This post was written just over 2 years ago and I am re-posting in honor of drinking a bottle of the 2010 last night with a dear friend. We spent the night talking and laughing, (another reason for the re-post, we stayed up way into the wee morning hours...as we tend to do, so there was no time to dash off anything new) and I shared this story with her while we drained the bottle. As I recounted the feelings I had the day that I stepped foot on the property of Domaine Tempier while letting the newest vintage from this estate slip past my chatting lips, the dense and full fruit, the stark minerality, the texture just that much more serious than the hundreds of Roses I've tasted so far this year....damn, there's just something about Tempier, I could feel myself being lit up from the inside out. Told my buddy the same thing I do anyone that questions me about the price of this wine, "Is it a $35.00 Rose isn't the question, is it a $35.00 bottle of wine? Yes. It brings me that much pleasure and simply having it on my table fills me with complete and utter happiness"
Haven't reread the post yet, again no time but I'm hoping that my 2 years ago me was able to capture this truly remarkable moment in my wine career.....if not maybe I can write a newer version. Won't that be fun for all of you?!
“She goes down to the fish monger first thing in the morning to get the best and freshest catch. She goes to market and sees what looks the freshest before she plans her menus. People know who she is and she gets the best of whatever they have. She’s and inspiration to cooks the world over and here she is, just a tiny French woman in a tiny village…it’s amazing”
Cannot tell you how many times I had heard that story, how many times I watched Randy’s face light up when he spoke of her, how many times he told people they had to own her cookbook. I thought about her when he would retell this story to someone new, the way his words hung in the air, “she is an inspiration” the whole time thinking, “Here she is, a tiny French woman from a tiny town….inspiring him”.
When I finally got my copy of her cookbook, Lulu’s Provencal Table (by Richard Olney) I read the forward by Alice Waters, (a personal hero….of sorts) and there was this tiny woman again inspiring others…she was becoming a legend, hell she was a legend, long before I had heard of her….but for me, she was now this amazing woman, in a far off place, that I thought of every time I cooked something from her book. While standing in my kitchen pounding garlic into aioli, or making Soupe au Pistou, (Vegetable soup with garlic and basil) I would remember the pictures of her table on the terrace beyond the shutters, the black and white photos of her, young and sweet looking with two baskets of fish, one on each hip…but most of all I would picture the photos of her kitchen, bricked fireplace, tiny curtains hanging from the mantle and a leg of lamb hanging from a rope in the fireplace.
“Sam! Your itinerary is here!” Randy yelled after picking through the pile of mail deposited by our, less than friendly mail lady. I made my way upfront and tore into the thick package, I pulled out the binder sent by the importer and flipped through, looking at tech sheets and hotel phone numbers. “Well?!” Randy pressed, “Oh…oh yeah” I answered and pulled the sheet he was dying to see from the pouch. As my eyes scanned the sheet I felt a knot forming in the pit of my stomach. I had heard that the Kermit Lynch buying trip was brutal, but I was in no way prepared for what met my eyes, “19 appointments in one day?! In Burgundy?!” I blurted, “How is that even possible?”
I sat down with Randy and we went over the trip itinerary, after a few minutes I could tell that this was going to be unlike the other trips I had been on. There would be no schmoozing with winemakers, no walking the vineyards…this was all business, hardcore business. Kermit Lynch has so many estates that there really is no way to see them all in the time allotted, so much of the “visits” would be made to us…in the hotels, that way they could get everyone, or just about everyone in. Not what I expected but it didn’t matter, I was to be meeting with the wineries that I had been hearing about for 12 years…since I started at The Wine Country, Randy used to sell Kermit Lynch wines and the stories of those estates were woven into my education, they were a part of me in a way…through him, and that coming January, (2008) I would see, and taste for myself. So as I flipped through the grueling schedule something met my eyes that I was in no way expecting:
1/20/08 1:45 pm Domaine Tempier, tasting with Daniel Ravier and lunch with Lulu
Lunch with Lulu
Lunch with Lulu Peyraud of Domaine Tempier…the woman with the fish, the terrace, the words by Alice Waters and the lamb in the fireplace…as someone that does not squeal, I just bit down hard on my bottom lip and held my breath to keep from crying.
I remember the first time I had the wines from Domaine Tempier, I was fairly new to the business, my palate was horribly green and my understanding of wines of place was non existent…but I had heard that Tempier was the best so I just had to have it….yeah, I was so not ready, they were far too rugged and earthy in a way I had never tasted, I remember thinking there was something savage about them, something wild…untamed, and at that time, for my palate, too hard. The white I found charming enough and the first time I tasted the Rose, (which was pricy at the time, like $18.99) I fell madly in love. Was it expensive, hell yeah, but even in my green palate state I could tell there was something about that wine…something amazingly different than any I had ever had….
The afternoon of January 20th 2008, when I felt the tiny stones crumble beneath each step as I made my way through the barren tree lined walkway, I again found myself…teeth firmly plunged into my bottom lip, eyes wide but getting moist and holding my breath. Once I was upon the shuttered doorway that led to the terrace and saw the long dining table, white tablecloth, shinning glassware, I thought for sure I was going to lose it….then I saw her, a tiny French woman, from a tiny town was walking towards me, arms extended, the smile of a woman that had known me for years and had been waiting all day for me to arrive, she placed her tiny hands on my cheeks and pulled me down to her eye level…I just looked at her, in her tiny, perfectly fitted suit, let my breath finally escape, her smile widened and she pulled my face to hers and planted sweet little kisses on both of my cheeks….inspiring.
We tasted through the wines in the barrel room, wines that by now had crept under my skin, wines that I now understood, they were still savage and wild, but in a way that I had learned to find horribly intoxicating, and wines that spoke of their place…herby, meaty and warm…I was beyond happy. We made our way back to the terrace area where Lulu was instructing her helper to get the mussels from the kitchen while she lit grape cuttings on fire and laid grates over them…I just stood there watching her place mussels on the makeshift grill and doused them with some kind of oil or butter and before I knew it I had a glass of Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose in my hand…there are no words.
As to not make a spectacle of myself I wandered around the estate a bit, I walked around to the side of the house and that was when I saw someone from my trip, that had been coming there for years, pouring a bit of Tempier Rose on a patch of land that had flowers on it, “That is Lucien’s grave, she brings him flowers” my Kermit Lynch rep whispered. I had heard about the passing of Lulu’s husband Lucien Peyraud years ago, I had also heard how much they loved….loved each other, loved entertaining, loved teaching and loved their home….Bandol. The moment felt so personal, an old friend coming to visit, to pay his respects…I felt I owed them a moment and snuck off around the corner.
I let my nose lead me, I was smelling wild herbs, dust, clay and….meat, and there I was standing in the kitchen…Lulu’s kitchen, the huge fireplace with the tiny curtains and a 3 legs of lamb spinning in the fire. I was standing in the picture, the picture I had looked at a hundred times, the picture that chefs like Alice Waters and Richard Olney had seen….inspiring.
So to say that Domaine Tempier has a special place in my heart is a massive understatement, but in light of the drama surrounding writing up wines that you may have a connection to, I thought I had better tell the story…for me it is a rather amazing story about a girl in the wine business that learned as much as she could and was finally excepted into the fold, able to walk where the others she had only read about walked, sit at the same table, eat the same food and appreciate the wines as they were intended and deserve to be. If that makes me bias, then okay…to me, it just makes it all human, real and as personal as it should be.
Now I know not everyone can spend an afternoon lunching at Tempier, but we can all taste those wines and know through the stories from all that have been there….that these people and these wines are true, honest and pure…they are real wines of place, and to me…that is inspiring.
2008 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose ($38.99)
I wrote the story above because the memory came to me while I was drinking this wine after a long day on Sunday. I wanted to write it up but thought with all the “disclosure” stuff that is floating around…I felt like maybe I shouldn’t…well, that’s bullshit. This is a remarkable bottle of, of wine…it is more than Rose, it is powerful yet graceful, reserved yet expressive and it seems to wrap around your palate and just dance there…the acidity and fruit in perfect harmony. It is worth every penny and is hands-down the best Rose I have ever had.
If it makes people more comfortable not to think about the people behind the wines, if they would rather picture some factory that churns out bottles…go for it, but for me wine is all about passion, hard work, dinners, flowers on a loved one’s grave and in some cases….a tiny French woman from a tiny town that smiles, cooks, kisses and inspires. I should only hope that someday I can touch, even a quarter of the people that Lulu and the wines from her estate have…how can you put a number on that? (Me, Lulu and my friend Mairin)