What would I know about a fine Bordeaux? Not much. I can’t offer anything in the way of advice regarding chateaux, vintage, cru, Left Bank, Right Bank……….I got nuthin’. But I know what I like. And there was a lot to like about this wine…..or was it the company, the surroundings, the food, the mood? Doubtless all of these, and it worked so well, I look forward to repeating the staging and having another go before too long.
The time and place: a long weekend and a 4 hr. drive north from Toronto to the French River in Ontario. It runs about 70 miles from Lake Nipissing to Georgian Bay and is a complex system of two major branches and many inlets, coves, channels, islands, rapids, and tributaries. Much of the area consists of Crown Land, Provincial Park, and First Nations Reserves and as a result the river can afford to offer long uninterrupted spans of pristine shoreline. Birds, water, and wind provide sound accompaniment with only a modicum of competition from the motor engine. Rock rules and Forest has a big share in the dominion.
But it’s the Sky at night that will really turn your head. Unbelievably crowded with stars and planets and meteors and diamonds and just dripping with MilkyWay-ness: it’s good to be on your back while viewing, it’s that dizzying to behold.
Wolseley Bay is roughly halfway along the river system and you can get to it by branching off of Hwy. 69 (TransCanada) onto Rt.64 and then onto Rt. 528; follow Rt.528A and it will lead you down a steep gravel road and end at the Lodge at Pine Cove. The lodge has a library, dining room, lounge, and deck. The cottages surrounding it are discreetly nestled in the woods, each having a perch overlooking some aspect of the river. Each one also has a porch, screened-in, and is outfitted in ‘rustic luxury’.
After settling in and perhaps having a bit of lunch from your packed provisions (a shared beer, some potato salad, wax bean and olive salad, baguette, tomatoes, basil, bocconcini)……aaahh, you feel that this is where you should be. And yet, you’re game for a little adventure….a hike perhaps…..to a small lake nearby……and so you do, and by the time you get there you’re hot and bothered and the scorching expanse of sun baked rock provides the terrorizing impetus to your newly unshod feet, and doing a crazy little dance, you will now let nothing come between you and the water.
When you think you’ve had enough and it’s time to come out, the reality of your re-engagement with the rock hits you hard. The rock is like a hill that is mostly submerged under water. It is slippery with some kind of slimy plant growth, algae, or lichen, or who-knows-what. You find that you cannot hoist yourself up onto land because there isn’t any traction to be had. Your hand can just barely reach up to the dry part of the rock that is naked of any such growth, and finds that it is also bereft of nook or cranny, so there is nothing to grab onto. Fortunately you are not alone, and your mate, who is also immersed, can see the usefulness of getting you ashore. So he takes hold of one of your feet and uses it to push the attached leg as if it were a big log while you, on your belly like a snake with useless arms, try pathetically to inch your mass forward by the tiniest of increments…..heave ho, ho, ho, it’s more fun for watching than for doing and this is precisely what you made a mental note to avoid, whilst trying on last year’s bathing suit at home: a candid unflattering view of the backside. Eventually your corporalness will be hauled up through sheer will, goaded on by the dive-bombing deer flies that are all about, taunting you, gleefully snacking on quarter-pounders of your flesh (wouldn’t it be great if every time you got a bug bite you actually lost some weight?).
Even after all this, the endorphin release from earlier in the day will have been ample enough to return you to a positively charged state and you will feel the keen pleasure of triumph. Woman vs. Nature. Hoooeee.
Back in the comfort of your rustic, luxurious cabin, you are allowed your precious, rationed reading* time which passes all too quickly. The Bordeaux is breathing, inhaling the same great, northern, fresh air as you. It is a 2005 Saint-Émilion Grand Cru from Chateau Pipeau. You feel that this is definitely where you should be and you have no further thoughts of adventure.
The hour arrives of the delivery of the BBQ Basket. Ordered in advance, it contains your dinner: 2 steaks, salad, bread, dessert, and dishes. When you are finished, just pop everything back in the basket for pick-up the next day. No fuss, no muss. (In the morning, another basket will arrive containing fresh fruit salad, homemade granola, yogurt, a freshly made pain au chocolat and croissant-still warm, and homemade jam. You can use the excellent ‘Ashanti’ coffee and maker already there in the cabin to brew your own.)
The BBQ gets figured out, the steaks get grilled, the table is set……all in all, a rather fine way to drink a fine Bordeaux.
- French River: Canoeing the River of the Stick-Wavers by: Toni Harting
- Capturing the French River: Images Along One of Canada’s Most Famous Waterways, 1910-1927 by: Wayne Kelly
- Just Don’t Fall by: Josh Sundquist
N.B. Books and Lodge all highly recommended