Tuesday, September 05, 2006

My Bordeaux

Chateau Margaux, watercolor, 5 1/2" x 7 1/2"
Artist Peter Yesis left a comment today, "Thanks again for cleaning out your closets (referring to my Venice findings). I hope you have more hidden in there." Peter keeps urging me on and it's easy to find art remnants from my past lurking in that closet. I spent a good 10 years focusing on wine and Bordeaux before the Paris café and coffee cup took over. Michael Aaron, owner of the New York wine shop, Sherry-Lehmann pushed me into the vineyards and it was a surprising adventure. I had to learn how to draw architecture - chateaux etc. (I'd done mostly figure drawing up till then). And I had to learn about wine - one of the best kinds of tuition there is.

Chateau Prieuré-Lichine, watercolor, 4" x 6 1/2"
Michael wanted me to paint Bordeaux's Grand Cru chateaux for his quarterly wine catalog, so off I went to get first-hand experience. These chateaux tower in a quite flat landscape and are surrounded by vineyards, every centimeter grapevines right up to the road. Overwhelmed doesn't begin to describe how I felt. I knew zip about cornices, cartouches or Mansard roofs much less how to draw them, but I've never been one to pass up a challange.

Chateau Léoville-Barton, watercolor, 4 1/2" x 6 1/2"
Bordeaux is an amazingly beautiful 18thC city, not overcrowded with tourists except during VinExpo. The next VinExpo is in June '07, so you still have time to go and enjoy. Bordeaux sits on the river Garonne and is a short and scenic 3 hour TGV ride from Paris. I like to paint the changes in the landscape from the train window and the tables seem designed with watercolorists in mind IMO.

Did I mention all the lions and sphinx that abound in chateaux country. Chateau Margaux has 2 majestic sphinx guarding their stairway. Mouton-Rothschild is fond of them. Chateau Kirwan and Leoville-Barton have gone with the lions. Funny thing, when I got back home, I kept seeing similar stone "Bordeaux-style" lions sitting around guarding Astoria's houses. Are there any stone lions in your neighborhood?

I did a series of large watercolors for the Sherry-Lehmann catalog but many small sketches to warm up to these Mansard roofs and cornices.

I wish this was a glass of real Chateau Haut-Brion, but I did get to taste many, many fine wines and even attended the very crowded VinExpo, where winemakers turn up from every place in the world=lots more tasting 

The best possible place you can get that wine tuition I mentioned is Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World Wine School. An 8-week course of tasting 8-9 glasses of the very best wines per night, often from Kevin's own cellar. Loads of fun and not your usual deadly serious intro to wine tasting. I'll never forget Kevin's rules:
1. Swirl
2. Sniff 3x so you can get the wine's "nose"
3. Then taste, but no talking for 1 minute, so you can get the wine's mouth feel and "the long finish" if there is one.
*Note the buckled paper on my notes from my wine class...
More wine to come...oh and I forgot to thank Peter for today's post idea.


  1. Anonymous1:29 PM

    You amaze me again Carol. Not only the beautiful watercolours, but also thw artistic way you put them together in a blog.
    Now I look forward to figuring out how to buy a watercolours of yours from Norway :-)

  2. Okay I am getting the picture you can paint anything! i am falling more and more in love everyday with your watercolors, just when I think I have a favorite...poof you expose another piece from your portfolio!!
    If we meet in Paris promise me the chocolates you paint!!

  3. OH MY GOSH!!! These are incredibly beautiful!! From line to color to composition to posting ... My jaw is on my knees! WOWZA!

  4. Anonymous6:46 PM


    You really 'get' Bordeaux. Your work there is lovely// balanced, elegant and a realo joy---just like a good Bordeaux---of the old school, not the post-parker wines.
    Keep up the great work/

    Larry Walker

  5. I took the same wine class three autumns in a row - it was a basic, beginners class, but went into surprisingly rich detail. As a result, I learned more and more each year. The content of the course was meant to be the same, but when a large part of your class is tasting different wines, how can it not be fresh and different? Loved it.

  6. Wow I am speechless, you have such amazing talent!

  7. Anonymous9:42 AM

    This is fun! I remember being wowed by the images on your website, so it is really nice to have the backstory! You and I have a wine connection which I've said I'll tell you about someday--and I will!

  8. Anonymous12:14 PM

    Tell me NOW!
    I'm into immediate gratification..I hate to wait :(

  9. You don't need to thank me,just keep these wonderful posts coming. You certainly make sacrifices for your art! Having to learn how to drink all that wine, that should have been taught in art school.

    I love the way you display your art with the backgrounds filled with other objects. It adds so much flavor.
    I only wish I could get frequent flyer miles for visiting your blog.
    Here's to a clean closet!

  10. Anonymous2:09 AM

    I don't know, tastes pretty good to me....

  11. Justine6:05 AM

    Simply divine!
    Lucky you!!
    such lush watercolors too..

  12. Anna-Maria A.6:08 AM

    love, love, love the combo of watercolor on these Bordeaux photos


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