Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Wine Country Living

I think that might be the title of a magazine somewhere. It surely evokes a genteel, tasteful, and monied lifestyle. This magazine, prominently placed on your coffee table, suggests to your equally tasteful friends and family that you are a gracious host, a purveyor of fine food and wine, and have season box seats at the opera. Or would like to.

Sauvignon blanc on the vine in the vineyard behind our house in the Cher Valley.

On the magazine's cover are two 30-something couples dressed in Eddie Bauer and Donna Karan. They are caught in casual poses, smiling, enjoying the warm summer evening and the killer views from the patio of their million-dollar-plus home in the hills above the vineyards. The sun is just going down and the hosts are serving an elegant evening meal of pan-seared mahi-mahi with sautéed baby carrots and freshly shelled peas. A bottle of late-harvest chardonnay (a steal at only $39.50 a bottle!) is on the table which looks like it was set by Martha Stewart herself, and you can't help but notice that the linens and candles match the house's exterior color palate. You imagine their discussions about stock options or the newest in GPS technologies for the Land Rover or how to avoid the worst of the backups on the Golden Gate Bridge. Ah, the good life: wine country living.

A vineyard near St. Aignan, appellation d'origine Touraine controllée.

Now, switch wine countries. Go from the Napa Valley to the Cher Valley. You will notice two 50-ish gay guys dressed in shorts and t-shirts with a hole or two in them. They, too, are caught in casual poses, relaxing after trimming hedges and bringing laundry in from the line. The view of the neighbors' yard from the deck of their much-less-than-a-million-dollar home is nice enough, although they could do without the incessant barking of the neighbors' dog. And from the bathroom you can see the vineyards stretching out behind the house. Our guys are just sitting down to a meal of pasta and sauce (which they made from their own garden tomatoes) and a couple of sausages (that they picked up at the local market on Saturday) served on the same old dishes they've had forever. Don't even discuss color palates - is Martha Stewart out of jail yet? A bottle of the local gamay ($1.50 a liter) is on the table fresh from the barrel; there's no label. You imagine their discussion about stock options (as in why don't they have any?) or rotating the tires on the Peugeot 206 or how to avoid hitting bicyclists on the narrow St. Aignan-Noyers bridge. Ah, the good life: wine country living.

These guys won't be on the cover of any magazine, at least none of the ones on your coffee table.

A wine country road stretching up from the Cher Valley. That tiny point of a pine tree on the right side horizon is in our yard.

It's mid-September and the grape harvest will be starting soon. We're having warm days and cool nights, and not much rain, which I think is a good thing. Too much rain this time of year means that the grapes will contain too much water, not enough sugar, and the resulting wine won't be as good.

Sauvingon blanc in the morning sun.

One day soon we'll hear, through the grapevine as it were, that the harvest will begin. Whatever group controls the appellation sets the earliest date for harvest based on what the growing season was like. Once that date is set, it's up to the individual growers to decide when they will actually pick. Some go right away, others wait a bit. Some pick by hand, some use machines. Again, it all depends on the weather, the type of grape they're working with, and what style of wine they're making.

Gamay grapes in the final ripening stages before the harvest.

And although we're not gracing the covers of any tasteful lifestyle magazines, we are most certainly enjoying our wine country life. We like the tractors, the barking dogs, and the local gossip we hear from the lady who delivers our baguettes in the morning. We love not commuting, we enjoy all four seasons, and we look forward to the smell of chickens roasting on the spit at the Saturday morning market in the town square.

Oh yeah, and we like the wine. A lot.


  1. Yeah, are you sure you're not going to be in any magazines? OK, maybe not lifestyle ones...but the writing on this post is very clever. Keep it up.

  2. Awww, you'll be on the cover of any magazine I edit (so you're safe). Your life sounds a lot more appealing than Mr and Ms Napa Valley.
    Chris P

  3. Ken says:

    It's a good lifestyle. One of the highlights of the year was seeing the village send out construction crews to lay sewer mains along our rural lane, and then actually getting ourselves connected to the mains this summer. It doesn't get better than that!

  4. J'adore ton style ! Il faut écrire un livre, na ! Bises. Marie

  5. I've enjoyed your Non-Napa wine country living accounts and your photos are beautiful. My daughter (
    )is teaching in Blois for a year and she alerted me to your blog. It was a great way to start a rainy Saturday morning here in Ohio -- looking at your sunny pictures of grapes growing. I agree with "anon" - il faut écrire un livre! I'll add your blog to my list to my blog.


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