Chevonne Experience Story #2
few months before moving to France my then boss, chef Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon and Little Bird Bistro, kept telling me of friend of his then girlfriend Hannah (now his wife) who was also moving to France. He didn’t know where and I was less than interested because what were the odds we would live anywhere near each other. Somehow we were given each other's phone numbers, lo and behold we would be living thirty minutes from each other, I in Lyon, her in Beaujeu the capital of Beaujolais. Kellee was moving to live with her then boyfriend Aurelien (now husband) a lovely frenchman and importer of Beaujolais wines who had stolen her heart the year before. Now they were making a go of it. We discussed what we planned to pack for the year long journey, how nervous we were, how incredibly excited we were and our complete lack of the French language. Kellee arrived the week before me and it was shortly after my arrival that we decided to meet. I would take the train from Lyon to her for the day. Three days later I hadn’t left and had fallen madly in love with Beaujolais.
Kellee, a tall, long legged, dark haired beauty with the warmest smile along with the obviously handsome Aurelien greeted me at the station and off we went. First stop was Robert Perroud. A long time winemaker and I knew his wines intimately as I had been serving his wine at Le Pigeon for years. I had discussed the nuances of Gamay Noir, paired it with the complicatedly “French” dishes created by Gabe and his team and sold it well as it as a steal of deal, as most Beaujolais wines are.
Excited to meet my first French winemaker in his domaine I thought surely he would have on an ascot and be smoking from a polished wooden pipe. Alas, I was greeted by Robert, in cut off jean shorts, a wine splattered t-shirt, rain boots and dirty hands. He is a farmer. After our greetings and a walk through the winery I am so excited to learn more from the winemaker himself. I finally got the courage up to ask a few questions in my terrible French, when asked what he would pair his wine with he answered simply and looking right at me, “Good people.” It was a game changer. It turned my whole world of wine upside down. What had I been selling? Or rather why? Wine is so subjective and he’s right. It really matters the company you keep.
You could have the best bottle of champagne and shitty company, you most likely won’t remember that bottle. But a two buck chuck drank on the banks of the canal St. Martin with that handsome Greek boy you met? Yeah... I’ll always remember that bottle (and that boy).
I am sitting now at Domaine Fellot. It’s time to press the grapes. The process is amazing. They have chosen to use the 100 year old press. The sound it makes can not be described but the rhythm is like a heart beating, constant, perfectly timed and quite a catchy tune. The estate has been in the Fellot family since 1829. Now Manu, one of six brothers makes the wine. He and his wife Nadege graciously invite me to stay for dinner which consist of sausages cooked in gamay noir grapes, boiled potatoes, pork belly, rice and the secret gamay noir sauce along with plenty of rustic bread and my glass never empty of the Fellot Beaujolais Village. The 6.40 I spent on the train ride here has paid for itself. Just when I think I am perfectly full the array of cheeses from the neighbors comes along with fresh fruit picked from the estate. The people, the wine, the rolling hills, the history, the charm, the joie de vie, all of it took my breath away and forever changed me.