On Facebook, someone just asked, “What are you thankful for in 2019?” One person answered, with great brevity, “life.” I thought about being so succinct, too. I just came up empty… so many words swirled inside my head. Alas, I had such a great expansion in 2019, there isn’t just one word for it, in a one-word association game. I haven’t finished telling the very cool stories of people, places, and things, that have made me so grateful for this 2019 trip.

Life went charmingly bucolic to France in July of 2019. I was on a media trip, for Le Vins George Duboeuf. and Château Roubine Cru Classé; and I have to say, one cannot travel abroad, without becoming extensively broadened. It seems so obvious to write it, but it isn’t clearly apparent until you do it. This makes for sonnets and short stories; not yet for poems or a reflective haiku – not yet.

My first 26 years in wine had a lot to do with the United States. I’ve been to all but four of the 50+Puerto Rico states. That’s a lot of travel. My US studies of wine, most especially Californian wines, have been truly marvelous.


[PHOTO: Lisbon]

Then, I went to Portugal to work with a client, representing many wine brands.

[PHOTO: Rome]

Off to Italy ~ exciting, cultural love affairs in Chianti, Marche, and the Adriatic Sea. I still have some stories living inside of me. I occasionally double back; always will.

[PHOTO: France, taken at Château Nervers]


So, I will now kindly remember Franck Duboeuf, Georges’ son, as we sat side by side, while thoughtfully – also – tasting his wines in his father Georges’ living room, say to me. “I hope you will love France.” Three generations of the family were present. Remarkable, really. They are all devoted to Beaujolais wines.

That’s what France is about for me… love! April in Paris. My foreign exchange student Delphine Brouard, a Parisian who became a designer Scenographe at Cie Interstices, is a former costume designer/scenographer at Conservatoire national supérieur d’art dramatique. Imagine. She got to visit us on Allen Pond in Greene, Maine, before we moved to California. I can’t think of anything else that could be so diametrically opposed… and why I already loved Paris.

Landing in Paris, I was quickly swept away to Lyon. Little did I even know it was the cooking and eating capital of the world. Art was everywhere, so were the foods. Basilicas were just natural part of sweeping landscapes. I absorbed it. I got lost in it, seriously. My GPS had to give me walking directions back to my hotel, while everyone was waiting for me – a dinner appointment was imminent. I think I just arrived in time, after just about killed myself running back, once I got GPS to turn me around.

[PHOTO: Grand Hotel, des Beauxarts]

Lyon is recognized as being a global center for art, fashion, and its culinary culture. It just their natural terroir. It makes perfect sense, would it not, to have the delight of a cooking class? Yeah, it was all that and more. My poor chef. I was the distracted student a bit. Being more into visually documenting it for later experimentation, I had to have images to go back on for memory jogs. It’s just how I do my best writing, for those images.


[PHOTO: Taken at Château des Capitans (Juliénas)]

Off to Beaujolais with Le Vins Georges Duboeuf. I was about to be introduced to their wines, and also their working partnerships: I felt France… I just felt my ancestors being there… Bernier and Ouellette. It felt so much like Maine… As I drove around the countryside, in so many ways, it also looked like Maine. I now understand how US’s Maine got its name. So many people were introduced to us. Some stories are still to be told, because they’re heartwarming stories and need that closure. When I write, I’m taken back into those moments. Flashbacks… We traveled to many settings, many villages, many vineyards. We tasted many wines, shared many meals… It was an amazing experience.

Lovely waving fields of wildflowers, expansive vineyards, and historic people with passion in Beaujolais; that’s what I found. Reading Georges Duboeuf’s autobiography, when I returned home, every single person in his story and their families have generational successes. This began with George’s birth, and it continues on today. As a business owner since 2001, I can tell you that this is remarkable history. My 19-year old business is such a short time, when three generations of Georges Duboeuf wines just continues on.

[PHOTO: Denis Lapaler, winemaker for Les Vins Georges Duboeuf]

To have been given the opportunity to hear so many great stories of life in Beaujolais, the trip was like living inside of a romance novel of people driven to have their region gain a rewarding spotlight. Meeting Georges Duboeuf was like hanging with Robert Mondavi, again. Both men’s lives parallel each other’s. One Frenchman and one Italian… both from birth working the vines and wines. Did it surprise me when I read that the two men were friends? Heck, no. It makes perfect sense.

[PHOTO: Château Roubine, Provence]


After Beaujolais, we segued to Provence…

Oh lavender fields, your sensual, violet beauty; your aromas are seductive and divine, so feminine, so country cultivated… I would come to so love my days being in Provence. While having a summer, country lunch as Château Roubine Cru Classé, I looked at my host Adrien Riboud (partner of Chateau Roubine, with mother Valérie Rousselle), “This isn’t normal living you know. This is very special.” He just smiled.

[PHOTO: Lunch at Chateau Roubine]

France is very hypnotic, given the right circumstances. And, I was fortunate to have the perfect storm, if you can call it a storm… It was a rapid outpouring of many things at once, of experiences, whirling into one great big, ginormous trip that would give any book a chapter… at least, and so I write.

I spent a lot of time exploring the Knights Templar, because I stood on land where they had also lived and worked… All of us working; but oh, the scenery! I could feel their loving every minute of being on that very hallowed ground.

[PHOTO: Nice, on the French Riviera]


Nice… Welcome to the French Riviera, gratis Valérie Rousselle. Sure, I’ve heard about and seen images of the French Riviera. Never in my wildest dreams, however, did I think I’d stand there one day, and look upon blue and white bathing umbrellas, lining the shore. Never… And yet, there I was. Looking at the shaded bathers from the “other” side, looking out toward the sea. I had a backstage pass. Imagine.

[PHOTO: Denis Lapaler, winemaker for Les Vins Georges Duboeuf]

That day had a touch of refreshing rain. My bedroom window looked out unto a garden. I could have climbed outside and was very tempted to, but my group was on the move and I had to boogie. It was dinnertime.

So, I’m thankful that, in my life, I’ve gone to these places, met these people, tasted their wines, been their guest, and am able to share my passion with you.

Now, just to look at each member in my family, and be so thankful for the bouquet of joy they represent, especially when I slip away.

  • Jose, my tiger lily
  • Katie, my sunflower
  • Melanie, my dahlia assortment of colors
  • Lyla, my calla lily
    • Grand children have become the bouquet from all of the above
    • I am most thankful

And you! Happy Thanksgiving, to you and yours.