Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chateau Bonnet Nov 29

After Paris we headed south to the Beaujolais region, which is very special to me. It was 25 years ago when I was a college student at UC Davis studying winemaking. I spent two months in France during “the crush” to gain wine making experience. The Perrachon Family owns a winery called Chateau Bonnet in the Chenas appellation of Beaujolais and they were kind enough to invite a college student for this opportunity. So in 1983, I traveled alone from California to France. Pierre-Yves and his father were in charge of Chateau Bonnet and their entire family was very hospitable. I lived in their home, picked grapes in the vineyards, made wine in the cellar, and worked in the laboratory. I met about 30 other college students from Europe who pick grapes to make money. What a great time of my life! Then Pierre-Yves invited me to travel to St. Emilion, Bordeaux to help his friend Pascal Dalbeck make wine at Chateau Ausone and Chateau Belair. The drive takes all day, and was well worth it! I learned so much about the vineyards and wine making.
So now we meet again! Pierre-Yves and his wife Marie-Luce have four fine-looking children named Pauline (20), Charlotte (18), Clemence (16), and Julien (13). Marie-Luce treated us to a wonderful welcome dinner, complete with a cheese course and dessert. Of course we enjoyed wine, including a bottle of vintage 2000 Chenas from Chateau Bonnet produced exclusively from 100-year old vines. Pierre-Yves then opened a 1997 Chateau Belair, the winery in St. Emilion I visited and worked at 25 years ago! Thank you Pascal for all the great wines you’ve made…this was fantastic!
Today, Pierre-Yves toured us around vineyards and his winery. Ah, the memories! The boys played in the vineyards where I once picked grapes, and Pierre-Yves explained how they prune the vines. He bought more vineyards and now owns 20 hectares (50 acres) in many parts of Beaujolais, which produce 120,000 bottles, or 10,000 cases/year. He has added barrels, fermenting vats, a “balloon” press which is important in this region, and much more equipment.
We met his parents, Monsieur and Madame Perrachon who look healthy and happy. I believe the wine is their secret! We tasted wine from the barrel (a white wine from Chardonnay grapes), and Chenas (red), and Moulin-a-Vent (red) all from Chateau Bonnet. He opened a bottle of unfermented grape juice for the boys, which they loved. We couldn’t leave without buying wine, and also his last bottle of grape juice for the boys. With the generous gift of wine from Pierre-Yves, we walked away with 8 bottles. What great souvenirs!
Pierre-Yves explained how they are in control of their wines, from the vineyards to the winemaking, to the marketing and sales. Pierre-Yves is happy that his daughter, Charlotte is studying winemaking in Macon and also his daughter, Pauline is a graphic designer who recently updated their wine label. He hopes all his children will specialize in part of the family business someday. These are wonderful experiences for us, as we plan our future as well.
After another delicious meal by Marie-Luce, we said our Good-byes and promised to spend more time on another visit. We also hope they will come visit us in the US…once we have a house!
I wanted to talk a moment about our drive from Paris to Beaujolais. The 4-hour drive passes directly through the famous wine region of Burgundy. So Thom liked my idea of detouring off the A6 autoroute to take the scenic drive first to Chablis. Yes, there is a charming little village by this name, and Chardonnay has grown here for hundreds of years. We stopped at a small tasting room where we enjoyed 3 Chablis samples of wine. Crystal and Rachel introduced us to the wines, and it turns out that Rachel grew up in California for 15 years! What a small world.
We then followed a well-known route that Rachel suggested, passing along the historic pinot noir vineyards of Clos de Vougeot and Aloxe Corton and towns including Gevrey-Chambertin and Nuits-St-Georges. I tried to take everything in, from the rolling hillsides of vines to the castles and old farmhouses, to the small village signs marking some of the most recognized wine villages of the world. This is where the red burgundy wines are made, which are probably the most expensive wines in the world. Soon we were back on the auto route zipping south. What a memorable detour!

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