Friday, May 16, 2008

Lyon and the 1st International Syrah Symposium

This past week I was in Lyon, France attending the 1st International Syrah Symposium. This symposium was dedicated to the science and consumer marketing of this incredible grape variety that is world famous from the wines of the Rhone Valley (Cotes du Rhone), Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and all the way over in California (Rhone Rangers). The famous Fourvière Hill is the icon of Lyon and I would make my way up to the top of the hill to explore.
But first, was the conference. The school where the conference was held was a very new building and we spent two incredible days learning about the research adn marketing aspects of the Syrah varieties. Incredible lunches were served and I had the opportunity to try over 30 different Syrah wines (didn't swallow all of them!). Luckily the French presentations were translated into English for us Americans, Australians, and South Africans and many of the presentations were given in English. I even got the chance to meet Pr. Carole Meredith who is a leading expert in genetics of wine varietals and has her own Syrah vineyard producing wine in Yountville, CA about 10 minutes away from my future wedding destination. Her team at UC-Davis has identified the original parent vines of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and most recently the unknown Zinfindel (Croatia).
The famous Fourvière Hill was my first stop in my adventures and the incredible church was a sight to behold. The Virgin Mary is worshiped here for stopping the Black Plague which spread from the Marsaille region all the way to the tip of Lyon, but never entered the city. The Lyon people celebrate this blessing on December 8th every year by lighting a candle in the window to that the Virgin Mary for protecting the people of Lyon. To get to the church, you had to ascend 798 steps up the side of the hill but it was well worth it as the view of the city was incredible.
Lyon is the city of the Lion and these things were everywhere in the city. I thought this one reminded me of the Jerry Jessup "man-cave" tiger that he got for Christmas so I couldn't resist taking a snap for my future father-n-law.
Last but not least, the cuisine of Lyon. The specialties of this region involve everthing to do with the pig. EVERTHING! The Andouillette a la moutarde is world famous and consists of the intestines of the pig, sliced into pieces and then stuffed into a pig intestine casing, and then grilled and topped with a mild mustard and butter sauce. When I sliced open that casing, I had an experience that was like none other in France. I love the local cuisine of France and every plate that I encounter gives me memories that I never want to forget.........except for this one. And the dinner the next night, and the dinner after that. Other plates consisted of pickled pig ears, mayonaisse chopped pig noise, and tripes cooked in wine sauce. I loved the experience but I can go without any of those items for the rest of my life! I think a Johnsonville Brat is about as far as I am going into the world of stuffed sausage from now on. The people of Lyon must have an iron stomach that I have yet to acquire, but I loved every nose plugging moment of each dinner and the spicy Cotes du Rhone helped wash it down everytime.

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