Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Sliding Down Below

“This is Jim, Josh and Samantha” Aline’s sweet but confident voice doing a roll call of sorts as our not-quite-worse-for-wear crew poured out of our self-assigned car ride seating and extended our arms in the direction of a trim smiling gentleman. I tucked the windblown hair behind my ears, tugged at my already wrinkled and poorly fitting shirt. The sun beating warm and comforting as my Converse clad feet crushed the tiny white pebbles in the driveway at P-L & J-F  Bersan. A blast of cool damp air met our sun-warmed faces as we walked into the tasting room of our first Burgundian winery. I looked around at the very rugby decorated, clean, sleek and slightly modern feeling tasting room. At first taken aback by the clean lines and glass cases but knowing where we were, in the Burgundian village of Saint Bris, well I was fully aware that below the cool tiles of the tasting, or retail space, there were miles and miles of caves dug beneath the street, a meeting place for French soldiers during war. My Chuck’s landing lightly on the tiles, my memory of my last visit to this amazing and historic region in the heart of the Auxerrois sending a bead of thrilled skin bumps down the length of my frame. 

Jean-Francois Bersan smiled gently in our direction and spoke in a tender tone as he and Aline handled a little business, in French before he called to his young, strapping rugby playing son Pierre-Louis to come over and give us a tour of the twisting caves that rested below the city. Pierre-Louis, a young twenty-something with a swath of dark hair, a firm athletic build and a smile that assured me that while confident, this young man was as genuine, and humble as they come. His English just fine as he walked us through the snaking caverns stopping only to point out a piece of the wall that had been dug out, long ago, that was a makeshift oven, “used to bake bread while the soldiers were down here” and to point to a façade wall that separated their winery from the one across the street. “At one time there were none of these walls, we were all connected to each other through these” with a swerving hand motion, “These streets under the street.” Pierre-Louis’s voice lilting and exact the soundtrack as I took in deep chest filling breaths that were scented with damp chalk, and history. 

My fellow travelers and I emerged from underground, bits of broken stone stuck in the grooves of our shoes and morsels of fuzzy mold stuck to any part of our clothing that may have touched, or brushed against the mossy and moist walls. I stood there picking off remnants of antiquity while Jean-Francois popped corks and poured us cool, lip-smacking white wines. I listened, took mental notes and soaked in each and every line of their faces, each stony bite of white wine, committing those men, that place and the flavor of all of it to memory…a postcard to share with my customers when I got home. 

I knew those wines belonged at our shop, those men and their humble but genuine life’s work had dinner tables and palates that were craving them, they just didn’t know it yet and I was starting to writhe with the need to tell them. As we piled in the car, my tummy humming with the energy of falling in love and gnawing at me from the inside to “get to stepping!” and discovering more. The warm hug of a slight buzz pinching at my cheeks and flipping the switches that prepare, and warn me, my filters are getting looser…perfect as we were headed to Chablis to taste and have lunch with the wondrous, charismatic, unfuckingbelieveably talented wild man of Chablis, by way of Canada, Patrick Piuze. 


Dale Dimas said...

More detail on the wines...when is the next chapter??? :)

Samantha Dugan said...

I just have the Sauvignon Saint Bris right now, which is why I didn't get into much detail. Plus my importer buddy and I poured it at an event together recently and I am nearly sold out! I hope the next leg/chapter comes far sooner than this one did! Kinda lit up right now as I just did a Chablis event at the shop and those doughy, sexy, briny whites reminded me....ah, Chablis.

gabriel jagle said...

Making wine in an interconnected network of underground caves sounds awesome. Loved the little history lesson on WWII as well. Really cool article. I might have to try this wine...