Sun’s back. Dawn start. Not harvest; just a Board Meeting upstairs at Le Chai. Good one; not too many numbers, more ideas stuff. Loo breaks, sneak quick tastes from tanks. Bloody good Sauvignon this year. The boys are getting seriously good at this. And girls. Newbie Nadja from Oz is a great find. Keeps place neat as new pin. Three groups of customers doing tours, Keyholders. Get photographed with.
Board goes on till 5.
Staff group of 30 arrive for tour. Germans, Poles, Yanks, and Brits – Theale and Gloucester both. My, how multi-national we are these days. They have a blending competition. Am judge. Hey, a couple not bad at all. They name their blends. I like ‘Bella Ella’! As our granddaughter Eleanor is now called Ella too.
Jean Marc does his tasting turn. God, he so loves an audience. Today he can’t make his mind up which of his two roles. Top half dressed shirt and pullover: ‘The Bordeaux Buyer’; bottom half shorts and Blunstones: ‘The Winemaker’. He wows them all.
Then up to our new estate, Château du Bois. Vineyard Manager Aurelie gives Board the tour. Impressive girl. Tall, strict Alsacienne. She was bit quiet, last month. Maybe worried. Huge task taken on. But now is bouncing around. “Sad vines” she says, “now Happy vines!” True. Place so run down after the old man died. Widow didn’t care. Kids had moved out. Dodgy farmer hired. Mostly just nicked stuff of the old lady. So sad.
Now after Henry, Justin, Aurelie and team give TLC, the vineyards look great. We ripped out the worst one. Replant in Spring.
Cellar was found like a grubby Marie-Celeste. Abandoned in mid meal. Now, Aurelie has scrubbed to a shine. (Alsace always has had the most immaculate cellars in France). I felt I should’ve left my boots at the door. Board all dead impressed.
Then 10-min drive to the great château in the village of Francs; far top right hand corner of Bordeaux vineyards. Taxi has no idea. Lucky I know the village so well. Here was the second supplier I ever had; the Cave Co-operative. Now all shut down, sad and deserted. Ah! Dear Cave President Conchou. Thank you for that £200 loan in ’69. You financed a sixth of my original van.
But tonight it’s the imposing château. Restored by our friends the Vossens from Belgium. They sell art and modern design for a living. Have ‘style’ coming out of ears. Place is stunning. So is Anne-Marie and Remy’s food from Le Comptoir.
The idea of being here is to get inspired and lift our creative game.
Ideas are the lifeblood of any business.
We all stood round in circle and told of other companies that inspire us. Then sat down with food, wine, started throwing wild ideas around. Noise! Never let up. Did we do well? Time will tell. But I was very happy. I love wild ideas and originality. Love them. Hate repetition.
On the way home we pass a party scene outside Ch La Clarière. It’s the ‘Staff’ again. They’ve had one of Bernadette’s harvest suppers. And tasted everything we have by the look of it. They are well away. Fond farewells. (Those Polish girls!)
Bernadette starts harvest lunches proper next Wednesday. Been doing them since before we bought the place. Loves it. But then she’s the wife of our old farmer and mother of the current one. Lose a couple of the younger Board Members to the partying. Barbara, Simon, me continue home to blessed bed.
Too old to party? No way! Just not every night.