September 25, 2006

Friday- Wine

Pig, Duck, Beef, Armagnac… the end of the work 'Week in Gascony' leads to Saturday’s market and later that evening to an FCI/all cooks/all out jammin’ in the French Kitchen. So in anticipation and to give ourselves a respite from the competition style eating we’ve been doing, I plan a day of leisurely swilling and sipping chez two friends of mine, 2 Sisters in Aquitaine. Isabelle and Catherine Orliac's Chateau la Bastide perches above my beloved Garonne River valley near Valance d'Agen. We came looking for good red wine for Saturday’s dinner, what we encountered was a deliciously dark “family secret.”

I first met Isabelle years ago high atop the Garonne vineyards tending delicately made Bordeaux-style wines in the Buzet appellation. Returning to her ancestral home to join her sister, Catherine, they delved deep into the Orliac Family coffers for photographs and artifacts to place in a charmingly personal ‘musee de vin’ on the property. What they discovered set off a historic romp through the annals of Bordeaux wines and resulted in the tell-tale gossip of great-great-great aïeul whose river boat sunk in a Garonne flood in the late 1700’s causing bankruptcy and problems for the talented winemaker. From his soon-to-be last home at Versailles, Louis the Sixteen himself pardoned Jean Orliac in the summer of 1780 allowing him to continue to trade and produce his goodly and medicinally prized wines. It is one of his recipes that inspired the newest Orliac venture, a red-fruit flavored aperitif wine, not-so sweet/not so strong, that is aptly called ‘le Secret de Famille’. Deep ruby, framboise-scented, tinted with tannins of green walnut and other woodsy flavors, it is my own personal newest favorite thing to drink!

Making wines based on the Cote de Bruilhois appellation standard- Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and the characteristic Tannat grapes, Catherine and Isabelle shared their other family wine making secrets with us on a pre-lunch visit. Care, attention, passion and pride marry the exceptional terroir of their 24 acre Roman site at Clermont-Soubiran. A love for the land that is bio-diverse and yields a forager’s delight of wild leeks and tulips, flowers and truffle oaks as well as carefully managed vines underscores a savvy and talented vintner’s nose. Dropping in during the middle of their working day, we are greeted by this fairy-tale pair of two sisters—one blonde and one dark, who conjure up magic on their limestone bluff somewhere in Aquitaine.

The FCI-Four departed with cases of a robust 2000, a softer 2002, and a 3-liter bag-in-a-box of the Family Secret. Saturday night’s dinner will be well lubricated and full of FCI gossip!
Stayed tuned for Saturday's feast as four FCI alumni prove that their can't be too many cooks in the French Kitchen.

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