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Posts Tagged ‘Vinexpo’

LOOT! The extreme smörgåsbord brought to me by my father on his current visit. An odd variety of smoked salmon, gourmet pancake & scone mixes, and a "limited edition" Christmas pudding from Harrod's, made with vintage Port and contained in a velvet box - it cost more than many of my monthly bills

Today, the last day of 2011, is a Saturday.  What a year.  I’ve not blogged in a while, as has been the recent trend, not that I’ve not been collecting material.  So, it’s a great time to share a review of recent, and not so recent events, as some of them are quite awesome.  As for the year to come?  Well… that’s for another post, but I suspect I’ll be reading more classic literature, traveling more, and studying for a wine certification…I hope.  Enjoy the photos!

March - June: Alkalai Wine Bar, I lived in Bourgogne-wine-land every day

WINE: I transformed my career, somehow, with luck, with some concrete planning, with hard work. I went from an online marketing/editing/PR drifter and hopeless fiction writer, who worked part-time doing wine tastings, to a wine bar sommelier and cook, to an invitee representing the winery in a French exhibition, to a full-fledged winery employee.  I’m proud of myself for going for something I wanted and succeeding.  You never know what was entirely based on chance, but I know that whatever had happened, I would be working full-time in wine at this moment, whether at the winery or a restaurant or a hotel.  I learned how to leave a job I hated, work hard, ask for help (which was not easy), and ask for what I wanted (which may have been even harder).  I love my new job.

Christmas Day: Katzrin, Israel. Visit to the winery. I'm pouring our Yarden Heights Wine 2009, a Gewurtztraminer ice-wine-style dessert wine. Yummy.

Christmas: Yonatan vineyard, Golan Heights. Organic Cabernet Sauv.

TRAVEL: Hmm… where did I go…  Bordeaux, Paris, Giverny (in Normandie), Chicago, Kauai… I changed planes in Amsterdam, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles – though those aren’t supposed to count… and that’s it.  Fantastic adventures…but not as far and wide a selection of places as in years past.  I was very privileged in these, however.  They really were incredible trips.  Wine, food, laughter, hard work, hard play, art, beautiful weather – always – and especially the interesting people that I traveled with and met along the way. (on an interesting side note – after having been featured on an American Travel Channel television show, I was recognized all over the world, by random people, some of who plotzed and took photos with me and my sister).

June: the legendary Shakespeare & Co bookshop, Paris. Incredible book reading, and I met and spoke with author Nathan Englander, who graciously signed my book, in Hebrew and English. Extraordinary last day in Paris

April & June, Tel Aviv & Bordeaux: OYSTERS! Huitres!

FOOD: I cooked less this year, but ate just as heartily.  Perhaps too heartily.  The most typical New Year’s resolution may be in order for me this year.  From scrummy wine bar fare like prosciutto & Parmesan, fatty French cheese platters, and freshly steamed Thai dumplings; to oysters, foie gras, chestnut creme crepes,  Armagnac ice cream, crisp lemon squid, a simple Chateaubriand steak I’ll remember for a long time, more hearty soups than I can remember, and much much more.

March: squashing tomatoes with my bare hands for shakshuka at the wine bar

KAYAKING: an odd adventure sport I picked up and stuck with.  I suppose I needed some more exotic expensive exercise-induced adrenaline in my life.  Begun as a crazy lark in Hawaii (the Na Pali coast is rated the #2 adventure to take part in by National Geographic), I was thrilled and proud I survived the craziness, I decided to roll with the momentum and immediately join a kayak club in Tel Aviv.  It’s been interesting, and terribly challenging.  It has added another dimension to this ever-changing life.  It has also added  painful dark bruises to my legs and arms every week, and taken a large chunk out of my paycheck for water-tight clothing.  Oh well.  Life.  Better to go for it than to sit on the sidelines.

August: Kauai, Hawaii - kayaking the Na Pali coast

December: Rosh HaNikra, Israel - border of Lebanon - inside the deep caves

December: my kayak club with the Israeli navy

AND let’s end the year with some videos!  Going along with the title of this post, Tom Lehrer wrote some excellent songs that still ring true today.  In honor of all of the revolutions this year, in Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Tunisia, and Libya. In remembering all of the precarious situations that remain, Iran, North Korea, the Euro-zone crisis, the upcoming American elections, the environment going to hell, flu, honeybees dying out, and Israel practically becoming a misogynist theocracy, and of course the future of my physical, mental, and especially social fitness.  Let us hope, but more importantly, let us work hard for a better year and a safer, happier world.  And here’s some laughs and satire for us all.

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Vinexpo entrance

As I’m trying to focus more on wine, I feel obligated to devote a post to my Vinexpo experience.  As I’m tired, working, it’s August, hot as hell, and I’m typing away outside today as there’s no room inside at the cafe I stopped at because I could walk no longer – this is difficult.  But I’m going for it because sooner is better than later (and it’s been – my god – over a month since the event).  Without further ado, I give you…

VINEXPO 2011

Overview: Founded in 1981 by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bordeaux, the Vinexpo has emerged over the years as the great meeting place for global operators of wines and spirits. The expo takes place every other year in Bordeaux at the fairgrounds. It takes place during one week in June every odd year and welcomes some 50,000 visitors, and hosts 2400 exhibitors from 47 countries. The main exhibitors are French and Italian.   In 2011, one out of three non-French exhibitor was from Asia, and recorded 48,122 visitors from 148 countries, up 3.22% compared to 2009.

ISRAELI WINERIES

The GHW and GMW booth at Vinexpo with Head Winemaker Victor Schoenfeld and Director of Sales and Marketing Arnon Harel.

I was honored with an invitation to come and work at the expo by the Golan Heights Winery.  They have been exhibiting at Vinexpo for at least 20 years, as far as I know, the only winery – at least this year – from Israel.  This year, we also brought wines from our daughter winery, The Galil Mountain Winery.  I speak French fairly fluently (I lived in Paris as a child, grew up in a loosely tri-lingual household, and continued my studies through high school and university – where I focused heavily on French literature), but needless to say, my wine vocabulary was lacking.  I spent the two months before attempting to brush up – listening to French news radio on the internet, and I found some Skype-pals, for lack of a better term, through a free service that pairs up people wanting to improve their foreign language speaking skills through an exchange with native speakers, online.  A fantastic idea.  I also created lists of wine vocabulary, watched wine-making videos on YouTube, and I did some research on wine websites and wine regions in France, simply to read about these topics in French.  It all helped.  I was a bit overzealous in my preparation and overly nervous about my ability to perform, but I think I did well.  The first day I felt I was a bit shaky – but after a glass or two of wine and hours on end of speaking just French, it came very easily.  I was there to pour wine, explain about our wines in detail, and introduce whoever was interested to what Israeli wines really are.  A great fun very professional exhibition.  I met wonderful people, and I learned a lot, too.

FEATURED WINES

The Golan Heights Winery Big Wigs (and the 7 wines we served)

Golan: Yarden Gamla Brut 2005; Yarden Gewurtztraminer 2010; Yarden Chardonnay Odem Organ Vineyard 2009; Yarden Syrah 2006; Yarden Merlot 2007; Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2007; and Yarden Heights Wine 2009.  We also brought a hodge-podge selection of 2-3 bottles of various other wines to share with journalists, specialists, and international distributors, if the moment arose – from the Golan range, through Gamla, and a few special single vineyards and top limited-edition wines like the Rom and Katzrin.

Galil: Sauvignon Blanc 2010; Viognier 2010; Avivim 2009; Pinot Noir 2009; Meron 2007/2008; Yiron 2007.  There were also some random bottles opened on occasion, if memory serves, perhaps some of the younger reds.

MY EXPERIENCE

As the only French speaker, I found myself at the stand so much that I didn’t see much of the rest of the expo.  Frankly, that was OK by me.  Victor, the head winemaker, worked extremely hard, too, as well as some of the others, and when you get into a rhythm, adrenaline kicks in, and it’s extremely fun work.  A real team effort.  We had “Wine ID Cards,” as we call them, with all the stats on the company, the numbers, and the geography, complete with map, as we used as a starting point to explain about the location of the vineyards and the specific terroir.   What I found surprising was the people were incredibly open-minded.  I think that a number of them simply came out of curiosity, the novelty of an Israeli winery, but the fact that we’ve been winning very important awards, especially as of late went a long way, too.  People loved our wines.  The most “negative” comment I got was that it was very different than what they make in France.  Perhaps they were being polite.  However, the rave reviews some people offered up, who came back for seconds, who finished their glasses instead of using the spittoons, were not uncommon, and it was energizing.  I was so happy to be there.  Honestly, I was so proud to be there.  And to be spouting off facts, figures, agricultural specifics, aging techniques, standing right next to the winemakers – hopefully getting it all right (I certainly prepped enough) – was something else.   I feel I proved something to myself.  I’ve come very far in just two+ years in the trade.  I’m actually able to teach things, and in some ways also to inspire.  I love these wines, and I love the people I get to work with even more.

And enough drippy drippy sap I’m spouting.  Of the OTHER world wines I got to taste:

  • Lebanese wines: SO different from Israeli wines, and such a small distance away, it’s surprising (almost all of the wines are made in the Beqaa Valley).  I found them sharper somehow.  Very different layering.  A lot of the wine wasn’t amazing, I have to admit, as younger wines always are.  However, among the young wines, there was a lot of creativity – fresh and bright.  The vines in Lebanon are older than ours, at least some of them.  Because Lebanon is not a dominantly Muslim country, there have always been Christians there – I met a lot of people who had vines that were decades and decades old.  A big positive factor in the quality of the grapes.  Of course, there are also a lot of new ventures.  I met French winemakers who were hired by Lebanese and Syrian businessmen who wanted to build up wineries as an investment in recent years.  The wines I tasted that I remembered most were from Chateau Ksara and Château Kefraya.
  • Japanese wine: no, I’m not talking sake.  I’m talking real true blue wine from grapes of the authentic Vitis vinifera.  They don’t yet have a website, the wine is in such limited production, and for the life on me I cannot remember the name.  Crazy.  I will find out, though, as I know some people who know some people and I will update soon.  Perhaps I’ll write a post on it.  What I remember is this:  it was distinctive as hell.  I don’t know whether I loved it or hated it.  Not kidding.  There were two wines, one younger, one more aged – premiere, both white, very fresh and sharp.  What was distinctive first was the smell.  It was like stinky bleu cheese and fresh green melon.  Weird.  I mean so weird, I felt like my facial expression might have insulted the women representing the winery.  They served sushi with it.  The taste was so contrary to the smell, that was the next oddity.  Very floral and green.  They were saying that the specific grape varietal was native to Japan and had been evident in records for over 1,000 years.  How this fruit came to Japan that long ago is a mystery.  On the wings of a bird?  On a rare random trade ship?  Because it is the real deal species.  Not a different fruit.  I will find the name, promise.
  • Chablis: I tasted the whole lineup of wines from the Durup family’s winery.  It’s good solid decent Chablis.  I liked the Chablis 1er cru Vau de Vey very much, although I must say that their Petit Chablis was just as lovely and drinkable.  For people who want a fun summery wine, and aren’t wanting to break the bank, it’s a great choice.
  • Sicilian wines: I tasted a big-commercial-winery’s wine from Sicily two years ago and was blown away.  Since then I’ve kept my eyes open for Sicilian wines in Israel.  This wine was so rich and deeply fragrant, reminiscent of cassis (black current), that I was kind of in heaven.  Cassis reminds me of France and England and childhood and fruits from other-parts-of-the-world, not the standard everyday variety. Needless to say, there aren’t many Sicilian wines available in Israel.  I got a chance to taste many many Sicilian wines at the expo.  In short, there are volcanic regions on the island, and surprisingly enough, non-volcanic regions, too.  The wines are dramatically different.  The dominant local varietals are Nero D’Avola (red) and Inzolia (white).  I was pleasantly surprised by the whites, as I hadn’t tasted them before.  Because of the sort of “transparency” of flavor inherent in white wines (for even the beginner, it’s easier to detect differences between white varietals than red ones, at least in my opinion, and they are easier on the nose, if that makes any sense) – I felt I was tasting something so new yet so ancient.  I don’t have my notes in front of me, unfortunately, but maybe I’ll do a separate post on it, too.
  • Burgundy: Tasted some, people were pretentious, the wines weren’t at the correct temperatures, by a long shot , and I didn’t have a good time.  I moved on quickly.  So I can say I drank a glass of grand cru.  OK.  My notes are elsewhere, and that’s OK by me.
  • Bordeaux: Besides the two stands I stopped at, we drank Bordeaux wines all week at dinner.  There is a reason that these are the kings of world wines.  Even the youngest wines are so distinctive of this region.  The layers and complexity are fascinating and at the end of the day, delicious.  At one of the stands, a young man took me through a very interesting tasting.  I got to taste, albeit two simple wines, ones that were made a few meters from each other, from the same vintage, made in the same method, by the same winemaker.  And the differences were dramatic.  An exceptional lesson on terroir, for sure!

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The Golan Heights Winery Big Wigs (and the 7 wines we served) at our stand at Vinexpo, June 2011

I have been an international lady as of late. Blogging has suffered. The huge events that have dominated my life since my last post have been:

  • Vinexpo – Bordeaux, France – one of the largest (if not the largest) wine exhibition in the world. Kilometers long. Immense.  Exciting.  And the Golan Heights Winery (and its daughter winery, Galil Mountain), the only Israeli winery represented (and has been for over 20 years), invited me to come with them.  A brilliant week!  I spent my days speaking French with lots of wine professionals and led them through “une degustation,” a tasting, and teaching them about our wines.  I got to know the head winemakers and management well, which was so much fun – it honestly started to feel like a school trip….and the eating and drinking through the city like there was no tomorrow was certainly a perk.
  • Paris – I spent almost a week in Paris after the expo – two/three days of which was with my parents who happened to be in town, unplanned.  I spent time with family friends, too, walked all over the city, relaxed, and ate very very very well.
  • New Job! The winery hired me to manage, train, and recruit all of the wine stewards in Israel.  This is a huge honor, and it’s a job I’m loving.  It’s not easy, but it’s mainly logistics and some training.
  • New love – a beautiful, exciting, and ultimately sad story. I met a man that I’m crazy about. It has been one of the most emotionally satisfying, significant and devastating months of my life.  He is leaving to go abroad for a very long time (years) in two weeks (we will have had about 5 weeks together). I’m not sure how I’m dealing with it all.  With the new job I love and a career I’m trying to forge,  I finally accepted the fact that I’m staying here and putting a stake in this place.

ANYHOW: I will be putting together some incredible photos in the subsequent posts.  Stay posted for gorgeous food.  And I mean gorgeous food…

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