Saturday, February 18, 2012


We are starting to think about returning to Sablet and what we are going to do during our time there. If I was truthful, I would say that we started talking about our return to Sablet during the flight back to California last fall.

Hopefully the snow and bitter cold will have departed from the South of France and we will have normal Provençal weather which is to say sunshine and brilliant blue skies. I am not asking too much am I; no I didn't think so!

I don't recall spending an entire day in the house or even an entire day in Sablet since we moved there. We are always on the go, to the market, visits to favorite villages or wineries or exploring places where we have not been. There is so much to see and do.

We love to explore new villages, déguster at wineries, and learn how foods like saffron, olive oil and cheese are produced. By the time we get to Sablet, I will have a list of villages to visit and/or places to go back to that we have not fully explored.

I collect ideas from blogs for new places to visit. I hope we can make it to Sanary-sur-Mer and Bandol, thank you Tuula from Belle Provence Travels, and to Banon, we love the chestnut leaf wrapped goat cheese which comes from this area and think it would be a grand idea to go to the village and see if we can find a fromagerie so we can learn how the cheese is made first hand.

We have really not explored Saint-Rémy-de-Provence except for a quick stop on a bitter cold day in January to check out the weekly market on our way to taste wine at Mas de Gourgonnier. As I said, it was bitter cold and we were not impressed. I have been thinking we should go back.

I got an invitation today from Sherry Long who lives in Saint-Remy part of the year and just finished a terrific book entitled Dog Trots Globe To Paris and Provence, a story with tons of beautiful pictures, told from the unique perspective of Chula, her 9-year old Sheltie, to meet up with them while we are in Provence. It sounds like fun.

All these visits will have to be interwoven between the Tuesday morning markets in Vaison-la-Romaine and return visits to Gigondas, one or two Luberon villages, eating bouillabaisse in Marseille, a trip to Aix-en-Provence to buy place mats for our Bistro, Cassis and visits with family and friends. Of course we will go to Châteauneuf-du-Pape to taste wine.

If you know anything about wine, you have probably heard about Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. You may not know that Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a French wine Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) located around the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Rhône wine region.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a medieval village on the side of a hill topped by the ruins of a castle near the Rhone River. The village is surrounded by its famous vineyards.

When we go to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, we try to park near the fountain in the center of the village. Its a good thing we come for the wine because there are not many tourist shops, restaurants, art galleries or much to see except for numerous wine tasting cellars and wine shops.

A couple of wineries we like including Clos du Mont Olivet have tasting rooms within walking distance of the center of the village. Other favorites such as Domaine de la Charbonnière and Vieux Télégraphe are located around Châteauneuf-du-Pape or in the neighboring villages of Bédarrides, Courthézon, and Sorgues.

The village streets are narrow, curving around the hillside or climbing up and down between the houses up to the castle. The buildings are old, but everything has been thoroughly restored.

A pretty belfry in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Pope John XXII built the castle that stands overlooking Châteauneuf-du-Pape (literally the Pope's new castle) as a summer residence for the popes.

Apart from the foundations, only two walls of the chateau remain, but they are the ones facing the village, and they are still high and imposing, giving visitors a good sense of what it was like in the village centuries ago

The back side of the tower of the Pope's castle, only ruins remain. The castle was sacked by Routiers (mercenaries who terrorized the French countryside during the 100 year war) when Jean XXII died and destroyed for the final time by the retreating Germans in 1944. The Germans turned the castle into a place to store munitions and blew it up as they were retreating.

Another side of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape castle ruins.

Niece Leslie with wife Shirley exploring Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

The Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC stretches from the bank of the Rhône river near the town of Orange in the northwest to Sorgues in the southeast. It covers 3200 hectares or nearly 8000 acres of land and is the largest appellation in the Rhône region.

94% of the wine produced in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC is red and the balance is white. The AOC rules do not permit rosé wines. While the AOC rules permit 13 different varietals to be blended into the wines, the dominant grape planted in the AOC is Grenache noir and is 72% of the total vineyard surface area.

A view out over more of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyards toward Sablet where we live near the Dentelles de Montmirail which you can see in the distance.

If you like wine or are interested in tasting and learning about wine, a visit to Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a must. I am glad we have friends coming to see us while we are in Sablet so we can share some of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines we have in our wine cellar.

I know I can't go to Châteauneuf-du-Pape to just taste wine and I will end up buying one or two cases to add to the collection in our cellar. So many great wines, so little time.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I am looking for new places to visit, wines to taste and restaurants to try in the Vaucluse, Bouches-du-Rhône or Var Departments. If you have suggestions for places we should visit please let me know.

Bonne journée mes amis et à très bientôt.


  1. Great post and I thoroughly enjoyed the photos and the travel log. We have one bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in our barn which we have been waiting for a special occasion. Most of our wine, we buy from our local cellars St Sornin which, may not be to your taste, but we think they are pretty good and fantastic value. Take care Diane

  2. Diane - Thank you Diane. We have a wine maker friend who lives in the Charente that we would like to visit some day. He came here to Northern California to do an internship for a year at a winery owned by a French woman in Sonoma County. So maybe one day we will get the chance to come try some wines in your corner of France.

  3. Have no fear Michel, today we were back to a more normal temperature for this time of the year: 14°C, bright sunshine and a beautiful blue sky.

  4. Yay! Your trip plans sound fantastic Michel, and I was very happy to see Sanary-sur-Mer & Bandol included in your plans - great spots to visit, and you've got so many other wonderful ideas. I'm dying to get to Châteauneuf-du-Pape - my husband's already been & can't stop raving about the wine. bonne voyage!

  5. Good news about the temperature. It is on the rise and we have actually had some very beautiful days here this week. I think that we might be out of the negative numbers by now. I'm glad to see that you will be visiting Bandol. It is one of my favorite places to go and my family has been there several times. There is a lovely trail around the Mediterranean and also down by the port. Safe travels to you and Shirley and I look forward to hearing about all the new places you have discovered.

  6. The weather has been spring-like! Yesterday I was at a party and after, we all were outside watching the petanque - and we didn't need coats!
    If you are going to Banon and are here at the time, try to go during the fete du fromage. I think it's in May.

  7. Barbara - Happy to hear the weather is getting back to normal. We hope to see you and Robert while we are there.

    Tuula - I am very excited about going to those two villages, especially Sanary-sur-Mer for the village and seaport; Bandol is for the wine.

    Ashley - Thanks so much. We get close to Bandol each time we go to Cassis as you know but we never seem to get past there. This time we will.

    Sara - The weather must be better if they are playing petanque without coats. Thanks for the suggestion about Banon. Do you know if there is anyone who makes cheese that is open to visitors?