During the holidays, the medieval Cité de Carcassonne quiets down a lot. The best restaurants stay open year-round because they cater to local clients and can stay open even during the slowed down winter months. We had a marvelous dinner a few nights ago at La Barbacane, the Michelin starred restaurant in l’Hotel de la Cité.
Hotel de la Cité – La Barbacane
We got there a little early (typical Americans) and chilled out in the Piano Lounge / Library area (where the bar is). They started me off with a nice glass of sparkling rosé from Castelmaure while we waited for our hosts, the Lablaudes. We nibbled on lucques (local olives) and a few exotic tidbits to start us (e.g. endives, anchovies, radishes, trout egg). Everything was light and fun and made us hungry for more as we lounged about in the piano bar enjoying the live music.
Jérome Ryon, the chef, and Georges Gracia, the manager and sommelier, guided us through a wonderful and surprising meal.
We started with a shrimp-stuffed jack be little, a small yellow-orange gourd. It looks like a tiny pumpkin (think bell pepper-sized). It was a hefty appetizer but I can deal with a little heft. And it paired wonderfully with a surprising Chenin blanc from Saumur that really cut through the fattier elements of the jack be little. Truly tasty. Next up, scallops on a thin pastry garnished in some sort of wonderful sauces and paired with a blend from Rives Blanques. The dish was garnered with some cabbage and quince confit. And then duck as the plat de resistance paired with a robust Minervois from Chateau Oupia.
And we finished off with a nice citron sorbet and a startling white from Maury.
Everything was fresh and top notch.
La Barbacane sometimes gets pigeonholed as the more conservative fine dining destination in Carcassonne, with a greater focus on traditional haute cuisine. But this meal showed that Jérome is very creative when you give him room to breathe.
The wine list
We started off with a sparkling rosé from Castelmaure.
- AOC Saumur Domaine du Collier 2005 “A Foucault” à Chacé
- AOC Limoux Chateau Rives-Blanques 2009 Cuvée “La Trilogie” à Cépie
- AOC Minervois Chateau Oupia 2007 Cuvée Mémoire d’André Famille André Iché
And we finished off with a surprising white from Maury.
Of course, as a wine nerd, one of the coolest parts of the meal is to see how Georges Gracia pairs the various courses with wines. He chose a lot from the region because he knows how I roll, but he also gave me at least one surprise from the Loire. And what a surprise! We started and ended with whites from regions that are much more known for their red wines: Saumur and Maury. And I have to say I’m very pleased with both. The Saumur was Chenin although I wouldn’t have guessed that blind. It had sort of a burnt pear nose that was pretty restrained and then a really intereting body. I think it was perfect to start off the meal and cut through some of the fat on the pumpkin. The Maury at the end was a real shocker too. Delicious sweet wine that could compete with this very tart citron sorbet. Any wine lovers who eat at the Cité should try to get one of the very talented sommeliers to guide them through a meal. It’s a real experience for any foodie.
I’m a member of a group of winemakers known as The Outsiders, our forces marshaled by Louise Hurren. And in anticipation for our London tasting on November 10th, this article is an exploration of what being an outsider even means.
What the heck is an outsider?
There are people in this world who just always end up in weird situations. Outsiders will regularly surprise you. Not with contrived novelty. Not by jumping from behind a corner and shouting “Boo!” But by being genuinely and irrepressibly strange.
Am I an outsider?
Being a winemaker at a highly technical web conference gave me several glimpses of that priceless moment of surprise. Somebody says, “I’m a front end UX designer.” Somebody else says, “I’m a coder working on the W3C”. I say, “I’m a winemaker.” [small double take] In that moment, the true definition of outsider emerges. Somebody who is so unusual in the milieu, that they can contribute real insight. It might not always be great insight, but it’ll be original.
But if being a winemaker makes me an outsider to the tech world, doesn’t that mean I’m an insider in the wine world. Well, honestly, if you know anything about me, you know that’s not true. I’m a first generation winemaker with no training, certifications, or degrees. I was born and raised in a part of the US where award winning wine production is dominated by fermented fruit concentrate with flavors added (no joke, definitely a link worth clicking). I just love wine and I’m pretty good at making it.
People ask why
People also ask how. But all these questions are very hard to answer. I don’t have a rule book or manifesto that guides my decision making. I guess that’s also part of being a natural-born outsider. Who knows why we do the crazy things we do? But when you look at our amazing lives, our beautiful countrysides, our delicious wines, et cetera. . . don’t your questions fade away?
Sharing the Outsider Experience
I hope the Outsiders Tasting in London this November 10th will give a lot of people a glimpse of true weirdness. Not that the wines will be over the top, heavy-handed efforts to surprise you. They’ll just be effortlessly surprising. Because we’re all genuinely strange people. And we can’t help but make interesting wines.
Who exactly are the Outsiders?
At the London tasting, we will be many. In no particular order:
OUTSIDERS TASTING – Documentation for the wines and bios for the winemakers attending the Outsiders Tasting. The bios in this pack explains the outside angle for each of the winemakers.
We are very proud to discover that Tamlyn Currin, a writer at JancisRobinson.com, has included us in a review of some of the top winemaking “Estranhièrs” in the Languedoc-Roussillon.
We’re in very good company and this is the kind of content that makes you want to subscribe to Jancis’ purple pages. It’s a great compilation of winemakers for people who are eager to discover the amazing diversity of the Languedoc Roussillon.
Tamlyn has also written some of my favorite reviews for my wines to date. The Mojo has “sassy red berry fruit” (Awesome. I’ll be using that a lot.) The Syrah has “Damson by the bucket load” (That’s a type of plum. One that we actually grow on the vineyard.)
And the Proprietor’s Reserve review goes back and forth between long, narrative sentences and sharp, captivating notes. The review matches the wine. I’m very proud of my parents and me. 🙂
O’Vineyards, Proprietor’s Reserve 2006 Cabardès 16.5+ Drink 2010-2015
Six barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon, 10 barrels of Syrah and 12 barrels of Merlot. Fermented and aged in new French oak for 18-20 months.
A perfume that made me close my eyes, just to breathe it in. Sweet damson, spiced dried fruit, figs and wet tea leaves. Rich and chocolatey, with plenty of dark plum tang and cinnamon. This tastes much more American than Languedoc – something that is more or less what I have noticed in all their wines. Very long. Velvety. Hedonistic. (TC) 13.5%
Toward the end, I wonder if I’m really making American-styled wines and whether or not making new world wines is mutually exclusive with being true to the Languedoc terroir. But I don’t want to dwell on that right now. I want to dwell on velvety hedonism. I really love these reviews and I’m so happy to be featured on Jancis’ site. She wrote a lot of the reference material that got my dad and me into wine in the first place. And Tamlyn is a charm.
The rest of our reviews have been incorporated into the website for each wine: Mediterranean Mojo, O’Syrah, Trah Lah Lah, Les Americains, and Proprietor’s Reserve.
To discover the other estates reviewed in the article “Estranhièrs in Languedoc-Roussillon“, you’ll have to subscribe to the Purple Pages! You’ll get to read about some of my good friends in the Languedoc and Roussillon. The estates included in the reviews are Rives Blanques, Domaine Treloar, Domaine Ste-Croix, Domaine Jones, Chateau D’Angles (which we actually considered buying in 2004!), and Chateau des Estanilles (who has a long overdue Love That Languedoc episode in the pipes).