As I’ve written about my love affair with coffee, my love affair with wine also began in Spain and has gone on strong ever since. I have visited many a winery in Spain and the South of France where I drank in the knowledge like the fine wine it was. The land full of history, the families who lived in Provence for generations upon generations and their history is planted in that land and bottled up for all to experience.
You Will Be My Son is as complex as a bottle of vintage Bordeaux. It begins, like a tasting, soft under the nose as a domestic drama but upon diving in, finishes quite strong on the palate when it turns out to be quite a thriller. It begins with the head of the vineyard, Paul de Marseul played by the great Niles Arestrup. He is a commanding figure, nasty and wealthy and only expects perfection from everyone, especially his son Martin who is a constant disappointment. The 40-year partnership with the vineyard manager, Francois (Patrick Chesnais), takes a turn for the worst when he is diagnosed with cancer. The show must go on and thankfully, his son Phillipe comes back from working at Francis Ford Copploa’s vineyard in California to see his father and help out the family business. One would think that the father would love to pass on the family business to his only son, but its clear from the beginning that he despises his son and gets in every dig he can. The actors were well chosen, as even the contrast in body stature shows strength vs weakness in the pair. Phillipe, as Roger Ebert noted, is like the French Bradley Cooper. Martin then, may just be the French Woody Allen, without the humor but all the angst.
All Martin wants is the approval and love of his father. He thinks he would receive it when learning about his own father’s relationship with his grandfather, alors, history is repeating itself. This film shows the intensity of wine-making and of the business of family relationships. If you think you know the whole story, that’s just the tip of the vine. It’s worthy to note the superb performance of Anne Marivin who plays Martin’s wife, Alice. In my opinion, some of the best scenes are during the heated conversations between her and Paul as she fiercely stands up for her husband.
As with most French films, the cinematography is brilliant and made me nostalgic for the days of driving through the French countryside, gazing at vineyards for meters passing vineyard after vineyard.
For this film, I give you my recipe for Chicken Veronique, a dish made with grapes that goes well with a chilled glass of white wine.
4 Skinless Boneless Chicken Breast halves
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 Shallots, finely diced
1 ½ cups green seedless grapes
1 cup dry white wine
3 teaspoons dried tarragon
1 cup heavy cream
First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Then, warm a pan at medium heat. Melt three tablespoons butter. Season your chicken with salt and pepper and a dash of tarragon. Add the chicken to the skillet, make sure it is defrosted if not fresh, and sear both sides until slightly golden brown. While the chicken is cooking, slice your grapes in half and put them aside. Remove the chicken and set it aside on a plate. If your oven is ready, place your chicken on a piece of aluminium foil and finish in the oven. Add the remaining butter to the pan.
Turn down the heat to a medium-low and add your shallots. If you have onions and are tempted to use those, I promise that shallots make a huge difference. It is their subtle flavor that adds the depth of flavor. Onions tend to overpower it and don’t work as well. Cook them until they are soft and add your white wine. Stir continuously. Add your grapes and the remaining tarragon and continue to stir. Turn your heat up ever so slightly on the pan and add your cream. The color of the sauce should be light and creamy. Feel free to add a dash more wine or cream depending on how you see the consistency. A good trick to check the cream is to stir with your spoon and then flip over to the backside and run your finger through (careful, it will be hot!) and if the cream doesn’t run down, it is ready!
Check on your chicken to see if it is cooked through, careful not to overcook it. Chicken should read 165 Fahrenheit, 75 Celsius. When cooked through, remove from oven and add it to your pan to mix in with the sauce and give it a final quick sear. Alternatively, you can place it on your plate and spoon your sauce on top for a more upscale presentation. If you would prefer to cook the chicken in the pan the whole way through, you can do that as well, it is more a matter of preference.
Top with additional tarragon and taste test for the need of more salt or pepper. Enjoy!