Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hello All

well - Fall has come to the Vaucluse. We are having what I would call a typical "Seattle" set of days - cool, rainy and a little windy. Feels just like fall anywhere else (rats - I had hoped it would be different somehow...more French or Provencal or something...).

Anyway, here's what's new:

Wine - Everything has now been racked and is settling nicely. As I mentioned last time, I think the rose is going to be pretty nice. The Cotes du Rhone red needs a little work - its a little too acidic..but we'll wait and see in a month or so how it evens out. The cuvee I think will be quite good when its ready in a year or so - has some of the same attriubtes my GRAVES CELLARS syrahs have had; i.e. good balance between fruit and acid, with nice spicy undertones and subtle tannins - not an overpowering wine - and should be very food friendly!

House - with apologies to Peter Mayle and his writings about getting things done in Provence. I have to tell you it IS possible to complete a project without losing your mind. As I mentioned last time we were about to embark on the second bedroom (which had been used by the previous tenants as a storage room). This 'Before' picture depicts where it had been......They had added a fake wall (on right in this picture) to make it into more of a walk-in closet. So my job when I returned form Seattle was to open the room up to expose the real walls, etc. That also, however exposed all the plumbing and electrical lines for the kitchen. With concrete construction, the renovated plumbing and electrical has to go on either one side of the wall or the other - not inside it.

And then the plan was to build facade wall all the way around to cover the plumbing and electrial lines and the old window (which opened into the garage) and the old fireplace (filled in 30 years ago). Then put up a smalll closet to surround the water heater that is out of frame to the right, and put in a new window - in the wall on the right - that would open onto the back 'yard'.

So - a week ago Monday they started - Michel and his assistant. And on Thursday - 4 DAYS LATER - they were DONE!! Walls up, water-heater closet in (with door), new window in, exterior restored to match the rest of the house, trim up, ceiling re-varnished, 2 coats of paint on everything...and they even washed the floor.......WOW.Align Left

And so now I a real guest room, with a view and everything( if you look closely you can see the vineyard through the trees - OK - so its a 'Peekaboo' view).....just waiting for guests to arrive....?

By the way - did I mention that this house has no central heating? Heating here is typically electric 'radiator' - - sorta like baseboards - - in most rooms. For this house, there were electric heaters in the office and the first bedroom....and that's it. When I bought the place they were using these gigantic heat sinks in the kitchen and entry hall along with the fireplace...and that was it. So of course I had the big ugly things removed, with every intention of getting something to replace them....Well, one thing led to another and I didn't - until yesterday - and now they need to be wired...all 6 of them (one each for the 2 bedrooms, office, kitchen, salon and entryway). So - with the temperature dropping, and the rain falling - for now I am either close to the fireplace or in my room....not much heat anywhere else until the electrician comes.....tomorrow...YEAH.

One nice thing about fall - here, like elsewhere, the leaves all change colors with the season. The vineyard is now a lovely mix of green, gold, yellow, brown, and red (with a spot here and there of purple grapes where we left the green ones hanging at harvest and they have now finally ripened). Really quite stunning.

All for now - my fingers are getting cold.

Be good out there.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Hi All

Its been a couple of weeks since I last updated you all on what's what, so here goes.

Wine first: The rose is settling and clearing up nicely - going to be a lovely fairly true pale pink, as its the combination of 30% grenache (more orange-oriented) with 70% Cinsault (red-hued). And the flavors are following the color - bright red fruits (strawberry and cherry) with citrus undertones. I thinbk its going to be good.

The reds are finishing secondary fermentation - the "Cuvee" is done and gets racked today- and the Cote du Rhone red should finish by Wednesday- then racking....and then we wait for a month or so for things to settle..and voila..WINE!

By the way - they have an interesting twist here on what to do with the refuse from the winery. All the by-products, both the skins and seeds from pressing as well as the lies from racking - MUST be sent to one of the local distilleries for their use in making marc and eau de vie, etc. Not only is it mandatory, but there are reporting checks and balances to ensure that what you say you had is the same as what the distillery receives. Its a real symbiotic relationship - and also one that makes use of what would otherwise be landfill. Someone's been thinking......

House next: Not much new - we've started on the second bedroom (room with a view) - hole is in the wall for the new window, and we're starting on the new walls. New front door is due in by end of the month. So no new pictures this week

Everything Else: Not much new. Made it safely to and from Seattle (with the stop in San Francisco for the VISA). Nice visit (way short) with family and friends - and hurrying back to look after the wine...after all, it IS my job.

Now that I am back, VISA in hand - my first thing to do was to go and apply for a residency card - you can't live here without it - you can't get it until you have a VISA, and then you HAVE to apply for it within 1 week. And it takes a month or so to get, so I am not yet quite street legal - but getting closer.

And I have spent a couple of mornings with Julien (M. Marignane) going from one Wine Coop/Agency/Customs Office / Interested Party to another - seems like we've been to 6 or 7 - to get various required registration numbers. Turns out you need one for reporting winery operations, and another for paying the taxes on said operations, and another for knowing where the winery is, and another for who's AOC you are in,and another one if you sell to stores, and another if you want to export ...and on .....I will tell you, however, that there is NO WAY I could have accomplished what we did in those mornings on my own. With him beside me, as the previous owner - with all the previous records - it was a no-brainer to get things transfered over...and of course every one was very helpful. But - I would never have known even where to start. And Julien just said .." well - we go here, and then here, and then here"...and it was I am very lucky he has stayed to help - and we have come to be friends.

AND THEN, today I went with my accountant to the MSA - which is the Medical Insurance office - and found out that I don't have all the right paper from all the right agencies from when I bought this place..?!?!?!? One more group - the DDA - apparently needed to be involved and wasn't, and they have to give me ANOTHER different registration ID number.....which will make like about 25 of them I have.....and then I can go and register for health insurance -to get another number (26th?) - -but, of course, I need my residency card too.....which I won't have for a - LOTS OF PAPER. But I am getting closer to being a real person here.

On a brighter side, some friends from home are in the area (biking in the Luberon - two valleys over). They came by this weekend and we spent some time in Chateauneuf-du-Pape tasting wine and telling tales. They got to meet my friend Jean Marie Royer - a fabulous winemaker in Chateauneuf. (By the way - if you spot his wines - Domaine Jean Royer - snatch them up - he continues to get great reviews and his wines are wonderful.) Had a great dinner up at the ruins of the chateau. They're a great group - and it was nice to see familiar faces.

Well - all for now - I need to get to racking - the barrels are calling. More soon.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Wow - October seems like I just got here...and its 2+ months time flies.

With the wine aging nicely, I have taken a little time to start seeing the neighborhood, so to speak. I have already made it to Mt. Ventoux (in the Tour de France for me) again, with the weather a bit better than the last two attempts..and today went south-east to the little town of Venasque. Its one of those small, quaint, charming, gorgeous hill-top towns...with a fabulous view of the surrounding countryside. And on this Sunday, with the sun out and the tourists all gone, it was great. And made a quick stop on the way back in Pernes. These are both towns with remnants of their Sarrazin background - they changed hands over the centuries a multitude of times, from Gaul to Roman to Anglo/Norman, to Roman to Provencale to French...and the towns have the architecture to show for it.

This upcoming week's big adventure - a return to AMERICA!! I got notified by the French Consulate in San Francisco that my long-term VISA application had been approved, so I need to go back to the US to get that, and will wind my way up to Seattle for a couple of days before returning. I plan to only be gone a week all told - after all the wine is here - so I will only have 4 days in the States. I have asked the neighbor's younger (17) son to look in on the wine in my absence.

They are an interesting set. He, Richard, is British - and teaches English as a second language - mostly technical translating into English - at the University in Aix en Provence. She, Doris, is Belgian, but with extensive family in Italy - and was working in Avignon as a translator. She speaks 5 or 6 languages fluently, and in conversant in several others. Their 2 boys, Simon(19) and Alan (17) are great - both speak French, English, Italian, and Dutch. And both are very smart - - Simon is off to University in Belgium - studying astrophysics, and Alan (my temporary cellar rat) is in his last year in school in Avignon. They have taken me somewhat under their wing - particularly Doris who is helping me with my French, AND is doing the translations for the website.

All for this week. Got to get ready to leave early Tuesday.