We’re in Provence, on a gravel road off of the D-99 just outside of St. Remy-de-Provence. We can hear the wind whistling by, tyres on a wet road, a half-heard opera on French radio. The moment is so special we video-record it through the windshield.
We pass open fields, hedges, a house with a little car parked along the side of the road, cross a small bridge. The sky is baby blue. White and grey clouds chunk the sky. I giggle when we hit our millionth big pothole. The Apilles mountain range is the glorious backdrop. Provençal trees line the roadside. It’s gorgeous. I’m telling you, you’d record it too, prettier than a bride on her wedding day. More anticipation than a groom on his wedding night… Then we come to the vines, planted on both sides of the road and our destination, the Domaine des Terres Blanches winery and tasting room appears. Classic sienna roof tiles, red shutters, a little stone porch with a waiting wine barrel. A golden-colored dog doesn’t care that we’ve arrived.
Inside we speak in French to Philippe Gérardin, our host in the tasting room. We manage to chat about the rain, drought in the US and wine from California. We agree on the beauty of Colorado, a mutual vacation spot.
It’s friendly in here, and Philippe spreads his hands over a selection of wine bottles. Try any…
La Rosé, s’il vous plait. It’s why we’ve come.
Give us the Rosé. I even try to elaborate: Oh, the famous Provençal Rosé, but the subtle meaning is lost in translation. It’s part of a quest for us, but it’s baked into daily life for Phillipe and the people of Provence. It’s due to this birthright, this precious je ne sais quoi perfection, that so many of us travel around the world to be a part of it. Our seeking can’t be translated. And besides, it’s right in front of us, Right Here! I tell myself, the search is over (or at least on pause) so hush up and enjoy your drink.
Here’s what’s in it: 40% Grenache, 20% Cinsault, 20% Counoise, 10% Mourvèdre, 10% Syrah. It’s not terribly pink, but a nice grown-up summer color. A sunset tint one can carry in a wineglass with dignity. Super fresh, and there’s a deep zazzle. (When I got home I looked up Counoise; it’s a Rhône varietal. Peppery for blending.
We try a few reds, all delicious. I take my time; my husband goes a bit faster. I try to make a joke about his driving, always so fast… Again, it’s lost in translation and I don’t even think my husband gets it. His nose is in his wineglass. It could go either way: it’s take-your-time tasty or I-can’t-hold-back tasty…
Philippe tells us he’s got something seulement la, Only Here. I smile at my husband, we’ve already got what we came Only Here for, and so what’s next is just extra-wonderful-spoiling for us. The bottle is called L’Exception. A red built from 95% Syrah rounded up with 5% Grenache, a 2009. It’s rich like crazy. Smells like scrub trees blowing in the rain. It’s berries growing in the herb garden and behind it, there’s a fat olive. We say we’ll take a bottle first, ask the price later.
Outside, something tells me it might rain again, so we discuss la pluie and our drive through the Alps in a lot of it. It’s become a favorite phrase now that we are home: la pluie, the rain. And for good reason, the weather matters. What happens on Earth matters to wine. This is why Domaine des Terres Blanches is special. Here, the Earth-bound process benefits the wine.
We make our purchases and say au revoir, merci beaucoup.
It’s not quite yet raining when I ask my husband to stand in front of the domaine for a photo. The dog still doesn’t care about us, but fine. He’s happy, we’re happy…
We don’t video-record the ride back to town. We just enjoy. If the bottles we purchased make it through the rest of our trip (Lyon to Paris and home to O’Hare) we’ll watch the video over a glass or two. If they don’t make it home, if they are gobbled up during a later leg of our journey, then at least there won’t be taped evidence of our succumbing to temptation.
Jill Barth is a wine writer in Chicago who thinks you’d like a lovely glass of wine.