Last week, Dorianne, Grace and I joined our friend Richard Major, who was raised in the Luberon region for an afternoon drive thought the region. We started with a wonderful lunch at his home in Mazan, sharing a couple of bottles of local wines, then drove through a beautiful gorge into the Luberon Valley. As we approached the town of Bonnieux, one of the places where Richard grew up, he turned into a driveway marked Château La Canorgue (LINK). “Let’s see if they are still open,” he said – it was 6:45 pm. As we drove up the driveway through the scenic property, Richard said casually, “The winemaker, Jean-Pierre Margan and I went to high school together. I haven’t seen him for forty years.”
We digested that bit of information as we pulled into the parking area, and Richard spotted Jean-Pierre standing outside of the tasting room. They engaged in conversation while we went inside, where we met his daughter, Nathalie, who now represents the 5th generation of winegrowers at this storied property.
This beautiful property was featured in the movie “A Good Year” (A Big Year) with Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard directed by Ridley Scott. They produce 100% organic wines(LINK) .
It was getting late, so we got right to a tasting of several of their wines next to a wall that contained a few dozen award certificates that the Chateau had amassed over the years.
We started with their Château La Canorgue label Luberon Rosé, a blend of Grenache Blanc and Syrah. A nice, refreshing wine.
Then we tasted their Château La Canorgue label Luberon White Blend (LINK), a winner of the Gold Medal in the 2015 Concours Général Agricole Paris. This blend of Rousanne, Marsanne, Clairette and Bourboulenc makes for a very refreshing, complex wine. An excellent white wine – something that I was coming to realize as a trait of this area in the northern reaches of Provence, normally known for the reds produced here.
Next, we tasted their La Canorgue 100% Viognier (LINK), a wine that cannot carry the Chateau label because it does not meet the AOP (formerly known as AOC) regulations for blending. Nathalie Margan said that this wine was so good as a single varietal that they just went ahead and labeled it this way. It is a very fruity and light wine that would be excellent with shellfish, and has a very pleasing, long finish.
Moving to the reds, we started with their second label, Béret Frog, a blend of Cabernet, Grenache,Merlot &Syrah that sells for about 7 euros a bottle. It is a good everyday wine, with some complexity, but is more of a table wine that would be a cut above most vin ordinaire.
Next, the Château La Canorgue label Luberon Red blend (LINK), a blend of 60% Syrah, 30% Grenache, and 10% old vine Carignan and Mourvedre. This is the flagship wine of the property. It is a first-class wine, with great structure, a nose of dark fruit and minerals, and flavor of the terroir balanced nicely with fruit and cassis, and a smooth long finish.
Finally, the 2012 La Canorgue Red, a limited production 100% Grenache. A truly delicious wine with a nice tannic structure. This small production wine is generally absent from the internet, but you can order it from their website.
We purchased 8 bottles of wine to take back to our apartment near Avignon, and headed out to explore another village or two and then have dinner back in Mazan. A great day in The Luberon Valley. If you get up this way, don’t miss Château La Canorgue, a beautiful location with some wonderful wines.
Château La Canorgue, Route du Pont Julien, 84480 Bonnieux
As a wine blogger, I really like to explore the wine regions I visit. We are in the Avignon area for six weeks, and I had been itching to get to Châteauneuf-du-Pape to taste some of their fantastic wines on-site and to learn more about the culture and process of this renowned region. At the recommendation of Lauren, proprietor of the wonderful Art, Wine, and Design Shop in Villeneuve-les-Avignon, I called Valentina of MistralTour.fr and set up an all-day tour this past Friday. Dorianne and our daughter, Grace, joined us. Most of the photographs in this post were taken by Grace – here is a (LINK) to her website.
Valentina is a delight – an Italian who lives in France and speaks perfect English; she is very vivacious and professional. She is an excellent guide.
Our tour took us to the Village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where we went up to the ruins of the original chateau and surveyed the beautiful countryside laced with vineyards in all directions. Along the way, Valentina talks about all things wine – she really has a good degree of knowledge and makes everything clear. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a storied wine region centered around the town of the same name. The AOC (LINK) allows for 18 varietals (not 13 as is commonly believed). From Wikipedia.com:“Both red and white varieties are allowed in both red and white Châteauneuf-du-Pape. There are no restrictions as to the proportion of grape varieties to be used, and unlike the case with other appellations, the allowed grape varieties are not differentiated into principal varieties and accessory varieties. Thus, it is theoretically possible to produce varietal Châteauneuf-du-Pape from any of the eighteen allowed varieties. In reality, most Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines are blends dominated by Grenache. Only one of every 16 bottles produced in the region is white wine.”
I was unfamiliar with whites and rosés from this region, but let me tell you, there are some amazing wines here. U.S. retailers and restaurants should be getting on the bandwagon for the whites and rosés of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas.
Then we drove just down the road to Chateau de Vaudieu (LINK) for a tour and a private tasting with the winemaker, Christophe. Chateau de Vaudieu dates from 1767. They have 70 hectares (173 acres) of grapes under cultivation, all around the chateau.
Lirac is an AOC just across theRhône Riverfrom Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It has similar varietals and soils, and the wines are a bargain. Quite a few Châteauneuf-du-Pape growers bottle Lirac Wines.
Next, we went into the village to the wine shop of Domaine Durieu, where the winemaker was also present for part of our stay, then we tasted four of their wines. I should add that Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines are among the best in France. No photos here.
Then a long drive through he region to La Verrière, in Crestet up on a mountain, where we had a wonderful lunch, a conversation with the owner (Nicole Rolet who co-owns with her husband, Xavier) and the winemaker, and tasted the award winning Chene Bleu Rhône wines (LINK); then we had a complete tour of the facilities. This is one of the most beautiful wine estates I have ever seen in France, and after speaking with the principals, I can see why.
This team produces some excellent wines and they have created an atmosphere of success at their beautiful property. The wines were smooth, well-crafted, beautifully balanced and simply delicious. They are available in the U.S. and elsewhere, so check their website (LINK) for more information, or Google the wine names.
Note that the Chene Bleu wines are made outside of the French AOC system – Nicole and Xavier felt too bound by the rules of the local AOC, so they deviated, and it has been a battle for acceptance. Of course, the wines speak for themselves and have received numerous awards and recognitions.
Then we were off to Gigondas, another storied region, for a tasting at Domaine des Bosquets (LINK), owned by the same family as Chateau de Veudieu. We tasted several wines with the owner/winemaker at this location as well. Winemaker Julien Bréchet hosted our tasting. The Gigondas is very similar to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, with a focus on Grenache and Syrah as the primary varietals. The main difference is the type of soil – less gravely and with more limestone and sand than Châteauneuf-du-Pape, plus a higher elevation with more verticality to the vineyards. The wines at Domaine des Bosquets were similar in style to those from Chateau de Veudieu– smooth, well-structured and elegant. The Gigondas is a great wine region.
Then we explored the nearby hilltop town of Gigondas a bit before heading back to our apartment.
It was an amazing day that filled my need to explore somewhat more n depth the areas we visited and to learn more about the wines. We made purchases at every stop! This is a very rich region, part of the overall Rhône Valley Region, so there is much, much more to explore. So we will have to do some more exploring on this trip, and we will have to come back.
And again, I cannot give enough praise to Valentina of MistralTour.fr (LINK) – she is a professional and makes your time together very enjoyable, while giving you as much, or as little inside information as you would like. And her prices really are a bargain.
We arranged a visit to Chateau Guibeau(LINK) through a friend who is doing academic research on the vineyard and winery. After some pleasant email exchanges with Brigitte Destouet Bourlon and her husband, Eric, the co-owners, we visited last Thursday. Eric focuses on the vineyards, Brigitte on the marketing, and they collaborate on the wine making. The vineyard is actually the combination of properties of two families united in marriage a couple of generations ago, Chateau Guibeau and Guibot The Fourvieille. Wines are made under both labels today.
Located in the St. Emilion (LINK), area, the property and its chateau overlook a beautiful valley and Puisseguin, the village below.
The vineyard of 41 hectares (101 acres), planted with Merlot (75%), Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon is located in the town of Puisseguin (LINK), in the Bordeaux Region.
We walked around the beautiful grounds, toured the barrel room and the wine making areas, with the vast fermentation vats, did some tasting, then got a tour of the vineyard with Eric. They have been converting to a fully-organic vineyard over the past five years, and have their first vintages under that regimen produced. This required quite a bit more work for them in the vineyards, but they feel that it is worth it for environmental and health reasons.
The wines that they produce at the Chateau are all reds – mostly Merlot, as it the case with most Right Bank producers in Bordeaux. The blends vary from year to year, but normally have at least 70% Merlot with lesser amounts of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Their 2012 Chateau Guibeau (LINK) blend is 80-10-10.
The Chateau Gibeau that we tasted, the 2012, shows great promise – it has a good balance, moderate tannins, a nice sense of dark fruit and a hint of minerality. It should improve with age. The 2008 Chateau Guibot La Fourvielle Puisseguin Saint-Emilion (LINK) was a revelation. This 85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc beauty is rich with dark fruit, moderate tannins and acidity, and an underlying minerality that strikes both the nose and the palate in a very nice way. This wine should age well, but is ready to drink now. We bought several bottles to bring to the states, but two have disappeared so far on our journey home.
There is also a guest house to rent on the Chateau property – here is the (LINK).
This is a very good house, doing very good things – look for their wines and visit when you are in Bordeaux.