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Verdant Vales & Goblet Tales: We look at some of the world’s most enchanting vineyards

Travel to some of the world’s most enchanting vineyards offering unforgettable experiences along with boutique, limited edition, pedigree and award winning wines!

By KISHORE AND SMITA IYENGAR

Wines offer thrillingly unpredictable experiences, creating an enigmatic repertoire in every barrique, bottle and palate. Our diverse yet memorable vineyard sojourns opened our quest to outstanding sensory repertoire that we’d like to share with you.

CLOS DE L’OBAC – COSTERS DEL SIURANA, GRATALLOPS, PRIORAT-CATALUNYA – SPAIN

CLOS DE L’OBAC - COSTERS DEL SIURANA, GRATALLOPS, PRIORAT-CATALUNYA – SPAIN
CARLES PASTRANA WITH HIS AWARD WINNING, BOUTIQUE CATALONIAN WINES

Tiny, remote, fascinating. This non-descript winery in the rugged terrain of Catalunya offered us bottle-aged, boutique wine symphonies we’ll never forget. More since we savored the magic in unusual settings! Carles Pastrana, the energetic owner and ace winemaker set us down to two jewels that have consistently scored international recognition. The robust, handsome and whole-bodied red 2007 Dolc de L’Obac – a marriage of grenache, cabernet sauvignon and syrah challenged our taste buds with electrifying assertion. A strong nose of tanned leather, black truffles and rosewood went on to the quaffing that laid bare expansive flavors of deep oak, tobacco, pepper and black currant all in sync. The back palate was pronounced with lingering musk.

The cascading stream down below petite pretty village Viella Baixa nearby lured us to chatty women sorting out giant Almendras(Spanish almonds) in a garage. Welcoming us with smiles to taste some of those delicious nuts roasted and glazed with honey, we uncorked a splendid 2006 Miserere handpicked by Carles. An outstanding red from old vine stock, it packed a suave presentation with Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Grenache, Carinena and Merlot surprising our senses with open-book deep ruby tones, cigar box and burnt wood flavors. Salude!

GROVER ZAMPA VINEYARDS – NANDI HILLS, KARNATAKA, SOUTH INDIA

GROVER ZAMPA  VINEYARDS - NANDI HILLS, KARNATAKA, SOUTH INDIA
SPRAWLING PICTURE PERFECT VINE ROWS OF GROVER ZAMPA VINEYARDS

The scenic Nandi Hills near Bangalore is home to the verdant Grover Zampa Vineyards and winery, India’s most revered and renowned, creating India’s most awarded and globally recognized wines in their most eco-friendly environment. The vineyard locale was a favorite retreat destination for Tipu Sultan, the erstwhile Muslim ruler of southern Indian dominions, centuries ago. Greeting us with a finely chilled, jasmine and pink rose tinged ‘Grover Art Collection Rose’ was Sumedh Singh Mandla -CEO, an erudite wine lover himself. We quaffed in the irresistible charm of the vine rows over wine talk . The chirping symphony of scores of birds on leafy overhangs added to a relaxed pace.

The cellars showcased their award winning labels celebrated in India and overseas. The unmistakable grand monarch among all Indian reds –their prized ‘Grover La Reserve’ Red in a Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon blend waltzed on our palates with its full-bodied coffee beans, cigar, musk and vanilla flavors, while spicy, fruity aromas lingered on our olfactory. That eclectic, we exclaimed. The discreetly suave ‘Grover La Reserve Blanc’ with Viognier combo offered delicate aromas of honeysuckle, apricot, lilies and fresh pineapple. On the palate, the wine makes merry with citrus, kiwi fruit and passion fruit overtones.

The fertile terroir with light limestone and slate mineral content around Nandi Hills abundantly assert on the vines. The super trilogy of Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz-Viognier enchant in the charming blend ‘VA Reserve Collection Red’ (VA – for Vijay Amritraj –the former tennis champion). The wine is delightful with a deep purple body, dark fruit, pepper, moist oak and currant bouquets. Sipping it reveals fine flavors of smooth tannins, balanced with violet, wild mushroom and truffle back palates. Fabulous wine that!

But the King of Kings, rated as one of India’s most expensive premium reds with impeccable sensory credentials is their ‘Zampa Chene Grande Reserve’, the Beluga among all that Sumedh opened with pride. Two celebrated red grapes –Tempranillo and Shiraz encapsulate virtues to present an outstanding wine. Deep ruby and maroon tones lend space to blackberry, ripe plum, roast almonds, cedar and oak bouquets while quaffing it gave us elegant flavors of cinnamon, roast coffee, prunes and light black pepper, prominent yet smooth tannins. Served at 16 degrees C, this sophisticated red wine left us awed with lingering smoky and vanilla back palates.

Charming bird song around engaged our attention with smiles adding nostalgia to our wine experiences. Home to the Asian Paradise Flycatcher, the Blue-capped Rock Thrush, the Malabar Whistling Thrush, the unique Eurasian Blackbird, the mellow Oriental Magpie Robin, the Ashy Drongo and many more winged delights, we toasted to our avian friends with a fine white. The much acclaimed, chilled ‘Grover Art Collection Chenin Blanc’ opened up its remarkable guava, green grass, pineapple bouquet, with smooth and dry bamboo, citrus and green apple flavors. Another svelte white wine, the ‘Grover Art Collection Sauvignon Blanc’ was blessed with unmistakable peach and lemon fragrances and impressive lemon rind and sweet lime palate. The mild acidity did well with Roquefort and Blue cheese.

After a tour of the winemaking process and barrel room we settled to quaff two more of the Grover Zampa labels. The ‘Grover Art Collection Shiraz’ with violet tints, anise, interesting black pepper and anise aromas surprised us with juicy red fruit palate, going onto plum cake, light tobacco flavors and a velvety finish. Shiraz is our favorite varietal, so we savored yet one more creation, -the classy ‘Grover Art Collection Cabernet Shiraz’. The blend makes classic symphony with deep garnet shades, intense black currant nose and hints of thyme, balanced tannins that go well with strong berry fruit, pepper and smoky burnt wood flavors, -stunning contrasts, we applauded.

VIGNOBLE D’ORPAILLEUR AND DOMAINE PINNACLE – CANTONS DE L’EST, QUEBEC, CANADA

DOMAINE PINNACLE APPLE ORCHARDS IN WINTER-QUEBEC-CANADA
DOMAINE PINNACLE APPLE ORCHARDS IN WINTER – FRELIGHSBURG

The picture perfect Cantons de L’Est -Quebec’s prized wine region, a forty minutes’ drive from Montreal offers vineyard magic at the sprawling ‘Vignoble D’Orpailleur’, reputed for some of the best boutique wine labels at Dunham. Overlooking rolling meadows, we settled on garden benches to admire a wedding being solemnized on the green, the mellifluous harp and violin creating an inching, vineyard romance. The bride’s blush colored the fine wines the marriage party celebrated with, later that evening. To cap the festivities, a chilled sparkling L’Orpailleur Brut was ceremonized with a swift ‘Sabrage’ –knocking off the head with a sword in Napoleonic style!

The intrinsic fragrances of Quebecois apricot, sultanas, honey, nectarine and mango came alive in their award winning 100% Vidal ‘Vin de Glace’ – Ice wine, a signature offering with Blue cheese. A masterpiece in winemaking this superlative dessert number is pressed between -8 degrees and -12 degrees Celsius.

The remarkable 2009 ‘Orpailleur Rose’ is a celebrative blush with outstanding bouquets of white rose and lily, while flavors of strawberry and raspberry punctuate it’s smooth mid-acidic fermentation in style. The 2008 ‘L’Orpailleur’ red was a thrilling combo of Frontenac, Marechal Foch and Seyval Noir displaying an uncharacteristic nose of peony, black currant and immediate burnt tobacco, a long finish of impressive tannins-fed leather and well rounded after taste of mushrooms. ‘Sante’.

At nearby Richford, Frelighsburg entrepreneur Charles Crawford consistently creates his world’s finest, global award wining ‘Domaine Pinnacle’ platinum quality still and sparkling apple wines. Our spirited tastings of the just-launched Brut sparkling numbers inched up our enthusiasm as he led us to the marquee for tastings.

The often mystically enticing aromas of buxom, juicy apples gave way to lingering flavors of freshly picked lily, sprinkling of jasmine and light honeysuckle. The mellow ‘Pommes Rouge’ (red apples) added body to the fermentation which pronounced chlorophyll and green grass after tastes. Their award-winning ‘Domaine Pinnacle Ice Apple Wine’ scores without any additives and picked during the freezing winters of Quebec, blending six apple varieties with clean, crisp long finish.

Their fantastic ‘Domaine Pinnacle Crème de Pommes’ , one-of-it’s-kind richness in the rich, after dinner pleasure series creates butter smooth opulence in faint honey undertones. Charles’ passion in his ‘Reserve 1859 Domaine Pinnacle’ a distinguished aperitif radiates bouquet and palate sophistication that blends apple ice wine and apple brandy in remarkable proportions in Appalachian oak barrels! The result is a true connoisseur’s delight of a rare pedigree, a fine aperitif with a long, deep musky finish.

LORIERI VINEYARDS – CARRARA DI MASSA, CARRARA, TOSCANA, ITALY

LORIERI VINEYARDS - CARRARA DI MASSA, CARRARA, TOSCANA, ITALY
WORLD’S MOST EXCLUSIVE, ONLY ONE-OF-ITS-KIND, CARRARA MARBLE CAVES LORIERI VINEYARDS WINE TASTINGS

A very steep and twisted, precarious hairpin lane Land Rover drive brought us up to the chill confines of hyper cavernous marble caves in Carrara, the world’s fabled marble capital. Here, the world’s most exclusive, only-one-of it’s-kind wine tastings and wine lunch awaited us.

Among the most outstanding Tuscan white wine varietals is the boutique, limited edition ‘Vermentino’ grape grown on the scenic, cliff-hanger hill slopes of Marina di Massa overlooking the dazzling Tyrrhenian Sea. Boutique Winemaker Pierpaolo Lorieri’s top limited edition wines, -‘Lorieri Vernero Toscana IGT 2009’ from this region, his signature ‘Lorieri Vermentino Bianco 2010’ and ‘Lorieri Vermentino Nero 2010’ score altitude above other fine Toscana wines. Lively, mild sunshine yellow in tones, rich in aromas of petunia, passion fruit and green apple bouquets with distinct well structured, smooth, floral flavors with light acidity, white rose, grass, citrus and lemon commanded appreciation on our palates. The Nero spoke a vocabulary of zesty smoked wood, burnt tobacco and medium tannins on the palate, superlative as an apt pairing with the chatty Pierpaolo’s own charcoal and wild Tuscan herbs-covered country goat cheese chunks. We relished and savored our most unforgettable and intense wine and grills fiesta at that altitude, a tribute to Italy’s feisty wine culture and marble mountain treasures.

O’REILLY’S CANUNGRA VALLEY VINEYARDS – CANUNGRA VALLEY, QUEENSLAND – AUSTRALIA

WINEMAKER AND PARTNER CATHERINE O’REILLY WITH HER LIMITED EDITION, AWARD WINNING MAGNUM, SHANE SHIRAZ, O’REILLY’S CANUNGRA VALLEY VINEYARDS

In the thickly wooded Canungra Valley in the picturesque Lamington National Park surrounds near Nerang in Queensland we took in the serene peace of natural beauty and some of the most enchanting wine sojourns. Catherine O’Reilly’s pleasant and easy going demeanor is a cheery precursor to sampling their magnificent blue blood wine labels, some of Australia’s very finest.

Their gloriously fruity peach-plum-and-citrus flavored 2007 Sparkling Semillon is an all out stunner. Catherine offered us her classique, Sparkling Chambourcin (first of its kind) with grassy, woody and musky flavors. As the fragrance of tall, swaying Eucalyptus from their estate caressed our mood, we tasted her other outstanding labels, – the 2008 Platypus Unwooded Chardonnay with striking lily and jasmine nose and the marvelous 2007 Merlot Chambourcin blend with bouncy herb flavors.

The award winning classic vintage 2003 O’Reilly’s Cabernet Sauvignon surpassed expectations with full-bodied cigar, raw hide and black berry flavors. Goblets in hand, we stealthily crept up to the vineyard stream’s banks to get a protected view of the mild and elusive O’Reilly’s Platypus a family favorite. Not to be seen, we reckoned he had quietly ducked away underwater for his noontime snooze!

TAUBERHASE VINEYARDS AND BALDAUF WINERY – TAUBERTAL VALLEY, FRANCONIA, BAVARIA, GERMANY

TAUBERHASE VINEYARDS AND BALDAUF WINERY – TAUBERTAL VALLEY, FRANCONIA, BAVARIA, GERMANY
FABULOUS WINE AND CHEESE TASTINGS OVER TAUBERTAL VALLEY – FRANCONIA WINE REGION

The scenic Romantic Route winding just past the historic medieval fortress town of Rothenburg Ob der Tauber (Hollywood film Pinocchio fame) leads on to this hilly fairytale wine region with spectacular, undulating vineyard acres. Franconia is one of Germany’s (read Bavaria) well kept secrets and its small demographic identity as a premium boutique wine region that proudly creates the strikingly trademark stocky, curvaceous ‘bockbeutels’ (bottles) of premium pedigree Franken wines with breezy floral fragrances.

At the miniature Franconian hamlet of Ramsthal, the uber-swish Baldauf Winery (Weingut Baldauf) presented us superlative wine varietals. A sweet beginning with their honeysuckle, vanilla and peony flavored signature wine, the Baldauf Gold Medal 2008 Clees Bacchus Spaetlese was sensitively crafted and butter smooth honey tinged. The superb 2009 Schwarzriesling, dry white wine was heightened with mellow tangerine, wild grass and celery palate. The nose was uplifting, -lily and lemony whiffs that lingered on.

Their much awarded red 2008 Baldauf ‘Domina Trocken’(dry) -a very unique blend of Portuguesa and Spaetburgunder was a fantastic, very dry red cuvee that set off offering earthy, burnt wood notes with striking tobacco, clove and oak wood tastes. Akin to burnt cigar on the olfactory senses, we relished its sophistication on our taste buds. Our concluding tastings spanned two outstanding labels, -the award-winning ‘Baldauf 2008 Clees Riesling Spaetlese with light peachy fruit flavors aided by lime hints, mild acidity and grassy bouquets and the Baldauf 2008 super classy Pinot Noir Dry (Spaetburgunder trocken) with mild peppery and cassis flavors complemented by dark ruby tones and wild mushroom-leather nose. That evening, sipping the glorious floral and fruity sensations of a fine signature 2006 Baldauf Franken Silvaner Trocken white, we leisurely explored the ‘toy town’ Rothenburg and it’s quaint medieval lanes aglow with fascinating toy collections!