France 2000, Chateauneuf du Pape (wine country)
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 12 Oct 100 02:50:11 -0700
Subject: France 2000, Chateauneuf du Pape (wine country)
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Chateauneuf du Pape
We decided that the last full day in Vasion-la-Romaine should be taken up
by a visit to the little town down the road where the Pope had his new
house and has become very famous for some extremely full bodied and
delicious wines. Of course we ordered breakfast in the room and watched
the swallows flitting around over the town in the early morning sunlight.
It's amazing to me that, at these prices, more people haven't discovered
these little corners of heaven.
After breakfast we hopped in the car and went twenty minutes down the road
to Chateauneuf du Pape. It's a name for a wine district (vin du pays),
like Sonoma or Napa. There are lots of great wineries here and most of
them can be tasted in many of the tasting rooms in the town or you can go
to the outskirts for the ones you can't find in town. Don't forget, you
can't ship wines into the US yet. The wine distributors in New York who
pay big bucks to our congress men and women are holding on to their
monopolies for now. We can only hope that the few Supreme Court cases set
for the next couple of years will change that.
As it is, we have to limit our purchases to what we can carry back. This
year we've learned a few things. First, we picked up some wine bottle
packing from one of the wineries that will let us pack six bottles in my
hard side bag with the clothes for packing. Then we stopped at Fin Roche,
one of the first wineries you come to on the road to Chateauneuf du Pape
and bought two of their wooden boxes with handles that we can carry on
board. They have learned a few things too. The boxes now look like
suitcases and will fit under the seat. They are a bit heavy with six
bottles but hey, it's Chateauneuf du Pape...
Fin Roche had a great new 1995 white and of course an incredible 1996 red
so we bought four reds and two whites. Then off to town for lunch. The
guy at Fin Roche suggested a restaurant and told us how to get there. It
was one of the better places in the center of town, I don't recall the
name. The food and wine (Chateauneuf du Pape of course) was wonderful,
and again, the strong dollar makes it very reasonable.
After lunch, we found a cave close by and went in for some tasting. That's
right, a cave. Electricity and cooling is very expensive in France so it's
much more economical to dig a cave to keep the wines cool. They went
through some of the cheaper wines ($4.00 - $5.00) but when we got to their
more expensive stuff ($10.00 - $12.00) they started to get really great.
This area has really earned its reputation. We ended up getting four of
their reds to put into my bag.
Then we headed off to our primary destination -- Chateau Mont-Redon. We
found that it's much easier to get there from this side of town that from
the way we got there last year. Mont-Redon is one of the finest wines in
the Chateauneuf du Pape district but, fortunately for us, they haven't
really discovered the retail channels of distribution yet. This is why
you can't get any in the town at any of the caves. Most of their wine goes
to the big distributors in New York. So you can still visit the winery
and pick up the really great stuff for $10.00 a bottle. After tasting, we
bought six of these to fill up the second carry on box. Miki just had to
get a magnum though. She said she will leave her clothes here for
Jean-Claude to mail back. What a trouper!
So now we've filled up our quota. We have all we can bring back. We head
back to Vaison but Miki wanted to see the real Chateauneuf du Pape before
we left so I did a little detour to the old castle. There's not much left
of it but what there is, is pretty inspiring. As with all of the major
fortresses, it's on the top of a hill that looks over the whole valley.
They had to be able to see who was coming to visit well before they got
there, just in case they were invading Goths or something.
Then it was back to Vaison after a long day of cork sniffing. When we got
back to the hotel it was about 6:00 PM so we asked the girl at the desk to
call our absolute favorite restaurant in the world, Le Moulin a Huile ('The
Mill for Olive Oil'). It's a five star, Michelin restaurant a short walk
from the hotel, that overlooks the river. In Europe, getting and holding
on to a five star rating is extremely difficult, they have to be very
special. And Le Moulin a Huile is all of that! Each night they change
the menu to reflect what is fresh and delicious that day. You get two or
three dishes to choose from in each of the five courses they offer. But
then before each course, they a bring something small and delicious to
cleanse the pallet such as patte in a small puff pastry or local marinated
olives. And the cheese course, just before dessert is amazing. Each cheese
is marinated or prepared by the chef in some way so you won't find anything
like it anywhere else. The flavors make you light headed. Add that to a
bottle of '95 Mont-Redon and it makes the experience stay with you long
after the dinner is over and you've managed to creep back to the room
This was a day to remember!!!!
Getting to Entrevaux
The next day we left the hotel and headed for Entrevaux. I've been waiting
for this all year. Entrevaux is a 2000 year old fortress that sits on top
of a rock, hundreds of feet in the air, looking over the small town of
Vauban. It would take much longer to take the pay road through Nice so we
took the road through the mountains. It's about a three hour drive if you
don't stop for lunch (which of course we did). The reason we are
zig-zagging across France is that The holiday months are over in France
(July and August) so in order to be able to spend any time with
Jean-Claude's sister's daughter's family (Miki's God daughter), we had to
go on the weekend. They live in Annot, a 10 minute drive from Entrevaux.
The road through the mountains to Entrevaux was gorgeous. They don't have
mountains like this in the U.S. It's like someone pushed them straight up
in the air and sharpened them. I don't know how the thick forests manage
to hang on to the steep slopes. Even some of the little villages seem to
cling to the steep slopes.
We got to the Hotel de Vauban and shlepped the baggage up the stairs. No
elevators here. It was a very nice room for this area. It had a full bath
with an actual shower and a toilet, This is the only room out of nine
that has its own toilet. There is a W.C. down the hall. They told us it
had a view of the fortress when Miki booked it from the U.S. It does sort
of... if you open the windows and the wooden shades, and if you stick your
head out the window far enough, you can indeed see the fortress up there
on the mountain. But this was fine, we will be up there soon.
When we got settled, Miki called Marilore's family in Annot. Then it was
pretty much a wash for the rest of the evening. Marilore, Jean-Jack and
the three kids all came down for dinner at the hotel in the shadow of
© 2000 Peter Langston