Where It All Began is a multi-part series written by Ian Hanna – a story of the early days of John Hanna & Sons and our history as wine importers in Canada dating back to the 1970s. You can click here if you’d like to start from the beginning of this series.
Our drive from Santenay to Nimes, in the south of France, was easy and enjoyable. We departed early as we faced a 4-hour drive and we had been invited to attend a luncheon with the families of the bride and groom at the Mercure Hotel in the centre of Nimes, beginning at 1:00 PM.
We arrived a little early and met in the lobby with a number of the Bollinger family including Christian and Marie Helen Bizot, their sons Xavier and Etienne, Ghislain de Montgolfier, Arnaud d’Hautfeuille and Inez & Michel Villedey.
It was a private luncheon served on the terrace at the hotel. There were about 5 or 6 tables of 8 people each – we sat with Ghislain de Montgolfier (of the Bollinger Family) and his wife, Brian & Ann Croser (founders of Petaluma Winery in South Australia) and Michel & Ines Villedey (members of the Bollinger family – Michel was the Managing Director of Langlois Chateau at the time).
It was a fun lunch with lots of Champagne (Bollinger) from the groom’s family and red wine (Chateau de Campuget) from the bride’s – though near the end of lunch, the red wine reserves were completely depleted leading to quite a discussion amongst the guests (mostly in jest). Ghislain de Montgolfier quipped to various Bollinger family members at our table, that he hoped they’d managed to bring enough Champagne for the dinner following the wedding – as it would be inappropriate to run out in a similar manner.
The wedding was on Saturday and everything went according to plan – there was ample Champagne and since the reception/dinner was held at the Chateau du Campuget, little danger to repeat the unfortunate circumstance experienced at lunch, the day before!
It was a beautiful evening of delicious food and wine – outdoors with (at times) the almost deafening sound of thousands of Cicadas in the trees above the garden.
Marit and I were staying at the wonderful Hotel la Sommellerie (just outside the village of Chateauneuf du Pape) – which became one of our very favourite places to stay in this region of France. Surrounded by the most captivating and intoxicating hedges of wild Rosemary, this comfortable country inn was the perfect place from which to explore the entire Rhone Valley region.
A few years earlier, I had traveled through the south of France with my then 12 year old son, Andrew. We’d stayed south of Grenoble in the foothills of the Alps at a place called Ste. Jalle (north of the Mont de Ventoux) and we’d eaten in a fabulous tiny, outdoor restaurant where pizzas were prepared in an outdoor oven.
After the wedding, Marit and I had a few free days before leaving for Italy so I suggested we get a takeout pizza from the very same place in Ste Jalle (only about 75 KM – cross country and around the Mont de Ventoux). It took about 2 hours of driving – we arrived and ordered our pizza topped with crème fraiche, sliced potatoes, ham, and black olives! We ate the entire pizza on our way back to the Hotel – it was a great adventure and one which we remember fondly to this day!
We spent the next day visiting the area – including the ruins of the Chateau in Chateauneuf du Pape. Dinner was at the hotel – a superb experience – outdoors overlooking the inground pool. I don’t remember all of what we ate but cannot forget one specialty of this great restaurant which was a Napoleon crafted out of layers of Potato and Foie Gras – one of the most delicious things we’ve ever enjoyed.
A good night’s sleep prepared us for our trip to Tuscany – and more great adventures ahead.
Ian Hanna – John Hanna & Sons Ltd.