Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mas de Gourgonnier

As you plan your itinerary for your visit to Provence, I would encourage you to set aside time for a trip to the Alpilles region. The Alpilles are a small chain of mountains about 20 kms south of Avignon. They are an extension of the larger Luberon mountain range.

The Alpilles are the location of Les Baux de Provence and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and were immortalized by Vincent van Gogh, who painted many images of the Alpilles during his time in Saint-Rémy on the north side of the mountains. Besides the beauty of the region, we go to stock up on rosé from our favorite winery in Provence.

At the base of the Alpilles, between Mouriès and Eygalières at Le Destet, one hour drive from Sablet, you will find Mas de Gourgonnier and its 45 hectares of vineyards and 20 hectares of olive trees.

The "Mas" (ancient farm house) dates from the middle of the 18th century and the land was planted with olive trees and fruit trees which were fertilized by flocks of sheep who grazed the land. Flocks of sheep can still be seen throughout the area.

In 1950, the first grape vines were planted at Mas de Gourgonnier and shortly thereafter a "cave" (winery) was added.

Since the very beginning, completely organic farming practices have been used for growing grapes and olives at Mas de Gourgonnier.

Red grape varieties grown in the vineyards which surround the Mas are grenache, syrah, cinsault, carignan, mourvèdre, and cabernet sauvignon. Red and rosé wines produced at Mas de Gourgonnier are classified as AOC Les Baux de Provence.

White grape varieties grown are sauvignon blanc, grenache blanc, and rolle. White wines are classified as AOC Coteaux d'Aix en Provence. The wineries in the region are trying to get approval to classify white wines from the region as AOC Les Baux de Provence too.

The Vallée des Baux is known for the production of high quality olive oil. Four varieties of olives are grown at Mas de Gourgonnier; salonenque, aglandau, grossane and verdale des baux. Olive oil pressed from olives from Mas de Gourgonnier are labeled AOC Vallée des Baux.

In addition to wine and olive oil, you can buy fruit juice, olive products, "Riz de Camargue" (rice from the Camargue). and salt from the Camargue in the tasting room.

We love the red Riz de Camargue which is grown on family-owned land and use it at Bistro Des Copains. The rice when cooked, has a wonderful nutty taste. At the Bistro, we serve it currently as an accompaniment to duck breast.

The delicious Rouge and Rosé wines produced by Mas de Gourgonnier have been on the wine list at Bistro Des Copains since we opened the restaurant nearly 4 years ago.

We visit Mas de Gourgonnier several times a year while we are in Sablet. It is very easy to tuck several bags of rice in your suit case between clothes. You won't have any problem with customs over the rice.


  1. Hi! I love your house, and your region of France looks so lovely. I'm wanting to do the same thing with my husband (who is French and rather sad in the U.S.). But here's my question. How do you begin to tell your kids and grand-kids, or do you just live in France part of the year? I'm having a guilt complex just thinking about it. Thanks!

  2. As Michel's eldest daughter (and mother of two toddlers) it can be bittersweet at first, but when I hear about how much fun they are having...and how connected they are with their new found interests, it makes the separation from us worthwhile. And besides, it is only temporary (a few weeks at a time, 3-4 times a year).

  3. We live in Northern California and travel to Provence as often as we can. My wife and I both have full-time jobs. I run my own company, so I have the freedom to travel easily. Our goal is to eventually spend 4-5 months a year in the South of France. We could never relocate permanently, as we love our daughters and their families, watching our grandchildren grow.

    For a long time, our family had been aware that I wanted to buy a house in the South of France. But I think they believed it was only a dream. It was quite a shock when we took the plunge. Our daughters have been very supportive. In fact, Tricia and her little girl went on a house hunting trip with me to the South of France about 6 months before we bought our house.