June 28th, 2010

Bonjour to All

Its been just about a year since my very good friends Terry and Kathryn came to visit. in honor of that, and to give you an idea of what I am up to in the vineyard this week/month, I am turning the Blog over to my “Guest Blogger” – Kathryn…ENJOY !!!

“In 2009 Terry and I decided it was time to spend some months in France assisting Doug in the Mas de la Lionne’s vineyards during June and July; returning in September to help with the harvest. We left an unseasonably sunny Pacific Northwest on June 10th to be picked up in Avignon by Doug in his cute white Renault Kangoo sedan van.

We quickly fell into a pattern of arising at 7 AM and after coffee, cereal and bananas going into the vineyards to trim vines while Doug sprayed the weeds (who exhibited a liking for the terroir compatible to the vines). After a couple of hours in the sun, which made us sweat as if we were pedaling in Le Tour de France, we would take a break, ultimately returning to the fields and working until approximately noon.

Anything after noonish was difficult because of the heat. The attached pictures show one of many of Doug’s tractors (can you say manly?) and Doug and Terry in the vineyard. Note the spraying tank on Doug’s back so the spray gets the weeds not the grapes

.Lunch was either taken at small restaurants located in Chateauneuf du Pape, a 5 minute drive from Mas de la Lionne, or on the patio of Mas de la Lionne. The attached picture represents one of our repasts, which all seemed to feature cheese, tomatoes, thinly sliced meats, melon and Mas de la Lionne rosé wine.

Afternoons were a leisurely affair, with the boys watching sports on the television and me reading or walking the roads. Always looking for sunflower fields, one day I hit the mother lode and must have taken three million photos, none of which were particularly good, of a multitude of flower fields near the house.

Sundays and days the mistral was blowing enough that work in the field was prohibited, were for markets and traveling to quaint French provencal towns. One big exception was on Monday, July 6th, when a stage of Le Tour was breezing

through Les Beaux (look it up on the Internet…very cool hilltop town which is a tourist “must”).

Le Tour is like Mardi Gras without the boobs, and even has a parade that leads the route several hours in advance of the cyclists. The floats throw candy and hats and all sorts of stupid memorabilia to the crowd lining the roads. The attached picture shows the pelaton whizzing by at mach 9…..I still wonder if Armstrong (Lance not Neil) is in the picture somewhere.

We also helped with labeling the 2008 Cote du Rhone, which I hope you are enjoying as you read this article, although article might be a too fancy word for my musings. Nonetheless, it was fun to pit ourselves against the machinery in true Lucille and Ethel fashion and the result is the attached photo.

All too soon our time to leave caught up with us, although a highlight, before our flight home, was celebrating Bastille Day in Paris We left France planning to return to help Doug with the harvest, which he assured us always falls within a specific number of days in September.

Remember how great last year’s spring and summer was in the Pacific Northwest? Well that weather was present in Provence as well. The upshot was the brix [sugar] count of the grapes got high enough that Doug decided to pick the week before we arrived. We still were able to see a lot of grapes being harvested when we returned but we did not have to perform any “plucking” motions ourselves. The attached picture shows some grapes from another field close to Mas de la Lionne, which represents what the grapes look like when they are going to be harvested.

What we did get to do was help Doug in the winery. Since the tanks are very tall and hard to exit via the small door very high on the tanks’ front, Terry (who is 6 feet tall) was selected to climb into the vats and shovel out the stems and grapes and various residuals that are left after the juice is drained. There is a lot of alcohol in the air so a table fan was jerry-rigged by the guys (no OSHA in France) so Terry would not pass out.

Doug meanwhile ran around moving equipment and making me wonder how he could ever do all that is required by himself. The pictures show Terry in a stainless steel tank squatting on the material he will be shoveling and Doug cleaning a piece of equipment.

All too soon our time with Doug at Mas de la Lionne came to an end, but we have wonderful memories, good pictures and some great wine to remember the experience.”