My French Heaven

LIFESTYLE PHOTOGRAPHY AND CULINARY ADVENTURES

Category: Châteaux & Vineyards

The awesome power of greed and gluttony… and story telling

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It’s quite simple really, if you want the people you love to get together (come together), all you have to do is promise to give away presents and really good food. Loads of it. An orgy of food! You can cut through people’s ego and pride quite easily – “Oh, I don’t know if we can make it this year. We owe money to aunt Selma you know and we don’t get along with… – by adding a good old tale or story to the mix:

Example 1: Come to dinner on Saturday. We’ll have a tree and presents for everyone + lots of alcohol + it’s baby Jesus birthday. You can’t miss it!

Example 2: I know we’ve been fighting a lot lately (your new wife being such a gold digger and all), but come to dinner on Saturday. We’ll have turkey and pie and mashed potatoes + a game on TV + we have to give thanks for all those nice native Americans giving us food and shelter when we needed it

Example 3: Let’s have brunch on Monday for a change. Bring the kids. There’s loads of chocolate all over the garden + we have to celebrate the fact that Jesus did indeed come back and that Moses helped the Jewish people escape Egypt

So yes, as I said, the recipe is simple: if you want the people you love to get together despite all the traditional family fudes and usual bullshit, all you have to do is promise loads of free food and presents + nice story telling to create the opportunity. If that doesn’t work, say y’all have to do it for the kids and baby Jesus. Or better yet for grandma who may not be here next year to enjoy it… I think I should have called this post “The awesome power of guilt”…

It’s a little late to post about this, but we had quite a special Easter weekend this year. A marathon really. I had my dear friend Quitterie, her husband and two kids at my house on Saturday. We did the egg hunt in the garden and then took the kids to the ancient windmills on the hill. They loved it! I spent Sunday with some of my nephews in Poitiers and Monday was at my parents’ with another bunch of nephews. Witnessing the egg hunt never gets old…

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For those who are still wondering (and I understand how confusing it can be), let’s review the symbols:

  1. Why do we celebrate Easter? One, to celebrate the return of Spring after the cold, dark and wet months of Winter. Two, to celebrate the resurrection of baby Jesus (grown ass Jesus actually). Three, to celebrate the escape of the Jewish people from Egyptian tyranny.
  2. Why the eggs and bunnies? They are the symbol of growth and fertility. We got that from the pagan traditions (way before the religious stuff came along)
  3. Why the chocolate? In ancient times, people gave away eggs for Easter. Indeed, after the fast and the chicken not knowing they could afford not laying eggs for a few days, there was an abundance of said eggs. They were given away so they wouldn’t go bad. Now, about the chocolate: In the 19th century, chocolate makers in the North East of France and Germany thought it would be fun (and very lucrative indeed) to dip the eggs in chocolate and sell them for a profit. And so they did. Later, moulds were made and real eggs altogether disappeared from the equation.
  4. Why the winged bells? Traditionally, church bells aren’t rung during the fast and few days before Easter. People had to find a story to tell the kids who were wondering why this silence. The kids were told that the bells all flew to Rome to see the Pope and flew back on Easter morning carrying chocolate eggs.
  5. Why eat lamb? In the Jewish faith, the lamb represent God’s commandment to Moses to sacrifice one lamb per family and spread their blood on the doors of all Jewish homes. For the Christians, it represents the innocent being sacrificed, as well as the virtues of goodness and kindness and all that good stuff… In France, we serve the lamb with “flageolets”. The tradition comes from Germany I think…

I am telling you! Just promise food and tell a good story. You can get away with just about ANYTHING!

This year, my niece made a stew: Lamb shoulder (brazed) + tons of shallots (browned) + water and herbs. All this was placed in a cast iron pot and cooked on low heat for 7 hours! We didn’t serve the traditional beans with it, but truffled mashed potatoes instead. It hit the spot nicely! :0) I had lam chops and beans on Monday (I didn’t want to mess with tradition you understand…

When a grand castle becomes a home

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

My friend Corinne and her husband André are what we call in French “des amoureux des belles pierres”, which kind of translate like “lovers of beautiful stones”. But “belle pierres” means more than just pretty stones, it means an old home that has soul and a history. It is about “cachet” and class and history and authenticity. That’s it! Authenticity!

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

And so Corinne and André bought a château near mine a few years back. It is called Château Latour Ségur. It is almost a thousand years old and is nested in a large park with magnificent old trees. Oaks, Lebanese cedars, linden trees… It has a large pond in the back, a rose garden up front and an amazing vegetable garden and orchard at the end of the grand alley. Then there are grand stables and barns and so on and so forth.

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heavenLatour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

As all great people, Corinne and André are animal lovers. There are many dogs running around the château. And chickens and geese and…

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heavenLatour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

A place like this, so large, lost in the trees at the end of a vineyard could look quite bleak and feel oppressive. It takes a lot of love and talent to make it all look as colorful and bright and full of life as it is. These people are madly in love with their home and they have renovated it with so much care and taste.

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heavenLatour Ségur - A heaven in heavenLatour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

Many wealthy people from all over the world buy their dream home in France. They invest in a grand castle and strip it bare. What they’ll typically do is a complete overhaul rather than careful renovation. They end up stripping the soul away. They don’t understand that these stones have memories. They don’t get that old sometimes is SEXY. They do a complete face lift when all the place really needs it a good glass of wine a pretty scarf and a night out with the girls… You see, I, for one, like a woman with wrinkles. It tells me she’s laughed a lot and i’ll probably have a blast with her around…

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heavenLatour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

At Latour Ségur you will find beautiful accommodations and a state of the art spa. This place is truly magical and the couple who brought it back to life are very special indeed!

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

Oh! And André, although he’s pent most of his adult life in the States, is from Belgium! Needless to say he always has the best beer in the fridge and makes “French” fries like noone else!!!

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heavenLatour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

Thomas Jefferson’s favorite wine… and mine!

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This wine, together with Petrus and Romanée Conti is considered the very best money (lots of it) can buy.  The name? Château d’Yquem!

My Dad, who was a Wine Merchant (Négociant) for almost 60 years, has had the chance to taste the very best wines throughout his career. Then one day, he went to a dinner party at our friend’s Clara and said she had served the very best wine he had ever had. You guessed it,  it was a Château d’Yquem. The vintage? 1893! Clara’s husband has been a wine collector his whole life and his cellar is a masterpiece.

Sauternes

Château d’Yquem, officially founded in late 1593 is a “Sauternes”. The Sauternes appellation, located just South of Bordeaux, produces dessert wines. It does so naturally (nothing has to be added to raise the sugar levels). They basically harvest extremely late when the fruit is rotten (noble rot). The sugar concentration then is such that they can transform some of the sugar into alcohol and have enough left to keep the wine tasting very sweet. Sauternes wines have a strong apricot, pear and peach note. Their color is on the darker side of fresh honey.

Yquem was first owned in the middle ages by the King of England (also Duke of Aquitaine). It then went to the Sauvage family and the Lur Saluces family. It was sold to the LVMH group (Vuitton, Dior…) in the late 1990s. The owner, Bernard Arnaud hosted his daughter’s wedding there.

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Dessert wines like these are best served chilled with foie gras, Roquefort cheese and dark chocolate desserts. It is also perfect with dishes that include pears, apricots or peaches… If the wine isn’t cold enough, all you’ll be able to focus on is the sweetness of it. Ever tried warm coke? (Coca Cola I mean!).

After Sauternes, my absolute favorites are South African sweet whites. Delicious!!!

Thomas Jefferson was a big fan of Yquem, and although I can’t afford it, it is my favorite wine too! But if, like me, you love dessert wines in general and Sauternes in particular, I suggest you find some  Château Guiraud. The property neighbors Yquem and it is a very special wine indeed. And much much cheaper too ;0)

After Sauternes, my absolute favorites are South African sweet whites. Delicious!!!

Saiternes

The pictures here are of Yquem of course, but also of the Sauternes area. Truly one of the most beautiful and bucolic parts of the Bordeaux wine region…

Sauternes

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