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We are jumping on our brooms and taking you to the South of France just before Halloween. There, most wineries finished their wines and are celebrating this week with their Vin Primeur in Languedoc Roussillon or their Vin Nouveau in Bordeaux. These are the biggest wine celebrations of the year where there is a lot of great food, castle and winery visits, winetasting, mountain hikes, etc. for the 0-100 year old audience.
Meanwhile, the witches from the Medieval town of Villefranche-de-Conflent are preparing to spend their winter in the Canalettes caves with the most amazing calcite crystals formations in the world to keep warm until Spring.
Those witches belong to the Catalan folklore of a rich cultural and wine-growing region in France.
In Villefranche-de-Conflent it is the tradition to give a close relation or a child, a witch as a sign of love.
If you suspend the witch inside a home or better in the room of a child it will move away the bad spirits and leave peace and happiness instead.
Last winter, following our forced departure from the United States (this is another long story that I am not ready to tell yet), my son fell in love with those witches, the calcite crystals of the Canalettes caves as well as the Vauban-built Fort Liberia towering the fortified town of Villefranche which we decided to visit on a Sunday (bad idea…You’ll see why as you read along). He also insisted on us taking the underground secret passage with 734 steps linking the fort to the town.
After a very steep and long descent, we found out that our car would not start because I had left the lights turned on. The battery was completely drained and I had parked the car in the only flat place in town. Forget about pushing the old Peugeot! There was no live soul around us on that late Sunday afternoon. Everything was closed except bars and restaurants. My eight year old daughter and I decided to beg for help in the town while the rest of the family was trying to figure out how to get the car started. We hit the first bar and asked the bartender for help. He told us that he was not fixing batteries only drinks. Fortunately, the bartender was well intentioned and sent us to his friend’s souvenir store which was still open in town. His friend’s store sold witches, only witches.
I did not see how witches would fix the car battery but when we returned to our base the old Peugeot started running again not by magic but thanks to a handful of villagers that came to my husband and son’s rescue and pushed and pushed and pushed. My son also had a mega meltdown because his sister and I had been gone for too long while hitting every single bar and asking for help.
As the car kept running, my son wanted to buy a witch. We returned to the witch store where he spent a very long time checking them all out. He finally chose one with red and yellow stripes – the colors of the Catalan flag. He added that he would give it to a child with autism for Halloween for good luck and good health. A huge milestone for him!
Empathy in a tricky situation!
I happily paid for the hand-made witch and returned to our car (still running) while the villagers were shaking their heads and making bad jokes about women’s driving skills.
While living in the South of France, I have found a deep sense of community and “joie de vivre” that tremendoulsy benefited my son after his very traumatic events last February. He thrived while living there and never got sick. We "blamed" some of his social awkwardness to the fact that he came from the other side of the Atlantic and that he had to adjust to a new lifestyle... Indeed, he adjusted very quickly and was well accepted.
People do take the time to slow down there and spend more quality time with their families while obsessing less about money. And of course they always have an excuse to celebrate life with wine and food!
Cheers from the friendly Witches!
"Red currant, raspberry, fresh herbs, and exotic spices mark a few of the high points in the aria this wine sings as it moves down the tongue. Its finish is a ninety-second, soprano-belted high-note that seems like it SHOULD break the glass, it is so clear and pure."
-Francis Sanders, Friend
"Truly elegant. This wine would be great with a goat or sheep based cheese. It can also easily lay down for another 10 years."
-Chris Edwards, General Manager
"Elegance personified. This was truly a memorable wine and probably my first extraordinary experience with a French burgundy in which I finally 'got it'."
-Kristina Palko, Marketing Director
"This wine is so elegant and smooth, it could be the French equivalent of Frank Sinatra."
- Amber Snider, eCommerce manager
"Red-purple of medium depth, with fresh, black berries, fruit-cake and kirsch aromas. Picked towards the end of the harvest, this had impressive, natural sugars, potentially giving 14 degrees of alcohol. The palate is full-bodied and fleshy, with tannins present, but well rounded, the finish being harmonious, rich and long." - Anthony Hanson, Master of Wine and Senior Consultant for Christie's International Wine Department Tasting Notes for the Cuvées, 2009 Vintage
When I found out that my partners just had a tasting of what they now refer to the Creme de la Creme Pinot Noir (they live in Napa Valley so they tend to be partial to their wines), I was drooling and terribly jealous. Maybe they will send me a case for quality control before the Holiday season.
To the French like me and too many other French as well, the Hospices de Beaune is the ultimate wine-growing region. My grandmother would say at every celebration meal that her favorite wine was a Pommard or an Hospices de Beaune. As for my father, same story. He also likes to remind us at every celebration meal those harsh days of famine during World War II when he was sent by his Parisian mom to a farm located in the famous Burgundy region. His job was to keep an eye on the pigs, which he hated of course... He let the pigs run loose (accidentally I assume) and got very yelled at by the farmers but at least he was eating well and was kept safe (Note to self: history repeats to some degree from generation to generation).
Later, with some of my parents’ friends, we would go to Vonnas and be delighted by Georges Blanc’s (long before he became famous) poulet de bresse rôti accompanied by the famous Bourgogne wine that everybody else at the table would rave about except me because I was too young although I was using my best table manners to steal a sip (They are not that strict in France with legal drinking age).
I am including below a simple recipe to accompany the masterpiece. It can be a gluten free recipe if you replace the regular floor by a Gluten free flour.
Please note that it is essential to understand that an exceptional wine does not imply that it be served with an exceptionnally complicated dish – An all too common mistake made by my dear American friends. Here is a recipe for a poulet de bresse en croute de sel that should go well with….. I can see that it may be a little difficult to chase that poulet de bresse here in the United States but buying a free-range organic capon or turkey should do the trick.
Serves 4 to 6 people:
A beautiful Bresse chicken of about 5 lbs - ½ head of garlic cut in the thickness direction - ½ large onion, peeled - 1 bouquet garni - 1 egg beaten with a little water for brushing - Salt and pepper. Salt dough: 3 lbs of coarse salt - 2 lbs of flour - 2 whole eggs + 4 yolks - 15 ounces of water.
The day before, place inside the chicken the half-unpeeled head of garlic, half the onion and bouquet garni. Place uncovered in the fridge. Prepare the salt dough: mix well the salt and flour in a bowl. Add the eggs, egg yolks and water. Knead it all to a smooth paste. Let stand overnight in refrigerator.
The next day, preheat oven to 175 ° C (gas mark 6). Spread the salt dough to 1 cm thick. Add salt and pepper inside and outside of the chicken, then wrap it completely with the salt dough, making it adhere well to the skin and closing all openings. Air must not remain between the chicken and salt dough.
With the remaining dough, your children will be delighted to help you make leaves and flowers that you stick on the chicken wrapped chicken.
Brush the whole surface of the paste with egg yolk with a brush, then put in oven and bake 1 hour 15. The crust has to make a beautiful golden color. After cooking, let stand 30 minutes in a warm (55 ° C) or in the oven off.
Chef's advice: Break the salt crust with a large knife, then cut the chicken and serve, for example with a garnish of seasonal vegetables. Serves 4 to 6 people:
And now a little bit of history for the kids while sipping your Creme de la Creme Pinot Noir and waiting for the chicken to finish cooking (dreaming for that perfect world).
This Cuvée is composed from the
Les Cent Vignes, Les Montrevenots,
Total area : 2,09 ha
STORY OF THE CUVÉE
In 1645, Antoine Rousseau and Barbe Deslandes founded the Hôpital de la Sainte-Trinité, later known as the Hospice de la Charité. It was joined to the Hôtel-Dieu to form the Hospices de Beaune at the time of the Revolution. Its role has evolved with time. Initially, it welcomed orphans after plague epidemics; today it is an old people’s home.
TERROIRS & DESCRIPTION
Les Cent Vignes with the majority of its vines dating between 1944 and 1958 is at the heart of this Cuvée (48% of the plantings). Close to Pommard, Les Montrevenots represents a third of the Cuvée, with all its vines planted prior to 1966.
Today, the old hospital facilities (Hotel de la Trinité and Hotel Dieu) are a non-profit organisation which owns around 61 hectares (150 acres) of donated vineyard land, much of this classified Grand and Premier cru. Modern buildings nearby keep providing free healthcare to those who cannot afford to pay. Wouldn’ it be nice to see that for our kids here in the United States? (I could not help whining about that).
"L’espoir fait vivre ma petite dame" as they say in French.
So if you can, stock up on that rare and highly collectible Cuvee Rousseau-Deslandes 2009 Beaune Premier Cru, Hospices de Beaune for $69/bottle (regular price is $119.99) before it is all gone.
If you cannot afford it like me, you can just keep drooling like Pavlov’s dog waiting for its reward.
Whine, whine, woof, woof, WINE please!