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Princess and The Bear

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Journal 

 The Princess and The Bear
 

What Quarantine Looks Like in the South of France

First let’s get one thing straight, when they say isolation at home in France they mean it. We are well into our third week of being completely at home with no guests and no outings other than grocery shopping, and a maximum of 1 hour walking but within 1 km of home. To leave home you need your passport and a signed and dated form with the time of leaving one’s home.

Our village of 1,200 people is eerily quiet.

Fortunately our village is surrounded by vineyards and olive tree orchards. Everyday we walk our maximum of 1 hour, trying not to go over the limit. Spring is everywhere and it is so beautiful!

We have been cooking up a storm as you can see on Instagram @princessandbearwines and we harvest wild herbs on our walks every day.

The vineyards are just beginning to bud so the glorious carpet of green lushness will soon arrive, giving all of us hope that we are in a cycle and things will return to normal by mid-summer.

We are also reminded of the continuity of civilizations and generations of humans inhabiting this earth. Our village is an old pre-Roman hilltop settlement. On our walks we see the stone huts in the vineyards built by earlier generations in pursuit of the good life that comes from farming.

In this tiny village in this time of great need, since the schools are closed, the village is providing child care for children ages 3-12 for those parents who can still work.

This reminds us that we are all connected and helping others builds a strong web that ultimately supports all of us. Be Safe. Help Others In Any Way You Can. Spread Joy.

With love from the Team at Princess and Bear.

Time Posted: Apr 2, 2020 at 5:45 PM
 The Princess and The Bear
 

Road Warriors

Our winter Road Warrior journey began in January and we just crossed the finish line the first week of March! It all started at the MillésimeBio Organic Wine Fair in Montpelier, France. 

Millésime Bio is the world’s largest organic wine fair and it’s our favorite event of the season! We see some of our favorite winemakers there and they are always so curious about how their wines sold in the US because, like 95% of our wines, theirs have never been imported to and enjoyed in the US before. It is also a rich source in finding new wines for our Princess and Bear wine clubs. Our winemaker friends at the fairs are generous enough to share the names of their favorite winemakers with us and so we get to taste them on the spot! 

The Princess (Carol) & the Bear (Steve) at VinifillesWhile we were in Montpellier we went to see our favorite group at winemakers, Vinifilles. Their events are private invite-only tastings called an “Off”. The wines poured are by members of this association of Languedoc and Roussillon female winemakers from 25 different appellations in the region. We know most of the winemakers, and already import and love their wines, but we are always searching for new fabulous finds. This year, we found two! One wine from La Clape and one from Terrasses du Larzac. Upon recommendation from our Vinifilles friends, we found Domaine Reserve d’O, owned by Marie Chauffray from the Terrasses du Larzac Appellation, and the queen of Picpoul, Anäis, at La Croix Gratiot.

After Vinifilles, we went to another “off” in a little town called Lattes on the outskirts of Montpellier. On the stairs of the event, I saw winemaker Jean Paul Serre of Sainte Lucie d’Aussou in the Boutenac Cru appellation. I have been chasing this man for almost 2 years! He’s never exported to the US and was scared to get an FDA number. We ended up going to his domaine where I registered him with the FDA and now we will have two of his wines coming for the spring and summer! He has one of the most delicious white wines I’ve ever tasted, an aged white carignan, which is why I have been chasing him for so long!

We also were invited to an off in Paris of winemakers from La Clape and St. Chinian. There we found one of the most outstanding white wines in recent memory from Pech Redon. Soon to arrive in the US! 

After attending the two wine fairs we tasted about 800 wines and had to narrow it down to our favorite 100 wines. And now, it was time to see the vineyards! Our favorite thing to do is walk in the vineyards; feel the soils; smell the wild herbs everywhere; and understand the aspect of the vineyards’ altitude, proximity to the Mediterranean sea and the mountains surrounding the Languedoc-Roussillon. We covered 13 appellations over a 10 day period, driving over 1000 miles. We always take home bottles from each domaine for tasting with food before we make our final selections! 

Road warrior itinerary

  • Borde Rouge-Corbières
  • La Barronne-Corbières
  • Clos d’Elle- Montpellier
  • Les Terrasses de Gabrielle- St Chinian
  • Caihlol-Gautran-Minervois
  • La Croix Gratiot-Picpoul de Pinet
  • Chateau Salies-Saint Chinian
  • Domaine des Schistes-Maury
  • Swinte Lucie d’Aussou-Boutenac
  • Pech Redon-La Clape
  • Domaine de la Rèserve d’O-Terrasses du Larzac
  • Terres des 2 Sources- Terrasses du Larzac
  • Domaine de l’Hortus-Pic St Loup

Maury

Halfway through our journey we stopped in Maury, known for its Vins Doux Naturels (VDN) or naturally sweet wines. No added sugar!One of our partnerships is with an LGBTQ exclusive guesthouse Cinq et Sept that assembles cases of Languedoc wines to show their guests the bounty and quality of the region. One of the wines included was a VDN from Domaine des Schistes in Maury and we currently don’t stock any sweet wines from this appellation.  This appellation is known for its schiste soils and we were on a mission to seek out Domaine des Schistes, certified organic since 2015. After visiting we will be importing not only one of their VDNs but a white and a rosé. 

La Clape Cru

Soon we were on our way to seek out another new domaine for the Princess and the Bear tasting room: La Clape Cru. 

We visited Domaine Pech Redon, located on the Mediterranean sea, whose vineyards have a kiss of the sea! The sea breezes and high altitudes result in a long growing season which is perfect for many of the indigenous grapes they grow including Bourboulenc and Picpoul. 

Terrasses du Larzac

Terrasses du Larzac is a prized appellation. There we visited Marie at Domaine Reserve d’O. This domaine has been biodynamically and organically farmed since its inception in 2005. During our visit through their vineyards, we found curved roof tiles of Roman buildings buried within the cobblestone soils. Their 40+ year old vines include Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault.

Pic St. Loup

Towards the end of our journey, we went to Pic St. Loup, 30 miles north of Montpellier. WOW! What beauty. Domaine de l’Hortus has some of the most beautiful vineyards we’ve ever seen. It is cradled between the Hortus Massif and the Pic St Loup. The land was chosen because the patriarch of this family-run domaine is a rock climber. The domaine is known for its indigenous Mediterranean varieties. We ordered a fabulous white and a rosé that should be here in about a month. Secret: some reds will arrive later this fall. 

By the time we got home, we had more than 60 bottles to taste. After a good night’s sleep, Steve and I tasted roughly 20 rosés and 25 whites from the hundreds that we had looked at since the end of January. On the day we tasted, Steve and I first tasted alone and shared notes. Then we tasted through the wines again a few hours later with three professional wine tasters. Richard and Linda Neville, Languedoc tasters for Jancis Robinson, and Marcel van Baalen of Fait a Maison fame. Then, Steve made moussaka and 20 “lay people” from our village and the surrounding villages came over and they gave us their “favorites” list. So fun!! In the end we chose 15 new white wines and 8 new rosés. Wow!!

Right now we are filling out the purchase orders, drafting letters of appointment for them to designate us as their importer for Washington state and, very time consuming, working on labels for U.S. government approval. Once the labels are approved, we’ll be sending the information back to the winery so they can print and apply US labels to each and every bottle by the beginning of April. We can’t wait to get these 2019 whites and rosés in stock for the summer! 

Time Posted: Mar 3, 2020 at 7:15 PM
 The Princess and The Bear
 
February 14, 2020 | The Princess and The Bear

It Was Love At First Sight

The Princess and The Bear, still in love after all these years.

The Princess and The Bear, still in love after all these years.

When I first saw Steve (the Bear), I felt lightning strike, and still do today. But can this happen with a place? I am here to say YES! The Languedoc was love at first sight for me—again. As the French say a coup de coeur.

In 2015 an acquaintance told me about her home in the Languedoc and said she chose the region because it is close to the Mediterranean, the Pyrenees, Spain and Provence, BUT still untouristed, wild and beautiful. I could feel something special in my bones when she spoke, and began looking for a house before I had even visited the region.

On the very first visit in 2015, we bought an old winemaker’s house in a small village! It immediately felt like home—a real, authentic place to find beauty, slow down, be in the quiet of nature and truly enjoy life. We had no idea at that moment we would begin a new life discovering fabulous wines at irresistible prices and begin sending them to our friends and wine enthusiasts all over the US. But in 2018 that’s what we decided to do.

We can easily say now that the Languedoc region has given us more than we could ever have dreamed of. Our heads and hearts have been swept away by the authentic culture; the Cathar castles and their history; the Greek and Roman ruins; the beautiful Canal du Midi; the tiny village markets everywhere; the Mediterranean and all of her fresh seafood; the regional foods like cassoulet and duck confit; the olive trees, figs and fields lush with lavender and poppies; the herbs of the garrigue, and, of course, the wine! There are beautiful vineyards everywhere: by the sea up into the Pyrenees, which is why this is the largest wine producing region in the world.


Sunrise over the Canal du Midi

We have become somewhat known in the region as “the American importers who are committed faithfully to only Languedoc-Roussillon wines.” We seek out winemakers who make “root to sip” wines. They don’t just make wines, they also tend their own vineyards, and grow and harvest their own grapes. Most of the domaines we have selected for our customers (and ourselves!) are committed to organic farming. Many use both innovative and ancient techniques, like amphoras to ferment and age their wines in addition to oak barrels and cement tanks. And..we have found so many amazing women who do it all - they are the owners, vineyard managers and winemakers. It’s been such a magical adventure, and we are just getting started!


Clay amphora and “eggs” are both part of the innovative winemaking culture in the Languedoc-Roussillon

As a team, Steve and I taste hundreds of wines a year searching in different appellations from the Mediterranean shores to the foothills of the Pyrenees, but we’re always looking for wines with character that strike us immediately, whether it’s a new grape variety, a tiny domaine making only 4,000 delicious bottles, or a new biodynamic farmer and winemaker. We’ve curated a portfolio of some of the finest, most delicious wines being produced in this region, a region of which we are so proud, that has totally stolen our hearts.

Thank you for allowing us to share our love of this place with you and we hope you are as swept away as we are by these fabulous wines and the passion behind the story of each winemaker and his or her family. Please let us hear from you: carol@theprincessandthebear.com and steve@theprincessandthebear.com.

Time Posted: Feb 14, 2020 at 11:00 AM
 The Princess and The Bear
 
February 1, 2020 | The Princess and The Bear

Worldwide organic wine fair!

We have been to this organic fair for the last 3 years, and it’s our favorite!! Every year we look forward to discovering new amazing, organic wines from passionate winemakers, and bringing these finds to all our friends back in the US who love delicious, interesting,and undiscovered wine, most never having touched the shores of North America before.

We have such awe and admiration for the winemakers because they are so committed to growing organic, despite predictable losses due to the weather patterns.

Over 1,300 exhibitors worldwide flock to Montpelier, France to pour their organic wines (also beer, cider and spirits) and talk about their innovations with organic agriculture at the world’s leading organic alcoholic beverage trade show, the annual Millésime Bio (January 27-29, 2020).

 

At the fair we often taste 50 or more wines a day, meet the winemakers, find out how the grapes are harvested, how the wine is made and ask tons of questions so we can better share our passion for the Languedoc-Roussillon organic wine scene with you, our Princess and Bear family in the US. We want to know: 

  •  What grape varieties they have in their vineyards
  • What organic and biodynamic farming methods they use
  • Are the grapes machine harvested or hand harvested
  • How were the grapes fermented and aged
  • Did they use oak in the process

 For those who don’t like US organic wines, it is important to note that EU organic wines may contain very small amounts of sulfur to stabilize the wine. In the US no sulfur can be added to organic wines, so US organic wines can have an overly matured smell and taste and they tend to lose crisp fruit flavors quite quickly. Not so with EU organic wines which often retain crisp, fruit complexity. We look forward to the budding relationships we made at Millésim Bio and can’t wait to bring our new finds to future club shipments. Don’t forget-we reserve new wines for our club members before releasing what’s left to the general public!

Time Posted: Feb 1, 2020 at 2:45 PM
 The Princess and The Bear
 
February 22, 2019 | The Princess and The Bear

The Languedoc Awaits!

Princess and the bear partners with British wine touring company vin en vacances

 So many people have told us that they want to come see the beautiful Languedoc region. Now you can easily come and explore the wines, meet some of the passionate wine makers of today’s Languedoc renaissance, taste wonderful regional specialties and spectacular Mediterranean seafood and learn a little about the amazing history of the region: the Greeks, the Romans, the troubadours, and the Cathars.

A couple of years ago we discovered a wonderful British owned wine touring company, Vin en Vacances, based in the Languedoc.  They have offered to create three different wine-food-history tours centered around the themes of our wine clubs: Amphora, Cathar and Mediterranean. We are so excited to be able to share our love of this region, and through these wine holidays you will see for yourself why we call this the SuperNatural South of France!

Here’s a note from Wendy Gedney, the owner of Vin en Vacances: "We are honored to have been chosen as The Princess and The Bear's travel and vineyard tour partner so that their US wine lovers can explore the region in person and meet Carol and Steve in the Languedoc.  We have drawn up three exciting Languedoc wine holidays that will bring you to this magical part of the Mediterranean to meet the winemakers and discover the secrets of the SuperNatural South of France."

Time Posted: Feb 22, 2019 at 9:39 AM