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    EOL Coverage of Chefs Championships at IHMRS

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    Preparing Lobster for Competition

I Love French Wine and Food - A Rhone Valley Crozes-Hermitage

If you are looking for fine French wine and food, consider the Rhone Valley region of southeastern France. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you'll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour in which we review a Crozes-Hermitage red wine from the northern Rhone Valley.

Among France's eleven wine-growing regions the Rhone Valley ranks second in acreage. The region extends 125 miles (200 kilometers) along the Rhone River. This region is actually composed of two parts, the north and the south whose wines tend to be quite different. The northern Rhone Valley is quite narrow. Its major red grape variety is Syrah, while its major white variety is Viognier. The northern Rhone Valley produces some of the best red wines in all France, and according to its fan club, some of the best red wines on earth. The southern Rhone Valley produces about 95% of the Rhone Valley wines. This is the kingdom of grape blending. For example the famous Chateauneuf-Du-Pape AOC wine may be made from up to thirteen different grape varieties.

Vienne, population about thirty thousand, was a major town in Roman Gaul and still retains a lot of its history and its charm. Near the river you'll find the Romanesque church of St-Pierre already rebuilt in the Ninth Century. The Gothic Cathedral of St-Maurice was built during the Eleventh to Sixteenth Centuries and largely destroyed in a religious war during the mid-Sixteenth Century. Rue des Orfèvres (Goldsmiths' Street) is filled with Renaissance buildings and the Romanesque church St-Andre-le-Bas (St. Andrew the Lesser).

Vienne's Theatre Romain (Roman Theater) is one of the largest in France; it spans almost 450 feet (140 meters) and once held thirteen thousand spectators. Excavation started only in 1922. This theater hosts a great jazz festival in July. Other Roman ruins include the Temple d'Auguste et de Livie (Temple of Augustus and Livia) erected by the Emperor Claudius and the Plan de l'Aiguille (Needle Tower), a truncated pyramid that was once part of a Roman circus. Some say that this structure encloses the tomb of Pontius Pilate.

Before reviewing the Cotes du Rhone wine and imported cheeses that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region. Start with Foie Gras avec Gelee de Viognier (Goose Liver Pate with Viognier Jelly). For your second course savor Chevreau a l'Ail et Herbes Sauvages (Baby Goat with Garlic and Wild Herbs). And as dessert indulge yourself with Granite aux Pommes et Calvados (Apple and Calvados Ice).

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.

Wine Reviewed Domaine du Colombier Crozes-Hermitage 2005 13% about $25

Let's start by quoting the marketing materials. Until 1992, Florent Viale and his father sold all of their grapes to negociants. As Crozes-Hermitage came into its own, the Viales decided to make their own wines. The results have been nothing short of spectacular. Layers of blackberry, tar and black pepper dominate their finely made Syrah-based wines. A very good match for roast leg of lamb.

My first meal was a barbecue including a rib steak marinated in a homemade ketchup-based sauce with chunks of garlic, corn on the cob, and red-skinned potatoes. The wine was powerful and mouth-filling. It was quite long and had no trouble maintaining its flavors. I didn't used to be a fan of tannins but these Crozes-Hermitage tannins melted in my mouth along with the meal.

My next meal involved a combination of marinated barbecued beef