Boys, beer and bright ideas: Epic Day Part One

by Chuck Hayward

Boys, beer and bright ideas: Epic Day Part One or How we got bogged in Bordeaux

Post by John Perry | Tuesday, March 30th

I'm supposed to be writing about our dinner at Chateau Talbot, and I'll be providing all of the juicy details on that later. But I would be remiss if I didn't set the scene for one of my most epic days in Bordeaux.

We had started the day with the typical schedule - wake up early, hop in the car, hit up some tastings, yadda yadda yadda.  After wrapping up the regional UGC tasting for Margaux, a group of us (John Sweeney, Alex Lallos, Chuck Hayward and myself) had about four hours to kill before going to our dinner appointment. It's not often that we get that much free time on our Bordeaux trips, and the first thing on the agenda was to find a place for some lunch and a couple of beers. We made a swing through the center of town, but unfortunately no options presented themselves so made our way to the next town to see what we could turn up.

Rounding a turn in the road, we came across a small field with a dirt track through the middle that eventually connected to the paved road on the other side. With all of the rain that we've had, it was looking a little flooded. But we figured the SUV we were cruising around in would be up to the task, so we had the altogether brilliant idea of going through the field instead of around it.

As boys will be boys, we didn't exactly ease our way into the muddy field. About halfway across, we had to slam to a stop due to a very large and treacherous looking puddle. No problem, we'll just swing a u-turn and head back out the way we came.

Um, not quite.

We negotiated the u-turn ok, but decided to veer slightly off course on the way back to the road.

Comment dit-on "Triple AAA" en Francais? Anyone?

Come on, after hardly sleeping and working our butts off, how could we possibly resist a little off-roading? But as we neared our goal the SUV ground to an untimely halt, and a collective "uh-oh" could be heard as the front of our vehicle was sucked into the mud-- all the way up to the bumper.

Seriously? So now we're bogged down in the middle of a muddy field, what are we supposed to do? A few half-hearted attempts to push the car were effected, but considering we were all in loafers, slacks and jackets we weren't exactly dressed for the task. Mud and water were creeping up over our shoes with every step.

Time for Plan B.

A few hundred yards away, there were the remnants of a vineyard being cleared- plenty of medium sized vines, sticks and whatnot. Thinking we could build some traction under the tires, we took off to grab what we could. A car passed us in the process of doing this, and I can hardly imagine what they were thinking as they watched four nattily dressed Americans traipsing across a muddy field with stacks of branches. Unfortunately, the wood didn't provide the needed traction and we were at a loss as to what we should do next.

It was then that we saw a tractor coming through the adjacent vineyard. We didn't know if this guy was coming to scream and yell at us  (or possibly to shoot us, I don't know how French farmers handle such matters) or if he was going to offer some much needed assistance. He motored slowly past and I had the thought that maybe he just wanted to gawk at some dumb Americans stuck in the mud. But he hopped down from the cab of the tractor and approached. Thank god Lallos can speak a little French.

Lallos (in French): "We have a small problem."
The guy's response:  "Small?"

He didn't speak another word and proceeded to go the back of our car to open the trunk. Miraculously, there was a small hitch that screws into the front of the bumper and can be used for just this kind of situation. He grabbed a chain off of his tractor, hooked us up, and the car was out in a second.

"Pick up the sticks," were the only other words he uttered as John slipped the guy 20 euro for his help.

The fact that we were able to escape that situation with only our shoes caked with mud was amazing. Up until then, I was sure that we were going to be totally screwed-- dinner was going to be missed, our boss was going to kill us, and this was going to be the worst day ever in Bordeaux. But that all changed in the blink of an eye. And we still had time to knock back a beer.