Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Day of Sensations

So I think this post is wine related simply in the fact that I'm in Burgundy right now. I'd like to summarize one of my finest days yet here in a list of sensory happenings that struck me particularly strong.

The SOUND of my alarm blaring at 6:30 this morning as I regret the amount of wine I had last night, looking out the window and SEEING the rain, regrettably pouring down.

The SMELL of Espresso brewing from our quaint machine as I prepare for a long day of work.

The FEEL of my feet sinking into the mud as I walk the vineyards in Puligny Montrachet taking vineyard samples after a long night of rain.

The TASTE of a fresh and proper French croissant, flaky and buttery, at morning coffee while I work on processing juice samples from the vineyards sampled.

The SMELL of wine emanating from Hospice du Beaune barrels as I prepare to rack them into a tank upstairs. The SMELL of Sulfur Dioxide as I pour it into a graduated cylinder, it burns my eyes and my lungs, so that I can mix it with the said wine.

The TASTE of the gourmet sandwiches our lovely chef Nir prepared for lunch and the TASTE of the Merusault Chardonnay we drink with them.

The FEELING of seeing a truck pull up loaded with the first Pinot Noir of the season.

The SIGHT of grape clusters rolling across the sorting table and the FEELING of Botrytis and Ripeness as I pick amongst them.

The SOUND of my colleagues singing out the word 'Rose' as we pay homage to a fine wine we all love.

The PAIN in my back as I lift barrel after barrel in the cellar alone, prepping for tomorrow when we will fill them with a new vintage of Meursault Chardonnay.

The TASTE of my cellarmaster Justin's homebrew as the day finishes and we relax on the crushpad for some celebratory beers.

The SENSATION of seeing Mr. Hubert De Montille pulling up to our apartment and knowing what's in store for the evening.

The SCENTS, SOUNDS, TASTES, and FEELINGS of our grand dinner with everyone involved, including guests. The wines that tickled my tongue and the chocolate mousse that made me beg for seconds.

The CONTENTMENT that I gained from Alix De Montille telling me that my French comprehension is incredible, my speaking is great, and while sharing a cigarette with her, that I roll a mighty fine 'clope.'

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I have arrived...

I just wanted to shoot off a quick blog to kick off a series of postings on my current whereabouts.

I arrived last Friday in France after a long two days of travel and made my way from Paris by train to Beaune, the center of the 'Cote d'Or' as they call it here. My boss picked me up from the train station and took me to my current home for the next two months. I'm living at the 'cuverie' or winery for Domaine de Montille, who I will be working for. I live upstairs in an apartment with the other interns or 'stagaires' as they're called here in France. There are two winemakers from Australia, one from California, and another from New Zealand arriving Friday. We have a live in chef from Tel Aviv Israel who arrived today. He works at a top restaurant back home and we are all excited to have him cooking all of our meals for us. The food here is amazing, quite hearty. Lots of cheese (epoisses is the stinkiest of stinky cheese but phenomenal when done right), breads, mustard, cassis, ham, mushrooms, escargots, beef bourgignon, and coq au vin. Did anyone say wine? I haven't tried anything too phenomenal yet but today we got to taste through 5 different chardonnays from the 2008 vintage that our winemaker made. Amazing to taste the same grape from the same vintage made by the same person at the same facility from completely different vineyards within the SAME relative region and they all taste COMPLETELY different. This is the true essence of what the French call Terrioir.

Work started on Tuesday and so far I've spent all of my time in the vineyards trimming weeds (my boss sent me out with the vineyard crew because none of them speak english and I'm the only one who can communicate in French from our crew). It's been tough work but quite amazing walking though vineyards steeped in so much history. As the way vineyards are classified here you have in ascending order of quality the 1)regional wines of Bourgogne, 2) the Villages wines (i.e. Meursault, Volnay, Pommard, Beaune) 3) The 1er cru wines 4) The Grand Cru wines (being the most prestigious). Ask bill to explain if you have any questions; it's rather confusing. I've spent the better part of the past two days in 1er and Grand Cru vineyards, pinot and chard vines with average ages of 30 to 40 years, each being worth well more than the money in my wallet. It's a wine geek's paradise. This morning we started at 6am to beat the heat and on the way out to the vineyard I could see the sun rising over Beuane and the Alps in the distance (A three hour drive away)!

Needless to say, I'm in for a great harvest. It's expected that our first fruit will start being picked next week already, which is early considering that last year it was mid-September. It will be a short but sweet harvest but I know I will learn heaps. My boss Brian, who is from California originally, told me today that he would like to put me in charge of 'les caves' which is actually quite a large responsibility. If this happens, I will oversee all of the barrel work: filling, washing, cleaning, transferring, stacking, etc. Assuming I don't spend the rest of the time in the vineyards I will be spending a lot of time underground in a moldy dark space steeped in history. It's crazy here because you see these houses in the middle of town where winemakers live but underneath are caves where they make and store their wines that you never could imagine existed.

Please ask questions and offer suggestions for topics you'd like to see me write about in the next two months. Email me at I want this to be as much of a learning experience for my readers as it is for me. Until the next time,

Happy #WineWednesday!