Hard Work on Labor Day Weekend

May 1st is Labor Day in France and many European countries. It is also one of the few days where the tram and the buses in Bordeaux do not run. But that weekend was also the Saint Emilion Portes Ouvertes and what else are a bunch of wine nerds to do with a bit of free time? Continue reading

Off to Neverland

While I have a whole list of articles that I’ve been working on and trying to get online, I decided to post this one in honor of my upcoming trip back to Amsterdam. While I don’t think I’ll be able to repeat this particular adventure I am looking forward to heading back to what is rapidly becoming one of my favorite cities.

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IMG_2379Despite the stress of a thesis and exam, I recently found time to hop over to Amsterdam for an unexpected weekend with my parents. Given my high levels of stress and the fact that my mom’s birthday was about 10 days away, we decided to treat ourselves to a nice dinner out.  So after a little careful research we booked a table at Lastage, an intimate 30-seat Michelin starred restaurant on the edge of the infamous Red Light District specializing in Dutch cuisine and classic French technique. It was the best decision we made the entire weekend.

IMG_2381The flexible menu is all about choices and courses, ranging from 3-courses to the 8-course tasting menu. Everything sounded fabulous and we couldn’t decide: the 8 course tasting menu or selecting specific items from the six-course option. There were specific things on the six course menu that stood out:  the soup of fresh peas, terrine of sweetbreads and quail, dark chocolate and blueberry dessert. Of course all of this is complicated on my end by my fish allergy. But in the end, after being assured that our three call outs could be included and that accommodations could be made for me, we decided on the tasting menu. Which of course also included three petites amusés bouches. It sounds like a ton of food but the courses were purposefully small and it was a leisurely meal (about four hours to be exact).

IMG_2382The next big decision we faced was the wine. With the tasting menu we weren’t preview to what would be showing up on our plates and to be perfectly honest I was nerding out over the wine list. Carefully crafted by Sommelier and owner Elise Moeskops, the unique list includes everything from sparkling Hungarian Furmint to Petit Verdot Rosado from Spain in addition to classics such as Bordeaux and Barolo. There were so many fun options to choose from, so much diversity, I couldn’t decide. So we asked the obvious question: is there a wine pairing flight to accompany the tasting menu? And the answer: of course! So off to pairing Neverland we went.

IMG_2383In all seriousness, this was one of the best food and wine pairing flights I have ever experienced. New glasses with each course.  Full pours, none of this wimpy half pour nonsense. Bold and unusual choices: like the above mentioned Petit Verdot Rosado or Merlot Dulce. Different wines for me when the menu deviated due to fish. Good background information about each of the wines and what made them unique: different clone of Trebbiano, unique vinification methods and the winemaker’s “favorite, but not really” vineyard. At the end of the evening we had tried twelve different wines (photos of 11 below) and I would recommend all of them.

Now I have a few key tasks ahead of me. One: Plot my return for another amazing meal. And two: find the Nebbiolo rose we talked about but didn’t get to try.

And now the rest of the photos:

A Whole New Digital Look

Bordeaux is beginning to wake up to the reality that is the modern digital age. Note: I said beginning. They aren’t entirely there yet but I have to give major credit to Margaux Second Growth Chateau Brane Cantenac for their new digital strategy.

Chateau+vinesOf course, this being Bordeaux, the estate has a long and complex history that played a critical role in the estate’s development. I could go into a ton of boring details but I’d rather not, it’s not the purpose of today’s post. In fact, unlike most of the posts I write this was not prompted by an estate visit or even a tasting, rather I want to talk about modernization in Bordeaux. Nevertheless a few contextual details are important. Founded in 18th Century by the Gorce family, today Brane Cantenac is run by Henri Lurton. One of ten children of Lucien Lurton, Henri inherited one of his father’s ten estates and is credited with a dramatic increase in the quality of the estate’s wine. But not only is Henri investing in the quality of the wine but also in making the estate more accessible to the public. A leading component of this charge is the new digital strategy.

Partnering with up-and-coming agency Taylor Yandell, Chateau Brane Cantenac has devoted itself to an entirely new website and digital communication plan. Here again I could bore you with a detailed list of everything that has changed since the launch back in May (yes, that’s how long it’s taken me to get around to writing this post) but I’d rather talk about some of the things they are doing right:

  • Mobile Friendly!!!! It’s amazing how many Bordeaux chateaux still rely on Flash based websites, never mind the fact that the information available on these sites is not available/useable on iPhones or iPads. Not only does the Brane Cantenac site not use any flash it is also easily navigable on an iPhone (yes I tested it) and is responsive to the type of device (again yes I tested this). This is perfect for allowing customers to look up information about the wines or the estate itself on the go.
  • Downloadable Brochures: Ok, this may not seem like a huge deal but again it’s a great way for people to engage with the estate at their own time and pace. As a busy blogger on the go, I often find myself frustrated by poor signal strength or the inability to access data when I need it. A detailed, yet succinct downloadable brochure with powerful imagery that is optimized for my device is a magical thing in these situations.
  • Consistency: Again this would seem to be a given but I have to give kudos for the consistency of the branding across the Brane Cantenac digital presence. 11241430_1000646029959289_8407081107260176349_n
  • A Professional Space: Again a blogger’s best friend. I was able to download all of the imagery for this post off their website without having to resort to saving specific images via the right-hand click or screenshots.
  • Food and Wine Pairings: This is personally one of my favorite things about the new website. As a professional working in the US Wine Industry I recognize how important a tool this is. As a foodie and a nerd, I recognize the thought and care that went into these suggestions. Here too the recipes are downloadable with consistent branding and easy to follow suggestions. And more importantly the food is accessible and approachable. The biggest challenge the estate will face is refreshing these offerings periodically to avoid being stagnant or dare I say it boring.Brane_gastronomy

So now that I’ve praised the praised these efforts, check it out for yourself: