Was driving home the other night with my head predictably clicking away, closing the still open tabs of my day. “Okay, be sure to write Chuck from Beaune Imports when you get home and add a case of Manciat-Poncet Macon-Charnay to that order” and “I wonder if stocking some cool local bacon might be worth our time” along with, “I hope that lady likes that Cotes du Rhone with her grilled lamb chops” and “I wish I wasn’t going home to an empty pad, I feel like cooking, spoiling someone” you know, the regular schizophrenia of the working wine woman.
I pulled into the parking structure of my (between you and I) horrible local Vons, grabbed the canvas sack from the backseat of the car, the one that weirdly smells of cigarettes even though it was purchased at least a year after I quit smoking….must be the years of smoker gunk that has saturated the porous fabric of the seats and carpet of my car. Sack in hand, no real idea or passion for what I was to grab for dinner, I lumbered through the sliding doors, past the ever-present display of Cutie clementines and stack of out of season avocados. With the plasto-fanstasco stank of fake ass cinnamon that haunts those “This will make them buy apples” commercial markets, I managed to toss a cool, crisp head of barely green iceberg lettuce, a wrinkly red onion, some GMO’d tiny tomatoes and a silver box of Philadelphia Cream Cheese for whateverthefuckreason into my bag with dinner as the end goal.
Feeling, oddly enough, not all that optimistic, weird stinking sack of ingredients in hand I emerged from the yuckiness of “The Vons” all the while ticking away at those tabs, trying with all my will to close the ones that didn’t need me that evening. “Fuck” my comment as I saw that in the ten minutes I was in the valley of discontent that is my Vons, a moist band of cool air had moved through and doused my still warm windows with dew. Using my bent paw I scraped the wet off the windows in order to make my one fifth of a mile drive, home from the Vons a safe one. Tossed the pathetic sack of gathered, “goods” in the backseat and swung my thick ass into the driver’s seat and that was when it filled the entire landscape of my eye slits, “that moon"
A big, swollen, butter colored moon hung overflowing and so close that I feared we were on some tragic path of implosion, one that my too many open tabs kept me from knowing was imminent. I rested my round chin on the top of the steering wheel and let it soak in and saturate me like cigarette smoke in the fabric of a 2007 Camry….that moon.
Made some bullshit salad for dinner, one that didn’t distract me from running outside every fifteen minutes, face all scrunched as I spread and pushed at the tiny screen of my android phone trying to get a shot of that moon. I even went so far as to ask folks on Facebook if they were able to capture a picture that might speak to the power of it but alas, no one was quite as obsessed as I was. They were busy like having a life and junk while I toiled away slicing at wads of water filled lettuce and slap-slap-slapped out to the un buried patches of my complex looking for a window, any tiny bit of space that I could let, that moon, fill me. Wasn’t too long before more wetness moved in and the fog took away any hope I had of feeling or capturing much more heart-pounding from that engorged globe of muscle. Legs swinging like a twelve year old pouting on their way home from yet another awful day of middle school, I flounced down upon the squish of my couch and closed my eyes trying to think of the last time, that moon, moved me…
“Sam, are you ready? This salon is straight out of the 1800s and Jean-Francois, he is something of an incorrigible flirt.” Aline’s words floating across the table. Her left hand cupped around a steaming white teacup, her right gracefully maneuvering a silver spoon, a deep dunk into a milky looking jar of honey before her slender fingers spun the thick and oily spoonful into the pale colored cauldron of liquid she embraced, secreting its sweetness in a way that occupied more than the cup….it seemed to slip across the table along with her words in a way that scented the deep breaths that were tugging in and out of me. We were on our way to visit the Champagne house of A. Chauvet, a tiny producer whose wines I’d been scarily intimate with but produced on grounds I’d never seen and by hands I’d never touched. I pulled the soft beige colored napkin from my lap, took in a deep reassuring tug of Aline’s sweet, honey-scented lyrics and brushed the remnants of my (not-so-good) onion soup lunch from the corners of my mouth before saying, “Yup. We got this lady. Let’s go”.
Our mini-ish van pulled onto a small by our standards street, barely room for cars going in two directions to share the narrow bend, I saw the big looping letters of the winery sign, “Perrier Jouet” and just as my head spun to utter the, “What the hell?!” Aline pulled our car into a tiny lot, across the street. Before I could even open my door there stood Jean-Francois, smaller than I expected, (but he somehow managed to triple in size the more he spoke) dressed dapper and ready for receiving guests. Little tuffs of white curly hair bending out above his ears and not quite covering the span of his whole head. He wore the mischievous grin of a man half his age and with a quarter of his vigor, so it was sort of love at first sight, for me.
We walked the chalky cellar and Jean-Francois relished in showing me how they worked the lights on slender bits of wire that ran through the moist chalky underground of where they stored their tremendous Champagnes. A smell that I can’t quite yet define slipped into my chest, this damp, sweet, ghostly but warm smell that reminds me of scrapping my nails along the walls of the cellar, the way the wet stones would cave and bend beneath my nails…the way my lips spread when I thought of the fact that one of the next people that came to visit and walk those same steps, they could see the thin, hollowed out swipe of my thumb nail that now runs along the walls of that cellar. I marveled in the vulnerability of that soil and the tenacity of it surviving my digs along with those of time and war. This place, these people, those wines, that grin….these were things by far more powerful than I.
“Samantha, I have to tell you, we are very proud to be in your store and I want to thank you for including us in your selection for your customer” Jean-Francois’ words as he stood from the centuries old chair from which he had been pouring us wine, in glasses that were over 100 years old, “If you would be open for another glass, might I share something from our cellar with you?”…now that was just swoon inducing but also, wicked smart, Aline and I drank deep from that flirty, adorable distinguished man’s old glasses and begged him to let us import, (well that was her part, I just got to reap the benefits of my flirting back and pleading) the last few cases of the 2005 Grand Cru Blanc de Noir he had left. I’d have thought the so-called flirt was a hustler if it had not been for the fact that his sister in-law ran and retrieved the wine from the family’s private stock, and sort of grumbled at him, in French of course, for sharing it and even considering selling off such a rare family treat. Wasn’t about that wine for him, it was about us having a moment, one that would follow us back to Southern California, one that we could sing with honey scented voices that explained them, their family, to all of you. Found my own little bit of honey saturated verbiage as I cooed and engaged her and she nodded and let us buy all they had left….
I thought of Jean-Francois’ sweet face, effusive energy and sweetly soaked passion as we piled into our car and headed out, the way he too lit up when I playfully asked, “You gonna kiss me or what?!” this time beneath a dark sky before packing up to leave, the whole of the tiny city seemingly asleep as Aline and I bumped along the narrow road back to Reims from Tours-sur-Marne. We couldn’t stop giggling and chatting about how and to whom we were going to sell the A. Chauvet wines, especially that 2005 Blanc de Noirs, (just a note, I have like 4 bottles left. It is as rich, dense, and sensual…..more like wine in its depth and corseted restraint than any Tete de Cuvee from 98% of the Grand Marques I’ve had) and how we could easily teach grower Champagne with wines like this, people like this resting in our back pocket. The bright sky we rode in on a lifetime behind us as we made plans, spoke in terms of bubbly wines that wore the embossed texture of noble Burgundy, bubbles or not.
That dark red moon…..
A warm spoonful of honey that spins around my cup
Opens my tight jaw
Makes me flirt and sing….
N.V. A. Chauvet Carte Blanche ($45.99)
A stunningly balanced Champagne that rides that sensual line of sweet, textural fruit and biscuity yeastiness. Full and curvy on the palate the roasted breadcrumbs and nuts push right up against the sides of your mouth before the succulent green apple notes come through like a river of freshness.
N. V. A. Chauvet Grand Cru Brut Rose ($48.99)
You find a buttoned up bit of saucy red cherry fruit in this understated and wicked valued Brut Rose. Lusty weight on the palate but with those nibbles of acidity on the sides of your tongue that keep you coming back, aching for, more. Far more wine here than you get with anything from a big house at this price point and the finish, it defies you to quit...
2005 A. Chauvet Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs ($74.99)
If you don't try this limited and voluptuous wine, let it stain and soak into your palate, well then you might just be dumb. If Burgundy had a bubbly and effervescent, curved and compelling cousin, this wine is it. Wanna we wrecked by wine...let me help you and pop the cork on one of my last 4 bottles of this.