Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Day Five, Mon 23rd Sept 2019
I suppose I could ‘sub title’ this day’s words as ‘Apres la Deluge’ or similar !
Day Five might otherwise be encapsulated as a.m NSG Village/Morey-St-Denis p.m – the latter notably interesting for your’s truly – and then there was the unexpected evening ! Days ticking past now albeit when one’s so busy and ‘in the (routine) groove’ one hardly notices the number of days and/or what day of the week it is, seriously ! Another ‘plus’ for the vendange for me is losing touch with reality, well not that actually, but what I mean is losing touch with what’s going on, news wise, in the big wide world beyond, in our case, Vosne-Romanee. Without, so far, internet access I had no opportunity to ‘catch up’ on any world news so was blissfully in my vendange ‘bubble’. Importantly, for this lifelong fan of the six times current Champions of Europe (soccer/football variety !), my youngest brother back in the UK kept me up to date by text with any games I was missing and/or material Anfield news. Via other texts and phone call though I had been advised of disquieting news of a ‘domestic’ problem involving a major leak at home from a roof space water tank which, with my wife and PhD student daughter both also away for a couple of nights, had seen water penetrate upstairs bedroom ceiling, landing ceiling and into the lounge below ☹ At first, a seemingly inevitable need to return to the UK loomed but family urged me to stay put with nothing I could do, beyond initially directing my wife to a seriously good plumber/bathroom fitter who, bless him, responded superbly with his ‘lads’ to quickly install a new tank to deal with the immediate issue. Beyond that, insurance company loss assessors were involved with nothing I could usefully contribute short term, meaning I was urged to, and could, stay in Burgundy. Needless to say, plenty of follow up & related admin awaited my eventual return and is ongoing !
As might be appreciated from our already reported being rained off late on in Day Four we had our own ‘water issues’ in Vosne ! The rain of biblical proportions which had driven us from the NSG vines the previous afternoon continued to lash down for a lot of the evening before settling into less heavy but steady rain throughout the night (I could hear it on the roof when not asleep). From memory it had stopped, or all but, as we gathered for our fifth day but very grey, misty, damp, cold & challenging it was. Cloud/mist lay along the top of the cote, and notably in the NSG Combe. Waterproofs and boots (UK Brand Hunter wellington boots for me !) now the order of the day – if you had them otherwise you’d struggle in the likes of trainers ! I could hardly wait (not !) to get into the doubtless dripping wet vines, and to have to put up with the sodden earth and its implications for footwear, buckets & subsequent cleaning ! Getting ahead of myself a little I was later to muse maybe the vendange, for us anyway, might almost neatly be divided in two weather driven parts i.e before Sunday’s storm/after it. Without sounding like a ‘clever arse’ though, but as always a big believer in law of averages, I’d considered several times ahead of coming to Burgundy 2019, that the likelihood, or odds, of a wet, or partly wet harvest must be strong – simply because of the exceptionally hot weather as had featured in prior years, and as a notably wet/bad weather harvest was some years back. As such I’d paid more than usual attention to suitable wet weather footwear and clothing.
Before I forget for later – a couple of things ! 1) Any readers of Day Three might take issue with my (now re-reading looks/is poor) reference to ‘CdN Villages’. I should stress I wasn’t referring to that AOC, or wine so designated, but was attempting to shorten reference to the villages of the Cote De Nuits – so apologies. 2) My photos of Day Five, or some of them, regrettably have an area which is blurred/looks out of focus, which I only noticed at the end of the day, or next, when downloading from memory card. Double drat annoying ! This related, with hindsight to one or more issues, namely something on the camera lens, and/or the use settings dial on top of the camera having been accidentally ‘caught’ and moved from the normal ‘Auto’ – the latter has happened before in other years. I’m not smart enough, nor is there opportunity, to use other than ‘Auto’ when working ! Careful cleaning and dial adjustment fortunately saw no repeat. Apologies for the blurriness spoiling any enjoyment. I’ve long marvelled at the ‘stick’/abuse my Canon G16 has ‘put up with’ for several vendanges now – it really has been quite something and really ideal for what it offers. For 2/3 years it has had a problem with the back screen which has something akin to a blurred, foggy, lines problem which makes it difficult to see what one might be wanting to photo or to suitably review photos taken. This seemed to occur after one wet, claggy, November walk around the Hill of Corton when I carried the camera in case under my jacket and fleece top layer – since, I’ve only been able to assume condensation (body heat and damp) or similar then caused the screen problem. I’ve never sought advice on the latter re a repair or similar as am fairly sure the latter would not be cost effective. A new camera is tempting but, for now, I can’t really justify cost nor have any real idea what a suitable replacement might be – any views/ideas welcome. I’ve no desire to ‘rely’ on any mobile phone camera even though I guess my phone is decent.
As Monday, with weekend over, we had Team Leader/Porteur/Chauffeur Gilles back from his Lyon family affair. I think it was this morning also, if not would be tomorrow, that I tried my contact lenses again and was delighted to have comfort and no adverse reaction – hurrah ! Now, if I could just sort the neck out I’d be marvellous ! Alain Noellat had also affected a repair of sorts on Jacques’ minibus tailgate broken spectacles so J was happier.
Our initial morning’s efforts were directed at another plot of Nuits-St-Georges Villages; slightly to my surprise not the one we’d evacuated in the hurry of the previous afternoon. Again, a bit tricky to actually put a name to our location this day but, as ‘in the middle’ of a sea of vines, some way from Vosne in the distance, but not as close to NSG as yesterday afternoon, and below a road through the vines, I reckon we must have been in maybe ‘Au Chouillet’/’Aux Tuyaux’ but quite possible could instead have been ‘Aux Saints Jacques’. There again none of those could be correct ! Another one for next year to pin down. As I’d feared the vines were indeed dripping wet and the ground very wet also & sticky/muddy. Unpleasant ! The earth in such a scenario is akin to great clods of gluey mud in attaching to one’s footwear such that one is ‘carrying’ substantial extra weight ! To remove this muddy earth is tricky, needing a combination of posts, wires and anything else available to scrape one’s boots – uppers and soles/heels. If vegetation, the thicker the better, is available once the main earth has been removed then walking through it also helps, as do deep puddles on vineyard tracks/roads. There was to be a cleaning ‘sting in the tail’ for Team Gilles later this day but that ‘surprise’ is for later !
From the above location we moved again, en vehicule I think, to another village plot. This was interesting as it ultimately went ‘down’ to the back gardens of houses on the northern periphery of NSG along the RN/D974. Again tricky to work out which climat it was – I reckon probably ‘Aux Tuyaux’, possibly ‘Aux Athees’. This plot took us up to lunch but before we departed a lady occupant of one of the houses who’s garden we were picking up to (which had one of those above ground swimming pools) had come out and was offering refreshment via glasses of white wine which some of my colleagues availed themselves of – not me, I was content to wait for lunch. I vaguely recognised her as having seen her before at the domaine, surmising she had a connection, maybe as the spouse/partner of one of the cuverie team – or maybe just a Noellat friend/relative. Another domaine team was only a few rows away from us but which wasn’t known.
Afternoon was pretty interesting – for me at least as our destination was dear ole Morey ! I’ve captioned some of my Morey photos as our being in ‘Sorbes’ (‘Les Sorbes’) but now realise this wasn’t actually true – at least not for the lower part vines we started with which are in ‘Les Sionnieres’. The last part of our route was at first sight odd in terms of where we ended up but I now realise Hubert, in the Mercedes van lead, was taking a long way round loop, probably for ease of entry off the road, facing the ‘right direction’. To this end, we approached the Morey RN974 junction from base then turned left as if to go up into the village towards the church via Grande Rue, but at the first junction proper turned right into Rue de Tres Girard, past Cecile Tremblay’s cuverie on the right, then on our left the hotel, ‘Castel de Tres Girard’, continuing a ways until the next junction where we took a right and dropped back down to the road between ‘Tres Girard’ and ‘Clos Solon’. At the junction we turned right back onto the main road towards the traffic lights again but just immediately past the busy courtyard Hubert Lignier premises and Gite de Cedre we descended the ‘ramp’ from road into the vines and right along a stony track aways before leaving the vehicles. Our first element of picking were the ‘Sionnieres’ vines on the right hand side (looking up towards the village) of the track. At the top there was a large residential property, difficult to see as it was very private behind a substantial (very tall and thick wide) leylandii type hedge to front and sides. This seemed to be a vigneron owned property, or certainly something to do with wine, as one could discern winemaking related artefacts e.g pallets of bottles etc outside additional modern looking outbuildings. As we first approached, what was presumably the owner was to the front of the property with a forklift truck which he seemed to have been using to do something hedge related before we arrived. He took said forklift inside the property and after shutting the gates obviously released a large vocal dog which triggered lots of canine ‘argy bargy’ between said dog and our roaming pack of three ! The forklift gent continued to move said vehicle around within the curtilage of the property using it for whatever commercial type purposes. Quite who’s property this is I’ve no idea but might have a closer look one day from the Rue de Tres Girard side which the property must back onto. By this afternoon the weather had improved immeasurably from the previous afternoon/the morning with blue sky, sunshine & fluffy white cloud, becoming quite warm. Having ‘done’ the lower village element we ‘shifted’ up & around the corner of the above property, alongside the hedge, up into the lower element of premier cru, Les Sorbes, Noellat ‘offering’ both Morey Village and Premier Cru from these vines. As we’ll come to in a later day’s words when I took the opportunity to purchase some domaine wines (all 2017s) I elected, as my premier cru selection, for NSG Aux Boudots. The domaines Vosne premier crus & the Morey 1er Les Sorbes were ‘sold out’ but for the future I’ll have an eye on some of the Morey. I recall being quite fatigued when the end of day call came (just might have been we ‘did’ some Bourgogne Rouge vines below Chambolle on our way back – can’t be certain) but do remember Gilles cautioning us before we left the Morey site as not to be too ‘enthusiastic’ at cleaning of our footwear, and where etc, so as not to leave mud, earth etc all over the gravelled road which might upset the property proprietor above who’s ‘private drive’ the road effectively was !
There was something of a shock and great misfortune (typical !) for Team Gilles when we got back to base in Vosne ! Gilles announced it was ‘our turn’ to do the cleaning i.e buckets, porter containers etc for the whole team. And we ‘copped’ for the first full day post last night’s storm with mud etc, doh! It hadn’t occurred to me previously there was a (sub) team rota for the end of day cleaning, again I’d not been told/heard. Yes, I’d seen folk cleaning daily in past days but had been happy to leave those folk to it as I’d been on the reverse end of for years at Arlaud where just a few of us had voluntarily/conscientiously done pre lunch & end of day cleaning for years whilst the majority ‘avoided’ it. As a lodger at Arlaud I’d been relatively happy to be a cleaner and had also thought those of us doing it had been paid extra. The mud/earth effect on the bottom of buckets adds a whole new dimension to bucket use on dry ground – they take some getting clean ! So, how unlucky could we be !!! No avoiding it though so we had to get on with it – or most of us did grrrr ! The notable exception was Martine ! This lady of advancing years arrived daily, I think with Gilles. She was very ‘bling’ in terms of jewellery, as well coiffed/made up etc as one could be in the vines, and always wore ‘naughty’ cut off denim shorts as if she were on a beach, regardless of weather !!! She also had a kneeler thing as one might use in a garden which she used all the time and this ‘contraption’, whilst creative, also had a lid/box section in which she kept goodies such as her personal water, secateurs etc. Moving her kneeler thing from vine to vine wasn’t exactly conducive to speedy productivity thought this 3x told off for being too fast individual ! I was to be severely annoyed by Martine’s outrageous cheating picking practice at a later date but that’s to come. Here, with some ‘brass neck’ (English expression for nerve !) Martine absented herself from the rest of us cleaning crew, doubtless taking advantage whilst Gilles was away taking the minibus to the cuverie for overnight parking. I say ‘absented’ herself but she was present – just choosing not to help because, with unbelievable chutzpah/brazen cheek, she ignored the rest of us whilst doing an incredibly thorough job of cleaning her own stuff (kneeler, footwear, clothing). I was stunned into incredulous silence so as to lose my powers of speech by all this, but I was not alone as a conspiratorially grinning, head shaking in shared disbelief, Francoise caught my eye – obviously reading my mind ! The others further down the garage, concentrating on material task in hand, seemed not to notice. To my shame I decided not to seek a full blown in garage confrontation with Madame but carried on amongst the buckets, jet hose water, scrapers with what we had to do. As Gilles returned Martine had miraculously finished her concentration on her own interests but that didn’t mean a fulsome, if belated, contribution to the team. No, not a bit of it. Instead she gave a loosest illusion sense of helping by simply picking up any available single cleaned bucket for upturned stacking, pyramid style, along the wall to dry. Pick up more than one bucket at once ? Not Martine ! Why bother when one could move at snail’s pace with one bucket and not even stack properly ! I was so tired I couldn’t even get suitably annoyed but her ‘card was marked’ by me from then on ! Return to base and cleaning might have been ‘it’ for the day, other than evening meal to come, but this day had another surprise, and more entertainment in store.
Initially, having cleaned myself up and changed I had no inkling of what was to come although if I’d paid more attention to the property ‘yard’ gazebo I might have ‘twigged’ this might be more than an ordinary evening. As it was, armed with the domaine’s wi-fi key, I was keen to attempt to log on for the second time. I’d had a very brief, unsuccessful, attempt the evening before this one when I’d had no real time. Madam Noellat and Sophie had told me the wi-fi router was in a back room behind the (closed for the vendange) domaine tasting room and shop which is on the right front of the property next to the office/bureau. I might have sought to go into the latter and make myself comfortable at a desk to log on but the office was always locked for the evening by the time I was ready. Given the router location I borrowed a patio chair and sat outside the tasting room door facing towards it, laptop on knee. Last evening, when I’d used the office window ledge, my laptop had detected a Netgear wi-fi router which I’d tried to log into. This evening two possible wi-fi sources showed up – the Netgear one and another, Livebox something or other – signal stronger on the former. In a quandary I tried both but was unsuccessful with multiple attempts trying to log on to either. Highly frustrated, whilst I was attempting all the above, I was conscious quite a number of folk were arriving, all smartly dressed for an evening out !
Drinks were being dispensed from the gazebo as not normally the case in availability, quantity etc. What I was seeing was the preamble to a grand affaire dinner. If my understanding was/is correct what was happening this evening was something the Noellat family do each vendange – in essence a sort of end of vendange Paulee, but which takes place only part way through the vendange, with wider family & friends invited alongside the rest of us. The number of attendees were such that an extra table or two were required in the middle of our room. Eventually we all filed in to take our places. I made a tactical error here and instead of my normal place I ended up by virtue of others coming after me wanting to sit down whereby I was boxed in right in the back corner and back against the wall. Worse, immediately around me came Gerald, Hubert and two mature lady vendangeurs whom G & H had taken a fancy to/set their sights on. So, with their concentrating on themselves, I was stuck in my corner unable to converse with those I normally did, doh ! The only saving grace until later in the evening, when I was able to extract myself as the evening wound down, was the ‘distraction’ of Alain Noellat (‘AN’) serving up some stellar wines, some in magnum. Niiceee! Alongside our staple Savigny Blanc AN produced mags of a 2015 Puligny-Montrachet village and extremely yum it was too ! The domaine has no vines in Puligny. I correctly surmised, confirmed later, that this wine must have been ‘bought in’ (or acquired via swap of Noellat wines) for the family’s own private cellar/consumption. Beyond the whites any number of reds graced the evening. These included NSG Aux Boudots 2008 & 2016, Vosne Suchots 2014 & 2016 (maybe also a 2017), I think a Vosne Beaumonts, Chambolle Village 2014 and maybe also an Echezeaux also snuck in somewhere. I did my best to photograph these various bottles – one photo annoyingly has a black line partly across which happened by accident whilst editing, which so far I’ve been unable to remove. As the evening moved to a close, and after much group singing, with guests & vendangeurs drifting away, a hardcore few of us remained sampling the various wines. To my slight amusement Gerald was slumped comatose in his table place – something must have had an effect although in the vines exertion surely couldn’t have been responsible. Telling myself I’d stayed up too long and might regret it I eventually left for bed leaving the ultra hardcore few to prolong their own evenings! Some night 😊 !!!
Day Six to be another highly indifferent weather day for Marsannay, more Fixin ( 3 x locations), and Chambolle/Vosne Bourgogne Rouge. Wot, still no Vosne Premier Crus ? No indeed.