Chateau La Caminade

Dominique Ressès

The vineyards of Cahors lay an equal distance from the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees. They are planted along the banks and hills of the Lot River valley. As a result of its millennia of work carving through a limestone plateau, the Lot River left a narrow band of hills ideally suited to the vine. The soils vary according to their proximity to the river, with the lower terraces having more alluvial deposits and the upper vineyards having more exposed rock. The vineyards date back at least two thousand years and the wines of Cahors have an illustrious history that includes being sought after by the Roman Emperor Domitian, the Russian Orthodox Church and numerous kings and bishops.

The Chateau La Caminade vineyards lie in Parnac, in the heart of the Cahors region. The Ressès family has been making wine here since 1895 and Dominique and Richard represent the fourth generation. The 27 hectares of vineyards are planted on a variety of soil types including gravelly sand and clay/limestone. The vineyards are certified “Haute valeure Environmentale” Level 3 which requires a comprehensive sustainability. Until the French Revolution the domain belonged to the clergy who left behind much documentation attesting to both their winemaking techniques and their understanding of the terroir. The Ressès bring forward quite a tradition.

Read Dominique’s comments in the Southwest Vintage Reports

Mission La Caminade

This cuvée is typically a blend of 85% Auxerrois (Malbec) and 15% Merlot. It is produced from parcels on the “second and third terraces” with the classic Cahors mix of erosional and alluvial soils. Throughout the growing season green harvesting and leaf thinning are practiced to insure low yields and healthy grapes. The harvest is triaged before entering the vat house and the varieties are vinified separately in stainless steel tanks with macerations of 12 to 15 days. The wine is blended and then it is matured in cement vats for up to 18 months before bottling. The style is one of suppleness and charm and the wine does not require further cellaring.

La Commandery

This wine comes from the best parcels in the La Caminade vineyard. Typically, they are parcels of old vines growing on the “third terrace”, but the final selection is made after the fermentations have occurred. For this cuvée, the Ressès try to use exclusively Auxerrois (Malbec) although sometimes a small amount of Tannat is blended for complexity. The harvest is triaged before entering the vat house and fermentations are done in temperature controlled stainless steel vats. Maceration is extended to five weeks. M. Ressès has devised a system that allows for very gentle pumping of the juice over the cap. The wine is aged in oak barrels, typically one fourth new, for one year. The result is a deep and concentrated wine that typifies the Quercy region.


After a challenging, sometimes suspensful growing season in 2013, things are now quiet in the vines, leaves are mellowing to gold hues and vines are cloaked in autumn mists. Dominique Ressès of Chateau La Caminade in Cahors sends us these photos. Stay tuned for 2013 vintage reports as they come in from our producers.

Region: Southwest

The wine appellations of southwest France are spread throughout ten different “départments”. The Romans called the area Aquitania, “land of waters”, and it has been described as the area of few roads but many rivers. This group of appellations is certainly the most far ranging and diverse to be brought together under one geographical umbrella...

Although the area is spread out, it is given contours by its impressive natural boundaries. The great mountain range known as the Massif Central forms the eastern boundary. This vast range gives rise to the Dordogne, the Lot and the Tarn rivers, which flow westward toward the Atlantic Ocean and have been so crucial to the development of the region’s vineyards. The southern extreme is formed by the Pyrénées, the source of the Garonne River whose northern route passes through Toulouse and Bordeaux. The region is met on its western edge by the Atlantic Ocean.

Within the southwest of France there are many cultural and culinary traditions. Around Toulouse one finds a distinctly southern, “Provençal” influence, while the Pyrénées is home to the Basque culture as well as the Béarnaise. Further north one passes through Gascony on route to Bordeaux and Périgord.

When the French talk about abandoning the charms of nouvelle cuisine for good old country cooking or “cuisine du terroir”, the Southwest is the first “terroir” that springs to mind. Not surprisingly, the wines of southwest France also offer a welcome antidote to “nouvelle” wines and we have chosen to work with vignerons who prefer to refine the quality of their traditional wines rather than abandon them. Many of the appellations in the Southwest have ancient and illustrious histories such as the Gaillac vineyards which date back to the Gauls and were widely planted by the Romans in the first century. In the fourteenth century over half the wine shipped from the port of Bordeaux was from the Cahors region. Reflective of the cultural diversity is the diversity of wine styles and grape varieties grown in the Southwest, many of which are particular to their appellations. Red varieties from the Carmenet family such as Fer Servadou, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc are grown throughout the region as well as Tannat, Malbec and Negrette from the Cotoïdes family. White varieties of the region include Len de l’el, Mauzac, Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng. There is a bucolic quality in this corner of France, a quality which is mirrored in the rich tapestry of terroirs and local grape varieties that produce these most savory, delicious and charming wines.