Domaine Michel Gros 2023 Vendange Day 13

Post descending vehicles pre work start HCDN Fontaine St Martin

Friday SEPT 22nd

Into Day 13 and on we go with no sign of a finish, blimey !

The morning had dawned bright & sunny with blue skies greeting us as, again, we returned to the Hautes-Cotes de Nuits Fontaine St Martin vineyard (‘HCDN FSM’) and its Pinot Noir – a Domaine M Gros Monopole.

Gabriel was his irrepressible non-stop talkative self in the back of the Toyota en route; the phrase “give it a rest” might have been coined for him ! Not much to say about our morning’s activities as pretty much the same as previously on this site. Same sub team for me which I was happy with. The Pinot Noir grapes from vines high up on this site were largely of pretty high quality – there was some rot to be dealt with but not much. I can’t recall the similar sort of incidence of burned berries and dry, brown leaves as had on occasion been evident on the Cote below. Whilst my few photos of the morning show the sunshine and blue skies, it was also pretty cool (as in temperature !) which is reflected in the attire, including footwear, exhibited by my colleagues. Incidentally, there are a couple of photos with a chap in blue pants and short boots, in one wearing a white tee shirt, another with him in orange jacket. Both photos have the same gent with a blueish rucksack on his back. This is Irishman Padhraic of lost, then found, bag ‘fame’.

A quick word or two on the domaine’s wet weather wardrobe provision – this was quite impressive and better than I’d ever seen elsewhere. I can’t remember now which was our first, or potentially first, wet day but on that morning, whenever it was, Pierre or Michel had opened up the main, roller shutter, door of the new, somewhat unfinished, building in parking area across the road from the original domaine buildings proper. This new building (videos of its build progress etc on the domaine’s web site) is not the new cuverie as I’d imagined but to be a bottle store (and presumably some other purposes). On the immediate left in the interior opened up by Pierre or Michel, on pallets, was quite a sizeable ‘wardrobe collection’ of wet weather attire i.e waterproof coats, jackets, over trousers and boots. All were neatly arranged in marked sizes and all carrying the name of the domaine. These were available for vendangeur use should individuals e.g moi, not have their own ‘stuff’. Very impressive and another of how this first class domaine operates & consideration for its workforce.

So, another morning passed by. Back to Vosne as usual for lunch (sorry, didn’t note, and can’t now recall, the menu).

Just before our post lunch departure it started to spit with rain. I’d left my jacket in my room hence had to hurry back quickly and get it so as not to be left behind or hold up departure. Good job I did (go for it) as it turned out to be essential.

We were back to the HCDN again but a surprise. Initially, through Chevrey and into the woods, I thought we were heading back to the above Marey-les-Fussey Au Vallons site but, no, and with the woods a bit of a maze of very rough tracks, we turned in the direction of Arcenant before parking on the track edge in quite a sizeable open area of uncultivated ‘oasis’ within the woods. Not anywhere we’d been, or passed through/by before. We trudged on foot ahead of/away from the vehicles for a short distance before turning left through a grassed gap in the trees for approx. 50 yards/metres, emerging at the top of a gently sloping quasi amphitheatre of vines, as before high trained and road tractor width, which went left to right across the site to more forest/woods on the far right-hand side. I’m not absolutely sure of the name of this site but it’s one of either:-
Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits En Frétoilles; or
Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits Topet.

If I had to have a bet (am not a betting man !) then I reckon its ‘En Frétoilles’ as I think I did ask Michel about this with his reply accordingly. If so then ‘Topet’ is another site we went to later. For subsequent photos of later days I’ve captioned them as ‘En Frétoilles’ or ‘Topet’ given my uncertainty. Fruit from both of the above sites goes into the domaine’s Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits Rouge. The wines from grapes from FSM and Au Vallon are labelled accordingly, identifying those sites.

As we arrived on foot through the trees to (let’s call it) En Frétoilles’ the rain started properly, leading us collectively to shelter in a copse of pine trees looking out over the amphitheater of vines backed by woods at its top and northern edge. A very pretty, attractive site – if not in proper rain ! Ultimately the rain passed over to allow us to work the rest of the afternoon, although initially the odd shower followed requiring one’s jacket hood to be raised if a hat wasn’t being worn. The rows were again notably long here, requiring us to be doubled, or tripled, to a row. I found this afternoon another tiring one hence some relief when ultimately end of the day was called, with a bit of a weary trek back to the vehicles. Michel was keen here, for some reason, for me not to have to wait for the Toyota’s return hence I found a spare seat in the domaine’s Citroen Jumpy driven by a young man who seemed to be Justine’s boyfriend with Justine, Angela and FonFon my fellow passengers.

The above would have been ‘it’ for recording the events of this day except for an occurrence I had not anticipated.

Historically, I’ve never worn a hat during a vendange or other times in my life come to that, other than the very odd fleeting occasion of extreme heat, but for this one & with age bringing about a crown bald patch on my otherwise decent head of hair (!) I’d brought two hats – an American style cap and a British style straw hat from a decent named maker which is my wife’s but she has never worn it – universal fit ! I’d been slightly amused when chatting to Cyprien Arlaud when I first arrived on the Cote when he said to me as we were parting “make sure you wear a hat”. I didn’t query then what prompted him to make this, unusual for me, comment but as it was circa 30 degrees C at the time perhaps such was caring & understandable. I did indeed take to wearing a hat for this vendange, the straw one for me being the more appropriately stylish. When the weather turned cooler and occasionally wet, I’d forsaken it, but a few days back on a warmer day I’d gone to look for it again in my room & not been able to find it. With no sign of it in either our dining cave, or in the Toyota, and after mulling the matter I’d eventually decided I thought I could remember hanging it on an end of row post low down in FSM during a late afternoon water break. With no opportunity to return to FSM I accepted I’d probably lost the chapeau unless, in due course, any member of the domaine staff subsequently working in FSM would see it and retrieve it (if in ok condition – doubtful).

During the morning of this day in FSM I was paired with the very pleasant young lady Angela who hailed from Schwartzbach. At one point whilst we were adjacent to each other in our row, and exchanging an occasional chat, out of the blue she startled me by quietly mentioning that she’d ‘heard’ something about my hat and my accommodation. She was carefully & diplomatically coy in her remarks and whilst I tried to check understanding and extract a little more info she would not be forthcoming but it was obvious she maybe knew more of my hat than she’d admitted. I was nonetheless very grateful that she’d decided to speak to me and at the coincidence that had us working together in the same row without which I wondered if I would have heard anything at all. I didn’t have time or opportunity to pursue at lunchtime but after the close of our working day, and back at the domaine after cleaning self and knee pads in the yard, I made my way to our accommodation house. I dumped my gear in our room and had a good look around in terms of cupboards, chest drawers, under the beds etc etc but couldn’t see anything. Sure in my own mind Angela wanted me to know I decided to start at the bottom of our building (a cellar) and work upwards through all the accessible areas for a sign of my hat. Nothing, thus a little frustrated I returned to my room, wearily plonking myself on the bed to ponder matters before standing up and moving to turn on the room light.

Chef and self commonly had the room exterior shutters closed but windows opened which necessitated the high ceiling’d centre light fitting of 3 unshaded bulbs being on. As I moved away from the light switch, out of the corner of my eye, there it was – my hat, hanging on one of the bulbs. I only noticed it now by ‘accident’ as it were. I guess the high ceiling and our comings and goings over the last few days often with the room in a degree of darkness meant neither of us had noticed the hat and its straw coloured nature. It was immediately obvious to me, seeing it now, putting “2 + 2 together to get more than 4”, that my hat had disappeared at the same time my bed had been ‘vandalised’ by the rubbish bin contents and thus one of the damn stupid Belgian ‘children’ youth was responsible.

It must have been a lucky ‘shot’, or maybe taken several attempts, to get the hat to hang on the light bulb, as I could not reach it standing on my bed, or that of Chef’s which was closer to being under the light fitting, and needed something else to reach. Looking around I could not immediately see a suitable implement or tool but then my eyes alighted on Chef’s quite long blue shoe/sock horn thing on top of his luggage. I grabbed it, precariously stood on the edge of his bed and, fortunately, with my first levering lunge managed to flip the hat off the light fitting and on to the floor. Eureka, and massive thanks to considerately helpful Angela. I decided not to mention the hat elsewhere other than subsequently to Chef & Angela, deriving a degree of satisfaction that the low life who’d deprived me of it would not be aware of its retrieval – as it was the weather hereafter was such that I didn’t need it (the hat) which I removed to the locked safety of my car – Grrrr !!!!

What will tomorrow, Saturday, Day 14 bring ?

We’ll see but maybe some Doggie action amongst the work meanwhile a few other aspects:-

  1. In my Day 12 commentary I mentioned a partially drunk bottle of Voillot ’93 Meursault 1er Les Cras and that I couldn’t recall who’d produced the bottle. I must be getting more affected by advancing years than I thought as it was a leftover swapsie from Bill & my evening in Beaune (Bill has mentioned it, and other bottles from our evening, in Big Red Diary). Sorry Bill !
  2. Also in my Day 12 ‘edition’ there’s a weird photo caption issue. In the second group of photos, top left, is a photo of a young lady, chin on her hand, sat on an upturned bucket, looking to the camera during one of our rest breaks. For some reason I can’t fathom, particularly as the caption I have in my saved photos is correct, the website caption refers to “Time for lunch………..etc”, the same as from an adjoining photo. The caption should read “Super Angela HCDN FSM”, the subject being my very same hat informant colleague.
  3. Lastly, as we neared the finish of our harvest efforts I got to thinking to myself I would regard this as a Michel (Gros) made vintage. Why do I say that ? Well, nominally eldest son Pierre is taking over from Michel who seems to be taking the slow process into retirement as Herve Arlaud has done. Pierre was prominent, particularly in the cuverie where he was most of the time, at the start of the harvest and for the first few days. But, and I can’t recall when I noticed, initially by his car not being present (he came daily – believe he and family live in Dijon), that he was no longer around – although he was present at the mid point Paulee. This was due to his wife expecting their 2nd child whose birth was imminent. More on this from Day 14’s words.


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