a county affair

In case you’re interested, the thesis is coming along beautifully… and when I say that I mean that local business are being well supported as I shack up to use free wifi and carve chunks out of said thesis for hours at a time. No charts or graphs to speak of yet (it is considered passé to chart someone else’s data in a scientific thesis, when one will have one’s own in short order), but I’m busily refamiliarizing myself with the statistical analysis tools I will need to understand my future results.

I need charts like this… who knows what kind of results I might come up with?!

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the french clos-nection

Once upon a time there was a winery in Niagara named Le Clos Jordanne. It was named thus as the vineyards were surrounded by walls – the French definition of a clos – and was located near the Niagara town of Jordan. Destined for greatness, it was first created as the brainchild of Inniskillin (famed for its ice wine and a subsidiary of Vincor, a Canadian wine company) and Boisset France (a large wine producer, dominant in Burgundy) in order to make world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Ontario. With the earliest vineyards only planted in 2000, the winery was already winning awards by 2005 – the totally famous Judgement of Montreal (maybe only to a select few Canadians though…) awarded Le Clos Jordanne the top award for white wines, among a group of predominantly French and Californian wines. (Don’t worry Bordeaux friends and oak lovers, the 2004 Mouton Rothschild won for the reds…)

What could have been: a scale model of Frank Gehry’s design for the winery, which never came to fruition. A stunning construction, even if my nieces prefer the classic (“It’s a princess castle!”) châteaux of Bordeaux (Château Pichon Baron pictured here). We can negotiate when design for Château Cat begins.

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under pressure

In theory I have lots of time on my hands. I only work 8 hours a day (unlike my previous jobs, it’s a bit tough to bring winery work home). This should mean I have loads of time to write my thesis, enjoy my summer, relax. So of course, I promptly joined a barbershop chorus. This is a style of music I’ve never worked with before…isn’t barbershop just for men? (you ask) Actually, no – it’s a style of a capella harmonization with four voices, which can be sung by male, female or mixed groups.

Easy mistake to make.

Though I’ve sung in choirs for years, this is really different, and very challenging. I’m singing the part of the baritone (though an octave higher than the male baritone voice), and its function is to fill out the chord (the famous barbershop seventh) that the other three voices – tenor, lead and bass; regardless of whether males or females – are singing.

There is NO vibrato. This element will be tough to eliminate after years of classical training, which I’m starting again with a great teacher in Niagara. The vibrato comes so naturally, even my Iron Maiden covers 5 years ago featured it. (We were probably the only Maiden tribute band with much of that… Metal opera: Viking helmets meet headbanging! …..Also, very dangerous…perhaps protective eyewear would also be in order.) And there are far more sequins in barbershop performance than I’m used to – though my short time in Niagara means I’m unlikely to besparkle myself just yet.

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return of the prodigal daughter

I don’t know when the culture of France became normal and the Canadian culture became foreign, but it must have happened gradually some time in the last two years, and it’s hitting me hard on the return home. For example… when going to class or work, in France one typically greets everyone in the room with a kiss on each cheek or a handshake (unless one is late in which case it is awkward. Speaking for a friend). Even at a social gathering where there may be people one has not met before, a girl still does the kisses as if they were new bosom buddies. I’d forgotten that this is not necessarily normal in Canada. Here, if you happen to make eye contact or cross each other’s path, then a Good Morning greeting is in order, but there is no physical contact (absolutely none!), and one is rarely searched out to be bid a morning greeting. This was normal life for me only two years ago, and upon my return, it feels cold.

Early forays into French social scenes took some getting used to, but the return to Canada is a tad… cold…

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the final countdown

In one sense I have many things to write about – the classes being over, the Bordeaux en Primeurs 2016, our class trip to Italy and my subsequent visit to Bretagne – and in another sense I have only one thing to reflect on – that this is the end of my time in France. I’ll start with the first list, heavy on pictures, in an effort to gather my thoughts, and then we can talk about that last item.

The primeurs tastings take us all around Bordeaux: tasting Médoc at Château Arsac in Margaux with a classic(al) lake view (top left and centre); a classmate being interviewed at the Biodyvin tasting at Château Fombrauge in St Emilion (right); a picturesque setting for the Derenencourt Consultants tasting at Château La Gafflière in St Emilion; and a reunion with Domaine Zind-Humbrecht (bottom left) and tasting some of my own handiwork from 2016!

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