The unexpected break in harvesting to wait for ripeness has given us time to do other things. There is no lazying around – we are still putting in 10-12 hour days at the winery (or elsewhere). The best part of the break is that it creates space for new discoveries. The other day we welcomed a group of Americans and some online friends of mine (Mike Tommasi and Gabriella Opaz) for a quick course in harvesting and a great BBQ with lamb grilled over old vines, with fresh herbs from the edge of the vineyards.
The next day we had the unique opportunity to visit the mythic Rayas in Chateauneuf du Pape, spending two unexpected hours talking to winemaker Emanuel Reynaud and tasting the most elegant barrel samples I have encountered since Ridge. The 2011s were singing, and though I parted with a bottle of 1999, I would have just as happily taken a barrel sample to drink.
A quick trip to the Languedoc gave me the chance to meet up with Hamish Wakes-Miller and take a look at the new wines of Seigneurie du Peyrat, as well as meet the lovely Marie Chauffray who runs the excellent biodynamic boutique winery La Reserve d’O. Her vineyards were some of the most beautiful I have seen – secluded on a hilltop above the little village of St Saturnin with a breathtaking view of the valley below.
Today I did what I always do when in France – hit the market. Delectables galore. The dog at the house now loves me because I smell of sausage – bought a whole truckload of really tasty ones. With Bernard Duseigneur and the chef de cave (cellar manager) Adrien plus one of the harvest guys, Midas, we tried a newly opened wine bar in the cute town of Uzes with mainly natural wines. Two bottles: One hit, one miss, as it often is with natural wines… But at least it is never boring! And the food was amazingly good – simple but perfectly made from the freshest possible ingredients. The guys then raided the local Cavistes (wine shops) for natural wines to use for a comparative tasting. It’s a good idea – tasting wines as a winemaker in order to know where you want to go and where you don’t want to go.
Soon, the waiting is over. Monday we rise before dawn again and get our hands dirty. Can’t wait.