The trip was hard but that doesn't mean there weren't plenty of moments of delight. Visiting Benoit Courault was one of them. The morning had not quite thawed out when Pascaline and I pulled up to Benoit's place in Anjou. Benoit lives in a trailer on the property with his wife and infant. Outside the small winery, waited a cluster of men drinking in the cold. In this video, Pascaline, Benoit, Pat (de Griottes, as they call him) Babas (Sebastien) and Marc from Atelier de Tampon in the Marais. I could see Benoit, with his a crop of kinky blond curls, much shorter than when I first met him at the bar at Pierre Jancou's Racines in Paris where I was knocked out by the purity and life in his chenin and cab franc. "Hey, hey," hugs, kisses, glasses shoved in our hand, for drinking not spitting, gorgeous sparkling cider. A great refresher before we went off to the mushy vineyards in the hills. This vintage a number of people are varying their pruning schedule. Over at Mark Angeli, pruning on his goblet vines was delayed as he didn't want to repeat last year when a late frost decimated many of the buds. Mark Angeli's vines in February Later pruning would mean later bud break, and with global warming in the mix, a later bud break might be the ticket for vine production. Here, some pruning had been underway on the cabernet vines. Like most of these vignerons, the soil is worked rigorously, with deep plowing, but yet everyone was talking Fukuoka. (more on this later)...the Japanese farmer/philosopher who advocated a Zen approach of doing nothing. Nothing. With my boots caked in mud and schist, we headed back to taste. There are people who have talent. Ben is one. Great things will come from his hands an intuition. Jenny & Francois will be handling his wine. You should look for them in the Spring. We were in the middle of the 2008 cabernet/grolleau when the Tom Waits started and I started to cry to everyone's amazement and my own embarrassment. "Can you take it off, please?" We all tried to make a joke, but the damage was done. I was transported to a mood that didn't lift till we headed off to lunch at Patrick's wine partner, Babas's house where I had the mackeral of my life. Just caught macks. Marc who does a 'natural' furniture refinishing in the Marais plunged the silvery fish into boiling water. (This is what the Japanese do to remove the fishiness, he said) and then stuffed them with caramelized onions and sauteed bitter greens, and pan seared them. It's amazing what you can tell from the way people eat fish. Ben's approach is meticulous. He could have been doing brain surgery.