Day 22:Year 22 (2009)

The one cool thing about writing everyday and the corresponding year is you have to think back on the many different things that impacted your life. One of those that I completely missed in 2007 was our first iphones. If you think about it, the iphone changed our lives and 2007 was the initial year for its release.

Every photo and video we are doing on this trip is because of an iphone. We had the “dah” moment as we started to think about what happened from 2008 forward…and realized we had pictures on our phone. We began capturing our live moments more frequently because of the iphone. Your memories are always in your hand.

It is ironic that today, we had two winery tour/visits in Saint Emilion proper and in Pomerol region (which is literally outside the walls of Saint Emilion) and both are multi-generation wineries who have been around since the late 1800’s. Both use concrete vats to process their wine - that is as old school as it gets. Chateau Guadet still uses a hand press that is from the turn of the century to produce its wines.

We have completely fallen for Saint Emilion. Our hotel is the middle of the village, you have to hold a railing as you walk down cobble stone streets with steep grades. I am sure you could not reproduce this today for safety reasons. But, that does not matter at the moment. It is a more simple way of life and requires you to appreciate the surroundings, the smells, the vintage buildings and a staff that has become family over the last several days.

You greet each other every morning and evening. Just being humans and respecting one another as you move about your day. It makes a difference and is something I will bring back to my life after the trip.

Saint Emilion - The Original Chateau

We started the day with a visit to a local winery right in Saint Emilion. It was the original Chateau in Saint Emilion and is still producing wine all by hand, using turn of the century processes. The family comes from one of the most famous and most expensive wines in all of Bordeaux - Petrus.

Our tour with Bruno Paties, was one of the most educational experiences of our trip. Chateau Guadet was really special. Extremely small. Extremely manual. A long history that goes back to the French Revolution. A completely amazing underground limestone cave (or garage as they say) that houses wines back to 1902.

The cave was used to house French resistance during WWII. And it was sealed up to preserve the best wine so that the Nazi’s could not confiscate the wine during the occupation years. The whole village of Saint Emilion had stories from generations of occupation, wars, diseases, plights and surviving constant change.

Every wine maker we met talked about preparing for global climate change. Old vines are being replaced by new clones in preparation of new weather patterns. They are thinking about the next 50 years.

Twenty Second Year Reflections

In our 22nd year, we are coming out of the worst financial experience since the Great Depression. The second devastating financial meltdown in a decade. I was in a start up that was focused on solving fraud in the internet. We were uncovering the schemes of the bad guys on a global level. Sadly, we were on the mark, but three years too early. Timing is everything in start up land.

I was also fortunate to attend a world class speaking event in NYC at Radio City Music Hall that featured the likes of Jack Welsh, Jim Collins (Good to Great), Muhammad Yunus, plus several other luminary guests over the course of two days. It just so happened to be during the week of the financial meltdown. It was really freaky to be in NYC - the financial capital of the world - and it was on the verge of collapse.

If you remember back to my 2000 post, I was at a conference when the dot com bust started. I was seeing a pattern here. Toby goes to conference. Financial meltdowns occur.

On the second day of that conference, Henry Paulson proposed a $700B bailout emergency package to help the US from defaulting into a potential depression. Muhammad Yunus spoke that day. [For those who don’t know who Muhammad Yunus is - he invent the Grameen Bank and the concept of micro-financing in Bangladesh].

I will never forget his speech. He was amazed that he loans money to the most impoverished people on the planet and he has had a 99.7% payback on $700M in loans generated over the last several years. And we - the most powerful nation state on the planet are on life-support and having to create bailout loans to keep the nation afloat.

He suggested capitalism was going in the wrong direction (and this was late 2008 at the time). He proposed we create a new financial index that rewarded companies not for profit, but for lives saved, lives improved, lives educated. A social good index that rewarded hope and doing, verses chasing dollars.

On the family front, we had to put down our girl Greta. A wonderful member of the family for nine years. She left us too early. The need to fill the void happened several months later with a new member of the family - Frieda. Frieda became the 7th Weimaraner between Deb and I and the third for our family.

Spencer was becoming a mainstay in Special Olympics swimming meets. He was invited to his first Summer Games meet in Davis this year. And, Davis in the summer is - no kidding - 106 degrees on mellow days. He was also becoming a major Halloween man - as this year he took on the persona of “Elvis Presley”. The beginning of many Halloween personas to come.

We also took the kids to Ixtapa this year. We wanted to share our experiences from pre-kid era, by staying at the same hotel. Let’s just say - some things are better left as memories.

Saint Emilion - 4th Generation + Exploring

The second half our day was spent tasting at a 4th generation chateau - Chateau Tailhas. We had a lovely tour and tasting with Aurelie who shared her family history and the story of the vineyard. Sadly, like many chateau’s in France, the 2017 season was completely wiped out due to frost. Chateau Tailhas had only one barrel to represent 2017. This from a winery that produces 40,000 - 50,000 bottles a year.

Their Pomerol wines were superb. We ended up tasting a 2008 and 2010. We learned over and over again, the best vintages were 05, 09, 10 and 15, 16. Anything from those years are both magical and more expensive. In the case of a frost, it is a financial savior for a Chateau that has to rely on the good years to offset the bad years. And, all is interdependent on mother nature.

Like Chateau Guadet, Chateau Tailhas also uses concrete vats as part of its wine making process. We have come to learn that Merlot and Concrete Vats are a critical component to producing world class wines.

The one fun tidbit we learned from Aurelie is that when the vineyards are trimmed back for winter, the clippings are either burned or saved for BBQ’s later in the summer months. The vine trimmings produce excellent BBQ flavoring! Love that.

After the tastings we drove around Pomeral and the outskirts of Saint Emilion, visiting little villages and countrysides to discover a bit more of the region. It continuously brought back the feeling of watching Tour de France as the pelotons ride through these lovely villages and vineyards.

Peaceful. A deliberate lifestyle dedicated to the craft of making great wine and working with your neighbor in times of need. Everyone knows everyone. We can only image summer and harvests and how the communities come together to celebrate another year of bounty and goodness. Or in the case of 2017, hardship and support for making wine out of what was salvageable.

For dinner that night…we found Saigon Cafe…an authentic Vietnamese restaurant in the village of Saint Emilion. The food and ambience were outstanding. A departure from our normal fare and wonderful discovery.