Today the harvest began in Sauternes, south of Bordeaux.  And Saturday is market day in Bazas, the cathedral town at the southern limits of the Graves appellation.  The town exercises an irresistible pull on us.  The maximum magnetic force is exerted by the lean and delicious sausages of Patrick from Aveyron.  We also buy fresh herb plants of the Spanish vendor.  And little rye and raisin rolls from Biganos…that’s all the excuse we need to get up early and drive 40 minutes away to shop.
 
We had phoned Chateau Guillemins last week, to ask if we could stop by to pick up some red wine.  The 85 year old mother remembered us from last year’s wine festival, and even knew that we are in Cestas!  Sharp as a tack!  She arranged for Isabelle and her brother Jean-Francois to be there this morning.    Harvest will begin Monday with Merlot, then Malbec, then Cabernet.  They are unusual in withholding their wines from market until they have already aged 4 years.  We will bring our friend Catalina to meet them during the Open Doors in the Graves festival Oct 21-22.
 
Since Sauternes is just a stone’s throw from Langon, we visited our friend and former gite owner, Evelyne Allien of Chateau Dudon.  She phoned us last night to tell us, the sugar in the grapes is just right, it’s time to pick.  So the harvest began in earnest this morning.  We were invited for lunch.  Last year, with Steve’s daughter Suz and husband Dan, she frantically fed us in 15 minutes before we raced to the airport.  This time, Evelyne put out a magnificent spread and we took our time.  Out came fluffy egg and ham squares, giant pink shrimp dipped in curry sauce or mayonnaise, crusty bread, a roasted chicken, salad, cheeses, a chocolate tart and coffee.  We feasted with her husband Michel, followed by her daughter Francoise.  Francoise graduated from Ecole Polytechnique in Paris in Law, and she is now the second youngest sitting judge in France.  The 3 sons all flunked their medical exams, and will re-take them in September.
 
Michel’s trip to California last September has borne fruit, with 240 bottles of their beautiful Sauternes (Barsac) on its way to San Francisco.  To restore the inside of the castle, they only need another 500,000 euros on top of the 300,000 euros already spent on the roof…let’s see, how many bottles of the golden nectar is that…
 
Evelyne escorted us into the aging cellar where an exhibit of copper wire art and sculpture was on view.  She has also completed several new oil paintings, during a trip to Brittany.  We asked her to put aside 4 of them and we are contemplating acquiring one or more of them.  On top of one she has already given us!  It’s a view of the Chateau de Sully in Burgundy perched on a hillside.  We will be back to choose them after the 3 weeks of harvest conclude.  For now, we bought a bottle of 2001 Sauternes, to commemorate the year we stayed with her.
 
The Sauternes “noble rot” that pulls the moisture out of the white grapes, concentrating the sugars,  begins as dew from the nearby Cirons stream.  Today, there was no sign of the classic white fog over the cold stream.  It’s been a hot summer, moderated by rain in August.   It promises to be a very good year.
 
There are more winetasting events coming up next week.  Tuesday, we’ll go pick up a case of Chateau LaFargue red Graves wine that we purchased futures of last year.  That same evening, we’ll go with neighbors Jean-Paul and Rachel to the quirky “Winetasting at the Supermarket” evening.  There, 10 producers lavish foie gras, oysters, sheep cheeses, sausages, and breads on avid customers feverishly milling around 10 feet tall stacks of wooden wine crates, armed with color catalog containing descriptions and prices.
 
Wine emergency appears imminent:  reinforcements are needed to help drink it!
 
Claudia and Steve
9/9/06

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