WWII Vet John Scott Brings Old French Tradition to Plymouth

An old French tradition finds its place in a Plymouth neighborhood.
The Gressier home in France from John Scott's earlier years.

The old farmhouse of Isidore Gressier is tucked into the countryside of France. Past the apple orchards and inside the old cattle gates, a collection of Vietnamese and French men are sipping wine in the kitchen, savoring the year’s harvest. Such is the memory of John Scott, a 90-year-old World War II veteran from Plymouth, who has never forgotten his first taste of Beaujolais Nouveau. 

It wasn’t until after his experience working as a machinery manufacturer in Vietnam that Scott tasted the well-known French wine from the Beaujolais region (in that role, he purchased equipment from Gressier). In fact, it was his distributor Gressier who taught him that not all wine gets better with age. Gressier was part Vietnamese and part French, and spent summers at his 500-year-old estate in the south of France. The two men became fast friends and despite the language barrier, “we’d talk like you wouldn’t believe,” recalls Scott.

One November, when Scott was in Paris for business, he dropped by Gressier’s estate to find the kitchen bustling and the wine flowing. He soon learned that at midnight on the third Thursday in November, Beaujolais Nouveau is released throughout the world, and is cause for much celebration. Since this special wine does not require a long fermentation process—rather a mere two weeks and does not keep long—wine connoisseurs gather for parties to enjoy the short-lived treat. It’s the first taste of wine from that year’s harvest, so “the French are eager to try it to see if it’s been a good or bad year,” explains Debra Palmquist, one of Scott’s neighbors.

Although the walls of that storied old farmhouse are miles away, Scott carries on the tradition of the Beaujolais Nouveau release every year with a group of neighbors right here in Plymouth.

Lory and Lee Dornbusch, who have been attending the party since the beginning about 15 years ago, give a glimpse into the rituals of the evening:

  • Sampling a variety of cheeses
  • Enjoying a warmed baguette dipped in special garlic and basil-infused olive oil
  • Lining up eight bottles of wine—one for each guest
  • Popping the cork on the first bottle
  • Taking notes in the group journal
  • Slicing some apples and pears
  • Closing the evening with chocolate for the women and éclairs for the men 

“John is particular about the sequence of events as well as taking our time and enjoying each part of the evening,” says Lori Braegelman, another long-time guest.

Scott, wants to give his guests a truly authentic experience, says, “In Europe, people spend more time eating, so at this party we do spend time.” Sometimes he’ll get his collection of pictures out to remind his guests about the French farmhouse and where the tradition started.

Palmquist, a recent addition to the group, notes that, “hearing John’s travel stories are the highlight.” Braegelman agrees. “He just has a magnetic personality and has life experiences most of us can only dream of,” she says.

Scott, whose service in WWII and career abroad has lead him to Casablanca, North Africa, Australia and beyond, is happy to call Plymouth home. “It means so much to him to treat us to this special night, and we can feel that love as we enjoy the richness of it all,” says Dornbusch.