“Grapes and Old Stones”


Quarantine 5

Household under self imposed CWQ  (Creative Winter Quarantine).  A few rituals for hiding beneath the surface of regular life: Chain oneself to a work post and pray that gestation will evoke some magic. Go down to the Grotto in the woods, listen to the water fall.  Fill as many bottles as you can carry, drink the rest.  The water is soft and sweet and tasting of round minerals. Crisscross under the stone ridge heeding the sound of chipping.  Discover John under the cliff, chisel in hand, searching for essence in an enormous oak limb.  We agree to break silence.  Discuss […]


Going underground 4

There was a time I thought it strange and frightening to bury our loved ones in the earth.  So much dark and heavy.  So much mystery.  So unfriendly. I should have remembered my own first plunge into deep earth.  Four years old, imploding with confused fury after an act of injustice, running away blind.  Searing indignation, prickling hot tears, and then a fall into a deep hole.  Later my family found me asleep, wrapped around the trunk and roots of an old oak tree. Of course my older brothers teased me for decades, via their scathingly pejorative epithet – tree hugger. […]


harvester and wagon: "there... no, I meant, there!"

No Tears Winemaking, October 2015 12

No tears this year. Sweat, sore muscles, stained hands, a little blood, but all scars reaped in joy.  It’s the year we’ve been waiting for. The year when our handiwork in the vines gets an exponential boost from legendary weather and a spanking new extension to the winery. Four harvests this season – a far cry from our pampered, one-harvest, one-vat in 2011. After the Rosé hand harvest, the Merlots arrived in their faithful manner: poised, plump, sweet. I was out in the vineyard directing the harvester while the enthusiastic team in the winery prepared for the wagonloads. And true […]


Rosé 2015 12

“Rendez-vous 7:00 am, top of the hill, vieilles vignes.” We’ve hardly begun and a thunderstorm breaks loose. “Lightning overhead, keep your snippers away from the wires,” we warn our neighbors as they arrive. No novices they, kitted out in professional rubberwear.  I’m soaked and cold in ten minutes. Lightning, generosity, helping hands, ancient roots. Thus begins l’Esprit de Jeanne, Rosé 2015. A team of twelve to start, including Genevieve’s friends from INSEEC in Bordeaux: Victor of France, Astrid of Germany and Kela of Hawaii. We are heads down, wet and serious until Henri arrives with his own solution to working […]


Harvest Preparation 2015 7

Anticipating harvest is much like anticipating a birth.  When it’s almost time to bear down, nothing else matters. It has been a spectacular year: plenty of rain in the winter, mildness during flowering, a very hot, dry June and July, just enough rain in August to plump up the berries, and now September: a gift of warm, sunny days and cool nights. Conditions are ideal, the grapes are healthy… but I will say no more lest I tempt our luck. And so it’s a scurry to get ready. We’ve organized an old fashioned hand harvest by family and friends for […]


For the Friction 3

When we renovated the kitchen of this old farmhouse we installed two sinks because generous guests are forever asking, “what can I do to help?” So all through this glorious month of bounty – fruit, vegetables and convivial gatherings – cheery teams have put those workstations to good use. The teams migrate as projects are conceived. One morning someone wakes up and says, “let’s build an extension to the deck.” And out come the power drills. On the hottest afternoon of the year our neighbors Nikky and David * arrive with expertise and physical prowess to help move the huge […]


Summer Linen 9

Nothing makes me feel as safe and secure as the ritual of summer linen. Even the word linen calms my breath, conjuring up a daily life when real linen was a household staple for everyday use; an era when things moved more slowly. Linen is heavy and wrinkles terribly and must be ironed to regain its wonderful skin-caressing, cool smoothness. To care for linen, one must have time. Today I’m preparing summer linen for the arrival of family and guests. I recall what my friend Helen said the first time she visited: “I fell into bed last night and thought – […]


Summer Solstice 1

Millions of years ago the Dordogne carved a series of caves into the rock cliff under our house.  The village historian told me they were the site of Druidic rituals, later appropriated by the Romans for their own gods. Since it’s the Summer Solstice, I took myself down to the caves this morning looking for the wisp of a Druid or two. The spot is somewhat difficult to access, and hidden most of the year by the shadows of thickets and tress.   But in late June at sunrise, the caves present several niches of warm and inviting nooks.   […]


Witch Doctors 2

The image of the wild man or woman living in the woods, stirring up cauldrons of potions for ailments, seems to have been filed away into the long-ago-and-far-away category. A mostly irrelevant archetype unless you’re reading tarot cards. We might ask how mankind ever survived without modern pharmaceuticals. Right up until the 1950’s, our parents lived and breathed customs and know-how that changed radically when industrial agriculture was introduced post WW2. Something as modest as the omnipresent hedge – with varying plants to attract beneficial insects and creatures, provided wind breakers that protected crops during storms, and valuable, earth-nourishing root […]


Away With the Dead Wood 2

I suppose everyone has their own version of dead wood.   Stuff accumulates, it’s probably part of the law of Inertia. Not too consequential if you’re just clearing out a junky closet.  But when the inertia has descended onto several acres over 40 years, it gives one pause. The hilltop across the valley has been an eyesore for longer than we care to remember. The real shame of it is that the grove of acacia trees – so valuable for their hard wood, intoxicating perfume, and bee-attracting flowers – has been devastated by the fatal appetites of mistletoe and thorn bushes. […]