Originally—and we mean way back to at least the early 17th century—people in the French countryside didn't eat much meat. When they did, it was the affordable odds and ends and perhaps not the freshest. So, they often cooked it for long periods of time in a single pot with vegetables while they did their farm work. It was called Pot Pourri, which morphed into Pot au Feu as time marched on and versions of it became a traditional favorite all throughout France, even as finer ingredients became more generally available to many more people.
Making a Pot au Feu is a very grounding experience, and can be a social one, too. We have loved getting together to go to the local Médoc farmers market in Saint-Vivien and buying all the wonderful vegetables—leeks, carrots, celery, onions, potatoes and other root vegetables, herbs—for the dish, as well as the butcher's for the marrow bones and beef cuts. Once home, we prep everything and get the "stew" going. By dinnertime, the house smells amazing, and we are all ready to dig into a marvelous and beloved feast.
Want to try it yourself? Bravo! Here's a great recipe to use, but don't be afraid to make it your own based on what you already have to throw in or your own ideas.
PS: For reference...
Pot au Feu #1
Pot au Feu #2
Here at La Maison, we have 16 rows of grapes that go into the excellent wine of St-Brice, a local commune. When it comes close to harvest time, you can feel it in the air and in other ways. We bring 100 grape specimens picked from our vineyard at random to the commune to test the sugar every 3 days. All around, vineyards "pop" at different times, and you'll see things burst into action at a different place every day.
The other day it began happening at Château Phélan-Ségur, a storied estate with some of the top wines of the region in St. Estéphe. They have around 5 different vineyard plots near the chateau that each has its own unique microclimate and soil conditions that are understood and watched closely and which dictate the exact day harvest begins for those grapes each year.
We were lucky enough to be at the château to see some of the grapes come in and enter the loving process that starts now and finishes with some of the world's best wine. In the process of going from the vineyard to the sorting to the de-stemming to more obsessive sorting and on to the rest of the process, we could not believe how precious each grape was to the operation: If we saw 5 grapes overall in the operation land on the beautiful tile floor or anywhere but intended, it was pretty much the total!
We think Tuesday will be the day our own grapes will be going to harvest. In the last week, they've seen a lot of fleeting rainbursts and delicious fall weather (think mists and soft sun) which we have enjoyed by their side. Over a wonderful lunch at Château Phélan-Ségur during the harvest, we learned from a négociant from Bordeaux that the taste of the seeds is often a better clue to the promise of the vintage than the juice; we have the seeds of our grapes between our teeth and they are earthy and tasty without any bitterness.
I love this place!