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The Road to Burgundy: The Unlikely Story of an American Making Wine and a New Life in France (Anglais) Relié – 11 juillet 2013


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Chapter One

My bag was packed. One small black suitcase placed next to our front door. The house was still dark in the moments just before the sun would come up. There was a chill to the house, a briskness that kept me too alert for that time of morning. I tiptoed out, their trying not to awake my wife and my one-year-old daughter, Isabella. It was four in the morning, but they had just fallen asleep a short while ago. They wanted to see me off, but when their eyelids started getting heavy we had said our good-byes. Kissing my daughter’s forehead and my wife’s lips hours before made me realize that I would miss them the moment my hand touched my luggage. “Good luck, honey,” said Christian. She’d said it a million times to me before that moment. She’d said it before my meetings with potential clients, before starting on a long drive, before any task that required strengthened resolve. But this time was different. I wouldn’t hear her voice in person for another three months.

I shut the door quietly behind me and felt surprisingly calm. I knew my family was safe. And I knew that while I was entering into a situation filled with endless possible outcomes, I was undoubtedly walking toward a much brighter future.

Until now, every part of my life had been in the United States. Everyone I knew was here, the boundaries of my experiences were defined by this country. I only thought about going to France, not of leaving California. It was as if I had closed my eyes on the flight up to altitude only to notice how high we actually were above ground just as I was leaping from the airplane. Suddenly, I was feeling more excited than ever before. While planning everything leading up to this moment, I never gave into this feeling. I worried that it might jinx it. But the moment was finally here, and once I got into the car taking me to the airport, there would be no turning back. I would be calling Burgundy home.

As the driver pulled away from the curb I prattled manically about the turn of events that put me on this path—wine, history, movies, learning French, the possibility that every aspect of my family’s life was changing during that car ride.

“You know, I’m from Brazil,” he said. “I came here with a dream as well. I’m a musician but I also own this shuttle company. My friends at home were telling me that it would be tough on me and my family. But I believed that what I felt in my heart was the right thing. And that this feeling was best for my family. I’m sure it’ll work out for you.”

His words echoed the sort of mantra that had been playing on repeat in my brain for the past eight months. Hearing it spoken aloud by somebody else made me feel better about the giant leap of faith I was about to take.

Arriving at SFO, I found the Air France desk and queued behind a young French couple with their young daughter. I leaned in toward them, hoping to make out a bit of their conversation and hoping to validate my months of studying. I’d stayed up late every night watching old French movies and reading antiquated books about Burgundy. Now, eavesdropping as best I could, I celebrated a small victory every time I caught a word or phrase I understood.

This was the first time I’d be going on an international flight by myself. Gone was the fuss of getting Bella situated with toys and videos and other distractions, or helping Christian get her carry-on in the overhead bin. I was traveling light—just a few pairs of jeans, some T-shirts, and a wallet that had seen fuller days. Practical, yes, but perhaps more so if I’d also packed some formal winemaking training or experience beyond one brief harvest in California. Or maybe a location to produce wine. Or tools, equipment, the basics. Barring that, even having a place to live once I got to France would have been nice. That, or grapes. Or a visa. But this was my last chance. It was the only chip I had left. Failing in Burgundy would mean going back to a life that wasn’t mine. It would mean working on someone else’s time, for someone else’s dream. There’s no way I could go back to sitting at a desk hemmed in by monitors and memos and bad coffee, suits and ties, and central air; not after I’d gotten a taste of freedom.

I got comfortable and closed my eyes, but opened them again when I noticed the woman next to me needed help lifting her bag above our seats. Jumping up to help her I accidentally elbowed the headrest of the guy in front of me. “Je m’excuse, pardon.” It seemed like every passenger turned around to see who was recklessly destroying the grace of their language.

“You’re American?” the woman’s husband inquired. “You speak . . . lovely French.”

“Really? It’s not too bad?”

He offered an even wider smile, but saying nothing, glanced nervously at his wife as she sat down between us. “What are your plans in France?”

“I’m going to Burgundy,” I answered, a bit relieved we were switching tracks from praising my clearly subpar mastery of his language.

“Burgundy?” he said. “Why not Paris?”

“Well, Paris is nice, but they don’t have any wine.”

“And what do you know about Burgundy?” the man and woman seemed to ask at the same time.

“I can’t say that I know a lot, but I love Burgundy enough to change my life for it.”

“We’re from Champagne. It is quite close to—”

“Of course I know Champagne!” I explained that my wife and I had traveled there just months before with our baby girl. It was just over two hours away from Burgundy, but at the same time, they were worlds apart. To my mind, the fussy estate-riddled Champagne lacked the grounded, rich, agriculture-centric culture of Burgundy, but even I knew better than to say so.

“That’s not a bad place to live!” I said, making my envy apparent to even those a few rows over from us. I might not have wanted to make wine there, but you couldn’t beat the scenery.

“Burgundy is beautiful as well. Have you been?”

“Just once. I went there with my family earlier this year, in January.”

“So, you will be living in France? In Burgundy?”

“Well, that’s the plan. Well, actually, I don’t really have a plan, but that’s where I would like it all to end up.”

“Oh, well, we must speak more French then. You need to practice right away. That is”—she looked at the Wine Spectator on my lap—“unless you are too busy.”

“No, I’m not busy at all,” I said, throwing my magazine under my seat as if I were in grade school and clearing the baseball cards off my desk before the teacher came back into the classroom.

For the rest of the flight we spoke in French. We exchanged thoughts about wine, food, their life in Champagne. I loved watching how alive they were when they spoke, so animated. Their eyes would open in excitement or for emphasis only to close narrowly to convey the gravity of a pronouncement. “You must visit the market on Saturday! [eyes wide] And then be sure you try the Époisses. [eyes narrow]” Their hands too said nearly as much as their lips did—opening, closing, widening, waving above them, or tightening down to a point with a finger pressed into their lap tray. I’d try to mimic the fluidity, repurposing their words in an attempt to learn more nuanced expressions. They were patient and kind, and seven hours later, we’d learned an incredible amount about one another, perhaps to the chagrin of those trying to sleep around us. The ease I felt in speaking with them erased much of my nervousness. They weren’t “French” people waiting for me to slip up on a French word, they were just good people.

Revue de presse

An LA Times editor's pick
 
“Wine lovers, Francophiles and anyone who roots for dreamers will want to raise a glass to Ray Walker.”
USAToday.com
 
“An intoxicating tale…Mr. Walker’s story is sure to inspire a few more leaps of faith.”
The Economist
 
“In this rich account, Walker chronicles his five-year journey from Northern California to the French countryside with self-deprecating humor and earnestness. . . . Wine geeks will enjoy Walker's blow-by-blow account of the winemaking process. Those less inclined to appreciate wine's back story can revel in his descriptions of Burgundy's food and lifestyle. Walker's tale evokes the exquisite thrill of finding and following your passion, no matter how crazy it might seem.”
Publishers Weekly
 
“Walker’s energy and warmth lift this book.”
Booklist
 
"The main appeal is the amazing story of how someone was able to realize his seemingly farfetched dream."
New York Journal of Books
           
"True oenophiles will love it. . . . a great summer read."
Biographile.com
 
"Readers who share his passion for fine wine will be entertained by his detailed descriptions."
BookReporter.com
 
"The Road to Burgundy is an extraordinary story told by an extraordinary person set in the world's most extraordinary of wine regions.  If Ray Walker's journey had been told in a work of fiction--or film--it would be frankly, unbelievable.   He set his mind to doing just about the stupidest, most difficult and unlikely thing an American could do. And emerged victorious. His story, like his wine, is a triumph of idealism, determination and integrity. You will never drink Bordeaux again."
—Anthony Bourdain
 
"There are many great stories in the history of wine, but none as astonishingly and eye-bulgingly improbable as that of Ray Walker's. In a page-turning memoir that will convince anyone that their dreams, no matter how harebrained, can be realized, Ray Walker delivers up a thrilling, picaresque, and insightful look into the heart of one man's obsession.  An absolute must read for any lover of Pinot, or any aficionado of wine, period."
—Rex Pickett, author of Sideways
 
“Salut, cin-cin, and cheers to Ray Walker, who followed his passion for wine to Burgundy.  Pop a cork and enjoy this lively, brave, and absorbing story.”
—Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun          


A Conversation with Ray Walker, author of The Road to Burgundy
 
Q: When did you first start appreciating wine?
 
I was 23 years old when I had the first glass of wine that I paid any attention to. I really had no interest in wine until then. I didn’t grow up surrounded by the world of fine dining, and truthfully, I didn’t see what wine could do that beer couldn’t do better.   One wine tasting changed my view of wine forever—when I was introduced to wines from Burgundy for the first time. I’d never known that drinking wine could be that kind of intense, all-consuming experience. After that day, I couldn’t think of anything else. Wine was constantly on my mind.
 
Q: What is so special about Burgundy?
 
Terroir is one of those holy grail concepts in wine that so many talk about but not everyone truly understands or experiences. In Burgundy, because wine is generally made with one type of red grape and one type of white grape, you can focus more attention on the staggering differences present in the soil. On top of all of this, there is an amazing wealth of history here in Burgundy. The history, coupled with the uniqueness of the land, makes Burgundy unlike any other wine region in the world. Every place is special, but Burgundy captured every part of me after I took that first sip in 2005.
 
Q: A lot of us dream about quitting our job and moving somewhere exotic, but you actually did it. What finally lead you to totally upend your life?
 
So much of my life had started to feel closed in. People around me were focused on a mountain of material things, shallow interests, and empty short-term goals. And I was starting to become that kind of person. It scared me to think that if I was successful in my business career I wouldn’t end up with much in the end besides those hollow achievements.   I saw where my life was going and how far it had drifted away from something concrete, something more worthwhile. Going after my dream started to seem like actually a practical thing to do with my life.
 
Q: When you were starting out on this new adventure, your wife and daughter were not with you in France. How did you handle that separation?
 
Christian was back home with Bella, still working a full time job, and her mother was lending a hand as well. It was tough on everyone, but something just kept pulling me toward Burgundy. I had a gut feeling our life would eventually be the life we wanted there.  I didn’t know what was going to happen but I believed that I had to trust in that feeling and just hold on to see it through.
 
Q: Why did you think you could pull all of this together without speaking French or knowing how to make wine?
 
It was a wild journey and I just focused on holding onto the rope that was dragging me along.  I figured that until I was left with no other moves—no more options for buying grapes because I was out of people to ask, no more locations for a wine making facility—I’d just keep going since every step forward could potentially bring a new opportunity. I knew it was going in the right direction—I just didn’t know how long it would take to get me all the way to where I wanted to be. It was risky, but it was also an adventure.
 
Q: What did you find most useful in terms of making wine that first time?
 
The land and culture of Burgundy played a tremendous role. If I’d been trying to make wine in a different place, I may have thought more of myself and perhaps made the mistake of thinking I was talented. The truth is that in Burgundy, it doesn’t matter if I am the best wine maker in the world or not. You just need the ability to not mess up, to care, and to be mindful. Anything else is about aesthetics and it’s not necessary.
 
Q: What was the toughest part about starting your winery in Burgundy?
 
The paperwork was daunting. It is incredibly hard to set up a business as an American in France. But though it was a long and frustrating process I knew it was a concrete problem that had a solution I’d eventually find. The most difficult thing was finding the fruit.  The fruit is the most important piece of the puzzle—the quality of your fruit decides everything about the quality of your wine.
 
Q: When did you know that everything in France was going to work out?
 
When Christian came and visited me the first time in Burgundy, she came with Bella. She tried the wine while it was still in the tank. Before she said a word, I knew, from years of studying her face, that she was tasting something amazing and she was proud. It was the exact reason why I had to be in Burgundy. That look, that moment. It spoke volumes. It lasted a fraction of a second but it was a solid dividing point in my life.


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Détails sur le produit

  • Relié: 320 pages
  • Editeur : Gotham (11 juillet 2013)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 1592408125
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592408122
  • Dimensions du produit: 14,8 x 2,5 x 21,8 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 115.564 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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0 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par rauch75 TOP 1000 COMMENTATEURS sur 28 octobre 2013
Format: Relié
Voici un très bel exemple de livre témoignage sur l'aventure de Ray Walker, petit banquier (plutôt genre cadre moyen) dans la région de San Francisco qui, suite à un voyage en Italie avec sa femme Christian, ce prend de passion pour le vin.

Il va tout tester... et d'abord les Bordeaux, sombrant dans la spirale : "je n'aime pas trop... mais c'est sans doute que je ne bois pas les plus chers...". Puis il découvrira la Bourgogne. L'alliance du terroir dans un vin élevé avec le moins d’interférence humaine deviendra sa doxa. Au point de chercher à venir faire du vin en bourgogne. Ray, qui vient d'avoir une petite fille, tente le tout pour le tout : il débarque en France pour acheter et vinifier du pinot noir, sans doute un petit bourgogne village.

C'est dans un anglais assez simple d'accès, à la fois tendre et critique pour les français comme pour les américains... et surtout vous allez vivre étapes par étapes une aventures assez passionnante... et à l'issu du livre n'avoir qu'une envie : vous procurer le fameux Chambertin Grand cru de Ray !
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Amazon.com: 80 commentaires
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An inspiration to office drones everywhere 23 août 2013
Par Jimmy Gillingham - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
I learned about Ray Walker a few years ago through an internet message board focused on wine. Ever since then, I had dreamed of walking out of my office, leaving the day-to-day routine behind and chasing a romantic dream. Although I have not been able to take the leap myself, The Road to Burgundy allowed me to experience it through Ray's story. This was a great quick read, which I finished on my bus ride to and from work every day and one evening session while drinking a nice premier cru red Burgundy. If nothing else, The Road to Burgundy is a reminder that big dreams are not the same thing as pipe dreams. Read the book and feel inspired.
11 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Not well written 30 octobre 2013
Par Qualque Volta - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Ray Walker's whirlwind story made headlines because of the uncanny way in which it unfolded. However, the book itself is so underwhelming and badly written, that I found myself not wanting to turn the page. As an avid reader, I was disappointed in the writing skills of Mr Walker and wished he had a better editor, or even a ghost writer. I honestly can't understand all the rave reviews.
5 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An outstanding and worthy read for lovers of wine or entrepreneurship 12 janvier 2014
Par Jack W. Erter - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I was made aware of this book via a review in the THE ECONOMIST and was immediately intrigued both as a novice wine enthusiast and a fan of stories of self made men in general. What I didn't realize was just how captivated and connected with Ray's story I would feel by the end of this. The basis synopsis is that a young man in California becomes quite obsessed with wines from the Burgundy region of France, undergoes minimal training in California on winemaking, and then investigates and finally makes the commitment to move to the region to make wine himself, something unheard of for an "outsider" to do. What is quite astounding is Ray's ability to convey all this in a very engaging way, especially considering that he is a first time writer. Books of this sort, especially first attempts, are often haphazardly or amateurishly written and thought out, but this one is very well put together and executed.

A few things to realize: this book is very contemporary (took place in the last few years); it involves a very young man, not an older wine insider like I had expected on coming in; and it is very relatable as opposed to inhabiting a wine snob universe that one won't understand.

If a book of this genre piques your interest, I highly recommend it and continue to feel as though I went through some of these ups and downs with Ray and his family personally.
9 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A wonderful adventure 13 juillet 2013
Par Kimberly L Leyden - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I loved the book. It was very entertaining and a quick read. I would definitely recommend as a wonderful summertime book. After reading the book, I'm ready to book a flight to France and go wine tasting in Burgundy. Like the author, I am not the biggest fan of Napa Valley wines - heresy for someone who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. I can relate in many ways to his discover and passion for wines after his trip to Rome. The author does a great job conveying his newfound passion and knowledge of wines and wine making. I found myself rooting for him as he leaves his high-paying job in San Francisco to spend a year learning to make wine before heading to France to buy grapes, in Burgundy of course, so he can make his own wine. My only negative comment is that at times his luck/success seems unbelievable. That aside it is still a fun book to read. My husband is now reading the book and thoroughly enjoying it. Disclosure: This book was received as part of a Goodreads giveaway on the premise that it would be reviewed it.
4 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Find Your Passion In Life 5 janvier 2014
Par dineanddrinkguy - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
As a wine enthusiast, Burgundy lover, wine bar owner, married father of two, and someone who has always toyed with the idea of eventually ending up on a vineyard, I felt a deep connection with Ray's story. I rooted for him to succeed, and anguished over his setbacks. I really loved this book and would recommend it for anyone who enjoys wine. Who knows? I may have to drop by his cave for a tasting when I visit Burgundy. Cheers Ray.
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