a word from our sponsor

jean paul masIn the interest of putting to rest the rumors that I’ve devolved into a wino, it’s high time I introduce you to the man who’s brought me to the south of France: Jean Claude Mas, owner and winemaker of Domaines Paul Mas, which comprises seven estates spread across the crus of the Languedoc – most of which I’ve by now had the chance to imbibe. Jean Claude is an ambassador of sorts for both his family owned estate and a unique concept called “le luxe rural,” or affordable, everyday luxury. There’s no pretense about him, just as there’s no pretense to his wines. And more importantly, Mas isn’t selling some imagined romantic notion a la Ralph Lauren, but bringing the best facets of the rural way of life center stage; made by hand and built on traditions that stretch back to his grandfather, who first farmed a small vineyard close to the estate.  It’s an intoxicating conceit because it smacks of authenticity, not just marketing savvy. Mas talks the talk, but he also lives the life: utilizing the local farms, promoting local craftsmen, pressing his own olive oil, commissioning local artists, even creating a line of clothing line based on provincial designs and textiles. Wine, it turns out, is but the tip of a far grander ambition: taking the ordinary out of the quotidian. Now that’s a life we all could live.

domaine paul mas


9,999 bottles of cremant on the wall

9999 bottles of cremant


mauzac de limoux

IMG_2321Following a little dirt road along the Martinollet River as it winds its way through vineyards, olive trees, and garrigue in the shade of the Pyrenees, it eventually ends at the modest estate of Chateau Martinolles, part of Domaines Paul Mas. This part of Languedoc is rich in heritage. In Medieval times Cathars settled in the area to escape – ever so briefly – persecution by the Catholic Church. Nearby is the Abbey St. Hilaire, where in 1531 the method for creating sparkling wine was discovered and Prima Perla, the first bubble, was born. The rugged climate and topography together create a superb terroir for chardonnay and pinot noir grapes, but it’s Mauzac that stands out. A local varietal, it’s the key to Blanquette de Limoux and Cremant de Limoux, two effervescent AOC sparkling wines redolent with apples and freshly cut grass.


almost-live blog: swanson vineyards

No visit to the Napa Valley would be complete without stopping into one the hundreds of vineyards that cover the valley like kudzu.  Throwing a dart at a map, I ended up at Swanson Vineyards, a cheeky little producer of delightfully decadent – yet accessible – estate wines.

Greeted outside with a glass of crisp and cheery Rosato I was soon happily ensconced in their  louche and luxurious salon. The Harvey Tasting is an informally formal tasting experience that covers the breadth and depth of Swanson’s cellars:  a 2008 Chardonnay was perfectly paired with caviar on potato chips; the Merlot was served with an intriguing hard cheese, Mimolette Vieux; a ripe, ruby Petite Sirah – my favorite – was made even more complex with a sliver of cave-aged Gruyere; a Vosges Haut Chocolat bonbon made the perfect foil to a 2006 Alexis, an estate blend; and paired with a well-veined Danish blue Castello, the 2005 Tardif was as magnificent as any French Sauternes.

Needless to say it made for a most entertaining – if boozy – afternoon.  I left with a couple of bottles intended for home, reflecting on the benefit of occasionally embracing the music of chance.


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