Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Gone Francin', continued

Thursday morning we woke up early to the dulcet tones of our phone making this bizarre noise that sounded like it was chirping and then hacking something up. Turns out, that’s just the ringer. Another earlier appointment today with Maison Louis Latour. We found the Latour offices very quickly (having been lost several times now, we no longer consider it being “lost”—just: “not there yet”). We met with our guide Ann who is the head of PR for Latour. She is a miniscule person. I wasn’t sure her feet were going to hit the pedals in the car, but we’re pretty quickly impressed with her as she seems to really know her stuff. She drives us out to the Latour vineyard, which is not all that old, by most of Burgundy’s standards. Only a couple of hundred years.

I haven’t really mentioned the weather much, but at this point we’ll detour so I can tell you that it was incredibly cold, as in “witches teat”. It snowed the first 2 days we were in Dijon—not heavy, just that light dusting, but coming from Austin where it had been 80 degrees when we left, it was a little jarring. All the folks we met up with were mentioning how unusually cold it was for Burgundy in March—not this cold this late in March for over 50 years, yadda yadda. Yeah, no kidding.

Anyway, so we get out to the vineyards and they have just finished pruning for the year, so it’s a little naked. Still pretty though. Ann gives us a tour of the whole factory where they extract the juice from the grapes which involves these amazing huge copper vats and casks that you can swim in. Everything at Latour is pretty much done by hand, including the picking of the grapes. They even make their own casks which is unusual—most wine houses buy them from tonneliers (professional barrel makers) So, the it’s something they’re pretty proud of and mention often.

After the tour of the grape stomping place—we head down into the cellars through this tiny spiral staircase that Sam can barely fit into. The cellars have been built into a hillside, so even though it doesn’t look that big from the outside, it seems like we just keep going down and down. I fully expect to see door marked “hell” right around a bend. As in most of the other cellars we’ve been in, there are barrels everywhere, though now, thanks to Ann, I now know that each of these holds about 300 bottles of wine. And there are just room after room of them stacked everywhere. If all of them were broken open, there would just be this little ocean of red wine we could all swim in. I daydream about this more than once.

We head a little further down into the cellars and looking around, we notice that the walls seem..um, a little fuzzy. It’s really dark so it’s hard to tell, so I touch it and yep, it’s pretty damn fuzzy—hairy, even. Right about this point, Ann says, “You’re probably wondering about all the mold.” Hold up. Mold?? This is MOLD?? Oh god oh god oh god, wipe hand on coat, suppress gagging. Friends, you have never seen so much black furry –gahack—fungus in your entire life. It covered everything but the floor, even stacks of bottles. Apparently, the mold helps keep light out and insulates the cellars from getting too cold. Plus, unless you flood the place with a million gallons of bleach, there is no way you’re gonna get rid of all that funk at this point in the game. After the initial shock, believe it or not, you just sort of get used to the Mold Hotel. Honestly, it didn’t really even smell that bad. I took lots of photos. You’ll be able to see what I mean.

We finish there with a tasting of some of their premiere cru’s—all very lovely—I liked the whites the best. This whole tour has taken up the entire morning and we hadn’t eaten breakfast, so we’re pretty starving at this point. We’ve been asking all the locals where they would suggest we eat, and we’ve been recommended the same place twice now. So, we have Ann drop us off at Caves Des Arche—apparently it used to be a wine cellar, but now is a pretty popular local restaurant. We arrived before most of the crowd and maybe feeling a bit sorry for us, the chef actually waives us in even though we don’t have a reservation (which got us a chuckle from the seating hostess). We had probably the best (and longest) meal of the entire trip there. After a seriously pretty foie gras course, Sam had veal kidney (gahack, otra vez) but then again, he likes all those organ meats. Needless to say, I didn’t share. The name of my dish sounded much more flowy in French, but in a nutshell, it was rare steak served with a stinky cheese sauce. I know, I know, it doesn’t sound appetizing at all, but trust me, it was delish.

After lunch we had decided to stop in some of the smaller towns on the way back to Dijon to scout out some local/smaller vineyards who might have some good stuff not too far off the beaten path. Since we didn’t have a car, we needed some places that were within walking distance of the train station. Yes, we had briefly considered renting bikes, but again—it was pretty super cold and also, I have no coordination to begin with and wine does not improve it at all. We stopped in Nuits-St. Georges where we found an open cellar, tasted some vinos and bought some stuff Sam knew we couldn’t get back here in the States.*

*We really hadn’t planned on bringing back much wine with us in our bags because a.) it’s a pain in the ass with duties/customs, proper packing, etc. and b.) in Austin you can get most of the stuff we tasted—not the same vintages—those won’t be available for another couple of years, but similar ones from the same makers.

Back to Dijon where we made a trek to La Boutique Maille which seemed to be the fanciest/best place to buy mustard in Dijon. They have a whole little tasting banquet so you can try them out. There was one called “Mi Forte” that I’m pretty sure took out half the buds on my tongue. (hell yeah, I brought back some of that one). But the best was the a’ la Ancienne which we brought back too. I think you can actually buy the Maille mustards here, maybe? I don’t know. I know they have a boutique in Paris too. Anyway, I’m a mustard freak so this was a good time for me.

Man, this has been too long already. I’ll tell yall about Paris laters.


Steph said...

So at this point, I am thinking that a list of wine recommendations might be in order...

Robyn said...

Ewwww, the mold!

Stinkydog said...

I have a list! I just have to extract it from Sam's suitcase first..

and yes, you will die when you see the rest of the mold pictures. Crazy Mold.