Hiram Powers-Heaven is living the dream life. When he’s not taking road trips around Europe, he splits his time between D.C. and Vienna. When he’s here, he owns and runs Brookland’s very own Wardman Wines, a wine shop that makes hoping on the Red Line seem worth it. When he’s not here, he’s sampling all of the amazing wine Europe has to offer. Check out his Drink Diary below, and if you feel moved, we highly recommend you sign up for Wardman Wines’ wine subscription box. One of the wines you read about here might just end up at your door.
We took a family road trip (two adults and two children under 5) from Vienna to eastern France, via Munich and Zürich, to watch the USWNT kick ass and take names at the World Cup. Here’s what I drank along the way:
Saturday, June 29: Munich, Germany
Drinks: 0.5L Clausthaler
Yes, non-alcoholic beer. I’m in the middle of a road trip across Europe, and this is breakfast. Have you ever driven on the Autobahn? These people drive like demons. It’s quite disconcerting to be cruising along at 130 kph (~80mph, the “recommended” speed limit) and have a succession of Audis whip by doing at least 180 (~110mph). I don’t want to be even a little bit impaired.
I lived in Munich once, for a summer, but it was a long time ago, before I had children. It was fun to be back now and to teach the family how to eat Weißwurst. But, Saturday morning breakfast in Munich doesn’t feel right without some kind of beer, so this will have to do. If you don’t think too hard about it, it almost tastes like a real beer. And hey the weather is lovely and the kids are reasonably well-behaved at the moment, so who cares?
I may have ordered too many sausages, but, as the waiter cheerfully pointed out, “Better than too few!”
Sunday, June 30: Zürich, Switzerland
Drinks: Glass of Champagne (Perrier-Jouet, I think), Gold-plated coffee, Glass of 2018 Grand Métral Heida du Valais
Ah Zürich, playground of the questionably wealthy. We are spending an extra day here, so I don’t have to worry about getting in the car. Seems like as good a time as any to start the day with a glass of Champagne. If nothing else, it will help distract me from how eye-wateringly expensive everything is here, like the $6 espresso I had with my Champagne. Breakfast at the historic Café Odeon was charming, however, and kicked off a full day of sightseeing and general touristing about.
Our timing could have been slightly better, as it turns out, because we found ourselves outside all day in the middle of one of the most extreme heatwaves Europe has ever seen. Definitely a day for gelato. Less wise, perhaps, was our decision to split a pot of fondue for dinner, but I washed it down with a lovely glass of Savagnin Blanc (not to be confused with Sauvignon Blanc), known as “Heida” in parts of Switzerland.
Swiss wine is great, but the Swiss drink most of it themselves, so the little bit that we do get in the States is priced for the Swiss market, home of the $6 espresso. My glass is very nice; Savagnin is better known as one of the primary white grapes of the Jura region of France. There, it is made into a sherry-like, oxidative wine called Vin Jaune; here, my glass had notes of lemon, melon, apples, spice, nuts, minerals, nice mouthfeel with moderate acidity, and a good finish. It went well with a small lake of melted cheese.
Monday, July 1: Régnié-Durette, France
Drinks: A third of a bottle of Pouilly-Fuissé
There are many lovely restaurants scattered throughout the French countryside, especially in the region between Dijon and Lyon. However, none of them are open on a Monday in July. Attempting to find a place to have lunch was a succession of bitter disappointments. In the end, we met up with the rest of our group in the parking lot of a supermarket in Belleville-sur-Saône, where we purchased the makings of a picnic lunch and made our way to the nearest available greenspace to eat it. Afterwards, we found our way to our Airbnb, a lovely 150ish year-old country house in the middle of a vineyard. Plenty of space for our crew of now 11 (6 adults and 5 children), but no air conditioning. There was a pool, though, which counts for something on a 95-degree day.
The rest of the day was spent getting settled and keeping as cool as possible. Dinner was a continuation of the picnic theme, since no one had any interest in cooking: charcuterie, cheese, bread, etc., washed down with a bottle of white Burgundy picked up at the grocery store. The standard for grocery store wine in France is, unsurprisingly, a bit higher than it is in the US. The bottle I found was from a decent, if not spectacular, producer in Pouilly-Fuissé, one of the better areas in the Maconnais (the less-expensive end of Burgundy), about half an hour north of where we were staying. I like drinking local, when I can, and in France, it’s quite easy to do it well.
Tuesday, July 2: Régnié-Durette & Lyon, France
Drinks: A white-wine spritzer and lots of sparkling water
Not a lot on the agenda today. But tonight is the USA v. England semi-final! This is the first international soccer match I’ve ever attended in person, so I’m pretty excited. The game starts at 9 p.m. (still broad daylight at this time of year), so we spent the afternoon splashing around in the pool and trying to coax a nap out of the kids. I have a white-wine spritzer while getting their dinner ready (leftover breakfast sausages wrapped in pre-made puff pastry. Highly recommend), and my own dinner is just a random scrounge of miscellaneous leftovers.
I think people have a tendency to sneer at the spritzer as not being a “serious” drink, or something like that. It’s something I may have done myself at one time or another, but I’ve long since come around on the subject, and I find that if you look at such criticism closely it’s pretty well steeped in an obnoxious mixture of classism and sexism. It’s a delightful drink for a hot afternoon, refreshing and not too boozy. Relatedly, I drink lot of sparkling water in Europe; I like that it’s the norm when asking for water in a restaurant or bar. I was told once that the reason it was so popular in Europe was because it used to be the only way to ensure that, when ordering water in a restaurant, the water you got was actually clean and not, you know, infested with cholera or something. I don’t know how much truth there is to that story, though it has at least the ring of plausibility. In any case, it’s hot, so I’m drinking fizzy water.
That game tho. Sad not to see Rapinoe play, and the English kept it interesting right up to the end. The crowd was good; I was hoarse and my ears were ringing by the end.
Wednesday, July 3: Lyon, France
Drinks: Glass of Morgon, Glass of Grimbergen
Today we’re going into Lyon for the day and then to the second semi-final match between Netherlands and Sweden. Before we left though, the guy who manages the Airbnb stopped by. He also happens to be the winemaker of Chateau de Durette, which owns the house we’re staying in. We got to chatting about wine, as one does, and he offered to show us the winery and let us taste the wines tomorrow. First stop is Les Halles de Lyon-Paul Bocuse, a must-visit for anyone interested in food. A lot of stalls and restaurants are closed for July and August, because France. I admire the French dedication to vacation despite the fact that a major international sporting event is going on. Despite the shuttered stalls, there’s still plenty to see and eat. Lunch is a small steak with gratin dauphinois and a salad, followed by the other half of my elder child’s cheese plate and a coffee. It all pairs nicely with a glass of Morgon. On our way out of the market, I pick up a bottle of Arbois for tomorrow’s lunch.
Morgon might be my favorite of the 10 crus of Beaujolais. The wines are some of the richest Beaujolais has to offer, they age well and develop beautiful texture, and they have a dark floral, smoky/spicy character that I really enjoy.
We spend the rest of the afternoon at Parc de la Tête d’Or in Lyon, an enormous public park containing a botanical garden, playgrounds, sports facilities, and even a zoo. I’ve learned that when traveling in larger groups with small children, you should not expect to see and do a whole lot, so an afternoon at the park was par for the course. At the end of the day, the kids returned to the house with their extremely accommodating grandparents, and the rest of us went back to Les Halles to grab dinner before heading to the game. Nothing fancy, just a salami baguette and a Grimbergen. Belgian beer is great, but given, its alcohol content it is an infrequent indulgence for me; I end up drinking one too quickly, and inevitably have a second and regret it the next morning.
The game… was dull. Most of the crowd didn’t particularly care who won, and both teams seemed to spend the first half being scared of the opposing goal. We were pulling for the Dutch, on the theory that they would be a better opponent for the US in the final, so we were happy they won. But the extra time really cost us some sleep.
Thursday, July 4: Régnié-Durette & Lyon, France
Drinks: A glass of Arbois, The wines of Chateau de Durette, Bruxellensis Brett Beer, a quarter of a bottle of Minuty Côtes du Provence Rosé, a third of a bottle of Mercurey
Today we stayed put and tasted wine. Some of the other people in our group invited a few friends over for lunch and to stay for the tasting after. Lunch is a cold buffet eaten poolside: roast local chicken from the butcher down the road, cheese, bread, charcuterie, salad, green beans, etc. Wine with lunch is the aforementioned bottle of Arbois. This is almost vin jaune (it had not been aged for the requisite 6 years and 3 months), 100% Savagnin Blanc, and completely unlike the glass of wine I had with dinner in Zürich. It’s made more or less the same way sherry is, by extended aging in partially-filled barrels so that a layer of yeast, called flor in Spain, develops on the surface of the wine, develops. This is weird wine, and I love it. It also happens to go really well with cheese and roast chicken.
After lunch, Marc Theissen, the winemaker at Chateau de Durette, showed us around the estate. In the winery, we tasted a barrel sample of their reserve Chardonnay, and then we went to the cellar to taste it in the bottle. This was a cool demonstration of how winemakers can play with oak, because half the juice is aged in new oak and half in old oak, but the barrel sample we tasted was only the from the new oak casks, and the oak was very obvious, nutty, spicy, and toasty. In the final blend, those oak flavors are a lot more muted and integrated into the whole.
In all we tasted about a dozen wines, including a couple of back vintages, and one bottle that I still can’t quite believe I tasted: a Beaujolais Nouveau from 2010. Beaujolais Nouveau is not generally intended or expected to last more than about three months, much less 9 years, and yet this wine was not vinegar. In fact it was, actually, well, quite good. Still fresh and lively, I got perfumed raspberries and a bit of stone fruit, but with some obvious tertiary characteristics: notes of meat, licorice, and straw. Turns out, unlike most of the rest of the Nouveau in the world, Marc doesn’t make his using carbonic maceration, and they use Cru-level fruit for the bulk of the blend. The result is that this is basically a baby Régnié and has some aging potential. At the end of the wine tasting, Marc also opened up a bottle of Belgian beer made with Brettanomyces yeast just for fun. The sharp, funky tang was a nice palate cleanser.
Dinner was at a restaurant in Lyon, without kids (thanks be to grandparents). Frog legs followed by Poulet de Bresse au vin jaune et aux morilles (Bresse chicken in a sauce of vin jaune and morels) paired well with a classic Provençal rosé followed by a red Mercurey. Mercurey is the most important appellation in the Côte Chalonnaise in Burgundy, and I wish I could tell you more about this particular bottle, but in the jollity of the moment, I neglected to record anything about it. We missed the last train out of Lyon, so we had a very sleepy Uber ride home to Régnié-Durette.
Friday, July 5: Régnié-Durette & Brouilly, France
Drinks: Half a bottle of Morgon, spread throughout the day
Started today with a hike around the summit of the Mont de Brouilly, which gives its name to two of the ten crus of Beaujolais, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly, which surround it. From the top there are great views of the entire region and its vineyards. There is a chapel on the top of the mountain, dating from the 1850s and dedicated to Our Lady of the Grapes. It was built by vintners seeking the protection of the Virgin Mary for the vines following two years of hailstorms, frosts, and fungal infections. The kids bore with it well, but clearly wanted nothing more than to go back to the house and get in the pool. The rest of us had a nice walk in the woods, and went home for a lunch of leftovers, accompanied by a glass of grocery store Morgon.
The house was equipped with a grill, so in the afternoon, I stopped by the local butcher to get something to throw on it. In my halting, ninth-grade French, I asked for côte de boeuf (bone-in rib steak or roast) for grilling for eight people. The butcher cheerfully picked up a piece of cow sufficient to feed an army and indicated that he was going to slice it. I was expecting him to slice off a couple of thick slabs and put the rest back in the case. Nope. I went home with two chunks of beef local Charolais beef, either one of which would have been more than enough for our crowd. Grilled up that evening, they were way too much food, but so, so good. We finished the bottle of Morgon from lunch.
Saturday, July 6: Régnié-Durette & Anse, France
Drinks: The wines of Domaine St. Cyr, half a bottle of 2018 Domaine St. Cyr Beaujolais Rosé “Les Pierres Dorées”
Today I got to do some “work.” In this case, work means I took off by myself for a couple of hours to meet the winemaker of Domaine St. Cyr, in the southern part of Beaujolais, and taste his wines. I don’t generally like to diminish the job that I do, because it definitely can be exhausting, but when I’m sitting on a patio, overlooking a sunny vineyard, chatting with a winemaker over a glass of his special reserve bottling, it doesn’t feel a whole lot like work. Rafael St.-Cyr took over his family’s vineyards in 2008 and converted to organic farming, he also helped expand his family’s holdings into the crus (none of which are located in southern Beaujolais). He believes in minimal intervention winemaking and uses little to no sulfur. I like his wines, especially his single-vineyard Chénas. There were two other special bottles that he shared with me. The first was a barrel-fermented Chardonnay that’s an ongoing project of his (it’s bottled but not released yet). He used no sulfur at all and it spent two years in a barrel. An interesting side-effect of this process is an amazing viscosity to the wine. As he explained it to me, the bacteria responsible for malolactic fermentation also produce long strands of organic compounds that are broken down when sulfur is added to the wine. In the absence of sulfur, these strands make the wine viscous. The other wine was one he only makes in particularly good years from a particular lot of 100-year-old vines in Chénas. Among other things it gets a longer maceration than the rest of his wines; it also gets 24 months barrel-aging. The result is pretty great. It drinks a lot like a Burgundy from the Côte d’Or, but with a darkness to the fruit that tells you it’s not Pinot Noir. I may have brought some of that home with me.
I also brought home a bottle of his rosé which made a lovely accompaniment to our dinner of leftovers (we might have had a little bit of beef lying around) while we watched the third-place match between England and Sweden on the TV.
Sunday, July 7: Régnié-Durette & Lyon, France
Drinks: Odds and ends
The World Cup final is today at 5 p.m.! And we’re leaving tomorrow morning at dark-thirty. So today was spent in the pool, packing, and finishing up whatever we can’t take with us, including the ends of a couple of bottles of wine. I know I had the last of the Arbois, but I don’t remember if I had anything else. Probably not much; it was going to be hot at the stadium, so the word of the day was hydration.
We took our elder child with us to this game; it’s his first soccer match, and everyone was excited. We made sure to bring ear plugs for him though, because it was going to get loud. The stadium was packed. The Dutch played a good game and the crowd was mostly good-natured, though we did boo what seem like a couple of blown calls. Gonna need to rewatch this with commentary. Rose Lavelle is a national treasure. Equal pay!
Back to the house to finish packing. We will rise before dawn and do in one day what took us three on the way here. Fun! #sarcasm