ARLAUD VENDANGE – Day 7, Friday 21th Sept 2014
In my piece on Day six I overlooked mention of an unprecedented (for me at least) occurrence from previous vendanges, namely a Saturday close of lunch announcement from Herve that we would not be working Sunday hence all the locals should not show up (none did !). This amazed me as I’d never had a part way through vendange break before. The ‘official’ reason was a particularly bad weather forecast for the following day, Sunday, but I did muse more than once on was there more to it than this and, in reality, was there a wish on the part of Cyprien and for his cuverie team for a break ? I was conscious of how seemingly tired and exhausted all parties had been in 2013, Cyprien seemingly more than most, doubtless with his weight of wine-making responsibilities – to which I was totally sympathetic.
Whatever, Herve’s announcement was well-timed as when I came to check my mobile pre lunch I’d noted an invite to breakfast at Hotel Le Montrachet for Sunday a.m – which in normal course I’d have had no chance of attending but now this was available to me – hurrah !
So, light of heart and without thoughts of another day’s hard graft in prospect, I gave myself an hour to travel down the Cote from Morey to Puligny for 9.00 a.m. Made it in good time which I used to wander amongst, and admire, various classic cars from a French Classic Car Club who’s owners/members had clearly enjoyed their stay overnight at the hotel (I wish !). One gentleman’s efforts to get two bags of golf clubs, before any luggage, into the back of his Porsche Turbo amused me rather ! Eventually my website owning triager host turned up avec his charming NZ family guests, very nice people, clearly enjoying their stay in Burgundy. We had a quite delightful unhurried breakfast which I can thoroughly recommend & would love to sample again (even if a more complete stay/dining experience at Le Montrachet might give my credit card palpitations !). After swapping various bottles of Burgundy we had for each other, and inspecting more classic cars, including a very nice Austin Healey 3000, lined up on the far side of the hotel gardens, we drove back to Beaune for a little birthday celebration of one of our number (cake & Pol Roger anyone – 1998 ?) and a view of my host’s Domaine set up (markedly different from my own). I then said my au revoir’s & journeyed back to Morey to find the live in team and Arlaud family having lunch & intrigued as to my morning’s activities. My decline of lunch, as quite complet still from breakfast, elicited some surprise but I held my ground.
At this point I had the afternoon before me. The obvious best use of it was to get my vendange diaries written up to date and camera photos downloaded to laptop with a view to sending to Bill toute suite. However, another option came to mind and appealed. One of our live in number, young lady Tiffen, had a lovely dog with her which spent much time tied up in our yard, or in Herve’s garden adjacent to the cuverie whilst its owner triaged, or shut up in the back of her little white van. This dog, exact breed (if any) unknown to me, but a type of large French Collie or similar, was a bitch, and c 8 months old which went by the name of Gava or Java. A beautiful looking dog, it was/is very much a ‘one woman dog’ and extremely wary of strangers, prone to growl or lunge to bite if approached, and in my estimation would not be good with children. I’ve always loved dogs and so worked hard to get to know Gava who, over a few days, softened her attitude towards me such that she eventually started to greet me in the same excitable & affectionate fashion as she did her mistress, and Herve (whom I surmised the dog must have known previously from somewhere).
My quickly forming idea was for both the dog and myself to get some afternoon exercise and have some quiet escapism. The owner was delighted at my offer to walk Gava so I untied her (the dog !) and on her long rope we left Morey and took the road/track towards Clos St Denis, with the loose idea of continuing along the path that hugs the trees at the top of Chambertin & Chambertin Clos de Beze – maybe all the way to Gevrey and then back. The dog was delighted to be out and about and, for my part, I was enjoying the opportunity to give her some freedom and change. At Clos St Denis we headed up slope and eventually towards Morey Luisants. Here I rather naughtily, sorry M Ponsot, please excuse me, ignored the Privee signs and with dog (always on rope), climbed up slope to the top of Monts Luisants and along the slope to the petite maison where I sat on the porch a while to get my breath back. Along the way the vines, with very healthy looking grapes, both red and white, had caught the eye as very striking in health and quality looking terms as did the almost manicured looking vines and ground, some vines with dark green highly glossy foliage. I’d also noted some vines trained cross slope, as at Vosne Petit Monts, as opposd to the more conventional up and down slope.
Dog and self descended Monts Luisants on its Gevrey side following a wall bordering woods/forest back to the track/road – part way down we diverted to inspect a lovely looking little cabotte – a real work of art. At the bottom of Mont Luisants we then turned towards Gevrey ambling along. At the top of Chambertin Gava startled me suddenly by turning sharply back towards me from the extremity of the rope and quartering the ground wth her nose stuck to it. Clearly she’d picked up a scent and a casual glance to my right downslope revealed what her behaviour was about ! With its back to me & with large black tipped ears aloft, sat in the middle of the row of vines I was looking down, was a hare (a Lievre !) . Within seconds of me noticing it so did the dog – oops ! She almost had me half way down the slope in milli seconds in cartoon fashion as the hare did a wise runner and it was all I could do to dig my heels in and prevent the dog pursuing the hare with me as a drag weight !! That excitement over we continued beyond Chambertin to Clos de Beze. By this time, clad only in t-shirt for my top half, I’d been worriedly looking up continually at darkening clouds coming swiftly over the top of the Cote from the west & wondering at our prospects of making Gevrey. We didn’t – as the heavens opened – and camera bouncing, dog jogging on her rope, I legged it as fast as we could manage for Pierre Damoy’s well marked hut. A doorway afforded me a little protection but I was already pretty wet through as was a less concerned dog ! Fortunately, after depositing considrable precipitation, leaving the Route des Grand Crus back to Morey streaming with water , the rain soon passed enabling us to start walking back to Morey via road.
I soon got bored with the road and having to watch, and step aside, for passing traffic whilst controlling the dog as clearly not used to vehicles, so turned back up slope to the road/track back past Clos St Denis. Here, after initially noting and photographing a form of green vertical netting down 3 or more rows of vines, rain threatened again so I quickened pace towards a large track side tree across from Clos St Denis. A fellow walker with cute little Welsh/Fox Terrier cross dog, not on a lead which made me curse a little as to Gava’s potential reaction, coming towards me made the tree with the same intent as/before I . This turned out to be the always charming Thierry Brouin of Clos des Lambrays walking his young dog. Our respective dogs amusingly started to play with each other, Gava a little handicapped by her rope captive status, whilst Thierry (whom I’ve met any number of times, mainly in London) discussed matters vendange etc. He told me the netting I’d seen yards up the road was an experiment in hail protection. Otherwise, he seemed wholly content with his vendange, but looking downslope at unpicked grapes near us he opined he felt all should now be in and to delay was of no benefit & a risk. With the threat of rain passing, after just a few heavy drops, we went our respective ways with dogs, eventually a tired me, and a less tired but happy looking Gava, soon back to ‘home’ in Morey.
A delightful afternoon, well worth getting wet for, giving me a ‘warm glow’ I’d given Gava a sort of grand randonnee liberating afternoon. She was very good on her rope and touchingly continued to greet me all the more enthusiastically for the rest of the vendange.
Pics to illustrate our ramble. Days 8 & 9 details, such as they are, for two solid days of Bourgogne Roncevie the next instalment to come of a lengthening vendange.