My plan was three days (much needed R&R) in Paris, then off to the Loire to pick grapes. Because of a siege of assignments and unwanted physical trauma, by the time I took off from JFK, I felt ill equipped for any hard labor but well equipped to sit in my friend Marianne’s apartment and drool. I thought that, perhaps I could muster the energy to venture out for little puffs of fresh air and to forage some food and wine while getting some strength back.
The plane ride was painful, especially with the new Draconian rules forbidding liquids on board. No longer could I use my special trick and decant a lovely wine into an empty bottle of Badoit. No, I have to drink scotch—bad scotch at that.
Once on French land, just before I stepped up to pay my fare, the Roissy bus ran over my luggage, missing my food by centimeters. Now, with a suitcase that looked like a fallen souffl, I headed to the apartment Marianne had been so kind to offer me the use of. Exhausted, I climbed up the six flights and plunked my tush in front of its odd, plastic louvered, electric door. I aimed the electronic device. I pressed the button. The door did not as much as groan. Her apartment. with all of its promise of peace and relaxation was not to be. It was Fashion Week. Not a hotel room in town.
Three days later, I picked up the rental car, maneuvered through the Sunday traffic on the Peripherique around Paris, missed my exit at Blois and ended up in Mareuil at Catherine Roussel’s house, a mess. An old knee injury had flared up. My carpal and cubital tunnel injuries –on the hand that would work the grape cutting clippers –had rendered my right hand useless. Walking wounded? Oh yes indeed.
At dinner, Didier (Catherine’s partner and winemaker for CRB) giggled a laugh reminiscent of hiccups and said, “ We thought it would be funny to see you in the vines.”
Ah, that's the reason they said I could come. I would be comic relief.
The Loire weather this year was odd. Late bud break. Broiling July. Cool and damp August. Unpredictable September. Yet, there was no doubt that the grapes were ripe. During the mornings when we picked, it was mostly cloudy and damp. In the afternoons, the sun shone and the wind picked up. Now, as much as I really want to get into the details about the whole process, I’ve been reading about the dangers of bloggers scooping themselves out of a story.
For most of the heartfelt details, you’ll have to wait for the article to come out in the Travel section of the New York Times. Let’s just say that I will forever know what bunches of sauvignon blanc and gamay feel like in my hand. And I have found out that grapes really don’t have to be treated like pampered infants to create fantastic wine. I admire Didier tremendously as an intuitive and skillful winemaker. I adore Catherine, who was a kind and adorable taskmaster. Her mother, Solange, who took care of our food needs is an elegant, beautiful woman, an excellent cook.
For those of you crippled with repetitive hand injuries, I recommend looking for a place to work harvest next year. I entered the Maison du Clos Roche Blanche a cripple and came out cured.