Marvellous Minervois ... Cabernet Sauvignon!

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 A walk along the Canal du Midi

http://www.concourscabernets.com/images/medailles/result_2.pngHere is something new and really quite delicious from Frank Léonor and his Les Cuvées du Firmament winery nestled in the heart of the Minervois wine region of southern France ... a pure Cabernet Sauvignon for only $17 the bottle! The 2012 Cuvée Horizon Cabernet Sauvignon is a delightful quaffing red that has proudly been festooned with a gold medal at the Concours International des Cabernets 2014. While it is selling briskly on the international markets, Frank has reserved a pallet of 100 six-bottle cases for our wine club Members. I think you are really going to enjoy this marvellous little sipper. Last day to order – Friday, December 5th.

The Down-to-Earth Wines of Les Cuvées du Firmament

To give you some background on the winery, here is a reprint from our first offering of Frank’s wines back in February of 2007.

 Frank and Oncle André Léonor at Vinisud – 2006
It was mid-October, 2006 and we were somewhere deep in the Minervois wine region between Carcassonne and Béziers, worried that we were going to be late for our 10:30 AM appointment with Frank Léonor of Les Cuvées du Firmament. ‘Emma’ (our global positioning system - so named because of “her” lovely English accent that reminded us of Emma Peel on the TV show ‘The Avengers’) was doing her best to guide us through the labyrinth of country roadways and roundabouts. While she hadn’t let us down before, we were doubtful this time as we climbed higher and higher on roads best described as lanes and then vineyard paths.

Frank Léonor and Hélène, clutching her bottle! 
We were most anxious to get there. We had first sampled the wines of Famille Léonor at trade shows in Cannes and Montpellier last February (2006) and had been most favourably impressed. We thirstily recalled the big, expressive red wines made the old-fashioned way. And, we were looking forward to seeing Frank again. Frank’s family acquired the vineyard, house and outbuildings, which had been deserted for years, in 1956. Since then they have patiently rebuilt and restored the buildings and property which now comprises almost 75 acres of prime vineyards. Even though he grew up in a winemaking family, Frank chose a career in academia, becoming a teacher in Bordeaux. But the call of the Minervois and the allure of creating something very special proved irresistible. So, a couple of years ago Frank returned to the family estate near the village of Siran (and only a few kilometres from Minerve, the capital of the Cathars) in the best part of the Minervois, the northern zone of Minervois-la-Livinière to rejoin his mother and uncles André and Antoine. Oncle André is an expert stonemason and his handiwork can be seen throughout the estate. Among Oncle Antoine’s many talents is his ability to speak the ancient language of Oc.

Antoine, Marie Alice and André
We arrived at the Léonor house right on the dot of 10:30. Good old Emma. It had started to drizzle and two very serious looking dogs barked what only an optimist could call a welcome. Madame Léonor (Marie Alice) came to our rescue by shooing them away with a broom and then showed us into their dining room where several bottles stood ready for our assault. Franck soon joined us and as he chatted with Hélène, I did what I do best … I tasted (one must always strive for the most efficient division of labour). All that conversation can make a girl mighty hungry and, in the most polite way possible, my cohort asked if she might have a bit of bread to fend off certain starvation. Somehow, from the bowels of the house Madame Léonor heard her and within moments a marvellous spread of cheeses, meats and country pâtés appeared. Man, did it ever go well with the wines and vice versa.

 Le Firmament
Their vineyard is situated on a hillside of clay and chalky soil that enjoys more than three hundred days of sunshine each year (we were there on one of the other sixty-five days – it poured as we tasted, but the vineyards have great drainage as can be seen in the second picture taken afterwards) and a most marvellous view. The old vines are bathed in the glorious scents of the surrounding garrigue (wild asparagus, thyme, rosemary, maritime pines and evergreen oaks). The grape varieties are typical of great Languedoc wines: Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Cinsault (note: no mention of Cabernet Sauvignon back then). The Léonors do everything the old fashioned way when it comes to tending the vines and making the wines. Yields are kept low through disbudding and summer thinning (vendange en vert), harvesting is done completely by hand, the grapes are destemmed, traditional vinification methods are followed and the premium wines are partly aged in French oak for twelve to fifteen months. Incidentally, “Firmament” means the arch or vault of the skies – alluding to the over-reaching, mystical character of these fine wines. 


2012 Cuvée Horizon Cabernet Sauvignon – 13.5% Alc./Vol.                                   $17/$102 case of 6
This little charmer is of course made from 100% hand-picked Cabernet Sauvignon. The vines are less than ten years old, but are planted on first rate property near the Léonor’s house. The wine is a deep ruby red and offers up tantalising aromas of red fruit, a trace of new leather, a bit of tar and autumn smoke and hints of exotic spices. It is medium bodied and not particularly complex – somewhat one dimensional but it becomes more interesting after a little while in the glass. In the mouth it is smooth, round and quite pleasant. This won’t to be confused with grand Bordeaux or senses-shocking Aussie Cab. But, it is lovely, honest stuff to wash down winter fare such as roasted meats, barbequed offerings, casserole dishes and stews. At just $17 the bottle, it is a very, very good value. Get your well-priced winter red now.


Important Note
The LCBO is the only entity authorized to sell beverage alcohol in Ontario. Arthur Sellers & Company and Arthur’s Cellar Wine Club do not sell or markup beverage alcohol, but rather, arrange for customers to purchase it from the LCBO. Our prices indicated above and on our website include the LCBO sale price plus a fee to cover the cost of sourcing, handling and marketing the wine. The LCBO’s sale prices are available on request.

LCBO Delivery Notices!

The LCBO has started to mail out delivery notices to all our Members who order wine. This notice is being sent when the wine has arrived from overseas and has been cleared for delivery by the LCBO. The form letter is two sided, one with the numeric details of the transaction and the other with pick-up instructions. Please note - the pick-up instructions do not apply to our Members.

Why?

First, they instruct our Member to pick up the wine at the LCBO’s warehouse loading docks at 33 Freeland Street in Toronto. Our Members don’t have to do this – we either cause the wine to be sent to an LCBO retail store that is conveniently located near our Member or we personally deliver the wine.

Second, they infer that our Members owe them for the wine and warn that they will be penalized if the wine is not picked up within a prescribed period of time. Our Members have already paid for their wine and don’t owe any additional money. We look after payment for them.

Please disregard these form letters when you receive them.

We have requested that the LCBO either correct the message or not send it at all. We also asked that they send the message electronically (they have the e-mail addresses of everyone who orders) to save money and be environmentally responsible. They have thanked us for our suggestions and we hope they will act on them.

Why is the LCBO sending out these notices?

When we inquired, we were told that this has always been their procedure; they just haven’t been following it.

We can surmise that it is in response to last year’s ruling by the Information and Privacy Commission of Ontario (IPC) ruling that the LCBO stop taking personal information from wine club customers. In a subsequent Ontario Superior Court of Justice appeal hearing, the case was remitted back to the IPC for reconsideration, i.e., the LCBO and the other involved parties were told to work out their issues between themselves. A key point in the ruling was, “it is not clear whether the IPC actually made a clear or consistent finding on the issue of whether the LCBO's customer is the club or the club member.” Since then, the LCBO has been determined to make certain that we are all fully aware that it is they who control the customer relationship when it comes to the purchase of beverage alcohol in the Province of Ontario.

To reinforce this point, they have instructed us to prominently post the following wherever we display our prices:

The LCBO is the only entity authorized to sell beverage alcohol in Ontario. Arthur Sellers & Company and Arthur’s Cellar Wine Club do not sell or markup beverage alcohol, but rather, arrange for customers to purchase it from the LCBO. Our prices indicated above and on our website include the LCBO sale price plus a fee to cover the cost of sourcing, handling and marketing the wine. The LCBO’s sale prices are available on request.

If you have any comments for the LCBO, please address them to Margaret Plant, Supervisor, Private Ordering (margaret.plant@lcbo.com) and copy Archie Karanxha, Acting Manager, Specialty Services (arqile.karanxha@lcbo.com) and Geoff Allaire, General Manager Operations, Toronto Retail Service Centre, Vintages Warehouse (geoff.allaire@lcbo.com).

All this reminds me of a very old joke. It seems that a little devil was involved in a most unfortunate tangle with one of Toronto’s Red Rockets that resulted in his tail being severed. He was rushed to the Toronto General Hospital but was refused admission. The ER receptionist explained, “I am afraid you will have to take him to the LCBO ... they are the only ones in Ontario allowed to retail spirits.”


Kate joins the team!
We are delighted to announce that our eldest daughter Kate (shown here with a bottle of Penfolds Grange from her birth year!) has officially joined the Arthur Sellers & Company team. She is an avid wine enthusiast with a very fine palate and is renowned for her frequent thirsty assaults on Arthur’s Cellar. Kate will be assisting us with the day-to-day operation of our wine club and will introduce our fine wines to her market demographic (recognizing that this old tippler needs a little help marketing to the younger aficionados of the fruit of the vine). Please join us in welcoming Kate to our wonderful world of wine.

Hélène's 2014 Tour to Provence is Sold Out; But ...
She is taking reservations for September 2015. Long our favourite part of France, Provence is filled with so many wonderful things – marvellous markets, gorgeous perched villages, exquisite Mediterranean cuisine as well as the Mediterranean itself, a bevy of awe-inspiring Roman ruins, medieval towns, olive oil mills, Southern Rhône vineyards, sophisticated cities with great shopping, and constantly changing, spectacular scenery. And, you get to spend it all comfortably ensconced in your very own castle for a week, the enchanting Château du Goult. Maybe even get a group of friends to join you. That way, Hélène can massage her itinerary to meet your special interests.

Please contact Hélène for all the delectable details.


Where’s My Wine??
Generally, it will take three to four months from the time you order your wine till it is delivered. To find out where your next treasure is on its long journey from Europe, just click on Delivery Status in the side bar to the left. We update it regularly.

About our website

Our web site will grow and change as we respond to the needs and preferences of our members. We appreciate the time you take to tell us about how we can improve our web site, and invite you to pass your comments and suggestions along to us. Click here to send us an e-mail and let us know what you think.