A Memorable Journey in My Glass, Revisiting the Loire Valley

Cabernet Franc vines in Chinon

 Last night yearning for a Cabernet Franc I wandered out in the freezing cold in search of a Chinon. To my surprise my little wine shop around the corner had a wine that I had tasted while visiting a small vineyard in the Loire Valley! I’ve always believed there is a story behind every wine. From the aspects of the soil and surroundings to the soul of a passionate vintner each glass contains a liquid history that tells the story of it’s origin. This belief combined with the power of memory that an aroma can evoke transported me back to the Loire Valley when I opened this gem of a wine.

Two years ago I had visited the Loire Valley while on a 6 month long French wine discovery tour. Making my base in Tours I traveled to many different sub regions within this breathtakingly beautiful part of France filled with castles, caves and friendly people!

I first met Nicolas Grosbois a vintner specialising in Chinon at a New York tasting. After a few failed attempts to visit his vineyard I finally made plans to meet and taste with him at his estate a few days after his harvest. A friend had suggested I make my journey with an acquaintance named  Benoit who would also make a few stops along the way.

 Our first stop was in Vouvray at Mark Bredif to taste an array of wines from bone dry to lusciously sweet made from Chenin Blanc. This grape does best in the tuffeau soil of the region, a calcareous limestone also used to build the chateaux and caves for wine storage. Next to this tasting room and wine making facility was a hotel with rooms carved into the side of the cliffs of this porous soil.

As we tasted I was brought back into the production room to watch the crush of the newly harvested grapes. Tasting a variety of vintages and styles of Chenin Blanc we retreated to the small cave area to enjoy a glass of sparkling Brut Extreme before we ventured on to our next stop.

Ancient press in Bredif Cellars


A short ride later we made another stop at a wine storage cave carved deep into the hills. Benoit explained many vintners store wine in this naturally cool environment to age. We wandered back into the dark cavern for a bit checking out this hidden storage facility. As I walked into this dark tunneled area I couldn’t help but wonder how this was dug so many years ago by hand!

Benoit at entrance to cave

Making one last stop we walked the streets of a small village and stopped for cafe au lait before heading to Grobois. Rows of Cabernet Franc where also growing on the edge of this village making me eager to get to our destination. Finally arriving we where greeted by the sight of 9 hectares of Cabernet Franc grapes growing amongst the ruins of a historic chateaux that is on the property.

Warmly welcomed by Nicolas, his father and a half dozen busy workers we where given a tour and brief history of this vineyard devoted solely to Cabernet Franc. Nicolas Grobois took over the vineyard in 2006 after 10 years of study in Oregon, New Zealand and Australia. His belief that each wine speaks of the individual site aspect or terroir has led him to adopt a natural method of winemaking using no pesticides or chemicals in the vineyard composed of a mix of clay and limestone. The grapes are hand harvested from a mix of vines with an average age of 45 years, only stainless steel is used for fermentation/aging to preserve the flavors of the fruit.

Invited into the home to taste Grobois’s wines spoke of his passion and dedication to his craft. Wonderful aromas wafted up from my glass filling my nose with scents of pencil shavings, minerals and dark earthy fruit! The lush silky taste was full of plums with a mouthwatering finish. As we tasted Benoit wandered out to watch the workers sort and crush the recent harvest. We felt honored to be visiting at this the busiest time of year, having the opportunity to see first hand the beginnings of a new vintage.

As we left to make our way back to Tours we stopped to take a few last photos of the vines.We both remarked what a memorable experience we had on this warm sunny fall day! I hope to find more of Grosbois’s wines in the New York market as each time I find a bottle it transports me back to this amazing day of tasting.

Famille Grobois Gabare 08, Chinon is available at Nini Wine Cellars, 132 Havemeyer Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn



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