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Meritage – Merlot & Cabernet blend

Meritage – Merlot & Cabernet blend

Chateau Le Bon Pasteur, AC Pomerol, 2008

Bordeaux, France

Chateau Le Bon Pasteur is the home of the world’s most famous flying winemaker, Michel Rolland. This is a highly revered property in the miniscule appellation of Pomerol that lies in close proximity to Chateau Petrus, and is literally a stone’s throw from Cheval Blanc.

Inside Le Bon Pasteur, you will find some of the most revolutionary winemaking techniques in the world. They harvest individual vines when they are at perfect ripeness, rather picking the entire block at once. They ferment the red wine inside small oak barrels by taking off the barrel heads, an incredibly labor intensive technique. The estate sets trends in winemaking that then spread to the finest wineries of California, South America and elsewhere.

The color is a beautiful deep cherry red. The nose shows fragrant aromas of dark chocolate, espresso, vanilla and plum. The palate is dry, with good weight and succulent red berry and vanilla flavors, encased by fine but structured tannins. It’s a fantastic Pomerol and a classic example of Merlot (90%) in the world’s most prestigious region, Bordeaux.

Food and wine pairing: Perfect with red meats like lamb and beef, and hard cheeses.

Meritage – Merlot & Cabernets

Meritage – Merlot & Cabernets

Chateau Monbousquet, AC St Emilion Grand Cru, 2007

Bordeaux, France

Chateau Monbousquet is one of the new star properties of the Right Bank in Bordeaux. When Gerard Perse purchased the property in 1993 he made huge investments in the cellar and the vineyards, and totally revolutionized the quality.

The blend of 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon is typical of many St Emilion estates.  But the low yields, precision vineyard management and superstar winemaker Michel Rolland’s touch in the cellar have created a superb wine.

The nose shows notes of fresh berries, espresso, milk chocolate and plum. The palate is elegant, with medium to full body, soft light tannins, and beautiful depth of flavor. Monbousquet always shows vivacity, intensity, and a new classic Bordeaux style.

Food and wine pairing: The perfect match with beef, lamb, and hard cheeses.

Luxury Wine Tour to Spain: May 26th-30th, 2014

Luxury Wine Tour to Spain

May 26-30, 2014
Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Toro
with James Lawther, Master of Wine

Aalto                Abadia Retuerta   Marques de Riscal
Pesquera             Remelluri         Lopez de Heredia
Numanthia            Valpiedra         Remirez de Ganuza
Alcazar in Segovia   Peñafiel castle   Kaia Kaipe fish lunch
1* Michelin dinner   Pesquera hotel    Burgos catedral

In collaboration with my friend Jeremy and James Lawther MW, we have put together another ALL STAR trip to the greatest wineries in Rioja and Castile.

In Ribera del Duero we visit Aalto, Abadia Retuerta and have a long lunch at the pioneer estate of Pesquera. In Toro we see 100 year old vines and taste at the legendary Numanthia.

In Rioja we visit and taste at Valpiedra, Marques de Riscal, have an old vintage vertical at Lopez de Heredia and Remelluri, and cap it off with Remirez de Ganuza and Baigorri. You’ll visit the best wineries in 3 dynamic wine regions that contrast modern and traditional wine styles side by side. We will taste over 60 wines and have verticals at some of the top estates.

In the warm Spanish spring, visit stunning architectural wonders both ancient and modern, enjoy a Michelin dinner in a bodega, and a series of winemaker lunches at iconic estates.

It will be a great way to learn about Spanish culture and history as well as its finest wines. Jeremy, our local guide, is an expert on Spain and will ensure that you experience the best of each region’s culture as well as their wines. James Lawther MW, writer for Decanter magazine and Bordeaux resident with excellent experience in Spain, will also guide the trip and is a wealth of knowledge in all matters vinous.

This is a unique opportunity to experience the passion and the grandeur of ancient and modern Spain and appreciate the subtle shifts in the Spanish winemaker’s soul across the regions.

We’re taking about 20 people. So don’t wait. Not only it is a privilege to have these appointments, we will be visiting in the middle of spring, appreciating the best wine experiences that Spain has to offer at a great time of year.

Price: $2,995 including tax

This price includes all accommodation, visits and tastings at wineries, all meals (there are just some light tapas one evening), all wine at meals, and local transport. Flights are not included.

If you are travelling by yourself there will be a single supplement of $700.

To join the tour: Email David@FineVintageLtd.com to request the booking form.

Why take a tour of Spain from Fine Vintage?
Most of these estates are not typically open to visitors, and if you can get in then you’ll get a very different tour and tasting from what you will experience with us. The only reason that we are able to visit these wineries is because of our contacts and network through buying and wine writing activities.

THE PROGRAM:
All of the visits are confirmed. Here is the program.

MONDAY May 26th
Please make your flight arrangements to Madrid. We will leave from central Madrid next to the Westin Palace (5 star). If you prefer a fun 4 star hotel nearby we recommend the ME Reina Victoria in the Plaza Santa Ana.

The Westin Palace Hotel, Plaza de las Cortes 7, 28014, Madrid. www.westin.com/palacemadrid Tel +34 913607666

ME Reina Victoria, Plaza Santa Ana 14, 28012, Madrid http://www.melia.com/hotels/spain/madrid/me-madrid-reina-victoria/index.                 Tel + 34 917016000

09.45 am
Pick up in front of Starbucks in the Plaza Neptuno, at the back of the Westin Palace.

Meet with James and Jeremy in the back of the lobby of the Westin Palace in Madrid (in the lounge area up the stairs from check in). Board the luxury bus and we’re off, with a little cava to kick start the tour. We then drive to Segovia, about one and a half hours away. Here we have a guided tour of the Alcazar, Segovia’s landmark fortress, and a stunning castle perched on the edge of a cliff. This was home to many of the Kings of Spain. Walt Disney modeled the castle in his logo on the Alcazar.

TAPAS LUNCH AND VEGA SICILIA IN SEGOVIA
After the alcazar visit, we enjoy a tasting of some of Spain’s icon wines and a casual tapas lunch at Jose Maria restaurant, currently reckoned to be Segovia’s finest asador restaurant.

Over lunch James and Jeremy will introduce the big picture of Spanish wines and the various regions. During this we’ll have a tasting of a Rueda white and 3 reds, including Spain’s 1st growth, Vega Sicilia Reserva Especial. We’ll also have a glass of Alion, which is Vega’s modern styled red, and Jose Maria’s own Reserva called Pago de Carraovejas. It’s a good first lunch.

NUMANTHIA TOUR
After lunch we visit our first winery in the dusty but increasingly renowned region of Toro. Columbus carried wine from Toro on the Santa Maria and today the region is producing some stunning wines. We arrive at Numanthia for a tour and tasting with the winemaker Manuel Louzada. This is LVMH’s only winery in Spain, and has received a 100 point score from Parker. We’ll see some of the oldest vines in Spain, taste from barrel with Manuel, all before heading for dinner at the delightful La Fragua restaurant up the road in Toro.  http://www.numanthia.com/en/privacy#/en/heritage/tinta-de-toro

DINNER IN TORO
It’s a short drive from the bodega to the beautiful hilltop town of Toro, where we enjoy a stroll past the iconic Colegiata church and the main square before dinner at La Fragua, a traditional but smart Castilian restaurant.   http://www.fraguadetoro.es/

After dinner, we drive east to the Hotel Pesquera in the heart of Ribera del Duero, where we will spend the first 2 nights. This is a brand new hotel built by the icon Alejandro Fernandez, who owns Pesquera.  It’s very modern, in stark contrast to the traditional winery. It’s a fun hotel, and there is a great bar, which has a dangerously good selection of wine and Gin. Last year, the Gin flowed…   http://www.hotelpesquera.com/en/elhotel.php

TUESDAY May 27th
Iberian legends

09.30 am Depart hotel
Breakfast, and then we’ll drive a short distance along Ribera del Duero’s golden mile to Abadia Retuerta.

ABADIA RETUERTA
Abadia Retuerta showcases the winemaker as scientist in the grandest surroundings. The bodega is owned by Novartis and is based around a 12th century abbey at the heart of their estate. It is one of the most modern wineries in the world.

We jump into some 4x4’s and go for a wild ride around the estate. We see vineyards that are over 100 years old, spectacular views of the region from up high on the hillside, and get schooled by our lovely guides.

This estate lies outside the DO boundary, and so we will taste other single varietal wines like Cabernet and Petit Verdot, alongside the classic Tempranillo. The wines here have been ranked “best wine in the world” by Decanter at a major competition. http://www.abadia-retuerta.com/en/

AALTO
After Abadia Retuerta we go to one of the greatest names in Ribera, a cult winery called Aalto, for a very exclusive visit.

Javier Zaccagnini and Mariano Garcia (the oenologist of Vega Sicilia for 30 years) make one of Ribera’s finest red wines. They cultivate 42 acres of prime tempranillo plots to make 2 very fine wines: Aalto and Aalto PS. The winery is minimalist and stunning, dedicated to quality wine production. There’s no tasting room here. They don’t usually receive visitors. It is one of Ribera’s (and Spain’s) most famous estates. We enjoy a visit and barrel room tasting of old Tempranillo vines in the heart of Ribera’s golden mile. For wine lovers it’s a WOW http://www.aalto.es/

Lunch at PESQUERA
Now for an epic lunch. Alejandro Fernandez believed there might be more to Ribera than Vega Sicilia and in 1972 licensed his bodega in the village of Pesquera where he started to make 100% Tempranillo wines aged in American oak. Since then he has become known as El Rey (the king) of Tempranillo and his Pesquera winery is named by Parker as one of the world’s top wine estates.

We’ll have a typical Spanish lunch of lamb accompanied by wines from each of the Fernandez’s 4 estates. Alejandro is in his 80’s but he always comes and has lunch with us. Last year lunch lasted till 5.30 pm and by the end of it everyone was dancing and singing in Spanish… After lunch we will tour the estate. http://www.pesqueraafernandez.com/english/index.htm

Around 1730 we head off for a quick visit to the castle in Peñafiel, just around the corner. It was originally built in the 9th century and now houses the region’s wine museum. There’s a fantastic view of the surrounding countryside, as we are high up on a hill and we take the chance to savour the scene briefly before heading back to the hotel, 5 minutes away.

When we get back to the hotel, we have an optional Gin ‘workshop’. This is a new twist to the program for us. Spain is mad about Gin and there are so many different types and flavours. Alejandro’s barman will show us how to make the perfect G ‘n T, and Mojitos, and we’ll kick back with a few tapas. This is a lot of fun. The rest of the evening and dinner is on your own, if you’re still hungry after lunch…there’s a tapas bar at the front of the hotel and a cocktail terrace at the back.

WEDNESDAY May 28th

09.30 am Depart hotel
Check out of the hotel. We leave Ribera del Duero and head north towards Rioja, not missing the chance to see one of the most striking buildings in Spain en route.

BURGOS CATHEDRAL
A little coffee, maybe a Spanish Brandy, and then we’ll have a quick guided tour of Burgos Cathedral. This Gothic Cathedral is a world heritage site and holds the remains of El Cid. It is absolutely spectacular, taking hundreds of years to build.
We then make our way up to Remelluri, a wonderful single estate winery in Labastida in Rioja. On the bus on the way there we have a Sherry tasting and James will explain how Sherry is made and how to taste it.

REMELLURI LUNCH AND VERTICAL TASTING
Almost Tuscan in style, this is the family property of Spain’s most famous travelling winemaker Telmo Rodriguez. Telmo spent time learning his trade in Bordeaux and now makes wines across the great Spanish wine regions. He is the most respected flying winemaker in Spain, a floppy haired maverick that all the gals fell in love with last year.

Telmo and his sister Amaia run the family jewel that is Remelluri, an icon in Rioja producing wines with tremendous complexity, finesse and elegance. This is great wine, in the strictest sense.

After a barrel tasting we sit down to a vertical of wines going back to the 1980’s, enjoyed over a delicious long lunch. Welcome to Rioja. http://www.remelluri.com/ing/intro.html

After lunch, it’s time for an introduction to the modern face of Rioja and some stunning architecture at Baigorri.

BAIGORRI
This is our first view of the new wave Rioja, a series of more modern style wines that appeared in Rioja at the turn of the century, characterized by high profile architects building astonishing wineries in total contrast to the traditional bodegas in the Basque villages. Since its first vintage in 2002, Baigorri has been a very popular wine and a bold landmark offering a panoramic view of the rolling hills of Rioja Alavesa. We enjoy a brief tour and tasting before the short drive to our hotel in the neighbouring village. http://www.bodegasbaigorri.com/

After the visit we check into our luxury hotel called The Viura in Villabuena de Alava. This small boutique hotel has a remarkable design and a warm welcome in the heart of Rioja Alavesa. We’re here for the 2 nights in Rioja. It’s a great hotel, with comfortable rooms and excellent service.

This evening, after having a big lunch, we’ll have a light dinner and tasting of reds and whites from the village (it happens to boast the highest number of bodegas in any Riojan village). The dining room has barrels suspended from the ceiling. Riojan chic.  http://www.hotelviura.com/english/index.html

THURSDAY May 29th

10.00 am Depart hotel
We head to the nearby village of Samaniego for our first visit of the day.

REMIREZ DE GANUZA
Last year Fernando Remirez de Ganuza invited us to visit him. He is one of Rioja’s great characters, a serious wine broker from the region who used his contacts to acquire 70 hectares of prime Rioja Alavesa vineyards in the late 80s. He makes a variety of wines and uses some very unusual techniques.

This visit shows another view of how local innovation can create wonderful wines in new styles. You’ll see some things you’ve likely never seen before in wine production. This contrasts greatly with our next visit, the temple to tradition in Haro. http://www.remirezdeganuza.com/ingles

LOPEZ DE HEREDIA
This is my favorite visit, perhaps in the world. A visit to this winery alone makes the trip worthwhile. I have never been to anything quite like it. This is traditional Rioja, to say the least.

Many of the wines are aged for over a decade before release, often in barrels that are extremely old. In fact, the fermentation vats are over 150 years old. The underground cellars are several kilometers long, and it’s like being in a winery from the Middle Ages. The wines are phenomenal. They also make their own barrels here, and we will visit the cooperage.

The visit concludes with a decade by decade tasting of reds and whites from the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s. All this is accompanied by a tapas lunch in a legendary setting. Fasten your seatbelts. This is a wine lovers dream. Last year a guest bought some 1942 to crack open with dinner… Lopez de Heredia is off the charts. It’ll make you laugh at what you’ve seen in most new world regions. http://www.lopezdeheredia.com/english/arquitectura/tienda.html

After an amazing morning visiting 2 contrasting bodegas, we make our way back to the hotel for a little siesta, or a bike ride around the village if you want, before setting off at 1715 for our final evening’s fun.

MARQUES DE RISCAL
Another benchmark. Another classic. Marques de Riscal is one of the great names in Spanish wines. We’ll enjoy a tasting of their range at the City of Wine followed by a brief tour of the buildings.

What is most amazing about this visit, in addition to the wines, is the architecture. Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum established Bilbao as a tourist destination. He followed it up with the remarkable Marques de Riscal City of Wine and hotel in Elciego. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, anywhere. After our tasting, we head down the road to Valpiedra for dinner.   http://www.marquesderiscal.com/index.php?setIdioma=2

VISIT AND MICHELIN DINNER AT VALPIEDRA
Martinez Bujanda is one of the most prestigious Riojan families and Valpiedra and is the only winery in Rioja to qualify for the title of Gran Pago (‘top single estate vineyards’).

The family’s first bodega was set up by Carlos and Pilar’s great grandfather Joaquin in 1889.  Valpiedra is the flagship, in a fabulous location on the banks of the River Ebro. It’s the ultimate expression of the quality of single estate wines in Rioja, and a fitting final visit, not least because we follow the visit and tasting with a formal dinner prepared by the Echapresto brothers who run the Michelin starred Ventamoncalvillo restaurant in nearby Daroca. It’s our last blow out evening. The wine flows.   http://www.familiamartinezbujanda.com/valpiedra/

FRIDAY May 30th

10.30 AM Depart Hotel
There’s time to sleep in after the big dinner, or explore the village more before heading off for our last winery visit and lunch by the ocean, on the Basque coast, just over 1 hour away.

TXOMIN ETXANIZ
Txakoli is the most Basque of wines, a lively and refreshing accompaniment to the best Basque pintxos, made in a similar style to vinho verde. We visit the most renowned txakoli producer Txomin Etxaniz, which has a history of making wine in the village of Getaria since 1649 and where the vines tumble down the steep hillsides overlooking the Basque coast.

We see the vineyards and the winery before enjoying a tasting of Txomin Etxaniz txakoli overlooking the ocean accompanied by some local fish. As soon as we’re done we head into Getaria to enjoy the best that this Basque fishing village has to offer. http://www.txominetxaniz.com/en/

At 1330 KAIA KAIPE
As well as being one of the best fish restaurants in the Basque country, a food mecca, Kaia Kaipe houses one of the finest cellars in Spain. We enjoy locally caught turbot grilled on the asadores that the village is famous for, accompanied by the txakoli from the vineyards up in the hills overlooking the village. It’s a great relaxing last lunch, which always sees a lot of wine flow.  Detox starts the following day.
http://www.kaia-kaipe.com/

BILBAO
After lunch we set off for Bilbao. We’ll drop people off at Bilbao airport around 1600 (we will be no later than 1615, unless there’s exceptional traffic). From here you can catch flights back to Madrid, or to dozens of other places in Europe. Or you can stick around in Bilbao. We’ll drop you at our recommended hotel in Bilbao if you wish. The Hotel Carlton is the grand old lady of Basque hotels, once host to Orson Welles and of course Ernest Hemingway.
Federico Moyua Square, 2, 48009, Bilbao
carlton@aranzazu-hoteles.com Tel +34 94416 2200
http://www.hotelcarlton.es/en/

This will be another luxurious wine tour, hosted by James Lawther MW and a local Spanish wine expert, visiting the top estates with a small group of about 20 fun-loving people. To request the booking form please email us at david@FineVintageLtd.com

Details on all our tours to Bordeaux, Tuscany, Champagne-Burgundy-Rhone, Australia and elsewhere can be found at www.FineVintageLtd.com. Every tour we’ve run has sold out and many guests are repeat offenders.

Gewurztraminer

Gewurztraminer

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, 2010

Alsace, France

There are a handful of truly iconic wineries in Alsace. Zind-Humbrecht stands tall among them.

The winemaker and owner, Olivier Zind-Humbrecht, is one of the few Masters of Wine in France. He practices bio-dynamic farming techniques. This means the vineyard is farmed in an ultra-organic way and the earth’s cosmic rhythms guide all of the viticultural practices.

There’s no other place in the world that makes better Gewurztraminer than Alsace. The Vosges mountains create a warm and sunny micro climate enabling late harvesting at intense levels of ripeness. Olivier pushes the boundaries even further, picking very late at massive levels of flavor development. This is the Zind-Humbrecht style.

A pale gold color, as is typical from this pink skinned grape. The heavy viscosity coats the sides of the glass. The nose envelopes the senses with a heady array of ripe and sweet tropical fruits, sweet spices, and rose petal aromas. The palate is rich, thick, yet lively with bright acidity, and a perfect touch of fruit sweetness, pushing this into an off-dry style.

We are delighted to offer you this beautiful Gewurztraminer from an iconic producer.

Food and wine pairing: This is especially well suited to spicy dishes, and white meats like chicken.

Luxury Wine Tour to Australia Jan 25-Jan 29, 2014

THE BEST OF OZ

A luxury food and wine tour of the great wineries in Australia

Hosted by James Cluer and Tim Wildman MW

January 25th – 29th 2014

  • Grange – private tour and tasting at Penfold’s famous Magill Estate
  • Henschke – Hill of Grace vineyard visit, tour & tasting
  • Langmeil “Freedom 1841”  – oldest surviving Shiraz vineyard in Oz & BBQ Aussie style
  • Seppeltsfield – Tasting of tawny port back to 1878. Yes, 1878.
  • D’Arenberg – blend your own Dead Arm Shiraz after lunch in their restaurant
  • Coldstream Hills – visit a legend for Pinot and Chardonnay
  • Penfold’s Yattarna and the entire Icon range – 707, RWT et al.
  • Yalumba – oldest family winery – Viognier, Riesling, Octavius, & cooperage
  • Giant Steps winery – literally, at this hidden gem of a winery that’s making waves
  • De Bortoli – dinner and tasting of the top sweet wines, Noble One, and Yarra Valley wines.
  • Gemtree – Learn all about biodynamics in McLaren Vale
  • Main Ridge – one of the Grand Cru of Australia
  • Enjoy great food at beautiful lunches and dinners, and casual BBQ’s Aussie style.
  • Very good hotels wherever we go – amongst the best we can stay at.
  • Visit The Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, McLaren Vale, Barossa & Eden valleys.
  • A chance to explore both Melbourne and Adelaide
  • And feed kangaroos after you’ve had some Grange…

CAD $3,500 per person based on double occupancy.

In collaboration with my friend and Master of Wine Tim Wildman we’ve put together a sensational itinerary for this luxury food and wine trip to Australia.

Tim is a respected expert on Australian wine with experience running private tours for major trade buyers to the great estates in Australia. Together, we have created a trip to the most iconic wineries in the country, along with some of the small “cult” producers whose wine barely makes it out of Australia.

The owners and winemakers will be our hosts, giving us real insight into their wineries. We will taste wines that few others get to try, and enjoy special experiences, like Tawny Port tastings back to 1878.

There is an exciting food scene in Oz too and we’ll be enjoying some delicious meals at wineries, and at some of the superb winery restaurants. I’m especially looking forward to dinner at De Bortoli and Langmeil, and lunch at d’Arenberg.

So here’s your chance to see Australia during their summer. Go to Sydney before the tour for a few days, jump on a hopper to Melbourne and explore this lovely city before meeting up with us, and then the wine flows and the good times roll.

From Melbourne we’ll head off to visit the Yarra Valley and the Mornington Peninsula, both famous for their elegant cool climate Chardonnays and Pinots, plus the sparkling wines which can be superb. After a few days here we take a hopper to Adelaide (flight included) and explore McLaren Vale where Grenache hits a high, the Adelaide Hills which is stunning, and the Barossa and Eden Valley. Someone told me that the red wine they make in the Barossa is pretty good…

The hotels are amongst the best that exist. Everything is done for you. You just have to show up. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you know about wine. It’s fun, it’s relaxing, there’s a great atmosphere, and without you even realizing, you’ll become very knowledgeable about wine, especially from Australia.

So if you like the idea of a trip to Australia, during their summer, and our winter, then drop my friend Dave an email and simply say “Please send me the booking form” – David@finevintageltd.com

Price: The cost per person is CAD$3,500 including tax based on double occupancy at the hotels. This price includes all accommodation, visits, tastings at the wineries, all meals (except for the one free night in Adelaide), all wines at meals and local transport, and including the domestic flight between Melbourne and Adelaide. It does not include your international flight to Australia or airport transfers to meet us in Melbourne.

There is a CAD$650 supplement if you are traveling alone. This is to cover the cost of the single occupancy hotel room. We limit the trip to 20 people to ensure a personal experience.

Why take a tour of Australia with Fine Vintage?
Tim Wildman MW spends much of the year taking some of the world’s major wine buyers, sommeliers and journalists on in-depth “behind the scenes” tours across Australia. Using his personal network of wineries and winemakers he can gain access to places and people that are typically off limits. On my side, I have worked 2 harvests in Australia, visited many of the regions, and buy Australian wines for clients.  So Tim and I have tried to put on the best possible trip.

All the appointments are confirmed:

Saturday 25th January 2014
Please make your own flight arrangements to Melbourne, and your own accommodation for the night of the 24th of January.

There are 2 hotels we recommend, The Lindrum www.hotellindrum.com.au (which is the most convenient as we meet here), and if you want to spoil yourself then the 5 star Langham is the last word in luxury in Melbourne hotels http://melbourne.langhamhotels.com.au

09.45 am
Meet James and Tim outside Hotel Lindrum, 26 Flinders Street, Melbourne for 10.00 am departure
www.hotellindrum.com.au

Main Ridge Estate – tour and tasting
We head south out of Melbourne down to the sea and The Mornington Peninsula, whose main industries are grapes and golf. Our first stop is at one of Australia’s best kept secrets, Main Ridge
www.mre.com.au

Nat and Rosalie White established this tiny 3ha vineyard of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at Main Ridge in 1975. It was the first commercial vineyard on The Mornington Peninsula. The production is so small that very little Main Ridge is ever exported, so don’t worry if you haven’t heard of them.

Jeremy Oliver, author of The Australian Wine Annual, says: “Of the tens of thousands of table wines made in Australia today, I have allocated the highest possible Five Star Rating to a mere twenty. These are the benchmarks, the Grand Cru – the wines against which all others can be measured. Main Ridge Estate Half Acre Pinot Noir is one of these wines. The most sensual, perfumed and elegant of Victorian Pinot Noir, this deep, alluring and long-living wine typically builds in structure and depth of flavour with time in the bottle.”
Tim is friends with the owners. Here, we’ll find out what it takes to be one of the Grand Cru of Australia from the horse’s mouth.

Port Philip Estate – Tour, tasting and delicious lunch
Afterwards, we’ll drive a short distance to Port Philip Estate Cellar Door & Restaurant, home to Kooyong wines – www.portphillipestate.com.au

The Mornington Peninsula is Australia’s specialist region for Pinot Noir. Some of the very best wines of the Mornington come from Kooyong – they were awarded Winery of the Year in James Halliday’s 2012 Wine Companion.

We will visit their beautiful new cellar door and restaurant built into the side of the hill at one of the highest points on the Mornington Peninsula, with spectacular views over the vineyards and the Bay. We’ll have a private tour of the winery and learn about Pinot Noir production in detail, followed by a tasting of the Kooyong wines, including their single vineyard Pinots ‘Meres”, “Haven” and ‘Ferrous” followed by lunch in their gorgeous restaurant. Our first lunch will be memorable. This is where we really get into Pinot.

After lunch there’ll be time for a siesta on the coach as we drive to The Yarra Valley, Victoria’s most famous wine region. We’ll check into the Balgownie Estate Vineyard Resort and Spa, a luxury 4.5 star hotel with spectacular views across the picturesque Yarra Valley. http://www.balgownieestate.com.au/Yarra-Valley/Yarra-Overview/Balgownie-Estate-Vineyard-Resort-Spa-Yarra-Valley.html

There’s some time to relax and freshen up, a glass of bubbly on the terrace will snap you back into shape, and at 6.30 pm we head off just a few minutes up the road to meet the Chief Winemaker at De Bortoli www.debortoli.com.au

De Bortoli
De Bortoli are famous for their Noble One Botrytis Semillon, which comes from their warmer inland vineyards. It’s really the benchmark sweet wine from Oz. But they also make some beautiful other wines, including Traditional method sparkling, textural Pinot Gris, and several single vineyard Pinots and Shiraz.

Chief Winemaker Steve Webber will take us through the vineyards and cellar, giving the full low-down on this historic winery. We’ll try several of his wines over dinner at the winery’s own excellent restaurant. It’s sure to be lots of fun.

At the end of the evening it is less than five minutes back to the hotel. For anyone choosing to go for the optional sunrise balloon flight the next morning, you’re best advised to go to bed. 5 a.m. comes round fast. Otherwise, if I know our groups, the hotel bar will be packed.

Sunday 26th January 2014
It’s optional, because not everyone wants to get up to leave the hotel at 5 a.m. and pay about $250 per person to go ballooning. But actually, you’ve got to do it once in your life. A sunrise balloon flight over the Yarra Valley, followed by a champagne breakfast. Come on honey, it’s pretty romantic. So if you’d like to go please just book it yourself with www.globalballooning.com.au

Otherwise, we check out of the hotel at 9 a.m. We have a full day including 2 winery visits, a hopper flight to Adelaide, and dinner at an amazing restaurant perched on a cliff overlooking the beach and the ocean in McLaren Vale.

Coldstream Hills – tour & tasting
Our first stop is Coldstream Hills. Established in 1985 by James Halliday, the “Great Man” of Australian wine writing, this is one of the most famous wineries not only in the Yarra Valley but in all of Australia. In the 2012 inaugural James Halliday Chardonnay Challenge, the Coldstream Hills Reserve Chardonnay 2010 came second in a line-up of over 430 Chardonnays from all across Australia. Halliday is quite the guy. He organizes a major competition. Has the courage to enter his own wine. And comes 2nd overall. www.coldstreamhills.com.au . This a major stop to learn a lot about Chardonnay, and all its intricacies.

Giant Steps – lunch, tour and tasting
Giant Steps specializes in single vineyard wines and has fast built quite the reputation. We’ll start off on top of the famous Sexton Vineyard, with magnificent views up and down the valley. We then head to their winery which houses a restaurant and coffee roastery. The restaurant was awarded The Melbourne Age’s inaugural Winery Restaurant of the Year prize in 2008.  www.innocentbystander.com.au

We’ll taste a vertical of single vineyard Chardonnay and learn how the Yarra Valley is leading the way in the revolution of contemporary Chardonnay in Australia. It’s a casual lunch of wood-fired pizzas and single origin coffee and then a quick siesta as we drive to Melbourne airport for a 4.30 pm short 50 minute flight to Adelaide.

We arrive in Adelaide and drive 45 minutes south to the coastal wine region of McLaren Vale. With its rolling hills, vines, olive groves and Mediterranean climate the region often reminds visitors of Tuscany. We are staying at the 4 star hotel on the estate of Serafino wines.
http://www.serafinomclarenvale.com.au

After the chance to relax at the hotel we drive down to the beach where you can dip your toe in the warm waters of the Gulf of St Vincent at Port Willunga. The beach is beautiful. We have a short walk along the beach to The Star of Greece restaurant, which is a “beach shack” perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean. But in the “shack” it’s pretty serious food, with a laid-back atmosphere. It’s the Aussie pop star Kylie Minogue’s favorite restaurant in the world. And if Kylie says so, it must be true… www.starofgreececafe.com.au

The emphasis is on local and ultra-fresh sea food. With dinner we’ll drink some “different” varieties that you only find a tiny bit of in McLaren Vale, such as Fiano, Vermentino, Tempranillo and Sangiovese. There may be a few local winemakers that drop in to say g’day.

Monday 27th January 2014
Gemtree – tour & tasting & biodynamics

We depart the hotel at 9.30am and head to Gemtree vineyards for a morning learning about their biodynamic viticulture. www.gemtreevineyards.com.au

Head winemaker Mike Brown will meet us at their new cellar door, part of a wetlands conservation sanctuary. We then visit one of Gemtree’s biodynamic vineyards where Mike will explain the science behind what is often seen as the mysterious art of biodynamics. We’ll taste a selection of their wines, including “Moonstone” Savignan and the “White Lees” and “Obsidian” Shiraz.

D’Arenberg – lunch & blending & tasting
After Gemtree we go to the most famous winery in McLaren Vale, and one of the best known in Australia. This visit is often a real eye-opener. It’s a large winery but all the work is still carried out like it would be in a small artisan winery, with reds being basket pressed and fermented in open top vats – very little is mechanized.

After a brief introduction to the estate, where we’ll get to see the famous “dead arm” vines. We then head over for lunch at d’Arry’s Veranda restaurant. www.darenberg.com.au/darrys-verandah-restaurant . The restaurant at d’Arenberg is one of the highest quality cellar door restaurants in Australia.

With lunch we’ll enjoy some of their top wines including the Dead Arm Shiraz, Custodian Grenache and the Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon finishing with a glass of botrytis Semillon Sauvignon Blanc.

After lunch the fun and games begin. We go to their Blending Bench for a hands-on, interactive experience where you get to play winemaker and blend your own Dead Arm Shiraz. At the end you get to name your wine in a quirky d’Arenberg fashion, and take away a bottle of your own blend. Always very fun.

We then say farewell to McLaren Vale and head back to Adelaide where we’ll check in to the Majestic Roof Garden Hotel at around 6 pm and it’s time for a free evening to do as you choose in the city. We’ll point you in the right direction for the best places to eat and drink. Many people head to the famous “Chinatown” district, for some Thai or Cantonese food washed down with a crisp, limey Clare Valley Riesling. http://www.majestichotels.com.au

Tuesday 28th January 2014
Penfold’s Magill Estates – Grange tasting

We check out at 9.30 a.m. and after a short drive we arrive at THE home of Australian wine – Penfolds Magill Estate. Located on the edge of Adelaide city and at the foot of the Adelaide Hills, Magill Estate is the home of Grange, Australia’s most famous wine.

We will visit Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold’s “Grange Cottage”, the heritage listed bluestone cellars, and finish with a tasting of ALL the Penfold’s Icon wines, including Grange.

Now, if you’ve ever tasted the very top Penfold’s wines you’ll know just how special this is. The 707 Cabernet is to die for. The RWT is superb. Yattarna is considered a benchmark in Australia for Chardonnay, and I suppose we’ll just have to get into the Grange too. Trust me, it’s a good start to the day. www.penfolds.com/en/Cellar-Doors/Magill-Estate.aspx

We then drive up the winding roads into the heart of The Adelaide Hills for lunch at The Lane winery. http://www.thelane.com.au/restaurant-and-cellar-door This is an elegant restaurant with superb food overlooking The Lanes’ immaculate vineyards.

So you’ve had some Grange and had a lovely lunch. Now it’s time to go to the zoo. This might be much more fun than going with the kids… At the nearby Cleland Wildlife Park you’ll have a chance to hand-feed the kangaroos and wallabies, and I’m hoping to snuggle a koala. This is the Fine Vintage cultural stop on the trip. http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/clelandwildlife/Home

Afterwards we head north to The Barossa Valley where we’ll check into the Barossa Valley Novotel Resort at about 6.30 pm. http://www.novotelbarossa.com The hotel is set in a natural amphitheater, and each room has a private balcony with spectacular views across the Barossa Ranges.

Langmeil – BBQ, tour and tasting
After some time to freshen up we head out for our winemakers BBQ at Langmeil, who make serious wine.  And when we get there, along with their buddies from Teusner winery, they’ll have their famous Pig on a Spit roasting away. And I bet they might have a few beers out too. That’s Australia.

We start with a guided tour by James Lindner of Langmeil, through what they believe is the world’s oldest surviving Shiraz vineyard called the “Freedom 1843.” After that it’s just a ton of outstanding wine and casual fun Aussie style, hanging out with the winemakers and eating in the historic winery. This is an Aussie BBQ experience you’ll never forget with people from 2 top wineries –
www.langmeilwinery.com.auwww.teusner.com.au

Wednesday 29th January 2014
Henschke – tour & tasting

We leave the hotel at 9.00 a.m. and head east to the Eden Valley to visit another one of the most famous names in Australian wine – Henschke. We will meet with Stephen Henschke who will take us on a private visit to the Hill of Grace vineyard, described by James Halliday as “in viticultural terms Australia’s most sacred site”.

We’ll be taken on a tour of the historic working winery and enjoy a tasting of Henschke’s premium wines including the legendary Hill of Grace Shiraz and Mount Edelstone Shiraz. Like Grange, these sell for hundreds of dollars a bottle. If you know Australian wine, then you’ll know how special this visit is. It’s like going to Chateau Lafite and having the Baron show you around. www.henschke.com.au (but if you prefer to actually go to Lafite then sign up for Bordeaux http://www.finevintageltd.com/wine-tours/bordeaux )

Seppeltsfield
From Henschke we drive back down to The Barrossa Valley to the historic Seppeltsfield winery. Dating back to 1851 Seppeltsfield is one of the jewels in the crown of Australia’s wine heritage.

Famous for its fortified wines, they have a collection of tawny port in every single vintage going back to 1878. They are the only winery in the world to release a 100 year old single vintage wine every year.

We are privileged to have a tasting of tawnies going back in an unbroken line to 1878, plus a taste of the current release 100 year old Para Port. For this special experience, you’ll definitely want to share it with your very best Tawny Port drinking buddy. Balloon rides, Grange, Henschke, Koalas, delicious food, 100 year old tawny – come on, find a way to make it happen.

Then, to cap it all off, at the end of the tour you’ll have the opportunity to find and taste your birth year, from barrel. FYI – I’ll be 135 years old that day…

We’ll then enjoy a traditional Barossa Style lunch of local produce in their picnic gardens. This will be a great experience. www.seppeltsfield.com.au

Yalumba – Last but not least
After lunch it’s a short drive to Yalumba in the nearby town of Angaston. Yalumba was voted The Wine Enthusiast’s New World Winery of the Year in 2010 and is one of the largest Barossa wineries still to be family owned.

Our special tour will include the on-site cooperage where we’ll see a wine barrel being made, followed by a walk through their wine museum and a tasting of their top wines including The Signature Cabernet Shiraz, The Octavius Shiraz, The Virgilius Viognier and Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling. Yalumba is 1st class. I did a vintage there and have fond memories of an excellent winery.  www.yalumba.com

Then we’re done. It’s been a blast. That tawny Port experience was the icing on the cake and your liver now needs a rest. It’s back to Adelaide where we will drop off first at the airport by 7 pm and then at downtown hotels around 8 p.m.

It will be a great fun trip, educational but relaxed, with excellent food and wine. We will be covering the best wineries in The Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills and the Eden Valley.

To join this tour simply email David@finevintageltd.com and ask for the booking form!

For tours to other destinations – Bordeaux, Tuscany, Spain, Champagne-Rhone – please visit www.FineVintageLtd.com

Tempranillo

Tempranillo

Finca Valpiedra, Reserva, 2006

Rioja, Spain

This is the only vineyard classified as a “Pago” in Rioja, meaning it is recognized as the greatest single vineyard in this region. Rioja is also the most famous area in Spain.

So this is quite an amazing accomplishment given the long history of production and the incredible wines that come from Rioja, one of the world’s classic wine regions. The driving force behind such a top quality wine is the Martinez Bujanda family, established in 1889.

Over the years they have nurtured this single vineyard site. The rocky soils, depicted on the label, reflect heat back onto the vine, which helps achieve perfect ripeness. The winery, known as a bodega, houses state-of-the-art equipment and the winemaker’s goal is to craft a modern style of Rioja.

The Tempranillo variety, Rioja’s signature grape, creates a wine with aromatics of fresh strawberries, black cherries and soft leather. The use of French oak adds a lick of vanilla, smoke and toast. The palate is rich and dense, full bodied, and the tannins are velvety and fine. The balance is perfect and the length lingers as the complex flavors unfold.  We very much hope you enjoy it.

Food and wine pairing: Lamb or beef is the classic match, but this will pair nicely with a selection of cheeses, and is delicious all by itself too.

Paris-Champagne-Burgundy-Rhone – Blow Your Mind Wine Tour – Oct 7-12th 2013

PARIS – CHAMPAGNE – BURGUNDY – BEAUJOLAIS – RHONE

This trip will blow your mind

Monday October 7th 2013 – Friday October 11th

Hosted by James Lawther MW

Champagne: Pickup in Paris, lunch at Billecart-Salmon, tasting at Krug, 2 star Michelin for dinner, breakfast at Roederer, lunch at Bollinger
Burgundy: Pinot extravaganza at Domaine de l’Arlot in Cotes de Nuits, l0 wines with lunch at Leflaive, the finest Burgundian whites at Charton et Trebuchet, and 2 free evenings to enjoy yourself.
Beaujolais: Lunch at Château des Jacques by Jadot, tasting at Domaine du Vissoux, and a 3 star Michelin restaurant that evening in the Rhone. One of the best in France.
Rhone: Viognier and Cote Rotie discovery at Georges Vernay in Condrieu, a host of Rhone reds and whites for lunch at Chapoutier, visit to the Valhrona chocolate factory. Drop off in Lyon at TGV station on Friday Oct 11th early evening. Tour ends. Straight to Rehab.

$3,500 CAD per person

It’s on. And it’s going to be unbelievable. It just can’t get better in terms of producers, gastronomy, and hotels.

We meet in Paris, head to Champagne for a long liquid lunch at Billecart, the icon of Rose. Then it’s a visit of Krug, arguably the very top House, followed by a quick spin around the historic Cathedral in Reims to culture you up. Then it’s dinner at a 2 star Michelin, paired with several Champagnes, right inside our ultra luxe hotel.

The next morning it’s breakfast at Roederer, followed by another deliciously long lunch in the cellars at Bollinger, and then we’re off to Burgundy.

In the Cote D’Or we visit a top domaine in the Cotes de Nuits, called de l’Arlot, owned by AXA, who also own Pichon Baron in Bordeaux. After that we pass by some of the most famous names like DRC and get a handle on the appellations and the terroir in this fascinating region.

We then go to Leflaive for 10 wines paired with lunch. The tasting will be led by the family owners. Say no more. It will be an experience. We wrap up the day with a tour and tasting at Chartron et Trebuchet, who make stunning white wines.

This trip is great for couples as you have 2 nights free in Beaune. There’s lots of time to explore this old historic town, which is the centre of the wine trade.

Then we head south to the Rhone, but get sidetracked in Beaujolais where we visit one of the greatest single domaine wineries, called Château des Jacques, owned by Louis Jadot. Prepare to taste the best Beaujolais you’ve ever had, over lunch with the family at the domaine.

We then see another Beaujolais producer called Vissoux, who is more modern, and will complete your understanding of Gamay, the Crus, and the unusual fermentation techniques.

We then head off for the main event – dinner at one of the top restaurants in France, at our Hotel  Anne-Sophie Pic in Valence. People fly around the world to eat here. We will have a slew of wines to pair with all the different courses. I don’t know if you’ll say that it’s the best restaurant you’ve ever been to, but pretty likely.

On the final day, like always, we go straight to the top producers. Why visit 3 when you can visit the very best one and have time to really explore, taste, and meet the owners? That’s our philosophy. So, to Condrieu with George Vernay, and then a final lunch with a blowout tasting at Chapoutier, the biodynamic star of the Rhone. After lunch we go to the Valhrona chocolate factory, giggling all the way. You’ll flee the scene that evening, around 6.30 pm, at the Lyon TGV station. Eject.

Your host is James Lawther MW, a prominent writer for Decanter, who lives in Bordeaux, and is an expert on French wines. James is very easygoing and can explain all about the wines and the region. It’s not easy to access this quality of producer and taste their best wines, and eat and taste with the owners.

We take 20 people. It’s very luxurious, fun, educational, and anyone whose been on our trips before knows it’s 1st class.

The price per person is CAD$3,500 including tax. This price includes accommodation, all meals except on the Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, all tastings and swallowings, and local tranport. We move through 3 of the best hotels in France and see 4 classic regions in 5 days. That’s plenty.

There is a $900 supplement if you are travelling by yourself.

To book please contact David@finevintageltd.com and ask for a booking form. Trips can fill fast.

Can’t make it? Look for our next luxury tour of Champagne, Burgundy, Beaujolais, and Rhone on June 16-20th 2014! There are also just 4 spots left for our Bordeaux Luxury Tour, 2nd – 6th September, 2013. For more details, visit our website www.FineVintageLtd.com

Here are more details:
If you arrive in Paris a few nights before the trip you may want to stay at the hotel where we meet. It is called the Hotel Regencia, 41 avenue Marceau, 75116 PARIS, Tél: + 33 (0) 1 47 20 42 65. http://www.regencia.com

It’s within 5 minutes walk of the Champs Elysees, and 10 minutes walk from the Eiffel Tour and the river Seine. It’s characterful and modern. The rates are approximately 300 Euros for double occupancy. Please contact them yourself.

Monday 7 October (Champagne)

9.45 am Depart for Champagne
Meet with James Lawther in the reception of the Hotel Regencia, 41 Avenue Marceau, 75116 Paris, and depart for Champagne. I guess there will be some bubbly on the bus to get the trip started.

12 noon Billecart-Salmon
We arrive at the icon producer Billecart-Salmon, the King of Rose. Billecart is a smaller family owned Grand Marque House that is run by Francois Billecart and his right hand man Alex. They produce whites and Rose, and luxury cuvees. It’s also one of the few Houses that owns a clos, a walled vineyard, which we will visit. It is one of the most famous in the region.

After the visit it’s time for lunch. This is not a short affair. We’ll have a range of their best wines and three hours later we’ll leave. http://www.champagne-billecart.fr/

4 pm Krug
I’m not sure what to say about Krug. Superlatives seem like they don’t do it justice. For me, it is the greatest of all the Houses. It’s in a different galaxy. It’s also very exclusive, and a visit here is a special occasion. http://www.krug.com/

Reims Cathedral
After Krug, you’re going to church. Confessions will have to be quick, because cultural stops on the Fine Vintage tours are always brief. But we must go and see this gorgeous Cathedral where most of the Kings of France were crowned. It is a historic monument in the heart of the city of Reims, and not to be missed. It’s one of the few cultural stops.

7 pm Hotel L’Assiette Champenoise
Around 7 pm we check into a lovely hotel in Reims that is surrounded by it’s own wall, almost like a fortress, perfect for people like you. I’ve stayed here before and it was beautiful, with gorgeous gardens, and I vaguely remember the Champagne bar being the hub of all activity. www.assiettechampenoise.com
Around 8 pm that evening we sit down to our first Michelin starred dinner, at the hotel. This is a 2 star Michelin that has been operating since 1975, and is going from strength to strength. Chef Arnaud Lallement apprenticed at several of the top restaurants in France before returning to Champagne, joining his father at this family business. We will have a number of courses, almost all of which are paired with a different Champagne. At this stage, you’ll think the trip was totally worthwhile, even if it ended right now.

Tuesday 8 October (Champagne)

9.00 am  Depart hotel and go to Champagne Louis Roederer
We check out in the morning and head to Champagne Roederer, for a visit and tasting at another of the great Houses. Roederer is most famous for their Cristal, which was the favorite tipple of the Russian tsars, who insisted on the clear glass bottle to ensure the naughty French weren’t hiding something. Along with DP and Krug these are the top luxury cuvees, or at least the best known. This is a seriously fantastic visit and a great way to start the day.

12h30 Bollinger
The favorite Champagne of James Bond, the gals on Absolutely Fabulous, and of course, Her Majesty the Queen. Bollinger is stately, yet cool. They do things differently here, with heavy amounts of Pinot Noir, and ageing under cork rather than cap for the entire length of the maturation, which could be almost a decade, or more. Bollinger invented the RD concept.

The wines are fantastic, very rich and full. The famous vineyard Clos Vieilles Vignes Francaise is just across the street. This is one of the few remaining pre-phyollxera vineyards in the region. A tour, tasting, followed by lunch in the chateau. How bad can it be?

4.00 pm Depart Champagne
After lunch we head for Burgundy. It’s about 2 ½ hours drive, by far our longest, and no doubt a good time to crash out after the visits and lunch.

6.30 pm Hotel Le Cep (Beaune) (2 nights)
We check in to one of the best hotels in Burgundy called Le Cep. It’s one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World and located in the heart of Beaune. It was rated as one of the 6 best hotels in Europe.  http://www.hotel-cep-beaune.com

You’ll be done in from the lunch, and so it’s time for a free night. We’ll show you the lay of the land in Beaune and point out some places for dinner.

Wednesday 9 October (Burgundy)

9.30 am  Depart hotel
We leave the hotel and head off to explore some of great Burgundy Houses. It’s a full Pinot and Chardonnay extravaganza.

Domaine de l’Arlot
We start in the Cote de Nuits. Domaine de l’Arlot is owned by the 1st class wine producer AXA, who also own Pichon Baron in Bordeaux, Noval in the Douro, a property in Tokaji, and several others. Here we start to learn about the soils, the appellations, the Pinot grape, and the classifications. This trip will be very educational, but you won’t even realize it because of the casual style. http://larlot.com

You start to get a feel for the area as we drive to our next visit. We’ll pass by some of the famous neighbouring Grand Cru vineyards like DRC, and get into the terroir of Burgundy.

11.30 am Olivier Leflaive
We then head for lunch at Leflaive. This is in one of the top producers in one of my favorite appellations, Puligny Montrachet. They have been an icon in Burgundy since 1717, and produce Grands Crus and Premier Cru wines primarily, that sell for very expensive prices and are highly soughtafter. http://www.olivier-leflaive.com/

We have a long lunch, hosted by the owners, and you’ll be schooled on Burgundy as we taste a range of 10 different wines, include Grand and Premier Cru. I’m really looking forward to this visit. Leflaive is first class.

4 pm Chartron et Trebuchet
Here we taste some of the finest whites on the planet. Puligny Montrachet and Meursault. The aftertaste lingers for minutes. The is ultra fine, minerally, fresh, steely, complex white wine that demonstrates why Chardonnay is the most expensive and reverred of all white wines, at least according to the auction market.

This evening is also free. This trip is ideal for couples who want some time on their own to say romantic things and have dinner just the two of them. Typically people seem to gather back at the hotel bar for a nightcap or two. Just don’t start ordering copious amounts of Gin and Tonics. Team Spain 2012 – you’re disqualified and not invited.

Thursday 10 October (Beaujolais)

10h00 Depart Beaune
We check out at 10 am. Yes, we stay in 3 hotels, but they are all 1st class, and we need to move to cover 4 major regions. At the very last hotel there is a 3 star Michelin restaurant. So consider it a pilgrimage.

It’s about one hour drive, and then we arrive in Beaujolais. Beaujolais has a bad rap generally, but we are going to see the very pinnacle of the great producers. Château des Jacques can stand on its feet againist top premier cru Pinots. They age well, and would be hard to tell as Gamay.

11h30 Château des Jacques, by Jadot
Here we learn about Gamay, the region, the Crus, the terroir, and the vinification techniques. After a tour and tasting we have lunch here, with a number of wines. This is a whole new ballgame in Beaujolais. www.chateau-des-jacques.fr

Domaine du Vissoux
Domaine du Vissoux is a beautiful, family owned property in Beaujolais that produces several Cru wines. We will be hosted by the owners Martine and Pierre-Marie Chermette, who are focused on natural winemaking and showcasing the best of the region. http://www.chermette.fr/en/

4.30 pm Head to the Rhone valley
After the Vissoux visit we will drive south to our hotel in the Rhone Valley. It is a gastronomic destination, called Hotel Anne-Sophie Pic in Valence. It has a 3 star Michelin restaurant where we will have dinner later that evening.

Anne-Sophie Pic is the only woman in France to have obtained three Michelin stars. This year she celebrates 120 years of her family’s cooking dynasty. This is the last dinner, and it promises to be a real experience. Keep in mind that it is over $500 per person to have dinner here. It’s one of our many excellent meals.

There will be course after course, wine after wine, and typically everyone has the giggles. Don’t forget, eating and drinking are the 2 most important parts of French lifestyle. After dinner, you go upstairs to bed. Perfect. www.pic-valence.fr

Friday 11 Octobre (Northern Rhône)

10 am Départ the Hotel Valence
We check out of the hotel and head for one of the best producers of Condrieu, a tiny appellation that makes white wine from Viognier. We drive through Cote Rotie and get a feel for the Rhone with it’s steep terraced hillsides and more Méditerranéen climate.

Domaine Georges Vernay (Condrieu) tour/tasting
Georges Vernay created this family business with just 1.5 hectares of AOC Condrieu. Today the estate owns 16 hectares, so it is still relatively small. The Viognier’s are perfumed and age-worthy, and Vernay also makes staggering Syrah from Cotie Rotie.  Welcome to the Rhone. http://www.georges-vernay.fr/uk/startest.htm

1 pm Chapoutier
Our last winery visit is one of the best. Chapoutier in Tain l’Hermitage for lunch, plus a tour and tasting. Does it get better than Chapoutier? Probably not. Hermitage, Cote Rotie, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, white wines of the highest quality, biodynamic, scores that seem to hit 110 points…. and the Chapoutier crew are very much looking forward to our visit and lunch. http://www.chapoutier.com

3.30 pm Valrhona Chocolate (Tain l’Hermitage)
Valrhona is one of the best chocolatiers in the world. Because you haven’t had enough food and wine we thought we’d spike your blood sugar with some outstanding chocolate during a tour and tasting  http://www.valrhona.com

6.30 pm Tour ends.
After Valrhona we drive to Lyon, about 1 hour away, where we will drop you at the TGV station or a hotel downtown. Trust me, 5 days per plenty. You see the greatest estates in 4 regions.

Price: $3,500 per person, including tax, based on double occupancy. There is an $900 supplement if you are travelling by yourself.

This includes all hotels, all meals except on the 2 free evenings, all wine and tastings and visits, and local transport. Flights are not included.

To request a booking form please contact David@finevintageltd.com

Fine Vintage runs tour to Bordeaux, Tuscany, Spain, and other destinations. Please visit www.FineVintageLtd.com for more information.