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Under the gun, like Chardonnay capped five and a half atmospheres of pressure, I have been writing furiously to detail my triumphant race to the finish and on the cusp of 2012 I have completed my resolution. Between Chinon and Champagne I cleared the hurdle with two great French wines.

Dinner called for a Chinon—a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley—to makeover the simple meal I made. The wine was an ambassador, not a king from the Loire because I simply spent my last penny on great Champagne. 2008 Charles Joguet “Cuvée Terroir” Chinon from, whom else but Kermit Lynch. Surprisingly, the wine called for a decanter or at least a careful pour because it kicked a ton of sediment. Despite the coarse sediment the wine balanced fruit and greens on the nose and palate perfectly. It was masculine and paired sensibly with the meat.

Content with second, the Chinon would play supporting role to my toast. I have been enchanted with the wines of Vilmart et Cie and was hell bent on concluding an amazing wine-filled year with an excellent bottle of 2001 Coeur de Cuvée. Although I have not had it yet, I imagine it will provide a special end to the year.

With 2012 I am going to make a couple changes to my wine program, counting up instead of down to alleviate pressure and to surpass the total of 500. I hope to be a little more consistent with posts and not rush to the end of the year by catching up. All things considered… a major first for me to follow through on last year’s resolution! I hope you continue reading and have a healthy New Year.

I had the rare opportunity to catch 127 Hours via Netflix and drink a beer—not my go-to beverage—not too long ago. 127 Hours is a harrowing tale of courage and the preservation of life when nature throws the unexpected wrench in the works. I sometimes wonder if I would have the strength to tourniquet myself, sever my arm and press on, but realistically, knowing that I would never be caught in that situation to begin with, at least not rock climbing by myself, it’s a thought experiment at best. Yet, when depicted on the big screen, or on the 42” inch inside my living room, it was riveting, easy to crawl inside this uncomfortable space and ride shotgun with James Franco. I am not at all versed like A.O. Scott in the art of retelling the cinematic story, so I won’t, but, I do feel obligated to share my experience of drinking a compelling Chocolate Stout by Rogue brewery during the feature.

Rogue is an award-winning microbrewery—a bigger microbrewery—situated in Oregon and responsible for crafting serious beers and spirits for a good long time. They are the same brewery responsible for my favorite ale—the Hazelnut Brown Nectar whose nuttiness and refreshingly crisp flavors have given me plenty of tasting pleasure in the past years of occasionally trying beers. I felt it would be only right to explore more offerings from this respected purveyor because they create such a diverse collection of hoppy concoctions and almost all of them are met with great appreciation from people I respect. When I wasn’t quite feeling the Cabernet Franc from Chinon, I decided it was the perfect time to open that 22-ounce Chocolate Stout and take a seat on the couch.

Watching and grimacing, as things got real in the movie I would consistently need to be weaned off the screen, averting my eyes and refreshing my palate by bathing it in the suds of the rich stout that was reminiscent of chocolate Ovaltine (or your malt beverage of choice), roasted coffee and some rolled oats. It finished semi-bitter, revealing its dark chocolate roots.

I managed to finish the bottle of beer (all 650 ml), a rare feat for me since I am often content to share a 12-ounce bottle because beer in general, is too filling. It was a sign of how agreeable this stout was on the palate and while not providing the same dynamics as the film (who knew being holed up in a crevasse in the earth could be so entertaining?), it was delicious. For this wine guy, Rogue’s Chocolate Stout was a hit!

409, not the cleaner (no, I favor Seventh Generation myself), instead 409 represents the number of bottles I have left to taste, after experiencing eight wines from Loire in the Northwest of France on Tuesday night. The Loire Valley has never been a hot spot on my radar of wine consumption; besides purchasing the occasional seven-fifty of Chinon, I have been otherwise willfully ignorant. I knew the area better for pears (D’anjou) than wine. A locals-only region gobbled up by the French and having little impact relative to other regions from France (with regards to the export market) because of the quality-to-price-ratio is excellent, the wines are nevertheless inexpensive and fairly versatile.

The Loire Valley features the most famous of the Gallic rivers—Loire—and produces fine examples of Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc, adored by the Parisians and wine nerds in the know.

The red wines of Loire Valley are known to possess strong herbal and vegetative qualities, rife with bell peppers, graphite and eucalyptus branches; they’re certainly not for everyone. The white wines on the other hand bring great acidity, balance with deposits of minerality, to compliment seafood and other less exotic fare. Food friendly vino.

Due to the massive river and the Atlantic Ocean influence, the climate is varied depending where, inside the valleys the Loire meanders through, you are; there is a continental climate spanning distinct regions with warmer areas owing to the Gulf Stream. The soils are calcareous and loaded with schist, making it a very good growing area for wide variety of vines. As a result the Loire is also responsible for many different wine styles: Crémant, botrytized Chenin Blanc, Rosés of Cabernet and greener Cabernet Franc—Chinon, also known as Breton.

In class we tried an even split of wines, four red and four whites, they were:

08 Domaine du Bourg, Muscadet, Côtes de Grandlieu, Le Pavilion

08 François Chidaine, Les Argiles, Vouvray

06 Ch Pierre-Bise Savenières Roche aux Moines

09 Domaine Sylvain Bailly Sancerre Terroirs

08 Domaine Sylvain Bailly Sancerre Rouge Loucée

08 Ch. Pierre-Bise Anjou Village Sur Schistes

03 Ch. Bel-Air Bourgueil Grand Mont

09 Ch. Bel-Air Bourgueil Jour du Soif

The body of wines showed well, nothing flashy or over-the top, definitely no favorites among the bunch. Within the white wines there were variances in flavors ranging from the Sherry-esque profile expressing toasty and nutty characteristics without having the viscosity on the palate, to more pronounced stone fruit esters. They were replete with good acidity and sometimes, as was the case with the Muscadet, a slight effervescent mouth feel.

The red wines fit the bill as well, a synthesis of vegetal qualities, slight pencil lead notes integrated with softer fruit aromatics of cherry and raspberry. The class did not quite slake my curiosity about the potential of the Loire—especially since I have yet to try the Rosé of Cabernet or the Sweet wines from the region. I feel though that the Loire has taken root inside my brain—the wines are affordable and interesting—and I will begin to adjust and correct the willful omissions from my shopping basket when I peruse the French wines of my local wine shops.

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