Category Archives: Food Pairing

Cuveliers Los Andes/ Diam Andes

The story begins in 1804 when Henri Cuvelier set out to share his great passion for fine wine with his friends of the grand bourgeoisie residing in the rich and dynamic towns of the North of France, (Lille, Boulogne Sur Mer, Arras, Valenciennes…) To this aim, he created H. Cuvelier And Fils, a wine Merchant company whose rapid success continued to develop throughout the 19th century.

 

At the beginning of the 20th century, Paul Cuvelier and his young brother Albert, anticipating the inevitable rise in « château-bottled wines » to the detriment of the « tailor-made » blends of the wine merchants, decided to purchase top quality estates in the Bordeaux area. They bought Château Le Crock in 1903, then Château Camensac in 1912 and finally the prestigious Château Léoville Poyferré in 1920. It is interesting to note that, in early 1914, Paul Cuvelier had already come to Argentina, to discover the wines of Mendoza. He found them « pleasant to drink » although not adapted to the French taste at that time. He recommended a watchful eye be kept on their development. In 1946, the family group asked Max Cuvelier to create a second Fine Wine Merchant’s based in Bordeaux. It was, as it transpired, essential to have an address in the Pavé des Chartrons if one wished to be part of the Bordeaux wine world. This company has since flourished both in France and around the world.

 

family_03In 1998 Bertrand Cuvelier made the happy choice of personally accompanying Michel Rolland in his great Argentine project, which was to become the« Clos de Los Siete »group. Three years later, Jean-Guy Cuvelier decided to join his cousin Bertrand in the joint aim of building a Winery and producing fine wines worthy of the family tradition. The agreement between Bertrand and Jean-Guy Cuvelier was symbolically signed in the great office of their common ancestor, Henri Cuvelier, in Lille-Haubourdin, in the north of France. Since then, the Winery has been built and each year the vines of Cuvelier Los Andes have contributed 50% of their production to « Clos de Los Siete », the wine signed by Michel Rolland. The success of this wine is worldwide due to the exceptional value for money it offers.

 

family_02The 2003 yield has also allowed the production of the first edition of «Cuvelier Los Andes-Coleccion». Then the 2004 harvest saw the arrival of our first edition of «Cuvelier Los Andes – Grand Vin ». With the 2005, Cuvelier Los Andes S.A., aside from its significant contribution to «Clos de Los Siete», can now present three wines, produced with the help and advice of Michel Rolland: Coleccion – Grand Vin – Grand Malbec. The quality of these wines, produced from young wines, is well beyond our original hopes. Will the Argentine cousins rival in the future with the fine wines of Bordeaux. It is for the consumers to decide. Time will tell.
A last word: We are proud to announce that the new generation has decided to join the crew, taking on the sales and marketing of the Cuvelier Los Andes S.A.

Cuvelier Los Andes is a great winery in Mendoza Argentina, led by there very talented winemaker Fedemco Bieeotto who was well trained in his craft in California and assisted by the world renown consultant Michel Rolland.

One of the reasons there wines are so fresh and vibrant is the introduction to a new wine making technique called Micro Vinification which means the winemaker put whole berry fruit in steel tank or barrel for fermentation.   This technique reduces the amount of oxygen the grapes are exposed to during fermentation.

This winery make very good white wines, Viognier, and Chardonnay, but make no mistake they are a great red wine making winery.  These wines aren’t your ordinary Argentina wines they are made fresh, lively and in the French style of wine making.

I tasted through several of the Cuvelier wines and the best of the best was the 2008 Cuvelier Los Andes Grand Vin “WOW” what a great wine that was powerful from the first time I smell the wine and when I put it on my palate it was explosive with fruits of blackberry, blueberry, spices, my final description as it coated my palate was “A Mouth Full of Joy”.

Thank you Pablo for a great tasting.  Cheers

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DAY 3 AND 4 IN NAPA, SONOMA VALLEY

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> DAY 3: Starts at Diamond Creek Winery. WOW what a magnificent piece of property to grow grapes! Nestled into steep hills, this vineyard has a natural spring and their own man made lake. We were greeted by Cidy, a lovely host that I had met at the Fountainbleau during South Beach Food and Wine Festival earlier in the year. They only have three wines for most people to taste but what a threesome: Red Rock, Volcanic Hill, and Gravelly Meadow. All of these wines grow on 44 year-old vines with roots often 30 feet deep so they don’t starve for water.

The 2009 Volcanic Hill can only be described as a mouth full of joy!  The 2010 Gravelly Meadow is a 300 case production– so virtually impossible to get–but if you like Bordeaux grown in Napa, this would please your soul. To show how well their wines age, Cidy very kindly opened a 2003 Volcanic Hill…..the fruit was like black cherry candy while the structure and complexity was truly amazing. This 03 tasted like a young baby. BTW, Lake Vineyard is their 4th wine but you didn’t hear it from me!

As a side note: Cidy presented us with an aesthetically beautiful and delicious cheese pairing to accompany the wine. All cheeses were locally made and finished with a fresh fig in a balsamic reduction. Heaven!

We finished the day with the lovely sisters:   Far Niente and Nickel &Nickel (N&N).  Both wineries make great wines but are vastly different.  Far Niente makes 4 wines:  Chardonnay, Cabernet, Pinot Noir, and the great Sauterne of California:  Dolce.  The first thoughts that came to mind upon tasting the Dolce were “delicious” and “liquid gold”.  Interestingly, and just for the record, the ‘07 was the best wine I tasted at both wineries.

The wines at N&N are mostly one hundred percent grape varietals.  The Merlot was a very good wine that shows how under-appreciated this grape is in California.  2011 Enroute Pinot was smoky-bramble with cherry fruit and a long, lush finish.  It reminded me very much of a Premier Cru from Burgundy. 

Although we tasted several 100% Cabernets,  I thought the ‘09 CC from Rutherford was an extremely special wine.  I’m beginning to really appreciate the fruit from Rutherford!

 

Day 4:  The last day started early at Caymus Vineyards…. one of the really special wineries in Napa. It was founded my Chuck Wagner at age 19, and is now slowly moving into the capable hands of his children.   In 1972, Charlie Wagner,  Lorna Belle Glos Wagner and their son, Chuck, built their winery among the vines planted on the family’s ranch in Rutherford, California  (the center of the Napa Valley). Just a short time later, in 1975, the Wagners produced their first Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, which remains the only wine to have twice been named Wine Spectator’s “Wine of the Year” (1984 and 1990 vintage).  

The winery now makes several different types of wine but their bread and butter are still the two Cabs:  The Caymus Cabernet and The Special Select Cabernet (which is 90% Cabernet).  Depending upon the year, I think the regular Cab can be better than the Special Select.

Caymus also makes world class Pinot Noir Meiomi and 4 different Belle Glos wines:  Dairyman, Clark & Telephone, Las Alturas, and Taylor Lane.  These are all big Pinot’s… I call them Pinot on steroids!

The surprise wine for me was the Zinfandel.  This was a lovely Zin with Raspberry, Clove, White Pepper and a spicy, long finish.  Easily one of the top 3 Zin’s that I have ever tasted. 

As a side note: Rosanne Acquistapace, our tasting guide was not only very familiar the wines but put together a cheese selection that was paired perfectly with the wines….and all readily available (Dean&Deluca,Whole Foods and Wms. Sonoma). Thank you!

 

Just when you think  you have seen the best piece of property and the best view in Sonoma and Napa , you arrive at Hanzell Vineyard  and quickly realize you  haven’t seen anything yet!  . 

Founded in 1948 by James David Zellerbach, who was not only involved in the design of the Marshall Plan but asked to implement it in Europe by President Truman .  While leading this forward-thinking and compassionate effort, Zellerbach was also at the helm of his highly successful business; Crown Zellerbach. It was during this time that J.D. Zellerbach discovered and purchased his first fourteen acres of private, oak woodland on the steep hillside of the Mayacamas Range, overlooking the town of Sonoma. 

As Mr. Zellerbach made his money in the Chemical business, he was in a perfect position to hire an accomplished chemist – Mr. Webb – as his winemaker.  It turned out to be a great decision!  For fifty years Hanzell has been the home of great innovation and invention:   from the first-in-the-world stainless steel fermenters and the first controlled malolactic fermentation, to our current day one-ton tankitos and clone and rootstock trials.

Our 90 minute tour and tasting of this great property was directed by Ryan Hortum, an extremely knowledgeable and engaging person who provided us with all of the historical details of Hanzell and more.  With total respect for the winery  I must add that after a two hour tour they only had 2 wines for us to taste! You can just imagine how thirsty we were after two hours of not drinking wine in wine country!  There are reasons for this:  first they only produce 5,500 cases of wines a year and second they only make 6 wines in total (3 Pinots and 3 Chardonnays).  Although 2011 was a very challenging year for every winery in California,  Hanzell lost 40% of their fruit hence the absence of Pinot Noir for us to taste.  

The 2 Chardonnay’s were fabulous and more than made up for it!  2011 Sebella  Chardonnay  was youthful with floral notes, green apple and good acidity,  with a lemon/lime finish.  2010 Hanzell Chardonnay had green apple on the nose,   very creamy honeysuckle on the mid palate and finally notes of pear with a rich lone finish.  If I closed my eyes and didn’t know any better I would think that I was drinking Chassagne  Montrachet from Burgundy.

Overall Sonoma and Napa Valley will continue to produce world class wines for the foreseeable future.  The scenery, the food and the people make the wine that much better!  It was another GREAT time…..!

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WOMEN OF BURGUNDY

Burgundy is a most storied wine region, its wine among the most expensive and highly valued in the world. The wines hailing from Burgundy are thought to be the pinnacle of viticulture, yet here are some who think that the wines and region are no longer interesting and a bit staid. Something many do not know is that many new exciting things are coming out of Burgundy—one of them is the proliferation of outstanding female winemakers. Women are adding fresh perspectives to the old boys’ network of winemakers, and are reviving Burgundy with feminine creativity.

1) Domaine Manoir du Capucin, www.manoirducapucin@yahoo.fr, has been a family run winery for many generations beginning with Chloe Bayon’s (MdC vintner) great-grand father who fell in love with Fuisse and helped to establish the AOC Fuisse in 1936. Chloé grew up in Nice with a passion for wine, which led her to study winemaking. In Nice, she found it difficult to be accepted because of her gender. Worked hard to prove her capabilities, then moved to Fussié 10 years ago to helm Manoir DU Capucin. Chloé manages the day-to-day operations of the 13 hectare winery along with two others, all while expecting her second child. Chloé’s goal in returning to Fussié was to restore the winery to the status of her great grandfather’s rich tradition of making great wines.

2) Domaine Feuillat-Juillot, www.domaine@feuillat-juillot.com, is owned by Francoise Feuillat-Juillot. Françoise has been making wine since 1989 with her father Nickel Juillot. Francoise’s passion for winemaking stems from a rich family tradition of winemaking. Getting to where she is now has been no easy feat. In Burgundy, if there are two children, female and male in a winemaking family, the boy is trained to become successor without regard to any winemaking talent the girl in the family may happen to display. That didn’t deter Francoise, her solution was to begin her own domaine. In 2004 she became owner and winemaker at Domaine Feuillat-Juillot where she manages 14 hectares with two other employees. She produces about 60,000 bottles yearly, 13 Premier Crus, and distributes is the USA.

3) Domaine Parent, www.domaine-parent-bourgogne.com, owned by sisters Anne and Catherine, is located in Pommard. Anne, fluent in English, travels the world promoting Domaine Parent wines and advocating for women winemakers. Anne and Catherine represent the twelfth generation of family winemaking in Burgundy. The family has been producing wine since 1635, and after 11 generations of male wine makers, the Parent sisters are in control of the domaine and have been since1998. Legend has it that Thomas Jefferson while serving as ambassador to France was a huge fan of their wines and a personal friend to Etienne Parent.

Anne and Catherine divide the responsibility of running the winery; Anne handles the wine making and Catherine handles the business of running the Domaine. Domaine Parent makes wine according to Burgundian classifications: Bourgogne, Village, Premier Cru, and Grand Cru. Anne’s personal philosophy on wine making is “There are no bad vintages, there are only bad winemakers”, she made this statement in reference to the extremely challenging 2012 vintage. Anne is also a big believer in organic and biodynamic farming and is moving her Domaine in that direction. Anne has had a passion for wine making from a very young age, but growing up with brothers, a father will choose males in the family to carry on the wine making tradition. In general women are left to explore other avenues to fulfill their passions. Anne went to the University to study law then later returned to study wine making.

Once her brother left to start his own Domaine, Anne and her Catherine took control of Domaine Parent. Anne believes it is clearly more challenging for women coming up in the wine industry by having to prove themselves three times more than there male winemaker counterparts to obtain the respect they desire. An overall view of the wines from Pommard will find that they tend to be more masculine as well as elegant in style, this is also true of Anne’s wine. Her red wines from the Bourgogne and Village levels have dark cherry fruit with a peppery finish. The Premier Crus are rounder in style but still have a dark cherry acidity and a lingering peppery finish. Anne has created two amazing Grand Crus, upon tasting them the Burgundian classification system is fully realized. The 2008 Corton Grand Cru Les Renardes which was aged 16 months new french oak, has a deep garnet color, black cherry notes, round with depth on the palate. The finish is long with some spice, and you can sense that the oak is there but it doesn’t define this great wine.

4) Domaine Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet, www.francine-picard@m-p.fr, owner is Francine Picard. Founded in 1951 by her father Louis Felix Picard, owner of two hectares of vineyards in the town of Chagny. His children took over the winery in 1990 and they now have 13.5 hectares of land. Francine is also a true believer in the environment, and is steering her winery to become organic and biodynamic. Francine is the business mind behind Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet and incorporates a three-part business philosophy for running a winery: Organic Wine Making, Economics & Business, and the social aspects of managing a winery. Since 2006 she has directed and created a strong teamwork environment for her crew of approximately 30 employees

5) Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine, winemaker and owner Christine Dubreuil- Fontaine, Domaine@dubreuil-fontaine.com. Located in the Côte de Beaune Domaine. Dubreuil started as a family winery in 1879. They have over 20 hectares , its vineyards cover the villages of: Pernand-Vergelesses, Aloxe-Corton, Savigny Les Beaune, Pommard, Beaune, and Volnay. She makes wine on variety of levels, Bourgogne, Village, Premier Cru, to Grand Cru. Christine has been in charge of the winemaking and the business of the Domaine for the past 20 years, she works closely with her husband and 10 employees. Christine is fulltime business woman and a loving mother of two children ages 13 and 17. Christine attended wine school in Beaune and then business school in Paris. In addition she lived in the US for several months working at Simi Winery in California and a local wine store in LA. Ms. Dubreuil- Fontaine is a fabulous wine maker who takes a balanced approach to winemaking believing in the limited use of oak.
We tasted through many of her wines the 2010 Pernand-Vergelesses Village contains plenty of good minerality, the 2009 Clos Berthet Premier Cru is driven by a fresh mineral quality that rounds out the wine, Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru was explosive with citrus fruits, well balanced yet a powerful long lasting finish. Pernand Iledes premier cru 2009 crushed black cherry fruit with balance acidity and a spicy peppery finish. This wine is an excellent choice to purchase and enjoy now.
Corton Grand Cru, wow! From the moment I inhaled the amazing aromas and put this beautiful wine on my palate, I knew it would be something special, deep garnet in color with a bouquet of black cherry and spice, then on the palate those fruits explode with flavor, well rounded, a mouth full of joy and a long lingering finish.

6) Domaine Rion & Fils, Pascale-Rion contact@domaine-daniel-rion.com. Pascale is the business lady behind this Domaine’s success she is also fulltime mother of three children and a wife, experiencing all of the challenges of balancing family life and running a winery. It is Pascale’s two brothers that are at the helm of the Domaine Rion& Fils, as well as handle all winemaking. This is due to traditional family structure in Burgundy, the patriarchal structure states that the son of the father will be head of the Domaine and winemaking no matter how talented the females might be. I believe deep down Pascale would love to be a winemaker. In fact, Pascale shared a tasty wine with me that she made in 09. Domaine Rion & Fils make several excellent wines starting with the village level in new Niuts Saint George north and south, Vosne Romanée, to Echezeaux. Moving into The Grand Cru Clos Veugeot, cherry spicy with great mineralbility and balance throughout the finish of the wine.

7) Domaine Taupenot-Merme, Domaine.Taupenot-Merme@orange.fr. Ms Taupenot-Merme is President of the Association Femmes et de Bourgogne (www.fevb.net). Her Domaine is at the heart of burgundy and vineyards at Morey- Saint Denis, this estate is a place to discover the wealth of Burgundy wines. The winery spans 7 generations her father is from Coté Beaune and her mother is from Côte Nuit, Ms Taupenot-Merme attended winemaking school in Beaune France and studied business in Paris and New York, she also travel to San Francisco California to study how wine was made in the West. She returned to Bergen in 1995 and started working with her father making wine at the domain, but soon after her brother returned to the Domaine. Once again we see the patriarchal system at work as the son takes over duties as winemaker. Forced to give up her ambition of becoming a winemaker, her duties now include being in charge of all the business aspect of the Domaine. Being in control of the business aspect of the Domaine has not diminished her great passion to make wine in the future. Currently a full time mother of 2 children 2 and 6 years old, Ms. Taupenot-Merme is a working mother and a business lady all in one. Putting in 16hour days accepting and meeting the challenging aspects of the dueling duties of mother hood and handling the day-to-day operations with a staff of 11 employees of the winery head on. As with many career minded mothers there seems to never be enough time in a day to fulfill all of her obligations. Ms. Taupenot-Merme takes educating future generations of winemakers seriously and especially believes women should learn every aspect of winery operations so that one day they will have the capabilities of taking over as winemaker. She is the President and a founding member of the female wine makers Association in Burgundy, which now has approximately 39 female members.

8) Domaine Audoin, Marie-Françoise Audoin Owner wine maker for 35 years with her husband Charles and son Cyril, domaine-audion@wandoo.fr. They started this great winery with 2 hectares and through reclamation and purchasing new plots, they now have a total of 14 hectares, with most of the vines sitting hillside receiving the southeast exposure of Marsannay. Ms Audoin is a lovely engaging lady who communicated her passion and skill for winemaking to me effortlessly despite our language barrier. Marie tasted me through most of the wines that are produced at Audoin, along the way providing a history lesson on the rose Pinot Noir that is produced in Marsannay. Marsannay is the only area in Burgundy where the creation of rose of Pinot Noir is permitted. I would highly recommend Audoin rose of Pinot Noir. I tasted through the Audoin wines and found them pleasant, easy to drink and priced reasonably. The next generation winemaker at Audion will be their son Cyril , who has trained all over the world and in position himself to become a very prominent winemaker. As his parents begin to retire, Cyril is well prepared to take control of the domain and propel it to the next level.

9) Domaine Les Temps Perdus, owner winemaker Clothide Davenne, clotildedavenne@free.fr. After 17 years as a winemaker for the Brocard Winery, Ms. Davenne went about establishing her own Domaine in 2005. Ms Davenne is an experimental and innovative winemaker using Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay Pinot Noir and a locally grown grape called Caesar. She also creates an excellent sparkling wine from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Ms. Davenne is a driven, determined, hard working lady who has a vision of the future and knows how to accomplish her goals. She admits to being very controlling of the entire operation from wine making to the business side of her domain, and has little patience for others who are not as driven and as motivated as she is in completing their daily tasks. Ms. Davenne is a seasoned veteran winemaker who has traveled throughout the world to become the best wine maker possible. Clothide’s story is a bit unique as she does not come from a family of wine makers, the family farm she grew up on did not revolve around viticulture.

Her tasting journey into winemaking started with the family tradition of giving their children a spoonful of champagne around the age of 8 years old. I started tasting through numerous bottles of wine with Ms. Davenne and her trusted assistant. Starting with a sparkling Brut Rose which I have to admit it was one of the finest rose that I’ve ever tasted couple with a hard to believe price point at under 10 dollars, truly phenomenal. She also produces a fantastic Sauvignon Blanc as well as a very nice example of Pinot Noir, which is not typically grown in Chablis. Ms. Davenne’s other white wines are made from the Chardonnay grape and an excellent example of how a great Chardonnay can be made in Chablis. She also makes a Grand Cru from Chablis, which admittedly was the finest Grand Cru that I tasted in Chablis. Ms.Davenne has a Son, who is currently more passionate about thoroughbred equestrian competitions than winemaking, he does however return during harvest to assist with day to day operations at the Domaine. Ms.Davenne looks forward to the day when wine becomes his passion, so that he may take control of the Domain in the future.

I would be remiss in completing this article without another mention of the very unusual grape variety called Caesar that Ms.Davenne grows from 100 year old vines, which just happened to produce one of the best wines I tasted during my journey through Burgundy. Thank you for the great visit and a delicious lunch at LE Soufflot in a quaint town.

10) Domaine Des Malandes, Owner Vigneronne Lyne Marchive, contact@domainedesmalandes.com. Ms. Marchive is from an old Chablis winemaking family: The Tremblay of Chablis and in 1972 Vigneronne started her own winery and naming it Domaine Des Malandes. Controlling 27 hectares has taught her a profound respect for the environment. Ms Marchive and her wine maker Guenole Breteaudeau attempt to produce wines with freshness, finesse and minerality that come from the kimmerdgian soil associated with Chablis. Ms. Marchive is an amazing woman who has had the passion for wine from a very early age at a time when it wasn’t socially except-able for women to become wine makers. Realizing early on that she had the gift of smell and with the support of her Father (Mr.Andre Tremblay) she refined her skills. Miss Vigneronne was accepted into wine school at the tender age of 14 years old and would have been the only female in her class yet made the bold decision to turn it down, understanding her best education would come directly from the vineyards and the cellar. Ms Marchive operates the Domaine as a world class business with the majority of her delicious production (92%) being exported to Norway. Ms. Marchive has come a long way in the wine business and has earned the respect and admiration of her colleagues in viticulture. I tasted through a wide range of Domain Malandes wines and they are exactly what Ms. Marchive has strived to accomplish, lovely acidity and freshness with minerality that lingers on the finish.

11) Domaine Chateau de Beru, wine maker and owner Athenais de Beru, www.chateaudeberu.com. The de Beru family has owned their historical Château de Béru for 400 years. The tragedy of the philloxera crisis also known as the great French wine blight caused all the vines to be uprooted in the 19th century. It wasn’t until 1987 that Éric de Béru, out of his passion for wine undertook the pain staking efforts to replant the entire vineyard, and in particular, the famous Clos Béru.

His wife, Laurence and their daughter Athénaïs are now running the Domaine, they have invested considerable means to improve the production quality and give a fresh start to the Domaine. These tremendous efforts and the choice to adopt organic farming are beginning to bear fruits, and are noticeable in the vintages that have been vinified by Athénais and her team since 2004. After facing the challenging rebirth of the family Domaine in 2003 she harvested her first vintage in 2005, then started her own brand “Athénaïs” based on a close selection of parcels and growers cultivating grapes in the respect of Chablis terroirs.

I tasted three wines from Domaine de Beru the 07 and 09 Clos Beru from Monopole, the grapes are harvested by hand and fermented in old oak barrels without fining and filtration. The wine is aged for 18 months. This is a very unique wine. It was well rounded with fresh acidity, minerality and salt/iodinated lime on the finish. This is a complex, well-structured wine with it’s own identity.
Chateau de Beru also has a wonderful B&B on the property that is managed by her mother who makes a great breakfast every morning. Thanks for the hospitality.

In closing I would like to thank the Bourgognes, Bureau Interprofessionnel vins de Bourgogne www.burgundy-wines.fr for making this wonderful journey possible. My deepest gratitude for the 11 incredible women that I met along my journey through Burgundy and Chablis. It is because of their vision and passion for wine making that they are the future of Burgundy. These talented brave women have come together as one to announce that the traditional system of selecting males solely because of their gender to lead a Domaine is something that requires re-evaluation. For the past 25 years these women have proven that they are creative, passionate and beyond capable winemakers able to operate a Domaine as efficient as any of their male peers in Burgundy or Chablis. All the best ladies and many thanks again for your gracious hospitality, the world looks forward to many more delicious wines to come.

My Journey to Saint Emilion France

My highly anticipated journey to the Saint-Emilion region in Bordeaux, France, was to begin with a leisurely, three hour train ride from Paris in first-class. Before leaving Paris I stopped by a picturesque wine store and purchased two bottles of the local wines to enjoy on the way. I would quickly realize how fortuitous this purchase was since upon my arrival to Gare De Nrt , I discovered there were no first class seats!

I stood in the galley of the train surveying the cast of characters with whom I would share the first leg of my journey to the southwest of France: There was a retired Scotland Yard police officer, a military officer on home leave, and two other people just traveling home for holiday. Wine is a great communicator …..I offered a glass to all my galley mates, as well as the ticket collector who had been the bearer of the first-class-bad news, and thus started our journey, in true Buggs’ style!
Needless to say, once the retired police officer learned that I had just retired from the FBI after 22 years of service, we would have a very interesting conversation that allowed the three hours to pass relatively quickly! The delicious wine from southern France purchased from the local market in Paris would also help.

Finally, as we approached our destination , I asked the officer’s advice on how to travel from the train station to my hotel in Saint-Emilion. He was happy to direct me to the trolley that travels around the city…what he neglected to point out was that it stops running at 6pm and I would find myself at the train station at 7pm sharp.

As we pulled into the station, I was reminded of the movie “They Call Me Mr. Tibbs”, when Mr. Tibbs gets off the train in Mississippi back in the day. …. I seemed to be entirely alone at the station. The conductor had suggested a taxi, a normal suggestion in any other circumstance, but since there is only ONE taxi in Saint-Emilion and he was otherwise occupied far away in Bordeaux, I could sense that things were about to get interesting. Finally I called the Hotel receptionist in the likely event that they might have a vehicle available. I was told that no car was available but it was a short mile and a half and I should walk.

As an ex-athlete and wine appreciator, I thought this might be a grand idea….I felt up for a little exercise after the long train ride, and the opportunity to fully appreciate the beauty of the great city of Saint-Emilion. Sort of like killing two birds with one stone, so to speak! Perhaps it was the wine or perhaps the exhilaration of having arrived at my first destination….or perhaps even the anticipation of the comforts of my hotel at the end of the day, either way, my optimism quickly diminished when reality set in: I had a 50 pound suitcase, a backpack and two bottles of the best Champagne I had ever tasted (pictures will be enclosed), when I realized the road ahead was entirely uphill, AND made of cobblestones so deep that the wheels of my suitcase were already in protest!

Stage one of my uphill journey: I set out with a determined enthusiasm…..only to discover that I had charged off in the wrong direction. I turned around, crossed the railroad tracks again and started off again, enthusiasm level dipping only slightly. Several cars would pass me during this time and I have to admit that I was hoping – no ! even counting on – the great French hospitality toward foreigners, and ready to accept a ride even if it were by mule. But I was a black man, at night, clearly in distress and sweating profusely, but no cars, bikes or mules even slowed down for me! Despite my predicament, I couldn’t help notice the great Chateaux of Saint-Emilion in the distance and I was at least appreciative for the scenic view!

My hotel was located in the center of town, or so I thought. Upon arrival, I didn’t see my hotel immediately but did notice a Pizza establishment with some lights on that seemed to be open. I asked (in my best French –not) where this hotel was located, and in his best English (not) he pointed up the hill. All I could think of was, “NO WAY”! So started the second part of my walk….to the highest point in the town, rumbling along on the antique cobblestones….

As I mentioned earlier, I am an ex-athlete, and as such, I am aware of my physical limitations and how that can be stretched to the end by the power of the mind. Gone were the romantic thoughts of the sommelier…..this was an endurance test, requiring motivation, drive, and control. I was reminded of a quote from one of our great American Generals, “If you are going through hell, keep going”. As I had absolutely no other options, I completed this walk on sheer will power.

In closing, I was so determined to experience the true greatness and history of this wine region that this experience was but a bump on the ole cobblestone road. I finally met my friends from South Africa at the hotel, who had incidentally arrived by (my) taxi from the Bordeaux Airport. My trip was worth every step that I took to reach Saint- Emilion. I visited several great wineries including Chateau Angelus, Chateau Figeac, and Chateau Chatelet and I enjoyed the great cuisine of this wine region. And I discovered once again that perseverance pays!

Perrier Louet Belle Epoque, what a great Champagne

Perrier Louet Belle Epoque, what a great Champagne

Nicolas Feuillatte Palmes D'Or WOW

Nicolas Feuillatte Palmes D’Or WOW

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Chateau Figac

Chateau Figac

Top of my journey, the highest point in St Emilion

Top of my journey, the highest point in St Emilion

Chateau Yquem

Chateau Yquem

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