First harvest and first bottling done, I faced a little issue!! And ‘little’ is me being under-dramatic. Not that little indeed! It was actually the MAIN problem. It’s all well and good to make the best wine possible but… the next step… is to sell it!
I was not really planning on drinking it all by myself.
I could not have customers turning up at the Domain just yet because loads of construction work was still needed and I did not want anyone from the outside world to see it before it was ready. I, alone, knew what the plan was. It was all laid down in my mind. But I could not hope anyone else was to imagine how the Domain would look like once I was done with all the work and embellishments I had in store.
I met restaurant owners and wine shops managers so they could taste my wines. I placed ads in various magazines, which cost me an arm and a leg by the way; and more importantly, I went to fairs to raise awareness towards my wines. I did a lot of those wine fairs in the early years, all around France and especially in the biggest of them all, happening in Paris each year.
As time went by, I was pleased to have loyal customers who were coming back each year. Some of them came to the fair for one reason only, purchase some of my wine and, in these instances, I was overcome with joy and pride… I’ll always be grateful to these early loyal adopters for purchasing my wines…
I was lucky enough to have my wines selected to be included in the Hachette Wine Guide since our very first harvest, in 2008. In hindsight – and remaining as humble as one can be (that’s a joke there, but you knew that already) – luck had nothing to do with it. The wine had been selected because the Hachette Wine Guide judges (a bunch of exacting people) found it to be very good. Some vineyards have to wait for years before their wines are selected to appear in this guide. Mine was in the guide as soon as 2008, that year when I had the occasion to get wines presses to make rosé and white wines. I did not have them for the first harvest because we only made red wine and the grapevine quantity at the time was so small that it was impossible, in 2007, to make other wine colours.
I had to bring customers to the Domain itself. So I went back to the drawing board and conceived the tasting room.
Construction work started in Winter 2010, in a cold like the ones you find in Siberia. Certainly not the ideal time of year but I absolutely wanted my tasting room ready before the following spring.
The bespoke ceiling woodwork was made from chestnut tree wood, by a young local carpenter. Huge beams for this beautiful key element of the tasting room were installed.
I wanted this place to be lively and welcoming so the customers would want to spend time there. Big enough so it could have a bistro vibe, with dedicated tables and chairs as well as, more importantly, a huge bar with a zinc countertop. It was built on site, following my design.
We had purchased rolls of zinc in order to cover the top of the bar counter but it wasn’t easy to shape it as I wanted. The metal would not be shaped in any other way than rolled; it had to have been stored that way for too long. The metal almost won the shaping battle. So much so that I started to wonder, in the end, if it might be preferable (and way easier) to leave it as is, with a wooden countertop. But there was no way a piece of metal would not bend to my will, and we finally managed to find a few tricks and many clamps to keep it in place in the shape I wanted.
The following year, an arbour was built, behind the tasting room; thus allowing groups of people to lay back without being burnt by the sun, and taste our wines just in front of the vine rows.
I was talking about Siberian cold earlier, wasn’t I?
See you next week, for a new chapter of my story.
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Adapted from the original French by Yann Sicamois.