Tag Archives: Rhône River

EVERYDAY WINES AND EVERYDAY LIFE IN LYON – BOTH ARE EXTRAORDINARY

Since moving to Lyon, France this past summer (LINK to Post About Moving to France), much of our time has been spent attempting to learn French (definitely a work in progress), finding our way around town (easy as Lyon is a very walkable city with great public transportation), and traveling back and forth to the US (which will become increasingly less frequent).

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View toward Vieux (Old) Lyon across the Saône River.

I will do another post as a sequel to the one about moving to France soon. For now, let’s talk wine.

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Auvergene-Rhône-Alps Department in Red

Lyon is located in the Rhône-Alps Department (there are 100 departments, or states in France), in the upper part of southeastern France. We are just north of the Rhône Valley at the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône Rivers. A few kilometers to the north, Burgundy begins with the Mâcon region; to the west, Beaujolais is a few kilometers outside the city; to the east, the underappreciated Jura region is a short drive away. Wines from all these regions and more pour into Lyon, a city of about 500K with 2.2 million in the metropolitan area.

There are only two large supermarkets in the city limits, both at malls. Big box stores are restricted to outlying areas, meaning that mom & pop businesses thrive. Every neighborhood has multiple small boulangeries, boucheries, fromageries, green grocers, and wine caves. Small grocery stores have wine departments featuring representative wines from the surrounding regions, mostly from larger producers. The caves (wine shops) have more wines from smaller producers and a few higher-end bottles, but almost all the wines are reasonably priced and would qualify as “everyday wines.” (LINK to @EricAsimov column on Everyday Wines from the NYTimes). We are drinking these wines for the most part with our lunches and dinners at home – spending an average of 10 to 12€ per bottle (top shelf at these stores) – sometimes much less – and enjoying most of them very much. This is why I have not been blogging and Tweeting as much about the wines I am drinking – they are, for the most part, not stand-out wines, but they are good!

Wine - Lyon Everyday
Some of My Everyday Wines in Lyon

My admittedly limited personal research thus far has revealed an interesting fact: THE FRENCH DON’T LIKE TO SPEND A LOT OF MONEY ON WINE.

I don’t know why this surprised me – but I just have not encountered the kind of wine conversations that I had with friends in California. It is more likely to encounter a boxed wine at a dinner party than a higher-end Burgundy or Châteauneuf du Pape. And, by the way, I have had some very drinkable boxed wines here. But I was a bit surprised that the Mecca of fine wine is largely populated with folks who prefer to spend under 10€ a bottle (and 3€ can get you a very nice rosè from Provence). Even when higher-end wines are served at dinner, the conversation is not about the wine. Perhaps a quick recognition of whoever provided it (usually the host), but that’s about it.

Dorianne and I eat at restaurants once or twice a week. Lyon is a gastronomique capital – many of the great Parisian (and New York) chefs train in the many cooking schools here. Lyon has more Michelin Star restaurants per capita than any other city, so food is a big thing here. And this extends downward from the Michelin restaurants all the way to the Bouchons (think bistro but serving Lyonnaise cuisine) and comptoirs. It is difficult to find a bad meal here, and some very nondescript looking places are working magic in their tiny kitchens. And as for wine, once you get out of the Michelin range, the wine lists tend to be fairly modest, featuring value-priced bottles and vins de la maison, usually from a tap or box. The wine list prices are usually at regular retail or just a bit above.

So, my everyday wine experience here in Lyon has been mostly with everyday wines from the wine regions surrounding the city. I will say that French wine producers seem to understand that the French don’t like to pay a lot for wine. The 13€ Burgundy Pinot Noir I get at the local wine cave tastes equivalent to a $30 or $40 bottle of Burgundy purchased in the US. We are enjoying very good wines for very reasonable prices – and feeling very grateful in the process!

Don’t believe me? Come visit and see!

As always, your comments are appreciated.

 

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

LUXURY WINE TOUR IN FRANCE – CÔTES DU RHÔNE & PROVENCE

I am pleased to announce that a very special experience awaits you. Long before Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence” made it into the international best-sellers list, Provence, the south-eastern region of France, has held a special fascination for travelers from all over the world. Renowned for its beautiful weather, natural environment, and outstanding cultural heritage, this rich region offers us a lot to see and do! If you are a wine lover and are eager to experience some of the greatest wine regions in the world, we have a journey for you. One that envelops northern Provence and the southern Côtes du Rhône and some of the finest wines in France.

Seven nights in France, based in Villeneuve-les-Avignon on the banks of the Rhône River, exploring the hidden secrets of several wine regions that meet here – The Côtes du Rhône, Languedoc-Roussillon, and the Luberon.

This intimate, small group tour (only eight spots available) features lodging in fine hotels, meals in chateaus, visits to the legendary vineyards, and tastings of some of the great wines of France. All the while, you will learn more about wine in the vineyard and at the chateau. All tours will be in English, and there will be interactions with French people.

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I will be leading the tour, and I have traveled extensively in France. I will be joined by travel professional Steve Hooks of Journey Different, Inc. and local experts, you will get the inside story of some of the great wines of the Rhône Valley and Provence and have access to places not generally available to the traveling public. This small group experience, only eight people plus guides, will give you the opportunity to interact with the guides, the winemakers, and sommeliers. You and a few other wine lovers will share gourmet meals and luxury transportation.

You have the opportunity to join us for the wine experience of a lifetime!

THE TOUR

ACCOMODATIONS: You’ll be staying in a five star Relais & Châteaux property, the Hôtel du Prieuré in Villeneuve les Avignon, just a few minutes from the city of Avignon. Hidden in the heart of the village, its serene atmosphere and spirit invite you to relax and unwind. Le Prieuré presents an air of rare and simple charm, it is a haven of peace, a country hotel… in a picturesque town!

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Hôtel Le Prieuré

 

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DAY BY DAY PROGRAM:

SUNDAY (Oct 9): Arrival at Marseille or Lyon airport and transfer to Hôtel du Prieuré in Villeneuve les Avignon, a typical Provençal village across the Rhône River from Avignon, where you can easily stroll to many restaurants and bars. A special welcome dinner at our hotel in the evening.

MONDAY (Oct 10): Visit to Costières de Nîmes, Château Mourgues du Grès for a tour and wine tasting. Lunch will be at the winery. In the afternoon: a visit and tasting at Dalmeran winery’s (AOP Les Baux de Provence) in the Saint Rémy de Provence region. Dinner at Bistro’ du Moulin restaurant in Villeneuve lès Avignon.

TUESDAY (Oct 11): We visit Châteauneuf du Pape, its vineyards and the castle ruins; a guided visit of a chateau and tasting of its wines. Wine tasting and wine and food pairing in a very exclusive cellar, Les Cave Saint Charles, in the heart of the village. After lunch we head to Orange to visit Theatre Antique. See the exceptional evidence of Ancient Rome. On the UNESCO World Heritage list, it is the best preserved theatre in Europe. We will have dinner with wine at our hotel.

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WEDNESDAY (Oct 12): Discover the Gigondas appellation. Lunch in the village square under the sycamore trees then afternoon tasting in Vacqueyras. Dinner at Les Jardins de la Livrée in Villeneuve les Avignon.

THURSDAY (Oct 13): Those who desire it can stroll to the local market on Thursday morning, only 200 meters from the hotel – But we’ll need to leave by 10:00 am. We visit the appellations of Tavel and Lirac. Visit Tavel’s famed Château de Manissy for a tasting and BBQ in the park. In the afternoon, walk through the vineyards and taste in Lirac. Dinner at La Table de Sorgue, a restaurant renowned among winemakers, with excellent food and an amazing wine selection.

FRIDAY (Oct 14): Late morning (at 10.30) Visit Avignon with some possible time for shopping and lunch on the Popes Palace’s square. In the afternoon, head to Chêne Bleu, outstanding winery nestled in the Dentelles de Montmirail hills for a visit of the winery and tasting. Dinner at Chêne Bleu.

SATURDAY (Oct 15): Last but not least: a day in the Luberon. Morning tour of the typical perched villages of Gordes and Ménèrbes. Lunch in an authentic and exclusive setting next to the old mill in Goult: “Chez Giuseppina.” Slow down, relax and enjoy an excellent meal in the Luberon hills with local wines. A final surprise evening will close our tour.

SUNDAY (Oct 16): Transfer to the airport for departure.

“If food is the body of good living, wine is its soul.” ~ Clifton Fadiman

TOUR COSTS: Full Price is $7600/ LIMITED TIME ONLY $6990/person for double occupancy (based on payment by check; a surcharge applies if PayPal is used). Single occupancy rooms may be availab5 le for an additional charge. A deposit of $1000/person holds your space and price. The limited time price is just that, so get your deposit in!

Visit our special website – DeluxeWineTours.com – for information, to download the complete flyer, and to register. 

QUESTIONS? – Leave them in the comments section below and they will be answered. Leave an email address if you want to be contacted privately, or contact Jim at JimLockardTravels@yahoo.com.

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PASO ROBLES TRIP, PART 2.TABLAS CREEK VINEYARD AND CALCAREOUS WINERY

As I noted in my last post (LINK), Dorianne and I went to Paso Robles  along California’s Central Coast region for three nights and two days of wine tasting with her sister and brother-in-law, Debby and Mike. Our daughter, Grace, joined us on the first day of wine tasting, but the four of us were on our own as we set out on Tuesday morning. We decided to keep it to two wineries to allow time for a nature walk later in the day.

Our first stop on the west side was Tablas Creek Vineyards (LINK) in the Adelaida AVA of west Paso Robles. Long known for their expertise in Rhône varietalsTablas Creek has a Rhône River partner, Chateau Beaucastel (LINK) in France. You could spend months studying the Tablas Creek history, viticulture, wine making techniques, and tasting their wines (maybe a lifetime on that), but we only had a couple of hours.

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From the website (LINK) with embedded links:

Tablas Creek Vineyard is the result of a decades-long friendship between the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and Robert Haas, longtime importer and founder of Vineyard Brands. The families created a partnership in 1985 and in 1989 purchased a 120-acre property in the hilly Las Tablas district of west Paso Robles for its similarities to Châteauneuf du Pape: limestone soils, a favorable climate, and rugged terrain.

The partners imported the traditional varietals grown on the Perrins’ celebrated estate, including Mourvèdre, Grenache Noir, Syrah, and Counoise for reds, and Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc for whites. These imported vines passed a rigorous 3-year USDA testing program, were propagated and grafted in our on-site nursery, and used to plant our organic estate vineyard.

Dorianne and I were members of the Tablas Creek wine club for a couple of years before we moved from Southern California. Their wines are beautifully crafted and many of their varietals are unique on the Central Coast, or even in all of California. They produce a few dozen wines, only three of which, called their core blends, are distributed widely. Here is the link to their wines page (LINK) for a more thorough description of each one.

Tablas Creek Vineyards and Tasting Room is located at the far west end of the Paso Robles area, which means that they are closer to the Pacific Ocean and its cooling influence. The tasting room is modern and state-of-the-art, with views into the winery. Several tasting stations surround a central core with displays of wines and other things for sale. As you approach the entryway, a display of grape vines for sale and a tub of stainless steel water bottles for guests to use during their visit.

The tasting room was crowded when we arrived. We found some space at a station being staffed by Suphada Rom, a very knowledgeable and well-traveled young woman from Vermont. Like many of the winery and tasting room workers in California, she arrived after some experience in Old World wine regions and developed a love for wineSuphada writes a wine blog (LINK).

The tasting experience at Tablas Creek involves the core blends and one or two varietals. To keep it short, I will just say that the core blends are always of a very high caliber. What I seek out at Tablas Creek are the single varietals. Our tasting included the 2013 Viognier and the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. Both were very good – the Cabernet being smoother and lighter, more elegant  than the typical Paso Robles-style Cabernet, which are big powerful wines.

Before departing Tablas Creek, we purchased a four-pack of varietals that included the 2013 Cabernet, 2012 Tannat2012 Picpoul Blanc (a varietal we enjoyed in France), and the 2013 Vermentino – a set that should provide many pleasures in the coming months.

Our next stop was farther east, up on a very high hill closer to Paso Robles on the border between the Adelaida and Willow Creek AVAsCalcereous (pronounced with two hard “C’s”) is another wonderful Paso Robles wine experience. The name comes from the limestone soils of the area.

From their website (LINK): “Father and daughter Lloyd Messer and Dana Brown realized their dream of finding a place to express their passion for wine in 2000, when they established Calcareous Vineyards on one of the highest limestone plateaus on Paso Robles’ westside. Both Lloyd and Dana, experienced wine distributors in their native Iowa, recognized the westside of Paso Robles had potential to produce world class wines. Their acquisition of 342 acres atop solid calcareous rock reaching 1,800 feet above sea level confirmed their dedication to producing the highest quality, terroir driven wines possible.  It is a labor of love to cultivate fruit on this challenging land, but the reward is immediately apparent when tasting the wines.”

 

Everything about Calcereous is beautiful – the wines, the land, the tasting room, and the experience. Our tasting room host, Karl Jepsen, is from Denmark. He gave an animated and informative “wine seminar” as we tasted six wines (five from the list and one additional).

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Karl led us through the tasting, going over the provenance of each wine and adding some additional bits of information, such as how to determine which aspects of the bouquet of the wine come from the fruit and which come from the barrel.

Calcereous wines are premium wines – every wine we tasted was in the 90’s in my own mental ratings chart. We were given an impromptu tour of the  vineyard & winery as well. I think we spent nearly 3 hours there. Wine highlights were the 2014 Estate Chardonnay, the 2013 ZSM (a fantastic blend of Zinfandel, Syrah & Merlot), and the 2012 Lloyd Bordeaux-style Blend, a truly exceptional wine Our 1/2 case purchase contained all three of those.

A note about the restaurant where we ate lunch after these great winery experiences – Fish Gaucho (LINK) in downtown Paso Robles did not disappoint. Very good Mexican dishes, large portions, and a nice atmosphere with good service. It’s worth a look when you are in Paso Robles.

There are over 200 wineries in Paso Robles, California. We visited just five of the more established producers on this short trip. I look forward to returning soon and exploring some of the smaller and newer producers.

As always, your comments are welcome.

And it was chilly – here are Dorianne and Debby clearing the ice from the car in the morning.

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Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

IN SOUTHERN FRANCE, AWASH IN GOOD ROSÉS

Dorianne and I are happily ensconced in a nice AirBnB.com apartment in a beautiful village called Villanueve lès Avignon, just across the Rhône River from Avignon. We will be here for six weeks, so five to go. It has been pretty hot here, as is normally the case this time of year (think Southern California with a bit more humidity), so we look for refreshing meals and refreshing wines, which has, for the most part meant rosé wines. Of course we have had some whites and a couple of local reds (they chill them here in summer) from the Luberon, Languedoc-Roussillon  and Province, but rosé has been our go-to wine 3/4 of the time. They have been good with lunch, with our late afternoon wine-cheese-and-olive snack (all local, of course), and with our dinners.

We have paid from 4 euros to 17 euros per bottle, and found very little difference in the quality of the wines. Some are a bit sweeter than others, some need to be really cold to drink well, but the degree of separation for most of these wines is minimal.

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A Collage of Some of the Southeastern France Rosés We Have Had.

One rosé from Corsica’s (LINK) Vin de Course AOC had Nielluccio, Sciacarello and Grenache as its varietals (not pictured). The wine was a delight and cost 4.50€, or about $4.80 for a bottle.

But mostly, we are drinking the wines of the regions that abut Avignon, which include Luberon, Languedoc-Roussillon, Chateauneuf du Pape, and Provence. I am not sure which, if any of these wines are available in the U.S. or other countries. All I can say is, this summer if you can get your hands on rosés from Southeastern France, do it. We will be touring some local wineries and regions over the next few weeks, so look for more posts about this magical place.