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The Secret to Expanding Your Palate (and Improving Your Relationships!)

Folks often ask us for guidance on the best way to expand their wine tasting palate.

Our answer always includes a confession — before moving to the South of France six years ago, we were narrow-minded tasters. If a wine didn’t taste familiar, we would turn up our noses and move on. Since most of the wines we encountered were from American producers, “familiar” generally meant heavily oaked (US winemakers tend to use oak more liberally that their European counterparts). 

Our wine “awakening” occurred after a wine tasting tour with Vin en Vacances which exposed us to the extraordinary winemaking renaissance underway in the Languedoc-Roussillon. The experience was so profound that we launched Princess and The Bear Wines to share the delicious, affordable, artisanal gems of this region with American wine lovers.

 

Carignan, a native grape of the Mediterranean

Since that first experience, our palates have expanded dramatically. We’ve tasted over a thousand cuvées, eagerly trying wines made with unusual grape varieties and vinification methods. Where once we gravitated to heavily oaked Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons, now we prefer wines with minimal or no oak, allowing the grape varietal to express its qualities in the terroir where its roots live. 

Our current favorite white wine is Cyprius from Domaine La Bouysse ($22.99/@), a blend of Grenache Blanc, Vermentino and Macabeu. While some light oak is detectable, the natural acidity of the Mediterranean grape varieties keeps the wine fresh and lively.

Crisp white wines, like Cyprius from Domaine La Bouysse, are a welcome departure from the heavily oaked style of American Chardonnays

The independent winemakers of the Languedoc-Roussillon create wines from a wonderfully diverse range of grape varieties. Many of these varieties were unknown to us before we moved to the region, such as Carignan, a native grape of the Mediterranean.

La Deves, a Carignan-dominant cuvée, has become one of the Princess’s favorite wines. The hints of suede leather are a reminder of her Texas roots!

La Deves, a Carignan-dominant cuvée from Domaine Des Trinités 

Today, we value quality, personality, and character in wines, rather than familiarity.  The "zing" of a fresh white wine excites us much more than heavily oaked whites.  Herbal wines interest us more than fruity.  Even slightly oxidized wines have a place in our expanded palate (Princess more than Bear 😊). 

We approach every new wine as if it might become a treasured favorite, regardless of price, label, or critical response. And we don't expect everyone's taste to align with ours. Wine tasting can be incredibly personal and subjective. Just as some people love peach pie and others love broccoli quiche, so each taster has unique preferences for the taste, aroma, and feel of different wines. 

So — what is the real secret to expanding your palate? The answer can be equally applied to our relationships as to wine — keep an open mind and try not to judge in advance. 

A votre santé, 

Carol Bailey and Steve Medwell

Founders, Princess and The Bear Wines 

 The Princess and The Bear
 

South of France Meets South Park Seattle: Our New Tasting Room

As the country reopens, and folks safely take to the skies, trains, and roads once again, we’d like to suggest a festive, wine lover’s option for your itinerary — the grand opening of our new Princess and Bear Tasting Room! The celebration will take place July 8th - 11th.

Our tasting room is located in a boutique village in the Seattle neighborhood of South Park, an area known for its diverse community of creatives, entrepreneurs, and mavericks, reflecting the same independent spirit we admire in our winemakers. So we feel right at home!


Ioana Cosmina Bucur, FWS Chief of Operations


The space is designed to bring the warmth and conviviality of the South of France to Seattle. Patrons are invited to connect, find community, and taste and learn about our hand-selected, small batch Languedoc-Roussillon wines. In the coming months, we’ll also offer live music, sales of full bottles, and small bites and noshes!


Kristi Tower Wine Club Concierge


We were also drawn to this location because of the ample free parking. When picking up a wine purchase, you can relax in your car while we bring out your order. When visiting the tasting room, you'll have plenty of time to raise a glass with friends, new and old (with a designated driver of course). 


Rachael Beidler Chief Executive Officer


Our tasting room features distinct, well-spaced areas, allowing patrons to be with each other in whatever way feels comfortable. Groups can gather in our tasting bar while Kristi Tower, our wine club concierge, or another team member, shares about the unique grape varieties, root-to-sip winemakers, and rich history of the Languedoc-Roussillon. 


Bar area

Bar area


For a more intimate experience, wine lovers can sit at our bistro tables and enjoy being served by Princess and Bear staff. For larger groups and visitors interested in meeting new friends, our communal table seats eight to ten people. On warm days, outside seating will be available as well.


Bistro and communal table seating

Bistro and communal table seating


Our lounge area features a cozy sofa and chairs, perfect for folks in the mood for easy conversation while exploring a new cuvée.


Lounge area

Lounge area


After enjoying our tasting room, we suggest wandering next door for a fantastic meal at Osprey Bistro or a small craft beer at Tin Dog Brewery. You can also explore the wider South Park neighborhood which offers a variety of wonderful restaurants, food trucks, and novelty shops.

You're invited to drop by now or for our grand opening celebration, July 8th - 11th. Learn more and book reservations here. 

A votre santé,

Carol Bailey and Steve Medwell

Founders, Princess and The Bear Wines

 

 

 

 The Princess and The Bear
 

Blind Rosé Tasting! Introducing Our Winners

Wines Featured In The Blind Rosé Wine Tasting

The Thrill of Tasting New Vintages

Each year we participate in an exciting ritual — tasting new vintages and choosing the very best to delight our wine club members, wine lovers, and everyone in the Princess and Bear community.

This year’s blind tasting of 2020 Languedoc and Roussillon rosé wines was thrilling. Based on our research from personally visiting winemakers, tasting wines, and touring vineyards, we narrowed the field to twelve top contenders. We then organized the blind tasting at our home in the Languedoc, inviting wine professionals and amateurs alike.

The below video offers a peek at our preparations for the tasting, including our “high-tech” method of keeping the wine identities under wraps!

 

And The Winners Are...

After tasting each of the wines, everyone regrouped to compare notes on color, clarity, aroma, taste, mouthfeel, and finish. We also factored in our personal preferences and shared when we’d been pleasantly surprised by a vintage. In the end, after reviewing our own notes and taking into account the input of the wine experts (Wendy Gedney and Kate Wardell), Steve and I chose eight rosés as the best-of-the-best:

Domaine Terre des Dames Diva Rosé

Domaine Terre des Dames Le Rosé

Domaine Chateau de l’Ou Rosé

Domaine Les Terrasses de Gabrielle Summer of Love Rosé

Domaine Cailhol Gautran Roseum

Domaine Terre Des 2 Sources Amourettes

Domaine Gilbert & Gaillard Le Rosé

Domaine Modat Le Petit Modat Amour

In the coming weeks, we’ll be importing these rosés. Once we've added them to our website, you'll be able to purchase them and conduct your own tasting! Don’t forget — wine club members enjoy first access to all of our new wines.

Thirsty Now?

To tide you over until our new rosés arrive, we invite you to explore other delicious cuvées from the winning domaines:

Wines from Cailhol Gautran

Wines from Terre Des 2 Sources

Wines from Gilbert & Gaillard

Wines from Terre des Dames

Wines from Les Terrasses de Gabrielle

Wines from Chateau de l’Ou

Wines from Domaine Modat

 

This Year's Wine Experts Kate Wardell Wendy Gedney

 

For this year’s blind tasting, we were joined by two excellent wine educators, Wendy Gedney and Kate Wardell.

Wendy began her career as a wine educator in England. In 2009, she followed her dream to live and work amongst the vineyards of the Languedoc. She holds a WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) diploma and is a WSET certified tutor. Her company, Vin en Vacances, is the leading wine tourism business in the Languedoc, offering off the beaten path wine tours and tastings that highlight the diversity of quality wine in the region. In fact, it was a Vin en Vacances tour that opened our eyes to the extraordinary winemaking renaissance underway in the Languedoc-Roussillon. Our tour experience was part of the reason we founded Princess and Bear Wines. Visit https://vinenvacances.com/ or Instagram @vinenvacancestours to learn more.

Wendy’s partner in crime, Kate Wardell, is a graduate of HOSTA, a premier hotel and tourism school in Switzerland. She holds a WSET 3 distinction and is working on her WSET diploma. She is regularly invited to judge wines at Europe’s largest organic wine expo – Challenge Millesime Bio.

We’ve learned so much from both of these joyful wine educators! Thank you Wendy and Kate!

A votre santé,

Carol Bailey

 The Princess and The Bear
 

Root-to-Sip: The Gifts (and Perils) of Small Farm Winemaking

Root to Sip Winemaking

If you belong to our wine club, or have enjoyed any of our wines, you’ve experienced something remarkable and rare — authentic, Root-to-Sip winemaking.

What does Root-to-Sip mean?

True Root-to-Sip winemaking is an intimate, high-touch process typically practiced by small family farms. Every aspect of the winemaking is carried out by the same hands: from pruning three times a year, to harvesting and destemming, to fermentation. Often these winemakers practice organic viticulture and use no chemicals or added yeast. Principles of sustainabilty and Earth stewardship guide the relationship to the land, plants, and animals.

In our experience, these wines express the most colorful and distinctive personalities. They also impart a strong sense of “terroir” or place, a quality impossible to cultivate in corporate monoculture vineyards flung over many miles.

Root-to-Sip winemaking is not for the faint of heart. Small family farmers are vulnerable to Mother Nature and erratic weather. This year's Spring bud break in our region of the Languedoc was interrupted by a late frost that killed off newly emerged buds. 

 

Healthy buds at Bud Break, and damaged bud from early freeze

Top: Healthy bud that will flower before developing into grapes. Lower left: Signs of the spring “bud break” before last week’s frost. Lower Right: Bud growth, dead on the vine, after last week’s frost.

 

Mildew is another danger, particularly for farmers who refrain from the use of chemicals. Last summer, a mildew blight sickened the grapes, causing catastrophic grape loss.

Unlike corporate operations, most family farms can’t compensate for major losses in one vineyard with a healthy harvest at another location. So the very thing that creates the magic in the wines we sell — Root-to-Sip, small family farming — means these domaines face existential risks every year.

 

Clay Amphora

Root-to-Sip winemakers often employ creative methods, such as aging in clay amphora — an ancient shape used by the Romans for both aging and storage.

 

We are honored to support the “small is beautiful” farms and winemakers of the Languedoc-Roussillon as they struggle against challenging weather conditions. For over 2,000 years this farming culture has existed in the Languedoc. Our hope is for the tradition to endure another 2,000!

We’re also honored (and delighted) to be your “boots in the vines,” discovering the very best wines the region has to offer. When you purchase one of our wines, you can trust it has our "Root-to-Sip" stamp of approval. We personally visit every one of our winemakers, tasting wines, touring vineyards and winemaking facilities and, most importantly, building community —and spotting the occasional goat!

 

Springtime is also for baby goats!

Springtime in the Languedoc means baby goat sightings!

We're thrilled that our new tasting room opens April 22nd in Seattle, WA! Email us if you'd like a socially distanced tasting: info@theprincessandthebear.com

 The Princess and The Bear
 

Forging Her Own Path — Diane Losfelt, Winemaker of the Year

Our celebration of International Women's Day and Women's History Month continues! Today we raise a glass to Diane Losfelt of Château de l'Engarran, one of our winemakers who was recently awarded Winemaker of the Year by Guide Hachette, a publication considered by many to be the “bible” of French wine.

Diane has been the owner and winemaker at Château de l'Engarran for more than 30 years. Her guiding principles for creating her wines are authentic terroirs, elegance, and, above all, personality. Her wines embody strong character and high style — like the winemaker herself!

Steve and Carol visit Diane at Château de l'Engarran. Princess and Bear is proud to carry 2019 Château de l'Engarran Rosé, 2019 La Lionne Blanc, and 2013 Quetton Saint Georges.

We asked Diane to share her thoughts on receiving the Winemaker of the Year Award, as well as the challenges and rewards of being a female winemaker in an industry where women are still underrepresented. She also described her vision for the future of Château de l'Engarran and the launch of a new cuvée!

The winery operates in a 17th century chateau with a romantic, formal French garden surrounded by 60 hectares of vineyards.

This isn’t the first time Diane and her wines have been recognized by Guide Hachette. On five prior occasions, her wines have received the guide’s highest rating (3 stars and a coup de coeur); most recently, Château de l’Engarran Grés de Montpellier 2017 for the 2021 Guide Hachette. 

The exceptional rating for Château de l’Engarran Grés de Montpellier carries special meaning for Diane because it honors a wine first bottled by her mother, Francine, in 1978.  Diane said the acknowledgement brought "joy and satisfaction to be shared with your team and family. The way, all through these years, from one winemaker to another, from one woman to another, from one vintage to another.”

Château de l'Engarran is certified Terra Vitis. This means the winery practices responsible, sustainable farming while respecting both the earth and the people who live and work nearby.

Despite the previous awards, Diane was amazed to learn she'd been named Guide Hachette's 2021 Winemaker of the Year for the Languedoc region. “Of course after 37 years of being a winemaker, you hope you’re doing your job the right way," she said. "And I'd already won some awards. But this is like the 'grail,' the utmost acknowledgment.”

Left to right: Diane, her mother, Francine, and sister, Constance.

Being a woman in an industry steeped in tradition and dominated by men for hundreds of years has been both challenging and deeply gratifying. At the start of her career, Diane aroused suspicion among her winemaking peers in the Languedoc. Not only was she a woman and young mother, she was considered overly intellectual because of her degree in Agronomical Engineering. Being from Paris didn’t help either. “Nobody trusted me. I had to fight my way through, step by step.” 

Diane discusses winemaking.

During one harvest, when she was pregnant with her third child, the chief harvester remarked that he hoped it was boy. When Diane asked why, he stated matter-of-factly that the son could take charge of the vineyard. “What am I doing now,” Diane replied, “if not being in charge of the vineyard?” 

Diane is keenly aware that her career would have progressed more rapidly if she were a man. However, she feels the slower path has presented its own opportunities. She is the first woman to join the Languedoc Producers Union — and the first to become vice president. Often, hers was the only female voice among the men. “And I can tell you, I made my voice loud enough!” 

Her advice to up-and-coming female winemakers? “It’s a fight...but it is worth it! Women are allowed to have ambition, and they are remarkably underrepresented in the upper echelons of the Producers Union.” 

Diane and her niece, Emilie, will continue to fight the good fight, exploring the enormous potential of the Languedoc and drawing upon the extraordinary terroir and history of Château de l'Engarran to create delicious wines with distinctive personalities. “Ours is now among the best wineries of the Languedoc. My Mother was right, l’Engarran is worth it!” 

To celebrate the Hachette award and the power of the feminine, Diane and Emilie are launching a new cuvée, ELLE.  We can’t wait to raise a glass! 

 

 The Princess and The Bear
 
February 9, 2021 | The Princess and The Bear

Orange Roussannes, Aromatic Viogniers—Discover What We're Drinking Now!

Our Princess and Bear team members are lucky enough to sample most of our Languedoc-Roussillon wines. With an abundance of delicious cuvées, it can be difficult to settle on an all-time favorite. 

So we decided to share what we're drinking (and loving!) now — an orange Roussanne, an herb-infused red, a pure, aromatic Viognier, and more.

Read on to discover our current faves, why they're special, and tasty pairing recommendations for each. 

 

Why She Loves It: “The ageless taste of nature, the comfort of a thirsty spirit—to me, 2017 L'Imaginaire is a reminder that grapes blended with great human qualities and effort can mirror what Mother Earth can offer. The perfume of baked apples, orange peel, honey, quinces and fermented grapes reminds me of cold winter evenings when grandpa would retrieve a jug of wine from the cellar to place on the table in the fireplace-warmed room.” 

Perfect Pairing:  "L'Imaginaire pairs beautifully with homemade wild mushroom casserole."

How To Get It:  Discover 2017 L'Imaginaire here.

 

Why She Loves It: "This wine is smooth, rich and beautifully made. The flavors of herbs, dark fruit and chocolate are amazing and increasingly complex as the wine breathes."

Perfect Pairing: "I love drinking this wine with a beautiful charcuterie board full of organic meats, green grapes, Manchego and fig jam!"

How To Get It: Our wine club members will enjoy La Pimpanela as part of the next club shipment. For the rest of you wine lovers, stay tuned! We'll be offering La Pimpanela on the website in mid-March. 

 

Why She Loves It: “The herbal scents in Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi remind me of the wild garrigue around the vineyards of Domaine Terrasses de Gabrielle.”

Perfect Pairing: "I recently paired Et Moi with lasagna-stuffed portabella mushrooms. The fennel in the sausage enhanced the herbal qualities of the wine. So delicious!"  

How To Get It: Discover Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi here.

 

Why She Loves It: “I love this Viognier because it is a very clean and pure expression of this lovely aromatic grape." 

Perfect Pairing: "Je Suis Tombe Par Terré is just delicious with Salade Niçoise or any crisp salad topped with a little seafood and other goodies.” 

How To Get It: Discover Je Suis Tombe Par Terré here.

 

Why He Loves It: “We’ve been in Hawaii for the last month visiting one of our children. It’s warm here and sometimes red wines can feel a little heavy in warm weather. We chilled Lo Camin and thoroughly enjoyed the full flavor and soft tannins."  

Perfect Pairing: "This wine pairs well with lamb shoulder stewed in Harissa and a cauliflower gratin, a meal we recently enjoyed while dining outside with friends. The wine was absolutely delicious and held up to the strong flavors of the lamb.” 

How To Get It: Our wine club members had first access to Lo Camin before it quickly sold out on our website. Yet another reason to join our wine club! We'd love to have you :) Learn more here. 

 The Princess and The Bear
 

Three Fabulous New Winemakers Join the Princess & Bear Family

As we enter the new year, we’d like to welcome three fabulous new winemakers to our Princess and Bear family. Each embodies the qualities we’ve come to love in the wines and winemakers of the Languedoc-Roussillon — small batch, affordable, delicious cuvées made with creativity, brilliance, and passion.

Domaine Avela

Winemakers Franck and Christina Avéla.

Domaine Avéla exemplifies one of our core values, “small is beautiful.” The four tiny vineyards of Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, and Carignan are devoted to a single wine, Domaine Avéla Théodore. Owners Franck and Christina Avéla carry out all aspects of the domaine’s operations, from pruning three times a year, to harvesting and destemming by hand, to fermentation. They also practice organic viticulture and use no chemicals or added yeast. The Carignan vines are over 100 years old.

Before becoming a winemaker, Franck was a second-generation cooper, so perhaps it’s not surprising that Théodore is an oaked red wine; or that Franck brings meticulous, hands-on craftsmanship to winemaking, as does Christina.

Such care has paid off — Domaine Avéla’s “only child” is sold in over 40 Michelin Star restaurants around the world.

Carol and Steve join Winemakers Franck and Christine AvĂ©la for last year’s harvestCarol and Steve join winemakers Franck and Christina Avéla for last year’s harvest.

 

Jean Orliac, a professor of agriculture and an avid rock climber, became enamored of the region nestled between Pic Saint Loup and Montagne de l’Hortus after scaling the area’s iconic limestone cliffs. He also recognized the winemaking potential of the terroir which benefits from both the warm Marin winds of the Mediterranean and the cool, dry gusts of the Cévennes Mountains to the north.

In 1978, Jean and his wife, Marie-Thérèse, purchased 50 hectares and founded Domaine de l'Hortus. But it wasn’t until 1990, after years spent nurturing the vines and revitalizing the land, that the Orliacs bottled their first wine.

Today, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc flourish on the domaine’s north-facing slopes. Grenache and Mourvèdre ripen on plots warmed by full southern exposure. Marie-Thérèse and Jean’s children, Yves, Martin, François, and Marie, carry on the family tradition of crafting wines with character and finesse.

Steve (right) with Yves Orliac (left) of Domaine de l’Hortus. 

 

La Croix Gratiot

Le Croix Gratiot Winemaking CaveCarol (right) visits the winemaking cave of La Croix Gratiot. Winemaker, Anaïs Ricome (left) uses the ancient Roman technique of stone amphora to make some of her delicious wines. 

Domaine La Croix Gratiot is a beautiful example of the intersection of community, culture, and creativity that characterizes many Languedoc winemakers. Brothers Yves and Hugues Ricome built the winery in 2004 on land farmed by their family for generations. In 2007, they passed the winemaking torch to Yves’s daughter, Anaïs Ricome, a young winemaker (and rising star!) who studied viticulture in New Zealand.

Anaïs maintains a keen interest in traditional and artisanal winemaking, including the use of clay amphora, a technique Romans used for both aging and storage. But she’s also driven by the maverick spirit that has fueled the Languedoc winemaking renaissance. Bucking conventional wisdom, she chose to plant Pinot Noir on terroir generally considered unfavorable for that varietal.

La Croix Gratiot practices Reasoned Agriculture, balancing farming and wine production with biodiversity, environmental and animal welfare, and the health of the surrounding lands. That includes the artistic wellbeing of the community! The domaine sponsors music festivals and provides a venue for art and photography exhibits, sometimes in the winemaking cave itself.

The wines of Domaine Avéla, Domaine de l’Hortus, and Domaine La Croix Gratiot will soon be available to our wineclub members, and then to everyone who visits our website. Stay tuned! We promise to keep you posted :)  

A votre santé,

Carol & Steve

 The Princess and The Bear
 
December 8, 2020 | The Princess and The Bear

Essentials For A Safe, Joyful Reunion

 

For the past six weeks, our small village in the south of France has been in a second round of lockdown. The first lasted almost four months. Outings are restricted to grocery shopping and outdoor exercising. Social gatherings are interdict and bars and restaurants are shuttered. Community spaces are as barren as the vineyards, now asleep with the winter chill.

 

Despite the return to lockdown, our village has felt comfortable and safe. Our daily routines keep us grounded and walks through the beautiful countryside buoy our spirits. Aside from a few Covid-safe road trips, we've been content to stay put.

But when we received news that Carol’s 94-year-old mom had contracted Covid, we immediately began to prepare the necessary documents to travel within France and fly to the US. As American citizens with French residence cards, we’re subject to the same restrictions as French citizens. Fortunately, these mandates include travel exceptions to care for an elderly relative.

It was a little scary to leave the comfort and safety of our village and journey to the US, especially in the midst of the winter resurgence. Our watchwords were “safety” and “preparedness.”   

Covid travel essentials, including an essential read :)

 

First step — transportation to Paris and Charles de Gaulle Airport. We were concerned about taking a taxi to the nearest airport, an hour away, with a driver we didn't know. As well, the local regional airlines have been crowded and not maintaining empty seats between passengers. We decided our safest option was to drive, an 8-hour journey with a pitstop in Orléans.

We drove beneath brilliant blue skies en route to Orléans, at one point traversing the Millau Viaduct, one of the tallest bridges in the world and an architectural marvel. The effect of the cables whipping past is mesmerizing…

 

In Orléans, it felt good to stretch our legs after our long drive, even though it was freezing!

Left: Winter-barren trees in Orléans on the Loire River. Right: Gigi hunkers down against the cold in Orléans.

 

When we arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport, we were heartened to see the level of compliance by travelers, from masks, to face shields, to full body PPE. This was generally the case in the Newark and Houston airports as well.   

 

We enjoyed a nearly empty flight to Newark, but our connecting flight was full. As dawn broke through the clouds over Houston, we were relieved to touch down.

Left: Full flight from Newark. Right: Good morning, Houston!

 

But our greatest relief, and gratitude, stems from the recovery of Carol’s mother. She is stable and content, knowing that family is close by, awaiting a safe, joyful reunion in the near future.

From all of us at the Princess and the Bear, we wish you a safe, healthy, and peaceful holiday and a blessed New Year.

A votre santé,

Carol & Steve

 

 The Princess and The Bear
 
November 11, 2020 | The Princess and The Bear

There’s Always Hope! Thanksgiving Wishes (and a recipe) from Carol & Steve

 

2020 has been an extraordinarily challenging year, including the recent reinstatement of Covid restrictions here in France and elsewhere in the world. And yet, in some ways these challenges have served to remind us of the things we hold most dear – community, caring, family, and friends. Taking care of each other.

And as Carol and Steve reflect in this video, amidst the vines of late autumn, there's always hope!

 

In this spirit of hope, gratitude, and celebration, we thought we’d share a Thanksgiving recipe. Although we are meat eaters (and the red wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon are spectacular with meat dishes), we have several family members and many friends who are vegetarian or vegan. For these folks we offer this delicious Thanksgiving alternative to turkey—Vegetarian or Vegan Sage Butternut Squash

 

 

For our friends who’ll be serving traditional Thanksgiving turkey, please enjoy this recipe for The Best Sage-Cornbread Stuffing, courtesy of Carol's grandmother, Lela Carr Eads. 

 

 

Also in the spirit of celebration, we’d like to congratulate Diane Losfelt, one of our winemakers, who was recently designated Winemaker of the Year by Guide Hachette! Diane has been the owner and winemaker at Chateau de l'Engarran for more than 30 years. Her guiding principles for creating her wines are authentic terroirs, elegance, and, above all, personality. Her wines embody strong character and high style — like the winemaker herself. 

Congratulations Diane! We look forward to continuing to share the wines of Chateau de l'Engarran with our Princess and Bear community. 

 

 

We’ll leave you with Carol’s ongoing photo journal which offers a glimpse into why we’ve fallen in love with the wine, landscape, and culture of the Languedoc-Roussillon. Enjoy!


 

In the wake of the wine harvest, late fall continues to ignite the countryside and vineyards in shades of fiery orange, majestic gold, and deep crimson. 

Here we catch the sunset…

 

...even as the moon rises.

 

Autumn comes to a Languedoc vineyard in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Unlike the monoculture of large commercial operations, this vineyard is surrounded the native scrubland and herbal plants of the wild garrigue.

 

Named for the Roman goddess of wisdom, the village of Minerve was a Cathar stronghold as they were under seige from the Pope's army. 

 The Princess and The Bear
 

Architecture, Pride of Place, and Fall Splendor in the Pyrenees

 

Recently, we returned to Basque Country to explore the villages and witness the arrival of fall in the Pyrenees Mountains. As we traveled the mountain roads, weaving from France to Spain and back again, we pulled over to witness a magic moment high above the village of Pierrefitte-Nestalas …

 

 

We’re fascinated by the Basque region because it provides a glimpse into the history of Europe. Before modern European nations such as France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, local tribes ruled the land. The Basque people descend directly from one of these groups. Their language and culture survives in an area that straddles the Spanish and French borders through the Pyrenees and along the Atlantic coast from Bayonne, France to Bilbao, Spain.

 

 

Raising sheep for cheese and wool is an age-old occupation in this region so we weren’t surprised to have a “sheep sighting.” The tinkle of herding bells is one of the sounds of fall in Basque Country as they migrate from higher altitudes to the warmer pastures below.

As we drove through the region, we spotted road signs written in the Basque language alongside French or Spanish, including the sign announcing the charming village of Ezpeleta/Espelette (Basque/French). Each Basque village is a treasure. Pride of place, relationship to the land, and respect for ancient customs have preserved the culture, language and architecture to an extraordinary degree.

In Espelette, we wandered the quaint streets, window shopping and sampling regional fare. The Basques are known throughout the world for their wonderful culinary tradition which includes cured meats, cheeses (especially chevre), fresh peppers and the much-loved Espelette dried peppers. 

 

 

We also admired the buildings, shops and homes. In our travels in Europe and other places, we’ve noticed that consistency in the architecture is what gives a region a distinctive character or personality. The architecture of the Basque region is remarkably consistent—both within each village and between villages. 

 

 

This is because historically builders and architects relied on locally sourced clay, wood, stone and other materials. Over the years, that practice has been maintained. Each village is unique and vibrant, yet in harmony with the region and the land. There is almost a sense that the buildings sprang straight from the earth! 

 

 

This sense of place is all-pervasive. We felt it even in a centuries-old cemetery in Urdax, a village with a population of less than 400, famous for its prehistoric caves. 

 

Throughout our road trip, we were greeted with cosy reminders of fall—the migrating sheep, the warm hues of the changing leaves, the mists cloaking the mountainside, the invigorating chill in the air.