30 November 2013

With that lamb...

In France, with gigot d'agneau you serve beans. Usually they are the little pale green flageolet beans, which are the beans inside haricots verts when you let the haricots verts grow big. That's what we had with our gigot, along with some haricots verts mixed in for appearance. I didn't take pictures of those, but you can see them in the background on the last photo I posted yesterday.

As a first course, Walt made a salad that he's been making once or twice a year for a while now. It's a radis noir, a black or Spanish radish, peeled and sliced super thin on a kitchen mandolin. And it's the cheese called Mimolette, also sliced thin and arranged on top of the radish slices. The herb is tarragon (estragon) this time; sometimes it's chervil (cerfeuil). The dressing is just a little white wine vinegar and EVOO. I couldn't resist that abbreviation, which I think is funny. I guess you can figure out what it means.

We had a light cheese course after the lamb. We had a Tomme de Domessin — Domessin is a village in the Savoie region, in the Alps. And we had a Maroilles, which is a cheese from the north of France that people find especially stinky. I like it. The Maroilles (pronounced [mahr-WAHL]) is the orangey soft cheese on the right in the photo above.

For dessert, we had Walt's version of U.S. pumpkin pie. He makes it with his own buttery crust, of course, and a filling of pureed or at least mashed pumpkin or squash pulp, flavored slightly with the typical anglo-saxon spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, cardamom) but in very small quantities so that the spices aren't overpowering. He also reduces the amount of sugar. This year, we had a bumper crop of winter squashes in the garden, so he used the flesh of half a spaghetti squash and that of half a butternut squash. It makes a nice tart (we call it a pie in America, but it doesn't have a top crust like apple pies and others do).

29 November 2013

Lamb for Thanksgiving

I went to the local Intermarché supermarket's butcher counter and ordered a boned, rolled, and tied leg of lamb — un gigot d'agneau préparé en rôti — for our Thanksgiving dinner. We've been having lamb for Thanksgiving for many years now, because big feasts of turkey or other poultry in late November and again in late December got to be a little to much.

Mr Charles, c'est moi. It's the name I use when I place an order or make a restaurant reservation here.

Besides, for just the two of us, and most of the time it's just us, a leg of lamb is a real special-occasion dish, un repas de fête. We only cook one once a year. Then we have leftovers for days, the way you do when you cook a turkey for two. The lamb here is very good, of course. This boneless roast weighed 2.3 kg / 5 lbs.

The roast was boned, rolled, and tied. It was bardé on the top side.

Now I'll have to contradict myself. The gigot that the butcher prepared for me was so big that we ended up cutting it in half. We cooked one piece and we put the other piece in the freezer for later. We did the same thing a year or two ago when we got a very large lamb roast from the same butcher. Last year, we had company for Thanksgiving dinner so we cooked the whole roast.

The roast was so big that we decided to cut it in half and freeze one half for later.

We cooked the lamb pretty simply. I just sprinkled it with some dried thyme, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. I put it in a baking dish and put three or four unpeeled garlic cloves around it. Then I put it in a 220ºC / 425ºF oven for about 45 minutes, checking its internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer every few minutes toward the end.

The roast ready for the oven...

We didn't want the lamb to be too rare, but we really didn't want it too well-done. I took the roast out of the oven when the internal temperature had reached 65ºC / 150ºF. Then Walt covered it with foil and a kitchen towel to let it rest for 20 minutes while we had our first course. That lets the heat distribute itself evenly through the roast. Ours still came out fairly rare.

I'm not sure I did a very good job of carving the lamb, but it was delicious anyway.

And that's okay, because it was delicious yesterday. We can cook the rarest pieces of the roast just a little more when we have them for lunch again today, after a shopping trip to Tours this morning. Then tomorrow we'll have cold lamb with boiled potatoes and some home-made mayonnaise à l'estragon, along with a green salad.

28 November 2013

Tornado hits my home town

The town where I was born and raised, and where my mother still lives, was hit by a tornado Tuesday night. That's a very rare occurrence. It was nothing like the devastating tornado that struck the little town of Washington, Illinois, in the Midwest a few days ago, but the North Carolina tornado caused some injuries and a lot of property damage. I used to live in Illinois too, so I've seen tornadoes and the damage they can cause.

I called my mother last night — Wednesday afternoon her time — and she told me there was no damage at her retirement complex but she'd been without electricity for almost 18 hours. That means she can't use her nebulizer to ease her respiratory distress, she can't cook or even heat water, and of course she has no heat. She said it wasn't really cold there, however, and one of her neighbors had a little sterno contraption for heating water and was supplying the neighbors with hot coffee.

The tornado was what is called a water spout — a tornado that forms over a body of water — that came ashore off the ocean at 10:00 Tuesday night. It crossed over the barrier island that lies just off the mainland and then crossed Bogue Sound and reached the mainland itself. It caused damage on the western edge of Morehead City, N.C. (pop. 8,000), where the town's community college, hospital, tourist center, and post office are located.

The area that suffered the most damage is two miles east of the house where I grew up.
The blue strip along the bottom of the image is the Atlantic Ocean.

The college was closed on Wednesday to allow maintenance crews time to clean up the damage. The hospital, despite damage to windows and the roof, remained open, with electricity supplied by a generator. The post office is closed for the time being as the damage is being assessed. The tourist center suffered broken windows and water damage. Most of the population — as many as 6,000 households and business — was left without electricity.

My mother lives a mile from the hospital. There are many tall pine trees on the grounds of the retirement complex, but apparently they weathered the storm — tornadoes are very localized but very intense. Near the hospital a large number of very old and handsome live oak trees were blown down. Over on the barrier island, the roof was blown off a condominium complex. In both areas affected by the tornado, many cars were damaged or even destroyed. There's a short video clip about the event here.

Decades ago, my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents lived in the area of Morehead City that sustained the most damage. That was in the days before the college, hospital, and post office were built. My father and his siblings grew up in an old house on the shores of Bogue Sound there.

My great-grandparents' big old wood-frame house stood where the college campus is now. It was destroyed by a strong hurricane in 1960, when I was about 10 years old. The house was lifted up off its foundation by what was thought to be a tornado embedded in the hurricane, turned slightly by the wind, and  dropped back on the ground just slightly off the foundation. Cousins of my father's were living there and were at home when it all happened. They must have been terrified. The old house had to be demolished. I have vivid memories of that 1960 hurricane and others that roared through in the 1950s.

Many of you who read this blog know or have at least met my mother. I'm sure you'll be glad to learn that she's fine. For her and many others, it was a close call. I hope her electricity came back on soon after I talked to her. When I was growing up in Morehead City, we almost never experienced tornadoes except tornadoes embedded in hurricanes or tropical storms when they blew through in late summer and autumn. Weather patterns have changed, that's for sure.

If you want to see some terrifying video of the Illinois tornado, click this link to OhioFarmGirl's recent blog post about it. And Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the U.S.

27 November 2013

La fin des coings, et des petits pains

I tried but it didn't work out. I told my friend Jean in England that I would try to save her at least one quince from this fall's crop. I was optimistic, but one by one the quinces, les coings, developed brown spots and had to be used before they rotted entirely away. (Here's a link to Jean's blog.)

I noticed a couple of days ago that the last quince had developed a big brown bruise around its stem end. So it won't last until Christmas, which is when Jean and her husband Nick will be coming back to France. Sorry, Jean.

OhioFarmGirl, who blogs about her life on a farm and also comments on this blog, asked me if Walt and I really did have meatloaf sandwiches for lunch last Sunday. We did. I didn't take any pictures of the sandwiches, but I did take pictures of the beautiful buns, or petits pains, that Walt made.

He made pizza dough, actually, following writer Jim Lahey's method. That means making a fairly wet, sticky dough with just a quarter-teaspoon of yeast and letting it rise at room temperature for 18 hours. The long rise or fermentation gives the resulting pizza crust or bread good flavor and texture. The dough needs no kneading.

These petits pains were delicious, but we also really like the recipe I used to make hotdog buns a couple of weeks ago.That one has more yeast in it, and some egg. It rises for a shorter time and does require kneading (recipe and photos in this post). It wouldn't make pizza crust as good as Lahey's dough, but it does make good rolls or buns.

26 November 2013

La vie continue

Some days there's bound to be a "is that all there is?" feeling in the air, even here. Or worse. It's been nearly 11 years since we focused our lives on France and Saint-Aignan, after all. Here we are facing our next winter. Things look bleak. Ho-hum.

Even though Walt and I have congratulated ourselves on the successful transition we've engineered, you can't be bouncing off the walls with joy every day. The best you can hope for is a kind of long-term satisfaction. Do we enjoy what we do every day? Yes. Do we like living in this house? Yes. Do we still love French food, history, landscapes, markets, and people? Yes. Are we learning something new every day? Again, yes. Are we getting some exercise every day? Yes, thanks to the dog, we have to. Did we rescue a cat? Yes, we did. Are we eating our greens?

I read blogs where recently arrived expatriates lament the feeling that French people aren't motivated to work hard at their jobs and give their all to satisfy their customers. Some say it's because there's now a socialist government in Paris. People just want to take long lunches, work short days and weeks, and live off the misguided generosity of the socialist political figures who pander to them. I'm not convinced.

Some older people I talk to tell me that it's a shame that the younger generation can't enjoy the life, the prosperity, the comforts that their parents and grandparents enjoyed. Does that make sense? World War II... duh. World War I... re-duh. The future will be catastrophic, they say. A major crisis is coming. As somebody once said: « Après moi le déluge. »

On another subject, it's interesting to me that some expats who've lived here for a year or two already have developed a very elaborate analysis that convinces them France is going to hell in a handbasket. Based on what experience do they think that? I'll tell you what I think after 40 years of life in France. It's always been like this. There is always an economic crisis. Skies are gray. Work is a pain. Customer service? Well customers want to be spoiled — don't we all? Get over it.

If you've ever watched many French films, you know that what they call « le happy end » that American films are so famous for is not a part of the French mentality. It seems too pat, too simplistic. Life just goes on, with its trials and its joys, for year after year, generation after generation, century after century. It's been this way for nearly 2,000 years. Change is constant, but slow. Relax. Enjoy it. Who sang this: "The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time..."?

There. I feel better already.

25 November 2013

Chat noir, feuilles mortes

I was out on the deck, continuing to figure out what I'm going to do with all these potted plants, when I heard Bertie meowing. I looked for him and then realized he was down below, sitting in the sun on a pile of fallen leaves. I hope he was enjoying the sunshine, even though the air was downright cold. Maybe his black coat soaks up the heat of the sun.

Bertie will be eight years old next spring. He has definitely settled in here since 2010, but I don't think he is happy about there being so few people in the neighborhood these days. In fact, there are exactly five of us, occupying three houses out of the nine in the hamlet. Bertie loves people, and would love Callie the collie if she would let him, I'm sure. She won't.

Almost all the leaves are off the two big maple trees out front now. Soon it will be time to go rake them all up. Luckily, we're supposed to have several dry sunny days this week. It's cold, but not yet down to freezing on any regular basis. Walt wants to mow the yard one more time. Other parts of France, down toward Lyon and in the Massif Central and Alps, have already had significant snowfalls.

I'm trying to figure out which of my potted plants can survive a winter outdoors, and which ones must absolutely be brought indoors if I want to keep them. This exercise almost makes me miss San Francisco, where I could leave nearly all the potted plants outdoors all winter, because the temperature never dipped below 5ºC / 40ºF.

24 November 2013

Notre cuisine à nous

What's going on in the kitchen? Well, I wanted a meatloaf and Walt wanted some split pea soup. We made both. Not on the same day. First the meatloaf. We'd gone shopping over in Selles-sur-Cher, 10 miles east from Saint-Aignan, last week. There's a relatively new supermarket over there that we wanted to check out.

It turns out that it's a Belgian chain, or the French subsidiary of a Belgian chain. The name of the chain of supermarkets is Colruyt. (Maybe somebody from Belgium can tell me how to pronounce that.) We were impressed with the cleanliness and organization of the store. And the produce prices were amazingly low. A big stalk of celery, for example, for 99 cents. The same thing at the SuperU in Selles was 2.69 euros. That's just one example.

We bought beef at Colruyt too — the butcher counter was well stocked and the meats beautifully displayed. We will return.

I don't really have a recipe for the meatloaf. C'est une sorte de terrine ou pâté qu'on peut manger chaud ou froid. I finely diced up some carrot, onion, roasted red pepper, celery, and mushrooms. I mixed all that with a couple of pounds of ground beef, with just a little pork added in. I put in three eggs and some herbs and spices, and I made two meatloaves, one to eat and one to freeze for later. Today we're having meatloaf sandwiches for lunch, on homemade buns.

The soupe de pois cassés was even easier and more free-form. First of all, we had a liter of well-flavored broth left over from that potée I cooked last week. And we had the split peas. All we had to do was boil the peas in the broth until they were done, and then season it all with salt and pepper. I added three peeled garlic cloves to the pot.

We also bought a piece of smoked pork, at SuperU. The cut is called the palette, which is a shoulder-blade roast, which you might cook as part of a potée or a choucroute garnie. To prepare it, you soak it in cold water for 24 hours in the refrigerator, and then you throw out that water, cover the palette with fresh cold water, bring it to a simmer, and cook it for an hour or more. A couple of bay leaves, some black peppercorns, and two or three cloves (clous de girofle) are good in the cooking liquid.

Once the palette is cooked and cooled, dice up some of the meat and add it to the pea soup at the last minute. Serve with a spoonful of crème fraîche.

At SuperU in Selles, we came across a good-looking countertop oven. We'd been thinking of getting one, to replace a decrepit toaster oven that we were tired of looking at. On an impulse, we bought the SuperU oven, a Brandt model. The price was right. I know it's early, but Merry Christmas to us.

23 November 2013

Un rayon de soleil

There's a water tower, what in French is called un château d'eau, on the other side of the Cher River from us, up on the highlands on the north bank. You can see why they call it a château. It looks like it could be one, or at least the main tower of a castle. It's especially striking when fog has settled in the river valley on a chilly but sunny morning.

Now these photos are more than a week old. The weather hasn't cooperated with the photographer much since he took them. (He is I.) The mornings are dark — too dark for taking photos — because of the late sunrise at this time of year, and because of foggy weather. I'd wait to go out later but Callie wants to go at eight o'clock. Later in the morning, I'm busy in the kitchen anyway.

The sun will rise at 8:10 this morning. Skies are supposed to be overcast until late in the afternoon. Tomorrow and Monday look sunnier. Yesterday I was at the supermarket, waiting in line for a long time to get checked out as one item after another that shoppers ahead of me had chosen wouldn't scan. Price checks always really slow everything down.

The woman immediately ahead of me had put two liters of some special low-lactose milk in her cart, and each liter scanned at 10.50 euros. That couldn't be right, she said (it would be $14 for a quart of milk!). The cashier called several people on the telephone, waited a while, and finally, getting no help, she had to leave the register and go somewhere toward the back of the store to find the correct price. In all, it took 10 or 15 minutes, as I just stood there waiting to get my ten measly items scanned, paid for, and put in the bag. Interminable.

It's always like that in this particular supermarket, I kept thinking. Why do I bother coming to shop here? Finally, the cashier came back to her register and said she had found the correct price: €3.50 per liter. C'est trop cher, the customer said. I don't want the milk after all. My baby will have to drink regular milk like the rest of us do. So we had waited 15 minutes for what? Nothing? Oh well, that's life, I guess.

Oh, I forgot the point of my story. The young woman at the cash register finally came to my purchases, and she said she hoped she wouldn't continue having problems getting items to scan. I smiled at her and said I hoped so too. I wasn't her fault, after all. As she scanned my first item, she suddenly turned her head and looked out toward the parking lot. Regardez, she said, mesmerized. Un rayon de soleil ! She was right. The sun had broken through the morning low clouds. We were all happy about that.

22 November 2013

Fog, but greens and reds too

Here's the view out the back window just a couple of days ago. You can see that there are still apples on the trees all around us. But the old stone shed out in the vineyard has almost disappeared into the fog.

We've also had more rain and chillier temperatures, but no significant freeze or frost yet. Yesterday morning, it was raining so hard that Callie didn't want to go for her walk. We went outside and she did her morning business, but when I tried to get her to walk down the road she looked at me with a forlorn expression.

We just came back home, after five minutes in the rain. Rain means everything is green now, and there's a patch of grass that Callie enjoys nibbling on when she goes outside. See, we still have flowers, this late in November. Those are called capucines in French.

Walt posted a closeup view of some of these rows of red-leaved vines a few days ago.

My computer has been running fine since I opened it up and vacuumed it out yesterday morning. In fact, the noise was gone before I took the vacuum cleaner to it. I don't know what was wrong with it. Maybe it was just having a moan, as our English friends say. I expect the whining noise will come back sooner or later.

21 November 2013

Computer problem and backup plans

I got out of bed as usual and turned on my desktop computer upstairs. I have the same routine every morning. Then I came downstairs to make a pot of tea and start reading mails and writing a blog post. As I got to the bottom of the stairs I heard a loud, sad whining noise coming from upstairs. No it wasn't Callie, and it wasn't Walt. It was my computer.

I had to go back upstairs in the dark and turn the computer off. I hope it's just the cooling fan and not a hard disk that is dying. Actually, I've never known a hard disk to make noise like that, and I've had several of them die on me since I started using computers at home about 25 years ago. So it must be the fan. That should be easy enough to fix or replace.

The problem is that I have literally hundreds of thousands of photos going back to the 1990s, both raw, straight-out-of-the-camera images and Photoshop-edited, blog versions of many of them, stored on the main hard disk on that desktop computer. The computer itself is nearly seven years old; the hard disk is newer, but not by much. I have a second, external hard disk plugged into a USB port, and I have all the photos and many other documents and archives backed up on that disk. It is therefore unlikely that I have lost much, whatever the computer problem might be, because I just did a backup two or three days ago. I didn't have anything special to do this morning — but now I do...

All that is to say that I don't have access to my photos this morning. What I do have is a collection of photos from my two Paris "vacations" last summer stored still on my tablet computer. Here are some of those that I never got around to posting. These are photos of a big monument to the 19th century French scientist Louis Pasteur that stands in the neighborhood where my friend CHM has his apartment. The Institut Pasteur is also in the neighborhood.

Pasteur of course came up with the process named after him, pasteurization, based on the germ theory that discredited old ideas about spontaneous generation being the cause of food spoilage. In other words, food like broths, wine, beer, and milk spoiled because of germs floating in the air, and not because organisms developed in them spontaneously. He also contributed to the development of modern vaccines, including the rabies and anthrax vaccines and immunizations for animals and humans. You might know a lot more about all this than I do.

The Pasteur monument in Paris is on the circular Place de Breteuil, not far from the Sèvres-Lecourbe metro station, nor from the guilded dome of the Invalides church where Napoleon's tomb is located. There's a well-known restaurant, Le Bistro de Breteuil, on the Place, and there's a fine open-air market a couple of days a week on the Avenue de Saxe, just on the other side of the Place. The Avenue de Breteuil and the Place de Breteuil make up one of the most beautiful areas of contemporary Paris.

20 November 2013

Winter soup

The temperature this morning is a mere 1ºC, or about 34ºF. That's the coldest temperature we've had in many many months. To prepare, I've now brought in all the big potted plants — aloe, jade, agave, etc. — that spent the summer and fall outdoors. We haven't had snow, but the region around Lyon has as much as 6 or 8 inches on the ground.

A potée of pork and winter vegetables

And to fortify myself, today I'm making soup. I said a few days ago that we were having a potée — a big boiled dinner of vegetables and pork. I haven't blogged about it since, so I'm putting a couple of pictures here.

The view last week over the back hedge at La Renaudière, outside Saint-Aignan in the Loire Valley

The vegetables that went into the potée were collard greens and kale, onions, carrots, leeks, and potatoes. The meats were a salt-cured pork shank, a fresh pork loin roast, and a couple of smoked Montbéliard sausages from eastern France. Herbs like parsley, coriander, and bay leaves lent flavor, along with some garlic cloves and some clous de girofle (cloves), plus black peppercorns. And the cooking liquid was chicken broth left over from poaching a bird a few days earlier.

A lunch of leeks (foreground), carrots, potato, greens, pork, and sausage

We've had two meals of potée since Saturday. There's still some left, and that's what I will make into soup today. I'll spent a little time dicing up all the leftover vegetables and meats, and then heat them up in the potée broth, which is pretty richly flavored at this point. That should warm us up despite the chilly temperatures outdoors.

Peaceful daily walks around the vineyard with Callie have replaced the long commutes
and endless traffic jams that I had to deal with back in the 1990s.

My father died 23 years ago, in November 1990, at the ripe old age of 64. He and I were both born in March. That means I have officially outlived him now, because I turned 64 last spring. Was quitting work, selling everything in California, and moving to France the right thing to do, from today's perspective? It was. I wonder what the state of my health would be if I were still in California, fighting the traffic, the noise, the cypress pollen, and the work stress.

19 November 2013

More about Romorantin grapes and wineries

I realized after posting yesterday that I hadn't given the names of any wineries in the Cour-Cheverny appellation, where wines from the Romorantin grape are made. Romorantin is not grown anywhere else.

It was one of those coincidences, but Walt was looking at the TV schedule last week, just a couple of days after we had visited the the cave cooperative in Mont-près-Chambord, and he noticed that one program we like to watch, called Echappées Belles, was doing an episode about the Sologne region. We watched it Saturday night.

By the way, the grapes in the photos accompanying my post today are not, I repeat not, Romorantin grapes.

Besides a report about happenings in the zoo at Saint-Aignan (le ZooParc de Beauval) and at the Château de Chambord, the host, Jérôme Pitorin, also did a segment on the Cour-Cheverny wine district and the Romorantin grape. He feature a woman named Laura Semeria who is a vigneron near Cheverny and who owns and operates the Domaine de Montcy.

You can watch the Echappées Belles video about Sologne here (at least if you are in France; I don't know if you can watch it in other countries). The segment about the grapes and wines starts around minute 55, and the show lasts 90 minutes in all. You can get the Domaine de Montcy web site here.

The other producer I'm aware of is a grape-grower and wine-maker near the village of Soings-en-Sologne named Henry Marionnet. His Domaine de la Charmoise is where "the oldest vines in France" — pre-dating the phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century — are planted. Marionnet is getting older, and his son Jean-Sébastien will take over the operation from him.

The Marionnets' web site is full of information about the grapes they grow and the wines they make. Their vineyards and winery are located only 20 miles from Saint-Aignan, and less than 20 miles south of the Château de Chambord.

Note: The photos in this post are ones I took out in the Renaudière vineyard last week. They are just decorative here. I'm not even sure why these grapes were still on the vines so late in the season.

18 November 2013

Cépage Romorantin

Cépage in French means grape variety. I've been here in the Loire Valley for more than 10 years now, but I learn something new about the local grapes every month.

The part of Touraine where Saint-Aignan is located is the Vallée du Cher, the local river that is a tributary of the Loire. The wine production areas along the Cher River are now in what has been dubbed the Touraine-Chenoceau appellation. The main grapes grown here are Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay Noir, Côt (a.k.a Malbec), and Cabernet Franc.

Just north of Saint-Aignan, south of Blois, is a different wine district called Cheverny. It's centered on the town and château of Cheverny. I knew of its existence, and we've had Cheverny wines in restaurants, though we had never been up that way to buy wine for home consumption until last week. I thought that Cheverny wines were made with the same grapes, basically, that are grown around Saint-Aignan.

And they are, with one exception. There is a separate wine district, sort of embedded in the Cheverny appellation, called Cour-Cheverny (which is another village in the area). All the wines that carry the AOC Cour-Cheverny are made with a grape varietal called Romorantin, named after the largest town in the Sologne region. Saint-Aignan is on the southwest edge of Sologne and on the eastern edge of the old province called Touraine.

The Romorantin grape is used to produce white wines in the Sologne. The grape has an interesting history. It seems that the Renaissance king François 1er, who had a residence at Romo (as it's called locally) in addition to his residence at the Château at Blois (among others), ordered 80,000 grape plants from Burgundy in 1519, about the time he started construction of the grandiose Château de Chambord.

The grapes he had brought in and planted in the Sologne came to be known as the Romorantin cépage. Recent DNA testing has shown that Romorantin is a hybrid of Pinot grapes and another varietal called Gouais Blanc, which is not well known or even well regarded in France. (I think Gouais is grown more in Germany).

The Romorantin hybrid is not very well known either. Apparently, it used to be grown more widely around the Loire Valley, but nowadays there are very few vineyards (about 150 acres in all) planted in Romorantin, nearly all in the Sologne. In fact, one local grape-grower and wine-maker claims that he has the oldest vines in France on his property just a few miles northeast of Saint-Aignan. They were planted in 1850, and they somehow survived the phylloxera epidemic that devastated most of the vineyards in France and other parts of the world in the late 19th century.

There is a lot of information about the Romorantin grape and the Cour-Cheverny appellation on the Internet. I don't know why I had never researched it before. Oh, and I bought a bag-in-box of white Romorantin wine called the P'tit Blanc at the wine co-op at Mont-près-Chambord last week. Note that it is a 2006 vintage, which makes it pretty old compared to most Loire Valley wines. They sell it for about 2.20 euros per liter.

I have to say it's very good. It reminds me of Chardonnay. I particularly like French Chardonnay wines like Chablis and Mâcon, not to mention Blanc de Blancs Champagne wines, which are 100% Chardonnay. Now I know I like the Romorantin P'tit Blanc too. I foresee more trips to the Mont-près-Chambord wine cooperative in my future.