by backdownright helpful. ing his car around the entire building. It’s At any rate, after Nolt and unclear if they were dodging snow or other Via had tested water in some vehicles, or just having a little fun. dozen towns in the Rocky But the people at Breckenridge DisMountains, Breck emerged as tillery take their business and their spirits the clear choice. seriously. They demonstrate that success The start-up process comes from a mixture of experimentadragged on as Nolt scraped tion, patience, a little craziness and a lot of money and financing together discipline. and Via established vendor Maybe these characteristics – common relationships. Work on Breckin the Breckenridge area and in winter enridge Bourbon started first, sports in general – had a hand in the using other people’s equipment decision to establish Breckenridge Distilland storing barrels where they ery here. Breckenridge, after all, has been could. By 2010, Breckenridge reinvented several times over, with ingeDistillery moved to its curnuity. It was the center of Summit Counrent production and bottling ty’s gold mining in the mid 1800s. The facilities, and the first bottles establishment of the ski resort in the 1960s of Breckenridge Bourbon were revived the town. Recently, massive efforts ready to roll. to reclaim the Blue River and restore the The timing was good. Craft distilleries valley’s natural habitat wrecked by mining were just beginning to pop up around the are attracting a community of sports, arts country, and bourbon was taking off as the and culinary enthusiasts. darling of spirits: quintessentially AmeriBut the deciding factor? The water, pure can, invariably interesting to mixologists, and simple. Distillery founder and CEO, and increasingly appealing to younger Bryan Nolt, a radiologist living in Puebdrinkers and, gasp, even women. Plus, lo, Colorado, started his spirit journey in bourbon, unlike Scotch, doesn’t have to Scotland more than a decade ago while on made in Scotland, nor does it take as long a whisky tour. (We’ll see how that love of as Scotch to move from the still to the Scotch whisky folds back into the Breckstore. enridge story.) Pursuing his passion for To be certified as a bourbon whiskey, the hooch, Nolt signed up for an intensive the spirit must be produced in the United practical distillation class at the American States from a grain mixture of at least 51% Distillery Institute in California. That’s sweet corn; meet the distilling, barrel and where he met Jordan Via. bottle proof levels; and be aged a minimum Via (rhymes with eye) is now the master of two years in virgin, charred, white oak





barrels. Breckenridge Bourbon is characterized by its forthright packaging as well as its honest taste. The label, applied directly on the glass bottles, reads “A Blend of Straight Bourbon Whiskeys.” Some of the blend is distilled right in Breckenridge, of course, while some comes from those relationships established early on. The select sources, whether they are in Kentucky, Tennessee or Indiana, use the same basic mash bill – the ratio of grains – established by Via: roughly 56% corn, 38% rye and the remainder barley. The result is a bourbon of medium caramel color with a balanced, not overly sweet, taste. The distillery’s website tasting

notes ring true: “Reminiscent of a slice of toasted rye bread with honey drizzled on it.” Breck’s bourbon is an intriguing combination of savory, nutty flavors with a bit of sweet molasses tossed in. Pure Breckenridge water really shines in Breckenridge Vodka which, like the bourbon, has been produced here since 2010. The vodka, from 100% sweet corn, is initially distilled elsewhere. (The same goes for nearly everyone’s “artisan” vodkas.) But then the grain’s neutral solution goes back to Breck where it is filtered with charred coconut husks and combined with Breck’s distinctive mineral-laden snowmelt water. It’s supremely drinkable, even straight up, but especially welcoming in cocktails.

Rum soon outstripped supplies. So this year it goes into year-round production. Sourcing botanicals and adding spice to the process is an ongoing pastime for master distiller Via. He pours over his Farmer’s Almanac and hikes through the mountains, discovering wild herbs and flowers that might inform his next invention. He’s created, for example, the complex Breckenridge Bitter, so interesting it can be drunk solo. It’s meant to be mixed into your favorite Manhattan or tipped into any cool new cocktails, but a sip really does evoke mountain herbs, brisk air and sunwarmed rocks. Coming full circle, the next item on the Breck Distillery horizon is Malt Mash, certainly Nolt’s pet project as it harkens back to his favorite Scotch beverages. Like Scotch (without the whole madein-Scotland thing), Malt Mash is a true single grain whiskey, all malted barley and coddled for 10 years. Nolt refers to it as The Dark Arts: the pursuit of a single-malt whiskey that rivals the Scotch whiskies he sampled back before this enterprise began. Breckenridge’s mountain location can present challenges, too. Even though the altitude of 9,600 feet means access to mineral- and nutrient-rich snowmelt water, it can make distilling tricky. Boiling points differ at altitude. The delicate transition from the first “heads” boiled off to the essence, or “hearts,” is managed by taste and experience, not someone else’s formula. Yields are always an issue, too, as the altitude and dry air affect the evaporation of bourbon from the barrels. The first brand extension was Chili Chile The signature Breckenridge Bourbon is Vodka, just right for a mean Bloody Mary, available in stores in over 40 states. Expanespecially when combined with a Bloody sion of the distillery’s production facilities Mary mix by local brand Breckenridge is underway, and while construction of a 9600. Later this year, two more vodkas will new restaurant and bar has begun, another be released, one infused with pear and the circle is closing. The distillery sees itself other flavored with coffee. giving back to the community after utilizIt’s almost as if you can see the mad ing the area’s pure water. Part of the expanscientists at play in their lab. More distillery sion plan involves providing spent grains to fun is evidenced in Breckenridge Spiced local farmers, and then serving their local Rum. Initially, spiced rum and whiskey meat and produce in the restaurant. With were seasonal releases only, developed these new relationships, Breckenridge Disfor warm cocktails on cold winter days. tillery seems to be applauding its BreckenBreckenridge’s rum, made of raw sugar and ridge home and acknowledging its debt to molasses, is aged in bourbon barrels, taking the mountain’s entire watershed district. on vanilla flavors with tones of nuts and berries. Demand for the small batch Spiced




If you go Breckenridge Colorado Tourism Breckenridge Distillery 1925 Airport Rd Breckenridge, CO 80424 Open 7 days a week 11 AM to 6 PM Distillery Tours Every half hour from 11 AM to 5:30 PM Main Street Tasting Room 137 S Main St. Breckenridge, CO 80424 Open 7 days a week 11 AM to 9 PM

Master distiller Jordan Via working the mash at Breckenridge Distillery

Forthright labels, honest taste, and a boatload of awards.

Kristin Henning Kristin Henning is a writer and constant traveler, visiting over 55 countries since giving up her home in Minneapolis in 2010. She and her husband Tom share their photos and stories on the travel blog, TravelPast50.com. Their travels focus on historic sites, arts and culture, food and wine, as well as the wonders of nature and the idiosyncrasies of roadside attractions. Good days, most days, include fresh air, new maps, and striking up a conversation with a stranger. Prior to hitting the road, Henning was co-publisher of various periodicals in Minneapolis/St. Paul (MN), including City Pages, Minnesota Parent, The Rake magazine, and a guide book, Secrets of the City: Guide to Minneapolis/St. Paul. Breckenridge Distillery’s quirky custom copper still




The Epicurean Way

South Australia’s Wine Pilgrimage Story and photos by Maurie O’Connor

Sevenhill was established by the Jesuits in 1851 as the first winery in the Clare Valley.

Seppeltsfield’s unique Centennial Collection contains every vintage of Tawny Port since 1878.

good news is that you don’t have to walk. To travel this Way, you can do a guided tour but better still, take a car and take your time as there are many options for comfortable overnight stays. The South Australian Tourism Commission has produced an Epicurean Way map and itinerary for a four-day road trip. The route covers four of South Australia’s iconic regions – McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, the Barossa and Clare Valley. It provides plenty of opportunities to sample some of Australia’s best wines and experience the finest local produce prepared by award-winning chefs in settings combining history with modern refinement. All regions are an easy drive from Adelaide and your pilgrimage can last two days, two weeks or as long as you like – depending on how many cellar doors you want to visit. Exploring the picturesque towns is a bit like travelling from village to village in France, but in fact, I think there’s more to some of these small towns than many French villages. The history of these regions and their viticultural heritage is a remarkable story of migration, settlement, struggle and ultimately, achievement. Having made the pilgrimage, I can share some of my highlights, but bear in mind that this is only a glimpse of what is on offer and every experience is different. the major wine growing regions are in the One thing I can say, however, is that much south east of the country in the states of enlightenment can be obtained from red South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria wine – something that monks discovered a and Tasmania. The most common varilong time ago. eties are chardonnay, shiraz and cabernet The Epicurean Way starts by the sea in t’s not generally known that Australia sauvignon, but semillon, riesling, sauviMcLaren Vale, home to over 70 cellar doors gnon blanc, merlot, grenache and pinot has some of the oldest grapevines in and some fine restaurants. Start at the Visnoir are also popular. In recent years there the world, having escaped the phylitors Centre, get a map of the wineries and has been an increase in the production and plan your visit from there. If you happen loxera epidemic that devastated most of popularity of varieties such as tempranillo, to be there on a Saturday morning, head Europe’s vineyards in the late 1800s. More sangiovese and zinfandel. than 200 years after the first vines arrived straight down Main Road to the WillunMost people have heard of the Barossa from Europe, there are now over 60 wine ga Farmers Market and sample the local regions producing over 100 different grape Valley in South Australia, famous for its produce. big, bold shiraz and its very old vines from varieties. A vast continent with nearly Doubtless you won’t be able to visit as early as 1847, but it is also part of a chain every cellar door but there are many small every climate and soil type, it is one of the of wine regions that offer an epiphany in few countries producing every one of the wineries in McLaren Vale producing wine appreciation. Many people have been excellent wines, especially chardonnay and major wine styles. Australia is the fifth largest wine export- inspired to walk the Camino de Santiago shiraz. Battle of Bosworth’s Chardonnay especially after seeing the movie, The Way. and Puritan Shiraz (with no added preing country in the world behind Spain, Italy, France and Chile, with over 30 million But if you’re a food and wine pilgrim there servatives) are fitting testament to what is an uplifting experience waiting for you cases going to America each year. Wine is this single vineyard organic winery can on South Australia’s Epicurean Way. The produced in every state and territory, but produce. When Chicago-born Brad Hickey





Fine cooking by Hentley Farm chef Lachlan Colwill.

arrived in the region in 2007, he loved it so much he stayed. His NDV Nero d’Avola, aged in amphora at his Brash Higgins Winery, is a great example of what the region has to offer in the increasingly popular Italian varieties. McLaren Vale has an annual music festival and picking up that theme, Inkwell Wines includes the Dub Style No 1 Grenache in its range – music to the lips of this grenache lover. Owners Dudley and Irina Brown are also Americans now firmly established in McLaren Vale. So, be careful, if you’re American and visit McLaren Vale, you may in fact go no further. Angove Family Winemakers are one of the oldest family-owned and operated wineries in Australia. In 1985, Thomas

Angove patented the wine cask that is now used around the world, and any visit to McLaren Vale is not complete without visiting Angove’s cellar door. Also worth a visit are Hardy’s Tintara, with its fascinating history; Primo Estate with its award-winning Joseph wines; and Dowie Doole for its wine and cheese matched tastings. In an hour you can be in the Adelaide Hills, where the cool climate and good rainfall are responsible for some very good pinot and chardonnay. They call this region the land of the long lunch, so, be like the French and plan your day around lunch. There’s no better place to do that than in Hahndorf, the oldest surviving German settlement in Australia dating back to 1837. The town is full of delights, including the

Beerenberg Family Farm where you can taste premium home-style jams, condiments, sauces and dressings or, if you’re there at the right time, pick your own strawberries. In Woodside, make a stop at the Woodside Cheese Wrights and sample the award-winning cow, goat and buffalo cheeses. For lunch, try the Bird in Hand Winery and Gallery Restaurant, and make sure you taste their superb Nest Egg Shiraz and wild-fermented chardonnay. Close to the city of Adelaide is Penfolds Magill Estate Winery, home to the legendary Penfolds Grange, Australia’s most iconic wine. If your budget doesn’t extend to the $600 price tag, Magill Estate is worth a visit for the view alone. Speaking of

Dessert at Skilogalee Winery.

views, a great place to stay in the Adelaide Hills is Mount Lofty House, set in 18 acres of gardens and bushland with commanding views towards Adelaide and a small vineyard planted by Thomas Hardy when he built the place in 1852. Arriving in the Barossa, visit the stately surroundings of Australia’s oldest family-owned winery, Yalumba. This is the only winery in the country with its own cooperage and you can witness the skill and age-old tradition of barrel making. The museum at Yalumba contains not

been restored and updated, and production has never been better. If you’re there at harvest time, it’ll be a sight you won’t forget. In its historic bottling hall is FINO Restaurant, specialising in Barossa produce thoughtfully matched with a selection of excellent wines. Upstairs in the barrel room you can sample a glass of Seppeltsfield Tawny from your birth year. The unique Centennial Collection contains every vintage since 1878; no other winery in the world is able to release a 100-year-old single vintage Tawny every year.

Henschke and Peter Lehmann. The Jacobs Creek Visitors Centre is also worth a look, or just explore and be surprised. Travelling north from the Barossa to the Clare Valley, you pass through the historic town of Auburn with its cute craft and gift shops and welcome coffee stops. With over 30 cellar doors in historic and picturesque settings, Clare Valley is riesling country, as well as being home to some good brewers, such as Knappstein and Pikes. At Sevenhill Cellars, the pilgrim can be uplifted, especially after sampling their St

A unique oppprtunity to sample an 1890 Port at the historic Seppeltsfield winery.

only some of their oldest vintages but a collection of rare and exclusive wines from around the world. I recommend the 2012 Signature Cabernet Shiraz. You’ll be surprised to know that there is such a thing as a breakfast wine: their 2013 Virgilius Voignier goes beautifully with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. The Barossa is also home to the historic Seppeltsfield Winery, dating from 1851. This estate has been through some difficult times, but the 1888 gravity flow winery has




For a superb lunch, visit Hentley Farm where the menu depends on what’s available locally on the day. Matched with their wines, you can either opt for a two-hour lunch or a four-hour lunch – most people go for the four. There are over 160 wineries in the Barossa and about 13,000 hectares of vineyards, mainly shiraz but also grenache, cabernet sauvignon, mataro, riesling, semillon and many other varieties. You can’t visit them all but do try to call into

Francis Xavier Riesling. As the first winery in the Clare Valley in 1851, Sevenhill was established by the Jesuits to make sacramental wine, but developed into producing premium table wines. The tour here begins with a talk by winemaker and living legend, Brother John May. Seated in the church he explains the history, construction and development of the winery. His friendly and gentle manner will probably give you even more warmth than the wine does. The cellar door has an interesting

Hentley Farm chef Lachlan Colwill.


museum and you can learn a lot from the resident winery cat, Maysie. Sevenhill has an extensive range, including some good fortifieds and rieslings. Its flagship is the 2009 Brother John May Reserve Release Shiraz at $95. Get yourself a bottle even if you do nothing else in the Clare Valley. Skillogalee is one of the oldest cottages in the Clare Valley and now one of the best restaurants, set amongst colourful gardens and grapevines. Nicola Palmer is the chef and daughter of Dave and Diana Palmer, who have faithfully maintained the tradition and history of the place. ‘Skillogalee’ means a thin porridge or gruel – what the early settlers ate – but the fare has come a long way since then. It’s only a few hours’ drive from the Clare Valley back to Adelaide but there are many reasons to linger. It’s a good place to rest at the end of a pilgrimage that has taken you through four wine regions, offering great food and plenty of serendipity. Forget about the sensible shoes and walking poles; all you need is a good appetite, healthy tastebuds and enough time to explore the many heavenly delights of the Epicurean Way.

If you go Visit www.southaustralia.com.au for suggested itineraries.

Sevenhill winemaker and living legend Brother John May.

Maurie O’Connor Maurie O’Connor is a regular contributor to www.foodwinetravel.com.au which covers all the good things in life in over 50 countries. He works closely with his partner, fellow IFWTWA member Christine Salins. Maurie enjoys photographic essays that capture the essence of a culture and not just a destination. He thinks pictures should be candid not created and beer should have a head. He loves jazz, oysters, books, films and craft beer in no particular order and is on a quest to visit as many jazz clubs and oyster festivals as he can while travelling the world in search of new adventures. Maurie lives in Redcliffe in Queensland, Australia where the sun shines every day and the seagulls are really well behaved.




A Taste of Tasmania By Kirstie Bedford

Bay of Fires, Tasmania


Josef Chromy Winery, Tasmania


een walking long?” asks a woman sitting with her two friends on the isolated beach on the northeastern corner of Australia’s only island state, Tasmania. “Three days,” I say proudly as we stroll past. The group burst into laughter. “Three days!” They’re the only people we’ve seen for the entire duration of our guided trekking experience – besides a fishing boat. It was only a white lie. We had been walking for three days; we were just taken back every night to our Australian beach shack, which was a very comfortable beach house owned by our tour guide, Life’s An Adventure. We were a diverse bunch – two young professionals from Australia’s sunshine state of Queensland, a fit retired couple from the United Kingdom, a scientist and her semi-retired husband from South Australia, a woman from the snow-capped mountains of Canada and a single walking enthusiast from Canberra. Our luxe-trek saw us cover 40 kilometers over three days through the Bay of Fires region on the northern east coast across stunning coastal beaches, where large red granite rocks lead to kilometers of flat cream sand and emerald ocean. Not surprisingly, the region was voted by Lonely Planet as one of the world’s hottest travel destinations. There are only two companies who take tours into this region, where you’ll see little besides wombat bones on the rocks. One of those, Life’s An Adventure, takes you to the southern most point of the region, The Gardens, with sweeping views of the coastline north. The entire walk looks like someone has come along just beforehand with giant felt tip pens and colored things in so that they look just right. At the end of each day, back at the




shack, you tuck into homemade gourmet meals using local produce. Think ‘Scottsdale’ pork fillet with peaches and chardonnay sauce finished with baked apples with leatherwood honey and hazelnuts before retiring to the lounge for some of the much revered local pinot noir. And once the walk is over, and you’ve got a taste for that velvety wine, you can head inland to the the Tamar Valley wine region, one of

the four distinct wine tourist routes in this island state. The Tamar Valley produces 40% of Tasmania’s premium quality wine and is where six of the local winemakers were shot to instant stardom when they were featured in People of the Vines, a TV series shown across Australia. The first series of its kind, it was a no-holds-barred view of life in the vines.


Featured were a mix of wineries from Tamar Ridge Valley, part of the Brown Brothers family, which has been making wine in Australia for 125 years, as well as Josef Chromy Winery, a state-of-the-art winery at the base of the vineyard at Relbia, just 10 minutes south of Launceston. Also included were some of the smaller celebrated winemakers. One of those, in the most northern

part of the Tamar Valley, is Delamere, which was started by husband and wife team Fran Austin and Shane Holloway. Fran and Shane took over what she called a “dilapidated winery” seven years ago. But after much work, the couple have had the last laugh, and her chardonnay and pinot are recognized as benchmarks of the best Tasmanian wine. They now also have a tasting room within the winery, where you can

also bring your own food. Another female winemaker kicking some big goals in the region is Holm Oak’s Bec Duffy, whose wine was given the highest possible rating by highly acclaimed Australian wine critic James Halliday. She says the decision to be a winemaker came while she was still well too young to drink it. “I was 14 years old and my dad planted a few trial vines on our cattle farm to see how




they would go. And that got me thinking I’d like to be a winemaker.” Bec and husband Tim now own their own property in Rowella on the west side of the valley where they work the vines with the kids in tow. They’ve just expanded their cellar door and have a fridge stocked with local produce, so people can make their own picnic or platter. “We have a flight of pinots, too, which is a great self-guided comparative tasting of the four pinot noirs that we make, which range in style and price point. As far as we are aware, we are the only cellar door in Tasmania offering this. Obviously, Tasmania is highly regarded as a pinot noir

Holm Oak

producing region, and it has been a real focus of ours. To be able to taste these four different pinots and compare them is a lot of fun, but also interesting and educational as well.” Visitors can also meet their pig, aptly named Pinot, who also made it to the small screen. “The kids who come here love to feed him apples.” While wine is big business in Tassie, for those who aren’t so fond of the grape variety, there’s always whisky. Just 90 minutes from Tasmania’s second largest city, Launceston, is Hellyers Road – Australia’s largest single malt whisky distillery. Here, you can go on a guided tour of the dis-

tillery, and there’s even a pinot noir finish single malt whisky, recognized as being one of the World’s Ten Best Value Whiskies by UK publication, The Spirits Business. For those like me, who like to earn their wine, or whisky for that matter, grab your backpack first (after all, you don’t even have to carry it), and head to Life’s An Adventure for a few days of guided walking. You won’t regret it, and just remember, there’s a glass of that silky pinot noir the region is so famous for, waiting for you at the end of the day. Once you’ve had a taste of it, head out to the local wine region, and you might even catch a glimpse of a local celebrity.

If you go Life’s an Adventure www.lifesanadventure.com.au Holm Oak www.holmoakvineyards.com.au Delamere www.delamerevineyards.com.au Tamar Ridge Winery www.brownbrothers.com.au Josef Chromy www.josefchromy.com.au Whisky www.hellyersroaddistillery.com.au Stay www.grandchancellorhotels.com


Rebecca and Tim Duffy and their two children. Holm Oak Vineyard Tasmania


Hellyers Whisky


Kirstie Bedford

Fran Austin


Kirstie Bedford started her career as anews journalist more than two decades ago, and has been writing professionally ever since. She has a particular interest in travel writing and entrepreneurs, but is happy writingabout anything, as long as she has her fingers to the keyboard. Kirstie is editor of Executive PA Magazine Australia, writes for a number of travel magazines and online publications in Australia, and is news editor for the Travel Writers Radio Show. She is based in Melbourne, Australia and when she isn’t writing business and travel features, she’s working on her first novel and spending time with her two young boys. www.kdjmcommunications.com.au




Fifty Shades of Gold By Eugene Yiga Photos by Jason van der Merwe

Smoked hake with mussels and slow-braised oxtail paired with Brandy


’m a brandy freak,” confessed Winnie Bowman, a Cape Wine Master and international wine and brandy judge. “I love brandy and drink it every day. I’m also a bit of a psychic and have a feeling that there are some sceptics in this room. Maybe even some whisky drinkers. But we’re going to try and convince them.” Bowman was speaking to a roomful of journalists at Abalone House and Spa, a boutique hotel in Paternoster, a fishing village on South Africa’s west coast. The occasion? A media launch for the country’s first dedicated brandy bar and a new brandy pairing menu from South African celebrity chef Reuben Riffel. The evening began by covering the basics. First, we learned to always taste brandy from a clean snifter, holding the glass at the stem. (Holding it in your palm, like a James Bond villain or Wall Street CEO, warms the brandy, which you should drink at room temperature or a bit chilled.)

Second, brandy doesn’t need to breathe. Decant whatever you don’t finish into a smaller bottle so that it doesn’t evaporate. Third, never swirl the glass. “It’s not like wine,” Bowman said. “If you swirl the glass, you’re releasing the volatile alcohols and that will be what hits you first. So you’re actually numbing your nose to any aromas that you might pick up at first sniff.”

First Course

The first course was smoked hake with mussels, sweet corn crème and bisque: soft and flavourful, compared with hake that can be quite dry. The brandy pairing was Flight of the Fish Eagle 3-year-old. “It comes in a lovely square bottle to confuse the whisky drinkers,” Bowman said. “It’s named after the indigenous eagle of Africa and speaks to the wide open spaces and how relaxed we should be feeling after tasting something like this.” Light in colour, the brandy had fresh and grassy undertones. Some people also picked up almond and granny smith apples on the nose. It wasn’t too sweet, although one of the sceptics said it was a bit light for his taste. Still, that didn’t stop him from enjoying a few more sips. “They use old oak barrels so there’s

South African celebrity chef Reuben Riffel at Abalone House and Spa

Smoked hake with mussels, sweet corn crème and bisque

minimal extraction,” Bowman explained. “It’s lovely for late afternoon, sitting on the balcony, watching the sunset. It’s smooth, it’s clean, and it’s pure. It’s got these beautiful, young, vibrant flavours and it can go with a variety of food.”

Second Course

The second course was spiced chicken liver parfait, toasted brioche and apple chutney. The brandy pairing was the Kingna 5-year-old, from a distillery near Montagu. “It’s not as light as the Flight of the Fish Eagle,” Bowman said. “It’s a lot more robust. You can add a bit of water to break down the alcohol and get a much better taste. But there is no Coke allowed in this room!” Despite its ‘kick’ (or is that ‘punch’?), the brandy brought out the flavours of the food. It was also interesting to identify such a range of aromas: from vanilla and cinnamon to toffee and spice.

Third Course

The third course was slow braised beef oxtail, smoked bacon, black mushroom purée, butternut and parsnips. Although the dinner was meant to be a ‘tasting’ menu, just to give us an idea of what patrons would expect on a normal night, this

Grilled prawns, saffron risotto and sauce vierge

Slow braised beef oxtail, smoked bacon, black mushroom purée, butternut and parsnips

Spiced chicken liver parfait, toasted brioche and apple chutney

portion was huge. Not that it mattered. “The problem is I can’t stop eating,” one of my tablemates said, taking another bite of the soft and tender oxtail, melting off the bone. “At least brandy doesn’t have any added sugar. It has half the calories of wine.” The pairing for this course was Van Ryn’s 12-year-old Distillers Reserve. As a working cellar, Van Ryn’s offers tours that let you see the distillation process and Neville, the cooper, making barrels by hand. At the end of it all, you’re treated to a tasting of quality brandy. “What you’re holding in your hand is the most celebrated brandy in the world,” Bowman said. “This particular brandy has taken the world by storm and quite deservedly so.” It turns out that the brandy has won the trophy for ‘Worldwide Best Brandy’ six times to date: three times at the International Wine and Spirit Competition and three times at the International Spirits Challenge. “You can only put the age statement of the youngest brandy you’ve utilised,” Bowman said. “So even though this is marketed

as a 12-year-old, there is most certainly brandy in here with over 20 years in barrel. We’ll never know the secret of the blend.” But what a blend it is! As an intense brandy, we were told to sip it with care and to add some water to get deeper into the flavours: dried fruit, coffee and roasted nuts, to name a few. It was clear why Bowman compared it to a fluffy blanket that you wrap around yourself when you sit in front of the fire on a cold winter’s night.

Fourth Course

The fourth course was grilled prawns, saffron risotto and sauce vierge. The brandy pairing was the Joseph Barry 10-year-old, another winner at the International Wine and Spirit Competition. “Klein Karoo is where my heart is,” Bowman said. “I just love the brandies that come from that area, all the way up to Oudtshoorn.” This brandy was more robust and earthy than the Flight of the Fish Eagle, but surprised us by going so well with something as delicate as shellfish. With strong flavours of caramel and nuts, Bowman compared it to marinated fruit

Poached pears and apples, medjool dates, orange sorbet and brandy anglaise

that’s been sitting on a shelf for an entire year, just waiting for you to come around at Christmastime. Or perhaps you could pour it over your ice-cream. “What’s special about this evening is that we are able to taste a whole bunch of diverse brandies and compare them for ourselves,” Bowman said. “It’s easy to drink one brandy and say, ‘Ooh, I like this.’ But when you’ve got five or six to choose from, you can hone your palate in terms of what flavours you enjoy.”

Final Course – Dessert

The final course was dessert: poached pears and apples, medjool dates, orange sorbet and brandy anglaise. The brandy pairing was the KWV 10-year-old. To un-

A barman at Abalone House and Spa makes brandy cocktails

Eugene Yiga Eugene Yiga graduated from the University of Cape Town with distinctions in financial accounting and classical piano. His career then took an interesting turn derstand what makes this brandy special, much more robust than the regular potstills when he spent over 2½ years we had to learn about the three classificabecause of the brandy spirit component. working in branding and tions for brandies in South Africa. But because both of them are matured, it communications at two of South Africa’s First, there’s potstill brandy: double gives a different dimension. You get oaky, top market research companies. Eugene distilled in copper stills and matured in richer and more robust flavours.” also spent over 3½ years at an eLearning barrel for at least three years (minimum Sounds about right, I thought, as I took th start-up, all while building his business as alcohol by volume is 38%). These are best a final sip. Perhaps 16 century English an award-winning writer. savoured neat, on the rocks, or with a dash writer Samuel Johnson was right: “Claret Eugene has written about travel, leisure, of mineral water. Second, there are blended is the liquor for boys, port for men; but food, wine, marketing, media, television, brandies: potstill brandy blended with un- he who aspires to be a hero must drink film, music, theatre, personal development, matured wine spirit (minimum alcohol by brandy.” books, and more for over 60 different volume is 43%). These are the biggest seller websites, newspapers and magazines. He in South Africa and can be enjoyed with also helps individuals and companies in the a mixer. Third, there are vintage brandies: hospitality industry build stronger brands potstill brandy blended with matured wine through effective content marketing. This spirit (minimum alcohol by volume is includes writing, editing and proofreading 38%). Both components have to be aged for at least eight years. For intimate weddings (up to 40 guests), articles, blog posts, brochures, case studies, company profiles, emails, newsletters, “This is one of only three vintage small conferences (up to 30 delegates), or personal biographies, press releases, sales brandies in South Africa,” Bowman said, a special getaway, call +27 (0)22 752 2044, letters, speeches, surveys, websites, whitelater revealing the other two (Van Ryn’s email info@abalonehouse.co.za, or visit papers and more. 10-year-old and Richelieu 10-year-old) www.abalonehouse.co.za. Connect with him at after our attempts at guessing the answer www.eugeneyiga.com. to win a special prize went nowhere. “It’s

If you go

Pursuing the Perfect Cup of Chocolate in Costa Rica ‌ and Coffee Too

Story and photos by Christine Tibbetts

Ancient Mayan chocolate drink recipe adapted by the Aztecs is served in the Caribeans chocolate forest in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.

An open chocolate pod astonishes travelers because it looks so un-chocolate.


y morning cup of joe triggers visions of gardens now that I’ve strolled the stately rows of coffee beans growing in Costa Rica. My occasional cup of chocolate opens real-time views of ancient trade routes and musings about modern-day chocolate pioneers. Sure you can travel to Costa Rica for luxurious resort indulgences along the Pacific Ocean, and hike in the handsome national forests and volcano sites. I chose a different route with my two grown sons, their wives and two little granddaughters. We rented a simple house in a community along a black-sand beach on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, a five-hour drive from the airport in San Jose. Our neighbors were mostly Bri Bri indigenous people, Rastafarians from Jamaica and long-term travelers with light luggage staying in hostels. The four-year old went to the local elementary school for three weeks of language immersion and her mother spent every morning

“We are farming consciously, caring for heirloom trees,” Caribeans co-owner Paul Johnson, left, tells Atlanta visitor Andrew Tibbetts.

in private Spanish lessons. Together, all seven of us marveled that we could explore a chocolate forest in our neighborhood for an afternoon excursion. The highlight? Sipping a sacred Mayan ceremonial chocolate high in this forest, overlooking waters that once carried boats of spice traders. Until 1850, we learned, chocolate was a drink only. The design of the tour at Caribeans is forest-to-bar. Cacao trees struggled with a fungus in the 1980s, wiping out the fruit. Today in Puerto Viejo, a forest full of chocolate beans is growing sustainably thanks to two families committed to fair trade, hiring local indigenous people at fair wages. As my tour guide, co-owner Paul Johnson, said: “We are farming consciously, caring for heirloom trees.” He’ll hand you a big pod; yellow means it’s ripe. It’s hard to see how the white, slimy substance inside relates to luscious chocolate. My eight-year-old granddaughter, who assumed a chocolate forest would be tastier looking than this pod, was mystified … and challenged, waiting for a flavor she’d want. We learn later that fermentation makes the difference. That came after an hour or so of walking, some uphill and all in a mix of sun and shade to match the light patterns cacao trees need: 50/50 is their preferred ratio. Wear real shoes, not beach flip-flops. Long sleeves are not a bad idea either, or

something to repel the biting midges. Since this is a sustainable heirloom operation, I’d recommend organic. Mango Walk, a colorful sign along the way, reflects Afro-Carib language where “fruit means walk” according to Johnson. Mango also provides the name of lodgings within the forest where you can rent a room for two nights or a two-bedroom house for six nights. Any time is a good time to visit, because cacao trees provide two harvests: April, May, June and again in September, October, November. Flower to fruit takes three or four months. Funny, my granddaughters thought to consider chocolate a fruit! Fine, I thought, to consider farmers, chocolatiers and artisans one and the same. Do you struggle with currency conversion as you travel? Here’s a specific, pertinent experience from my encounters to give the ATM new meaning. At the time of my Costa Rica visit, 50,000 colonas equalled 100 US dollars. The chocolate forest farm I toured paid 1,500 colonas per hour, believing in fair trade they said, respecting five generations of cacao work by the BriBri people, and the Kekoldi. Until my multi-generational family journey involving the perfect chocolate beverage, I never considered currency conversion equations in the local community




fair trade wages way. “Ancient pathways are the connection,” Johnson says. “We want to pay for generational knowledge as we become the learners.” Gave me a new grasp of fair trade and the fullness of all that might mean. We who travel to experience wine know an estate experience ties us to the land of the grapes, and the owners, vintners and

vinologists. In the chocolate world, that appears to be true too. Caribeans, our guide Johnson says, “is becoming the Napa of chocolate.” Take the tour, taste it all, book a week of artisanal cooking classes, stay on site. If you do, muse awhile near the saba tree. In Guatemala this is the national tree; in Costa Rica’s chocolate forest, the saba tree expresses a belief the land is blessed. I suggested to

my granddaughters that they believe so. Imagine giving new life to the notion of blessing — leave the US and embrace the wisdom of other eons of time. Top of the road, above that saba tree, the tour rests … drinks the ancient Aztec chocolate (recipe initiated by the Maya) … and savors. We gaze over a vista of forest and water, learning that this is a canoe curve of the spice trade route. Then we pair spices with chocolate. Twelve spices. “Connect your tongue to your brain to recall notes of flavor.” The tasting advice in this Costa Rican chocolate forest carried over to my more mercantile, urban experience in search of coffee. Jasmine filters into coffee notes for me now, knowing the white flowers that bloom in the April rainy season tie coffee plants to the gardenia family. Britt, the company whose tour I took, is sophisticated and tech-savvy yet personal, with a tour guide who seemed as willing to field questions as to share details from a well-learned script. This is a walking tour on smooth paths through gentle gardens and a stage show with humorous twists. It’s also a cooking show and life-size puppet collection, reflecting the history of spoofing conquistadores to ease land-ownership resentment. Britt has a big shop in the San Jose airport, and a big shop on the tour grounds. Tasting is available all day, with detailed information about eight roasts: their names and notes, shade grown, and whether or not they are organic. Slurping is encour-

Visitors can touch the coffee beans and taste the coffee on tours of the plantation gardens.

aged so that you experience the flavor at the back of your palate. Air over the taste buds enhances the flavor, I was told. These coffee plants are independent; they self-pollinate, they don’t cross over. Each one takes a year to reach 18 inches, they are then fine to transplant, and then in two more years they are ready to harvest. Hand harvesting is hard work — plucking red ripe beans and putting them in a basket. Fermentation starts right away. Pura vida (pure life) as they say in Costa Rica.

If you go Costa Rica Tourism Caribeans

Christine Tibbetts

A dozen spices complement bits of chocolate in distinctly different ways during a tasting on the Caribeans walking tour.

Christine Tibbetts is a high-energy veteran journalist known for writing engaging, compelling tales about people in places, enabling travelers to better experience the rich dynamics of a destination. She serves as Destinations editor of TravelingMom.com, writes travel features on assignment for southern regional print magazines and for the web zine American Roads. A member of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association, she earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri in 1970.




Last Shot Tom Fakler

Harvest time above Andlau, along the Route de Vin in Alsace, France


Guest Photographer Tom Fakler travels globally, capturing award-winning images for www.AnitasFeast. com and clients of www.TomFakler.com. Based in Porto, Portugal, Tom is available for assignments.

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