A Domestique Dispatch from France: Part One by Eric Moorer

I was fortunate enough to get to spend a day between the communities of Rivarennes and Azay-le-Rideau with a few of our friends who happen to be exceedingly talented vignerons. This was not my first visit with winemakers, but ended up as one of the more rewarding experiences I've had in my life in wine. 

The day started with a six AM wake up and a taxi across Paris to the train at Gare Montparnasse. Roughly two hours and a transfer later, I found myself at Azay-le-Rideau hoping for another taxi to help me to my first destination, a meeting with Adrien Baloche. Of course, there wasn't a taxi in sight, which made for an entertaining walk to the town center roughly a half kilometer away. So, I called Adrien, who was gracious enough to come out and pick me up from the post office. Our conversation in his hatchback Ford was a comical exploration of both French and English as we'd both speak to our limit and then switch to the more comfortable tongue. We pulled onto his property via a narrow road with two way traffic. As a couple of trucks passed us, Adrien made sure to acknowledge each of his neighbors on their way out. He pulled off onto a gravel bit where he and everyone else parked when visiting and we got out.

There it was, La Ferme du Plateau, an actual farm on an actual plateau where a man and his family lived in two combined circular yurts. Before his abode was a corrugated metal structure resembling a warehouse. This was where the goats were housed. Surrounding us was nature by way of forest, and, of course, vineyard. Adrien is clearly connected to farming as his land is filled with lush greens and beautiful, dense trees surrounding everything. He has a charming dog on the property, Tully, who was responsible for touring us through the vineyards and baby orchard. After a short walk, it was time to meet the goats. His girlfriend is responsible for them and the production of the cheese made on the farm. The goats are a cast of characters.

Next, back to the car to head to the chai for tasting. Adrien has many vessels; fiberglass, terracotta, stainless steel, but no oak. He carefully released liquid from the first, then second, then third, fourth, and fifth. The white, from Chenin, was vivacious, racy, and fruit-driven. This was the first white I had tasted from him and I was impressed. This, from his fifth vintage, was stellar. We moved through the reds, all full of that Baloche agility. The new vintages of both the Ovin and Grolleau showed the maturity he has gained as a vigneron, more expressive and precise than their predecessors. The entire time I spoke of my love of his wines, which I could tell made him a bit uncomfortable, but as we tasted through even he was surprised by the quality he had produced. 

Tasting is tiring work, so we decided to relieve ourselves to lunch with his family. His aunt had put out a delightful spread of meats and terrine from the one pig per year that they butcher. A salad of butter lettuce that had been traded for cheese offered a touch of levity to the meal. We all shared conversation in a curious melange of French and English punctuated with laughter. We drank freshly bottled offerings from the new vintage while I played fetch with Tully in front of the yurt. I took in the winter sun in the expanse of Adrien's farm and thought about how this was only the start. 

- Eric Moorer