The Farmhouse

We as a family have been craving wide open spaces. We also love being city folk, but honestly the way that suburbia has become so crowded lately we were drawn to the open. Hubby has lived in our suburban neighbourhood for his entire life, his parents moved there in the 60’s and were the 3rd people to live there. As time has gone on our little corner of the world has grown to close to 100,000 people. And we are feeling the pinch. Sadly we will still have to shop there, but for the rest of our day to day living we will get to enjoy this.

And if you look very closely you can see the horses from the stables next door.
The Farmhouse
We are taking on a project that could indeed be bigger than we ever imagined, but only in such a great way. We have decided to move from a 10 year old house, in which we just celebrated our tenth year two weeks ago, to a 130 year old farmhouse. We do not own any of the farm land and are not going to become farmers, despite what many have asked. We will be surrounded by corn fields, with horses, sheep, llama, chickens, trees and a dairy as our neighbours. We have already met some of the wonderful people in the neighbourhood and we are looking forward to meeting the rest very soon. It also seems very fitting to me since I come from a farming background on my paternal grandfather’s side and am always reminding you to #thankafarmer when you enjoy your food.
The Farmhouse
There are a couple of out buildings, old barn/shacks and 2 acres to call our backyard. And the most exciting part is that it is just a wee 10 minutes from our current home.
The Farmhouse
There is also a view to die for right out our back door. We look forward to watching this view take shape over the seasons and to watch the corn grow.
The Farmhouse
Most of all we are thankful that we have this opportunity to try and do something different, something hubby has dreamed of for years. BeachMama has her beachhouse and now Hubby has his farmhouse.  I look forward to sharing the changes and growth that will come with owning a Century home.  It will be very exciting, nerve wracking, stressful and wonderful all at the same time. The kids are super excited and have already picked out their room colours and decor (not much is changing, but if they want to think so, we shall let them). And most importantly, I should say, we are going to be learning how to live with less. We do not have the closet storage or basement storage that we have in our current home. We have purged, purged and are purging some more. We have donated, gifted and will be moving more out than in and I for one can say it has been freeing! I may be the biggest culprit in keeping the unnecessary, but it is all finding a new home and for that I am thankful. Now… off to pack a few more boxes…

Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot

In July, when I was in Petaluma I had the opportunity to meet Clémence Lelarge. At the time of our first meeting I was unaware that she was an 8th generation Champagne maker from France. At first, I knew her only as Cecilia Enriquez’ guest. We chatted about wine and the beautiful area of Petaluma.  We started talking about dinner (of which I haven’t posted about yet) and she mentioned that she would be serving her family Champage to us. Of course my ears perked up at the word Champagne and then I mentioned that I would be in Paris in September and it was too bad that she is in California. Much to my delight she was returning home to France, just a few days before my own visit. September in Champagne region is very much like September in California, it is Harvest time. All the work that has been happening throughout the year leads to this short period of time when you get to harvest your grapes.
Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot Vrigny, France
Clémence insisted that I contact her about visiting her in Vrigny when I made my way to Paris.  Of course, my first words were, is it easy to get there, I haven’t been to Paris in many, many years. She insisted that it was an easy train ride and would be well worth it.  Worth it for sure, easy, well not so much for me.  Hubby and I spent an evening finding the Metro station close to us, which was pretty difficult as we were at a main station so there were buses, trains and metro all in one station.  The morning after I arrived in Paris, I packed my bag and headed for the Metro. As I sat there I realized that although I used to travel on the Metro in Montrèal, I hadn’t done so in about 20 years. It brought back many memories for me.  I got to the train station, got my ticket and waited. Once my train showed up on the board I headed out to find it, got turned around and managed to board with about 5 minutes to spare. As the train rolled out of Paris and into the country side, I was in complete awe.  Although the trees and rolling hills looked familiar, the villages did not. Compared to North America, their towns are small and quaint and their buildings are just that much different that you know you are not at home.

Upon my arrival, I was given a truly amazing tour and experience. Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot is not your average (as if there is average) vineyard. They are certified Organic! Yes, you read that right, Organic. They use all natural teas and good old fashioned grass to improve their grapes and when you are standing side by side of Organic vs not you can truly see the difference. Their leaves are greener and their grapes are bluer and when you taste one it is like a sweet explosion on your tongue.  I had never tasted a grape used for wine before and it was truly a treat.

Harvest takes about 10 days and they have a group of workers, some of which have been there for 50 years, that come out to pick. I got to see everything from the picking, transport, loading of the press, to the pressing to the fermentation tanks, to the storage in the bottles.  I can’t wrap my mind around all that I saw in just a few short hours.
Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot Vrigny, France
Vrigny is a beautiful village just outside of Reims (pronounces Rance, yes I learned that the hard way). The village itself seems very tiny, but it is surrounded by the most beautiful vineyards I have ever seen.  And unlike their North American cousins, the vines grow sideways along the rows instead of straight up.
Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot Vrigny, France
One of my first (of many, many, many questions) was how is the champagne so clear when the grapes are so dark.  This is because they press the grapes to remove the juice so there is no skin contact, in other words the juice gets squished right out and doesn’t sit and ferment in the skin (you can see that process in the collage above). I got a wee taste of the juice and it is sweet like grape juice, but not as strong and very refreshing.  Did I mention it was really warm? France was having an extra warm September so it was +28C (82F) which makes the grapes sweeter, but also means you have to pick quickly and get them off the vine. They were keeping a close eye on the forecast as rain was coming and once it rains you really have to move quick so you don’t get mold on the grapes.  It is all an amazing science.
Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot Vrigny, France
I was treated to lunch with the crew from the field, I put my camera down because I wanted to absorb it all. It was incredibly sweet as I was seated in the middle with Clémence and some of the American and English speaking French then further down the table the ones who didn’t speak as much English. I tried my best to use my French, but I managed to mangle a few words (I blame jet lag and being overwhelmed) and they were very good sports about it.  We were treated to a fresh tomato salad from their garden, pasta, lamb, bread (one does not have a meal in France without bread and I was thrilled!!) apple sauce and biscuits.  We also had a toast with Champagne, a little red wine from a friend’s vineyard and some coffee. If I had a lunch like that every day I would one happy, happy girl.
Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot Vrigny, France

I cannot express my thanks enough to Clémence and her family for inviting me to their home and workplace, allowing me to see all that goes in to a beautiful bottle of Champagne. It is a day that I won’t soon forget and have high hopes of once again visiting them and perhaps they will make it over here one day I can treat them to a visit in Ottawa, not sure how it would compare, but I feel like I have time to prepare for it.

#PetalumaMade – Day 1

Petaluma, Californa, July 2014

Day 1
Petaluma Gap - Petaluma California
This summer, two of my girlfriends (ironically both named Krista) and I decided to travel to California for a conference. We were going to arrive a couple of days early in order to tour Napa or Sonoma. We were still undecided just a week before our trip and then one of our friends, Kristi, whom I talked about just two posts ago. Contacted us to see if we would be interested in touring some wine country in Petaluma, California.  We were thrilled and honored to be asked.  Kristi got together a group of bloggers to tour the Petaluma Gap which is part of Sonoma Valley.

One of my (I love saying “my” when really I don’t own them at all) Krista’s had arrived earlier in the week to visit with a girlfriend in Cupertino. Krista was able to join in the tour from the beginning, however, my other Krista (ha, there I go again) and I didn’t arrive until lunchtime so we joined in the tour halfway through.  The group was already at the Sonoma Portworks, so we stopped in there straight from the airport. Although I have always enjoyed Port, I had not truly appreciated Port until I tasted some at Sonoma Portworks and my favorite was the Aris Petit Verdot. We were given a taste of several different ports paired with cheeses and chocolates and they were truly delicious. We were also offered a taste of some fine vinegars that are also offered from the Portworks and I believe I could have stayed all day if I didn’t know that we had another Vineyard to visit.

I have to also give a shout out to Terrific Tours organized by Sonoma Wine Guides, they took care of driving us around for the day and giving way more than the nickel tour, Jason’s knowledge of wine and Petaluma was amazing and even though I missed the first part of the day, I got to enjoy his good humour and infectious laughter for the second half. If I have the opportunity to return to Petaluma, Jason will be the one I call to get me around.
Sonoma Portworks - Petaluma, California
Onwards to my second stop (the fourth for some) Enriquz Estate Wines.  My first meeting with Cecilia Enriquez was as we were dropping off our car at the Hotel and Cecilia offered to drive us to the next Vineyard.  As we were chatting I found out that it was her family vineyard that we were driving towards. So of course felt badly that we were delaying her getting to her guests.  Cecila welcomed us into her home and to tour her lovely Vineyard. at 27 years old Cecilia amazed me at all that she has achieved and made me take a look back at what I was doing when I was 27 and well… yeah, it wasn’t making wine! Enriquz Pinot Noir was my favorite, being a red lover, but I truly enjoyed the white that she served us as well which is very rare for me, it was just dry enough that I could enjoy it.  Cecilia also had the Achadinha Cheese Company in her home to offer us some delightful cheeses (my mouth is watering just remembering how delicious they were).  The curds were by far our favorites (by our I mean us Canadians) we even discussed how to make a true French Canadian Poutine as it is becoming a new thing out their way to make poutine and it isn’t our true way to do it, but a different version.

We all gathered among the vines to pose for a group photo from the day, and prepared to head to our next stop, dinner.
Enriquez Estate Wines - Petaluma, California