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Wine Detox Part Three—The Algorithmic Regime

February 6, 2019

The bizarre allure of cold darkness

My latest Forbes pieces are here and include articles that discuss the marriage of Azorean tourism with forestation, Germanic influence on Italy’s Friuli wines and a Bordeaux restaurant that oozes with flavors.

I’m posting this from the sunny wine country of the Western Cape of South Africa, where temperatures are in the 90’s F (30’s C).

Hello, Sunny South Africa!

But the story of these wines, and this gorgeous region, will be covered in a forthcoming post after this trip is completed.

This post is the third and final wrap up regarding a wine detox. I’ll share how to lose weight and increase exercise capabilities.

Hands off until February

What’s with the current infatuation with ‘detox’ anyway?

A year or two ago I heard talk about people taking a ‘dry January’ in the U.K.. Now, between four and five million Brits now give up alcohol for the first month of the year. That’s more than the population of Ireland (but don’t expect that entire isle to go on the wagon for even a few hours, much less weeks…I lived there, schooled there, have Irish ancestry, and so have ample license to speak from experience, thank you).

A whole month without booze? I thought it ridiculous. Yet, I did something similar. This was not, however, an emulation of any dry January. This personal decision was based on timing.

Why?

On Christmas day, after bolting down early afternoon flutes of bubbly and then tucking into helpings of Turkey while swilling more wine, I found myself—too soon—knackered. As in, worn out. Tired. Didn’t want to move.

Blaye’s bicycle path begins here

What gave?

I weighed myself. I was six pounds heavier than ever before in life.

That was a wake up call.

A trigger.

So I decided to dedicate January toward changing that situation. It worked out better than expected.

Last Friday marked four weeks without drinking a drop of alcohol. During that time I also modified my eating habits by omitting bread, pasta, cheese and raw refined sugar. I also focused on exercise. The result: in the space of 31 days I increased my running distance from 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) to 10 miles (16 kilometers) and my weight dropped a total of 15 pounds (6.5 kilograms).

That weight is the equivalent of five bottles of wine. The picture below shows the equivalent weight lost in 31 days (glass and liquid combined). Now you understand the smile.

These bottles equal the weight lost in a month

Imagine putting those bottles into a backpack, strapping it on and lugging it around for a day. No wonder I was tired.

That weight is gone.

Tasty and not permissible for January

For those who are interested, I explain how below. I developed a method, a formula. However, I am not a trained specialist in exercise or nutrition. So, seek advice from a qualified trainer and a licensed physician regarding your own personal exercise program.

The secret of making this work is focused distraction.

Here is the explanation.

Citadelle of Blaye

Background.

When in my twenties, I walked into a store called Neptune Mountaineering on the corner of Table Mesa drive and Broadway streets in the city of Boulder, Colorado. There was a typed notice on a bulletin board. It told of how the ‘Boulder Mountain Marathon’ (unofficial, not sanctioned, and not legally permitted) would soon take place. The distance was somewhat greater than the standard marathon distance of 26 miles (it was about 28 miles) and the course wound through the hills of the ‘Front Range’—the hilly topography that forms the base of the mightier Rocky Mountains. The total vertical elevation gain for the course (the equivalent distance that participants climb uphill) was over one mile (1.6 kilometers). This meant that the course was not only 28 miles long, but we runners had to ascend the equivalent of climbing the stairs of the Empire State Building four times.

Without hesitation I decided to run this marathon. I checked a calendar. The event was exactly 26 days away. That meant I had 26 days to train to run 26 miles.

How ludicrous.

Ludicrous enough to be wildly attractive.

That summer I had worked as a mountaineering instructor in the Wind River mountains of Wyoming, hiking long distances for weeks at a time with a heavy backpack at high elevations. I was in generally excellent cardiovascular condition, although I had not run in months, or maybe years. My running muscles, in other words, were not disciplined.

The promise of spring

Still, the challenge was so wild that it gave me a sense of peace. In order to succeed, I had to block out all other thoughts and train with complete focus. Which I began to do. However, you cannot run all day, or every day. During times not running, friends and I also climbed the Grand Teton peak in Wyoming, and traveled back to Boulder to go rock climbing.

After almost three weeks I completed my last training run of 18 miles along mountain trails at a relatively high altitude in the Pecos wilderness of New Mexico. Then I rested for almost a week. During these times I lived out of my pickup truck. I camped out, washed in rivers and cooked potatoes and salsa over a stove under starlight or in the blazing sunshine.

Ten miles before winter sunrise

After this brief, intense training, I drove my pickup truck near Boulder and camped out at a patch of woodland on a steep road off Boulder Canyon. I showed up to the marathon venue in the morning, across the road from the hospital in North Boulder.

One of the race organizers was Neal Beidleman (who later became known in relation to the Mount Everest debacle described in the bestselling book Into Thin Air by John Krakauer). He opened a bag of flour and poured a thin line of this powder across the street. This, he told us, was the starting line. He then mentioned how they had no permit for the event, so if anyone asked us while running, we were supposed to say that we were all friends out for a ‘fun run’ together. Which we did! It was hilarious. The route ascended first by road, and then along trails along the side of Green Mountain. It descended to Eldorado Canyon, and then back along the Mesa Trail and through Chautauqua Park before descending back to north boulder.

It was grueling.

But I completed the Boulder Mountain Marathon. It took over four hours, but considering the elevation gain and total extended distance, I was content.

Running in the countryside is good for the mind

The success hinged on making a decision and then focusing on that decision and goal completely.

This January, with no race or running mates and being a few years older—I managed to focus enough to run 10 miles after 31 days of training (the method described below, however, is for a 28 day period, and is not so challenging).

The lessons of focus, learned from that Boulder marathon, applied again. This time I also wanted to lose weight. As mentioned in the previous blog post, committing thoroughly to a workout can completely eclipse the discomfort of changing drinking and diet habits. Once the mind is galvanized on a challenging physical goal, forgetting about booze and baguettes and brebis cheese becomes relatively simple.

Below is the formula.

Six mile run: perhaps the sports store sells night vision goggles?

At the end of a 10 – before dawn, and expectations of a vinous reward

The Algorithmic Regime.

The French word for diet is ‘regime,’ which implies—in English—disciplined focus. Sounds better than ‘diet,’ right? A diet is about cutting calories, whereas ‘regime’ implies control and a system for getting things accomplished.

The following is a definition for ‘algorithm,’ taken from Yuval Noah Harari in his bestselling book Homo Deus:

‘An algorithm is a methodical set of steps that can be used to make calculations, resolve problems and reach decisions.’

In this case, an algorithm is used to solve a problem: how to reduce weight and increase running distance by at least a factor of four.

I invented the following steps, as well as the term ‘algorithmic regime’ that describes them.

Applied over the space of four weeks—they can help increase your exercise capabilities and weight loss. This method is for 28 days. By going 32 days, you may also be able to achieve significantly more. Again, consult your physician; I am not a trained specialist.

Here is the method:

For four weeks, follow this guidance:

ONE.

No alcohol.

No bread.

No pasta.

No cheese.

No raw, refined sugar or candy bars or sugary soda drinks.

If this is too general and you need structure, follow the General Motors Diet.

 

All well before sunrise

TWO.

Exercise. I chose running, and formulated the schedule below for 28 days. This is my own invention, and is based on the premise that long runs require plenty of rest between them. Again, if you want to run longer, than add five additional rest days, followed by the longer run.

Rather than start off slow and gradually increase exercise, I started with a full-blown schedule of small amounts of daily exercise, then slowed it down. The distances increased, but so also did the amount of non-exercise days. This is because longer runs require more intermittent rest time.

The basic algebra involved in this ‘regime’ is simple. Basically, for the second set (‘Y’), you run the same distance that you ran for the first set (‘X’), plus an additional one third of that same distance. Algebraically, this means:

Y = 4.3X (or, Y=X+1/3X)

Now, look at the schedule below. Do you see a pattern?

You run five days in a row, then you take one day off. Then you run for four days in a row, and take two days off. Then you run for three days in a row, and take three days off. Then you run for two days (although now, you take a one day break between these days) and then take four days off. The formulas and example distances are in the table below.

The Algorithmic Regime

NOTE: Y = 4/3X (or Y=X+1/3X)

Day Formula Set Example Target Miles According to Formula Example Target Kilometers According to Formula Percent Increase of Distance Over Previous Set
1 X 1 1.5 2.4
2 X 1.5 2.4
3 X 1.5 2.4
4 X 1.5 2.4
5 X 1.5 2.4
6 Rest
7 Y 2 2.0 3.2 33.3
8 Y 2.0 3.2
9 Y 2.0 3.2
10 Y 2.0 3.2
11 Rest
12 Rest
13 X+Y 3 3.5 5.6 75.0
14 X+Y 3.5 5.6
15 X+Y 3.5 5.6
16 Rest
17 Rest
18 Rest
19 3X 4 4.5 7.2 28.6
20 Rest
21 3X 4.5 7.2
22 Rest
23 Rest
24 Rest
25 Rest
26 3Y or 4X 5 6.0 9.7 33.3

THREE: 

It helps to personalize this challenge by doing it in some offbeat way. For the Colorado marathon, I trained along the Rocky Mountains, from Jackson in Wyoming south to the Pecos Wilderness of New Mexico, while camping out and climbing peaks and rock walls with friends.

For this recent month, the attraction was waking before dawn and running in the dark (usually in the cold). Do NOT do this unless you wear a headlamp and reflective gear, and preferably stay off all roads. I began and ended most runs before sunrise. This was truly invigorating. The point is, this is not a spin class or a group sport, but a personal mission to lose weight and improve diet. Make it personal. Get creative.

A FEW NOTES:

There are 26 days listed above, and this program is for 28 days. This means you can add another two rest days at your discretion.

I increased my own running distance (over a longer time period) by a factor of more than six, running a total of ‘5Y,’ or 10 miles. I reduced the rest days by one before the six miler, then took five days of rest before the final run (mostly rest, although adding a few small runs is beneficial). However, this may be excessive and I do not encourage you to try it. But if you do, then make the final, longer run at a slow, steady pace.

This system is likely only appropriate if your first run (‘X’) is less than 2 miles (3.2 kilometers).

For rest days, you should still walk and get some basic exercise. During the final two sets, when you have three and four consecutive rest days, you may want to go for a short run on one of those days, or a long walk or bicycle ride.

Before any of the runs in session 3, 4 or 5, you may want to eat some fruit and even candy before you begin the exercise. This will provide energy to help propel you along the distance.

Invest in a book on stretching and stretch the night before you run, as well as on the day of the run.

For the final run, you may want to break with the food restrictions and eat a sizable pasta meal the night before to gain calories you can burn along the trail (although I did not and felt very energetic throughout most of the long run).

Check the weather forecast the night before your runs, and dress appropriately.

[Dawn Darkness]

Days 14 and 15 are critical, because you hit and pass the half way mark. The running distance becomes more challenging than earlier, but the free days between running sets has also increased. By this time you should have lost about half the quantity of pounds or kilograms that you intend to lose over the four weeks.

Begin each run slowly. Slow and steady wins here.

The first run of set four will be a challenge. Begin slowly and keep a low, steady pace.

Running in the dark with a headlamp is dangerous, so I do not recommend doing so!

This will be challenging, but hopefully enjoyable. If you feel any pain or discomfort or hesitation, then back off.

Thanks again for tuning in!

 

 

 

 

 

Wine Detox Part Two—Why Exercise And Weight May Not Relate

January 22, 2019

The chilly beauty of dawn

This is Day 20 of being alcohol-free this month, as well as abstaining from bread, pasta, cheese and raw, refined sugar (except for an occasional spoonful for coffee). I’ve also been running—mostly at 6.30 a.m. in freezing temperatures in the dark. I dropped over eleven pounds (close to five kilograms) and tripled the running mileage.

A ‘wine detox’ is just an excuse for getting exercise and losing weight. Avoiding a corkscrew and bottle is only partially related to any health effects of saying no to a glass of Chablis.

But exercise, apparently, is no key to losing weight. This news is bizarrely counterintuitive, although it may jibe with what many of you have experienced.

I recently picked up a copy of a July, 2108, Scientific American publication titled ‘Revolutions’ and read a surprising article titled ‘The Exercise Paradox.’

Take a walk and clear the mind, but don’t expect it to impact your weight

Recently, a scientist named Herman Pontzer and colleagues spent time in the African bush of Tanzania with members of the Hadza tribe, a group of traditional hunter-gatherers. These tribespeople hoof it through the bush to stalk prey or rummage across vegetated plains and hills to dig tubers and roots and pluck berries to munch.

Vines ahoy

These scientists worked with specific tribal members to have them drink a certain amount of water each day, into which they had placed harmless trace amounts of the rare isotopes of deuterium and oxygen 18. They then collected urine samples daily from these same individuals (I knew there was some reason for avoiding science as a career). These samples were then transported to the Baylor College of Medicine in the U.S. and analyzed. This procedure has been used for some years and is called the ‘doubly labelled water method.’ It measures carbon dioxide production in a human body, and from that determines the amount of energy individuals expend on a given day.

The results were not as expected.

Taking a break from this nectar

The Hadza tribespeople, who cover miles on foot and exercise regularly, burn about the same number of calories each day as regular 8 to 5 individuals in the U.S. or Europe. For men that’s roughly 2,600 calories a day, and for women it’s about 1,900 calories.

Other similar studies have shown a similar pattern. Traditional farmers in Guatemala, Gambia and Bolivia were shown to expend about the same amount of energy daily as city dwellers. A 2008 study by a Loyola University of Chicago researcher found that rural Nigerian women and African-American women in Chicago expended about the same amount of energy each day, despite the fact that they were involved in different activities, at different levels of intensity.

A subsequent review of 98 studies from throughout the world showed that those living with comfortable modern conveniences burn about the same quantity of calories every day compared to less affluent persons working more physically demanding jobs. Sedentary people, another studied showed, burned only 200 calories less per day than moderately active individuals.

Australian researchers found similar results between sheep and kangaroos kept in pens and those allowed to run freely. Chinese scientists found the same was true for pandas, whether they lived wild or in a zoo.

The reasons are still unknown. Perhaps, the author speculates, the mind and body make subtle changes to behaviors in other daily physical tasks to save energy. Perhaps, on physically demanding days, less energy is spent on maintaining organs and regulating internal cellular activities.

Uphill we go

I suspect a reason may be that human and mammalian bodies try to maintain constant levels of energy consumption. Imagine you have a factory, and on some days the production is low and on other days it’s high. The facility will, generally, still consume the same levels of background energy. Although the conveyor belt carries fewer boxes of television sets or breakfast cereals or whatever is produced, it still needs to run at the same speed. The same number of employees are also there, so the quantity of oil for heating and the amount of electricity stays the same for lighting. Also, staff levels are not reduced just because the factory is going slow for a few days—so cafeteria stoves burn the same amount of fuel to provide the same number of meals per day. It may be less costly, in terms of energy and stress, to maintain a constant burn on energy, even when that burn is more than is needed.

Just a guess.

[Video: Goodbye to this for several weeks]

Regardless the reason, whether or not you exercise apparently has limited impact on the total calories you burn.

Pontzer writes: ‘All of this evidence points toward obesity being a disease of gluttony rather than sloth. People gain weight when the calories they eat exceed the calories they expend.’

He does not discount the value and benefit of exercise for health, however, and writes, ‘You still have to exercise…Exercise has tons of well-documented benefits, from increased heart and immune system health to improved brain function and healthier aging…but evidence indicates that it is best to think of diet and exercise as different tools with different strengths. Exercise to stay healthy and vital; focus on diet to look after your weight.’

Yet from experience and a common-sense perspective, many of us will likely agree that keeping a specific, lean diet and exercising are mutually beneficial.

Goodbye to this for a month (except a few slivers of meat)

If you are changing diet, or going on a detox, exercise will help flush away waste cells. If you are exercising, changing the protein/fat/carbohydrate profile of your diet will help build muscle tissue and provide appropriate energy levels for your workout.

Together, the two may also have synergistic effects—where the result exceeds the sum of individual inputs. This seems to be the case with regard to the mindset needed to execute both at the same time.

Here’s what I mean.

Pre-dawn running in the frigid cold – refreshing for the brain, but wear a wool hat

Avoiding alcohol and types of food you are used to, as well as exercising, requires mental focus and discipline.

In fact, if you are truly challenging yourself, then the discipline required for exercising (for example, rising at 6.15 a.m. to run miles in freezing darkness along twisted, hilly country roads) can mentally eclipse any hunger (or wine) pangs you may have during that same day. This means that by undertaking exercise and diet at the same time, you may be less likely to notice the diet or detox. I’ve become focused enough on the challenge of forthcoming chilly hill jogs that that I’ve forgotten the lure of sugary hot spiced wine, or even gooey chocolate almond croissants.

[Video: more of what I said goodbye to for a month]

Here’s another, different, example of the same phenomenon.

In college I was once emotionally upset about a relationship with a woman. Then I checked my calendar and was shocked to find out that the next thermodynamics course exam, which I had thought was NEXT Wednesday, was taking place THIS Wednesday—two days away! Galvanized with a goal and intent on passing, I immediately cracked the books and…completely forgot about all of that emotional angst. There was no space in the brain, effectively, to contemplate both subjects (which, considering the pettiness of what I was upset about, turned out to be a good thing). It’s the same with combining exercise and diet.

In other words (and this has nothing to do with any research mentioned above) when we commit to one challenging goal that unambiguously absorbs and focuses our resolve and direction, we can sometimes simultaneously achieve lesser goals along the way, often with greater ease compared to how we would view these tasks if we lacked a larger, overriding, objective.

Plan your run, then run your plan, and switch on the headlamp

After a total of four weeks, I’ll certainly enjoy vino again (which is timely, considering an upcoming trip to a now sunny segment of wine country). But the goal this month—to feel a lighter—has reaffirmed the benefits of combining diet with motion…even if that means just taking a walk and skipping ice cream and apple pie after dinner.

See you in February

And running on country roads in the dark? The freezing cold and quiet countryside blackness can help wake the mind, while also keeping it calm and focused. But if you do this, be very, very careful. I wear a headlamp and flashing electric armband, and strongly advise that anyone else do at least the same. Daylight running is likely safer. Certainly it’s somewhat warmer.

My latest Forbes pieces are here, and include management advice from top hotel owners, the expanding Swedish wine scene, and how converting plastic to fuel can help to clean up our oceans.

Thanks again for tuning in …

 

 

This Wine Detox Is A Bhutanese Parasite

January 8, 2019

A New Year is here. Open mind, open horizons.

Clearing the mind

Many of us splashed our way through midnight, then decided to enjoy celebratory bottles again for a January 1st lunch, delaying that promised exercise regime until January 2nd.

Or was it the 3rd?

New Year’s Chablis

About four times a year I undergo a week-long ‘detox’ that involves eating mostly fruit and vegetables and drinking no alcohol. This January I’ll do alike, but will prolong the session to clear the mind, drop some weight and increase productivity.

Just one final glass – promise! – before beginning that detox

I usually follow the ‘General Motors’ diet (Google it) which eliminates pasta and bread and cheese. This time I’ll substitute fish for the beef component. Combining this with some exercise—running, walking or gym—means that in seven days from the beginning I should feel shinier and more energized. But this year that time span will be extended.

Ain’t that the truth

I’ll also incorporate ‘detox’ methods others have suggested—such as a half lemon squeezed into hot water and sipped between 5 and 7 a.m.—when the liver produces most bile. [Suggested by friend Brant Hartsock, whose Asian medicine doctor recommended he do this 3 to 4 times weekly.]

Or taking ‘liver cleanser’ tablets that include seeds, bark, roots and fruit. I’ve begun downing two daily. [Gifted by friend Elena, who picked them up in Goa, India, after she spent two weeks at a ‘dynamic meditation’ retreat there.]

Or good quality honey and turmeric taken in the morning [suggested by neighbors Les and Clarissa here in Blaye].

Labelling that is not in any way subtle

There is also tea gifted by friends when I visited Bhutan last year. I had put this box of ‘cordyceps and green tea’ on a shelf until—intrigued by seeing recent photos taken by these Bhutanese friends and posted on social media—decided to brew a mug, and do some internet research.

This may be hard to believe.

Daddy I think it’s time for your cordyceps detox.

Basically, cordyceps is a form of fungi, of which there are several hundred species. They attack insects from within, sometimes commandeering the body of, say, an ant, and telling it to climb to the high point of a grass stalk and cling on. Strands of cordyceps then spring, or at least grow, out of its head (best seen in time-lapse photography) thereby killing the insect and providing the fungi with nutrients. (Check out this video clip from BBC’s David Attenborough telling about cordyceps in general.)

The real life feats of these killer fungi make zombie movies look tame. In fact a video game was invented years ago that has 60 percent of humanity wiped out by a species of cordyceps.

Yak herding Layup women live at high altitudes in Bhutan, and wear distinct conical bamboo hats

One species is known as Cordyceps sinensis and is prevalent in Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet. It lives above 11,000 feet altitude. This form of cordyceps invades Himalayan caterpillars when they are buried below the surface of soil, where they keep warm for winter. The spores will kill a caterpillar from the inside, then grow a long thin shoot out of the dead body, making the two species appear as a bizarrely fused, elongated critter. This grows vertically upward until it pokes out of the soil. The spores transform the entire caterpillar into a fungi (although it retains the outer shape and appearance or the displaced caterpillar).

Colorful and light hearted roadside police in the land of cordyceps – Bhutan

At high altitudes in June, teams of pickers, including the Layap people who live above 13,000 feet elevation (the women wear distinct, conical, bamboo hats) crawl on their bellies over the earth in search of shoots. They then dig below the surface to unearth the rest of the cordyceps, attached to the now dead and transformed caterpillar. Historically, herders noticed that their Yaks became energized after grazing on grass with these shoots. This led the herders to boil cordyceps for tea, and they learned of its medicinal properties. Since then, they have spent thousands of years harvesting cordyceps for beneficial effects.

Wonder tea: caterpillar annihilation = detoxification

This stuff is not easy to hunt—think slender truffles at high altitude—which is why cordyceps can command a very hefty price. Apparently Chinese athletes were sucking down cordyceps tea during the 2008 Olympics to try to gain an additional competitive edge.

Gateway to cordyceps country in Bhutan

This marriage of insect and fungi excavated from hillsides may look odd, but apparently does wonders for the body.

It can apparently prolong life, increase memory and—according to an esteemed cancer center in the U.S.—includes ingredients that can slow down cancer. Additionally, it can improve kidney function, reduce heart disease and—indeedy!—boost sex drive.

Yum – put the kettle on (Photo credit: Tshering Chojur)

Using lemon, honey, cordyceps tea, fresh air, fruit and vegetables – I’ll let you know how this January’s detox goes.

[If you are interested in obtaining real deal cordyceps, let me know; my Bhutanese friends spend weeks in the mountains at harvest time.]

I wrote no Forbes posts in December, but posted one for January. This originated from meeting and interviewing a visionary Swiss entrepreneur who is a sailor, businessman and engineer. The post is about wristwatches, navigation and turning plastics into fuel to clean up oceans.

Thanks again for tuning in!

I hope your 2019 turns out to be Magnificent 🙂

 

 

Subtle Intrigues on The Paris to Bordeaux Flight

December 18, 2018

The Opera House on Place de la Comédie, Bordeaux

The Paris to Bordeaux flight on Air France is an excursion into a lifestyle. Passengers generally appear trim, fit and polite. They are cordial rather than effusive; graciously calm instead of overly animated. Their attire is lean, not bulky; elegant, not flamboyant. Any casual (never gaudy) passenger may sport an earring, a glinting watch or a leather satchel that signals inconspicuous and unobtrusive wealth. Most wear tight, thin layers in subdued shades of gray or black or tan (with an odd splash of red or yellow on a kerchief): a snug buttoned vest, a thin winter jacket, a business suit that appears more Zurich than Dallas; a daypack more Milanese chic than Barcelona summer.

The Seine River and Notre Dame, Paris

Even younger passengers, giddy with sexual tension, touch rather than fondle, laugh instead of cackle. Their tattoos are likely more Celtic pattern than Marvel comic character. Footwear, like clothing, is prim and functional—designed to walk city streets instead of stomp coastal pathways.

Bordeaux at night

Hand luggage is slipped (never shoved) into overhead compartments. It is compact and sleek, never sloppy or loud. Some bags have bright colors: token garnish beside more modestly hued main dishes.

Darwin, Bordeaux

This overall flight experience is slim and taut. Narrow, like the plane. Professionals travel light; passengers returning home appear modest and calm. At the end of this sleek and rapid aerial transect of France you look down through the window at the sight of the muddy, meandering Garonne River below. It snakes across a plain pitted with vineyards and farms and tame rural enclaves outside Bordeaux—the gorgeous stone city without skyscrapers.

Grand Hotel, Bordeaux – opposite the Opera House

The view will take you back into the ordered courtliness of 11th century Aquitaine, a land ruled by a woman named Eleanor, a fecund, fertile sunny domain of romance and wine and bawdy chivalry. Rather than hold the title Queen of France, or Queen of England (she was, at different times, both) this ruler clung to her title as ‘Eleanor of Aquitaine’ because this land she ruled—the terrain between waters—was renowned as Europe’s richest in terms of wealth, agricultural bounty and progressive thinking toward love, commerce and life.

A wildly edible chocolate garden in a Bordeaux store

A drink and snack are served during the flight—a satisfying quick nibble and quaff. Eating and drinking in this land of the Gauls is enjoyed in moderation—which is why wines are 12.5 to 13.5 percent alcohol rather than booze bombs laden with gobs of fruit and tannin.

Market time

The flight takes one hour. The baggage carousel at the main airport terminal includes a few towering bottles that advertise wine. The airport garden is—of course—a vineyard.

Baggage claim, Bordeaux Merignac airport

There are no visible customs agents at the airport. Why would there be? Who would smuggle opiates into a land that oozes with oodles of excellent wine? They are there, certainly. But hidden. Inconspicuous. Unobtrusive. This is the land of the Bordelaise, where subtlety rules. Why make a fuss when you have it all?

In 1933, Air France was created from a merger of a half-dozen airlines, unions and navigation companies. It remained the French carrier until merging with KLM fifteen years ago. A year later the airline was Europe’s largest, with a quarter of the continent’s market share. (Well choreographed safety video is below.)

All wine served on Air France is French. On long haul flights even economy passengers are offered Champagne (incidentally, my friend Gabrielle Vizzavona wrote this excellent recent piece on champagnes, for Le Figaro newspaper; even if you ne parle pas Francais, just check out the names, and drool). Because aridity and air pressure on airline flights modifies our sense of taste, tannic wines are best avoided while fruity choices turn pleasant in the air (I wrote about the effects of altitude on wine in this past post).

So many choices, so little time …

Air France selects excellent food and fresh wines that will age well within the next four to six years. After Emirates, according to The Wall Street Journal, Air France pays the next highest average price per wine bottle served on its flights. This year the World of Fine Wine ranked Air France as having the Best Airline Wine List in The World.

Burgundy and Rhone wines

Air France employs Paolo Basso—voted world’s best sommelier—as a wine consultant. Earlier this year I met Paolo in Switzerland at a wine event and sampled his own wine—which is excellent. We talked about the city where he now lives—Lugano, Switzerland—where I also spent four years living in youth. He has good taste. If Paolo nods assent at a wine, I’m all for it. Even decent wine is something to appreciate during a flight. I once sat in business class on a U.S. air carrier crossing from Chicago to Los Angeles and was served a red wine that tasted more like bubble gum than a fermented fruit beverage. The event made me reconsider the worth of accruing air miles with that company.

Bordeaux wine

Still, integral to the French culture, employees of Air France sometimes strike. This past summer the airline was sporadically on strike for months during the same time that the national rail service—SNCF—went on strike. Even after that ended I arrived at Bordeaux airport one day to learn that air traffic controllers had gone on a sudden one-hour strike during lunch hours. One hour! Perhaps they needed more time to finish their crème brûlée. Still, no harm. The upstairs restaurant was open. I scooted inside and sat. Their wine list? Splendid. One hour with a good meal and a bottle of Bordeaux was the right way to kick off a day of travel.

Airport waiting time

Thanks for tuning in. Next month’s Forbes articles will tell of a four-year ocean expedition promoting technology that converts plastic into energy. It will also foray into the world of high-end watches, as well as Swedish wines.

Meanwhile, enjoy your holiday season!

 

Kick Off Any Event With Creamy Crémant Sparkling Wine

November 27, 2018

A lineup of modest yet endearing crémants

Consider crémant sparkling wine as a non-sophisticated entry point to any gathering—whether barbecue, picnic, dinner or party. It’s an opening act, the liquid equivalent to a bowl of pretzels before dinner. The juice is clean, zippy, low in alcohol and lively. It’s like fresh orange juice before breakfast or a rinse off shower before plunging into a swimming pool or a one-page prologue that begins a novel; it’s the vestibule entry way leading into a castle. Crémant is more passageway than place to linger.

The French word crémant (pronounced CRAY-mon) refers to sparkling wine that is made in the same way as champagne. A secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle rather than (as with Prosecco) in a steel vat controlled for pressure and temperature.

‘Secondary fermentation’ means an extra dose of yeast and sugar are added before a bottle is sealed, allowing the generation of carbon dioxide fizz.

Looks like Crémant O’ Clock

The word crémant was once used in the Champagne region to refer to sparkling wines made at lower pressures than champagne. These provided not a fizzy feel in the mouth as much as one that is creamy. Today that meaning has vanished; the word now refers to sparkling wines produced outside of Champagne.

Ten regions produce crémant, eight of which are in France, one in Luxembourg and one in Belgium. The newest French appellation for this drink—Crémant de Savoie—was established only in 2014, while that of Alsace was created in 1976 and that for Bordeaux in 1990. Crémant producing regions of France are: Bordeaux, Bourgogne (Burgundy), Loire, Savoie, Jura, Die, Limoux and Alsace. All appellations must use hand-picked grapes and juice must age at least nine months on the lees (which means keeping yeast in the barrel).

These sparkling wines are basically bargain bottles of effervescence; kick off cocktails for a delicious early event buzz.

Dusk means crémant hour

Advantages of crémant over champagne include lower cost and flexibility—it can be made from a geographically more diverse range of grapes. Many regions producing this beverage include—as a base for whites—the two classic Burgundian grapes of Chardonnay (providing acidity, freshness and elegance) and Pinot Noir (providing structure and fruity aromas). Crémant regions not including these two grapes are Bordeaux, Die (in the Rhone Valley) and Savoie (in which Pinot Noir is not used, though Chardonnay can be). Crémants also include locally popular grapes, and many—such as Mauzac, Chenin Blanc and Aligoté—include aromas of apples and lemons, as well as other fruit.

To gauge the ease of access and price, at a local supermarket (and at one nearby winery), I purchased crémants from four regions of France, then sampled them with a colorful array of characters at the local wine bar: two are winery owners and one individual is not involved with the trade, but is a fiction author from Canada.

Their collective comments are below.

Left to right: Ben, Les, David

Cremant Bourgogne (Burgundy).

Veuve Ambal. Grande Réserve. Demi-Sec. 12% alcohol.

Euros 7.95 ($9.00)

The four included grape varieties are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Aligoté and Gamay. Whereas Aligoté is acidic and adds structure and taste (including lemon and green apples) Gamay is the Beaujolais grape that bursts with fresh fruit flavors.

I considered this demi-sec as a gorgeous and sweet opener for the evening.

Les – Etalon Rouge winery proprietor:

‘Nutty and dry for a demi-sec. Includes tastes of ripe yellow peaches.’

David – Canadian author:

‘Tastes of strawberries. Good desert wine.’

Ben – La Garagiste winery proprietor:

‘Flavorsome, but a bit sweet.’

The cold winter season is ideal for cold, sharp crémant

Cremant Limoux (rosé).

Antech Alliance. Brut. 12% alcohol.

Euros 8.55 ($9.70)

This includes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc and Mauzac. The last grape, also known as ‘blanquette,’ is used in another regional sparkling wine known as ‘blanquette de Limoux,’ which was supposedly the first sparkling wine ever made, predating even champagne.

I enjoyed the subtle tastes of lemon and nuts.

Les – Etalon Rouge winery proprietor:

‘Stunning color, not pink or apricot but in between. Beautiful tiny bubbles. Dry off the tongue, but with a beautiful finish that lasts.’

David – Canadian author:

‘Flavorful but subtle, silky and refreshing.’

Ben – La Garagiste winery proprietor:

‘Very lemony and fresh.’

Bubble Up

Crémant de Loire.

Ackerman Grand Millesme 2016. 11.5 % alcohol.

Euros 7.99 ($9.05)

The grapes include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Chenin Blanc. The Chenin Blanc is the locally prevalent white wine grape of the Loire Valley, and offers high acidity, which is good for sparkling wine. Rosé crémant from the Loire Valley can include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and also locally available pineau d’Aunis.

I enjoyed the citrus taste, and appreciated how the wine developed and improved in the glass after five minutes.

Les – Etalon Rouge winery proprietor:

‘Elegant and smooth; best yet.’

David – Canadian author:

‘Wildflowers, blackberries and lemon.’

Ben – La Garagiste winery proprietor:

‘Beautiful and notable effervescence, reminder of pop rocks candy. Sharp, but balanced on the tongue.’

Beaune city in Burgundy

Crémant de Bordeaux.

Clos du Notaire L’héritage. 12% alcohol.

Euros 7.50 ($8.50)

Crémants from Bordeaux are made from the same grapes as are used for red and white blends. This particular crémant from Bourg is unusual because it includes only one white grape—Semillon. This grape is today a darling of Australia’s Hunter Valley, and also once covered 90 percent of white grape vineyards in South Africa in the early 1800’s (today it represents only one percent of grapes found in the cape region of South Africa).

For me this has heft, structure and power, as well as aromas and tastes of lime, nuts and pineapple. It is not as complex as that from the Loire.

Les – Etalon Rouge winery proprietor:

‘Ebullient sparkler that has oomph. Reminds you that it is in your mouth. Extremely dry finish; sort of melts away.’

David – Canadian author:

‘Pomegranate and vanilla, very spicy. A lot of character and punch.’

Ben – La Garagiste winery proprietor:

‘This stays in the mouth longer than any others.’

These observations highlighted the truth that a demi-sec is notably sweeter than a Brut, that lemon certainly is a characteristic of Mauzac grapes, that Semillon has commanding structure and body and that Chenin Blanc, combined with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, can produce distinctly complex wines.

The range of quality and style for crémants is wide and offers much to appreciate for little price: blasts of fruit, commanding power, rich complexity and also subtle shades of flavor—depending on which bottle you choose, and from which region. As corks pop during the holiday season, offer your friends something different with crémant.

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My latest Forbes pieces are here, and include one on the digital marketing of champagne and the physics of bubbles, on why Cru Beaujolais wines made this year are looking powerful, on hunting for a war ancestor in central France, and why the city of Beaune is a good base for exploring Burgundy.

Thanks, as always, for tuning in again!

A Military Ancestor Stationed Between Burgundy And Champagne

November 13, 2018

Un Ancêtre Militaire Stationné Entre Bourgogne et Champagne

Mayor of Beauchemin, and the ‘porteur de drapeau’ or flag bearer (Jean-Baptiste’s father)

The Armistice that ended World War One was signed at 11.00 a.m. on November 11th, 1918. Eleventh hour, eleventh day, eleventh month. A century ago.

Years ago my mother told me that when she grew up, Americans around Chicago used to dedicate a minute of silence to that moment (although they used Central U.S. time, not French time—because otherwise they would be sleeping). She remarked that few did the same any more.

Peace in a rural French village

However, they still do in Europe. Ten years ago I entered a supermarket near Durham in the U.K. with my American friend Barbara, and—ignorant of the hour or the day—was shocked to see all shoppers frozen in place. It was like a Zombie movie. I soon realized the truth, and respected their respect for history.

Earlier this year my sister prepared an album detailing family history. I saw an image of my grandfather on my mother’s side—Lester Peter Ray. And there was a scan of a letter he wrote, with a map.

Lester Peter Ray

 

Card showing travel route

 

In 1918, he had traveled by boxcar from Brest, on the west coast of France, to the city of Langres—north of Dijon in central-eastern France, and was then sent a few miles away to the village of Beauchemin (‘beautiful trail’).

I decided to visit this year, but kept putting it off. Last Thursday, on a whim, I bought a plane ticket on Easy Jet to Lyon, rented a car, and on Saturday morning drove to Beauchemin for a quick visit in the rain before a more lengthy visit the next day. The village has 103 residents. A local man I chatted with suggested my returning the next day, Sunday, in time for the memorial commemoration. I agreed, then drove to Langres, a wonderful walled city designed by the military architect Vauban. There, I slept the night.

On Sunday I returned to Beauchemin. No one showed up at the memorial at 11.00 a.m., but they trickled in about 11.05, because they considered the key commemorative moment to be at eleven minutes past eleven, or at 11.11 a.m., on 11/11.

Portion of letter that accompanied map from Lester Peter

 

The mayor stood before the village war memorial and read a proclamation telling about the war, while the flag bearer stood beside him. The group of some 30 villagers next moved to the cemetery, where the mayor read another proclamation. Apparently, the mayor does this every year, and the same is done in villages throughout France. This is done annually not only on the day that commemorates the end of the First World War, but also on the day that marks the end of the Second World War. These rituals remind the locals of the importance of these historical events, and trigger conversations about lessons learned.

Can you imagine how Americans’ respect for history in general could be improved by encouraging such events? Our state of education concerning history and geography in the U.S. needs improvement, and such voluntary family events could be excellent ways to wake children up to the importance of both subjects. Our future leaders, if clueless about the past, may otherwise be ill-trained to lead us in sensible directions forward.

We then all moved into the town hall (it used to be a cheese processing plant) to drink a few glasses of wine and eat snacks.

A woman named Alix Prodhon spoke with me and said she knew a local historian I may want to meet, then brought me to her home near the memorial where she and her husband Jean-Baptiste and two wonderful children Clemens and Rose cleared the table and prepared lunch. We ate a salad with bacon and onions, then a main course of chicken and also wild boar (hunted by husband Jean-Baptiste) as well as lentils. Jean Baptiste poured out glasses of Beaujolais wine. Then, a plate with four types of cheese—including Emmenthal, Morbier, Langres and Epoise. What luxury!

Parents Alix and Jean-Baptiste, and son Celesten and daughter Rose

Both children—aged 10 and 8—spoke of how the love school, how they thrive on history and mathematics, and pulled out colored books that provided history lessons with attractive drawings and text. It was quite inspiring to see how much they had already learned about local and international history, and how much more they wanted to learn.

Cheeses after lunch

We soon drove five minutes to another village, Marac, where Franck Besch has collected U.S. military memorabilia for 30 years. He has opened a museum in Marac. He was delighted to meet, took details about my grandfather and within a day emailed me a copy of Lester Ray’s hand written registration card with the military, as well as details about his regiment, position, arrival and departure dates from France. Talk about a serendipitous encounter and situation…

At center is Franck Besch before his museum with a ‘History of ‘Doughboys” – and the most hospital local residents

Lester was apparently in the D company of the 5th anti-aircraft machine gun battalion and had arrived in Beauchemin in October of 1918, then departed for the U.S. on January 2, 1919. The city of Langres, a fifteen minute drive away, had hosted over ten thousand U.S. soldiers during this war, where they set up training schools in communications, medicine, and veterinary science (because of all the horses involved in the war).

Inside the museum

Lester Ray, after returning home, would eventually go on to become an executive at a Chicago company that managed a series of tunnels below the city for transporting and storing goods. Fortunately, he did not go to battle when in Europe.

What an incredible day!

In the village of Marac, drinks and stories before a roaring kitchen fire

We visited the house of more friends of Alix and Jean-Baptiste and sat before a roaring wood burning stove in the kitchen and drank more wine as I told them of what had become of Lester Ray’s children. The locals were rapt and joyous and spoke about the ‘magic’ of that moment, and assured me that Lester Peter Ray was above us, watching.

Indeed.

I was immensely fortunate to spend time with such generous, good-hearted, curious and bright people.

The coziness of a French country village home in autumn

Quite an amazing day.

Freshly painted memorial in Beauchemin

As for wine, that which Jean-Baptiste opened was a Cru Beaujolais, rather than a ‘nouveau.’ The cru are the top quality wines from the Beaujolais region (these wines are made from the Gamay grape), and unlike the less expensive ‘nouveau,’ these wines can be stored for years. Of the ten regions that produce Beaujolais Cru, the northernmost is Saint-Amour (which we drank for lunch) and is light and delicious. After lunch, Jean-Baptiste gave me a gift of a bottle of 2015 Claude Loup Saint-Véran, which is a white Burgundy Macônnais wine (made from Chardonnay grapes). The appellation for this wine is located in Burgundy, very slightly north of that of the Beaujolais we drank.

White Burgundy wine from Saint-Véran

The Saint-Véran appellation was established in 1971, at the far south of Burgundy, and is produced by six communes on chalk and clay soils up to 450 meters elevation. I cannot tell you how the wine tastes, because I’m saving this bottle for a very special occasion.

The nearby city of Langres straddles the Burgundy region to its south, and Champagne, to its north.

The walled city of Langres, north of Burgundy and south of Champagne

It turns out that the uncle of the flag bearer met in Beauchemin (on the right in the first picture above) used to bring in bottles of liquor for American soldiers stationed in Beauchemin during the war. (I wonder if they picked up a taste for less alcoholic wine.)

To those soldiers who served in the First World War, to my ancestor Lester Peter Ray, and to the exceedingly warm, hospitable residents of Beauchemin (and Marac)—here is a toast to our freedoms, our respect for history and our ability to enjoy wonderful food and wine together.

Sante!

Just What IS ‘Good Wine’?

October 23, 2018
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Trentodoc sparkling wine from Trentino, in northern Italy

What is a ‘Good Wine’?

Good question.

Not difficult to answer:

It’s whatever you like.

Simple.

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Vneyards at Château Angélus in Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux, France

Tasting different wines over time is like visiting different countries, or learning fresh phrases in another language or exploring country or city roads around where you live. It’s like getting to know a neighborhood or building a house or writing a book or riding a bicycle. The more you do, the more familiar you become with the process and the entire landscape of that activity. Over time drinking different wines, you experience different tastes and styles and strengths; you tune into more details and understand the bigger picture of that entire agricultural industry.

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Etalon Rouge vineyards in Fours, Bordeaux

In time you may find that the plonk you once adored now tastes a bit one dimensional and lame. That wine you slugged back as a teenager that gave you a cracking headache the next morning? You realize it never even tasted that good.

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Riesling wine from New York state in the U.S.

As with reading or traveling or cooking, after time sampling different wines you grow hungry for more variety and exploration. The greater range of wines you drink, the more you also appreciate different levels of quality.

If I drink wine and think about it (does not always happen) I look for three basic levels of quality.

First—is the wine balanced? Unbalanced means there’s a dominance of some characteristic that’s not very pleasant, or is only appreciable in small doses. Balanced means that the different components—including fruit and tannin and alcohol—meld together in your mouth in a way that is at least pleasant. You won’t wince.

That’s a good baseline for a decent wine: balance.

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Teroldego wine from northern Italy

Second—complexity and/or coherence. Complexity means that that taste of a wine has different layers, or levels. It’s like a movie that has a subplot, or at least a few unexpected surprises. Or, imagine you go to a party and meet not only friends you know, but intriguing or funny or memorable new characters who make you laugh or think differently or provide fresh information or viewpoints. Complexity is like having a dinner course with multiple flavors and even textures—creamy risotto as well as crunchy green beans and maybe even succulent sweet baby carrots. Think layers, surprise and exploration.

Coherence means that even if complexity is lacking, there’s strength of character in one aspect of that wine that pleases you and commands attention. It’s like going to a party and there’s a stage show and the comedian or singer or magician completely captivates your attention. It’s like reading a book where the plot may be thin, but the central character dazzles, or at least attracts and pleases you.

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Casual wine bar in Saint-Tropez, France

For example, it may be a simple New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wine with a dominant and intriguing grapefruit character. Or the peppery snap of a well made wine from Carmenere grapes. It could be the beautiful and fruity roundness of a specific, gorgeous Merlot. ‘Coherence’ is a word I’ve adopted regarding wine to mean one memorable, focused aspect that makes you concentrate and perhaps even mentally applaud.

Complexity and coherence together are also possible: imagine going to that party, meeting fresh faces and also enjoying the stage show. It’s like eating a dinner where you not only appreciate the delicacy of that lemon sole—which captivates your attention—but are also mesmerized by that mint chocolate chip ice cream dessert that follows.

If a wine is balanced, and also has complexity or coherence, you should be a happy individual—smiling and satisfied.

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Two cheerful Russian women enjoying excellent wine in Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux

The third level is emotion. You won’t get this very often, but when you do it’s memorable.

Let’s say a balanced and complex wine—even before any of the alcohol impacts you—makes you experience emotions you did not expect: joy or sadness or euphoria or whatever causes a flood of feelings to course inside. If wine tickles memory or jostles feelings which make you feel giddy or unusually high—that’s a bonus.

I recall sitting in the wine bar L’Univerre in Bordeaux City and sipping red Burgundy with a friend and being so blown away with the scent and taste that I wanted to get up and walk to other tables and clap strangers on the back and insist they sample the liquid nectar in my glass. Fortunately, my drinking companion convinced me that was not a wise idea. But the emotions caused by that wine? Outrageous.

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Plenty of wine to taste and books to read

Emotion is when you go to a party, perhaps unexpectedly, and fall in love. It’s like watching a movie that makes you cry or laugh or decide to alter the fundamental trajectory of your life. It’s having that unexpected meal—quite likely in a small tavern in a tiny town you never heard of before and only stopped in because you got a flat tire—and being blown away by the medley, the gastronomic chorus, of different flavors from that plate.

That’s what I look for in wine, if making a mental effort to ‘look for’ anything. Plenty of wine is unbalanced (including some expensive bottles made by supposedly ‘renowned’ producers). If I just find balance, that’s great. That’s enough. That’s contentment. Throw in complexity/coherence, and that’s a treat. That’s special. That’s bonus and pleasure, and probably even involves sharing good times with friends.

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A misty harvest morning in Etalon Rouge vineyard in Fours, Bordeaux

Emotion? That’s a jackpot. That is spotting, for the first time ever, that lovely woman seated inside the café working with pen and papers by her mug of tea and realizing she is intensely beautiful and attractive to you, although she is unaware that you even exist. It is meeting that individual introduced to you on a train platform on some rainy day when your mind was filled with complaints about not wanting to be there and hating the fact that you forgot your umbrella when suddenly the world—on encountering that friend of a friend when you least expected it—transforms to lightness and beauty, uplifted by this magical new individual who just blasted into your life.

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Spanish Ribera del Duero wine in Madrid

Finally, one of the beauties of wine is unpredictability. Whereas you want one brand of beer to taste the same year to year, bar to bar, throughout the world, you want the opposite in wine. Even a wine made from grapes from the same vines each year by one producer will change in taste from vintage to vintage, year to year and bottle to bottle. The taste will also change depending on your mood and the weather, as well as the company you keep.

Which means, and this is an odd thing to say and even odder to realize, that sometimes—not often, but sometimes—you may find a wine that is not necessarily balanced or even complex but that, because of the situation on that sunlit autumn afternoon on that grassy hillside beneath an oak tree with a picnic and a blanket and wonderful company—still provides powerful and memorable emotions you can never replicate. Sometimes, in other words, the highest levels of quality in wine may unexpectedly emerge from a wine that until then was unknown, not renowned and until that moment never before mentioned as remarkable. Perhaps it’s a special vintage, or the angle of sunlight, or …. well, who knows.

That only happens sometimes.

Which is part of the magic of wine.

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A casual afternoon glass of red wine inside the citadelle of Blaye, France

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Now, visitors.

Remember weeks ago I wrote a three part series about driving a loop through south west France? There was Part l, Part II and Part III.

I did it as a way of saying goodbye to travel writing. I had always wanted to write books like those from travel writer Paul Theroux or Laurens Van Der Post or William Least Heat Moon. But I wrote a few travel books (self-published, and listed here) which never generated too much interest. So, I decided to do that little trip and write that little piece as a way of saying goodbye to travel writing.

Which I did.

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Susie and Davide enjoying their visit to southwest France

And then, weeks later, out of the blue, a woman named Susie from New Jersey got in touch. She’d read these pieces. She said she wanted to visit France with her boyfriend Davide and do the same journey. Sure, I thought. Whatever. I never expected to hear anything more.

But they did! They showed up in the town Blaye, then drove that route up to Soulac-sur-Mer and spent a few evenings with me drinking red and white wines in our cellar and in a local restaurant and telling stories of travel and exploration. They said, keep writing, keep the ‘dry wit’ and to make my email address more conspicuous on this blog. That was a most unexpected surprise! They also ended up sharing novelties they learned about our own neighborhood, as well as that of nearby Saint-Émilion.

Sometimes only after you say goodbye to things does their very essence return. This may even encourage you to modify your direction a bit, then continue forward. There are no rules in life, and until we embrace that truth, our vision and opportunities will be limited.

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My latest Forbes pieces are here and include more articles about sailing than wine in recent weeks, after a recent visit to Saint-Tropez.

[In the above video – Clarissa and Monica work hard at the harvest]

Our hand harvest of all Etalon Rouge Cabernet Sauvignon grapes was completed after 2.5 days of grueling effort (thanks to all who helped out, including Kim and Julie Hopkins, Monica, Pierre, Sonya and Thomas Marchand and many others). The new winery that Les and Clarissa undertook to prepare on Rue Saint Simon in Blaye is completed, spectacular, and now includes grapes merrily fermenting in oak.

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New Etalon Rouge winery on Rue Saint Simon in Blaye, Bordeaux, France

Thanks again for tuning in!

Contact me anytime at: tjlmullen@gmail.com

You can also find me on Instagram or at my Roundwood Press site and blog.

 

 

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