Ahh, yes the promised land, Domaine LaPierre. It's been a while, so you might have forgotten that originally I wanted to end up at Domaine LaPierre, but had to settle for his second vineyard, Chateau Cambon. Domaine LaPierre sits in the Cru vineyards of Morgon, while Chateau Cambon is just normal old Beaujolais. But Marcel makes both the wines, so Cambon was a great place to work with natural grapes.
But Marcel LaPierre lives at his Domaine, not at Chateau Cambon. I saw him from a distance while we were in the Cambon fields, but never got to talk to him. I'd met the man in New York, but I had a feeling he didn't remember me. As you can guess from the title of this post and the picture above, I did finally make it to Domaine LaPierre, and I did manage to hang out with the man who practically invented natural winemaking. How? Well, keep reading and you'll find out!
After the party at the end of harvesting, I met a funny character, named Guy. Guy was the maintenance guy at Chateau Cambon and he fixed everything at the winery, including the complicated machinery like the vinification tanks and pumps, all the way down to broken windows on tractors. We got to talking and after I told him I was certified as a sommelier, and a student of wine, he realized I needed to ask a lot of questions to Mr. Marcel directly. So from that point on, Guy made it his personal mission to get me everything I could possibly need.
The next day, Guy insisted on taking me to see all of Beaujolais in his little white compact French car. We drove the entire length, which is really only about 15 miles long, so definitely feasible in an afternoon. He showed me the mountain of Brouilly (where the Cote de Brouilly Cru appellation gets it's name), the Cote du Puy, and this pretty Church in Chiroubles. Now keep in mind that the end of the harvest party was the night before, and Vendangeurs really know how to party. I think I finally went to bed at 4 am, and Guy had instructed me to get up promptly at 8 am so we could get started. As we zipped along Beaujolais country roads in the tiny french subcompact, my stomach barely satiated with the traditional French breakfast, and a pretty severe gueule de bois (direct translation-face of wood aka hangover), I began to feel a little nauseous. When we returned to the winery, I confessed to Guy that I couldn't eat and had to lie down. I expected him to be shocked, thinking what a silly American I was who didn't want to eat lunch like a normal French person. But instead, Guy quickly brought me to his bedroom, tucked me under the covers, and gave me some strange French medicine disguised as paté de fruit (fruit paté) to settle my stomach. Did I mention that Guy was the nicest guy on the planet? At this point he had spent 4 hours with me, having only met me 8 hours before that, and now he had given me his bed. I don't know if this is just the typical Beaujolais country hospitality in action, the vendange esprit de corps, or if he's just the nicest guy in France.
After I awoke from my nap, much refreshed and healed, Guy and I continued on with our plan to go to Domaine LaPierre and find the man with the answers. We drove over there, and to my dismay, we were told that Marcel was out in the fields, and was not to be found at the Domaine. Guy decided to give me a little tour, and we ran across Marcel's son, Mathieu, who I had actually emailed with briefly before. Mathieu was very busy loading freshly picked grapes into giant wooden foudres (the french term for really large old wooden barrels) for fermentation so we didn't want to disturb him with too much chatter. Guy and I were getting ready to leave, when I turned around, and voilà! There he was, the great white whale himself, Marcel LaPierre.
Mr. LaPierre walked right up to me and shook my hand firmly. Guy explained that I was a student of wine, and wanted to learn about Vinification. Marcel insisted that I stay and have dinner with them that night. At last, the fabled food of Domaine LaPierre would be mine! The secrets of natural winemaking would open themselves up to me! Or so I thought. That all deserves its own post, so you'll have to tune in next week to read the rest.