Monday, January 6, 2014

Chateau Lanyi – Winery of Rocks and Music, Ningxia, China

(Dec. 2013) - In the afternoon we visited  Chateau Lanyi (also spelled Lanny), which has as its symbol the native grey-blue rock of the region. The tasting room is fittingly designed in a Chinese style with a long low building and wide porch with posts. There is also a restaurant, game room, and beautifully decorated hotel rooms on site. The front of the property has a small pond, picnic tables with Chinese roofs, and a table grape vineyard in addition to the wine grape vineyard where tourists can walk in arbors under hanging grapes in the summer.

The winery is owned by Mr. Cao, who is the Director of the Bureau of Grape and Floriculture Development, and is responsible for managing the implementation of wine tourism development in Ningxia. He was also our host and the organizer of the wine tourism seminar. His enthusiasm and clear vision for the future of Ningxia was contagious.

After a tour of the property, we were treated to traditional Chinese music played on a guqin (a stringed instrument from the zither family) by a beautiful female musician. Next was a buffet dinner, and the opportunity to taste the 2010 Chateau Lanyi Merlot and two of the 2011 Chateau Lanyi Cabernet Sauvignons. The merlot was darker in color than the cab, with a very savory spicy note that caused me to ask the name of the clone. I had tasted several other merlots like this while in Ningxia, but unfortunately no one knew the name of the clone. It’s unique flavor profile made me think more of St. Emilion wines than Napa, and I wondered if it would be better used as a blending grape than on its own.

The cabernet sauvignons were light and fruity, with the unoaked one tasting more like Beaujolais. It was very approachable and fun, and also served with our lunch each day where it paired beautifully with the food. The 2011 reserve cab with more oak and Chinese Gernischt, had a slightly bitter and acrid taste at first, but after some air, it opened up a bit. The 2011 vintage was cooler, so I found many of the 2011’s to have a sharp herbal note. Definitely vintage makes a difference here as in other parts of the world. Many of the winemakers reported that they felt 2013 was going to be one of their best vintages.

The evening was very enjoyable. With the help of Qin as a translator, we learned more about the wine vision of Ningxia from Mr. Cao, and how the new classification system worked. We all were quite impressed with the strategic thinking and progress that has gone into developing the region.