As some of you know, we went on a trip to France this summer and we just got back last week. In the last installment, we rented our car and started heading south to the Dordogne, where we were going to be spending the first week of our vacation. In case you missed them, here are the first few articles about the trip:
After the trauma that was the ‘Great Vomit’ (‘Great’ as in ‘big’ or ‘traumatic’ not ‘fun’ or ‘awesome’–think ‘Depression’–see Part Six–and I just threw up a little bit in my mouth thinking about it again), we cruised onto Bourges, where we had a hotel for the night. About 83 seconds after getting back onto the road, both the boys were once again passed out. The rest of the drive was rather uneventful until we came upon a roundabout. My wife was still driving at that point, and, well, she calmly pulled over, put the car in park and said: “Would you mind driving?”
“Nope, not at all.” I jumped behind the wheel and after a few minutes, I asked my wife “Don’t like the roundabouts?”
It had been a while since I had learned something new about my wife (we have been together for over 12 years), and I have to admit I found this one rather adorable. We made it to Bourges without any further incident and eventually to the hotel. The hotel was OK, but it had a somewhat ‘traditional’ French hotel bed–it appeared as though there was a large trough down the middle. It did have air conditioning, however, so it could have been worse. We dropped the bags in the room and decided to head out for some exploring.
The boys did not last very long and my wife took them back to the hotel while I stayed out looking for a restaurant for dinner. I wandered around town looking for potentially good places to eat and went back to the crew with my suggestions. We eventually decided upon a nice little restaurant that specialized in mussels. As we made our way to the restaurant a few hours later, we passed by the town’s cathedral which was being bathed in great late afternoon light. I am not a particularly religious fellow, but I am fascinated by cathedrals.
We first stopped at a little wine bar that had not been open earlier, but I thought it was worth a try. It turned out to have a gorgeous garden and even though it was quite hot, sitting underneath a tree, drinking a rosé sparkling wine from the Loire was beyond refreshing.
N.V. Bouvet-Ladubay Rosé Excellence: We paid 18€. We actually had this wine at home (Wines ‘Til Sold Out), and I really liked it then. Well, we loved it now. The setting, the company, the bubbles, and the week ahead. Outstanding.
We made our way to the restaurant and got a table right away. In fact, we were the only people (other than friends of the owners) there, but it was still early by France standards. There were several types of mussels on the menu and we each ordered a version. Well, they were just OK (but better than our lunch time debacle–just threw up a little again). Our vacation was not off to a stellar beginning from a culinary standpoint. Not until leaving did we realize that other than the owners pals who were drinking up a storm, we were the only patrons the whole night. Never a good sign.
We did manage to get some wine, though, so this meal was already light years ahead of our midday catastrophe (trying to repress the image… too late). Since we were just a few kilometers away from the Loire Valley wine towns of Menetou-Salon and Sancerre, and both are known for their Sauvignon Blancs and that is where we went.
2010 Domaine de Chatenoy Menetou-Salon: We paid 20€. There are two ways to look at Menetou-Salon: either an under the radar good value or Sancerre’s uninspiring little step-sister. This wine was more of the latter. It was fine, but rather blah. No one else mentioned it, which either meant they concurred or were far too jet-lagged to care. It did not make me want to go out into the street and stand on my head or even buy a second bottle, but what do you want for about $25? Average to Good. 82 points.
2010 Fournier Père et Fils Sancerre Cuvée Silex: We paid 22€. For the second bottle, I decided that the Sancerre was worth the additional 2€ investment. We were not disappointed–much more fruit and acidity, just a brighter, more exciting wine. This did not make me want to run out into the street and stand on my head either (truth be told–I could not stand on my head if you paid me, but that does not mean I don’t want to do it…), but I did wish we had bought two bottles of this instead of one of the Menetou. Very Good. 88 points.
While sipping it, we all decided that we should spend the following morning and do a bit of wine tasting before the three hour drive due south (don’t worry, we spit). Originally, we had planned on staying in Chinon, a great red wine town in the Loire, but it was a bit out of the way. We also figured we would all be grumpy and exhausted and in no mood to go taste wine (thinking bsck on this, I now realize what utter buffoonery that thought was), which is why we were in Bourges. Well, after some average mussels and a couple bottles of wine, we were ready to alter the plan. I asked the waiter and his pals sitting at the table outside whether we should go to Menetou or Sancerre. They looked at each other for a second and then all said, virtually in unison: “Sancerre”.
We had our plan for the next day.