Just a few minutes up the road from me is the tiny (20-house?) town of Châteaubourg, with a château of its own. I had noticed the sign for a local fruit seller on my drives up and down the 2-lane “highway” 86, and finally had a chance to stop in.
The proprietor, Jacques Dulaut, has a small farm and orchard where he grows cherries, peaches, nectarines, and a few other things. He has it down to a science, and I was very impressed by the timeline he had created in his shop to show when each variety of cherry will be available (give or take a few days).
I was unable to resist taking a photo of him in his bright purple pants next to his gorgeous blooming iris. Quite a show!
I noticed that he also had a few bottles of wine in a little wine fridge, and asked him if he had wine available for tasting. He said he had, and brought out two bottles produced by his son Pierre. The first was simply labeled “2011 Syrah,” and was unremarkable, so I won’t remark on it!
The second was a 2010 Saint Joseph (the 60km-long appellation immediately to the North of Cornas). The nose had some forest floor going on, and in the mouth I found soft tannins, dark fruit, and a bit of leather, with a medium finish. I wasn’t sure of the protocol (in the US, when you work in the wine industry and visit another winery, it’s expected that you purchase a bottle – at a discount, of course – just to support the other winery), so I just bought a BIG bag of cherries.
We got into a conversation (well, really a monologue which I did my best to follow), and I learned that Jacques had taken a cruise around San Francisco in 1983. He distinctly remembered going under the Golden Gate Bridge and docking in Oakland. I’m sure he shared a lot of details about this trip, but I’m afraid they were lost on me.
As I was starting to pull out of the driveway, he came out of the shop and motioned for me to wait, so I re-parked the car and got out. Apparently he’d asked his wife to get his son, who came to say hello. Pierre the winemaker spoke a little English, which was great. He was in his late 30s/early 40s, bald, with oversized wire-rimmed glasses and tan cargo shorts. After exchanging greetings I headed home with my sweet bounty, determined to go back each time a new variety was ripe, to try all the different kinds of cherries and peaches available so close to my home.
I went back again a few days ago, and this time Jacques had Stark cherries. These were much brighter red, matched by a bright, very fresh cherry taste. Somewhat acidic, but not harsh in any way, and not what I would call sour.
I ended up giving my Stark cherries to my Italian friend and colleague Caterina, who took them to her mother, who is visiting France from Italy and adores cherries, so I’ll have to go back and get some more tomorrow.
It seems that I have neglected to share some important info about my living situation: namely, that I am housed in the same building as the Centre Oenologique des Côtes-du-Rhône. This is the lab which provides analysis of wines (acidity, brettanomyces, etc.) for wineries and winemakers throughout the Rhône Valley, founded by Jean-Luc Colombo about 25 years ago.
Living in the same building has some pros and cons. The positives are that there are often partial bottles of wine left around for “tasting and analysis” after the pros have finished with their lab results, and the lab staff, Jean-Baptiste and Julien, are both very nice. The downside is that my kitchen is also the breakroom and lunchroom for the winery and office staff. This means that I have to be presentable M-F by the time they arrive before 8am, and expect a full kitchen when they take a coffee break at 9am, and lunch from noon to about 1:30 or 2pm (people go in and out, they don’t stay here that long!). Everyone has been very kind, but it’s been challenging following the fast-paced conversation, when I choose to join them. I doubt they even have a clue how garrulous I can be (in English, anyway!). The winery employs about 20 people, and 8 may easily be eating lunch at the same time, crowded together around the old wooden table.
When everyone has gone home, however, the place seems so quiet with just Ayani and me!