David Girard | 2.05.17


The City of Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements or districts including the 4th Arrondissement. Among the other sights in the central 4th Arrondissement are Paris City Hall, Norte-Dame Cathedral, the National Museum of Modern Art, the Isle Saint-Louis and the Bastille Plaza.

Each arrondissement elects its own mayor. The current Paris Mayor of the 4th Arrondissement is Christophe Girard. The current Paris Mayor for the City as a whole is Anne Hildago, the first woman to hold that office.

That's nice you say. Thanks for the fairly uninteresting geo-political history lesson. What about the wine?


So, just before Christmas I was going through the mail: advertisement for solar panels..., bill..., advertisement for hearing aids..., bill..., advertisement for low cost cremation..., bill...and so on until I got to one particular letter I was about to relegate to the trash heap along with my chance at solar panels and hearing aids. It was odd because the envelop was hand written by someone who appeared to have been using a fountain pen. How often does that happen : hand written much less, by someone using a fountain pen. It was stamped "Par Avion" and was from someone designating himself "Mairie Quatre Paris".

Here is what it said:

Dear David Girard, on a flight between Paris and Shanghai I discovered your wine. And one of my sons name is also David, so I would love to order some wine from you to offer him for Christmas. Tell me the best way. Very Best Regards, Christophe. N.B. I have a small vineyard myself in the south of France near Avignon, in Gigondas (red and white).

Huh? I had no idea what Mairie Quatre Paris meant, I had no idea what Paris' 4th Arrondissement included and I certainly had no idea who Christophe Girard was. The name Girard is not quite as common, in France, as is Smith in England. I was fairly sure, however, that he was not one of my Detroit relatives.

Being more familiar with fountain pens than IOS it never occurred to me to check Christophe out on the internet. But, Sandy did. Sandy filled me in that, indeed, the Paris Mayor of central Paris was Christophe Girard. What's more he was famous for being both a fashion figure (executive with Yves Saint Laurent) and a political figure. Who knew?

So I wrote back. I explained that we were not licensed to sell our wines in France. However, I would very much appreciate it if he, his son David and his family would accept the three included wines as a Christmas gift from us. I also expressed to him my hope that perhaps, some day, he would have a chance to visit us here in El Dorado County.

We have corresponded a few times since then including a very thoughtful thank you and return gift from Christophe Girard.

What were the odds? I don't know how Christophe "discovered" our wines. I can tell you, though, there is nothing quite like the thrill of receiving a request from the Mayor of central Paris to purchase our El Dorado County wines and ship them to Paris. I would imagine the feeling is not dissimilar from being asked to ship coals to Newcastle.

Perhaps, someday I will have the pleasure of meeting Christophe Girard. I truly hope so. If and when I do I'll ask him how he discovered our wines. I have a hunch I'll be hearing from him again.



Grayson Hartley | 2.08.17

Winemaker Notes

When I’m trying to learn about someone’s taste in wine – what their go-to bottle is, which wine they’d plan a special occasion around, and which wines just don’t excite them – I’ve come to find that the less-direct question, “What kind of food do you like?” can be much more insightful. Ask about wine itself and you’ll usually get a straightforward, open-and-shut answer; ask about food and you’ve got more of a starting point for new discoveries and exploration (which is the fun part after all, right?).

The ability to eat for pleasure is, I think, a cornerstone of what it means to be human. While every guest we host at the winery has a different level of wine experience, it’s a safe bet they’ve all been paying close attention to food their entire lives, so why not start there? This time of year I get most excited about rich, soulful braises that take all day to cook, and the wines at our table are a reflection of this hearty winter fare. A close friend of mine is the opposite: she likes it all bright, all the time, and her favorite part of winter is citrus. Once, at a dinner party we co-hosted, I tried to impress her with a bitter, bright salad of radicchio, endive and fennel dressed with champagne vinegar and Meyer lemon. Her response at the table: “does anyone mind if I grate some lemon zest and mix it in here? It could use a little more brightness.” Admittedly I was a little put out, but I was grateful to her for helping me realize that some people are just wired differently. Wine-wise, she likes flinty, focused Chablis, and Cabernet Franc from the Loire from grapes that struggle to ripen. We meet each other on the Chablis, but to me some of her favorite Cab Franc tastes like the unripe beach cranberries we’d fearfully try as kids on Cape Cod; they make your mouth stay puckered for a full day afterward.

So I’m not going to share that salad recipe with you – maybe I’ll have her write the next blog for me – but I will share my recipe for braised short ribs (with mocha and thyme), which go fantastically with the 2013 Syrah we’re featuring this month. To do it best takes two days so I usually make at least two dinner’s worth, but it keeps for a while in the fridge and it makes great tacos if you get tired of eating it on polenta. Click here to jump down the page for the recipe.

As mentioned, the featured release this month is the 2013 Syrah, which is a blend of our estate fruit and some from the Fenaughty Vineyard in Camino. Though 2013 was a high-yielding year, we found ourselves with less Syrah than normal. As a result there is no “reserve” bottling, and only 120 cases of this wine were made. But I think this is surely “reserve” caliber, and I hope you feel like it over-delivers for the “regular” price. It’s very expressive on the nose, with violets, a hint of smoky meat, and a little extra blueberry note from the estate grapes. In the mouth it is supple and rich, with a mineral/graphite edge and fine, dusty tannin that finishes with flavors of mocha powder.

Accompanying the Syrah is the 2013 Reserve White Wine, an equal blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Rolle and Viognier, all from estate grapes. The Grenache Blanc was aged in a cement tank, the Roussanne in new French oak, and the other two in neutral French oak. As a result, complexity is the key to this wine, and all sorts of layers unfold as the wine breathes. When it’s cold and just opened it’s flinty and tightly-wound, which slowly gives way to notes of marzipan, white flowers, honey and dried apricot, all girded by a lemon-curd creaminess. And that’s just in the 30 minutes I’ve had it open to write the notes….

Grayson Hartley | 2.08.17

Slooooow Braised Short Ribs with Mocha and Thyme

David Girard | 11.3.2016

It's Always About the Vineyard

We welcome any number of spectacularly interesting and enjoyable visitors to our Vineyard throughout the year. It’s a lot of fun. We are most fortunate. We are able to hear stories as varied as our visitors. We hear about how it is to work in New York for a lifetime and retire to El Dorado County and how that came about. We get a peek into what it's like to have worked as an illustrator for Walt Disney. We get to share the aches of riding the 100 mile Tevis equestrian endurance ride from Squaw Valley to Auburn and being thrown from a horse off a 40 foot cliff. We listen to experiences about Viking River Cruises, teaching kayaking in Costa Rica's wild whitewater rivers, standing in the Machu Picchu citadel, refereeing NFL games, PAC 12, and NBA games, meeting the Queen of England, and working for a U.S. Senator from California. It's amazing! We just hang out at the Vineyard and it all comes to us as our visitors taste wine.

It's a pleasure for us to play our part. The by-appointment tasting format we have had in place since last January is low key and unhurried. There are no lines or need to engage in neck craning to get someone's attention. No more than eight people join together in tasting wines and sharing stories at the beautiful walnut table we had made for us in northern Michigan special for our tastings. As usually is the case, when people, who may not know each other, come together, the tastings start out a little quiet. However, it usually doesn't take all that long before it's hard to get a word in edgewise. For us, we're just happy to stand back pour and explain our wines and listen. We hope you are as happy with the format as we are.

We have other less talkative Vineyard visitors as well. We recently had a visit from a bear. He, or she, as the case may be, hid out in the woods just behind the Galleria for a bit, perhaps got bored and moved on. A pair of coyotes also paid us a recent visit, sang a few chords and moved on, as well. We wish the turkeys, geese, deer, raccoons, and possum would move on too, but they don't. Apparently, they like us or maybe I should say they like the Vineyard and tolerate us.

This time of year we don't worry all that much about our, mainly, nocturnal visitors since the harvest is in the barn, or better said, in the barrel. It now beginning to quiet down somewhat after the busiest time of year for us. The weeks past are the busiest time of year for us not just because we have to pick, crush, and ferment our grapes to make our wine, but, as we have for some 25 years, we sell some of our grapes to other wineries as well. That means batching, weighing, measuring, and early morning deliveries to other wineries as far away as Napa, Sonoma, and Berkeley, yes even Berkeley.

Actually, we are quite pleased by the fact that some of our grapes find their way into a number of other prestigious California wines. Some of our client wineries are very proud to point out on their labels that their grapes are sourced from David Girard Vineyards in El Dorado County. We don't blame them.



Grayson Hartley | 11.2.2016

Winemaker Notes | Harvest 2016 Recap

Nine inches of rain – an October record! – has fallen since we put our last barrel of this year’s wine in the cellar on October 12th, so it feels like we’re further removed from Harvest than we actually are. The rain is vital in so many ways that we all know, but I often forget how much it dictates the rhythms of the year here in the Foothills. In this case, it has encouraged a pause to reflect and breathe deeply after the fast pace of the Harvest season, a pause that we might have forgotten to take if the rain came later.

Violet Beauregarde impersonation

Harvest 2016! What a truly fun, fulfilling and exciting time; and the first harvest with our new helper, pictured to the right. There is no feeling quite like Harvest in the wine world. You are literally fueled by passion and driven by instinct; there’s no other way to wake up at 5:00 am to pick grapes after getting home at midnight soaking wet from cleaning the press, when that’s exactly what you did yesterday, and what you’ll do again tomorrow. You can, and of course should, plan – but once it all starts you have to let go to something greater, be along for the ride, and never once doubt that it’s worth it. Now, that said, I once tried to relate it to another feeling, one that my wife Allie has known well in the past 6 months, but I was quickly told no, no way, don’t even try – Harvest is nothing like motherhood! Oh well.

Some stats: This year we harvested 98 tons from the Estate, which is about 95% of our seven year running average, and up significantly from last year but not quite at the bumper crop of 2012 and 2013. Quality appears to be outstanding in all varieties, but if I had to pick a winner it’d be Mourvedre, which loved the relatively cooler nights this summer and ripened evenly to quite intense flavors, with moderate sugar and no sunburn. Speaking of sugar, 2016 likely has the lowest average in our history, although acidity levels are normal. I think this is the ongoing drought at play; the vines, indeed all the vegetation on the property, seem to have been pretty tired as they crossed the finish line this year, having given it all they’ve got over the last four years. I like to think they’re pausing to catch their breath right now too.


This November’s wines were selected specifically for the Thanksgiving table, where many of our most memorable bottles have been opened. Happy Thanksgiving!

No wine we make is better captures the essence of a vintage than the Coda Rouge, which is a blend of all four red Rhone grapes we grow. 2013 was a sunny, blockbuster year with bold wines, but a softer, sensitive side is starting to emerge. This complexity is on full display in the Coda Rouge: Grenache is at the helm for this blend, but the other three – Mourvedre, Syrah, and Counoise – have a spicy synergy that forms the wine’s soul and gives a darker edge to the flavors.

Our plan for the 2015 Rosé was to make enough to slake everyone’s thirst all Spring and Summer, but have just enough leftover to release again on Thanksgiving, where it’s a cornerstone of the holiday. The tangy, ruby-grapefruit and berry flavors somehow both cut through the fat of the turkey, gravy and buttery mashed potatoes, yet complement the other flavors of the season. Usually we ask a wine to do one or the other – contrast or complement – but this time of the year this unassuming pink wine does it all. Very cool.

If there’s any hunted bounty on your table, the gamey, wild 2013 Mourvedre is the way to go. This grape has always defied simple descriptions, but we tried to do it justice on the back label, saying “it contains seeming opposites of dried herbs and sweet fruit, and somehow fits an earthy wildness into its civilized whole.” If the table is full, this is the wine to lay down for Thanksgiving 2019 or beyond. Don’t forget to report back!