It was a dark and stormy night in Gevrey Chambertin. Actually, more like a dark and stormy month. This month we have had violent winds (two street lamps came down one night in our little neighborhood), lots of rainy days and then, to top it off, over Easter weekend, SNOW. All right, I will admit that it did not stay on the ground past 11:00 am, but it was snow nonetheless. The cherry and apples trees are in bloom, and it snows. It does not appear that the snow did a lot of damage, so maybe there still will be black cherries in June (one can hope).
Spring arrives earlier here than it ever did in Minnesota, and I do like that. But once spring arrives, I also would like it to stay. These somewhat freezing temperatures are for the birds. And then speaking of birds….
We have birdseed in the feeder out back, and the birds arrived in droves. The feeders were empty in a few hours. I had to keep filling them, and on Monday, still a holiday here, I had to find a store that was open to buy more seed. Most stores are closed on Sundays and holidays. Easter Monday is a holiday. What birds do we have you ask: European gold finches, mesanges (chickadees), pinson de arbre and pinson de nord (chaffinch and brambling), merles (thrush) which are the European blackbird, European Serin, rouge gorge (british robin), green finches, and other assorted brown birds.
Enough of the weather.
Other activities of the month? At the start of the month my Photo Club had its annual photo exhibit on Saturday and Sunday. I worked on setting-up the exhibit, and this was on Friday afternoon. I packed my bag with what I thought may be necessary for the afternoon and went up to the Espace Chambertin. Our exhibit was down in the grand cave. As each problem with set up arrived, I reached into my bag and brought out pliers, tape, scissors, measuring tape, calculator…and thus was dubbed Madame McGyver for the afternoon.
We had to unpack all the photos, label them all, and attach chain and hang (and even make some hooks). To spruce up the exhibit there were to be flowers, however the flowers had been forgotten. So Saturday morning I bought some pansies at the local store and went back to the exhibit before it was to open. Eight little pots of colored pansies for only 4.50 euros, good deal (and now I have to plant them in the yard). Put some colored paper around each pot, and VIOLA. Someone else provided some primroses. So all was ready when the mayor arrived for a glass of wine and to open the show.
On Saturday night, those from the club that wanted, gathered in the cave for a pizza party. It was a nice evening, spouses and significant others invited.
The exhibit went well. Over the weekend over 300 people passed through to see it. You can see some of the photos and the 2 winning photos here at my club website : Reflets et Echos http://reflets.echos.free.fr/blog/?p=253
The weekend before Easter, Marie Therese received a nice order for a wedding (remember she sells wine). The wedding however was Easter weekend. In addition to the wine, they asked if she could get 6 bottles of good champagne. We (Keith and I) offered to drive up to Buxeuil for the Champagne. This is a small village about 2 hours north of us, just within the boundaries of Champagne. We like to go to Champagne Moutard. We even get a discount for being good customers. Our friend Chris had wanted some champagne back, Wendy and Robert needed some champagne and had asked when and if we were going to Buxeuil, we wanted some too, and now Marie Therese needed some champagne. Sounds like a road trip to me. The day was misty and not a day to be out riding a bike or taking a hike anyway. We drove up, through the small villages and enjoyed the scenery, of course had a small taste of champagne while there (I more than Keith since he was driving). Then we loaded the car down with everyones Champagne and returned by a different route. I had stopped raining and was a pretty route back. A bottle of good champagne costs about 17.00 euros, and I will not tell you what we pay with the discount!
That was Monday. On Tuesday I agreed to go with Marie Therese to Volnay, Buxy and St Aubin to pick up some of the rest of the wine needed (we had just done this same trip the week before). Tuesday was a gorgeous day. Off we went and stopped at Buxy (the most southern place from here) and she bought some wine there. Then we stopped at St. Aubin for a few boxes there. They usually leave the wine in the garage/warehouse, but Marie Therese said the door was locked. We waited 30 minutes to see if Vincent would arrive. He did not. This is a small village, with tight winding streets. We did finally find a telephone booth to our surprise, but Marie Therese ‘s telephone card was expired (there are no coin operated booths, you need to have a card that allows you to talk so many minutes). So now we had the booth, but no card (if you haven’t guessed yet, neither of us has a cell phone). Ah we found a tabac (a tabac sells tobacco and also phone cards). The tabac was out of phone cards. And by the way, this tabac was located in the Poste or post office, small village as I stated earlier, but strange even for a small village I should think. No wine, no cell phone, no phone cards....zut!!!
With no other alternatives, we headed north to Volnay without the wine from St Aubin. We arrived at Volnay and the wine was ready. Marie Therese mentioned that she did not get her order from St Aubin and the proprietress told her to use their phone. Vincent did indeed answer the phone, but he was in the south of France in Toulouse! He gave his brothers number and Marie Therese contacted him. He would meet us there, back in St. Aubin. Maire Therese loaded the trunk with wine from Volnay and demi-tour (U-turn) back south to St. Aubin. When we arrived, the young man was waiting for us and told Marie Therese that the door was never locked, just stuck. Sometimes you have to pull extra hard he said (this door is about 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide and made of wood, heavy in the best of circumstances). But as the old bard said, all is well that ends well. We now put this wine in the trunk too (which was getting full of wine boxes by this time) and headed north once again, towards home. Sure do hope the wedding was grand.
Chris (our friend from London) arrived on Thursday. This is when the weather started to change. Friday it was pouring rain and I needed to run into the market in Dijon. We were going to be tasting white wine on Friday night and I wanted (needed) some things from the market to make sumptuous hors-d’oeuvres. Chris and I went into Dijon for the market. Inside the market it was cold, not much difference from the outside! We found everything we needed and left there as soon as possible. Still had to make a few more stops on the way home and it was noon when we arrived, wet and cold. I had bought a nice pate en croute at the market and made some potato soup. Warm house, warm food, a little wine and good conversation made up for the trip to Dijon. It actually cleared up towards the end of the afternoon. It was still chilly though.
That evening we tasted 5 different bottles of white wine (7 people). All the wine was from Burgundy and all was Chardonnay, but the difference in taste was really extreme. Two were exceptional: a Rully (from Domaine Breliere and the St Aubin from Domaine H. Prudhon). We spent the whole evening talking and eating with friends and tasting wine. What started as a wine tasting with apertifs, ended up to be a full evening with our friends. Chris speaks some french so the conversation ebbed and flowed between french and english. It was all so pleasant.
On Saturday, Keith always prefers to go to Bligny and work on the trains. Around 10am, off he went with the car. Gevrey now has better train service (started in December) and I suggested we go down to Beaune by train, have lunch, shop and taste wine (Chris likes to buy wine here because it is about ½ the price of what she pays for the same wine in England, so when she comes over we do taste a lot of wine).
The train is not too far from the house, but the day was cold. There were still flakes in the air, although it was not snowing hard. The train only takes about 15 minutes to get to Beaune, that part is easy, but after that we had to walk about 6 blocks into the wind and the snow was coming down once again. Heads down we trudged forward. We found a nice restaurant and had lunch (salad and omelets for me, Croque Monsieur for Chris). The weather kept changing from rain, snow , sleet to clear. We just kept ducking in and out during the bad parts. We shopped for a while and then found the wine place I had wanted to try. You pay for the privilege of tasting, but then there is no obligation to buy wine. There were 15 wines to taste, 3 whites and 12 reds. And I was not driving for once, so I tasted all 15 of the wines. There were signs all over that you could fill your tasting cup (tastevins) only once, in 3 languages. The last wine was Corton Grand Cru. It was sublime. But at 39 euros a bottle, I passed on it. Chris found a wedding present (cork screw) for her friends and bought some wine too. We thought that we had finished a cold ugly day on a nice note, so off to the train and back to Gevrey for the evening. Also I found a good place for wine tasting.
Easter Sunday I had made reservations at a restaurant for noon. It is in the country and there was still snow on the ground when we arrived at the restaurant. It is up in the hills (Haute Cote). We had a nice lunch, but not anything to write home about, so I won’t.
Marie Therese had invited us over for dessert, so off we went to Messagnes. She and Christian and her father and Andrea were just having dessert. For dessert we had cherry tart (tarte de cerise) or compote de peche ou pomme (peach sauce or apple sauce), or a bit of all three. Also wine and Cremant was served (Cremant is sparkling wine). After talking and eating our dessert, she thought Chris should meet Ohtar (the horse) and see the new barns (see Decembers journal on the American Barn). After looking at the barn and petting Ohtar, we went into what is now called the “club house”…a basement room with a wood burning stove. The room is walk in level with the house above. Christophe has set up his office area on the right, a table in the center and a couch over on the left wall. Marie Therese had brought some Cremant and Christophe had some gateau (cake). As we sat talking, others arrived and soon the room was full. Along with everyone, more Cremant arrived too. So we spent a couple hours talking, inside away from the cold snowy outside. This time the conversation was only in french.
Have to mention here that Angelique, a young woman boards her horse there too. She had come in from riding her horse, which is an Icelandic horse. She said Icelandic horses are the 4x4 of the horse world, although they are small. I will try to post a photo in the future, they are really mignon (cute).
Chris stayed until Wed morning, the 6:30 train to Lille. Monday and Tuesday were rather uneventful. Monday Chris and I walked into Gevrey and around the vineyards in cold blowing snow. We did need to get out and get some exercise, so although the day was not ideal, off we went. We had a good 2 hour hike, and once we were not walking into the wind, it was much nicer. My hardy Minnesotan upbringing does come in handy now and then, I was not as cold as Chris.
Tuesday night Chris took us out to dinner. We went to a place (Clos de Napoleon) we have always like, simple Burgundian food, but good food. They hired a new chef last September and said it was under new ownership (we think it is the son of the former owner). We sat next to the fire and the food was very good, and the servings more elegant. We had a very enjoyable evening.
The weather is starting to return to normal.
That is all for now, until April. I have written enough to probably bore you all.
RECIPE for March
- Good bread (Italian bread or French) sliced (10 slices)
- Mozzarella Bufalo (sliced in ¼ inch slices) 2 balls
- Grilled red pepper (cut in thin strips) 1 pepper
- Lettuce (small mixed leaves preferred) large hand full
- Olive oil
- Dijon mustard
Slice bread and toast top side and then rub with a garlic clove cut in half.
Pick basil leaves and mix with equal amount of small salad leaves. Add Vinaigrette (see below).
Toss salad lightly.
Place a small amount of tossed salad on each toast.
Place one or two (depends on size of toast) slices of Mozzerella on top of the salad.
Lay some of the strips of grilled pepper on top.
Dribble some olive oil over the top.
Beat with a fork until it is all incorporated into a smooth vinaigrette. Add salt and pepper.
It is that easy.
 Merles have a wonderful song and now I understand “4 and 20 blackbirds baked in a pie, when the pie was opened the birds began to sing”  By the way Ohtar went through his first proves at an event – 2 separate jumping sessions without faults.