Sister Cities Wine and Spirit Series at the Coral Gables Museum

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What a beautiful venue… On Wednesday, January 22, 2014 the Coral Gables Museum in Miami, Fl. was the gracious host of another one of it’s Sister Cities Wine and Spirit Series. This time around, the series was about the history, culture and the wines of Quebec, Canada. The event was put together by Caroline Parker the museum curator and the Canadian Consulate.

The Speakers were Patrick Alexander of Gables Wine and Francois Pouillot owner of the winery La Face Cachee de la Pomme in Quebec. Patrick spoke about the culture and history of Quebec AKA New France. I did not know that Quebec, Canada is a sister city of Miami and that the word Canada is Iriquois for village. It seems that the first French colonizers to New Canada were there for the fur trade. Peculiar enough, Quebec is at the same latitude as Paris, France. Today, many top chefs have migrated to Quebec and now the Quebecois have started to appreciate wine much more.

Next up, was Francois of La Face Cachee de la Pomme with his surprisingly amazing wines. First off, we started with his Neige Bubble which is a lovely sparkling apple wine of 7.5% alcohol. Next, event attendees were treated to a tasting of Francois’ 2012 Neige Premier Apple Ice Wine with 13% alcohol. Lastly from La Face Cachee, a tasting of their 2012 Neige Winter Harvest Ice Cider with 12.5 % alcohol. No leather, smoky, oaked, berry notes of course. Just apples…

La Face Cachee is located in Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada. At age 21, Francois was a film producer. Realizing this is not what he wanted to do forever, Francois got hold of some land, an apple orchard to be exact. His intentions were to clear the land and start planting wine vineyards. Francois quickly realized that because of the brutal, harsh winters in Canada, this was not going to be too feasible, so the orchards stayed put. The concept of Neige wines was born in the year 1994. Starting this project as a hobby, Francois began commercializing his wines soon after in 1998. Apple wines were a novelty at the time and Francois was a true innovator. His partner is Stephanie Beaudoin and they divide roles at La Face Cachee.

These Ice wines are so amazing that they have now received 101 awards, 55 of them being gold. His wines have also been featured at the famous El Bulli and have won the prestige of the Spanish Fundacion de la Cidra in 2007 ( an official recognition by Spain’s Minister of Agriculture). Wow, what accolades for something that started as a simple hobby. Pretty amazing I would say. All of these Apple ice wines are composed of 80% Spartan Apples and 20% Macintosh Apples.

Making apple Ice wine is an intense labor of love. These groves need extensive irrigation because unlike Vitis Vinifera, apple tree roots don’t go very deep into the sub soil to look for water. It actually takes 12 pounds of frozen apples to make only 1 liter of apple Ice wine. Like in Champagne, Francois also uses a disgorgement method where he freezes the pressed solids and only uses the free run juice.

The apple juice freezes outside in huge plastic containers for 2-3 weeks. In this extreme cold, water freezes and sugar does not. The sugar falls and the ice remains on top (kind of like a slush puppy). Francois only uses this pressed apple-sugar liquid. After tons of trial and error, he realized that plastic containers actually allow for expansion with no risk of overflow and loss of product in cold temps… Then the Apple liquid is fermented in stainless vats for 6-8 months. This fermentation process is so slow because the sugars are very rich. Temps have to be at 14 degrees Celcius (57 degrees fahrenheit) while fermenting. Francois has an annual production of 350 thousand bottles for the non sparkling and 100 thousand for the Neige Bubble.

All in all these are world class ice wines that pair excellently with apple tarts and sharp cheese platters for dessert. A true small, intimate event that was a real learning experience. Thank you to the museum, Patrick, Francois and Stephanie…

Categories: Wine Wisdom

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