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Tasting with Loire Valley Superstar Bertrand Sourdais of Domaine de Pallus By Arnie Millan

I had the good fortune last week to be invited to lunch with Bertrand Sourdais, the dynamic 5th generation winemaker and owner of Domaine de Pallus in Chinon, smack dab in the middle of the Loire Valley. He pulls double duty as a partner and winemaker of two wineries in Spain’s Ribero del Duero region.

Bertrand Sourdais

“Thrilling, brilliant” are adjectives that have applied to the wines crafted by Bertrand Sourdais. Although his family estate is in Chinon in the Loire Valley, he made his international reputation with a Spanish wine, the 2002 Dominio de Atauta “Llanos del Almendro,” from Spain’s Ribera del Duero. In a celebrated blind tasting organized by two Europe’s most respected wine critics, Bertrand’s 2002 Atauta tied with the 1994 Vega Sicilia’s Unico, beating out the 2000 Château Latour; this was a shocking result as it was Bertrand’s first commercial vintage as winemaker.

Check out this Video of the vineyards!

Just after graduating from Enology school in Bordeaux, Bertrand apprenticed at Mouton-Rothschild, Santa Rita in Chile and Alvaro Palacios in Priorat. Bertrand took his first post as winemaker at Atauta in Ribero del Duero. After he left Atauta, Bertrand started Bodegas Antidoto and Dominio de ES, both in Ribera del Duero.

At lunch, Bertrand revealed that he was fired by the new owners of Atauta back in 2008. Even though he did not elaborate, the firing must have been a dramatic turning point in his life and, thirteen years on, you can still see it in his eyes. It still hurts. Yet I believe that the firing ignited a passionate determination to work only for himself with a fierce drive to succeed.


So he founded a new winery, with partner David Hernando, an agronomist, called Antidoto. Antidoto means antidote and it was just the perfect cure for Bertrand’s Atauta blues. It was no coincidence that they located Antidoto in the Soto de San Esteban zone in the Soria province, just a stone’s throw from Atauta!

Duero Vines

At the same time, Bertrand’s father wanted to retire and to turn the estate in Chinon over to Bertrand. Bertrand was eager to take the reins of his family estate in addition to his commitment in Ribera del Duero. Bertrand told me he drives 8 hours each way from Pallus to Antidoto and back. That determined dedication is impressive and I think it is fueled by his traumatic firing from Atauta nearly ten years ago. Those wounds are still raw to this day.

Chinon is a prestigious appellation, mostly for Cabernet Franc, located in the center of the Loire Valley. It produces some of France’s meatiest Cabernet Francs which are sometimes compared to Bordeaux. As this is Bertrand’s home, his family estate, Domaine de Pallus, takes pride of place over his Spanish estates.


Bertrand farms his vineyards organically, using biodynamic treatments. Yields are kept low, sometimes too low (under 1 ton/acre!).

Below are the wines we tasted with Bertrand.

Pallus 2014 Les Pensées de Pallus: Les Pensées boasts a dark ruby color with aromas of dried herbs, anise and rosemary. On the palate, there is medium-to-full bodied fruit of tart black plum, black currant, black tea and bright acidity leading to a vibrant mineral finish. In stock at Esquin.

We also tasted, for the first time:

Pallus 2016 Les Messanges: Bertrand’s entry level Chinon, the. This is delightful fruity wine of elegance and balance. Available soon.

Antidoto 2015 Ribera del Duero: this is 100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) produced from grapes from the Soto de San Esteban zone in the Soria province, the cooler part of Ribera del Duero. Just released, this is a serious wine that can age. Available soon.

Pallus 2017 Messanges Chinon Rosé: A dry, crisp Cabernet Franc rosé perfect for Spring and Summer drinking. Fire up the outdoor grill! Available soon.

Antidoto 2017 Roselito Ribera del Duero: This complex Rosé is produced from 80% Tinto Fino and 20% Albillo Mayor, a little known local white grape indigenous to Ribera del Duero. Available soon.

Click for a Fact Sheet with more information on Bertrand Sourdais


Arnie Millan is Esquin’s European Buyer. In July, 2014, Arnie was featured in the Seattle Times as “The Finest Wine Mind in Seattle.”

Children of the Vine : Bodegas Lurton Araucano Clos de Lolol

Dynasty noun – a succession of people from the same family who play a prominent role in business, politics, or another field.

The Lurton Family can trace its winemaking roots in Bordeaux back to the 17th century. But it was the marriage of Denise Recapet to Francois Lurton in 1923 that the story of this family dynasty begins. Denise and François Lurton had four children, André was born in 1924, Lucien in 1925, Simone in 1929 and Dominique in 1932.

André, married to Elizabeth Garros, received the family home, Château Bonnet. In 40 years he amassed property totaling 600 hectares situated primarily in Entre-deux-Mers and the Pessac-Léognan appellation, of which he was one of the founders in 1987. Today, the fourth and fifth generations of Lurton’s control 27 Bordeaux châteaux. Everything from Bordeaux’s largest producer, Chateau Bonnet which is run by patriarch Andre Lurton to 2nd growth Margaux property Chateau Brane Cantenac to Château Cheval Blanc and Château d’Yquem.

Today the family has wine interests on most continents and almost all major wine growing regions. In their turn, Andre’s sons, François and Jacques, acquired wine estates in Chile, Argentina, Portugal, Spain and the Languedoc.


“If I were a vine, I would choose to be planted in Chile.” François Lurton

François and Jacques Lurton found this “dream land” whilst working as consultants for the San Pedro vineyards. The first bottles of Araucano, the name of the last of Chile’s indigenous people, was first released in 1997. In 2000, François bought 200 hectares of land in the valley of Colchagua. The valley around the town of Lolol, had that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’, that combination of high altitude clay-limestone soils, radical diurnal temperature change and the cooling influence of the morning fog.


The estate is located in a high valley that runs from East to West, which funnels cold air from the Pacific Ocean. The large temperature differences between the sea and the land causes a white fog “Humo Blanco” to develop, which can be seen most mornings just above the estate vineyards. Hot, dry days and foggy, cool nights, textbook perfect conditions for growing great wine.

The Lurton family bring literally centuries of winemaking knowledge to bear on this project. But, Francois is a forward thinking man with a vision. Francois Lurton employs 10 full time enologist that work across France, Argentina, Spain and Chile. 2012 the Araucano wines obtained organic certification. In 2013, Hacienda Araucano obtained biodynamic certification (Demeter). The winery is also 100% solar powered.

Lolol is one of the new coastal appellations in Chile. This wine represents the essence of the cool climate of Lolol. It is made up of the best plots of four grape varieties that excel in the valley: Carmenère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. This blend was put together by Francois himself. The grapes are handpicked, double sorted and then left for a lengthy cold soak to gently extract the fruity aromas and smooth tannins. Once fermented separately the different grape varieties are blended together and are aged in French oak for 18 months. A true Chilean wine with a French touch.

Clos de Lolol Red Wine 2013 (Chile) $14.99 / Save $10

“Woodsy, spicy aromas of herbal plum and berry come with a light coating of chocolate. A round, rubbery palate is tight in the long run. Saturated plum and blackberry flavors are oaky in front of an extracted finish that runs long and doesn’t hold back. Drink through 2022.” 91 pts Wine Enthusiast

92 James Suckling, 91 pts Wine Advocate

“There’s never been a better time to buy Chilean wine.” James Suckling, “Indeed, hundreds of outstanding quality wines are entering the market. It doesn’t hurt that the current vintages available, especially for reds, are fantastic – mostly 2013, 2014, and 2015.”


Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet and Cahors


Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked casserole originating in the south of France, made with duck confit, sausage and beans. Served with good crusty bread and a good bottle of hearty wine Cassoulet is just about the finest warden against the cold dark night.

There are as many versions of Cassoulet as there are French grandmothers and Chefs. Some include Lamb, pork shoulder or even partridge. Below I give you a basic version that comes very close to traditional.

Lenny’s Quick Cassoulet
4 ounces bacon, diced
1 cups chopped onion (3/4 lb))
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup carrot, peeled diced
1 lb Sausage links, cooked and sliced
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp thyme
1each bay leaf
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 (14-oz) can stewed tomatoes, chopped with juice
2 each confit duck legs*
1 14 ounce can white beans
2 cups beef broth
1 Tbl tomato paste
2 Tbl olive oil
1 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

In a large pot render diced bacon
2. Add carrots, onion and celery cook until translucent
3. Add sliced sausage
4. Add herbs and season
5. Add tomatoes, beef broth and tomato paste
6. Add duck confit legs
7. Drain and rinse beans and add to pot
8. Cover and simmer for 1 hour9.
Remove bones from cassoulet adjust seasoning if necessary. In a pan heat olive oil and toast bread crumbs. To serve portion out cassoulet and top with bread crumbs and chopped parsley. Serve with crusty bread and a hearty red wine.

Cassoulet calls out for a hearty wine, say Cotes du Rhone, Madiran or Cahors. Malbec has been made famous in Argentina where it produces lovely fruit forward reds, in Cahors where the grape is called Cot the wines are a little more rustic. Cahors is a small AOC wine region located in southwest France (the land of Cassoulet). The AOC is only for red wines, which must be made from a minimum of 70% Malbec and up to 30% Merlot or Tannat. Cahors Malbec tend to be deeper in color, more structured and fuller bodied than their Argentine counterparts.

Château Eugénie has been in the hands of the same family of winegrowers for generations. Their great great grandmother gave her name to the property.

Chateau Eugenie Cahors Tradition ’13 (France) $9.99 btl / save $4
Like most Tradition wines in Cahors, this fruity and perfumed wine has been aged in stainless steel to keep the fruitiness. Blackberry flavors are cut with acidity and a tight tannic character. Drinking beautifully right now!

With the weather the way it is I suggest putting on a pot, open a nice bottle of Cahors and don’t forget the bread.

Wines of the Rhône Valley Classes March 19 and 26

Beginning Sunday March 19th, Esquin’s Arnie Millan will host a two-part series of classes

focused on the wines of the Rhone, their history and their effects on the world of wine.

The Rhone Valley is home to some of France’s greatest wines, from noble Hermitage in the North to celebrated Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the South. The ancient Greeks and Romans planted vines here. The Papacy moved here for a brief but unforgettable period, thereafter bringing great prestige to the area.

In short, this is a region with a wondrous past yet whose present achievements in wine attract the world’s attention. The wines of the Rhone continue to exert a huge influence on wines being produced around the world, from Washington State to Australia and South Africa.

The first class, on Sunday March 19th, features the Northern Rhone Valley from Cote-Rotie, Hermitage, Saint Joseph, Cornas to Saint- Peray.

The second class, on Sunday March 26th, explores the Southern Rhone Valley with its great villages dominated by the renowned Chateauneuf- du-Pape.

We will taste 8 wines per class from the region’s greatest appellations. Cost is $79 per class or $145 for the two-part series.

The classes will be held on on Sundays, from 1:30 – 4:00 p.m. in Esquin Wine & Spirits Sky Lounge at 2700 4th Avenue S., just South of the stadiums in SODO. Free parking is available in Esquin’s lot on the South end of the building.

Gift Certificates are available.

The Seattle Times has named Arnie “The finest Wine Mind in Seattle.”

To register, please click on the following links:

Rhone Valley Entire 2 Class Series
March 19th class: The North
March 26th Class: The South

or call Esquin at 206-682-7374 or email Arnie.

Domaine de la Pépière ‘Cuvee Granit’ VdP Loire ’14

PepiereThis little gem was recently brought to our attention, and wow – what a find. Domaine de la Pépière is in the Muscadet country in Nantes, in the western part of the Loire. Now, Muscadet is known for its white wines but here’s to hoping this lovely little red gets other vignerons in the area thinking outside the box a bit.

Cuvée Granit is a blend of Cab Sauvignon, Côt (aka Malbec), and Cab Franc on a vineyard with south-western exposure that is strewn with granite – hence the name. The other red vines are still relatively young, but the Cab Franc vines clock in at an impressive (for the area at least) 40+ years old.

Incredibly bright and focused, both on the nose and the palate, the wine showed off fresh notes of raspberry, cranberry, white pepper and pomegranate with enough darker, riper fruits on the finish to keep you interested coming back for more. Lots of minerality, as would be expected considering the soil, with a touch of smokiness and a hint of roasted peppers.

There’s clear structure to the wine and given time, this will settle down from its youthful pep into a very versatile food wine for the summer months. Serve this at cellar temperature when the weather warms back up and you’ll be the hit of the party.

Powerhouse Cotes du Rhone

Andezon Cotes du RhoneCotes du Rhone has been a go-to wine for me for years. It’s always an inexpensive, safe bet. There’s a lot of good examples I try regularly, but what does it take to stand out from the pack? Well, you’ve got to have some serious sizzle. I found it in the 2010 Andezon Cotes du Rhone.

The first thing that caught my attention about the Andezon (after realizing that it did not actually say Amazon) was the blend. Most Cotes du Rhones tend to be very Grenache-intensive. The Andezon,  however, is almost exclusively Syrah. (90% if you must know.) It reminds me of another favorite Cotes du Rhone, the Saint Cosme, which is an all-Syrah standout.

This is a big, brawny red. It doesn’t get it’s muscle from oak, though. The Andezon is fermented old-school, in concrete tanks. It’s delicious on it’s own but if you wondering what goes best with this delicious red, I’d say pair this bruiser with a bacon cheeseburger. Or anything you can eat with one hand so as not to obstruct a clear path to your glass.

My Favorite Affordable White Wine

Cassagnoles Gros MansengI have to admit that I’ve been going a little crazy over this wine. (And I’m not the only one here; it’s a staff favorite as well.) And sure, there are a few obstacles to overcome when recommending this wine. Like, for starters, the name: 2010 Domaine des Cassagnoles Reserve Selection Cuvee Gros Manseng Cotes de Gascogne. Yikes! I’m already flummoxed. But let me council some patience.

Would it help to say, “Oh, it’s a Gros Manseng from Gascogny.” Umm…maybe not so much. But, as a champion of the obscure and delicious, I’d probably just mention that I love the white wines from Gascogny. Most are a cheap and cheerful blend of such grapes as the aforementioned Gros Manseng along with Ugni Blanc (!) and Colombard.

But this Gros Manseng distinguishes itself from the charming wines of Gascogny by having an unexpected golden richness and texture. And then it finishes very refreshing. For under $15, it’s hard to think of a wine that has so many layers and so much interest. What a pleasure to drink! I love finding wines that surprise you like the Cassagnoles. Every time I open a new bottle, I think, “Is this as good as I remember it?” And then I take my first (of many) sips and my response is always, “It’s even better than I remember it.”

Enjoy this wine with an ocean of crab and/or a pile of lobster rolls. Because you just saved all that dough on wine, right?

A Loire Chateau Lunch

muscadet 054
I would have been content just to stroll through the gate at Chateau l’Oiseliniere, gaze at this stately, elegant, iconic home, and turn around and head directly back to the van. It was, however, an embarrassment of riches as I as able to tour the surrounding vineyards, sample a variety of delicious Muscadets, and have one of the most charming home-cooked lunches imaginable. If I didn’t have the photos to corroborate the previous two sentences, I might have though it was all a reverie brought on by my penchant for 19th Century French literature. So rather than gauzy, filtered memories, I have some sharp images to share.

muscadet 064
Above is proprietor Georges Verdier showing us that flowering has begun on the Melon de Bourgogne vines, which means that harvest should begin in about 90 days. Our lesson in grape growing over, it was time to sample the fruits of his labor. We found out that Muscadet is not only popular with those of us who love crisp, dry, refreshing white wines, but also (strangely enough) with felines:

muscadet 093
Our appetites primed by a dizzying array of bracing, memorable Muscadets, we went into the dining room to find a black olive, spinach, and onion tart with a whole wheat crust. This was no quiche; it had just enough binder to keep it together. I thought this would be more of a dish for a rosé, but the briny black olives brought out the salty, mineral-tinged aspect of the Muscadet. Brilliant.

muscadet 101
Next it was time for some white asparagus. I found myself counting my blessings for being in the Loire in time for both strawberry and asparagus season. We enjoyed a white asparagus custard surrounded by a green pea puree. Whoever says asparagus is difficult to pair with wine needs to try it with a richer-style, vegetable-loving Muscadet.

muscadet 106
We finished with langoustines atop a simple salad of garden-fresh vegetables. This seemed to be the penultimate dish to have with Muscadet, which is simply one of the finest wines to have with seafood, period.

muscadet 112
Here is the ubiquitous “I was there” photo that I include not out of vanity but to illustrate I have pen and paper by my side, dutifully taking notes. And although you can’t see it, I have actually glued myself to the chair I am sitting in, as I thought this was the most rational plan to make sure I never had to leave. Please forward my mail care of Chateau l’Oiseliniere.

muscadet 105

Full disclosure: I am a sponsored guest of the Loire Valley Wine Bureau on this trip.

The Bordeaux Report: 2009 and 2010

Our own Arnie Millian is chronicling his recent European wine adventure, starting with Bordeaux. If you are curious about the heavily hyped and highly regarded vintages of 2009 and 2010 (and what Bordeaux from 1949 and 1961 tastes like), click here.


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