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Just got back from an epic trip to France. Check out the Trip.


France Trip 2008 - The Rhone

October 31, 2008 Lyon to St. Laurent des Arbes

Not much work for Jeff to accomplish today, so only a quick round to Arkane for goodbyes. Packed up and headed to an Italian lunch near the Place Republique. The drive south along the Rhone was rainy (surprise).

We thought it would be fun to get off the autoroute (the tolls were killing us) and cruise the roads through the vineyards. Down through Condrieu and past Valrhona (yes, the chocolate). It took an hour before we quickly got bored of that and just wanted to get to our destination of St. Laurent des Arbres in the Languedoc. We arrived to Après la Sieste and a bit of a down pour. We met Chloe and got settled and waited the arrival of the gang from Tucson. When they arrived about an hour later, there was a flurry of activity; wine boxes, luggage, parking, chef arrival, food prep, opening of wine.

Chef Olivier came in and cooked us a fabulous meal. We had an appetizer plate then veal with an aubergine flan. The cheese course was cantal with pears, finishing with a duo of apples - sorbet and phillo-filled purse.

November 1, 2008 Rhone Valley

We started the morning with breakfast at Après la Sieste then a ride over to the town of Chateauneuf de Pape. This was the beginning of many stops in this town. You guessed it, for wine. The morning was really about getting stuff for our dinner the following evening. Chloe told us about a great farmer's market in Uzès. So we made it to Uzès just before the downpour. We divided forces, popping between the awnings and shops. The was cheese of every color, meat of every animal and produce from all over the world (kinda weird for those of us used to the California farmer's markets). Jeff and I decided on some mezes action. After getting wet, Jeff and I popped into a little shop for hot drinks, some quiche and sandwich, and a place to sit out the onslaught.

The after lunch appointment was at Domaine de la Morderee. Fabrice Delorme took us on a tour of the winery and through a nice dégustation (tasting). In the end along with other purchases, he sent us each home with a bottle of the precious la Plume de Peintre, a very limited bottling of pure Grenache.

Back at home, we unloaded our market purchases and rested a bit before the dinner guests arrived. There were folks coming in from the Netherlands and Switzerland for our "best of the New World" offline dinner. Chef Olivier was back with a starter of foie gras over a lovely risotto, a main of sea and river fish, a fresh goat cheese with honey, and gooey chocolate to finish. The wines, well there were so many... Tablas Creek Panoplie 2000, Cayuse Coccinelle 2004, SQN Atllantis, Alban Reva, Linne Calodo Martyr, Saxum, La Plume 2005 brought by the winemaker himself, Barroche Pure 2006, and many more.

We were easing into the trip nicely.

November 2, 2008 Rhone Valley

Another market today. Chloe suggested we go to L'Isle sur la Sorgue (famous for its water wheels). The weather was holding and we had a less frantic walk through the market, actually pausing and looking. The first purchase was roasted hot chestnuts to share during our stroll. We bought more cheese (Todd!), more sausage (Jeff!), some salts, dried lavender and preserves. Chloe makes all her preserves she serves at breakfast. She makes a lovely green tomato, not too sweet, that we all loved and wanted some of. So we bought a couple, knowing it wasn't quite as good.


We found a restaurant along the Sorgue to have lunch (big salad for Jeff and beef stew with ratatouille for Margaret). It was still sunny, but clouds were looming and the wind really picked up while we were eating.

On our journey back home we went in view of Mount Ventoux (cycling fans will know), and stopped to walk up to the Castle at Chateauneuf du Pape. The wind was enough to blow us back down to the car and home. Everyone pitched in to make dinner. Olives and dips, sauteed mushrooms with rice; cheese, sausage and bread, roasted brussel sprouts, macarons and wine. We took over Chloe and Jacques' kitchen while they were at friends. I don't know what they thought of all the wine we were opening. Crazy Americans.

November 3, 2008 Rhone Valley

Today was a big day in Chateauneuf du Pape. We started the morning at Roger Sabon. The tour and tasting were nice. The crew was pretty excited about the contents of the cave.

After Sabon, we went to Domaine de Pegau. We had a great visit in the cave and the gentleman that was our guide through the wines was so patient with our broken French. Tasting the impossible to find Capo direct from the aging foudres was pretty amazing.

We all had lunch together at Bistrot la Nerthe in town. One menu per day, so that's what we got: carrot gateau with a green salad, roasted duck with green beans and dessert choice (I got the best giant slab on pear tart). Local rosé for wine.

After lunch we took a walk back up to the castle. The weather was much nicer and most of us were wandering around taking loads of pictures. Some (uh-hum, Jon, Todd and then Rajiv) couldn't help themselves and went wandering the wine shop on the stairs up to the castle.

The first tasting after lunch was at Domaine la Barroche. The mother of the wine maker took us through the wines and was not as kind or slow speaking as our morning hosts. Wendy's expression kinda says it all.

We had some time to kill until our next visit, so we headed out to the famous La Crau vineyard. Harvesting was done and the vines were in the year end glory. It was good fun walking through the vineyards.

At the appointed hour of 4, we headed to the blue gate. Yes, this blue gate was a bit of focus over the last few days - is it open, is there anyone in there?

The blue gate belongs to Gaec Clos St. Jean. It was a long day and we had arranged for chef Olivier to feed us again. For starters we had a salmon tartare with a whipped salmon and tomato shot. On this plate was something that looked remarkably like a orange tomatillo. And when I asked the name in French, Physalis, it is a tomatillo. So this is gonna be a quest for our garden next spring. Next we had a gorgeous updated coq in wine, followed by cheese, and then a panne cotta for dessert. Another great meal to end the day.

To the North and Beyond


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