Wine Weekend IV: A grape-stomping time

I owed myself a weekend of fun for ages and cashed in Friday, Saturday and Sunday by attending five wine events. Here’s number four:

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We be jammin’

A winery-touring, grape-stomping, bottle-uncorking day lay ahead as ten of us boarded a bus in Guomao on Sunday morning and headed to Chateau Bolongbao, outside the city, for a harvest festival. Just over an hour later we disembarked and walked past row upon row of grape-heavy vines as we headed toward the well-kept facilities, set amid the mountains. The stroll alone justified the trip out of typically smoggy Beijing.

The festival kicked off with (a thankfully short) firecracker display followed by a dozen attendees - including several from our group – climbing into a vat of grapes and learning what it felt like to have fruit squish between their toes. We then headed inside to see how the grapes are processed and to view the winery’s equipment, before getting to the important part – trying some Bolongbao wine.

This day’s menu featured the 2005 blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which I thought had a bit of woodiness on the nose, but was more balanced and fruity than the 2004. The accompanying food was an eccentric mix of peanut butter and ham sandwiches, chocolate cookies, cucumbers and bean paste, and cherry tomato - this was wine tasting Chinese-style!

A few notes about Chateau Bolongbao:
- Re the 2005 vintage, besides the blend we tried, the winery is releasing a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot and a Cabernet Franc. Some Syrah was bottled, but is being used only for testing purposes and media tastings.
- The wine is available in the VIP lounges of three Chinese airlines, in duty free shops, and in about a dozen Parisian restaurants, but in only one public restaurant in Beijing. I asked Tony Chenof Bolongbao why and he said it was because restaurants were asking for an “opening fee” of 10 to 20 kuai per bottle and the winery was against this practice. He noted that Bolongbao wines may soon be available in Metro.
- Chateau Bolongbao plans to experiment with numerous whites, including Semillon, Chardonnay and Viognier.
- The leader of the tour, conducted in Mandarin, had an eager audience as people seemed highly interested in learning about wine.

Thanks to Tony for his hard work, including securing transportation for our group, and to the folks at Bolongbao for creating a fun itinerary. I bought two bottles of the 2005 blend and will be entering them in one of my upcoming blind tastings.

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More vines than you can shake a bottle at…

Note: Thanks to Sparkle P Productions for the photos.

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