Trying to channel the Victorian ladies, Somerville and Ross---authors of In the Vine Country--- I arrived at the Bordeaux train station, Gare St-Jean, deep in the romance of memory; what would it have been like to have arrived here for the first time as two Irish lesbian ladies with the purpose of writing a Bordeaux travelogue in the 1890's? Rolling my bag, something they would not have done, I headed to the parking lot to pick up my rental. It was raining. A crazy person smacked right into me. He tried to go through me just as a ghost walks through a wall, chattering and talking to his hand.
Once at my chambre d'hote, I dropped my bags, grabbed my 'Mappy' (the euro version of MapQuest) and headed to Canon Fronsac to Moulin Le Peybere where I was to meet up with Joe Dressner, his wife Denyse and attend the first of the alternative tastings to VinExpo.
In 20 minutes I got off of the autoroute and was into vines. "Hmm....I thought. This looks just as boring as Long Island." Did Long Island think they could make wine just because of the visual similarity?
But in Fronsac all was different. Flat gave way to many and mini hills. I called Joe Dressner. Was here there? Yes, he and his wife Denyse were eating lunch. Great. I was starved.
Joining Joe and Denyse, I dug into several salads, perfectly seasoned. Raw milk cheeses, the kind that is still not available stateside ---with distinct hormonal goat appeal. Apricots. I was a very happy girl. There were even some lovely dogs, including the affectionate hit of the day, the black lab belonging to Francois Ecot.
And then off to work. There were two dozen producers, and I was familar with most at this point, but I had never met Jean Michel Stephan. Syrah was calling.
Jean Michel is a short guy with the body of a wrestler, an entirely serious face of deep facial lines and kindness.
He had the 2004's. The Cote Rotie VV was a race horse that had been running on a hot day. Gritty and compelling. Then came the 2004 Coteau du Tupin which is his homage to the carbonic maceration sans soufre guy, Jules Chauvet. When I asked him if he works with carbonic on his other wines he looked at me as if I was nuts. Like why would he? Yet great Rhone book, the one written by John Livingston Learmoth, reportetd that he always worked with that controversial carbonic technique. No matter. I am curious. But, no matter. The wines are compelling and have none of the puppy breath I get on so many other wines with out sulfur.
Uncharacteristically I decided to be relaxed and not worry about how to find my chambre d'hote that night (really inadequate maps) --and just stay and have a good time. Night fell, 10pm; we sat down again for another meal. Jean Michel sat next to me and I got to drink more of his wine....but wishing for subways so I could drink with abandon. Then the light show started. While the moon was exceedingly bright and Venus was hanging out near it like a tick, the flashes of lightening started. It was fantastic! What a show. We were riveted. Half of the sky was dark, the other moon filled. Never did I see such a show. Remarkable. We watched for a half hour until the storm came closer and occluded the moon. The wind picked up, menacingly. It looked like a tornado could hit. The lights shorted out and all of us, perhaps 70 or so, wordlessly got up and moved into the house. Gregoire was---what took you so long!
I was drenched. Soaked. And so was Catherine Breton and Catherine Roussell and Jean Michel and Denyse and Joe. There was not a piece of dry clothing or skin in the room.
By 1am the passed and Joe---having a GPS, said he would guide me to my exit.
This worked for a bit. After roaming the streets of Bordeaux, asking any truck driver I could find for a familiar sounding street, resigning myself to sleeping in the car until morning, I unlocked the gate to my home for the next three nights at 3am.
One more Vin Expo entry coming up......