24 July 2014


Yes, I was being driven. I mean Walt was behind the wheel. We went on a short road trip on Tuesday. The destination was a restaurant in Le Grand-Pressigny, via our friends' house down there for a little apéritif — a glass of bubbly. We walked to the restaurant and then back to their house. The is about the drive down.

Walt driving our little Peugeot, "knocking 90"

When you leave Saint-Aignan to go south toward Nouans-les-Fontaines on the main road, the first few miles are very curvy. They aren't hairpin curves, but they are sharp enough to slow you down and make the driver pay close attention. You wonder why they ever built a road like that one. These are photos that I snapped through the windshield of the car as we drove along.

La Forêt de Brouard south of Saint-Aignan, where the king liked to go hunting 600 years ago

And then all of sudden, halfway to Nouans, the road changes character and runs as straight as board through the Forêt de Brouard and then through fields all the way to the village. Local people say that King François Ier, of Chambord fame, liked to hunt here in the first half of the 16th century. The total distance is about 10 miles.

Nouans is down in a valley and dominated by its big church.

In the church at Nouans, there's a painting (a pietà) dating back to the mid-1400s that was the work of a French artist named Jean Fouquet. Not much is known about its history. It was "discovered" hanging in the church in 1911 by a curator visiting the area from the Louvre in Paris.

After Nouans, the road continues straight down to the next village, Villedomain, another five or six miles. There's no more extensive forest — just wide fields of wheat, corn, sunflowers, or oil-seed rape (colza, canola) and little wooded patches. It's all very pretty, and there is very little traffic, except as you drive by the zoo just south of Saint-Aignan. It seems like most of the people coming to the zoo drive down from the north, because we saw very few cars headed in from the south along our route.

23 July 2014

Wine coincidence

When our American friends Lynn and Joel came over for an afternoon of pizzas, conversation, and (of course) wine, they brought a couple of bottles of the local stuff with them as a present. One was a Saumur-Champigny red, which is made with Cabernet Franc grapes grown a couple of hours west of Saint-Aignan, near the town of Saumur.

The other wine was a Sauvignon Blanc from our immediate area. When I saw the label, I was surprised. I knew we hadn't talked with L. and J. about the people who grow the grapes for this wine and bottle it in Saint-Romain-sur-Cher, just on the other side of the river from our village.

The winemaker's name is Noël Bougrier. I don't know him, and I learned of his wines just a couple of weeks ago. There's a story involved. A few years ago, I asked one of the vignerons who owns and works the vines out back, where we walk with Callie, if he sold wine. I wanted to buy some if I could. He said that, no, he sold his grapes to a cave coopérative over in Saint-Georges-sur-Cher, between Montrichard and Chenonceaux.

One day I was over in Saint-Georges and I drove past the co-op. I'll have to come back one day with my plastic wine jugs and buy some wine, I thought to myself. A couple of years went by, and one day when CHM was visiting he and I drove over to Saint-Georges with the wine jugs in the car. We drove up and down the main street of the village several times, and guess what — I could not find the co-op. And it had been a big white building on the main road, I remembered, that looked exactly like you'd expect a wine co-op to look like. There were pallets of bottles, empty or full, being hauled about on forklifts, for example.

Another year or two went by. I kept thinking that one day I would talk to the vigneron out in the vineyard and get a chance to ask him what the story was regarding the Saint-Georges co-op and his grapes. Often he's on his tractor, and we just wave at each other — he loves Callie by the way, and it's mutual. A few weeks ago I finally had an opportunity to talk to him on one of my walks with the dog. He told me that the old co-op had gone out of business and that he had started selling his grapes to a man named Noël Bougrier, who grows grapes in Saint-Georges but makes wines over in Saint-Romain.

Monsieur Bougrier runs a big operation, judging from his web site, and while he grows grapes himself, he also must buy a lot of grapes all around our region and even over in the Anjou and Muscadet areas out toward the mouth of the Loire. It says on the label that the wine was élevé et mis en bouteille par Noël Bougrier, implying that he used his own grapes for this vintage. Still, I like to think that some of the grapes that went into it might have been ones grown in the Renaudière vineyard by our local vigneron. Walt and I both really enjoyed the wine, which was dry but tasted of fruit and was very smooth.

22 July 2014


The skies over Saint-Aignan, I mean. I guess the weather we're having is typical for summertime. We have a few hot, sunny days, followed by a few cool, rainy days. Then it starts again. The weather is “iffy” most days. It's hard to know what to expect. You can tell from these views out our loft windows.

There's been a good amount of rain, and we've heard thunder on quite a few days. But we haven't had much close-by lightning, and we haven't had any hail or very strong winds. The rain has been good for the garden — as well as good for the gardener, who doesn't have to spend so much time watering.

Today we're driving to a restaurant for lunch with friends. It's not something we do very often. I hope the weather won't be too threatening. The drive will be about 85 miles round-trip. The bulletin météo I just watched on Télématin says to expect showers and a high temperature of about 80ºF.