Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Les Florets Restaurant, Gigondas

We think we are incredibly lucky to have a house in Sablet and live there part of the year. We love the location at the base of the Dentelles de Montmirail with vineyards all around as far as you can see. Nearby are small villages, some of them renown for their beauty and others for the wine produced by the local vintners.

The nearest village to the south of Sablet in the direction of Carpentras is Gigondas, a small village well known for the robust red wines that are produced there.

We first came to Gigondas to taste wines with our friends from our Bistro Des Copains several years before we ever thought about buying a home in Provence.

That first time was on a cold day in late January and much of the village except for the Caveau du Gigondas - the wine growers cooperative at Place Gabriel Andéol and tasting rooms were closed for the season. When we asked about a place to eat lunch, we were directed to a forgettable café in nearby Vacqueyras.

We have since found there are several very good restaurants in Gigondas including Les Florets. Les Florets is a small hotel with a wonderful restaurant located on Route des Dentelles above Gigondas. The hotel and restaurant are owned by the Bernard family who also own Domaine La Garrrigue winery in Vacqueyras.

I was in Sablet a few weeks ago with friends Steven and Susan and after we wandered all around Crestet we decided to go eat lunch at Les Florets. Les Florets has a large dining room and terrace for dining on nice days. Although it was early spring, the day was sunny and warm and we were happy to be seated under the trees on the terrace.

The waiter brought us the menu and wine list, actually a book, as thick as a telephone directory for a good size city. There were many selections from Gigondas, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and elsewhere in the Côtes du Rhône as well as other notable wine regions of France.

At the waiter's suggestion, we chose a bottle of Domaine du Cayron Gigondas from the great 2007 vintage, a perfect blend of Grenache (70%), Cinsault (15%), Syrah (14%), and Mourvèdre (1%).

Friends Steven and Susan enjoying the Les Florets terrace.

For an amuse-bouche, the waiter brought a platter with a selection of small appetisers to prepare us for our meal and give us a taste of the chef's cooking style. They included: a cold zucchini cumin soup, olive tapenade on toasts and grilled shrimp.

For entrées - starters, we chose soft poached egg over bone marrow on toasts with a red wine reduction

and a crumble of cod topped with toasty bread crumbs accompanied by creamy garlic soup and a bread stick.

For plats - main courses, we chose perfectly grilled duck breast with polenta and what tasted like a berry reduction sauce

and a white fish roulade stuffed with herbs topped by pesto. The fish roll sat on a bed of finely diced carrots and fennel. It was delicious.

To finish on a sweet note, we thoroughly enjoyed a strawberry cake and a white chocolate mousse with a spoonful of candied fennel.

Another part of the terrace at Les Florets, this one covered with a leafy arbor.

We have had a number of meals at Les Florets, some in the dining room when the weather was not so nice, at night and others on the patio, all very good. If you are near Gigondas, especially when the weather is conducive to dining on the terrace, I suggest you try Les Florets.

Bon appétit mes amis. À bientôt.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Great Deal for August Rentals in Provence Village

Where are you spending les vacances - your vacation this year? If you have been fantasizing about "living" in a small Provencal village during the month of August so you can experience the music, art, wine and food festivals on tap this year, shop the weekly markets, you can do that every day and eat delicious Provencal food, than fantasize no more. We have the perfect offer for you.

Unfortunately, we can't spend all of our time in Sablet as we have careers, children and grandchildren we can't live without so we rent our house in Sablet when we are not there. Our house has been pretty much fully reserved from March to the 1st of November for months. That is except for the month of August. August is available and we have a special offer for anyone who is interested in spending a week or more in Sablet.

The house is a beautiful stone village house located in the heart of the medieval village of Sablet in Vaucluse Department of Provence France. Dating from the 17th century, the house has been beautifully renovated with all of the comforts of a modern home while retaining its authentic Provençal character and charm.

Located on a narrow street inside the walls of this quaint village, it is only a few steps from the house to the Church of St. Nazaire and the shops and restaurants of this Côtes du Rhône wine village.

The house is large (168 square meters/1808 square feet) and can comfortably accommodate seven people. It is an ideal gathering place for family and friends for vacation, anniversaries, birthdays and reunions as well as an idyllic retreat for foodies, wine lovers, hikers, climbers, cyclists, artists and writers.

The house is three stories and has three bedrooms and three bathrooms. The windows are covered with shutters and original beams can be seen throughout. The house is tastefully decorated for comfort and convenience, and is centrally heated. Provençal artwork and hand painted pottery can be seen throughout the house.

Sablet is a small village (pop 1,200) located at the base of the jagged Dentelles de Montmirail west of Mont Ventoux in Vaucluse region of Provence France. The village sits on a hill bordering the rich alluvial plain of the Ouvèze River. You can find lots of pictures of the house and village on our web site and this blog.

I just received this messsage on facebook from Linda from New Jersey at the end of their just concluded four-week stay:

"Michel, we had a wonderful time and decided that Sablet is the perfect village. It's picturesque, has all the shops one could need, is filled with delightful people and is so close to so many other wonderful places. Your house is perfect. Thanks for letting us rent it for 4 weeks. What precious memories we will have for many years."

I also received the followin message from Nan  from Wisconsin at the end of their rental in May:

"I wanted to let you know what a great time we had in Provence and how much we enjoyed your home.  You have a very beautiful place and the accommodations were very comfortable.  Sablet was in a good central location and we took many day trips.  When we get organized, we will send you a couple of our pics and more tales of our adventures – particularly the running of the sheep festival we had an opportunity to experience.  I have already had people start asking about your property with an interest in a future rental!"

So if you or anyone you know would like to come and experience Provence for yourself, we think our house and village are the perfect place to do so. Our normal rental rate during the summer is $1600 per week, Saturday to Saturday. We are offering one week during August for $1400 and two weeks or more for $1200 per week, a very big savings. If you want to rent the whole month of August, we will rent for $1000 per week.

Bonne journée et bonne vacances!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Domaine de la Charbonnière, Châteauneuf-du-Pape

One of many things that attracted us to Sablet was its location in the Côtes du Rhône and proximity to world-renown wine villages such as Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. We like all the wines from this area but our favorites are Châteauneuf-du-Papes and we go there most often.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a medieval village on the side of a hill topped by the ruins of a castle near the Rhone River about 30 minutes southwest of our house in Sablet. The village is surrounded by its well tended vineyards. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is pretty to see but there is not a lot to do or reason to go except for the wine; but that's more enough reason to go.

The original name of the village was Castrum Novum, then Châteauneuf-Calcernier (after the many lime kilns in the area) and finally Châteauneuf-du-Pape, adopting the wine's name for the village. The history of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is interwoven with the history of the papacy.

In 1308, Pope Clement V relocated the papacy from Rome to Avignon, 12 miles south of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Clement V was succeeded by John XXII who reportedly drank wines from the vineyards to the north in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and did much to improve viticultural practices there.

Under John XXII, the wines of this area came to be known as "Vin du Pape" and later 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.

The Route de Courthézon into Châteauneuf-du-Pape with the Pope's castle on the horizon.

The tower of the Pope's castle with the back drop of blue sky.

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 view from the Pope's castle towards the Rhone River.

A sign panel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape with the names of many of the domaines.

Son-in-law Earl sitting on the fountain in Place du Portail which is the commercial center of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

The buildings are old, but everything is nicely restored.

The village is full of shops and tasting rooms where you can sample and buy the wonderful wines crafted in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC. As you know food and restaurants are very important to me; as of now, we have not found a really good restaurant in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

The village streets and alleys curve around the hillside and climb up to the castle.

Domaine de la Charbonnière is located just outside the village on the Route de Courthézon. We first got acquainted with this domaine and their red wines when we were trying wines for our first wine list for Bistro Des Copains and have been fans ever since.

The domaine is owned by the Maret family; Michel, wife Mireille and daughters Caroline and Veronique and has been overseen by the Maret family since 1912 when Michel's grandfather Eugene bought the domaine as a gift for his wife who was the daughter of a local winegrower. Michel is the third generation of Maret's to oversee the domaine.

The entrance to Domaine de la Charbonnière off Route de Courthézon.

There are a lot of very good wineries in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC and we have only been to a handful. Despite this, we return to Domaine de la Charbonnière almost every time we are back in Sablet. We really like their wines, they are reasonably priced but most importantly, we love the Maret family; they are very welcoming and generous with their time.

The entrance to the Domaine de la Charbonnière tasting room marked by olive tree.

Fermentation tanks at Domaine de la Charbonnière.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC rules allow up to thirteen grape varieties to be blended into the wine. The primary grape used by the Marets in blending red wines is Grenache; they also use Syrah and Mourvedre. For their white wine they use Grenache blanc, Roussanne, and Clairette.

Caroline Maret shows us how they make their wines.

Domaine de la Charbonnière makes 4 red wines and 1 white wine from Châteauneuf-du-Pape and 1 red wine from Vacqueyras.

Barrel room for aging wine.

Domaine de la Charbonnière exports wine to quite a few different countries. Each country has their own regulations about what information has to be included on the label affixed to the bottle. So wine is bottled and stored without labels until orders are received at which time they print and affix labels to the bottles.

Domaine de la Charbonnière has 3 parcels totaling 17.5 hectares/43.25 acres of vineyards within the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC and 4 hectares/9.88 acres within the Vacqueyras AOC. The Maret's also own a few hectares of land that is classified as Côtes du Rhône.

Mireille Maret and Veronique took us out to see their Châteauneuf-du-Pape parcels. They also showed us how they pull leaves in the spring.

Vines are shaped as gobelets - bush vines.

The Châteauneuf-du-Pape terroir comes from a layer of stones called galets. The stones retain heat during the day and release it at night which can hasten the ripening of grapes. The stones also serve as a protective layer to help retain moisture in the soil during the dry summer months

A Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyard near one of the Maret's parcels with the Dentelles de Montmirail and Sablet on the far horizon.

As I said, we have been to Domaine de la Charbonnière and Châteauneuf-du-Pape many times. Astute readers may notice that pictures are from different visits; actually four in all.

Regretfully, we no longer carry Domaine de la Charbonnière wine on our list at Bistro Des Copains because importer Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants stopped importing the wine. I think if truth be told, it was probably because of pressure from the Brunier family who own Châteauneuf-du-Pape's famous Vieux Telegraphe and with whom Kermit Lynch has many business interests.

If you love wine and you are going to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, I recommend you go visit the Marets at Domaine de la Charbonnière. You will have a great time.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Shameless bragging about our Bistro Des Copains

If you have been following Our House in Provence blog, you know that I am co-owner with friend Cluney of a small French bistro in Occidental, California called Bistro Des Copains.

We have been fortunate to have many excellent reviews about the Bistro posted by diners on web sites such as Yelp, Zagat, and Trip Advisor and great reviews by critics such as Jeff Cox for the Press Democrat. But no videos to my knowledge.

That changed a a few weeks back when Kaye Cloutman who writes a wonderful blog called Clout and About came to visit the Bistro with two friends. She posted a charming cute video about their visit on You Tube which I have to share with you.

I should mention that last weekend, we celebrated the fifth anniversay of Bistro Des Copains being in business. We owe so much to our employees for their hard work and support during the past five years. especially to Ty, Julia, Allison, Debbie and Earl who have been there for us the entire five years.

We have made many for ever friends among our frequent diners. I hope that you will come to visit us at Bistro Des Copains if your travels bring you to our little part of the world in Northern California.

Bon Appétit et à bien·tôt.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Le Bateleur Restaurant, Vaison-la-Romaine

From the moment we signed the papers to buy our house in Sablet we have been planning for the time when we could spend New Years in Sablet with our daughters, their husbands and children all at one time. As readers of Our House in Provence blog know, we did that this year.

We knew from the beginning that with such a large group including grandchildren Avery age 4 years, Dylan 3 years, Caedon 2 years and newly arrived Madison 1 month old, that we would have to eat most meals at home. We are somewhat realistic and figured it was unlikely we could do that every meal, after all, we are co-owners of Bistro Des Copains, and we all love to eat in restaurants.

New Year's day, having welcomed in New Years with cousins Jean Marc and Christine and a Galette des Rois - King's Cake with fève - a sort of lucky charm that bestows privileges on the person who gets the piece with the fève, the kids decided they wanted to go out to eat in a restaurant.

They really wanted a break from their kids so GG (greatest grandma) kindly offered to stay home with them. Papa was needed to pay the bill so I got to go along on this outing. I called around to find a restaurant, this being a Saturday, lunch, New Year's day, there were not a lot of options, but Le Bateleur Restaurant in Vaison la Romaine was open and not fully reserved.

Le Bateleur Restaurant is located at Place Théodore Aubanel just across the Roman bridge in Vaison la Romaine's lower city, site of the ancient Roman colony and the modern town.

Baby Madison joined us on this outing since she is still nursing; shown here at Le Bateleur Restaurant with her auntie Tricia. I should mention that when I tried to take pictures on my camera, the battery was dead so the pictures on this post were taken by Tricia's husband Alvin, a professional photographer.

After examining the menu and considering the various options, we all chose the three course menu Le Géant de Provence. To accompany our meal, we selected the 2007 Domaine Jean David Séguret Rouge, a delicious blend of Grenache (67%), Mourvèdre (12%), Carignan (10%), Syrah (4%), Cinsault (4%) and Counoise (3%).

Our entrées - starters included Millefeuille de champignon et salades et les herbes - mushrooms in puff pastry with salad of greens and fresh herbs and

a tasty Soupe au Gambas - shrimp bisque.

Our plats - main courses included sauteed Dorade Grise - Black Sea Bream wrapped around roasted squash and

oven roasted Poulet - chicken over diced vegetables and

grilled Boeuf Charolais et épeautre comme risotto - beef from Charolais with spelt cooked risotto style. All of our main courses were garnished with rosemary.

Some chose to finish with a selection of cheeses aged to perfection by Josiane Deal at Lou Canesteou in Vaison la Romaine.

Others chose to finish with something sweet off of the dessert menu. Unfortunately, I failed to make note of what they were so I can't tell you. Maybe you can tell me.

Here is the other dessert.

Le Bateleur Restaurant is under the same ownership with Le Mesclun in Séguret where we have eaten several times. We love the terrace at Le Mesclun and we have enjoyed our meals there, but I think our meal New Year's Day at Le Bateleur was the best we have had in these two restaurants.

I hope all your meals are wonderful. Bonne appétit et à bientôt.