Our first stop was the "Domaine du Pressoir à Cales: Agnès et Thierry Arnault", in the village of Bouillé-Loretz. Thierry himself welcomed us and without further ado escorted us to the tasting room.
We don't know the difference between a Chablis and a Chardonnay. Aaron patiently explained the subtleties of the wine, which grapes produce which labels, and which one is appropriate with lamb and which is perfect with dessert. Each wine is described with wine notes, words such as fruity, woody, full-bodied, and even chocolaty.
Thierry, the owner, was busy opening bottle after bottle with this enormous corkscrew made from a grape vine, dried and varnished.
When we had tasted most of the Domaine wines, perhaps 12 in all but who was keeping count, Thierry allowed us to taste his own private reserve made from pine branches. (This is not the pine tree from Canada, but a leafy branch that he puts directly into the wine vat, which you can faintly see in the above photo.) He mentioned something about distilling rather than just fermenting, and this potent nectar measures out at 19% alcohol content.
Pure ambrosia! It is not for sale and is strictly for personal consumption, so we were absolutely thrilled to be gifted the bottle from which we had tasted this nectar of the gods! A kiss on both cheeks to thank Thierry for this generous gift and to seal our new found friendship. We walked away with four bottles of wine and our "gift".
Off we went to our second wine stop, "Domaine des TraHan", in Cersay.
Jean-Marc was gone to sell his wines at some sort of event so his wife (who is Russian) received us.
She opened two wines that Aaron recommended we try: the "Sauvignon Blanc 2009" and "Le Logis de Preuil Rosé de Loire", winner of the 2010 silver medal.
They proved to be excellent and we bought a bottle of each.
We had a leisurely drive back home feeling very happy. The sun was shining and the world seemed ever so beautiful. We stopped at a boulangerie and bought some baguettes and came home to sit in our private little courtyard and enjoy an al fresco picnic.
The sun was shining and the hanging roses were in full bloom. The figs were growing and would soon be ready to eat. The scent of some delightful plant permeated the air. The cheese was the right temperature and the wine was Thierry's private reserve. Need I say more.
The little gargoyle tucked away in a grotto next to the table where we were enjoying our picnic was keeping a close eye on us, ensuring that we wouldn't over indulge.
We then headed out to Mirebeau, a town about 45 minutes from Thouars, to listen to a symphony concert given by the OPC: Orchestre Poitou Charentes, in the very old church of Notre-Dame. This concert was highly subsidized since an audience of approximately 100 could not possibly have afforded this orchestra. They represent the "province" (département) of Poitou-Charentes and are all directors or instructors in their own right. The crème de la crème.
We had a coffee and then roamed around town waiting for the concert to begin, not realizing that the folks dressed in black in the background of Karl playing tourist by the fountain were part of the orchestra.
This is a poster advertising the concert with the church venue in the background.
The first segment was Adagio for strings by Eric Tanguy, followed by Serenade by Britten for tenor, French horn and strings. The second half of the concert was Souvenir of Florence, opus 70 by Tchaikovsky, which had us in tears, especially the part where the lead violin and cello talk to each other. The acoustics in that church were incredible.
I have recently finished a book called "Le Premier jour" by Marc Levy, and in it he writes: "Il y a des journées illuminées de petits moments de grâce, une odeur qui vous met l'âme en joie, un rayon de soleil qui entre par la fenêtre, le bruit de l'averse alors qu'on est encore au lit, les trottoirs enneigés ou l'arrivée du printemps et ses premiers bourgeons." It translates as "There are days lit with moments of grace...an aroma... a sun ray...a sound..." We felt that today was such a day, not filled with a huge agenda or historical sites, but blessed with sunshine, joie de vivre, wine, new friends, impromptu picnics and inspirational classical music. Karl called the day "as perfect as it gets."