“Samantha, in what year were you born?” the voice sharp, crisp, slightly accented and so very gentle. I looked up from the simple but beautifully presented plate of roast beef and stained golden brown with butter potatoes, the long table before me lined with faces, most of which I had never seen, voices locked in conversations I could not understand but had been thankful for them for keeping me company and distracting me from feeling like I was about to cry….even more thankful to hear my name and have the question be something that I could in fact answer, “Um 1971”.
Volnay, I was sitting at a dining room table in Volnay on what had been a very trying day at the beginning of a very long trip. It was my fourth day in France and while not in any way grueling, (as later trips would show me) I was having a difficult time fitting in with my fellow travelers, their understanding of this culture, the food, the wines….especially the wines, so far above my comprehension that I had been feeling like some kind of bumpkin. Top that with a day tasting young Pinot Noir from Burgundy, their lean bodies, tart fruit, high acid and tannin ripping the lining from my untrained mouth and having my first attempt at being “playful” with the leader of our group misfire completely which had me getting snapped at….on the way to this dinner no less and yeah…really shitty place.
“This is Samantha Duggan” Michael Sullivan saying my name wrong once again but seeing as he was no longer shaking his finger at me I just let it go. I had been so embarrassed by my misunderstood joke tanking that I didn’t even bother asking where we were going for dinner, just climbed my chunky ass in the car and sulked until we pulled into the gravel lined driveway. I was pulling my notebook from my bag when I heard my name, well sort of my name and turned to see two sweet faces grinning at me. “Sam, this is Hubert and Etienne de Montille”…perfect.
I knew very little about Burgundy but the name de Montille was one I did know and after the greetings and as we made our way into their home….my knees feeling as if they may give out at any second, my head gnawing on scenarios all of which made me look like a total jackass; spilling wine on my white sweater, dumping my plate in my lap…or worse, one of those dude’s lap, tripping, opening my mouth to eat and having the world’s largest burp explode from my chest. I could hear my heartbeat echoing in my ears and I just told myself, “Sam, just lay low, keep quiet and DO NOT draw any undue attention to yourself” this was my plan and for half a second I had regained a bit of confidence. That was until, “Please Samantha, sit here next to me” Etienne de Montille with a sweet smile and somewhat impish gleam in his eyes….holding out a chair at the head of the table….merde.
My edge wore off somewhere in the middle of dinner. The warm slightly orange glow from the light fixtures casting a softness to the large room. The voices engaged in quiet conversations adding a soundtrack to the meal and silencing the thump-thump-thump in my head. Etienne leaning in and asking me questions about where I worked and about my family…the savory aromas from the plate, the quiet seduction in my glass. I was now beginning to understand. A bite of perfectly cooked and simply sauced roast and a sip of wine that while light in the glass took on a weight and power in the mouth…the black cherries, the smoke, the roasted coffee and that sexy as hell tingle, that snap, that leaves you aching for one more sip. The wine was removing more than my edge, it was slipping off my armor and working its way down to my jeans. I was being completely seduced and it showed, I looked away from my glass just long enough to see Michael shoot me a knowing grin, give me a nod of his head and a quick wink before returning to the conversation he was in the middle of. Feeling like I just got caught with someone’s hand up my shirt, my cheeks got a little hot and dropped my eyes to my plate, “Samantha, in what year were you born?”
I sat at the head of the de Montille table while Etienne de Montille pulled the cork on a bottle he had collected from the cellar, no label just white paint on the bottle…1971. I had no idea what I was doing there, no clue what it was I was drinking but….I understood the gesture and as the still very lively wine spilled across my now more ready palate, the earthy, mushroomy depth, the meaty, gamey sensuality and the achingly delicate fruit, the man that would pour this for me simply to welcome me into his home. It became part of me that night and is part of me still. I began my love affair with Burgundy that evening, found a bit of confidence in myself and my palate and it was the beginning of my adoration of Etienne and my passion for the wines of Domaine de Montille.
A lot has changed in the seven years since that night, Michael and I have become very close friends…his patience with me, his admiration, his belief in The Wine Country and me, well these are some of the most cherished things I own. He is one of the most beloved pieces of my life and I am forever in his debt. Etienne and I have met several times over the years and I have managed to keep the jackassery to a minimum (just the one time, pretty buzzy in the parking lot of a restaurant in Los Angeles where Michael and I just HAD to show Etienne that I had Beaune Imports tattooed on my body. Michael and I with a serious case of the giggles, “Michael I should show him my tattoo!” Michael giggling even more now, “You should!” me bending over…sigh…pulling up the back of my shirt while these two inspected my backside. Jackass) and have been honored each time is sweet face lights up upon seeing me. The last time I saw him he was pouring his remarkable wines and charming the hell out of our customers in the shop. We had people telling us for weeks after his visit that his table was the highlight of one of the best tastings we had ever put on. He is a tremendously gracious man and his wines….well both the Domaine de Montille and the Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet (where he is the winemaker as well) are without a doubt some of the most thrilling we have in the store.
So guess who is coming for another visit? Both of them! Gonna have both Michael Sullivan and Etienne de Montille at The Wine Country. Michael will be conducting an evening devoted to another brilliant Burgundian, the wines from Domaine des Comtes Lafon, a whole class with the focus on this one masterful winemaker whose wines we get in tiny, this many or that many bottles kind of allocations. Well seeing as they aren’t flying out the door these days we figured we might as well offer people the opportunity to taste those $100-$200 a bottle Meursaults right? So Friday October 29th for $65.00 a person we will have Michael Sullivan here to explain why the wines from Comtes Lafon are so rare, have people taste for themselves some of the most sought after wines in all of Burgundy. Then on Saturday October 30th from 1:00 – 4:00 PM for a mere $20.00 we will once again be joined by Michael but this time with Etienne de Montille as we showcase wines from both of Etienne’s projects; Domaine de Montille and Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet as well as some of our all time favorite wines from the Beaune Imports portfolio.
An unbelievable weekend full of brilliant wine and two of the sweetest and life changing men I know….cannot wait!