“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Saint Augustine

I saw this quote for the first time on an airport marquee at London’s Heathrow Airport. It really spoke to me. It could have been the exhaustion of 24 hours of travel through four different airports, or it could have been a truly inspirational moment. Dianne and I were privileged to be able to travel to France and Italy this off-season. We explored some of the most historic wine regions, including Bordeaux, Loire Valley, Burgundy, and Tuscany.

Bel Estiu in Saint-Genies, France

We met some really wonderful people along the way. All of our hosts at the Airbnb’s we chose were exceptional, and we consider each of them to be a new friend. Thank you Emilie, Mamie et Papi, Jerome and Marie, Lara, and Martina. We would encourage anyone traveling to the areas we visited to stay at any of the places we stayed. All were beautiful spaces in wonderful places with warm, welcoming hosts.

A few empty bottles from Chateau La Perouse

We met some really genuine vintners, too. Folks doing the things we are doing. Good people who know the juggling act that is managing their vineyards, producing their wines, and finding a way to get those wines in the hands of people who appreciate small-production and what family farms mean to their communities. We met Cyril, the vigneron at La Perouse in the Blaye appellation of Bordeaux, along the Right Bank. His 2014 Empriente, a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, was an incredible expression of the fruit, and his energy, enthusiasm, and welcoming smile made the wine even better. He was nervous to tell his customers the wine was 100% Cabernet Sauvignon; it is practically unheard of on the Right Bank. We do not think he has any occasion to be nervous.

At Chateau Guiraud, we met one of the four owners, Xavier the managing partner. We met Thomas DeJean, ninth generation vigneron at Chateau Rabaud-Promis. Both were preparing for the wine press’ annual visit to Bordeaux in the week or so after our visit, and when they each learned we were fellow vignerons, they invited us to taste what the wine journalists would be previewing for the 2016 vintage. What a great experience.

We had the opportunity to visit with the cooperage from whom we first bought barrels in 2016. Jean-Guillaume invited us to visit, and we accepted the invitation. Tonnellerie Bossuet still builds barrels in the traditional method, with everything done by hand. We got to see staves being fitted; a barrel head being repaired; heads being toasted; barrels being sanded and tested. Bossuet currently has 10 coopers who build the barrels, and each cooper builds a barrel from beginning to end. One interesting feature is the serial number on each barrel: The leading digit [or two, in the case of cooper#10] tells us who built each barrel. They are proud of the product they produce, and they ‘sign’ each piece with their cooper number.

These are just a few of the highlights from our trip. Dianne and I both kept travel journals, and it is my intention to take the best bits from each of our journals and post it to a travel blog you can find here. My plan is to post one or two days worth of notes in each blog post, and to try to keep a cadence of two or three times per month, giving us a planned run of about four months on that schedule. We invite you to relive the memories with us.