All the News

Just because I’ve returned to San Francisco doesn’t mean I’m divorced from France, it’s more a trial separation. A conversation with the Walkers trying to answer the question “what is a novel?” brought up a number of issues about how we fictionalize our lives. Selective memory enables us to rewrite the past and, in the present, we choose what to see and retain, especially when we travel, much as we choose what to include in the frame when we make a photo. So we’re always making stories and a novel is just one way of telling stories, something humans have been doing for a very long time.

J’adore la France, but it’s not easy to explain: I’ll always be a foreigner there and the French do not welcome strangers easily, yet I’m pretty comfortable and could probably live there, although not in a small rural village. I’m too much a city kid.

There’s still lots of Maury in my life: making prints for Tom and Susan, writing about Marcel and Carrie for Helen Tate’s company:

Finding Cuvee Constance in K&L:

followed by a short Facebook conversation with Jean-Roger and Marie.

And there’s fiction too, but that’s not ready for prime time.

San Francisco is home and I’m happy to be here – although I might reconsider if the Giants don’t start playing better – but I miss the friends I made there and I’ll go back.

In the interest of fair play for California wine I stopped off at Tank 18, an urban winery and a new venue for Ann Walker Catering. It’s a nice industrial space South of Market with about six wines purchased and bottled under their own label.

That's bacon caramel corn on the left.
That’s bacon caramel corn on the left.

Mary Ann did some business, Larry and I tasted and then I played with the iPhone’s panorama software and discussed mounting an exhibition here.

Tank 18
Tank 18

All’s Well

We’re charging into spring now with warm weather, longer days, blossoming fruit trees and life returning to the streets. The kids aren’t rushing home after school but staying in the streets a bit to play, neighbors stop to greet and say a few words about how beautiful the weather is. Thierry has flowers to plant and asparagus to eat and people stop to chat at the market. The café scene has moved to the terrace and that brings more people out for an aperitif. The 2011 rosés are appearing at the tasting rooms. The wine growers have been pruning and plowing and for some, attention now turns to bottling the 2010 vintage.

Bee at Work ©2012 Ron Scherl

I went to Thunevin-Calvet the other day to watch the bottling of the first vintage of Eugenia Keegan’s Grenache Project. Eugenia is a winemaker who used to live in the Napa Valley, now in Oregon and for years has tortured herself making pinot noir. Now she’s hung up on grenache, making wine here with Jean-Roger and Marie Calvet, and also in Chateauneuf du Pape, and soon in Spain. Winemakers are a strange and restless breed: Randall Grahm, who had great success with Rhone varietals in California (Bonny Doon) has channeled Don Quixote and gone in search of the perfect vineyard to make Burgundian pinot in California. Dave Phinney, whose Zinfandel-based Prisoner garnered huge fans, points and sales, is now in Maury making wine from grenache. Often when you talk to winemakers who have migrated here, the first thing they say is that they were looking for old vine grenache and discovered Maury.

Eugenia Keegan ©2012 Ron Scherl

Eugenia speaks of grenache, not like someone selling wine, but more like a seeker discovering the truth, it’s more religion than marketing.

So I went round to the bottling and as is often true around here found a family affair.  Jean Roger and Marie were packing cases, Roger Calvet, JR’s father was labeling them and Marie’s grandfather arrived a bit later to offer the perspective of his 90 years.

Pappi ©2012 Ron Scherl

Eugenia was nervous. I though this was just a formality, that the moments of truth were in the vineyard, at harvest and in the initial processing. But Eugenia was nervous because all that work was now on the line. She had never bottled in France before, she had never used screw caps. Mistakes made at this point could not be corrected. Professionals were in charge and everything was most likely to go well, but what if it didn’t? She was this bundle of nervous energy who only relaxed when she took a spot on the line, packing the bottles into cases. But Eugenia was in good hands. Her French family knew exactly what to do.

Roger Calvet, Jean-Roger Calvet, Eugenia Keegan ©2012 Ron Scherl

All’s well that ends well.

Chasing Marie

Let me set the scene for you: about 7:30 AM, overcast sky, autumn chill in the air, steep hillside vineyard of old vine grenache noir between Maury and St. Paul.

Vineyard photo
Thunevin-Calvet: Harvest 2011 ©2011 Ron Scherl

Last night at dinner I had a lovely bottle of the 2007 Thunevin-Calvet “Les Dentelles”; this morning I’m photographing the 2011 harvest. Or, to be more precise, I’m chasing after Marie Calvet, trying to photograph her as she manages the crew, picks grapes, drives the truck and throws sticks for her dog, Boolah.


Photo of Marie Calvet
Marie Calvet ©2011 Ron Scherl

Marie and her husband, Jean-Roger run Thunevin-Calvet winery in partnership with Jean-Luc Thunevin. And Marie runs the harvest, really runs the harvest.

She has more energy than an oil company and no time to wait for the perfect photo. She’s a dynamo and it’s hard to photograph someone moving that fast in early morning light. Trudging up and sliding down the hill, bedecked with cameras and a bit of a hangover, I’m trying to keep up with her.

Photo of Marie Calvet
Marie Calvet ©2011 Ron Scherl


She has no mercy. I get to a vine and she’s finished. I focus and she ducks down for the low hanging fruit. I try to anticipate where she’ll go next and she’s off in a different direction. I turn to photograph another scene and she’s finished the row and moved down the hill. I’m getting better photos of the dog.

Finally, there’s a little rest for refreshment and I ask Marie to pose. She hates this and she can’t stand still, I get two shots and the break ends.


Photo of Marie Calvet
Marie Calvet ©2011 Ron Scherl

So we’re back at it and the sun and heat finally break through, sweatshirts come off, pants get rolled up but nothing slows down Marie. I’m starting to think I should photograph the rest of the crew and throw some sticks for the dog, but I really want something good of Marie at the harvest. I plan to follow the Calvets through the year, but the harvest is a special time and I really don’t have what I want yet. Keep pushing, if she can do it so can I. I’m encouraged when she walks past me, sighs and says “je suis fatigué”. Who knew?

Photo of Marie Calvet
Marie Calvet ©2011 Ron Scherl


Photo of Marie Calvet
Marie Calvet ©2011 Ron Scherl

Noon means lunch. I’m still not sure I have what I need but I know I’m done for the day. Marie tells me that they’ll be picking a beautiful vineyard up near Queribus next week and she’ll call and tell me when. I’ll be there.

I plan to invite Marie and Jean-Roger to dinner, but I’ll wait until after the harvest.