Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – (Postscript) Vendange Day 10, Saturday 12th Sept 2020
On this, my next to last morning, I awoke to eery quiet, alone in the domaine premises. I omitted to mention in my Day 9 record just how seriously hot & humid it had been that evening, particularly the humidity. Even without shifting numerous boxes of wine from car into garage I was extremely ‘warm’ & unpleasantly perspiring freely. All before getting ‘hot under the collar’ venting spleen and the rest on my credit card provider over the Friday afternoon nonsense. Before evening scoff and then bed I’d also managed, just, to get my car off the street and into the garage by moving the heavy sliding metal doors then squeezing in front of the domaine’s old blue Mercedes van.
Somewhat frustratingly this morning I couldn’t access the front of the domaine premises with all gates locked, and thus the coffee machine, so water had to suffice first thing. My plans for this, my last day, were thus:-
- Visit the Noellat cuverie.
- Return to Boursot in Chambolle, hope my card payment would work this time and collect wines.
- Call, back in Vosne, at Domaine Robert Sirugue.
- Roam up into the Hautes-Cotes with Domaine Cornu-Camus, Echevronne a must re-visit from 2019.
- Call at Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine, Pernand.
- Domaine Jean-Pierre Diconne, Auxey-Duresses.
- Shop for my return home at the NSG Intermarche.
- Early night for Sunday’s planned 4.00-5.00 a.m. car loading & departure for Calais & the UK.
Sounded like a (good) plan to me, reflecting also how well the day before (Friday) had gone, credit card shenanigans aside ! Once ready to go my first call, circa 8.30 a.m., was to the cuverie. There was a specific reason for this, relating to my wanting to access the internet at the domaine again, albeit I can’t for the life of me remember now why this was. Anyway, as I anticipated, Alain Noellat was busy, or about to be, in the supa clean & strongly yeasty smelling cuverie, with remontage as had been the case the same time, post vendange, in 2019. He got me a welcome coffee and advised Sophie would be along soon and would be able to let me into Rue de la Fontaine premises. All looked very good in terms of the fruit sitting in the various open topped steel tanks. One particular tank’s ‘overflow’ type pipe was slowly fizzing juice from the top back into the tank, but this was an outlier.
In time Sophie rocked up, as always in her supremely cheerful, uber positive, laughing kind of way – definitely someone who’s glass is always half (or more) full rather than half empty. I followed her smart, new for this year, powerful Mercedes SUV back to the domaine buildings & she let us both in through the remote control operated heavy gates then left me ‘to it’. Once I’d finished what I needed to do I exited, closing the gates, and dropped off the building key and gate remote back at the cuverie, expressed my grateful thanks for the vendange & said my goodbye’s before heading for Chambolle. There, I had the opportunity to say ‘hello’ to the whole lovely family including the youngest, next generation, young man who must be 4/5 yrs of age before heading into the caveau. Eureka, thank heaven my card payment went through this time so collecting the wines I said my goodbye’s and departed. As a very nice gesture I’d been gifted a very much appreciated bottle of the domaine’s 1998 Chambolle-Musigny 1er cru Les Chatelots. That premier cru was always one of my favourite sites, in its hollow near the village cemetery, when working for Domaine Arlaud. This also reminds me I’d been similarly been gifted a bottle the previous day by Lauriane Andre – a 2016 Savigny-les-Beaune 1er cru Les Vergelesses Blanc (might open that soon !). I’m always humbled by these generous gestures.
From Chambolle, rather than dropping back to the main road, I turned right below the village onto the road that takes one past Musigny/Amoureuses towards Vougeot, stopping the car a couple of times for photo opportunities, careful to dodge cyclists. Another glorious morning. I then continued through the vines in the same direction until coming to the t-junction facing Romanee Saint-Vivant Grand Cru. A left there took me curving into Vosne centre. I pulled up by the fabulous covered bus stop/shelter, initially to check if the Post Office was open (wasn’t), but then couldn’t resist photos of the bus shelter interior with its vineyard maps and extensive numbered list of Vosne domaines. Neat!
Then to Domaine Robert Sirugue, an oasis of quiet with ostensibly no one about until I met an affable, polite, Monsieur Sirugue Senior up a small wooden ladder, barrel tending, in the open doored cuverie to the rear of the house. Asking for Arnaud, M. Sirugue led me through a rabbit warren of doors and passage way at the rear of the cuverie until Arnaud emerged from another small room where he was tending to some other smaller tanks/barrels – these for the wines he & Sophie are making as a ‘side-line’ under their own names – micro negoce wines from Gevrey En Champs, Vosne Les Barreaux, and a Meursault. We sat down in another room for a very pleasant tasting of both Domaine Sirugue’s, and the couple’s micro negoce, wines (no Meursault though). I was amazed here to find how strong Arnaud’s English was as I’d never previously been aware of that at Noellat. We talked easily about ‘this and that’ – he’s a really nice guy. At one point we got onto who in Vosne was related, married etc to whom !! This, from Arnaud, a fount of knowledge & gossip, was amazing such that I ended up joking an extensive written family tree was required to keep track. I do remember particular mention of the wife (or girlfriend ?) of Pierre Duroche of Gevrey as ‘hailing’ from a Vosne family.
In putting together a wine order discussion also ensued around (the very problematic !) potential availability of Sirugue’s Grand Echezeaux ! Arnaud did hesitantly say, if I was really keen, he would see what he could do for me, maybe next year, in this respect but said average production was only c600 bottles a year, cost €180 a bottle ! Such was clearly going to be a huge problem so I thanked him but told him we should forget it. Instead, with my purchasing focus this year in the main being on lower end wines, I bought Domaine 6 packs of Aligote and PTG, both 2019 & €8 euros a bottle (!), a 6 pack of 2018 Bourgogne Rouge, 3 each of Vosne Village and Vosne 1er Petits-Monts, both 2018s, and finally 3 bottles of the Arnaud et Sophie Sirugue-Noellat 2018 Vosne-Romanee ‘Les Barreaux’. I was particularly pleased with the Petits-Monts, a raging bargain (in UK terms) €62 a bottle ! Arnaud offered to drop the wines off later that day, straight into the Noellat garage, whilst I continued roving about which was very handy for me. By now lunch was looking close, in fact Arnaud was being called for his, so I bade my goodbye’s and departed towards NSG and the Hautes-Cotes.
My route to the Hautes-Cotes was that ‘well worn’ one we’d followed during the vendange i.e the D8 through Chaux but rather than any diversion to vines or Villars-la-Faye I continued until reaching the D8’s cross roads with the D115 – roughly between Villars & Marey-le-Fussey. At the cross roads I continued over towards Marey but pulled into the car park of the Maison Aux Milles Truffes l’Or des Valois. This truffle retailer with café/restaurant in its semi isolated location I’d visited last year purchasing various truffle products for my truffle keen wife & daughter – confess truffles don’t ‘do’ a lot for me particularly. Place seemed quite busy judging by the number of parked vehicles but, not sure what might be required at home, I fired off a couple of quick texts. As well I did so as les femmes dans UK were ambivalent at any more truffe produits so I carried in into Marey which I just trickled through in observation mode. This is a village I’d like to vinously explore a lot more on another occasion as there seem any number of vignerons in the village – Michel Joannet & Thevenot le Brun look notably interesting. Anyway, my focus was elsewhere but for now we were in the 12.00-14.00 lunch period, albeit I’d again decided to forego any scoff, not having had the foresight, silly me, to acquire sandwiches or similar. From Marey, with no rush & time to kill, I drifted slowly to Fussey, then via Changey into Echevronne and a slow tour around the sleepy village passing the smart property of Jean Fery et Fils I’d successfully visited last year then checking out my forthcoming destination of Domaine Cornu-Camus. Retracing my route back past Jean Fery I took the Rue de Marey up & out of the village, past its cemetery, to a small triangle junction. A largish plot of vines was on my right, to my left an uncultivated field, on the edge of which I parked up, beyond which were more vines. I chilled here for a while enjoying the peace, quiet and bird song before setting off again slowly across country (lots of vines hereabouts & great views) to another sleepy hamlet, Magney-les Villers. After another slow tour around the centre here I found a small area to park up on, next to the church, across the road from the classic looking, small French town/village Mairie, with its flag, clock and ‘Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite’ words over the door. To my left I was highly intrigued, and not a little impressed, by what appeared to be a classic, vintage, British Royal Enfield** motorcycle, resplendent with red tank and gleaming chrome. Coincidentally I’d seen the same sort of bike (might have been the same one) outside the NSG Intermarche the previous evening. The same machine as I was looking at now ?
Time ticked slowly by, the only movement initially the emergence from a gap in the wall in front of the motorcycle, of an impressively furry, longish haired, local dark tabby cat. Pussy regarded me warily (fair enough !), with no intention of making friends (I love cats), even less of letting me anywhere near close, and moved off left around the corner. As I was considering a move a chap in a Peugeot arrived in the tight gap next to me so giving him room with acknowledged thanks back to me I reversed out & headed back out of the top of the village, passing the Naudin-Ferrand premises (noted for future reference), towards Echevronne, also noting between villages a harvesting machine in the near distance with attendant tractor & trailer. Back in Echevronne there was still time to kill to get towards cessation of the lunch period at 14.00 hrs so I decided to head on down to Pernand-Vergelesses, figuring by the time I got there it would be past 14.00 hrs or as near as, and I could call to see Christine at Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine before coming back to Echevronne. Unbeknowns to me though D-F are closed Saturday afternoons so that was a shame but I would have enough wine & opportunities.
Back to Echevronne and up past the cemetery I returned to my original field verge parking spot by the small triangle junction. I’d not been here more than a few minutes when the quiet was disturbed by the sound of machinery, it initially being difficult to tell where it was coming from. I soon found out as despite the extended lunch hour eventually two large blue New Holland harvesting machines (why, seemingly, are all these machines blue, pray ?) came across the field towards me from vines beyond and headed off. I was just digesting the sight of those and blow me another arrived to commence work on a plot of vines across the road from me. This was the same type New Holland SB60 as I’d just seen but interestingly (probably the same for the others but I hadn’t noticed) had stickers on each side identifying it to the Nuiton-Beaunoy Co-Operative (on the roundabout south of Beaune by the turning to Pommard). Alongside the driver/operator’s door was a young female, standing upright, holding on tight – presumably girlfriend/partner of the seated operator. Quite fascinating watching this machine close up even though I’ve seen one at close quarters before (3/4 years ago at vines adjacent to Domaine Arlaud’s HCDN Rough plot near Concoeur). I’m not sure, but my impression of this latest generation of harvester (it looked pretty new to me) was that it was a little more efficient/sympathetic to the vines than earlier examples. It didn’t seem to be giving the vines the extremely rough thrashing treatment I’ve noted in years before and, once it had passed, the vines looked in a very decent state. The Hautes-Cotes high trained vines must be ideal I guess for these harvesters than the vines on the Cote below.
I could have watched the machine from various angles for a while but enough time had now elapsed for me to drop back down and through the village to Domaine Cornu-Camus. I’d loved the wines I’d bought here in 2019, all long consumed with alacrity and much enjoyment (without also thinking about the keen prices !). Pulling into the domaine premises the two young boys I remembered from 2019 were careering about on their scooters in ubiquitous football shirts (FC Barcelona’s !). I was warmly greeted by Pierre Camus, a lovely now semi-retired, twinkingly eyed, flat cap vigneron. He seemed to recall me from 2019 & was touchingly solicitous of my hip related difficulty in getting out of the car from which we descended to the cellar. He explained his daughter, Lydia, & her husband Christophe Pertuzot, the latter a friendly bear of a guy (now I think the winemaker) were out for the afternoon. No matter, I was very happy to taste and spend time with Pierre. He seemed very content with their 2020 harvest, themes the same as I’d experienced and had found elsewhere i.e nice fruit, pretty much trouble free harvest, just volume down somewhat. Unfortunately, no HCDN Chardonnay (2018 sold out, 2019 to be bottled) and I already had my quota of Aligote from Philippe Chavy and Sirugue. I was happy to settle for 2 x 6 packs of the delicious Pernand 2018 Blanc (€14 a bottle) and a 6 pack of the very tasty 2018 CdN Villages (€13 a bottle). Pierre would have none of it when I went to pick up some of my purchases and, despite being of small stature himself, insisted on carrying all three 6 packs at once to my car, before we crossed the yard to the office for paperwork & payment. I asked about the large dog from 2019, conspicuous now by its absence, which had then been partly bandaged from some canine injury/problem. Pierre told me it had died – I couldn’t pick up adequately from what he said what the cause of its passing was & whether related to the 2019 problem. Sad, as it was a lovely dog, noisy but friendly, then with an obvious close bond with the family’s 2 young boys. Two visits here now. I adore this domaine, one which will be an ongoing fixture on my visit ‘list’.
Very happy with my Echevronne visit I figured I could make time, and afford in time, cost & car space, one more domaine visit before calling it ‘quits’ for 2020. I knew exactly where to go as well so back down the valley, past Pernand, into Beaune (or rather around it), and out towards Meursault but destination Auxey-Duresses and Domaine Jean-Pierre Diconne. As I approached Auxey I was passed by any number of Porsches heading the other way – presumably some owners club outing. Impressive ! Monsieur Diconne Senior didn’t seem to recognise me from my two previous visits here, not even when I tried to recall, with my limited vocabulary, the issue we’d had last year with the domaine’s inoperative card payment machine (not then my credit card provider !) which had necessitated my returning the following day with cash. No matter, my visit here was brief as I was only after a single 6 pack of the domaine’s delicious 2017 Auxey VV Blanc. Next time I pass this way I’ll aim for more wines from here !
Afternoon now moving on so back towards Beaune and its south side BP Service Station for a full tank top up of Ultimate Diesel to take me to Calais and beyond. Fully fuelled, back towards Vosne, but with another visit to the NSG Intermarche for homeward bound provisions – sandwiches, crisps, bottled water, bottles of Foire aux Vins crémant for madam, and tins of canard and cassoulet. Search as I might I couldn’t find any tins of gesiers unfortunately. What I did come across, on the far side of the store, away from the main wine selection were some other wines with my eyes drawn, irresistibly, to some William Fevre Chablis – and, result, it was 2014 – €14 a bottle. Would have been rude not to so 3 bottles added to my shopping.
Back in Vosne and into the Noellat garage for moi et voiture. I unpacked this day’s purchases then stood back and ‘took stock’ of what I had to get into the car for the return to the UK. I’d also noted Arnaud Sirugue, bless him, true to his word, had accessed the garage and left the wines I’d bought from him alongside my other purchases from Friday already there. Additionally, as a heart-warming nice touch, he’d also left a bottle of cassis with a felt tip pen scrawled message and smiley face emoji on one of the wine boxes explaining the cassis was made by his father and would go well with Aligote or Cremant ! Brilliant, what a guy. Car loading after multiple post vendange purchases and personal luggage has always been a challenge – sometimes particularly so !!! I remember one year in the yard at Arlaud where I had to have two or three attempts to ‘successfully’ shoehorn everything, with difficulty & ‘creatively’ into my then VW Bora work horse – much to Cyprien’s amusement at the time ! Having already sorted out my two luggage bags I set aside the clothes & footwear I would use for Sunday, with washbag etc, and then brought everything else e.g all bags, rucksack (with its books, papers, electricals etc), and footwear etc down into the garage from my upstairs room. I decided best to actually load the car just pre departure, knowing full well from past experience what a hot & sweaty exercise that might be, and rather than leave it standing packed overnight down on its suspension. I was glad, this year, I didn’t have to include any Dujac errand boxes as well as such could have been a tipping point issue !
So, light supper, finish of my beers, and an early night. Sunday morning just pre 4.00 a.m. saw me in the garage, with my loading jigsaw puzzle of wine boxes, luggage etc to how best fit into the car – thank goodness for having an estate & lowered rear seats ! All done without too much pain or difficulty but I was relieved I didn’t have more wine – beautifully judged 😊. Luggage on top of wine boxes and a car rug and couple of jackets over to cover from prying eyes behind the privacy glass. Remained only to strip my bed, have a shower, have a last check over/look around, exit & close/lock the garage doors, drop the key as arranged with Alain into the domaine post box, then at approx. 4.50 a.m., with it still dark, say goodbye to Vosne & head for the Autoroute at Nuits for Calais & home.
Hope my vendange word & photo diary might have amused and/or been of interest. Thanks to Bill for encouraging and publishing, and to the wonderful Famille Noellat, my fellow vendangeurs (in the main !), our chef and the other domaine staff who looked after us, and to those other super vignerons I met. I reckon we all survived Covid (I haven’t heard otherwise) for which I guess, for now, 2020 will be remembered. Back in the UK I did have raging sore throat and nasty cough for 2/3 weeks but was always sure it wasn’t Covid – as a test ultimately proved. Post my return from France UK quarantine I have had an X Ray at the local hospital, immediately after which my car ‘survived’ being rear ended on my way home, the X ray result confirming serious issues with my left hip (has deteriorated significantly since the vendange – oops !) for which I now await an orthopaedic consultation – likely outcome seemingly a hip replacement. We’ll see, but something needs to ‘give’ ! Whether I can get ‘sorted’, timing wise, for any 2021 vendange only timings will tell – for now I can’t contemplate a vendange (other than simply propped up at triage table maybe !) in present condition. But, I’m determined ! Merci.
** Just recently saw this news item which suggests the motorcycle I saw in Magney-les-Villers might not have been the vintage classic I thought it was – hum !