DOMAINE MICHEL GROS
VENDANGE SEPT 2023 – JOURNEY TO ARRIVAL
Bonjour tout la monde (as one says, en France, in a plural greeting to a number of folk e.g arriving for breakfast) 😊 !
I’ve really, really, missed 2 years away from my spiritual second ‘home’ on the Cote d’Or, since my 2020 Covid related Domaine Michel Noellat vendange, when I was already struggling mobility wise, cutting not a problem, with what culminated with a (self) diagnosis, subsequently formally confirmed, of an osteo-arthritis destruction of my left hip resulting in bone on bone.
May 2021 saw the replacement procedure with my now having a ceramic (’shelf life’ said to be c25 years) joint replacement at the world leading Wrightington, Nr Wigan, U.K. hospital – fortunately near my NW England home. Some might say I’m now bionic – this vendange will see !!! My Surgeon might not approve, but hey ………..
Even the trolley gets named
Gros Vendange Dining Cave set for 9th Eve Reception
Why Domaine Michel Gros you might ask ? Well, why not ? Teasing aside, having also missed the 2022 vendange at the 11th hour/last minute with ‘domestic’ issues, I was all the more determined to return to the fray in 2023. I won’t bore you with more details, having confidently approached three of the domaines I’d enjoyed working for previously, I encountered various insurmountable problems, consequently, by the time July came around after much ‘water under the bridge/messing around with the above,’ I’d decided I’d have to forget 2023 and defer to early timing in 2024.
Then !! I got an email, perfectly timed in diminishing timescale to get fixed up, with copied Instagram post inserted from Domaine Michel Gros seeking vendangeurs – impressively full terms & conditions re hours, pay, food etc etc included but, crucially for me, no mention of accommodation. Was hugely impressed at the prospect of this starred, solid reputationally, well regarded (and serious) domaine, which ticked all my boxes re vineyards size, terroirs etc etc. Quickly fired off email was equally quickly responded to by Domaine Fulcrum, Key Bureau Lady, Juliette who confirmed accommodation not an issue available and I would be very welcome. Sign Up followed with my sending all the usual paperwork, then readily acknowledged by Pierre Gros as by then Juliette was on August vacances. Intriguingly, sometime around this point I noted a person from Domaine Michel Gros had searched my sad LinkedIn profile – assume it must have been Pierre (maybe fortunately, for nothing more than bits of fun since, and before, my 42 year career 2017 banking redundancy/retirement, I’d added my various vendange employments to LinkedIn ).
So, with joy in the heart at last and after much domestic planning/tasks to cover my absence, Friday 8th Sept saw my early p.m departure from my NW England home in my well packed BMW 340i M Sport Touring for a new to me crossing of the English Channel from Newhaven, Sussex to Dieppe, France – saving mileage & time on the historic drive to Dover – overnight departure 23.00hrs, arrive France Saturday 5.00hrs. Trouble free (for a change) travel on the UK Motorway network saw early arrival into Newhaven and ultimate boarding to be greeted by a ‘buzzing’ French crew, still much excited by the France Rugby Union team beating New Zealand’s All Blacks that afternoon/evening in the Rugby (Union) World Cup. A young crew member was notably amusing with cheeks and forehead marked with the tricolour – superb and very good/nice. Can France now ultimately win the World Cup ? I think they can.
Am not a good sleeper on ferry couchette, airline type, seats hence wasn’t particularly refreshed leaving Dieppe (a new port/town to me). Trouble free route & roads though to Rouen, & managed to join the autoroute towards Paris without incident – so far, so good even in still darkness. Subsequently though, ahem, despite my best efforts, printed off route, and SatNav, I still managed to get lost actually into Paris (a right of passage 😉) rather than skirting it, which I guess cost me c30 minutes, with extrication only ultimately managed by stopping and setting my then manic, after a brain wave, SatNav to Beaune (would not accept Vosne – rude !). In part, passing accidentally through suburb Nanterre as a scene of recent rioting was a bit nerve wracking. But, after exiting Paris without more ado, other than a long & hot drive, punctuated by frequent stops in quiet Aire rest areas due to tiredness, I arrived in Vosne with ‘bad timing’ as it was lunch time ! I cruised Vosne initially then drove out to ‘Aux Brulees’, parked in the shade under some trees and eat part of my packed meals to kill time whilst the French lunchtime passed. I’d identified whilst driving various domaines seemingly having started/or not their harvests- my past associates, Michel Noellat, being one of the non-starters albeit with all the gear set up out front the cuverie on the main road. In truth, I guess I was surprised even post lunch at the seeming lack of Cote de Nuits activity – hum ! Before registering at Michel Gros I ventured to beloved Morey-St-Denis and, without entering, noted from the village premises that Domaine Arlaud were obviously underway. I then drove to the cuverie, noted initially the large extension to the rear of the premises in the last two years, and new tarmac’d car park (!), with my first encounter the irrepressible, supposedly retired, Herve Arlaud. Warm greetings before moving into the blissfully cool (twas very hot outside) cuverie to chat with Mathieu and Cyprien. They’d started the previous Tuesday & were clearly content with their harvest outcome to date – quality and quantity volume. After pleasantries, with Cyprien issuing a friendly, if stern, warning I needed to wear a hat picking – my response I’d packed two – I bade my good byes to the people of this special domaine which will always have a particularly fond place in my heart.
And so to Vosne. I found the domaine car parking without much ado, and crossed on foot into the domaine yard & to the office for my first encounter with the irrepressible, cheerful, welcoming, curly haired, middle aged bureau chief, Juliette. I was quickly shown my room on the 1st floor of an impressive building a little up the street which I gather is also Michel Gros’ home – understand he lives in the basement. I was immediately very intrigued, before we entered the premises, to note ‘my building’ shared a courtyard type area with Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg (home and cuverie) – impressive neighbours indeed (of which more that evening). The building Juliette took me into was notably impressive, several stories, and big in ground floor area, one of the walls resplendent with hunting trophies of Jean Gros (Michel’s father who I gather was quite a chasseur) and including two scary looking and very large Sanglier (wild boar) heads – one would not like to meet either on a dark night, or in daylight even !!! Up a wide, sweeping stone staircase, onto the 1st floor Juliette showed me into the first of two bedrooms, laid out for two, and explained I’d be sharing with the Chef for the harvest, Jean-Michel (yet to arrive). Room looked very good indeed and way the potentially best, most comfortable accommodation I’d had during my various vendanges. Across the corridor was a large bathroom (wash basin only) & loo. At the end of the short corridor, after the other bedroom, was another tight in size bathroom (shower & wash basin). Juliette left me to ferry my stuff from the car, handily off road parking was available across the street, but also showed me the key code entry for the front door – this damn thing was to be the bane of my, and others, lives as it clearly didn’t work properly with one often left, after numerous attempts, ‘twiddling one’s thumbs’ & hoping against hope someone would come downstairs and out of the door or come and join you outside and have better luck at the key code thing doing the trick – all a joke really.
Once I’d lugged all my stuff in from the car and arranged my luggage on the floor for handy access (all the cupboard and wardrobe space was taken by bedding, family stuff etc etc) I was desperate for a shower & change of clothes given it was now mid afternoon & I’d left home c24 hours before with long hot drives & ferry crossing. Another failing here as the shower was teeth clenching, shiveringly, freezing cold !!!! I was just able to stand it long enough to get scrubbed up. Fingers crossed it would warm up in the next day or so (wait for future bulletins !).
Killing time to the previously advised pre-harvest evening reception I wandered down the street to the parking area in front of the Mairie, where the Rene Engel family premises sit in brooding fashion, and opposite the Mairie is the corner house on the northern end of the Michel Gros Monopole 1er cru, Clos des Reas. I’d already learnt this would be/is a vendangeurs lodging, unused rest of the year, and also that numerous Burgundy reference works highlight the Clos, given its nature, is an early ripening site. A handy wine quiz question is name the only Vosne 1er cru Monopole – answer Clos des Reas. Having a quick shuftie inside the property it was clear some occupants had already arrived but weren’t around. I then went through the property, out to the rear, into the Clos beyond. I wasn’t aware at the time but, no great surprise, we would start here tomorrow. A very cursory look at a few vines suggested to this non vigneron, the fruit was ready for cutting & already some burnt grapes were evident- hum ! And, boy, was it still very hot moving into early evening. Walking back to the domaine I met Jacques who seems somehow linked to Juliette. Falling in with each other, we quickly came across an ultra-friendly ginger cat who was happy to rub around us and out with a lot of head scratching – a nice greeting from a local !
Friendly local greeting2 from Ginger Puss
View into Mugneret-Gibourg Cuverie
Juliette’s ace hound3
Loo all bases covered
Back at the domaine much milling around self- consciously and shyly by an increasing gathering in smart clothes ! It was at this point before the drinks reception action really got going, that some of us were fascinated by activities (they’d clearly started their harvest) in /outside the Mugneret-Gibourg cuverie just across the courtyard from the north entrance to the M Gros dining cellar I’d get to know so well. In time I met and shook hands with both the sisters who seemed a little intrigued at this Englishman in Michel Gros’ midst. They were delightful & seemed very content with their own harvest progress to date.
Gros Team Elements gathering for 9th Eve Reception3
Gros 9th Eve Reception Bottle
Gros Vendange Dining Cave 9th Eve Meal Buzzing (MG to right foreground) (2)
Eventually we were ‘called to order’ for the drinks reception – red wine and/or cassis. I can’t recall now exactly but there may have been a short speech. It was readily evident that both a number of longstanding regulars were present along with ‘newbies’ like myself (of various ages). I was already fielding a range of very standard questions from many quarters, which kept on coming over the next few days e.g where did I live; was this my first harvest (at M Gros/elsewhere); did I have another job in the UK; why was I working the vendange; what other domaines had I worked for; was it a holiday for me(!) etc etc. Some patience is required ! At some point I was introduced to my room share, a very likeable rotund, round spectacles wearing, character Chef Jean-Michel. As instantly likeable and friendly, and with his employment differing in nature from mine, I was very pleased cum relieved. Curiously, another Jean-Michel (and, despite the name, German) a domaine harvest regular, was to be one of the occupants of our room. JM2 lets call him is a tall, studious, laid back individual, seemingly/obviously widely liked by those working previously and as another plus for me has excellent English.
Post drinks reception we all sat down at a number of tables in the below ground dining cellar for our evening meal with wine (I’ll cover the latter in my next bulletin) post which off to bed to be ready for an early start the next morning. Initial impressions very positive indeed & that I was going to enjoy this a good deal, the odd bit of suffering aside !
Day 1 (shorter detail) to follow with photos. Stay tuned pop pickers !