I’ve had the fine fortune to have visited the estate of Louis-Michel Liger-Belair and family since 2004, that year to taste 2003s and then every vintage since. An ever-present in this time, has been the family dog – Arak – a large-boned and very noble, almost aloof Weimaraner – pic (right) from the family.
This week, the family lost Arak – I thought I’d share this little anecdote with you.
I drove into the courtyard of the Château de Vosne-Romanée about 5:30pm in the late summer of 2006 – in those days Louis-Michel was less swamped with visitors, so I was tasting alone with him and his 2005s. As I parked, Arak came bounding up to the car, barking. Now if you don’t ‘know’ dogs, or were simply unsure, you would not have got out of your car – Arak was an imposing beast. Right behind him came Louis-Michel, saying ‘Don’t worry about him.‘ I replied ‘Not a problem, it’s just that my dog is also in the car and even in the shade I’ll need to leave all the windows open.‘ “Oh, that’s not a problem” volunteered Louis-Michel “I can close the gates, and the two can play together while we taste!”
A nice offer, but I had some trepidation: My 3 year-old boxer, Belle, absolutely loved people – and most dogs too – but there was this 1 in 6 chance that she might take a dislike to Arak – as my neighbour’s dog, only 2 days earlier, might have attested as she flew through the air – though it was never a question of teeth, as Belle’s thick rubber lips would always get in the way! As I opened the tailgate of the car, and noses met, I thought to myself ‘Don’t you dare attack the Viscount’s dog!’ But all was well – a match made in heaven for the pair!
Louis-Michel and I left them to it and we moved to the cellar.
We’d been tasting for at least 20 minutes when one of Louis-Michel’s vineyard workers came down into the cellar with a message for him. Louis-Michel excused himself for 5 minutes as he had something he needed to attend to. A couple of minutes later I heard the piercing wail of a young child – in a very short space of time I put 2 and 2 together and raced out of the cellar – there, in the middle of the courtyard, sat Louis-Michel’s daughter – roughly 2 years old – with a boxer dog licking, licking, licking her face – my instant reaction was ‘Shit, she didn’t attack the Viscount’s dog – she chose his daughter instead!‘ Before I had the chance to say a word, Louis-Michel’s wife, Constance, came out of the front door, saw the scene and (oh so fortunately!) simply laughed, shouting to her daughter “Don’t worry, she’s just saying hello” – the relief! Just a few steps behind Constance, came Henry, their son – perhaps more like 4 years old – Belle had a new target.
It was clear that Henry came from a military family, because rather than sit and cry as he was licked, he stood straight-backed, trying to lift his chin from a jumping boxer’s tongue, and with a small toy gun in his hand, he tried to bang it on her head as she jumped, saying ‘Non! Non! Non!‘
Arak looked on, bemused…
Red-faced, I decided not to visit again with Belle…