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Gold Medal Wine Club
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Welcome to Gold Medal Wine Club. America's Leading Independent Wine Club since 1992. Celebrating 20+ Years!
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France - Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley


with over 2600 years of winemaking experience. Salut!

It is easy to observe the contentment of top tier French wine producers whose wines are situated above the normal levels of buying and selling. Their wines and reputations safely secure their places in the top stores and fine restaurant lists around the world. The remainder of the French wine business is not as fortunate as its elevated peers.

The rest of French wine production must compete with the wine producing world for sales and placement. In many cases, this competition is a cutthroat environment, worthy of plots in novels and magazines.

The Rhone Valley of Southern France is most certainly in this latter category. Their top tier wines, Hermitage and Cote Rotie, are secure and sell all of their relatively small production. Chateauneuf du Pape’s excellent reputation makes its sales chores easier. But, beyond that, the remainder of the huge Rhone production must claw its way into international recognition and acceptance. It had proven to be no easy job.

Many of the Rhone’s smaller communes, Cairanne, Rasteau and a number of Languedoc communes (including Minervois and Corbieres), sit on the threshold of upgraded appellations and expanded sales opportunities. A number of excellent wines are being produced by these relatively unknown growing areas at this point. Some of their better wines are certainly able to garner acclaim in international competitions if given the chance.

Recently, a number of British wine industry publications have begun the process to call interest to these seeming injustices within the wine world. Top British writers point out the similarities of growing conditions and the fervent strides many independent producers have chosen to get their messages across in the form of truly significant wines.

The obvious beneficiaries of these actions is the consuming public, the ultimate decision maker as to which wines are truly best. Many excellent Southern Rhone wines continue to be excellent price/value entries in a world where bargains seem fewer and fewer. The adventure that results in a new found wine that is even better than its price is a most pleasant accompaniment to dinner, and the wines of the Southern Rhone fit well into most parameters.

A short while ago, many of these wines were simply called Cotes du Rhone, an appellation with limited explanation and practically no upward mobility. It is now possible to enjoy these emerging estates and see for yourselves the quality currently emanating from this particular part of France.

We are delighted that our International Series can bring some of these marvelous wines to your attention. We hope you find them as stimulating to drink as we did in selecting them for this International Series Wine Club shipment.


  1. Villeneuve
    2009 Proprietary Red Blend
    Villeneuve
    Chateauneuf du Pape, France
    International

    $48.50

    $60.00
    91 - Robert Parker
    id: 1159
    Special
    International
  2. Escarvailles
    2010 Cotes du Rhone
    Escarvailles
    France
    International

    $14.50

    $18.00
    Exclusive Import
    id: 1160
    Special
    International
  3. La Domitienne
    2011 Pique Poul
    La Domitienne
    France
    International

    $12.00

    $14.00
    Exclusive Import
    id: 1161
    Special
    International

Three Winemakers you should know

As in a number of European and French wine producing regions, winemakers in the southern Rhone take a distinct back seat to the properties historical and commerce reputations.

At Domaine de Villeneuve, Stanislas Wallut, son of one of the owners is the winemaker. He is a proponent of biodynamic farming and has strict policies concerning his winemaking techniques.

At Domaine des Escaravailles, Gilles Ferran is a graduate enologist with extraordinary credentials. His best friend, Philippe Cambie, serves as consultant winemaker.

Finally, well-respected winemaker Xavier-Luc Linglin is a veteran of the Languedoc winemaking community. He has directed the new high tech winemaking facility at Meze, on the northern edge of the L’Etang de Thau, since its inception.

Three French Wineries

Domaine de Villenueve - Chateauneuf du Pape
The current property that makes up the Domaine de Villenueve was purchased in a state of great neglect by the de Blicquy and Wallut families in 1993. The estate is comprised of 20 acres of older vines, from 30 years to over 100 years old. It is made up of a mixture of soils including red clay and sand, including the signature river-smoothed cobblestones known as galets roules. It is comprised of a number of varietals including grenache, mourvedre, syrah, cinsault , clairette, muscardin and vaccerese. Domaine de Villenueve’s location in the northern part of the Chateauneuf du Pape Appellation is immediately adjacent to highly regarded Chateau de Beaucastle, arguably the area’s finest single wine. This proximity speaks well for Domaine de Villenueve’s fruit, which has improved favorably under the present ownership. The estate is also completely biodynamic, making it somewhat unique in that section of the Rhone Valley. It is also certified by ECOCERT and uses no chemicals except sulphur. The term chateauneuf du pape originated in the 14th Century (1308) when Pope Clement V relocated the papal residency to Avignon. The term literally means ‘new home of the pope’ and had become synonymous with hearty red wines from the Rhone Valley.

Domaine des Escaravailles asteau - Three generations of the Ferran family have owned Domaine des Escaravailles, a period of almost fifty years. Jean-Louis Ferran bought several hillside parcels above the southern Rhone villages of Rasteau, Roaix and Cairanne. He named the properties ‘Escaravailles’ the Occitan (an old Romance dialect) term for beetles. It also referred to the black-robed monks that inhabited the area’s numerous hill-perched monasteries. The mantel was next passed to son Jean-Louis’ son, Daniel Ferran. In 1999, grandson Gilles Ferran assumed the duties at the estate after Gilles’ graduation in enology at the nearby University of Montpelier. Today’s modern Domaine des Escaravailles is a state-of- the-art facility built into the hillside of Rasteau surrounded by terraced vineyards. It involves nearly 160 acres under vine that are planted in clay-limestone plots. The vineyards are planted at an average of 600 feet with steep slopes, considered as high altitude plantings for the southern Rhone Valley. These conditions helps for great drainage for the vines, and a helpful thermal amplitude between day and night temperatures. The fortunes of Rasteau and some neighboring communes are continuing to improve. Two years ago, the IANO (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine) promoted Rasteau and allowed for the deletion of the former Cotes du Rhone appellation that had proved unwieldy for the past three decades. Producers such as Domaine des Escaravailles hailed this new honor and have vowed to continue their upward battle for name and quality recognition.

La Domitienne - Languedoc: The enchantingly named La Domitienne is made from the Picpoul (Piquepol) Blanc, one of the early varietals that inhabit the southeastern French coast along the Mediterranean. It has its own appellation that it shares with its identical grapes the Picpol (Piquepol) Noir and Picpol (Piquepol )Gray. The vineyards are the property of the Bonfils Family and occupy sections in the sub areas of Minervois and Corbieres. While the entire Languedoc region includes numerous growers, the relative small Picpoul de Pinet growing region has only 26 independent producers. The name La Domitienne is named after the ancient road, Via Domitia, which divides the two growing zones, one in the North and the other in the South. The Via Domitia was the Roman road that allowed Roman soldiers to control all of Southern Gaul. The Picpoul de Pinet is also the only appellation within Languedoc that is entirely devoted to white wines. It was granted appellation status in 1985, ahead of many of its neighboring growing areas. The wines produced in Picpoul de Pinet have a lemony appeal on the palate, perfectly suited to oysters. The nearby Thau Basin is considered one of the Mediterranean’s prized locations for shellfish, and delicious oysters.

About The Region

Of the four main French wine producing regions (along with Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne), the wonderfully picturesque Rhone Valley has developed legions of followers during the past two centuries. There are several reasons for this growth in popularity. First of all, the Southeastern location provides a gentler, more regulated growing season. Also, the region benefits from a more flexible appellation that allows for multiple varietal inclusion. Foremost beneficiary is the renown Chateauneuf du Pape appellation, where thirteen different varietals are allowed in the makeup of its well-respected wines.

In America, Chateauneuf du Pape has grown in popularity for the past fifty years. It is one of the French wines that is easy to pronounce and the diversity and complexity of wines produced within its boundaries allows for a wide variety of taste experiences. Its wines are also very dependable, particularly in years when its Bordeaux and Burgundy cousins produce less than stellar wines.

Languedoc, however, is a vastly different matter. Its wines have only seen American shelves and wine list inclusion for approximately two decades. It is a huge wine -growing region, accounting for more than a third of France’s total production. In former years, the region’s wines were relegated to lower status, but a great deal has changed in recent years. Fostered by quality-oriented appellations, a number of individual producers have emerged that have produce some high-tier wines for consumption within France and throughout the world. Some of Languedoc’s (pronounced Lang-gue-duc) quality wines have impressed in international competitions and have made the entire region a place to watch for the future. With excellent price/value relationships still available, Languedoc has steadily risen in both statue and popularity.


Flank Steak with Garlic Wine Sauce


Ingredients

1 medium head of garlic
1 1/2 lbs. flank steak
salt to taste
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbs. butter
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 cup dry red wine


Instructions

Cut head of garlic in half, place on a square of foil, and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Squeeze roasted garlic cloves out of skins, and mash into a puree. Set aside. Sprinkle steak with salt and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium high heat, but do not add fat. When hot, cook seasoned steak until seared and well browned on both sides, about a minute per side. Reduce heat to medium, and add 2 Tablespoons of the butter. Continue to cook for 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Remove meat, and keep warm. Pour off the fat in the skillet, and add the scallions and red wine. Bring to a boil, and whisk in the garlic puree. Boil until the wine is reduced by half, and is thick and syrupy. As it boils, scrape up browned bits with a wooden spoon. Stir in the meat juices that have accumulated under the steak. Boil for another second or so. Remove from the heat, and stir in the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter until it is incorporated into the wine sauce. Quickly slice the meat against the grain, into thin strips. Arrange on a hot platter, and pour the sauce down the center of the slices. Serve at once.




Pot Roast Carbonnade


Ingredients

1/2 lb. slab bacon, cut into large lardons
2 medium onions, sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 1/2 lbs. beef chuck, cut into large cubes 5 carrots, peeled & cut into large chunks
1 generous Tbs. flour
12 oz. beer (dark or light, your preference
6 prunes
1 Tbs. dried thyme
1 cup beef stock


Instructions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat, add the bacon and cook until it renders its fat and almost becomes crispy. Remove it with a slotted spoon to a plate. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and cook over low heat until they are deep in color and caramelized, about 30 min. Remove the onions to a plate, leaving as much fat in the pot as possible. Add the vegetable oil and mix it with the bacon fat. Raise the heat to high. Season the beef liberally with salt and pepper and sear, in batches, until nicely browned on both sides.
Once the meat is browned, add the first batch of meat back to the pan along with the onions, carrots and bacon. Sprinkle in the flour and stir. Cook for 1 minute before deglazing the pan with the beer. Add the remaining ingredients and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover the pot and put it in the oven to braise until the beef is tender, about 2 hours. Remove the pot from the oven and transfer the pot roast to a serving dish.



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