Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wine tasting around the Rhone

There is so much wine in the Rhone valley it is hard to decide where to start drinking, I mean tasting! Lucky for us we were with others who also were interested in some serious tasting so we got to explore the varietals and wine growing area.

The French love their wine as you know, look how civilized it is to have a glass on the train- in little glasses sealed with foil! And it wasn't the swill that you get on American flights!

But of course there is cheap wine in France also, and you can find barrels of it at the local Carrefour!

But we were there to taste amazing Rhone wines and so that is what we did! One day we spent the afternoon at the co-op just on the way of Beaumes-des-Venise, a charming tiny town that literally looks like it has sprouted out of the side of a hill. The co-op was great as you could taste from different producers with many different styles. There were pages of wines available so we all just picked a few and then shared tastes. The prices were amazing and many very nice $11 bottles found their way back to the chateau for us to enjoy with our dinner. A few dessert wines even found their way back home to Seattle!

The next day we all made our way to Chateau de Beaucastel, you'd be hard pressed to find 7 more excited wine enthusiasts! The grounds are small and quite ordinary but the wines are anything but. And the terroir here is very different with large river rocks scattered about holding in the water and making the vines very strong.

We were incredibly lucky as the gentleman who normally gives the tours and tastings had to go meet with the negotiant so we were with Marc Perrin whose family owns Beaucastel!

I can really go on and on about the amazing wine, winemaker pride and gorgeous house and cellars here. It was such a treat to see and taste it all!

After a bite to eat in Chateauneuf du Pape (another charming hilly town) we all headed into Cave du Verger for some more tastings. This is basically a wine shop that specializes in the wines of CdP and also does tastings. We had a fabulous time with Jean Baptiste who had us taste some very amazing wines, most completely unavailable in the states as the quantities made are quite small. And then there was a test! We didn't pass but we had a great time trying to name the fruits as we smelled them in order in one last glass of wine.

You might think that we would be a bit tired of tasting after all that but we weren't! Our friend Abra was nice enough to arrange a tasting at a small family run winery just north of CdP called Chateau Montfaucon.

The wine here is so good and the staff was over the top nice. As we bought some to take home there seemed to be extra bottles of wine being handed to us. "un cadeau", a gift. And that is exactly how we felt about our week of wine tasting- what a gift!

Well we might also have felt a bit fuzzy!


Sunday, July 6, 2008


What could be better than spending a week in Provence? Spending it with super fun friends in a chateau that had started being built in the 8th century!

I do feel incredibly lucky. We have wonderful friends who invited us to spend some time in Chateauneuf de Gadagne where they had rented an amazing chateau in years past. And when I say chateau I do mean it in the most medieval, French, palatial and stunning sense of the word! WOW!

We took a beautiful train ride down from Paris with our roommates for the week and rented cars in Avignon- just 20 minutes from our town. Well 20 minutes if you have GPS or are a French highway mind reader maybe! Armed with maps and directions it took us 3 hours to shop at the Carrefour for provisions and drive 11 km to our chateau. Oh well...... we were ready for cocktails once we loaded in!

Our village sat upon a hill giving you amazing views of the Rhone Valley that changed daily with the light. Some days you would notice red steeples, other days you'd see white cliffs and others you'd see many many castles and chateaus like ours.

There were 23 of us total, divided up into 3 main "houses"- ours downstairs and the old wine cellar was near the beautiful gardens and gorgeous pool. I really can't say enough about how amazing the chateau was and the pictures can't really do it justice. I was incredible being around such ancient architecture!
We were really lucky to be in the area on a Sunday when the awesome l'Isle Sur la Sorgue market happens. During the morning the entire town is set up with farmers and crafts stalls then they pack it up in the afternoon allowing you to have a nice lunch and shop the amazing antique shops that the village also has. People come from all around to this market and you can get just about anything here. We bought lots of sausages, cheese and herbs from various vendors but none of us got a slice of this roasted stuffed suckling pig!

This town was so lovely, we had a great time walking around exploring until we realized that it was Sunday and we hadn't picked up any wine and it is very hard to find wine shops open on Sunday! After much searching and asking around we finally located quite an amazing selection at the local gas station mini mart. Only in France would you find aged Bordeaux at the gas station!

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