Summer 2006 Final Blog for this Trip

Sunday, June 5th – After a late rising, we had breakfast at the Hotel Saint Germain des Pres and took off to have a look at the Seine, some two blocks from the hotel. Wow! It is at the highest level since 1982 – I’ve never seen it imagethis high, so high that tour boats are not able to navigate the river because they cannot get under the arches of the bridges! In fact, the top decks of the tour boats are well above street level, an incredible sight!
We had a late lunch at one of our favorite places – what used to be the Café imageAtlas now the Brasserie Atlas after buying out the florist next door, taking over the space and expanding their presence on the rue de Buci. Hard-boiled eggs mayonnaise, a few fresh shrimp and some Belon oysters, an avocado vinaigrette paired with a demi-pichet of Sancerre set us up perfectly for an afternoon nap. Well-done.
About 7:30pm we got a taxi to take us to Fanny & Gwénolé Le Goudeveze’s home for a “light” dinner. The treat for us, apart from enjoying their company, is imageto spend a little time with their two adorable daughters, Faustine and Enora. They are always entertaining (their parents, too!) and we were treated to a delightful (if not “light”) dinner. We so enjoy being with Fanny & Gwénolé, it is always a treat for us when in Paris.
Easy journey back to the hotel by taxi & so to bed.

Monday, June 6th – OMG! Our last day in France! We have to do things that make us happy. We get up a little late, walk down the street to Le Bonaparte for a quick breakfast before meeting with our banker, Fredéric Aubin. In the meantime, a couple from our hotel also show up at the Bonaparte and we invite them to join us. Melody and Chris are from Marlowe, England and we immediately identify with them as they know many of the places we do. Lovely couple whom we hope to see in the future.
After our meeting at Credit Agricole, which takes longer than anticipated, we walk back to our neighborhood and rest for a while before going to lunch. Eventually we make it back to the rue de Buci and Brasserie Atlas. Moules (mussels) marinieres is the order of the day for me while Phyllis has a salad and the oeufs dur mayonnaise and a salad. More Sancerre and more interaction with our favorite waiter Pascal. A little shopping at the Gien shop and then back to our hotel.
Dinner at 8pm at one of our favorite places in Paris, Aux Charpentiers in the rue Mabillon. Caviar d’Aubergines for Phyllis and white asparagus for me to get us started. We both order the sole meunière and enjoy every morsel. At the end of the meal the owner comes to our table (she remembers us from many years past) and tells us they have sold the restaurant and it will close in September. We are heart-broken to hear this news although we are happy for her and her husband as they have owned the restaurant for over forty years. They have two daughters who are both lawyers in Paris and have three grandchildren. The next time we come to Paris the loss of this memorable restaurant will weigh heavy on us. No other place have we enjoyed so much.
Okay, time to sign off for this trip. We have a taxi to the airport at 7am to get our flight back to Houston. It’s been a great trip even with the labor unrest and the so-so weather. We were able to see some but not all of our friends and had a wonderful time together, Phyllis & me. We are so lucky!
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Summer 2016 June 1-4 V.12

Wednesday, June 1st – With Mike and Martha we headed for Roussillon to see our dear friend Françoise Valenti. As ever, she was entertaining and offered us insights into the locations and reasons behind some of her paintings. She also explained to us her sculptures and how they are made. Wonderful visit. We had lunch across the street and then left to pursue Mike’s goal of driving to a little known vineyard in the Côtes de Ventoux. On the way, we came upon a imagebeautiful field of poppies. After a twisting, turning drive we arrived at the vineyard to discover that no one was at home. Eventually someone arrived and Mike was able to purchase the wines that he wanted. The drive back to Cabriéres was easier than the drive up and after a brief rest period we began to prepare dinner.

Phyllis and I had prepared a leg of lamb a couple of days earlier with potatoes. We began the evening with a bottle of 2015 Pibarnon rosé and continued with a bottle of Mike’s selection. It was a great, if not historic, dinner and we all enjoyed it to the point of getting a good night’s sleep. And so it was!

Thursday, June 2nd – Today we made our third and final trip to Châteauneuf du imagePape to see Emilie Boisson of Père Caboche. The drive has become such a part of our routine the car can almost make the journey by itself! We met Emilie at her office and began a tour of the vines from which she makes one of our favorite CdR Villages wines, the La Côte. From there we viewed the area of her vines from which they produce their Petit Caboche Rosé and White. We had never seen this part of her vineyards and were grateful for the experience. She also pointed out certain parcels of vines that they had recently purchased. Emilie is a delightful young woman who is totally into her family’s business. She is an able and effective representive of her family’s long history of wine-making in this area.
imageFor lunch she took us to Le Verger du Papes restaurant right at the top of the hill that is home to the ruins of the pope’simage chateau. As luck would have it, we were seated at a table adjacent to Julien Masquin and his mother. We had some friendly discussions and left them to their conversations and they left us to ours.
After a wonderful time with Emilie spent over lunch we drove back to Cabriéres. imageA chance phone call to François Faverot led to an invitation over for a drink which led to an invitation to dinner which led to me driving back to our house for leftovers which led to a very late night.

Friday, June 3rd – At mid-morning we picked up François Faverot and went to see a prospective home to rent for June 2017. A smashing hit, we decided almost on the spot to take it. However, we had to go into Menerbes and have a beer to discuss the proposal for about five minutes before saying “yes”. Drove back to Coustellet, dropped off François & said tearful goodbyes to Sally and to him and went back to our place for a ham & cheese sandwich (and to pack). OMG! Discovered about 1pm that our train to Paris on Saturday is the only one on the schedule of TGV’s to be cancelled! Much time and effort (not to mention Canorgue Rosé) is spent trying to find seats on another train. Eventually we are able to book seats on a 7:58pm train to Paris. Whew!

imageFriday night was a “fête” at our local restaurant, Le Chauve Sourit (The Bald Bat). We went to Rosie and Carlo’s home for a glass of wine beforehand and then went to the dinner. Joined by François, Sally, her sister and husband, and Mike and Anne Bennett. Great evening sparked by a trioimage of young women singers presenting songs in the Andrews Sisters genre. Much too late we walked back to our house and went to bed, knowing this was our last night in the region.

Saturday, June 4th – Having negotiated a later than normal departure due to the train cancellation, we gradually packed up and left our petit chateau in Cabriéres and headed to Avignon. I had called ahead to our favorite place in imageAvignon, L’Hotel d’Europe, to see if we could leave our bags there while we waited for our late departure. They were in agreement so we returned our car and took a taxi from the TGV station to the hotel. We had a lovely lunch at the hotel and guess what? In the middle of lunch we see one of our customers, Linda Wood, walking into the hotel. She was just checking out to go to a French language school in St. Remy and we spent well over an hour in conversation with her before her ride arrived. We walked imagearound the center of Avignon (an area we know well) for a while, bought an extra piece of luggage to consolidate two carry bags, and eventually found ourselves in the hotel bar for a last drink before going to the train station.
Our 7:58 was about 5 minutes late but we got on and rode to the Gare de Lyon in Paris. Our pre-arranged car did not show up so we stood in line for about 30 minutes for a taxi. Finally got to bed about midnight but happy to be here.

Summer 2016 May 31 V.11

Tuesday, May 31st – Special day! We drove into the Rhône Valley to Domaine Rouge Bleu in Saint Cécile Les Vignes. Thomas Bertrand & Caroline Jones, along with their daughter Mathilde, are doing a great job managing and improving this vineyard originally started by Jean-Marc Espinasse in 2006-7. They have not only developed their agriculture into a biodynamic property but have also converted the farmhouse into a bed & breakfast with beautiful views over the vines and onto the Dentelles de Montmirail and Mont Ventoux. Highly recommended!image
Our friends from Houston, Martha Patterson and Mike Spillane, drove down from Nyons to join us for lunch and were going to spend the next two nights with us in Cabriéres. While discussing the business and tasting some wines (make that drinking, not tasting), Caroline was preparing lunch. Little Mathilde, who is imageabout the cutest thing you have ever seen, was in the process of taking over the afternoon as we all were being entertained by her energy, her antics and her cuteness! Boys of a certain age had better beware!image
We had a wide-ranging discussion over Caroline’s excellent lunch concerning the issues they have had with certain areas of the vineyard and resurrecting some of their vines, replacing old vines with new, planning harvest activities, and generally moving the domaine forward. Very impressive. Plus, their wines are very, very good.image
Drove back to Cabriéres with Martha & Mike trailing behind. Once home, got settled and opened a bottle of wine to have with a series of light snacks. Sat around chatting about our various experiences in France and with French food and wine. Very enjoyable and relaxing.

Summer 2016 May 30 V.10

Monday, May 30th – The second of our three planned visits in Châteauneuf du imagePape occurred today. We drove up to have lunch with Marie-Françoise and Jean-Claude Vidal, the owners of Domaine du Banneret. imageTheir wine was one of the first we imported all those years ago. In between then and now they have become dear friends so a trip to France must include a visit or a meal with them. Their daughter, Audrey, has taken a much more active rôle in the business leaving them to have lengthy lunches with the likes of us! After very warm greetings we got into imagetheir car and drove for a while up to a hotel/spa near Montélimar, Le Domaine du Colombier. The structure at one time was a monastery and the dining room has the appearance of a series of cloisters. The chef is a friend of the Vidal’s so we had not only good attention but also a great meal. Jean-Claude had brought a couple of bottles of Banneret with him, including their new white, Le Secret, an idea of Audrey’s. When our main course

Le Secret
Le Secret
arrived (we all had lamb) Jean-Claude poured his unlabeled bottle – a 1997 Banneret. Talk about spoiled, that’s us! I think our lunch lasted a little over three hours, every minute of which was imagewell spent. After lunch they took us on a drive imagethrough their vines. They even made a tasting area imagein the vines which is very relaxing.
The gasoline shortage has eased somewhat and supplies are more readily available. Thus, we don’t mind making these trips back and forth across the countryside. The most available supplies seem to be at the stops along the motorways so we seldom pass up a chance to drop in and fill up along the way.
Once home we just relaxed for the rest of the day. I cooked some omelets for dinner and that pretty much ended our activity for the day.

Summer 2016 May 26 V.9

Thursday, May 26th – Road trip today as we are driving north to visit Chateau La Mascaronne, located in Le Luc. Not the easiest place in the world to find image(that is changing) but we eventually found the offices and the owner Tom Bove. Tom and Sally are always fun to visit and we usually are treated to a magnificent lunch. Due to our scheduling during this brief visit to Provence we had asked just for a morning meeting to say hello and catch up with Tom’s never-ending improvements to Mascaronne. All of this imagewe did but there was also some time for a wine-tasting with both Tom and Sally. We have been aware for some time of a special wine they make called “Guy da Nine”. These wines – red, white and rosé – are imageall rested in oak quite a while before being bottled. They are elegant wines, even the rosé. We should have them in the shop in the fall I think.

So we said our goodbyes and moved on to Chateauvert and Philippe Guillanton ofimage Chateau Margüi. We are very pleased to be offering his wines again, they are so good. Philippe imagehad invited us to the domaine for lunch on the terrace in front of the chateau. We were introduced to Beatrice who joined us imagefor lunch under the trees where we talked about wines, both American and French politics and the current round of strike actions taking place here. A perfect summer lunch of fresh fish, salad, strawberries and cherries was enjoyed by all. On our way back to Sanary-sur-Mer we decided that since our Friday appointment at Mas des Bruns had been imagecancelled we would catch a quick visit with Clement from Guiessard then drive back to Cabières d’Avignon. Clement & Pauline are imagenew parents- Marcel was born on the Friday before our visit. After our visit we drove back to our hotel, checked out and drove back to Cabrières d’Avignon that evening for a relaxing Friday, Saturday & Sunday.

Summer 2006 May 25 V.8

Wednesday, May 25th – We left early to drive to Cassis to have a look at a new potential vineyard. Spent a little over an hour tasting some beautiful Cassis whites and rosés. Following from there we drove to St. Cyr-sur-Mer to have imagelunch with Kristi and Jean-Marc Espinasse and two of their friends, Cynthia and Ian. Jean-Marc grilled some salmon for us and imageKristi cooked up some mean side dishes — home-grown imagetomatoes in a vinaigrette sauce, chickpeas and a imagechocolate birthday cake for Phyllis. After lunch Kristi gave us a tour of her garden and Jean-Marc showed us his newly constructed cellar. He is gearing up for some serious Vin de Pays Bandol rosé-making next year.

Drove back to our little hut on the beach in Sanary-sur-Mer and had a bit of a rest to prepare us for another big meal this evening. Gilles & Pascale Pons of Chateau Les Valentines are taking us to dinner. After a little driving around imagewe wound up in Cadieres-d’Azur at Hostellerie Bérard & if it’s not Michelin starred it should be. What followed was an extraordinary tasting menu based upon currently available vegetables. We had, in various formats, asparagus, spinach, courgettes, a little sole meunière, imagecheeses and I’ve forgotten how many desserts. Washed it all down with a couple of bottles of Saint Veran. We couldn’t begin imageto thank Gilles & Pascale enough for such a treat. imageWe made it back to the hotel and went to sleep listening to the waves wash over the beach.

Summer 2016 May 24 V.7

Hissy-fit Tuesday! A wildcat strike at fuel loading stations in France brought the country to the awareness that gasoline and diesel were not readily available. In fact, it pretty much wasn’t available at all! We were due to drive to Sanary-sur-Mer today but with less than half a tank of diesel I wasn’t too sure I wanted to make the trip without knowing where we could fill up. Complicating matters further, we were due to meet Jean-Marc Espinasse to go to Chateau de Pibarnon for lunch once we arrived. There was a long, long line at the only gas station in Coustellet so we drove to Cavaillon to see about filling up there. No luck. On our drive back we saw the line in Coustellet had reduced a little so we got in line. They only had diesel available (lucky us!) so we filled up but I still had reservations about making the drive south. Eventually Phyllis threw a hissy-fit about missing the appointment at Pibarnon so we took off about an hour later than planned but with a full tank of fuel and a busy three days of driving to various meetings, not knowing where we could next refuel.
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After a little less than two hours we arrived at Jean-Marc & Kristi’s home in Saint Cyr sur Mer. Brief greetings were given, beaucoup des bisous & hugs, and imagethen off to Pibarnon. The owner, Eric de Saint Victor greeted us warmly and briefly toured us through his cellars. We tasted some of his newer vintages and then retired to his terrace for aperitifs image(Pibarnon rosé 2015) and some lightly fried fleurs des courgettes for appetizers. A sumptuous lunch at his family’s dining table imagefollowed. For French Country Wines Facebook fans or those of Kristi Espinasse’s blog French Word a Day, you may find more details imageplus photographs at those sites. It was such a great experience I even forgot for a while to worry about re-fueling.
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So, on to Sanary-sur-Mer and our hotel O Petit Monde. This is a small 5-room hotel right on the Plage de Portissol (Plage is beach). We settled in with a bottle of Gueissard Bandol Rosé, had a small rest and then went to dinner. Pasta for both of us as we were still pretty full from lunch. Early dinner, early bedtime. Bon nuit!
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Summer 2016 May 22 & May 23 V.6

imageSunday the 22nd was a day off and a pretty lazy one at that. We went to the Super U (grocery store) in Coustellet for a few things and then walked down to the market that occurs each Sunday in Coustellet. We wandered the stalls, picking up a rotisserie chicken with potatoes along the way. There is so much fresh fruit and veg it’s hard to choose what to get. Currently in season are courgettes (zucchini) plus their flowers, artichokes, tomatoes, strawberries, some raspberries and fava beans. We were specifically looking for spinach and finally found some at the last stand we saw. I bought a kilo without thinking and, between you and me, a kilo is a LOT of spinach! The remainder of the day was spent lounging around the pool, napping, washing clothes, etc. Needless to say, dinner was chicken with potatoes and spinach. We do not spend much time watching French TV (unless there’s a soccer match on) so our evenings are spent dealing with emails or reading. Very relaxing . . .

Monday the 23rd was Phyllis’s birthday. As well, we had two business appointments for the day. The first was with the Cunty family at Domaine Font-Sane. If you recall, their son Romain visited us in early March so we were imagereturning the favor. They had already made plans to celebrate the birthday without us knowing. Veronique and Romain led us to their cellar to taste the newer vintages, those that haven’t been bottled yet imageand then got into their car for a drive up the Dentelles. There is a path that leads to a vantage point just below the peaks, imageprobably about 300 to 350 meters above the ground, with a viewing terrace. They led us up and, once there, opened a bottle of imagetheir 2007 Terrasses des Dentelles Gigondas. It was a very elegant moment with the valley spread below us and a glass of an excellent wine in our hand. Happy Birthday Phyllis!
Climbing down we rejoined the car and drove just a short way down the hill to imagethe Hotel/Restaurant Les Flores to have lunch where Veronique’s husband Bernard joined us. Everything started with a glass of champagne to celebrate you-know-what. For our lunch we chose the Plat du Jour, imagea three course meal with choices of starters, main course and dessert. I had a type of fresh river trout sushi while Phyllis had goats cheese wrapped in cucumbers in a cream sauce. Main course was either a pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon or a filet of cod. Everyone chose the pork imageexcept for me. I had a very fishy day. Naturally we had some gorgeous Font-Sane Gigondas wines with our meal. Phyllis’s dessert was imagea trio of chocolate goodies with a small, edible, sign wishing her a Joyeux Anniversaire. Following coffee, we were driven back to the domaine and said our goodbyes. They are such generous people and seemed so happy to be part of Phyllis’s big day.

After an hour or so drive back to Cabriéres we did a quick turnabout and went off to our meeting at Chateau La Canorgue with Nathalie Margan. Always fun to see Nathalie! She is so enthusiastic about the wines they make and is so imageenergetic in describing them. We tasted several of their new wines from the tanks and listened to Nathalie’s stories of people imagethat are still visiting the vineyard as a result of the film, “A Good Year” having been shot at various locations around the imagedomaine. Apparently most only look, they don’t buy. As our visit wound down, Nathalie presented Phyllis with a bouquet of roses picked by her father (who was in Marseille) to celebrate once again, the birthday! We finally met Nathalie’s husband Fred!
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We left Canorgue and drove into Bonnieux where we had reserved a table for dinner at l’Arome. Phyllis and I shared a half-bottle of 2012 Canorgue rouge imageand some of the best lamb chops we have ever eaten. A lovely dinner to finish a lovely day for a lovely lady, my wife Phyllis.

Summer 2016 V.5 May 20 & 21

On Friday May 20th we drove to the Domaine Tourbillon Boutique between Lagnes imageand Isle sur la Sorgue to meet up with Audrey Vidal,image Benjamin Tourbillon and their son Baptiste. After a brief tour around the boutique we tasted some of Benjamin’s wines and made arrangements to meet them for lunch the following day. Phyllis and I then continued on to Isle sur la Sorgue to stroll through the shops and, imagespecifically, find a hat for me. Successful in our goal, we drove back to Cabrières for a little relaxation, a glass or two of wine and a quiet dinner at home.

One thing I should mention — it is unseasonably cold over here. The first thing we do in the morning is dress warmly. The houses here are built to hold heat inside in the winter and to hold cool in during the summer. It’s not supposed to be this cool here at this time of the year. I might add that most houses have little or no ability to heat other than a fireplace (which we are prevented from operating). It will get better as the weather warms so we are able to make do.

imageFor Saturday we went back to Isle sur la Sorgue with Audrey, Benjamin & Baptiste. They took us to lunch at a restaurant owned by Benjamin’s family, Cafe Fleurs. We were directed to an upstairs table on the imagebalcony overlooking the river. We had an amuse bouche made of carrot purée and créme fraiche that is so good we all asked for imageseconds — even Baptiste at one year old was into it! Foie gras followed for Phyllis and I had a kind of trout sushi. We imagefollowed with dos de Cabillaud (cod filet). For dessert we had a cherry clafoutis made with cherries from Benjamin’s orchard. After coffee and a lengthy farewell we drove back to our house and lounged imagearound the pool for the rest of the day. Scrambled eggs were the dish of the day for our supper.

Summer 2016 V.4 Thursday, May 19

We got an early start (early for us), about 9am, in order to drive to Domaine imageMontrose (the “t” is silent) near Pézenas in the Languedoc, about 2 1/2 hours away from Cabrières d’Avignon. We had a pretty but lackluster drive and arrived spot-on at 11:30am. We were met by Natalia, a imagelong-time employee of three weeks, a very helpful young woman and she led us to Olivier Coste, the most recent of some 14-ish generations of this family on the same property, dating back to 1701. And a imagebeautiful property it is, covering some 100 hectares with some buildings (still standing) dating back to the 17th century. The place reeks with history – there was a vineyard here when the early Americans were imagestill learning from the Indians how to grow corn!

Olivier gave us a grand tour of the caves, cellar, tanks, press, etc., and imageintroduced us to his wine-maker Michel who tasted us on everything in the tanks and in the barrels. What an experience and what a treat. For those of you who are not familiar with their wines, the style of imageMontrose focuses on freshness and enjoyability. Their Chardonnay and Rosé are treats not to be missed and both at about US 13.00/bottle. The Salamandre 2013, a Cab/Syrah blend, is outstanding, full of flavor, body and a lengthy finish. They also feature a lovely Viognier, a premium rosé and a dessert wine from a one hectare plot of Muscat just behind their house which, incidentally, is surrounded by their vineyards.

imageAfter our tour and tasting we were taken to the family’s kitchen where we were joined by Olivier’s parents and by Natalia. The main course was daurade, the French equivalent of sea bream, brought imagefresh the day before from Normandy. Cheese & dessert (fresh strawberries) followed plus coffee. So spoiled we are . . .

We love what the family Coste are doing and look forward to a long and expanding relationship, to include a broader selection of their wines.
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The trip home was not quite so quick as the trip over. We left Montrose about 3pm and arrived home sometime after 6pm. Following a brief rest we journeyed to Roussillon for dinner with our friend Françoise Valenti, the artist, her nephew Nicolas and two of her friends, Charley and Kathy Woods. Charley & Kathy have a tour company called The Luberon Experience and do a wonderful job introducing travelers to one of our favorite areas of France. This year and into 2017 they will be venturing into other parts of France and Europe as well. Their website is www.theluberonexperience.com, just in case you have a touch of the wanderlust.

Back home by about 11-ish, take care of emails from the US, brush our teeth and get to bed. Tomorrow we meet up with Audrey Vidal of Domaine du Banneret and Benjamin Tourbillon of Domaine Tourbillon for lunch. Hopefully we will meet their infant son, Baptiste, who we have already matched up with our granddaughter Madeleine. He is a bit older than her at one year but we hear she likes older men! And you thought arranged marriages were a thing of the past!