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A taste of the sweet life

Halloween Haunted House in Minervois 2014

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Halloween in Azille was a success this year, this Minervois annual event is becoming an event to plan next fall in the Languedoc-Roussillon - our team, above, is an amazing blend of cultures and personalities who enjoy making visitors jump out of their skins...

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Even the decor had an impact, from spiders to candles in the cemetery...all had its place...

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and all in its place...we'll wait for you next year in Azille - whooooooooaaaaaaaa !

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Halloween in France

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The Haunted House in Azille

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Halloween - "all Hallows' Eve" - the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain on the night of October 31, comes to life each year in the Minervois !

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From my first year in Azille, in the South of France, when I hid behind the curtains from the trick-or-treaters who I never imagined would come to my door in this small French village, Halloween has never been the same at La Dolce Vita.

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Each year just gets better and better, from my costumes to decor of the house, and finally we are in the 3rd year of turning La Dolce Vita into a Haunted House to share with the locals and beyond...

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This Halloween, enter if you dare, for a night of fright - when you get past the monsters & ghouls moving through the depths of the house...hot-mulled wine & candy await you...

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open from 6 - 9 p.m. - 2€ for adults & 1€ for children between 6-14

Beware the monsters within...

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Hand-Picking Old Vineyard Carignan in Languedoc

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In the Minervois, within the region of the Languedoc-Roussillon, old vineyards get hand-harvested.  As modern day tools and machines have taken over most of the harvesting these days in the newer vineyards, the older vines are still hand-harvested as they were planted much closer together and new tractors literally won't fit between them.

 

So, as a group of friends and family we get together and help out, a fun day lasting from morning to later afternoon !

 

A few weeks ago, on a beautiful and sunny morning, 8am to be exact, we all met up at the vineyard's family home.  We were offered breakfast of dry sausages, baguettes, wine, blood sausage, juice and coffee amoung other delicious morsels to fuel our day.hand-harvest-crew

 

We went off to the vineyard, were given buckets and clippers, a few instructions and off we went down the rows snip...snip...snip...

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 ...Into buckets, then into bigger buckets on the backs of a few grape "mules" the bunches went. Eventually we picked the vines clean being left only with sticky, purple hands...hand-harvest-mule-dump

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

...Apertif followed the final dump, then a lunch fit for hungry harvesters ensued and we imbibed in last year's harvest to celebrate. Thanks to our hosts for a great day !

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Minervois Machine Harvest of Carignan

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The grape harvest is almost complete here in the Minervois wine region of the Languedoc-Roussillon and I got to witness, and even help with this vineyard's machine harvest. This method tends to be the most common for most of the varietals in the region, especially for the newer vines, as they are spaced machine distance apart when planted.azille-church-carignan-vineyards-harvestingThese Carignan grape vines near the bridge on the way out of Azille are being harvest this way, in a 1/2 hectare field!

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The expert vignerons (Parra et al) tell me that it takes about 2 hours a hectare to remove all the grapes with this giant shaking machine. 2 large snake-like metal hands moving rapidly together while gliding down the vines, knocking the grapes into bins hanging from either side.harvest-machine-sorting-carignanmachine-harvest-dump-bin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then the bins are dumped into the awaiting tractor trailer to be wisked off to the local cooperative and turned into the lovely glass of wine we enjoy!

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And here I am taking my turn at driving, 6 rows at a time before dumping the bins; being careful not to cause the green alarm lights to scream brightly at me...but no worries if they do, as I need only to tweek the stearing wheel towards the glowing green to straighten it up and continue down the lane!

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Next: hand harvesting old vineyard Carignan.

Canning Garden Fresh Tomatoes in the South of France

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Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes galore! And they are not yet finished, so we need to get started...preserving the harvest for the winter and beyond, here in the Minervois.

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Several methods can be used, depending on what results you want: whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato puree, tomato and green chiles, or even a nice spicy salsa!

harvest-plum-tomFor a whole tomato preserve, heat a large pot of water. In the meantime, slice a cross in the bottom of your plum tomates, as this variety holds up best canned whole.  Drop them into the hot water long enough to see the skin begin to lossen.  Plunge into a cold bath to stop the cooking, then remove the skins and place into a heavy bottom pot.  Heat to boiling, then fill sterilized jars to 1 inch from top, seal and process traditionally.

Canning tomato sauce requires a few other garden gifts. Onions, garlic, basil, parsley and even hot peppers offer great flavored winter comfort.  Cut all ingredients you want in large, heavy pot not worrying too much about removing skins or cut size.  Cook down all your vegetables and run through a food mill, then put the sauce back into a clean pan, season to taste and bring to a boil.  Process for canning in sterilized jars.

HAPPY CANNING - and happy winter comfort tomatoes!

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