My mother told me that I will feel like I am in France when I look around and everything is beautiful, and I have realized now, that I am in France. Everything is beautiful! As we descended into Lyon, all I could see were rust colored roofs, vineyards, and castles nestled into the hillsides. Owner and winemaker, Lauren Faupin, who also doubles as my boss this vintage, picked me up from the airport and we drove north into Beaujolais, to Chateau de Briante, just outside of Saint Lager. Everything is beautiful – the stone buildings, the green hills covered in sprawling grapevines, the rock walls, the wildflowers, the dangling flower pots, the narrow roads, everything. We pulled into the Chateau property through two pillars supporting a large iron gate that was swept open.
The Chateau itself was built in the 18th century, belonging to a family that owned it ever since, using it as a family vacation home. Lauren and her husband bought the property in 2011 and have slowly been restoring it. The main building is three stories with 17 bedrooms, shaped like an ‘L’. Surrounding the Chateau are smaller guest homes, beautiful well kept grounds with scattered gardens and fruit trees, a beautiful pool house and pool, a hillside cellar and museum holding winemaking equipment from the past, the winery itself, and of course, the 8 hectares of Gamay vineyards that spiral around the Chateau. Have I mentioned, everything is beautiful? I settled into my bedroom on the third story, unpacking, feeling like a princess in a castle. I met Lauren’s husband Roman at dinner. We broke bread for my first meal in France, along with Chateau de Briante Gamay and roasted duck. After only sleeping 2 hours on the airplane during all of my traveling, I tucked into bed after being up for more than 30 hours, and fell into a deep sleep.
I woke up at 10am the next day, to find coffee, fresh bread and homemade jam on the table downstairs. I wanted to explore. Lauren advised me where to wander within the vineyard and let me borrow the family dog, Inox (translated to mean ‘stainless steel’) who is a 20 month old ‘white’ golden retriever. Together we walked, Inox leading the way, down the narrow road lined with trees and out the gate, turning left to walk the border of their vineyards. We turned into the blocks, down the middle of vineyard, Inox was in charge. Now, at 20 months, a young dog very much acts as a puppy, even at a full grown size. Inox was more excited than me to be out walking the vineyards – his tail swishing back and forth, his nose in the soil. He was also on a leash as he gets excited and easily wanders off, forgetting where home is.. So the combination of the long leash I am holding and his excitement, quickly gets us tangled within the tightly planted vines that are sprawling along the ground. These vineyards are 40 years old, without trellising or irrigation, planted 2x2ft. Before I can even do a thing, Inox has his 20 foot leash wrapped around 3 or so vines, tangled and caught between the arms and leaves and clusters dangling in the sunshine. I pause for a second, feeling like I am in a movie. The scene – the stupid American, with the French dog that doesn’t know English, tangled in the vineyard that I have only just arrived at. A few minutes later, I had us free from the vineyard, sticking now to just the main path, to avoid anymore comical experiences with Inox. When we got back, Lauren asked how it went, I told her I didn’t take Inox for a walk, he walked me…
An hour later, Lauren’s grand-pere and grand-mere arrived, with rabbit stew and potatoes for lunch. They both are well into their 80’s, in good health and full of energy, and have never left Europe they say, nor do they know any English. The afternoon was spent drinking great wine, eating a beautiful meal, sitting next to her grand-pere as we communicated through gestures and pointing and laughter.