Cabernet Day 2011

Cabernet Day is coming up on September 1, 2011 and O’Vineyards is going to be a French HQ for this International celebration of Cabernet grapes.

Domaine O’Vineyards

885 Ave de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou

Cabernet Day

Entrée libre
1 Septembre
De 18h-24h (pour synchroniser avec les États Unis)
Ambiance amicale
Grignotage, Beaucoup de Vin. 😉

What is Cabernet Day?

It’s an International event that gets people around the world to talk about and taste Cabernet wines.  People will be buzzing on all sorts of Internet forums and in the real world too.  The whole thing is organized by Rick Bakas, an American wine promoter and social media guy.

At O’Vineyards, we’ll be having a big tasting at night.  Hopefully lots of winemakers will show up with their own wines. And it’ll be just as much fun as last year’s event.  We’ll be trying to put as much of the event as possible online.  And we’ll be staying up late to synchronize with the Californians who can’t start drinking until our usual bedtimes here in France.

Why is Cabernet great?

I talked about this last year too.  A lot of people criticize Cabernet, especially in the Languedoc.  After all, it’s not a varietal that’s really from here.  But I stick to my guns!  Particularly in areas like the Cabardes and Malepere where we have a distinctly Atlantic influence on our climates.  We get winter water reserves deep down in our clay soils and we get more surface area of leaves and we have fresher nights during the late summer.  And all that means we can play with Cabernet to make some very interesting wines.  They’re not mere imitations of Bordeaux or California.  They’re unique and delicious expressions of a great grape varietal.

Furthermore, Cabernet has an important part in the contemporary Languedoc scene.  In the 1970s, when nobody believed in the region’s wines, Aimé Guibert came and planted Cabernet in the Terrasses du Larzac.  And since then, many have followed his example in the higher altitude terroirs of the Languedoc.

But do we need a Cabernet Day?

It’s not about needing a Cabernet Day.  Cabernet Day is coming whether you like it or not.   So my choice is to be a part of this fun excuse to party or to stand aside and “save my energy” for another cause.

Well, I’ve got lots of energy!  And I love an excuse to party. 🙂

A lot of people are going to be thinking about Cabernet on September 1st.  It’s my job to make them also think about the Languedoc. 🙂  Let’s not leave this beautiful opportunity to other more ambitious wine regions.  Let’s show the world how much we love Cabernet.

I took some exterior photos of O’Vineyards Bed & Breakfast now that it’s nearing completion.  Things are looking good!

bed and breakfast in the vines

You can really see how close the rooms are to the vines.  How clear the sky is.  This is life on a vineyard after all!

the cabardes room window and merlot vines

This is the window of the Cabardes room.  You can look out over the Merlot vines from here.  Sit watching the high road of Villemoustaussou with Carcassonne off to the south.  Soak in the sunny south of France in the privacy of our vines.

cabernet and montagne noire seen from the Cabernet Room

What a view!!  That’s Cabernet Sauvignon stretching off toward the valley in Villegailhenc and La Montagne Noire beyond that.  This photos taken from inside the room so it’s actually the view.  Hard to believe, right?

We’re still building at O’Vineyards Bed & Breakfast, but the windows are now installed.  It’s such a beautiful day.

It’s funny how putting in a window can really focus your attention on just how much beauty you’re exposed to every day!   We’re surrounded by these gorgeous vines and mountain views so we can easily take them for granted.  But they’re stunning.  And days like this are reminders to stop and enjoy the view.

Montagne Noire & Cabernet SauvignonThe Cabernet Sauvignon. In the distance, contreforts de la Montagne Noire


Pyrenees and Merlot VinesThe Merlot with the Pyrenées in the background


The full photo album of O’Vineyards views is on our Facebook page.  Excuse the mess, the scaffolding, the ladders, stuff taped to windows, etc.  We’re really going forward at full speed with construction and we just wanted to take enough time to stop and enjoy the view. 🙂

chateau margaux cellar I just got to visit Chateau Margaux on their first full day of the 2010 harvest.  This is sort of a dream and it’s hard to believe that it really happened.  It was an authentic and intimate glimpse into the belly of one of the world’s most prestigious estates, one of the four (five if you count Rothschild twice) premier grand cru estates in Bordeaux.

As you know O’Vineyards grows Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Cabardes region of France.  So we’re always talking about the potential of these Bordeaux varietals in the Atlantic Corridor of the Languedoc.  So it’s an exceptional opportunity to see how Chateau Margaux (arguably the most famous producer of Cabernet Sauvignon in the world) harvests and vinifies.

That first photo up top is a partial shot of one of their TWO cellars.  They age the wine there for a full year (so that’s the 2009 being aged in the photo) and then they move it to the second year cellar.  Now why am I talking about large wine cellars?  Those aren’t unique by any means as large wine cellars exist around the world, but I think it’s a good place to start talking about Chateau Margaux.  cabernet sauvginon chateau margaux harvestWhile it’s very well-recognized that this estate produces some of the world’s most desired wines (the 2009’s are hitting 1000 Euro / bottle), what a lot of people don’t realize is how many bottles they make of it.  To produce that quality level on such a large scale is truly a wonder of the world.

Down south, we have some cult wines and some famous wines, but production tends to be very small.  I’ll flatter myself through a brief comparison.  I like to think my wine is very good, but I have to acknowledge that I could never scale it up to produce thousands of cases per year.

So how on earth do they scale up the production of this quality level?  Well, they have two identical harvest lines bringing in pallets of small fruit cases full of hand-harvested grapes.  The small crates full of grape bunches run up a short conveyor belt.  A person  empties the crates onto a sorting line where bunches that show any sign of rot are removed (although I spent a long time up there without seeing any which indicates a good harvest and/or a talented team of harvesters who only pick the good stuff).

harvest chateau margauxThe conveyor belt drops the grape bunches into a machine I don’t know the name of photographed here (but the front of it says “VINOCLEAN”).  It is some sort of very fancy destemmer that takes the grapes off of their stems very nicely and bounces them down to another conveyor belt. One more machine that crushes the grapes very slightly before they are dropped into a stainless steel container.

This container is brought to the winery by futuristic pallet jacks with built in scales so they know how much tonnage goes into each tank.  The stainless steel container is hoisted above by a winch and the grapes are carefully dropped into the tanks from above.

As the pallet jacks wisked past us, Marie from Chateau Margaux reached in and grabbed some 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon for us to taste.  I get to taste before Parker now! ;D

chateau margaux cabernet sauvignon harvest

grapes hoisted by winch at chateau margaux

And then there’s the whole process of fermentation where they are truly dedicated to maintaining the high reputation of their estate.  Needless to say, I took a lot of notes and borrowed a couple of the less expensive ideas for O’Vineyards.

And then we had a really educational tasting of the 2009 and a few other wines followed by the most amazing meal in a very elegant dining room of the Chateau proper.

I will talk more about this visit when I’m not so busy with my own harvest, but I thought it would be fun to share this technical side of the Chateau Margaux harvest intake while my brain is still in harvest mode.  It is rare to get such an unfettered glimpse into the process of a legendary wine estate.  Thanks again to Paul Pontallier for his excellent welcome at Chateau Margaux. And also a huge thanks to Barry and Stuart for making this visit possible.  What a fantastic experience!

Cabernet Day is tomorrow!  September 2nd.  The wines and last minute RSVPs are filing in.

And you can still come too!  I hope a lot of you swing by Domaine O’Vineyards tomorrow starting around 19h00.  We’ll have some stellar wines open.  You can show up earlier, but we’ll put you to work. ;D

For those of you who cannot come in person, you can still follow along on the live streaming broadcasts.  I’ll have a laptop set up to broadcast a live stream through Live That Languedoc, my ustream channel.

And I’m not the only one. California Wine TV will also be streaming!  I think that their stream will be found on a ustream channel too.

I finally got the flastcreen set up to show cascading tweets all hashtagged with #Cabernet Day.  So you had best be tweeting your little hearts out.  Tweet til the Cab ripens!

Or if you don’t tweet, feel free to leave a comment in this post or in other posts about Cabernet Day.

See you all tomorrow!

Here is an obligatory picture of my grapes turning purple.  This is a vineyard blog after all.

veraison grapes change colors

The photo was taken two days ago in the Cabernet Sauvignon at O’Vineyards. The plants are very far behind this year.  Chalk that up to the snow we had in May.  It’s been a wacky year.  But a lot of people say the vines could catch up very quickly.  Whatever.  We don’t mind harvesting a little later so it’s not a huge deal as long as it doesn’t get too wet in late September.

Okay, there, I talked about veraison, when the grapes change color from green to purple, and the weather. Can we go back to irreverence, drinking and nudity?

When I first heard about Cabernet Day, my immediate reaction was to jump on board.  And I kind of assumed that everybody would follow me unquestioningly… but there have been some questions, rightfully posed, as to why exactly I’m hosting a Cab Day event in the Languedoc.  I want to take a moment to explain what Cabernet Day is and why I want lots of people to participate.

Here is the facebook event page for Cabernet Day at O’Vineyards

What the heck is Cab Day?

On September 2nd, a bunch of people around the world will drink Cabernet Sauvignon and talk about it online.  A lot of the talking will happen in real life too at special events organized in wineries around the world.  But a lot MORE of the talking will be happening online.

Some will blog, and even more will casually tweet with the hashtag #Cabernet.  It’s called a tweetup (twitter meetup … I really hate web-related portmanteaus).  And while I personally wanted to have a real-life party, the success of Cab Day will largely be measured by the participation on Twitter and the rest of the online chatter channels.

So that’s basically what Cabernet Day is.  In all transparency it is organized by Rick Bakas, “social media director” for St. Supery in Napa Valley.

Does there need to be a Cab Day?

Cab Day is about celebrating the grape varietal Cabernet Sauvignon, a varietal that is so popular it seems like it doesn’t really need to have a party.  So I guess that’s why some people are asking me “Do we need a Cab Day?” and “Why are we doing Cabernet?”

I’m gonna answer these questions in two parts.  Part 1, since when do we have to attach moral imperatives to wine parties?  Part 2, I need to communicate how awesome Languedoc Cabernet is.

Why people want crazy moral imperatives to party? – A lot of the people who are really into tweetups are also into promoting obscure varietals and communicating on more esoteric themes than Cabernet Sauvignon.   I like talking about rare grape varietals too, which lets you communicate on themes like authenticity, local culture, history, etc.  But I also realize that a mainstream subject can be just as interesting as an obscure one.  And more mainstream topics can bring more people into the fold while very obsucre topics can sometimes alienate people who don’t feel “initiated”.

The interesting mainstream topic – The Languedoc is not known for it’s Cabernet Sauvignon.  We’re a Mediterranean region and you can’t grow Cabernet just anywhere around here.  So the few parts of the Languedoc that do make great Cabernet Sauvignon absolutely must communicate on that.  So I’ll try to round up some Cabs from the Malpere, Cabardes, Aniane and so on.  Cab Day is going to get a lot of people online who are interested in the grape varietal and we’ll be able to talk about how certain parts of the Languedoc make really great Cab.  Sounds like a great opportunity!

And I hope other winemakers and Languedoc fans will take up the banner with me.  Come visit on September 2nd or send your friends.  We’re gonna drink great wine, have a blast, and it should be a lot of fun!

How to find us

Domaine O’Vineyards, located in the North Arrondissement of Carcassonne, is just minutes from the Carcassonne train station, the Medieval City, and the Carcassonne Airport.
GPS coordinates: 43.259622, 2.340387

Wine, Dine, Relax at our Boutique Vineyard
Unique thing to do in Carcassonne
Wine Cellar. Winery Visits. Wine Tasting.
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North Arrondissement of Carcassonne
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou, France
Tel: +33(0) 630 189 910

  1. Best by GPS.
    Follow the signs to Mazamet/ Villemoustaussou using the D118. At the end of the last straight part of D118, you will come to a roundabout with the Dyneff gas station.
  2. Take the exit towards Pennautier. Continue 500m to a small roundabout and go straight over.
  3. Look out for the second road on your right, Avenue des Cévennes which curves up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire on the left.
  4. At the last juction, bear left. the road sign “Ave de la Montagne Noire” (confusing as it seems to show a right turn)
  5. After another 500m you will see our red brick color building in the middle of the vines.