“In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.” – Oscar Wilde
I met Marcella, a plump firecracker of a woman, as I walked into the kitchen. She only spoke French of course, but was very warm and gave me a giant hug. Very un-french. She gestured for me to take a seat at the large farm table. She poured me a glass of the table wine, pouring it almost past the top of the glass forcing it to drip down the stem. I welcomed this intense, warm greeting from a French woman, instead of the aloof, calm coolness I had been accustomed to. The other vineyard workers were slowly trickling in, taking their seats. I was like a little mouse, quiet and observing everything. All I could say was Bonsoir, and Ca va? Translated in English as hello, good evening and how are you? They all smiled but got along with their conversations, which seemed to be very passionate. There was a very boisterous energy between everyone, and I could tell they were so happy to be relaxing and drinking wine, legitimately exhausted after a long day. Catherine came in and took a seat next to me. Immediately the pâté and cornichons, little French pickles, were passed around. The men were tearing baguettes, ripping into pieces and slathering butter and pâté on each slice… much like I had envisioned doing two hours before. The red wine was being consumed like water. An obvious surveillance being that these men were larger than the skinny Parisian men I had observed. They had muscles and bellies and I quickly realized the country – side French wine makers were a little different than the poised elegant Parisian males. Exception the suave Julien.
Catherine informed me that the wine we were drinking was last year’s harvest, Cabernet Franc from the Petit Gravet Vineyard, which I would discover tomorrow. The wine was incredibly balanced and delicious with the perfect amount of tannins. As simple as the pâté was, the wine was the perfect pairing. Next, a garlic soup was served. It was quite unique with egg cooked into it, almost resembling a savory porage. Catherine mentioned that her great grandmother had passed this recipe down and she had been eating it since she was little. I was enamored with this dinner and my first night experience on this vineyard in the little village. I was getting to truly observe French life. Only French was being spoken, and while I understood bits and pieces, I loved perceiving the banter and conversation, and just being able to enjoy my French meal. Marcella abruptly set down two piping hot ceramic dishes of cauliflower gratin, and a large bowl of carrot salad. The gratin was layered with a béchamel sauce, and tons of fresh herbs. This was served alongside roasted chicken leg. So simple, but yet so delicious. After the main course, a large platter of fromage was passed around and baguettes were sliced. I took a sliver of Camembert, recognizing my impending fullness. The conversation lingered over the cheese course and I looked at the clock reading 10:35 pm. Just when I thought everyone was going to retreat home, a pot of coffee was made and dessert was presented. Dessert for the evening was mini vanilla rice puddings, and warm apple tarts. I couldn’t resist either so I took a sampling of both. I made a note to myself to take smaller portions tomorrow – this was so much food and I would need to seriously pace myself. I was in heaven… a long drawn out French meal, just as I had envisioned it … true vineyard living.
Even though I had barely uttered a peep the last several hours, I was feeling blissful and extremely lucky I was able to experience this. Dinner was finally finished and everyone wished me a good night sleep Bonne Nuit, and made a dash for their cars including Catherine.
The large doors shut and a deathening silence fell over the Chateau. I slowly walked up the stairs to my bedroom, the creaking of the wood made itself heard with my every step. Night one, alone in a Chateau, on a vineyard, in France… Dorothy was not in Kansas anymore.