Travel Dates: October 7 – October 10, 2016
After leaving a Buddhist monastery – a week of deep meditation, vegan food, and abstinence from alcohol – where does one go next? For us the answer was obvious…to wine country!
Personally, I don’t really care much for liquor or beer, but I happen to love red wine. And Plum Village (the monastery we had just stayed) happened to be located adjacent to the best wine region in the world: Bordeaux, France. We were excited to check it out and learn more about the region, winemaking process, French wines in general, and try a few out…mindfully of course.
Bordeaux has a deep history in winemaking. Going back 2000 years, people have taken advantage of the optimal environment (what the French called “terroir”), carefully refining their craft. The result is concentration of the best wines and most famous winemakers in the world. Sitting down for lunch at a casual bistro and having a glass of anything the waiter recommends, you realize just how good the local stuff is.
We had arrived in Bordeaux in the fall, peak harvest season. You could feel the energy in the air as everyone was scrambling to pick and process their grapes at this optimal time.
We were very lucky to be introduced to a local winemaker/entrepreneur, Stephen Bolger (thanks Mark!). Stephen and his lovely wife Lisa Ann are transplants from the US – who moved to France to raise a family and launch Stephen’s company (more on this later!). Stephen was an extraordinary host, inviting us to join his family and friends to help with the harvest and, as a reward, for a harvest feast afterwords.
We had an incredible day working the harvest. Wine grapes are very delicate, so they have to be picked by hand. Stephen handed us a bucket and shears, and we all went to work.
After picking the grapes, they have to be de-stemmed and de-bugged, a process that involves man and machine.
We had a blast helping out for a few hours and were extremely well paid with a delicious harvest lunch with the family of Chateaux Lynch-Bages, one of the most prestigious winemakers in the world and Stephen’s partner. The salad, lasagna, fresh baked bread, warm apple dessert were all delicious…and the house wine wasn’t bad either 🙂
We capped off the trip by exploring making our own wine with Stephen…his company VINIV helps you create your own premium barrel of Bordeaux wine. They guide you through the entire process, from choosing your grapes (called “varietals”), blending them (Bordeaux wines are a varying blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc), refining, labeling, shipping, the works. That day we kicked off the blending process, which felt like working in a chemistry lab (though much cooler than any chem class I remember). Stephen patiently explained how different varietals will work together and evolve over time. Kind of a metaphor for marriage. And an awesome activity, memory, and product to come out of our honeymundo!