Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Chateau Yuanshi Winery – Luxurious Stone Winery Designed with Local Chinese Desert Architecture, Ningxia

(Dec. 2013) - This winery is massive and very impressive as you approach and see the tall stone walls designed in the traditional Chinese fortress style of the region. It includes pathways paved in native stone and breath-taking art sculptures designed of wood and petrified rock.

The owner is a very gracious Chinese woman who has hired a French winemaker from Bordeaux to produce some excellent local cabernet sauvignon. Production is around 150,000 bottles (12,500 cases).

The winemaking facility is state of the art, with new stainless steel fermenters, and top of the line basket press. Hundreds of French oak barrels line the long cellars, and plaques proclaiming their wine awards in Chinese wine competitions decorate the walls. The winery is so fancy that it reminds me of tours through some of the top French chateaux.

As we pass through the barrel room we are asked to sign a barrel – a custom they use for visiting dignitaries. They point out signatures from other famous visitors, and we are made to feel important to participate as many photographers take photos of us signing the barrels.

We end in a tasting room with a very long magnificent wooden table with a strip of the local soil running through the middle of it to showcase the unique sandy rocky quality of the local terroir. We taste the 2010 Chateau Yuanshi Cabernet Sauvignon, which is quite enjoyable. It is a dark ruby red color with a mixed black berry nose. The berry notes carry through on the palate with plush concentration and velvety tannins. The finish is medium to long with moderate complexity.

After the tasting, a bevy of newspaper reports with cameras, and the local television station interviews us, via interpreters, regarding our thoughts on the wine and the region.

Later we enjoy a traditional Chinese dinner at this winery seated at a round table with the lazy susan in the middle. Dish after dish of local delicacies arrive, and once again, I am very impressed with the variety of vegetables – spinach, beans, cooked lettuces, mushroom dishes, and many others. Lamb is the specialty of the region, and we have this in the local soup as well as mixed with vegetables. Chicken, beef and fish dishes are also served.

During the meal we start with the 2011 Chateau Yuanshi Cabernet Sauvignon which is a much leaner, astringent vintage with strong green pepper notes. Fortunately they switch back to the 2010, which was delightful to pair with the food. The Chinese prefer red wine with their food, and I must say I enjoy the fruity warm tannins of the cabernet with the spicy salty food. It warms up my mouth and my stomach. Though they produce a lot of Italian Riesling in Ningxia, it was rarely served with food.

We did several “gambei’s” (toasts) with the meal, prompted by the owner. Fortunately she did not expect us to slam back the wine as was required on previous visits. We each sipped from our glasses that were kept filled at a continual 2 ounce pour rate by the served who hovered around the table. A lovely dinner, and a great first day on this trip to Ningxia.

No comments: