Thursday, July 24, 2014

Wines of the Tour Stage 18: Nibali Dominates & Atxa Vermouth Blanco

Where are we:
Pau / Hautacam
Le Tour link:

In Pau, how about a visit to the birthplace of a king? More info from the local tourist website:
The national museum of the Castle of Pau: This superb royal residence is above all the birthplace of Henry IV, King of France and Navarre.
The building perpetuates the homage and legend of the first king of the Bourbon dynasty.The architectural set of buildings has undergone three major restorations: The first took place in the Middle Ages, the second at the Renaissance and the third in the middle of the 19th century.
It has been classified as a National Museum and provides visitors with nearly 800 years of history allowing them to enjoy an elaborate set of decorations including one of the most beautiful collections of tapestries in Europe.
The recent restorations carried out both inside and outside have given the building an outstanding lustre.
The castle and its surrounding parks and gardens are situated on the outskirts of the old market town, near to the oldest golf course on the European mainland.
Specialities : wines from Jurançon and Madiran, foie gras, garbure (thick French soup or stew), béarnaise sauce, poule au pot (chicken in a pot)

Lots of info on Hautacam and the climb here from Inrng:"Hautacam is the name a nearby mountain peak which in turn was appropriated by a local tourist office to give to the modest ski resort. It’s as if Zermatt decided to call itself Matterhorn or Chamonix and Courmayeur were named Mont Blanc and Monte Bianco. Only the Hautacam ski resort started out as a car park and little else and today it’s not much more either. But the Tour de France is able to put the place on the map, indeed taking the name of a nearby peak is only the start, the Tour has labelled the finish Lourdes-Hautacam despite Lourdes being almost 30km away."
Specialities : garbure bigourdane (French soup/stew), gâteau à la broche (cake on a spit), porc noir de Bigorre (Bigorre black pork)

Le Tour preview: At 145.5 km, this stage is also quite short. Compared with the previous one, riders will probably see it as an opportunity to catch their breath. True, the elimination time will be more generous. Yet they would do well not to underestimate the stage. First of all, they will have to climb the Col du Tourmalet, always a challenge. Next up, the final climb up Hautacam, which has earned a hallowed place in the history of the Tour. We hope the Tourmalet is used as a launch pad for attacks and does not go to waste. If so, pretenders to a podium spot or even the overall win could use it to claw back some time.

The race: Once again our early break has some interesting names: Mikel Nieve (Sky), Jesus Herrada and Jon Izaguirre (Movistar), Yuriy Trofimov (Katusha), Alessandro De Marchi and Marco Marcato (Cannondale), Lars Boom (Belkin), Jan Bakelants (OPQS), Blel Kadri (AG2R), Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ), Daniel Oss (BMC), Bryan Coquard, Kévin Reza and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Julien Simon (Cofidis), Sylvain Chavanel and Marcel Wyss (IAM), Bartosz Huzarski and Tiago Machado (NetApp) and Florian Guillou (Bretagne). Chava lives! With one hundred kilometers to go, their gap was 3:25. 
Field art, now with a cow costume:

And then it was time for the Tourmalet. At the front of the race: Chava attcked! (Finally.) Sadly, he was caught and passed by Nieve and Kadri, who would remain out front together at the top of the climb. 

And then an attack from Valverde on the descent. 

He was not, however, gaining very much time. Eventually, they were caught. With 22.5 kilometers to go Nieve and Kadri still had a gap of 2'45". 

Early on the climb, Nieve dropped Kadri. I was still betting on the gc group catching the riders ahead. Behind an attack by Chris Horner. Nibali followed! 

And then Nibali dropped him and very quickly caught Nieve and flew by him. Behind, Majka attacked. If Nibali wins the stage, Majka needs to finish sixth to keep the polka dot jersey. Lots of additional attacks behind. 
Stupid fan alert:

Dropped behind: Valverde. Still solo in the lead: Nibali. With Valverde fading, the race for the second and third spots on the podium has created much of the drama on the day. 

Stage: Vincenzo Nibali

Yellow: Vincenzo Nibali

Wine: Atxa Vermouth Blanco
From Frankly Wines
From the importer, T Edwards :
Founded in 1831, Destilerías Acha has been at the forefront of distillation in the Basque Country for years. The distillery is located in Amurrio, 50 km from the Cantabrian Sea. Today, Gabriel Acha maintains the traditions and recipes passed down by his ancestors for the distillation and creation of liqueurs and spirits with all natural ingredients. The distillery is famous for many products including the traditional Basque after-dinner drink known as Pacharán.

Vino Vermouth is another traditional recipe the Acha family is keeping alive. Vermouth is a fortified and aromatized wine that is macerated with a selection of herbs, fruits and roots. The word “vermouth” comes from the German word for “wormwood”, which was originally one of its primary infused ingredients.

I say: For years I never gave vermouth much thought. But then I became slightly obsessed with making a very good Manhattan at home. So I experimented a bit and discovered that I liked vermouth over ice. For the record, Carpano is my Manhattan vermouth of choice.
This to me is a sipping vermouth. Yum. Floral and spicy and just lovely over ice. I'll buy more of this.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wines of the Tour Stage 17: Majka Winks & La Ferme du Vert l'AmouReuse

Where are we:
Saint-Gaudens / Saint-Lary Pla d'Adet 
Le Tour link:

Saint-Gaudens: The local tourist website tells me that  Saint-Gaudens is an administrative centre (sous-préfecture) for the south of the Haute-Garonne département, at an altitude of 405m on a ledge overlooking the Valley of the Garonne. It faces the Pyrenees and is a natural crossroads for routes between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and between Toulouse and the Val d'Aran in Spain.
It has been inhabited since ancient times (traces of the Iron Age and of Roman occupation) and was originally called Mas-Saint-Pierre, before taking the name of the young shepherd, Gaudens, martyred by the Visigoths at the end of the 5th Century for refusing to renounce his faith: a dramatic tale!

The town later developed around the 11th Century Romanesque church. It was granted its city charter in 1202 and became the capital of the Nébouzan area, protected by solid ramparts. As an important regional marketplace, Saint-Gaudens became the economic capital of the Comminges.

The town was damaged by Protestant forces under Montgomery in 1569, and became the seat of the Nébouzan Assembly after coming under the control of the French crown in 1607. The name was changed briefly to "Mont-Unité" during the Revolution and the area later became part of the Haute-Garonne départment.

No Tour specialties 

Our finishing town is  Saint-Lary. The local tourist website suggests that one coud visit the Pyrenees National Park: Created in 1968, the Pyrenees National Park covers 45,700 hectares stretching along the Aspe Valley, as far as the Aure Valley. With the adjoining Néouvielle Nature Reserve (2,300 hectares), it provides a veritable sanctuary for the Pyrenean flora and fauna.
For more than 25 years, the Pyrenean National Park has protected 46,000 hectares of land, and a further 15,000 hectares in the Ordesa National Park in Spain.
You'll find a rich assortment of flora including over 400 species, such as the Pyrenean violet, fritillary, saxifrage, Pyrenean lily... and some remarkable fauna. If you look up in the sky you'll see the Bearded Vulture, the Royal Eagle or the Egyptian vulture, and closer to the ground, marmots and izards and, if you're lucky, you'll get to follow the tracks of the grizzly bear (sadly a dying species).

Specialities : Bigorre black pork, garbure (thick French soup or stew with ham), soupe de sarrous (spinach soup), gâteau à la broche (cake cooked on a spit)
Le Tour preview: At 125 km, the shortest stage comes just after the longest. To be honest, it will be a hectic 125 kilometres, since it is all up and down from kilometre 50 all the way until the summit finish on Plat d'Adet. Even the leaders will find this a tricky stage. And the riders in the autobus... For them, it will be a stage of trials and tribulations, with a tight elimination time which will force sprinters to spend the entire stage à bloc. Several green jersey contenders could end up having to pack their suitcases after this stage! The final podium will start to take shape. Without a doubt, the highlight of the race.

The race: The shortest stage of the race is also the Queen stage (the day with the highest point in the race). They are also riding into Spain. Not starting today, Simon Gerrans and Reto Hollenstein. 
Our break of the day contains some familiar names: Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Tom Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp), Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling), Yukio Arashiro (Europcar), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Biel Kadri (AG2R-La Mondiale), Jens! Voigt (Trek Factory Racing) and Sergio Paulinho (TInkoff-Saxo). Chasing behind: Katusha. Abandoning: Spilak.

As soon as they started to go up, the peloton got very small, very quickly as riders both launched off the front and fell off the back. I say once again: grupetto cam would be a wonderful addition to Tour coverage. Meanwhile, up front we had: Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo), Bauke Mollema (Belkin), Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), Kristijan Durasek (Lampre Merdia) and Alessandro de Marchi. Behind them, with 68 kilometers to go, 18 chasers at 27" and the first peloton at 50". Points to J-Rod as he continued his quest for the polka dot jersey. 

Some regrouping out front and the lead group was twenty two strong:
Pierre Rolland (Europcar), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lott-Belisol), Frank Schleck (Trek Factory Racing), Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Peter Velits (BMC), Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Jon Izagirre (Movistar), Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Amaël Moinard (BMC), Yukio Arashiro (Europcar), Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Vasil Kiryienka (Sky), Biel Kadri (AG2R-La Mondiale), Rein Taaramae (Cofidis), Bauke Mollema (Belkin), Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo), Joaqium Rodríguez (Katusha), Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida), David Lopez (Sky) and Alessandro de Marchi (Cannondale). And then an attack by Kiriyenka, who was soon in the lead, solo. 

Thirty kilometers to go and the first and second chase groups came back together. Kiriyienka was still solo out front. 

With 23.3 kilometers to go, Kiryienka’s advantage was 18” to the 13 rider chase group and  3’46” to the peloton. Soon though, Kiriyienka was caught. 

With around six kilometers to go: Visconti was ahead of Rolland, Moinard, Roche,and  Majka by 33”. Bardet was 1’52” back. Yellow jersey group was at 2’05”. The big news though: Valverde seemed to crack! There were only nine men left in the yellow jersey group, including, Bardet, Peraud, Pinot, Valverde and Van Garderen. There went Nibali, with Peraud following. Ahead, Majka caught Visconti. They rode together for a while, before Majka dropped him. Majka was clearly feeling well, as he winked, again, at the camera. 

Behind, Valverde, with the help from teammates, actually gained time over Pinot and van Garderen. 

Stage: Rafal Majka

Yellow: Vincenzo Nibali 


Wine: La Ferme du Vert l'AmouReuse
From Frankly Wines $21.99

From the producer :
Le Vert is a farmhouse in an idyllic setting on the edge of the Grésigny forest and is part of the "Tour of Country Houses".
The Galaup family is there to welcome you, to share their love of quality food and wine and to offer you a taste of the local produce. The wine and veal produced on the farm are well-known for their excellent flavour.
I own 5 hectares of vines and take care to produce quality wine. I tend the vines in the way that is traditional in the Gaillac vineyards in the “department” of Tarn in France.

The preparation and vinification are also done in the traditional way.
The grapes are harvested by hand between September and December.  During this period the grapes are picked after over-ripening.
The crushing is monitored manually and after extracting the juice fermentation is done at low temperatures.  Every stage ensures that the wine is a genuine wine of this area.
All these stages produce wines of which The authenticity is preserved.

I say: First off, my daughter would like to send a big thank you to Christy at Frankly Wines for finding good options from the Pyrenees this year. She still complains about the year we went to five wine stores in search of options.

Mauzac is a white grape. It is mainly grown in the Gaillac and Limoux regions in southwest  France.Mauzac buds and ripens late, and was traditionally picked quite late, when temperatures had dropped in Limoux. This allowed for slow fermentation which preserved residual sugar for a "natural" second fermentation in the spring, creating a sparkling wine.
Sweet, but very balanced.  Rather delicious. Even the French visitor enjoyed it. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Wines of the Tour Stage 16: GC Shuffles After the Rest Day, Mick Rogers and Aubunite La Sorga

Where are we:
Carcassonne / Bagnères-de-Luchon  
Le Tour link:

From the tourist website:
The Legend of Dame Carcas
The Saracen occupation inspired medieval writers to create one of our most famous legends, with of course Charlemagne as the hero!

The emperor set siege to Carcassonne. The king of the Saracens, BALLAK, was killed and it was then that his wife, "Dame Carcass", decided to take action.
The siege had already been lasting for 5 years and famine was taking its toll on the last defenders. Behind the walls Dame Carcass kept watch alone; she set up straw effigies; she fired off crossbows at the besieging army to give the impression that many defenders remained.

In the city, there remained just one small pig and one measure of wheat to feed the population. So Dame Carcass force-fed her pig with the rest of the wheat and hurled it over the walls. The pig burst open on hitting the ground and from its torn belly poured a veritable flood of good grain.
Charlemagne immediately abandoned the pointless siege: there was clearly so much grain in Carcassonne that they even fed their pigs on it!
Before the large army disappeared, Dame Carcass called on Charlemagne to make peace.
She had the trumpets sound (“Carcass sonne..” ) The Emperor retraced his steps to receive her allegiance!
Specialites : Club Prosper Montagné, cooking competition, cassoulet, wines from Aude (Minervois, Cabardès, Corbières, Malepère)

From the tourist webiste: Bagnères de Luchon, usually called Luchon, is a thermal town since the Antiquity. The first Baths were built during the Roman periode, but with the fall of the Roman Empire, they were forgotten and were no longer used excepted by the local population. Over the years, the Baths have expanded and are now composed of 3 buildings. Luchon is specialized in respiratory and rheumatism cares, but was able to expand its offerings and now offers courses of smoking cessation, “cures freedom”, care against low back pain and fibromyalgia plus an important fitness center. At 1800 meters high, Superbagnères overhangs Luchon. It is the first ski resort created in the Pyrenees, the second in France after Chamonix. At first, it was connected to Luchon by a small train rack, whose activity ceased in 1966 after construction of the road. Since 1993, it is possible to get up to Superbagnères by taking the gondola lift. 

Specialities : pétéram (a dish prepared from sheep tripe) pistache (mutton based cassoulet), gâteau à la broche (cake cooked on a spit), “Dardenne” chocolates, Mineral water from Luchon, organic Oô trout, Pyrenean soap factory

Le Tour preview: The longest stage of the 2014 Tour comes right up the second rest day. With 237.5 km on the menu and the Port de Balès as a dessert, the riders will spend about six hours on the saddle.
The last few years have shown that riders who make it to the top with a margin of 30 to 40 seconds can rest assured of keeping it until the finish and taking the win in Bagnères-de-Luchon. The odds are on the attackers' side, thus. Sure, this does not look like the toughest stage in the Tour, but remember that this is where Andy Schleck lost the yellow jersey due to a mechanical in 2010.

The race:  Longest day of the race, expect a breakaway. Not starting this morning: Simon Yates and Rui Costa. Indeed our group of the morning consists of Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega pHarma-QuickStep), Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo), Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol), Greg van Avermaet (BMC), Jon Izagirre (Movistar), Jose Serpa (Lampre-Merida), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEdge), Tom Jelte Slagter (Garmin-Sharp), Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge), Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Matteo Montaguti (AG2R-La Mondiale), Kevin Reza (Europcar), Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R-La Mondiale), Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne Séché Environment), Vasil Kiryienka (Sky), Florian Vachon (Bretagne Séché Environment), Bernard Eisel (Sky), Roger Kluge (IAM Cycling). Bernie! 

With just under 100 kilometers to go, their gap was at eight minutes. Up it went, to about eleven minutes with 66 kilometers to go. Kwiatkowski had ridden himself into virtual 7th. 

Cav is at the race today:

Back on the road, 38.5 kilometers to go and the gap was 12’39”. It looked like a winner from the break was likely. But would the gc riders attack each other behind or were they waiting for tomorrow? With Sky's difficult Tour, there has been little of Bernie Eisel at the front. But there he was today, leading the break. Of course, as it went up, he was dropped. He was soon replaced at the front by his teammate Kiryienka. 

Lots of attacks came from within that shrinking breakaway group. The riders remaining: Serpa, Rogers, Van Avermaet, Kiriyenka, Voeckler and Gautier. Cyril Gautier attacks, with just Rogers, Serpa and Voeckler left. B
ehind, lots of dropped riders as well in the main peloton. We had reached the riders all over the mountain point of the stage.

 Dropped from the yellow jersey group: Tejay van Garderen. Also, Bardet, as Pinot attacked. 

Ahead Kiriyenka caught Gauthier, Serpa, Rogers and Voeckler were not far ahead.

Ahead, Mick Rogers was at the front of the break, using a small descending gap to time trial clear of Gautier. And he would make it with plenty of time to celebrate. 

In together behind, Nibali, Valverde, Péraud and Pinot. Tejay van Garderen was losing lost of time. Big changes on gc today. 

Stage: Mick Rogers

Yellow: Vincenzo Nibali

Wine: 2012 Aubunite La Sorga 
From Selection Massale: Now this has to be one of the weirdest wines we've ever carried.

Just look at the label. Seriously. An rose wine with...that label.

It's supposedly rose made from Aubun (a widely planted but rarely taken serious Southern French variety) and Carignan within the Faugeres AOC.
We say supposedly a rose, because to us, it drinks like a perfect lighter red.
Aubun is a very late ripening grape that has very little alcohol no matter what you do with (excepting bags and bags of sugar), even though it's usually harvested in Mid-November.

Last year, the blend was made into a darker red, with about 11% alcohol and it was a big hit. This year, it comes as a light, fragrant, natural beauty, pale red with the same 11% alcohol.
If you've had been following Antony's work so far, you know what to expect, a polarizing wine.  Some of you love it and can't stop bugging us for more, some will wonder what the hell we're doing.  We can live with that, it's that kind of wine.  For those of you who haven't, this is a light, funky, glou-glou wine,definitely more on the natural side, it's bright and spicy, vibrant, alive. meant for everyday drinking.

I say: Pink, full, some residual sugar. Cherries. Minimal bubbles. Tannic.  More fruit as it warms up. Kind of cidery. Paired well with mu shoo pork.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Wines of the Tour Stage 15: Dark Clouds, Kristoff & Château de Lascaux Rosé

Where are we: Tallard to Nimes
Le Tour Link:

Tallard is 20 km (12 mi) to the south of Gap and on the road from Gap to Marseille. The A51 ends just to the south of the village at La Saulce. The village is 21 km (13 mi) away from La Bâtie-Vieille and is also home to the Internationally renowned Gap-Tallard Aerodrome, home of CERPS Skydiving Club and French military parachute training.
Specialities : Golden Delicious apples, Tresbaudon wine (Muscat white wine, gold medal winner at the General Agricultural Competition 2014 in Paris)

Nîmes is the capital of the Gard department in the Languedoc-Roussillon. Nîmes has a rich history, dating back to the Roman Empire when the city was home to 50,000 – 60,000 people. Today the city is a popular tourist destination.  Somewhere there even exists a photo of me (from those pre-digital days) at the The Pont du Gard, which was built shortly before the Christian era to allow the aqueduct of Nîmes to cross the Gard river. The Roman architects and hydraulic engineers who designed this bridge, which stands almost 50 m high and is on three levels – the longest measuring 275 m – created a technical as well as an artistic masterpiece. 
Also, some trivia from Willj at Podium Cafe: "The word "denim (blue jeans) " comes from the fact that it was originally made in Nîmes. “de nîmes” = “from nîmes”"
Specialities : Costières wine from Nîmes, brandade (emulsion of salt cod and olive oil), croquants Villaret biscuits, picholine (green olive), olive oil, petits pâtés nîmois (famous miniature pies), Gariguettes strawberries

Le Tour preview: A long transition stage to round off the second week of the Tour. It appears unlikely that the sprinters will be thwarted in this majestic finish opposite the Nîmes arena. But you never know... Last year, betting on anything but a mass sprint in Saint-Amand-Montrond seemed lunacy. But then, the wind blew the race apart! Thus, a stage which looked like nothing special went down in history as one of the most thrilling in the last decade. It all goes to show that the outcome of a stage is not cast in stone, so watch out if the oft-present mischievous wind starts to blow...

The race: An expected sprint stage with the possibility of echelons? Count me in. Speaking of weather, the forecast for the day:

Not surprisingly, we had an early morning, pre-television coverage break of the day. They were given a long leash. 

But with not much action on the road, the story of the day was the weather:

Plus a bit of field art:

Crosswinds!  Echelons! Lots of riders were dropping due to the high speed of the peloton, including Porte, J-Rod and Voeckler. But as the pace slowed, with around 70 kilometers to go, Porte got back on, though many did not. 

BMC to the front and there was a lot of scrambling going on. Nice work from Nibali to join in with them.

Fifty three kilometers to go and the gap to the break was under two minutes.  As the break neared the intermediate sprint point, the rain started. Coquard took maximum points from the field, followed by Renshaw and Sagan. Ahead were slick roads and multiple roundabouts.

Wow was it dark:

Twenty two kilometers to go and an attack by Kwiatkowski. But he would be caught. Fifteen kilometers to go and the gap was around one minute. At the finish the sun was apparently out, though the roads were still wet. Ten kilometers to go and the gap was at 47 seconds. 
Wouldn't this be nice?

Hey, Tony Martin! It had been a few days since he had been on the front. Four kilometers to go and it was still a thirty second gap. One kilometer to go and 14 seconds. But they would be caught. Poor Bauer, it really did look like he might take the win. Instead, a bunch sprint. 

Stage: Alexander Kristoff

Yellow: Vincenzo Nibali

Wine: Château de Lascaux Rosé 2013  
From Dig

From the  importer:
The vineyards of Château de Lascaux have been in the family for thirteen generations. The name of the domaine, “Lascaux” comes from a limestone specific to the domaine’s vineyard sites. Jean-Benoît Cavalier took direction of the property in 1984, just after finishing a degree in Agricultural Engineering. In 1990, he consolidated the vineyards, restructured the ancient cellars, and created the official domaine, Château de Lascaux. Today, over twenty-five years later, the domaine has expanded from twenty-five to eighty-five hectares of vineyards, surrounded by three-hundred hectares of forest, filled with green oaks, pines, and garrigue. The quiet isolation of this part of the region, coupled with its proximity to both the sea and the mountains, makes this microclimate so unique. It is nestled along the foothills of the Cevennes, a mountain range that sits in the heart of the Midi. These foothills protect the vines from the cool Mistral and Tramontagne winds, and bring more rain to an otherwise dry climate.  That this temperate zone brings a long, slow ripening of the grapes only adds to the wines’ complexity. The stony soil lends finesse and freshness to his wines, giving the reds greater aging potential than Syrah-based wines grown in other Languedoc soils. The proliferation of garrique certainly is reflected in the aromatics, where notes of laurel, thyme, rosemary, réglisse, and mint are present in the wines. Jean-Benoît is passionate about supporting the richness and diversity of this ecosystem, so the domaine’s conversion to organic viticulture was a logical choice.

I say so: Oh so pale. Fresh, bright, fruity but balanced with some minerals. So easy to drink. I tend to drink rosé year round here in San Francisco (hello, cool summers) but for those in warmer climates, buy this and drink it all summer. And, yes, I mean you, Mom.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Wines of the Tour Stage 14: Majka & A La Tache "Badel" Saint Joseph

Where are we:
Grenoble / Risoul
Le Tour link:

Our regional trivia:
Some regional specialties from a Grenoble website:
• Three varieties of the AOC Grenoble walnut exist : Franquette, Mayette, and Parisian. Thanks to its dry, aromatic taste, this was the first nut to be certified AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlé; Certified Origins) on June 17, 1938. Around Grenoble, two regions are particularly well suited to walnut growing: the south of the Gresivaudan valley for the Franquette variety and the foot of the Vercors mountains for the Parisian variety.
• Chartreuse: A secret carefully guarded by the Carthusian monks for centuries, its origin goes back to 1605. Its recipe is officially recorded in 1737 and includes more than 130 plants with around 55° of alcohol. It is still aged in the Voiron cellars.There are several versions, from simple green or yellow Chartreuse to the V.E.P. (Exceptionally Long Aged), pure or in cocktails, and let's not forget the Green Chaud: hot chocolate with a splash of green Chartreuse
• Vercors-Sassenage blue: In the land of cheese, the Vercors-Sassenage blue has been labeled Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée since 1997. A product born of authenticity and tradition, it is part of the very exclusive circle of 33 AOC cheeses in France. This makes the Vercors-Sassenage blue, a mild cheese with a semi-soft rind made exclusively from cow milk, one of the standards of French blue-veined cheese.

Our finishing town, Risoul, is a Hautes-Alpes resort.  It partners with neighbour Vars to form the Forêt Blanche ski domain, located between the Queyras and Écrins national parks. It is 1850 meters above sea level.

Le Tour Specialities : the Risoul apple (with a reputation for keeping its flavour over several months), apple juice, milk and cheese products from the Chagne farm, Mali Vignon Pottery

Le Tour preview:  Two legendary peaks, the Lautaret and the Izoard, will spice things up before the summit finish in Risoul, which has already featured in the Tour de l'Avenir and the Critérium du Dauphiné. The idea we had in mind when designing the stage was putting the 19-kilometre Izoard as a springboard for a last hour of racing which will keep us on the edge of our seats... A coalition of attackers, why not? If the 2014 Froome is as strong as the 2013 Froome, we have to give his rivals the chance to look for chinks in his armour. This stage, the second and last one in the Alps, will provide ample opportunity for them to do just that.

The race: Up they go, again. The second climb of the day, the Col d'Izoard, is the highest peak of this year's Tour de France. 
Lots of early action today before tv coverage. 

The complete list of breakaway riders: Geraint Thomas (Sky), Mikel Nieve (Sky), Steven Kruijswijk (Belkin), Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo), Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Amaël Moinard (BMC), Alessandro de Marchi (Cannondale), Jose Serpa (Lampre-Merida), Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), Rafal Majka (Tinoff-Saxo), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge), Rein Taaramae (Cofidis), Christophe Riblon (AG2R-La Mondiale), Albert Timmer (Giant-Shimano). Go Geraint Thomas, go! With 141 kilometers to go, their gap was around 3:40. 
On the road ahead:

So far, the excitement had mainly been the scenery, with lots of gorgeous images. On the road, the gap to the break had grown:

Meanwhile, a rather unusual bathroom break took place:

On the road, Net App came to the front, perhaps working for Konig. With seventy kilometers to go, the gap was down to 2:44. 

Along the road, from Willj at Podium Cafe:
1 kilometre from summit on the side they are climbing is a refuge Napoleon. One of six ordered built by Napoleon in gratitude for the warm welcome he received after escaping from Elba …. not built though until time of Napoleon III in the 1850’s.
- The road was built in the 1890’s by alpine troops and the huge stele/monument at summit is dedicated to the General that oversaw the construction.
- The first few kilometres of the descent are in the famous Casse Déserte. 1 kilometre from summit on descent is the Coppi-Bobet monument.

They had reached the "show the rides dropping" portion on the stage for the main peloton. Ahead, with 45 kilometers to go the breakaway was down to 10 riders. The remaining riders were Geraint Thomas (Sky), Mikel Nieve (Sky), Steven Kruijswijk (Belkin), Amaël Moinard (BMC), Alessandro de Marchi (Cannondale), Jose Serpa (Lampre-Merida), Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), Rafal Majka (Tinoff-Saxo), Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge).
They were soon joined by De Marchi. They had a 2:52 gap. 
Meanwhile, behind, a small group went off the front of the peloton, as Bardet hoped to take time from Pinot, a poor descender. Most of the remaining favorites were together, minus Tejay van Garderen. He was about 30 seconds back, with teammates.

Another abandonment: Dries Devenyns.

It was, (I can't resist), a moment of calm before the storm. And off they went on the final climb. Could the break stay away?

Ahead, De Marchi attacked and was eventually passed by Majka, who was in the lead solo, with the peloton only 35 seconds behind. 

Five kilometers to go and Majka remained in the lead, with about a one minute gap.

At the four kilometer banner, an attack by Nibali. With Nibali, Peraud. Two kilometers to go and the gap to Majka was down to around 30 seconds. But it looked smaller than that. Behing, many attacks, many small groups. Valverde appeared to be dropped. One kilometer to go and Majka had just over thirty seconds.  

Stage: Rafal Majka

Yellow: Vincenzo Nibali

Wine: A La Tache, "Badel"  Saint Joseph 
Selection Massale $35.00

From the importer:
"What a shame such beautiful Syrah is imported by Cabernet Franc drinkers"
These are the (semi-joking) words of Eric Texier, true Syrah lover if there is one, and one of our friends who has a long history growing, and making (and drinking) the famed Rhone grape.

It's not a surprise to us that he likes the wines, he's the one that first introduced us to Kamel, Fabien and the rest of the crew from "La Tache" in Tournon after they had worked his Brezeme vineyard.
Our first offer was on the 2007 "Guillamy" vineyard which was the first wine we tried from the collective of 20 guys working the vineyards, plowing, cutting, rebuilding terraces in most of the northern Rhone for most of the growers that are considered serious.  These are guys who have turned their expertise in managing some of the great terroirs of the Northern Rhone into making wines of their own (Eric Asimov over at the times recently wrote an article on many of the vignerons whose vineyards are managed by La Tache, it's definitely worth a read).
This second one is from the 2009 vintage, from a different parcel between Mauve and Tournon named "Badel", an older vineyard composed of terraced granite with a cool exposure that makes this parcel ripen much slower than "Guillamy".  It's an incredibly hard slope to work that fell into disuse when making hot, ripe wines came into fashion, which is why these guys were able to pick it up. Rarely does that parcel get to 12.5% alcohol (this one is 12%), and even in a warm vintage like 09, it retains freshness, and shows nothing of the characteristics of overripe Syrah we despise so much.  This should easily go for 10 or more years in your cellar.

I say:  Smoky blackberries and minerals, black pepper and firm tannins at the finish. Very balanced. I'm pleased that I have a few more of these to revisit later.