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Domaine de Vaccelli Cuvée Roger 2009 with Meadowood Farm Lamb Chops and Red Fire Farm Brussels Sprouts.

Domaine de Vaccelli Cuvée Roger 2009
with Meadowood Farm Lamb Chops and Red Fire Farm Brussels Sprouts.

France’s Île de Beauté (Island of Beauty) lies one hundred miles south of France’s Côte-d’Azur and just over fifty miles west of Tuscany. This wildly majestic island enjoys some of the hottest, driest conditions in all of France (it holds the record for the most annual sunshine), and is where the Greeks first cultivated vines back in the 6th Century BCE. Despite this long history of production, it was not until the 1960s, when a horde of skilled wine-makers fled Algeria (the so-called French pieds noirs) for Corsica, that it became known for wines of quality of distinction. One of these wine-makers was Roger Courrèges, who founded the Domaine de Vaccelli in 1962 outside of Corsica’s southern capitol, Ajaccio. In Ajaccio, one of Corsica’s two AOC’s (designations of protected origin), southeastern facing granitic slopes have provided an excellent environment for indigenous varietals like Sciaccarellu, a thick-skinned grape that is literally translated from the Corsican dialect as “crispy-crunchy between the teeth.” Corsicans are often viewed as fiercely nationalistic, refusing to identify as French or Italian, and the Courrèges family is no exception, focusing on native vines and traditional practices to make wines truly representative of Ajaccio–the island’s oldest wine region.

Roger’s son Alain took over Domaine de Vaccelli in 1974 after his father’s death, restructuring the 28 hectare vineyard around the three most noble of Corsican varietals: Sciaccarellu, Niellucciu, and Vermentinu. Today, Alain works with his son Gérard to produce a range of reds, a white, and a delightful rosé (Juste Ciel) aged in caves beneath the winery, where natural granite walls are covered with Alain’s carvings. One of our favorites from Vaccelli is the Cuvée Roger Courrèges, a blend of Sciacarellu (70%), Grenache (20%), and Niellucciu (10%), that is a nod to the domaine’s founder. Cuvée Roger is dark and brooding, with a deep ruby color that hints at something sinister yet seductive. Rich aromas of red berry and spice give way to a stunning textural experience that is reminiscent of eating a low-hanging, super-ripe strawberry just after a rain storm. The fruit is ripe and laden with earth, and the warm, spicy finish recalls the wild mountain herbs, or maquis, that pepper the Corsican hillsides. These herbs are so distinctive–and remarkably aromatic–that their scent is said to have made native Corsican Napoleon Bonaparte weep when he was in exile on Elba, an island 50 miles to the east!

This herbacious, full-bodied red makes an excellent pairing for rich, meaty fall feasts.  The most classic pairing would be wild boar, or sangliers, marinated with red wine, herbs, and garlic, but alas, I was unable to wrangle any wild boars in Cambridge!  The next best thing is lamb, however, and I managed to procure some lamb chops from one of our favorite cheesemakers, Veronica Pedraza, who raises lamb and beef in addition to making cheese at Meadowood Farms in Cazenovia, New York. I rubbed the chops with whole-grain dijon, salt, pepper, and plenty of thyme (a nod to the Corsican maquis), and seared them until golden brown and medium rare. Paired with some roasted Brussels sprouts from Red Fire Farm in Granby, Massachussetts this gut-warming, hearty, harvest meal brought me right back to the Île de Beauté. I could almost imagine the lambs grazing amongst the rugged vines and kicking off the smells of the maquis–it’s enough to make anyone weep!

 

Rory Stamp is a classroom instructor, Wine Buyer, and cheese monger at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.

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Clos de l'Origins Soif de Plaisir 2011

Clot de l’Origins Soif de Plaisir 2011

Southwest of the Languedoc lies Roussillon, a region that has too often been reduced to mere suffix. Roussillon stretches from the river Aude in the north to the border of Catalonia in the South. In the West, the snow-capped Pyrenées rise above 2500m in places, with the jagged peaks of Pic du Canigou at 2,786m (9.140ft) above sea level. A sharp descent eastward brings you to back to the stifling heat of the Mediterranean coastline, where Vin Doux Naturels reign supreme. Roussillon is primarily known for these wines, which are made from partially-fermented grape juice that is fortified with alcohol before it fully becomes wine. Made from the most common regional varietal, Grenache (whether is be Noir, Gris, or Blanc) , these aperitif “wines” benefit from early ripening fruit in some of the hottest, driest vineyards in all of France. Overall Roussillon produces 90% of all French Vin Doux Naturel, the most famous of which is Banyuls, made in the southeasternmost corner of the region. In Banyuls-sur-Mer, Grenache grapes are grown on steeply-terraced schist slopes, allowed to shrivel on the vine, fermented, fortified, and aged in barrel for years at a time at which point they can achieve a depth comparable to vintage port.

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Pascal Pibaleau Rosé

Pascal Pibaleau Rosé

Close to the town of Tours in the heart of the Loire Valley, Domaine Pibaleau sits nestled between two of the region’s historic Châteaux: Azay-le-Rideau and Langeais. The 12 hectare Domaine Pibaleau has been family owned and operated since 1886. Here Chenin Blanc, Gamay, Cabernet Franc and Grolleau are grown on organically farmed sandy-clay soil near the banks of the river L’Indre. Domaine Pibaleau has organic certification, and they work according to biodynamic principles.

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Gruyère Alpage

Gruyère Alpage

We knew it would be a fast trip, and the time spent waiting for our flight in the Newark airport did not make it any easier. Switzerland was calling and we could not have been any more prepared (and less ready) for what we were going to experience.

We landed in Geneva and made haste to the Jura region of France for a brief stop at Marcel Petite’s famed aging rooms at Fort Sant Antoine. As always, visiting Claude and the crew to taste and pick our wheels of Comté was a resounding success. The Comté offered to us was as spectacular as ever and we were introduced to new fruitières* with all new flavor profiles. This means in a few months, our customers will also be introduced to these new flavors. Exciting, but I digress…

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Reuilly Rosé perfect for summer sipping!Reuilly is a wine growing appellation in the eastern Loire Valley, not far from Sancerre. The three main grapes grown there are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and a tiny amount of Pinot Gris (also known as Pinot Grigio). Pinot Gris is a sub-clone of Pinot Noir that has a very pale, blueish-grey skin. Much of the soil in Reuilly consists of Kimmeridgian marl, a type of limestone perfect for the production of aromatic, delicate wines.

Domaine de Reuilly is a 17 hectare organic estate in the heart of this commune. Denis Jamain’s grandfather first planted vines here in 1935, when he also purchased a small parcel in the local forest. Denis has been managing the estate since 1990 and has the luck of being able to select oak trees from his grandfather’s forest to be made into barrels for aging his own wines! (more…)

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Last fall, I had the opportunity to travel to the Jura with Ihsan and Valerie, owners of the Formaggio Kitchen shops, and visit Fromageries Marcel Petite, affineur (or ager) of Comté cheese.

All cheesemongers on our counters hear a tremendous amount about Fort Saint Antoine where Marcel Petite ages their finest wheels – it is a storied and highly respected place for us – where Philippe Goux, General Manager, and Claude Querry, Chef de Cave, bring wheels of this extraordinary mountain cheese to its full potential. Here are a few photos from my first visit – a very special experience for me as a cheesemonger and cheese lover. (please click on one of the photos to open the slideshow)

Meredith Rottersmann is the General Manager and Classroom Coordinator at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.

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Flying into Paris

Flying into Paris

One of the great perks of working at Formaggio Kitchen is the opportunity to travel around the world in search of delicious foods. Ihsan and Valerie Gurdal, owners of the Formaggio Kitchen family of shops, feel strongly that being on the ground to meet with farmers, affineurs and food producers is the best way to find the most delicious goodies to stock our shelves and fill our cheese cases. That philosophy has yielded and continues to yield marvelously tasty results! (more…)

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