Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wine tasting in the heart of Provence

C caressing grapes
B and B backyard
The first time that Chrysa visited France,
Q&C visited a winery in Alsace. About halfway through the wine tasting, C declared "We have to live in France" and this was the beginning of a long relationship with French wines.

Now that we have an address in France, we thought it was high time to visit our local vineyards and plans for a romantic weekend getaway were made. C had heard of the famous Chateauneuf-du-pape (which translates to new castle of the pope) wine region and was quite happy to realize that Nice is just a 3 hour drive from there. C did a bit of research online to find some "vignerons independent" or independent winemakers that had won awards for their wines to visit, and Q found a very scenic bed and breakfast place to stay for the weekend. We left after work on Friday and three hours later we were in the heart of Provence, enjoying some wine.

apricot cake + lavender
When we arrived at our very scenic bed and breakfast we enjoyed a lovely French dinner accompanied by some red wine from the owner's vineyards. We eagerly accepted their invitation to a wine tasting at their cave the next day, together with John, an American who was treating himself to a trip to France. At the Chateau du Mourre du Tendre they only age their wine in stainless steel tanks and not in wood so that the taste of the grapes really comes through (although this is uncommon in Chateauneuf).

After our morning (!) wine-tasting, we visited a quaint French town nearby, Gigondas, where we had a lovely lunch under the cool shade of the trees. After walking around the town and exploring their herb garden with a fantastic view of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape region, we came back closer to town for our second tasting of the day.

C + wine
At Vignobles Mousset-Barrot we really enjoyed the fruity reds that they made and picked up even more wines for our cellar! We ended the day with a driving tour around the little mountain with breathtaking views of the countryside. When we came back to our B&B, we were invited over for a glass of champagne by our hosts and their family which turned into a lively discussion with more bottles of liquors, one made by some nearby monks in an abbey. A plan was hatched.

Q in the sunshine
On Sunday we had to leave our newly found slice of paradise and return to our other slice of paradise on the French Riviera. We decided that on the way back we would stop at the Frigolet abbey to buy some liquor and then stop at another vigneron for a wine tasting in the Coteaux d'Aix en Provence appellation. So we arrived at the abbey just before the end of mass and waited for the shop to open afterwards. The abbey is really very peaceful especially with the monks singing and C felt just a little bit guilty for driving all the way up the mountain to buy alcohol on a Sunday. But hey, we're still supporting the monks, right? [note from Q: Q did not feel guilty]

View with lavender
We then moved on further into the mountains and came across a perfect picnic spot next to a windmill [note from Q: missing the Danish winds, perhaps...]. After lunch, we visited our last vigneron independant, the Chateau Petit Sonnailler, which is located well into the hills and mountains of countryside, very far from the hustle and bustle of life. It also happens to be a B&B (next time! :-). Here, we enjoyed all of their wines, but we have to say that their Rosé was the best of the trip.
the happy couple
vines + mountains
vines in lines

a first glimpse of the Abbey
windblown trees
lookout! here comes Don Quixote!
With the car now riding low in the back (!), we returned to the Cote d'Azur, very pleased with our weekend getaway to the French countryside in Provence.