Monthly Archives: June 2015

My Favorite Wine Importer

I have long been a lover of French wines. So I was devastated when I heard that my favorite wine importer had let his license expire in Minnesota. A couple months later I rejoiced when I heard he had a change of heart. He was simply toying with my emotions. I quickly pounced to get my hands on my favorites once again!

Steven Gaucher got his start in the wine business not the traditional way of working in retail or a restaurant and slowly working up the ranks. In the early 1990’s living in the east coast, Steven enjoyed drinking the vast array of French wines readily available in his neighborhood. After spending numerous summers vacationing in the south of France, his appreciation for French wines increased and he had developed many friends and contacts in the process. Suddenly in the late 1990’s he was forced to move to Iowa, the 45th ranked state in wine consumption. Shortly after moving to Des Moines he was thirsty for some white Burgundy and was dismayed that there was none to be had. Steven was not the type to take this sitting down. After several conversations with his friends in France, he had suddenly become a wine importer of French wines into the U.S.!

The reason his company is among my favorites is not because he has a huge portfolio or possesses rights to several of the top French wines out there. I can’t afford those anyway! His philosophy has always been to bring affordable, tasty wines that are readily available in southern France to the U.S. He selects his wine the fun way, he tastes them! He doesn’t really care about ratings or press or reputation. He simply drinks the wine. If he likes the wine and it is in a price range that he feels is a bargain, he searches out the producer and works out a deal to bring small quantities to the U.S. Often times, these producers are simply farmers that supply grapes to the larger firms but always set aside small amounts for themselves and a bit extra to sell in the local markets.

By using this methodology, he has a knack for finding delicious, affordable wines that I always trust when I am looking for something myself. Here are a couple of my favorites that just came back in stock.

Chateau Beauchene Premiere Terroir Cotes du Rhone Rouge ($18):
This wine is owned by the Bernard family which has been farming in the region since the 17th century as tenant farmers. Like many farmers, they benefited from the French Revolution and shortly after were able to buy some choice landholdings. This land, which has been farmed continuously by the same family, was considered part of the best red wine region in southern Rhone called Chateau Neuf du Pape. Unfortunately for the Bernard family, French politics reared its ugly head. In 1936 the government moved the borders of Chateau Neuf du Pape and his vineyards, with a stroke of a pen, became the much more humble Cotes du Rhone. The Bernard family’s loss is our gain! An average priced Chateau Neuf is around $50-70 dollars but an average priced Cotes du Rhone is around $15.

The Chateau Beauchene Premiere Terroir CDR is literally separated from Chateau Neuf du Pape by a small gravel road! This wine is in essence a Chateau Neuf du Pape but your wallet simply knows it as a Cote du Rhone.  Produced at the Bernard estate, this wine is juicy, full bodied with a layer of finesse. A stunning value.

Chateau Beauchene Cotes du Rhone

On the left is Chateau Neuf – On the right is Chateau Beauchene

Tour Boisee Minervois ($15):

Tour Boisee Minervois

Jean Louis Poudou – “Innovator” of Tour Boisee Minervois

Minervois is a region a touch southwest of the Rhone. This region’s wine laws are much less restrictive than most other regions in France. Because of this, the innovators have flocked here to make wine. Unencumbered by strict traditions and laws, they are able to make wines the way they feel they should be made. Jean Louis Poudou is the innovator of Tour Boisee who combines modernization with the traditional belief that land needs to express itself in the wine.

Tour Boisee Minervois is a blend of the famous Languedoc trio of Grenache, Carignan, and Cinsault. The blend conspires to make a juicy, spicy blend with soft and round corners. Notes of blackberry, blue berry, liquorice and just enough tannins to pair beautifully with meats fresh off the grill. Steven Gaucher eloquently states “Jean Louis Poudou and his fabulous wines from Minervois are the best expression of the Languedoc terroir I have come across in my 23 years of traveling in that region of France.”

By |June 24th, 2015|Wine Blogs|1 Comment

When Life Gives You Lemons…

Lemonade is one of Americas Favorite summertime drinks.  What other drink conjures images of lazy summer days, kids swinging on the swing set, lounging by the pool with a big picture of ice-cold lemonade.  Lemonade is so mixable and so refreshing.  There are countless recipes for adult lemonade.  Lemonade is very mixable and flavors can be discovered to please every palate!


The basic mix I love with lemonade is Vodka.  The smooth neutral flavor of vodka is the perfect complement.  Make your lemonade as you usually would, as sweet or as tart as you like. Take a good mid price vodka, mix to taste.  The vodka should add a little bite, but don’t let the alcohol overpower the natural refreshing properties.


To add a little taste use flavored vodka to jazz it up.  Raspberry vodka is my favorite mixer in lemonade.  The subtle sweetness of the raspberry really brings a little pleasure to everyone.  Another classic flavor in lemonade is cranberry vodka.  The tartness of the cranberry is a cool addition to any lemonade.


At your next backyard party, keep it simple!  Have a big pitcher of lemonade and a couple bottles of vodka.  Your guests will love the versatility and the abundant choices.  If you really want to class it up, have some fresh cut fruit available for garnish.  It adds the touch and as you are lounging in the sun, you feel healthier too!


Lemon is not only an American passion, but in Italy they have been making lemon drinks for years.  Limoncello is a lemon liquor that I think will keep getting more and more popular.  Limoncello is made from Amalfi lemons in the Sorrentine Peninsula of Italy.  Mt. Vesuvius’ famous eruption left the hills of Sorrento rich in special nutrients and soil that can’t be found anywhere else!  It is delightful semi sweet liquor with the touch of tart lemon that blows you away.  There are a few good brands of limoncello.  One of my favorites is the Gioia Luisa limoncello.  Made by the Saverio Family since 1946.  Limoncello is traditionally made from the zest of lemons.  Amalfi lemon peels are steeped in grain neutral alcohol until the sumptuous oils are released.  This is then mixed with a pure neutral alcohol.  The resultant mixture is amazing in its bright colors and flavor.


The other night I came home in the mood for a martini, but discovered I had no vermouth!  Now once in a while I will have a very very, dry martini(no vermouth) but I decided to step back a bit.  I spied a bottle of limoncello that I had left from last summer, in the back of the bar.  I decided to throw  a little in the shaker with my vodka.  It turned out delicious!  I was amazed at how the sweet/tart flavors of the limoncello balanced the flavor of the vodka.  I threw in a lemon twist, and had a great cocktail.  At the end of the day, I don’t always measure my drinks.  I like to free pour and hope my intuition guides me well.  But for this cocktail I did roughly 4 parts vodka to 1.5 parts limoncello.  The resultant elixir had the bright sun like color  of lemon, but the satisfying burn of a good martini!  I was really surprised how good it was!


Gioia Luisa LimoncelloGioia Luisa also makes a limoncello cream.  This uses their famous limoncello, but adds cream for a rich decadent treat.  It is best to keep it ice cold and sip after dinner.  It is surprisingly good.  Not too sweet, but a real tart gem.  It conjures images of a good lemon crème pie!  Try it for a different after dinner cocktail.


The Luisa family decided to use the expertise gained in making limoncello, to use the same techniques for an Orangecello.  It is a little sweeter than the limoncello.  But if you put it in your freezer and pull it out on a warm night you will see a transformation, in your mood and your taste buds.  The Gioia Luisa family of cocktails is high quality and will make any gathering special.


Whatever your summer plans include, a little lemon is always good!  Don’t be afraid to experiment.  You never know what you will find!  Enjoy in Moderation and Cheers!

By |June 1st, 2015|Spirits Blog|Comments Off on When Life Gives You Lemons…