When I asked Jeff Connell (computer geek, genius responsible for the initial renaissance of Astor Place Wines and now tender to vineyards on Lake Ontario) who is extremely fond of Catherine of the Loire Valley's Clos Roche Blance, what I could bring her as a house gift he stated the rhetorical, "Indeed, what to bring the woman who has everything. I don't know: organic bread? Morels? Honey?"
I had no idea. And I figured I'd find something when I was in Fez.
Once installed as an overnight guest, I mentioned Jeff's comment. I heard no perceptible irony in Catherine's smoky voice when she agreed, "It's true."
She lives just outside of Saint Aignan, in the magical house her great-grandfather built..
...with vines sculpted into its foundation. In the right weather her woods are filled with mushrooms. Two, much loved, fine, fine dogs have the run of the land. Those in the United States and Paris are devoted to the CRB wines. Yet, while CRB is making more money from wine than ever before, its most expensive wine isn't more of a setback than two packs of Marlboros. Catherine's car is a tuna can. Her computer is dial up. Her great extravagances are great teas, chocolates, and morels. Extravagances I can relate to.
Her newly-shorn daughter---adamant about not taking over the winery--made a vegetable "crumble" for dinner.
focused on La Closerie while Catherine and I spend quality time with the gamay, extolling its virtues with each sip.
Having to get up early and head to Les Montils and Thierry Puzelat, I turned to bed sooner than I would have liked. I packed myself into bed with as many blankets as I could pile on top of me. The temperature had fallen but still, I was unnaturally chilled. Was this poisoning from those cherries that damned taxi driver lured me with in Blois? They looked like cherries but the tree was not a cherry tree. Or was it some little gift I picked up for myself in Fez? I lay in bed shaking so hard I thought I would break bones. When I finally fell asleep I dreamed of having a wild fever. And in the delirium of the night I thought about how Jeff was right. Catherine had and has everything--that is except the right person to take over winemaking at CRB when she and Didier retire. She came back to this house in 1975 to take over the winery and never left. Her sense of home here---even without high-speed--is infectiously fragrant.
And so, what did I bring the woman who has everything? Wild foraged honey I carried back from Fez. This one came from Moroccan carob trees laced with gamey caramel flavors. I only hope I didn't pass on the other 'gift' as it sank its teeth into me for the next six days. I'll email her and find out.