Saturday, November 30, 2019

Domaine Tempier, Legendary Wine Estate and Foodie Heaven

I have wanted to visit Domaine Tempier, ever since the first time I read about the Bandol winery owned by the Peyraud family, in books authored by Richard Olney, Alice Waters and Kermit Lynch. Kermit Lynch the renown wine importer, was introduced to the Peyrauds by Richard Olney and has been importing the wines of Domaine Tempier since 1976.

For those who don't know, Alice Waters is executive chef, author of multiple cookbooks, and proprietor of Chez Panisse, a gastronomic temple in Berkeley California for more than 40 year and arguably one of the most famous restaurants in the United States; she is a long time friend of Lulu Peyraud and family.

She was also introduced to the Peyraud family by Richard Olney, a neighbor and friend of the Peyrauds. Richard Olney wrote many wonderful cookbooks including "Simple French Food", "Provence, the Beautiful Cookbook: Authentic Recipes from the Regions of Provence" and "Lulu's Provençal Table" to name a few.

Wines from Bandol including those of Domaine Tempier and Domaine de Terrebrune were on the wine list at Bistro Des Copains, the French country bistro, now closed, I co-owned with friends in Occidental, California. We got these wines from wine importer Kermit Lynch who makes his home in the Bandol region half the year.

As I told you in my last post, we decided to go visit the hilltop village of Le Castellet and taste some Bandol wines including I hoped, the wines of Domaine Tempier. After a Provençal lunch and leisurely walk around Le Castellet, we headed to Domaine Tempier.

We found Domaine Tempier, nearby right below the village, at the foot of Le Castellet. Much to my dismay, while Domaine Tempier is open for tastings, it is closed on Saturdays and Sundays, so we were not able to fulfill my dream of tasting their legendary wines at the estate tasting room.

Domaine Tempier in Bandol AOC

While the wines of Domaine Tempier have been praised by many, including Janis Robinson, a British wine critic, journalist and wine writer and Robert Parker, who famously once declared the Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé, the "greatest rosé in the world", I am attracted to this Domaine just as much, by the stories of family meals served by Lulu Peyraud as described by countless food writers.

Lulu who turned 100 in 2017, was born in Marseille and her cooking is Marseillais, although she doesn't think there is a lot of difference between that and the cooking in Bandol. One of my favorite cookbooks is authored by Richard Olney and is drawn from a series of interviews intended to translate Lulu's words into written recipes, called "Lulu's Provençal Table", published in 1994.

Lulu Peyraud's Provençal Recipes

If you Google "Traditional Food of Provence, there are lots of lists from different publications which show up in the results. All of them it seems, include Bouillabaisse, Ratatouille, Aioli, Tapenade, and several others. For Thanksgiving this year, I made the Tapenade recipe in the "Lulu's Provençal Table" cookbook for one of our appetizers.

Tapenade is a Provençal name for a dish consisting of puréed or finely-chopped olives, capers, and anchovies. Its name comes from the Provençal word for capers, tapenas. It is ubiquitous in the Provence region of France, where it is frequently served as an amuse bouche in restaurants, or with aperitifs, sold in jars in grocery stores or freshly made in farmer's markets.

We love Tapenade and Lulu's recipe is so easy and quick to make, that it seems a shame to not enjoy it freshly made. We serve it with fresh bread, toasted slices of baguettes, or crackers. We served Tapenade as an amuse bouche at every dinner service at Bistro des Copains.


1/2 pound large Greek-style black olives, pitted. The olives I like come in jars with 9.5 oz drained.
4 anchovy fillets
3 Tablespoons capers
1 garlic clove
Small pinch of cayenne
1 teaspoon savory leaves, finely chopped. I can't ever find fresh savory, so I substitute fresh thyme
4 Tablespoons olive oil

Ingredients for Lulu Peyraud's Tapenade Recipe


In a food processor, reduce the olives, anchovies, capers, garlic, cayenne, herbs, and olive oil to a coarse purée. Process only until the mixture is homogenous.

Tapenade Ingredients in Food Processor

Here is what the Tapenade should look like when it is out of the food processor.

Lulu Peyraud's Tapenade

I know you will find this recipe super easy. It is something you can whip out very quickly if guests drop in unexpectedly. I hope you will enjoy the Tapenade as much as we do. We hope to go back to the Bandol region when we return to Sablet in the spring and this time we will go on a weekday so we can taste at Domaine Tempier.

If you are thinking about a trip to the South of France including spending time in Provence, we invite you to visit our website at Our house is available for rent by the week or more. You can reach us for further information at

Friday, November 29, 2019

Le Castellet, Perched Medieval Village in Bandol AOC

As we were approaching the end of our most recent sojourn in Sablet, I suggested to Shirley that we visit the Bandol region and taste wine since we had not been there for several years. I told you about our previous visit to taste Bandol wines here.

One of my favorite blogs is authored by Tuula, Southern Californian raised, but now living in the Bandol region. Her blog called "Belle Provence Travels" is about living and traveling around the South of France. Although we have not met in person yet, we have corresponded several times.

So I sent her a message to ask, "what are your favorite villages near where you live". She responded very quickly, that Le Castellet is one of her favorite villages. So on our last Saturday, we headed out for the almost 2 hour drive there.

Le Castellet is a picturesque, medieval village, perched on top of a hill around a castle from the 17th-18th centuries, which today houses the Town Hall, overlooking vineyards and the surrounding countryside directly north of the beaches of Bandol.

Originally a fortified town, the remains of ancient walls are still present so you enter Le Castellet through one of the fortified gates of the defensive walls into a maze of narrow cobblestone streets and pretty squares.

Le Castellet

Le Castellet is full of typical Provençal buildings. Beautiful old houses line the streets which have been carefully restored to highlight their stonework with brightly colored flowers cascading down their walls.

Bougainvillea, wisteria and fuchsias are everywhere with pots of geraniums and lavender outside the houses adding a touch of gaiety to this charming village.

Le Castellet Archway

Olive Tree

The first record of a settlement in this area is in 1030 when it was called Castellarium. Because of its strategic position, Le Castellet has been an important site in history and was inhabited by Celto-Ligurian for several centuries and later the Gallo-Roman empire.

In Medieval times, Le Castellet was a protected township belonging to Les Baux and King René of Anjou. The Lords and Bishops of Marseille ruled the district but authority was passed to the Lords of Castillon in 1434.

Le Castellet Tower

The Saint-Sauveur church of the Transfiguration seen below was built in 1030 by the Bishops of Marseille. In 1754, the church had become too narrow and was enlarged, the orientation was changed, and two Gothic vaults were added perpendicularly to the Roman axis.

Église de la Transfiguration du Sauveur

Le Trou de Madame (The Hole of Madame) opening in the ramparts offers a remarkable panoramic view including a view in the distance the massif of Sainte-Baume.

Le Trou de Madame

The Portalet gate was opened through the ramparts in the 17th century for the convenience of the Castellans going to work in the fields. The gate is easily recognized in different scenes of the film "The wife of the Baker" by Marcel Pagnol which was filmed in the village.

Le Portalet gate through Le Castellet defensive wall

The local vineyards and wine estates at the foot of the village produce renown wines of the Bandol AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée), one of the world's great wine regions.

While the region produces good-quality whites and rosé wines, Bandol's claim to wine fame rests in the deep, rich and intense bottlings made from Mourvèdre, a red grape that reaches its zenith in this region.

Mourvèdre does best in Bandol because it flourishes in the intense heat of the Mediterranean sun. Rainfall is less than 20 inches a year, and most of the vineyards are set in a bowl that encompasses a variety of exposures and terroirs.

Le Castellet War Memorial

Le Castellet House

Le Castellet Street

The Grand Portail gate is on the south end of Le Castellet and was rebuilt in the 14th century. For many years, it was the only access to the village.

Le Castellet Grand Portail Gate

There are plenty of shops in the center of the village including several art galleries and artisan’s workshops selling local pottery, ceramics, candles and leather crafts.

Le Castellet Shops

There are also several cafés where visitors can get a drink or meal, rest and visit on a shady terrace in one of the town’s squares.

Le Castellet Street

Le Castellet is also famous for the Paul Ricard racetrack built in 1969 by pastis magnet Paul Ricard, a few kilometers north of town. The racetrack will host the Formula 1 Grand Prix de France, June 26-28, 2020.

If you are thinking about a trip to the South of France including spending time in Provence, we invite you to visit our website at Our house is available for rent by the week or more. You can reach us for further information at

Monday, November 25, 2019

Wine tasting in Gigondas and a hike from Col de Cayron to the Dentelles de Montmirail

We are blessed to have a house in Sablet, France and live as locals several times a year. We love our location at the base of the Dentelles de Montmirail surrounded by vineyards as far as you can see. Nearby are several small villages, some known for their beauty and others renown for the wine produced in the village.

Sablet is located between Séguret, a village classified as a "Plus Beaux Village de France," to the north and Gigondas, a village renown for its red wine to the south. We think Gigondas is one of the prettiest of all Côtes du Rhône wine villages and one you should visit especially if you love red wine.

From the road, Gigondas seems little more than a cluster of stone houses set on a hillside with a church below the Dentelles de Montmirail Mountains overlooking vineyard covered slopes and valley below.

Gigondas Village

When you turn off for Gigondas, you follow the road up through the lower village, passing a succession of cafés and tasting rooms (caves) before arriving at Place Gabriel Andéol where the Mairie (town hall) and Caveau du Gigondas (wine growers cooperative), are located.

If you like red wine, plan to stop in at the Caveau du Gigondas (wine cooperative) where you can taste more than 100 different Gigondas wines from 80 wineries and buy them at the same price as at the winery.

Gigondas Town Hall

One of our favorite producers of Gigondas wine is Domaine la Bouïssière. We first became acquainted with this wine when we assembled our wine list for our now closed Bistro Des Copains, in Occidental, California. The tasting room is just a few steps from Place Gabriel Andéol.

Shirley at Domaine la Bouïssière Tasting Room

The Dentelles de Montmirail are short, steep mountains with a distinctive rocky ridge extending west geologically from Mont Ventoux which is located just to the east. When we go out onto the terrace off our bedroom in Sablet, we have a beautiful view of the Dentelles.

The name Dentelles, the French word for lace, refers to the jagged, rocky tops obtained by erosion, while Montmirail is derived from the Latin mons mirabilis meaning "admirable mountain" though the alternative connection with teeth, "dents" in French is equally good in my opinion.

The Dentelles de Montmirail mountain range is about 8 km (5 miles) long and runs from Vaison-la-Romaine on the north end to Beaumes-de-Venise on the south. The tallest peak of the Dentelles de Montmirail range is St-Amand, at 734 m (2,400 feet).

Dentelles de Montmirail

One day last fall, we decided to take the unsurfaced road up to Col de Cayron to get a closer look at the peaks of the Dentelles de Montmirail and see the views out over the vineyard covered Rhone valley.

One of the famous Gigondas vineyards high up over Gigondas at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail is seen in the picture below.

I should mention that Gigondas is a wine Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in the southern Rhône wine region of France. It is primarily a red wine region, with a very small amount of rosé wine produced. No white wines carry the Gigondas appellation at this time.

Gigondas Vineyard

The Col de Cayron is 396 m (1300 feet) high and in the center of the Dentelles de Montmirail principle peaks.

Dentelles de Montmirail from Overlook

A splendid view of the Rhone valley with Sablet in the foreground on the left and Séguret on the right against the hill. Séguret is classified as a Most Beautiful Village in France.

View from Overlook towards Sablet and Seguret

We hiked up a trail with steps, one of approximately 600 hiking trails in the Dentelles de Montmirail range, to a peak with great views and an overlook a little farther up for a photo together.

Shirley and I on the Overlook with Mont Ventoux in Distance

There are a many trails to hike up to and around the Dentelles de Montmirail. If you do, you will be rewarded with close up views of the peaks and magnificent views out over the Rhone valley. I am sure we will be making this hike again with grandchildren in tow the next time they come to Sablet.

If you are thinking about a trip to the South of France including spending time in Provence, we invite you to visit our website at Our house is available for rent by the week or more. You can reach us for further information at