Feb. 19 2016 04:55 PM

How wines from France end up in San Diego

Small-production wines from France’s Loire Valley may be crafted half a world away, but entrepreneur Luc Bonhomme makes them accessible stateside. Bonhomme’s company Loire Valley Wineries imports quality wines from all over the Loire wine region to its warehouse in Carlsbad, and the owner and his team have personally connected with 21 winemakers.

While sampling wines with the company’s sales manager, Dakota Simoneaux, I learned its main goal is to get these imported wines into local restaurants. That doesn’t mean individual wine buyers have to miss out.

The company’s website showcases the wines and ways to purchase them: wine club memberships with quarterly deliveries of three bottles; sampler sets of six red, rosé or white wines; and single-bottle retail with free shipping when purchasing more than six bottles.

I enjoyed everything I tasted with Simoneaux, especially the 2012 Domaine Du Champ Chapron Muscadet. It was more flavorful and richer than other Muscadets but with an edge of familiar salinity.

Another intriguing wine we sipped was the 2011 Domaine De La Gabilliere Touraine Amboise, a red blend of Malbec (called Cot in France), Cabernet Franc and Gamay. The wine comes from a training domain château where future winemakers hone their craft while making wines like this one. The fruitiness of the Gamay shone through in this wine but had a rich balance provided by the savory grapes.

Another fun feature of the website are the videos produced with each of the winemakers. These introduce shoppers to each of the vineyards and styles of the small wineries. My interest was piqued by the video of winemaker Patrice Colin and his beautiful estate, and I went home with a bottle of his 2013 Coteaux du Vendomois Pierre a Feu, made from 100 percent Chenin Blanc.

This wine was a perfect mate for a roasted chicken dish I made, seasoned with Herbes de Provence to keep with the French theme. The sharp acid of the wine worked well with the bits of fat in the dish, striking a nice balance between the dry wine and the richness of the food.

Loire Valley Wineries hope to open a tasting room soon, but in the meantime its bottle prices (many under $20) and unique offerings give plenty of reasons to stock up on small-production French gems.


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