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!
While 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
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!
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.
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!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
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:
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!
Shop and save with promo code BLACKFRIDAY30
Celebrate the holidays with some delicious wines at remarkable prices! But order today, we don’t want you to miss out on having our delicious wines for the holiday season, so we hope you can take advantage of our early Black Friday Sale 🍷
* Promotion ends November 30
Holiday tip: Rosés are the new turkey wine!!
One of our great joys is making Languedoc rosés, whites, reds and sparkling wines available to you through our online wine shop. We also love sharing these treasures in person, which we were able to do during our recent travels in the U.S. to New York, Texas, and Seattle.
Throughout our travels, we were inspired by the open-mindedness of our fellow American wine drinkers who were so willing to try wines from grape varieties and appellations they’d never heard of.
In Texas, where it was still warm, we shared refreshing Clos D'elle...
90% Syrah 10% Viognier
This soft peach-colored rosé is made from grapes in the 2nd year of organic conversion—Syrah and, interestingly, Viognier. The result is stunning! Wild strawberry flavors and soooo soft in the mouth.
Perfect with turkey, grilled fish and pork dishes.
In New York Harbor, we set sail with one of our undiscovered rosé beauties, Le Petit Modat Amour, on a cruise past the Statue of Liberty...
We drink Le Petit Modat Amour all year round because, as everyone knows, “pink is the new white!" :)
Our last stop was Seattle, home of the Princess and the Bear headquarters and tasting room. We always enjoy raising a glass with Seattle wine lovers. From the very beginning, they've welcomed and enjoyed our extraordinary wines from the SuperNatural South of France!
The Bear raising a glass at a recent Seattle tasting event
Everywhere we went, people were eager to taste our wines and learn about the incredible new grape varieties and appellations of the Languedoc-Roussillon, the terroir (ranging from the Mediterranean coast to the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains), and the fabulous renegade wine makers who are driving the region's quality wine renaissance.
We look forward to introducing more of these magical wines to the USA!
A quick reminder to place your Thanksgiving wine order so you'll receive your bottles in time for the holidays, especially if you're on the east coast. We ship wine around the country in refrigerated trucks — and we ship with love! We want your wine to arrive with its full character and taste intact. But this attention to quality means longer shipping times, so please place your order this week.
With Fall approaching and some regions experiencing unusually cold temperatures, we thought we'd share our recipe for Oxtail Stew to warm your bones and please your palate. This all-in-one-pot recipe is easy to make. Just combine the ingredients, simmer for three hours, and presto — a fabulous meal! Recipe below.
Pair with La Feline from one of the best winemakers in the Languedoc, Michel Escande (bottle shot and tasting notes below).
For those of you at the tail end of a long, warm summer, we've got you covered! Keep scrolling for three simple and delicious French aperos (appetizers)...
70% Syrah, 20% Grenache Noir, 10% Carignan
This La Féline cuvée is made from handpicked, organic grapes with long maceration on the skins. A 2016 vintage, this wine is still in its youth; very spicy in the nose with hints of pepper and cumin.
In the mouth, it's deep and fruity with licorice and garrigue, smooth and silky in the aftertaste.
It’s simple and delicious to enjoy the French tradition of afternoon aperos (appetizers) with friends. If the warm summer weather is lingering in your region, you can sit outside, as we did yesterday, with these simple aperos and a beautiful Sauvignon Blanc...
Aperos pictured: radish on crispy crackers, eggplant chips, and green olives
The lowly radish finds glory, thinly sliced on a crispy cracker with a dab of organic butter, a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt, and a sprig of parsley.
Eggplant chips are simple delights. Just slice the eggplant and dry out on the grill or in a pan. Serve with a slice of garden fresh tomato, a dollop of herbed ricotta, and fresh basil.
Green olives marinated with mixed herbs and lemon juice complete a perfect afternoon aperos.
Pair with our current favorite wine for apperos, Château Salies Sauvignon Blanc.
100% Sauvignon Blanc
Super drinkable, this Sauvignon Blanc is made from grapes matured in the warm sun of the south of France. So it has a warmer and friendlier personality than other Sauvignon Blancs you may have tasted which often have a grassy flavor, typical of grapes grown in cooler climates.
A crowd pleaser, this wine is loved by novices and professional tasters alike!
The Languedoc-Roussillon is buzzing like a beehive! Everywhere you look, day and night, people are in the vineyards harvesting grapes, both by hand and machine.
It’s an honor to witness and support this tradition which has existed in the Languedoc-Roussillon for over 2,000 years. We feel blessed!
The small-scale, independent winemakers whose wines we sell harvest almost exclusively by hand.
A great deal of care goes into hand-harvesting grapes.
Hand-harvesting means the grapes arrive at the winemaking cave intact, without the skins having been broken, so there is no oxidation of the juice prior to fermentation. When our winemakers use machines, they generally harvest at night when the grapes are cool. This ensures maximum freshness until the grapes begin fermentation in the tanks. Fresh grapes = delicious wines!!
The brief video below details why destemming grapes before vinification matters!
What happens once the grapes are harvested? It depends on the grower and how the wine will be vinified and sold.
In broad terms, there are three kinds of wine sellers in this region: independent winemakers, large-volume producers and/or sellers called negotiants, and caves cooperatives which serve very small growers.
The independent winemakers are the small producers about whom we are wildly enthusiastic. Our wines are made at the domaine or chateau where the grapes are grown. The people who planted the vines also care for the soil, prune the vines, harvest the grapes, make the wines and bottle the wines with their own labels. That is why we call our wines “root to sip."
Both negotiants and caves cooperatives play important roles in Languedoc-Roussillon winemaking. While the negotiants might grow some of their own grapes, in general, they buy grapes, and sometimes wine, from others. Then they bottle and sell under their own label.
The caves cooperatives provide a much-needed service to small growers who don't have enough grapes or financial resources to produce their own wines. Each cooperative has its own winemaker and winemaking facility. These facilities were built in the 1930s and 40s and are often absolutely beautiful.
The below photo shows a small plot winegrower just returning from the cave cooperative in Cruzy, a village next to ours. You'll see similar sights everywhere during the harvest, with small tractors buzzing about from the wee hours of the morning to very late at night.
By supporting small growers, the cooperatives keep the region alive and flourishing. They're a big part of why the Languedoc-Roussillon is so spectacular. However, because the grapes are cultivated in many different soils under widely varying horticultural practices, the cooperative wines lack the distinctive terroir we so love in the independent winemakers whose wines we sell.
We did, however, discover a delicious Fitou appellation, Cascastel, that we couldn’t resist! In fact, this cooperative wine received the gold medal just a few weeks after we chose it!
Our lucky wine club members will get the first taste of Cascastel in the next club shipment. After that, we'll add it to our online Wine Shop so everyone can enjoy!
Carol (The Princess) with a carton of hand-harvested Syrah grapes, standing next to Philippe Gaillard of Château Gilbert & Gaillard.
Château Gilbert & Gaillard's brilliant young winemaker is Marine Faugier. She also happens to be our neighbor!
Below you'll find one of her wines, a delicious rosé.
85% Mourvèdre, 15% Grenache
Mourvedre is the KING grape for rosé and imbues this wine with a lovely flavor.
Serve this super drinkable and flirtatious rosé with roasted turkey sandwiches, curried mayonnaise, and slices of vine-ripened tomatoes.
Life is good!
People often ask if it's necessary to open wines before drinking so they can "breathe." And how long will the wine last after it’s been opened? We have answers!
Allowing a wine to breathe simply means exposing the wine to oxygen. So just opening the bottle won’t help because the neck of the wine bottle is too narrow.
The wine must be "decanted," or poured into a vessel with a broad base, so the surface of the wine is exposed to oxygen. Now the magic of breathing begins!
One of our favorite pastimes is searching the brocante (flea markets) for old crystal decanters. These unique and inexpensive (€5 or so) vessels work perfectly. But you may decide you’d like to buy a beautiful traditional decanter.
All of our Languedoc-Roussillon red wines benefit from decanting. Generally, the longer a wine will keep in the cellar, the longer the decanting time should be when the wine is young. For example, a two-year-old wine that you have been advised will drink perfectly in ten years should be decanted at least two hours before enjoying. But when that same wine is close to ten years old, decanting for 30 minutes to one hour should be enough.
Another general rule: wines made from Mediterranean red grape varieties benefit the most from decanting because the blends contain enough tannins and phenolic compounds to give the wine a long life. These include Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre and Cinsault.
We test wines every week to see how long we still love them after we open them. Best not to decant the whole bottle if you’re not going to drink it all. Instead, pour a glass or two of wine an hour before serving. Then, "aspirate" the bottle (remove the air) with a vacuum pump such as a VacuVin Wine Saver and store for later.
We like to aspirate our bottles then refrigerate. Most red wines will keep for two to three days, but we've had several drink really well after a week!
If you decant the full bottle, you can also pour any remaining wine back and aspirate. The wine will likely be best within 24 hours. Experiment for yourself!
Not far from our home in the Languedoc-Roussillon, you'll find the salt beds of the Salin de Gruissan near the Mediterranean. Salt has been harvested here for centuries, as far back as the Roman Empire.
The sun, wind, and dry climate of the Mediterranean create the perfect alchemy for the area's renowned salt production, including fleur de sel, an artisanal seasoning used in fabulous local seafood dishes.
The salt fields were originally marshes bounded by sea waters. The pink hues of the "Salin" are from the magical dunaliella salina, an algae that thrives in high-saline environments.
Our favorite restaurant in this area is La Cambuse du Saunier, right on the edge of the salt beds. In this video, you'll see our waiter skillfully fillet a salt-crusted Turbot, a fish native to the Mediterranean. (We suggest using earbuds because of the festive background noise).
We recommend La Rochelierre Camille Blanc with this dish and other salt-crusted fish dishes. Bon appétit!
Our new rosés have arrived! Languedoc rosés are some of the best in the world and tend to sell out quickly.These refreshing rosés are perfect for the warm weather, enhancing the fresh flavors of summer and keeping the mood lively.
This month, we've paired a Magical Puff Pastry Tomato Tart (recipe below) with Le Rosé Gariguette, Chateau de L'Engarran Rosé, or (and!) Asphodèles Rosé. Enjoy!