* Between The Sea (the Med) and The Alps -- {Pronounce: ontruh la mair eh lay zalp}

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Creating a Provençal Fête

01 Wine Fête 2016Every year, usually in May, we are standing house guests for an annual wine festival held in our hosts' region.  While the cold buffet is just on Saturday afternoon, we arrive on Friday and stay until Sunday.  Not only does it make a lovely weekend get-away for us, but it provides an opportunity to visit with a dear family at least once a year. 

Sadly, last year's event was cancelled due to the death of their oldest son shortly beforehand, but we were still invited to visit a bit later.

Two years ago, I shared the afternoon's event with you.  Last year, I took you on a tour of the area instead.  This year, I thought I'd show you just what goes on behind the scenes to succeed at this marvelous event.  Doc Leo and I do our best to earn our keep!  Even the youngest generation is getting schooled on how to continue posterity.

02 Wine Fête 2016
Beet mousse with feta cheese
As their location is half a day's drive away, we usually enjoy the route and arrive for dinner.  This time, as extra preparation hands were needed, we were invited to arrive for lunch. 

03 Wine Fête 2016
The family regrouping before the afternoon's work

Knowing how much the Doc loves beets, they made a beet mousse salad for him. 

And being French, the meal ended with the traditional cheese platter!

04 Wine Fête 2016
We've known Caroline since she was in high school!

Then it was au boulot, or let's get to work!  The daughter, Caro, who is the baby of the family, has been in charge of this event for years. 

She plans the menu and makes most of it herself.  Others have brought additional items in the past, but a few extra were there to pitch in and help out this year. 

It was a difficult time for everybody, being the first one without oldest brother Vincent, and it was amazing to see so many people just materialize to help the family.

One of the funniest things was to be in this several hundred year old house with a very traditional kitchen, and one of the youngest adults whom I've known since she was about ten was using her Wi-Fi tablet for a cake recipe!

05 Wine Fête 2016
A family friend helps chop veggies
07 Wine Fête 2016
Her cousin makes a cake
06 Wine Fête 2016
Her aunt also helps out

08 Wine Fête 2016
The desserts get finished one by one

As each dish gets prepared, it get covered in plastic wrap and set on the big table, waiting to be carried to the big cold storage room.  That is a huge walk-in refrigerator that made their food preparation so much easier when they got it.  And they manage to fill it up for this event! 

Nicole manages to stay quite calm in planning to host around 150 people. 

In addition to preparing the food, the dishes all need to be collected and counted.  Counting the silverware has somehow become my job over the years.  Plastic ware is reserved for the desserts.

While the cooks were preparing the various dishes, the guys prepared the wine bottles for sale.  After all, that is one of the objectives of this event!  Doc Leo ended up taking the full bottles and lining them up to be labeled. Romain, the son now taking over the reins from the dad, operated the labeling machine, while his uncle and nephew packed the now labeled bottles into boxes ready to be sold.

09 Wine Fête 2016
Undressed wine bottles . . .
11 Wine Fête 2016
. . . being packed away
10 Wine Fête 2016
. . . getting their labels, then . . .

12 Wine Fête 2016
Mamie taking a stroll with Alpine Queen

While we typically only visit this family once a year, we've become part of the family when we are there.  We've gotten to know the mother of the Quatre Filles (four daughters) quite well, and we always call her Mamie (Grandma) like everybody else. 

As she's around 90 now, she isn't able to walk into town alone to get her daily paper any more, but she still needs to get out and exercise. 

I felt very privileged being trusted with the duty of escorting Mamie on her daily walk, as of course the family is very protective of her.  Notice the old vines ready for fireplace and barbecue fuel.

13 Wine Fête 2016
The Doc and weeds!
14 Wine Fête 2016
Putting all ages to work

Doc Leo was given one of his most favorite things to do, NOT!, of trying to clean out nasty weeds and thistles from the pool area to create a nice ambiance for the guests.  Fortunately, he was needed for more pressing jobs most of the time.

15 Wine Fête 2016
One ... two ... three ... LIFT!
Meanwhile, the cousins filled a bunch of water bottles from the natural spring on the property.  One can't start learning too early how it all works!

Not knowing how clement the day would end up, the guys decided they should put up some tents, either against rain or against sun. 

They made quite a production out of it.

16 Wine Fête 2016
Making sure the tablecloths don't fly away
Once the tables were set up, mother and daughter covered them to make them look nice, but they had to tape everything down against the inevitable wind of the area.

17 Wine Fête 2016
Ah, the rewards for hard work
Finally, it was time for the guests to arrive, so the guys got a well-earned head start on a wine tasting with the annual guest vendor from Alsace.

18 Wine Fête 2016
How about a homemade specialty from Burgundy?
19 Wine Fête 2016
Or perhaps pizza?

Now our jobs changed to serving all the guests during the aperitif time. 

I was still limited with my shoulder tendinitis, so I carried around a basket of delicious biscuits, while the Doc offered little pizza squares to everybody.

20 Wine Fête 2016
Mother/daughter team unwrap the dishes

Then it was time to really hustle and get out all food from the back of the house and get it all unwrapped before the guests got too impatient. 

It's always amazing to watch a few of these regulars who have been served all the aperitifs they care to munch and taste all the wine they care to get started on get all excited about digging into the buffet before it can even get set up. 

Over the years, they never seem to improve their behavior.

21 Wine Fête 2016
The guests dig in!
22 Wine Fête 2016
A table of old family friends
But finally the serving line gets started, and it's kind of fun to watch all these people sit back and have a good time, despite the whirlwind effort it takes to achieve this.

23 Wine Fête 2016
A successful sale
24 Wine Fête 2016
Another sale
After being wined and dined, the hope is that everybody will give the guest vendors a little business, as well as buy wine from the Chateau.

I did my part and got a little kitty statue from a regular pottery artist.  I have various things around my garden bought from her in the past, and this time she had a cat that I got in honor of our dear departed Romea.

25 Wine Fête 2016
Romain doing his best to entice a sale

Meanwhile, Romain stayed busy offering his wares.  His brother mostly worked in the office handling billing and customers, but he primarily works in the fields and has developed his own special blends. 

This year, his uncle stepped in to help with the tasting and sales.  I don't know if he just did it or was asked in advance, but it was so touching to see everybody try to fill Vincent's shoes.

26 Wine Fête 2016
Relaxing after a job well done

27 Wine Fête 2016
A few leftovers
Finally, the afternoon is over, everything is cleaned up, and everybody has packed up and gone home.  And now the hired help can rest, too. 

Jean Paul has served in the role of caterer without providing the food for a number of years.  He often presents a flamboyant image, is a super hard worker, and is generally just a whole lot of fun. 

28 Wine Fête 2016
Three of the famous Four Daughters
The Chateau is named for the four sisters, but one of them lives in the north of the country and isn't usually part of this event.  But the three local ones are normally available, and now they are able to relax a little after a job well done.

To finish off the day, the family members all share the evening meal, normally eating up all the leftovers.  We felt honored to be invited to join them one year, and now it's just automatic that we are considered family, too.

29 Wine Fête 2016
The whole extended family of four generations, as well as the Alsatian and the Americans

30 Wine Fête 2016
Two of my favorite people we've known nearly 20 years
31 Wine Fête 2016
My lovely friend
As a token of my affection, I made my hostess a little summer cardigan for cool evenings.  I hope it works well for her.

I hope you've enjoyed this little window into a typical Provençal's family's life.  I've tried to leave visible a bit of the house and grounds for your pleasure, as well as present a family near and dear to our hearts.  This has been a hard year for them, but hopefully the success of this event will help turn the page to a more positive future for them. 

1 comment:

  1. What a great time! So glad you guys get to do this... the cardigan is stunning, too.


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