day 6 ::: provence

Time for another recap from our France Vacation.  We last left off in Provence and our first full day in the countryside.  Our second day in Provence, day six of our trip, proved to be one of our favorites.  We had a leisurely morning, a tour of local vineyards, and a picnic dinner.  Take a look...

We woke up to the sun shining and decided to start our morning with a dip in the pool.  I think I'd like to start every morning with a swim.  So refreshing.

A few hours later, we met up with Céline Viany, a Wine Consultant for the region.  We found Céline through her website and she was FANTASTIC!  She took us to two wineries in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape region in the Rhone Valley.  Chateauneuf-du-Pape is known for it's full-bodied, spicy red wines (and a few weighty, flavorful whites).  The name Chateauneuf-du-Pape means 'new castle of the pope' and refers to the fact that the town was chosen as the new home for the Pope's court in the early 14th century (source).

Céline drove us in her van (the French really watch for drinking and driving around vineyards - make sure you are safe and use a driver/taxi) and spoke lovely English.  She explained the A.O.C. regulations, the specialties of the region, and gave us a tour of one of the wineries we visited. She was hands down one of the best 'finds' on our trip.  If you're going to be in Provence, book her (and tell her The Roses said 'hi!').  

Have you ever heard of A.O.C. wines? (I always wondered why my favorite French restaurant in NYC was named that.)  That means 'Appellation d'origine contrôlée' (translation "controlled designation of origin").  These wines ( and other products) have strict requirements in how they are farmed and made, all with standards that emphasize traditional manners and practices.  According to Wikipedia, "Under French law, it is illegal to manufacture and sell a product under one of the A.O.C.-controlled geographical indications if it does not comply with the criteria of the A.O.C."  Anyway, just giving you some background.  Basically, the vineyards we saw are all A.O.C. wineries and produce the wine with the extra care and practices to stay within regulations.  Here are some pics from our afternoon wine tasting.

Our first stop was the Domaine Beaurenard, housed in a darling building with a beautiful view.

Inside, Céline showed us the types of grapes grown and used in the region.  Sort of looks like a science project.

Then it was time for the tasting.  We tried several styles and vintages.  She taught us tasting techniques and about each wine.  We had a blast!

I got distracted (you know, with all the drinking) and didn't take a picture of each wine we tried, but here are a few.

If you look closely, you can see our reflections where we sat at the counter for our tastings and lesson. 

After the tasting we took a tour of the Domaine.

I found it interesting that in addition to the wood barrels and stainless steel tanks (both above), they also used cement tanks.

Al found it quite fascinating too. :) 

Finally a group shot (albeit a little blurry).

And then we bought a bunch of wine.  Just kidding, not all of those bottles.  Maybe like half. ;)

Our second stop was the Domaine La Célestière

Another gorgeous location.

They had a little diorama of sorts showing what the soil is like in the region.  It is sandy and full of what they call "pebbles" but what we could call good size rocks.

A few of the wines we tried at La Célestière.  We bought some of those as well. :)

A note on buying and bringing back wine:  The smart way to do this is to not pack too much in your suitcase so that you can just bring a few bottles of wine back in each suitcase.  This is what my in-laws did.  They just packed their wine in these WineSkins for leak-free travel.  Our suitcases were a bit fuller than theirs (we were in France for about a week longer than them), so we asked for boxes from the wineries and first put bottles in the WineSkins and then in the boxes and taped them up.  We just paid for an extra checked bag and checked them with our luggage and had the airline mark them as fragile.  We got them fully intact, and it was much cheaper than shipping them home.

A view of the countryside as we drove back to the hotel.

Once we got back to the hotel, we walked to the market to get some items for a picnic dinner. Obviously we made sure to get items that would go with a few bottles of wine we bought earlier that day.  We dined and sipped under the trees near the pool.  Such a tranquil and lovely setting.

Check out this killer zucchini, eggplant, and roasted tomato tart we bought.  Those little white cubes are fresh goat cheese on top.  Delicious.  Thinking I must recreate this soon.

We can't forget dessert.  A petite pecan tart.  Oui!

After dinner, Al and I went for a walk around the village.  We were mostly just wandering when we came across an old castle.  I mean, just another day in France, stumbling upon castles.

Some amazing views too.

We could see the walls of Avignon and the Palais des Papes that we visited the previous day.

^^ good thing he has long arms. We barely fit in the frame!

Finished our day with some champagne back at the hotel while the crickets chirped and the sun set.  Glorious, glorious day.

By this point we were trying really hard not to think about the fact that we only had three days left.
We wanted to stay in this dream-like land forever.


Follow along on our journey!  

{photos by me}
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