Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Day Four, Sun 22nd Sept 2019
Whither today ? A Chambolle morning then an afternoon with a real ‘sting in the tail’, if not a transformative moment for our vendange. Photos morning only, the absence of any from the afternoon will become clearer later !
Our second day with Jean-Claude2 filling in for the Lyon fleshpots absent Gilles. On this once more super morning of sunshine and restrained temperatures we were Chambolle Village bound again to similar, or the same, location we’d visited previously, just more rows. In essence, an unremarkable steady, hard working morning. Team J-C2/Gilles were initially selected by Hubert for an hillside elevated section of vines not far from the top of the slope, and as the hill started to curve around back towards Musigny etc. These vines were notable for being across slope, rather than up/down, and as such brought fond recollection of Arlaud’s Vosne Petit-Monts vines. After we’d finished our own specific ‘patch’ we worked downslope to meet/join another team coming up which took us ‘neatly’ to a circa 9.40 a.m. break.
After finishing the above we spent the rest of the morning, albeit getting there by only short walks first on tarmac then earth path into the vines, as best I can recall working quite different areas of vines, on essentially flat(er) land from those on the slopes we’d had two go’s at. I’m really struggling to identify now just where these latter vines might be, map wise. They were the other side of the road i.e just to the north of where we’d been but a little back on ourselves. ‘Climats & Lieux Dits’ almost suggests we could have been in a Chambolle 1er cru but I can’t think we were so we must have been in the quaintly named ‘Les Pas de Chats’, or possibly ‘Les Barrottes’. Assuming I return to Noellat in 2020 I must then make an effort to identify exactly the locations we visit (beyond the obvious Grand & Premier crus) & perhaps spend some brief time with Alain or Sophie and ‘Climats & Lieux Dits’ to get a handle on domaine vines locations. Mind, it some me some years to be ‘up to speed’ with Arlaud’s sites, and that with Herve always being helpful in answering my questions. The domaine’s website is no help in location of vines, even clicking in to the detail of each wine made. However, late afterthought that Bill might include detail has had me belatedly look back at BR’s domaine profile and tasting notes, one reference noting a little 1er cru for the Chambolle cuvee. If that indeed is the case then maybe we went to a bit of Les Feusselottes or perhaps Les Plantes ? Coming away from our late morning location I ‘snapped’ another unknown domaine’s yet to be picked Pino as we strolled past. Earlier as we’d come out of one section, crossing the tarmac road to another, we met two quite different ladies with a young boy on his scooter. These two ladies were adorned in vine leaf Roman like head adornments (fascinators the fashion term ?) and in very jolly mood. They were headed towards Chambolle but where they’d come from & quite why they had the ‘creations’ on their heads I’m totally unsure – a brief, amusing, diversion though !
Back to Vosne ! Lunch must have been unremarkable as no recall of it or photos, nor can I remember seeing a door affixed menu. Afternoon took us to Nuits Villages vines (Vosne side) – more towards Nuit than our Boudots and Aux Barrieres locations of Day 2. Possibly Aux Allots initially. Long rows so more slogging. I meant to mention when commencing typing re this day that there had been talk amongst my co-workers of the weather forecast suggesting rain, if not during the day then felt to be more probable for evening or overnight. Certainly the Chambolle morning and its ideal, sunny, conditions gave no inkling of any major weather deterioration to come. We moved on from our initial location(s) to another (village) location much nearer to Nuits than before, almost into the outskirts – perhaps La Petite Charmotte or La Charmotte. As the afternoon had moved on I could not help but notice the absence of the morning sunshine and gradually gathering/darkening cloud – particularly over the Combe behind NSG.
I think it must have been sometime after 15.30 that (fortunately) not too far down our latest NSG Villages rows, and not too far away from the vehicles on the road above us, that we felt the just occasional first large drops of rain. From then on it was only a matter of time and, with shocking suddenness, not only did almost semi-darkness descend but rain started to fall properly. There was no hesitation from whomever shouted at us to get outta there and get to the vehicles, and t’was a mighty good job we didn’t delay ! I’ve seen it ‘rain’ before several times in previous vendanges but this was ‘proper’ !! Trust me, it wasn’t far up our rows, and back to the vehicles, but in the short time it took us all to leg it there, what started as ‘rain’ turned into a storm & deluge of Noahesque biblical proportions ! If I’d seen people or animals going in two by two I might not have been surprised ! It was every man & woman for themselves, and in the case of our minibus at least, as the vehicle on its right hand side was parked tight to vines, several of us in our scrambling fell/tripped over the vines end of row wire, not exactly visible in semi-darkness, haste, rain deluge etc – which could be painful !! I know I tripped trying to throw myself into the front seat, not badly fortunately, and also saw Jean-Philippe, Jacques and Francoise all do similarly. By the time we were all in the minbus, panting to get our breath back, with the vehicle rapidly steaming up with hot bodies and wetness, it really had got dark, some thunder & lightning was evident, and good grief, WAS IT lashing down !!!! As ‘good’ as a storm I’ve seen in Burgundy in my harvest career. It was difficult to make out Nuits not too far away but lights were coming on.
We sat there a while, not too long, before somehow/someone communicated, phone call I think, that we call it a day and return to base ! Could not have been a difficult decision as one didn’t need to be a meteorogical genius to work out the lashing curtains of water weren’t going to stop anytime soon ! Our initial route, given the way we were facing, and as it turned out Hubert in the lead was heading initially for Nuits before taking a mainly concrete road back through the vines to Vosne, took us past the vendangeurs of another domaine who’d been a little beyond us. They were still out there, ok at first glance many of them seemed appropriately dressed, but goodness me it seemed recklessly crazy given the thunder and lightning. I assume they were just collecting what they’d picked and would soon be out of there !
The route back to Vosne was amazing in terms of the water on the road, gushing across it and coming down. The concrete road sections are a longitudinal v shaped gully with high edges, the latter I reckon to hold back vineyard soil erosion but the water in the centre of the road ‘v’ was incredible.
Back in Vosne, we ran for cover to the garage with gear for cleaning whilst outside the storm continued. Heavy rain lasted well into the evening, and ‘lesser’ weight of rain all night. Evening is gone from any memory, weather aside. Guess I was probably on laptop photo downloading, editing etc but, just ahead of our evening meal, I do recall a group playing tarot with my being invited to play but declining (wouldn’t have had a clue !). Jean-Philippe seemed a novice at the game, but Alain Noellat as not initially playing, although seemingly something of an ‘expert, was very keen to proffer advice to J-P and re-arrange his hand of cards !
The end then of a ‘climatic’ day. Maybe a defining one for our vendange in terms of conditions i.e days pre storm/post storm. Hereafter ground conditions would be much changed muddy/sticky with consequent effects on us, our footwear, buckets etc etc. Where would tomorrow take us ? We’ll see!