Saturday, December 17, 2011

Gigondas, a Pretty Village and a Must Stop for Red Wine Lovers

A few nights ago, I was chatting with a diner at Bistro Des Copains about the similarities between Sonoma County where we live in Northern California and the area around Sablet where we live in Provence France and how lucky we are to live in both places.

The similarities include vineyards everywhere, olive trees, although fewer in Sonoma County, more and more olive trees are being planted in Sonoma County every year, both areas are close to the sea so we have a wide variety of fresh seafood, artisan cheese makers, and the regions produce a bounty of fruits and vegetables. There is in fact a formal sister region relationship between Sonoma County and Provence France.

Despite the similarities, wife Shirley and I can't come up with anything we have in Sonoma County besides our family and dear friends that we don't have in Provence. By contrast, there are quite a few things in Provence that you won't find in Sonoma County, which makes Provence unique and special.

Some of the different things about Provence near Sablet include amazing ruins from the Romans like the Pont du Gard and the Arènes - the Roman amphitheater in Nîmes, the Transhumance - the annual migration of sheep between the valleys and mountains where they graze in the summer (the link is to my friend Barbara's post about a Transhumance festival on her beautiful blog Cuisine de Provence.

Other unique things include the year around weekly markets, ok yes there are weekly markets in Sonoma County but none like Provence, Christmas markets and santons, truffles, one of the largest truffle markets in Europe takes place on Saturday mornings during the season in Richerenches about 30 minutes from Sablet, saffron, Le Mistral - an infamous fierce and cold wind, Cistercian abbeys, and lots of beautiful old medieval villages.

We love exploring the small villages of Provence. No two are alike as each village is seemingly influenced by its geography - Cassis by the Mediterranean Sea, topography - Gordes by its location on a giant rock, geology - Roussillon by the ocher deposits, history - Villedieu by the Knights of Templar or industry - Châteauneuf-du-Pape which is influenced by both its papal history and famous vineyards.

Sablet is located between Séguret, a small beautiful village to the north and Gigondas, a village renown for its wine to the south. We think Gigondas is one of the prettiest of all the Côtes du Rhône wine villages and a must stop for red wine lovers. From afar, Gigondas seems little more than a cluster of stone houses on a hillside with a church below the Dentelles de Montmirail overlooking the vineyard covered valley below.

Turn off the D-7 and follow the road up through the lower village; you will pass a succession of cafés and wine caves - tasting rooms, before you arrive at Place Gabriel Andéol where the Mairie - town hall, and the Caveau du Gigondas - the wine growers cooperative, are located. You can taste most current releases of Gigondas wine at the cooperative and buy bottles to take with you.

Park your car here and take time to explore Gigondas. Time your visit so you can eat lunch on the village square at one of our favorite lunch spots; L'Oustalet, owned by the Perrin family is an outstanding restaurant and one of my favorites in the area or for simpler fare, go to Du Verre a l'Assiette, one of Shirley's favorites. Make reservations so you are not disappointed.

The pictures which follow are some we took this summer during one of our visits to Gigondas. Stroll the pretty narrow streets lined with stone houses up to the parish Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria with its central clock tower flanked by the campanile belfry; the church dates from the beginning of the 17th century.

Some of the rampart ruins - the ancient defensive fortifications around Gigondas.

A view from near the ruins of the castle of the Princes of Orange over the village.

Wife Shirley and niece Leslie walking down the path from the castle to the village along the rampart ruins.

Me and Leslie pausing on the path to enjoy the view.

A view over the vineyard covered valley.

A view from above the village towards Sablet with the parish Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria in the foreground.

The Gigondas cemetery with the parish Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria in the background.

Some of the renown Gigondas vineyards outside the old ramparts.

The parish Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. A hollow on the front facade shelters a statue of the Virgin Mary. There is a lot of modern sculpture around the village. I must say it looks somewhat odd set among the ancient buildings.

The upper ramparts.

The stairway walk up the hospice which dates from 1678. After the French revolution, the hospice became a girl's school up to the beginning of the 20th century when it was abandoned and fell into ruins.

Some of the Gigondas vineyards with the Dentelles de Montmirail in the background.

The courtyard of the old hospice.

The view from the hospice.

The village ramparts in the background with the top of the parish Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria in the foreground.

One of the pretty streets lined with stone houses in Gigondas.

A pretty stone house in Gigondas.

Back on the main street in front of the poterie artisanale - pottery shop, leading to Place Gabriel Andéol and the main commercial area in Gigondas.

An old stone house.

There are many reasons to visit Gigondas, not the least of which is its a charming village with great views. If you like big red wines, save time for tasting at one of the tasting rooms or the wine growers cooperative. If you have time, plan to hike up to the Dentelles de Montmirail, more about that in a future post.

Bonne journée mes amis et à très bientôt.


  1. I never tire of seeing photos like these.
    We are so lucky to have Provence! :-)

  2. I can take tours with you any time and I love to see places that I have not been to. My husband loves good red wine so maybe one day... Fantastic photos. Joyeux Noël et bonne année. Diane

  3. oh how I love your photos, Michel! It all looks so wonderful and yes, you are very lucky to live in two such great places! Is Shirley as enthusiastic as you?

  4. Love, love, love Gigondas!!! The village, the region and the wine are all lovely.

  5. Sara - We are very lucky to have Provence, just wish I was there more.

    Diane - Thanks! Joyeux Noël et bonne année to you too.

    Claudia - We are very lucky. Shirley has fallen in love with Provence too. She likes being there almost as much as me.

    Lee - I agree with you. I didn't know Gigondas or the wine till we opened Bistro Des Copains. Now its definitely a favorite.

  6. Pretty pictures. I always love the shutters in different colors.

  7. Beautiful, sun-drenched photos!

  8. Thank you for these beautiful pictures of Gigondas, we are delighted that you appreciate it. We wish you a merry christmas and hope to see you soon in Gigondas.
    Gigondas's Tourist Office

  9. Megan - Thanks! My camera always gets drawn to the pretty shutters in Provence. Merry Christmas!

    Camille - I could use some of that sunshine here in Northern California where we are spending Christmas this year.

    Gigondas Tourist Office - Thanks for checking out my blog and posting a comment. We love Gigondas and go frequently when we are at our home in Sablet.