Loyal readers of this blog will remember that my first blog post featured Gael de Pontbriand, WG’74, a French alumnus who was planning to invite the Wharton community to the estate of his winegrower wife, Evelyne. In early October, this visit became a reality when the Wharton Club of Paris, thanks in part to Gui Bulaty, WG’06, and Club President Didier Riebel, WG’89, organized an exclusive weekend “Harvest Adventure” to the Loire Valley.

Upon arrival in Savennières, Gael showed the group around the town, giving us an insider’s look at this charming village. It culminated with a look inside the former clergy house, which housed vibrant, amazingly preserved paintings.

With a bit of history under our belt, we were welcomed into the chateau for some sparkling wine and a briefing about the day ahead. We then indulged in a delicious brunch with the region’s best cuisine and, of course, more marvelous wines from the chateau. The refined culinary theme persisted throughout the weekend.

Energized by some of the finest wine and cuisine the region has to offer, participants were put to work in the vineyards to pick grapes. They learned about the techniques to select and group the grapes for pressing. Grape pressing proved to be a very curious art. Alumni had the opportunity to discover modern electronic pressing and compare it to traditional manual pressing. More daring alumni pressed the grapes in the traditional (or “I Love Lucy”) manner with their own feet.

The “I Love Lucy” method of grape pressing

After all this hard work, it was time for more tasting! Evelyne taught us many aspects that make Domaine du Closel’s wines so special: acidity curves, aromatic elements and organic agriculture.

Back in Angers, the group finished the day with a seven-course French meal prepared by Michelin-starred chef Gerard Bossé of Une Ile, designed to showcase Domaine du Closel’s best Milesimes. He succeeded in every respect.

The following day, the visit continued to the Chateau d’Angers, a great example of medieval military architecture built progressively between the ninth and 17th centuries. The true treasure of the Chateau d’Angers is the Apocalypse Tapestry, a 13th century painted work depicting the Apocalypse, while also revealing satiric views about the English enemy as interpreted by contemporary Frenchmen. Our host Gael was quite the expert on the tapestry.

More than just a cultural trip, Harvest Adventure was an opportunity to bring closer together alumni from different countries in Europe. The light, laid-back atmosphere and social activities built cohesion among participants and seeded new ideas of cooperation among the clubs in the future.