France on 75,000 Calories a Day

by Chuck Hayward

France on 75,000 Calories a Day

Posted by Anonymous | Thursday, April 1st, 2010

The morning is always my favorite part of these trips.

I wake up "well rested", which translates to "no sleep, oh well". To quote our youngest traveler John Perry "we can sleep when we are dead."

Speaking of dead, I am surprised I am still alive after some of the “delicacies” we were served last night.

We still have not identified this...

The first animal does not have an English name because it was banned by the FDA in the US and several other countries, but it is big in Asia. While everyone agreed it came from high up in the Pyrenees, there was great debate whether it walked on two legs or four. Several glasses of wine were consumed discussing if it was related to cow, sheep or bear. We never came close to finding out what part we ate of whatever it was.

The next creature came from the bottom of the ocean. I know this through the fantastic mime our host provided by sticking his knife in the bottom of his water glass and exclaiming "Jacques Cousteau! Jacques Cousteau!" I would have found out more details but (butt?) it was time for yet another cigarette break. For those you not up on the news in France, smoking is now banned in restaurants. This has increased business for street vendors by 5,000%.

We enjoyed our feast (there are no simple meals in France, only a series of morning, afternoon, and evening feasts) at Chateau Ménage a Trois. The Chateau is a bit fixated with the number "3".  For example, instead of selling the wine for say 78.99, it is 78.33. We just missed their big festivities on March 3, you get the picture. Officially, the name comes from the creek, the stream and the river that converge to form the moat surrounding the property. Locals often mention the three towers of the Chateau. We need not say what they look like from a distance.

Biographers go back to the history of the owners during the 1800's. In 1872 the Chateau was owned by Pierre Rousseau, known locally as "Pierre Cochon" (Peter the pig). At the time, the Chateau was much smaller than today and simply went by the name Ch. Le Petite Hovel. After a night on the town, M. Rousseau and his wife Madame Jean-Marie Le Pure had a heated argument concerning M. Rousseau's habit of urinating in the bidet. The next morning Pierre was found floating in the moat, and the widow Veuve Jean-Marie Le Pure inherited the Chateau. Soon after, Dominique Frotter and her sister Boise-Moi Frotter, known locally as "the twins" moved in. At that time the name changed to Chateau Ménage a Trois.

Tannat was planted in the original vineyard by Moses so he would have something to drink in the desert. In 1808, it was largely replanted to Viognier by Napoleon because he couldn't stomach red wine- it reminded him too much of the battle field. Today the vineyard is planted with many grapes, including Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Chenin blanc, Riesling, Albarino, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Malbec, Petite Verdot and several others. Today the blend is made up of 95% Bonne Rouge, a local grape.

Ch. Menage a Trois was only one of the many stops during our day. If you think this story bounces around, try riding in the back of the car when Shaun drives. When I drew my short straw and discovered what car I was in, I took a tip from John Sweeney and went to buy some life insurance. Before I got to sign the papers, the agent over heard Shaun and a local discussing a short cut between Ch. Lafite and Ch. Margaux that involved a goat path, four wheel drive and a blessing from the parish priest. No insurance for you monsieur!

Next stop was to get new tires and brakes—it had been five days—and to stock up with Dramamine for the ride. I checked twice and there was no number on the side of the car, but it always felt like we were in a Formula One race.

Our goal was to get to Ch. Supre Grande before they closed at 3:00 (ahh France). It was 2:15 and they were only 100 kilometers away. As we rounded the corner after passing a Renault and a tractor we heard the wailing siren. As the Officer approached, Shaun Bishop suggested to Alex Lallos (the French speaker) that "this is a good time to limit your French to 'sorry' and 'I am an American Tourist spending beaucoup money'.”  At the same time, let us know if key words like “arrest” or “jail” come up.

After waving our passports and vowing to enlighten the world on the great Bordeaux vintage awaiting to be purchased, we were off. Arriving at Ch. Supre Grande with t-minus five minutes to spare, we went in. We tasted their wines and were very impressed by their firm structure and forward fruit.

It was our last appointment before dinner, so we accepted their kind offer to share a bottle of some of their older vintages. The first older vintage was a bit anti-climatic as it was 2007, aka in bottle, rather than a barrel sample of 2009. Perhaps they sensed our disappointment, as the second wine was a 9 liter (12 bottles in one) of 1909.

I can't wait until next year.