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Meet Olivia

Letters

This wine is an homage to Olivia Brion, suffragette and descendent of a great French wine family. In 1905 Olivia, wearing long pants and short tresses, stunned the sporting world – and won a huge wager – by outrunning a locomotive from Canterbury to Maidstone. Later in life she ignited a furor by publishing passionate letters from her many paramours including Warren Harding, Paul Gauguin, Charles Chaplin and Isadora Duncan.

Olivia is our inspiration– a beautiful, high-spirited gal, ever in our thoughts as we grow our grapes and make our wine. The diligent research of fabulist John Newmeyer has revealed details of Olivia's family origins and exciting life:

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Ancestry of Olivia Brion: How Cycles Brion Came to Be

During the high Middle Ages, three vineyards at the edge of the city of Bordeaux achieved fame for the exquisite quality of their red wines: Haut-Brion just north of the Pessac road, Laville Haut-Brion a quarter-mile to the south, and, between them, Basse-Brion. For fifteen generations these vineyards were lovingly cared for by the two branches of the Brion family– until the 1870s when the terrible advent of Phylloxera threatened to end forever this tradition of greatness.

The Haut-Brions dug in their heels: they mortgaged their chateaux to the hilt, tore out all their precious (but dying) vines, and replanted with the new American rootstock. Slowly they were able to restore their vineyards and winemaking.

Cycles Brion Paris

Comte Pierre Gilles-Gascon de Blanquefort de la Basse-Brion, however, chose to abandon the wine world altogether. He sold his 32 acres for £200 to a British industrialist who built housing blocks for Bordeaux dockworkers. The Comte changed his name to Peter Brion and moved to Paris, where he invested the £200 in the new technology of bicycle making. His "farthing-penny" design did not sell well, and the disconsolate Peter declined into days of absinthe at the Lapin Agile. His daughter Mercedes took over the business and created a woman-friendly design with herself as model. This was a runaway success and restored the family fortune, paving the way for the even more brilliant success of Olivia Brion in the next generation.

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Selections from Letters of Love

published in 1921 by Olivia Brion (b. 1899, Arles, France; d. 1921, Washington, D.C.)

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Tom Flesher

Paul Gauguin to Olivia Brion, October 13, 1902:

Ma Chérie,
Tu dois me rejoindre a Tahiti ! Ça me fait languir le vouloir de te regarder a fond des yeux– luxe, calme, et volupté. Et je sais combien ça te plait d'aller a la nage– ce que je fais chaque matin. Je sais que le chemin est long, et il y a toujours le probleme de l’argent. Mais peut-etre tu pourrais t’engager a bord d'une barque come chasse-rats.

Ton petit-Paul

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Olivia takes flight

Wilbur Wright to Olivia Brion, December 18, 1908:

Le Mans [France]
Olivia–
Well my dear I am sure that what took place yesterday was the first time ever in an aeroplane. You mustn't tell anyone, even Orville– thank God the Flyer was over the forest and not over the crowd of spectators!

Wilbur

P.S. We were higher than the Eiffel Tower, so I reckon that you are the first member of the "1000 Club"...

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Jack London to Olivia Brion, April 14, 1912:

Dearest Libby,
I know that when Charmian finally meets you and sees who you truly, truly are, her jealousy will vanish. She is my Mate, and you are my Comrade, and the wonder of it is that in you two I should find the comradeship and kinship I had sought in men alone. And I know I am bold to say this– but I see us sharing a bed together, yes! – the three of us in blissful repose amid the vigorous airs of Beauty Ranch. Sometimes I just want to get on top of Sonoma Mountain to shout to the world about you and her and me!

Soon I will build my dream house here and I am thinking of naming it after you or someone like you...

Your man and Lover,

Jack

P.S. We have a lovely little pond. Can you swim?

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Carl Jung to Olivia Brion, June 28, 1912:

(translated from German)

My little Demeter incarnate—

Do not worry, Emma will accept us.  Thanks to you, my relationship with my wife has gained enormously in assurance and depth. It seems that the prerequisite for a good marriage is a license to be unfaithful!

But Sigmund is another matter– he spoke harsh words to me, “a bestial method!”, “countertransference!”, and so on. Even at the risk of breaking with a great man who is like a father to me, we must, my dear, we simply must go on with our vital work!

In our next session, we should analyze your sharp reaction to Fraulein Wolff’s cat.  What could be the symbolic meaning for you?  The Independent Feminine, perhaps?  Or could there be a deeper resonance, to the Egyptian goddess Bastet?  Or perhaps even to the prehistoric era of matriarchy [vorzeitlich Mutterrecht] wherein lie the roots of creative life-force?

I feel that we are on the verge of a real breakthrough…

Your own Carl-Gustav,

P.S. I loved our session in the Woods– the Grüner Veltliner was passable, you were profound!

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Vaslav Nijinsky to Olivia Brion, June 1, 1913:

Paris
Sunday evening, 1 June [1913]

My little Demeter incarnate—

My dear Livska,

I felt close to God when we parted at dawn’s light.

I had a good sleep all day today. I had been nervous and sleepless since Thursday, as you can well imagine. Our long walk in the Bois de Boulogne did more good than a hundred doctors and their powders. Not just to heal me but to show me how right I am about Nature. Kschesinska is a great dancer, a grandmaster of technique. But it is pure technique without feeling. I want dancers to be the primitive. Oh, how you astonished me with your grande jeté en tournant du baton! You did it just in play, just to amuse me and lighten my anxious heart! But you, the amateur, have the primitive in every fiber of your being. Livska, you are Nature!

Let us meet again soon– but let it be our secret time, D. wouldn’t understand.

As ever,
Vaslav

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Lord Horatio Kitchener to Olivia Brion, August 12, 1913:

My darling Olivia,
Here's your "Kitchie" at Cheshire House for the partridge season which got off to a glorious start this morning. How you'd love to see those birds fall, as I pip them out of the sky one by one with my fine new Purdys! Your chums helped bring in the catch– 27 brace just from my guns alone. The Duke of Ch. asked after you– he remembers how well you loved his roast duck last winter– and by the way he's forgiven you for that little business with the carpet. See here, girl, I'd really love to have a romp with you in these fields! Do plan to come down for the duck in October, and we'll do just that!! And after, I'll give you a fine back-rub by the fireside.

Your loving Kitchie

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Dog

Charlie Chaplin to Olivia Brion, January 16, 1917:

Dearest Princess,
Please forgive me for being such a bad boy! Of course you were right about Nelly all along– she's a floozy, who will never have as much class as you have in your littlest toe. O' Princess, it's you I love– other girls just don't mean anything to me! I am a very hard person to live with. Every artist must be. I am so glad that I found you, you who understand that creative art absorbs every bit of a man, and that sometimes such a man does crazy things that he doesn't mean to. I promise to make it up to you. Be with me for the premiere of Easy Street next Monday. We'll see the show and then take some exercise on the beach at Santa Monica, just you and me.

Your sad and sorry tramp,
Charlie

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Letter from Isadora Duncan to Olivia Brion:

Ritz Hotel, Paris
Tuesday, April 22 [1919]

Sister comrade sweetheart–

Paris is pullulating with diplomats nowadays–the big peace palaver—elegant clothes, impeccable manners, stupefying conversations. Oh sweet–I am almost crazy.

Darling I yearn for the open road–remember before the War our enchanted Dance to Divine Sappho in the purple fields of Provence? –dashing, all scented with lavender, back to Monte Carlo for Sergei's soirée–the smart breeze in my long red hair & in your dark curly hair.

O let us steal away for a day en campagne–we'll drive fast in my open car–I know how you love sniffing the aromas of the French countryside. We'll indulge in lunch of rabbit and truffles–I shall gaze into your soulful brown eyes.

Isadora

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President Warren G. Harding to Olivia Brion, March 19, 1921:

O.–

Well, sweetheart, I'm settled into the White House. You'd be right at home here– the grounds outside are huge, almost like those farm fields near Dayton where you and I took those lovely autumn walks. Your last missive distressed me – you mustn't go on so about being old! Why, you've got more vim and vinegar than gals half your age! So let's hear no more of it, O.K.?

You simply must visit me in my big President's house. But we have to beware of Florence, who's so jealous of my female friends. And Peaches– who always sides with Florence– has made it quite clear she'll scratch your eyes out if she sees you again. But they're always in bed by 10, so why don't you come visit me at midnight next Monday? Everyone will expect me to be at my usual poker game at the Willard, but the boys canceled on account of the flu. So come to the basement entrance on the east side, and you'll see a little door put in by the Roosevelts. Then climb the servants' stairway to the third floor library, where I'll have a nice fire going. Then, my dear, we can lie together without a stitch of clothing on either of us...

Oh, Olivia, how I long to run my fingers through your dark tresses! How I look forward to your tongue on my toes! I just can't believe what you can do with that tongue of yours!

How you make a fellow bloviate with pleasure!!

From your Buckeye sugarplum,
W.

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[Found during demolition of the Washington Central Hotel, March 2005]
President Warren G. Harding to Olivia Brion, September 12, 1921:

O.–

Yes my sweetikums I'd love to see you tonight! I'm scheduled to speak at the D.A.R. dinner but I'm sure I can talk Florence into taking my place. And I'll lock Peaches in the upstairs linen closet. So just come in as you always do. I'll hang a green necktie by the basement entrance to let you know that "the coast is clear for love." But if you see a RED necktie there don't come in!!

W.

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Epilogue

On the Investigation of the Murder of Miss Olivia Brion.

The body of Miss Olivia Brion was found early on the morning of September 13, 1921, on the north edge of the Ellipse in Washington, DC. Even after eight decades, an aura of great mystery still surrounds the cause and circumstances of her death. Clearly it was murder: her face and neck were deeply scratched, and she had been strangled with a silk scarf. But to this day nothing is settled as to the identity of her assailant, or the motive for attacking such a well-beloved personage.

To be sure, a thorough investigation was conducted after the terrible event. John Edgar Hoover, a young police detective, insisted on taking charge of the case. His initial work set the course for the inquiry:

"I have looked carefully at all the clues touching upon Miss Brion's case," declared Mr. Hoover at a press conference, "The silk scarf bears a monogrammed 'F' and has a faint aroma of cologne or perfume. The owner must be a female or an effeminate male. However, the injuries on the deceased's face consisted of four parallel lacerations, spaced precisely 1/2" apart. These lacerations are very clean. The only logical explanation is that the killer fashioned a dastardly weapon from a quartet of woodworkers' finish nails, of 20-penny or finer gauge, driven into a short board or stick. This weapon was used to disable Miss Brion so that the fatal act of strangulation could be accomplished. As no woman is skilled enough at carpentry to have created such a weapon, I have deduced that the murderer is a male carpenter or woodworker, of effeminate taste, whose Christian name begins with 'F'. There can only be so many such men in the Washington area."

"Gentlemen, among those men is our perpetrator."

Detective Hoover conducted an exhaustive investigation of all possible leads. Repeated visits were made to every carpentry shop, woodworking studio, and hardware store within a 30-mile radius of the murder site. Guided by the presumption of an "effeminate male" murderer, Mr. Hoover led police dragnets of numerous public lavatories and parks where men of "pansy" tastes were known to gather. One such young man, Clyde Tolson, was briefly detained as a suspect but later proved very helpful in locating other suspects of more discreet habits.

A year of hard work on this case by Detective Hoover proved fruitless, but he nonetheless gained recognition for his diligence and, in 1924, was appointed to a high Government position by President Coolidge. Detective Hoover was repeatedly urged by a young journalist to read Miss Brion's Letters of Love so as to gain vital insight into her murder. This led to Mr. Hoover's famous riposte, "I do not trouble myself with pornography, Mr. Lippmann!"

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