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We drove from Montreal du Gers in the morning and headed for the winemaking region where Malbec is king:  Cahors.



We have two versions of their Cahors wine in the shop and the Cassot family consistently makes a balanced and satisfying wine.

A combination of small oak and large cooperage allows them to make a wine of balance.

The Cassot's daughter is now assisting in the winemaking and sales.

Restaurant de la Terrace  
46700  Grzels  
Tel: 
05 65 21 34 03


This is a simple place with a single menu for the day and the 16 Euro lunch includes a carafe of wine.


The barrel-chested host and server brings soup bowls and a piping hot serving of the potage du jour.

You're expected to finish what they serve you and the waiter impatiently taps his foot as he insists you join the "clean plate club."

An onion and ham "pie" or quiche then arrives.

The main plate the day of our visit was duck with roasted potatoes.

The Coustarelle wine was delicious in this company.

Most French meals are incomplete with a cheese course.

And dessert...


Next stop was the region of Fronton and a visit at one of our favorite wineries.  The Ribes brothers make some terrific wines from the local "Negrette" grape (we know this variety here as Pinot St. George, but it's not usually seen much anymore).

There's a bit of art work on some of the tanks...

The wines were good, including the ros.

Night had fallen and we drove east, stopping in the famous little town of Castelnaudary in search of a hotel room and Cassoulet.

HOTEL du CENTRE et du LAURAGAIS 
31, cours de la Rpublique - 11400 Castelnaudary
Tl : 04 68 23 25 95 - Fax : 04 68 94 01 66

This was a comfortable little stop and the restaurant was good.


My starter was a lovely 'salad' of clams with parsley.


Cassoulet de Castelnaudary.




In the morning we drove east to meet Pierre Clavel, a long-time Languedoc vintner.

The sun shines brightly there and cactus and grapevines thrive in the heat.

The cellar is well-kept and clean.


There's a tasting room for visitors and a 'rolodex' of photos of the estate.

The ros from 2007 showed very well, as did a few of the Clavel red wines.


Next stop was Sommieres and the Pages family estate called La Clotte-Fontane.



We tasted an impressive range of wines...Since my initial visit 5 years ago, I've seen a steady increase in the quality of the Clotte-Fontane wines.

We always have a nice little lunch here, too.

We then headed a bit south and stopped to visit a tiny producer in Saint Chinian.


Future Carignan Winemaker.


Heading south towards the Spanish border to visit a lovely little winery making Collioure wines and Banyuls.


Winemaker Herv Levano in the Casa Blanca cellar.



We spoke about old Banyuls wines and Herv said they'd inherited some old bottles.  He kindly opened one.


He's smiling because the wine actually was good...

After our tasting we drove to some remote little place on the edge of town, maybe not even in France.  It was dark and the roads were long and winding.  There we met Herv's partner and she had prepared a lovely little meal for us.

And the Casa Blanca Collioure was very nice...deep and berryish with some spicy overtones.

The following morning we motored around the region of Banyuls, looking at remarkably steep hillsides and vineyards.

We went back to the winery before shoving off for our next stop...

We were going to taste the wines of several producers and were hosted by the Domaine du Mas Rouge, a producer of Muscat de Frontignan.

We tasted quite a range of wines, from Coteaux du Languedoc, to dry Muscat to Maury, a fortified, Port-like dessert wine.

Meanwhile, the chef de cuisine was busy starting the fire for some steaks.


Cassis was our next stop and we had a little tasting and dinner with Sophie and Didier Simonini.


A stew of "Toro."

Cassis is a lovely little tourist spot.  We stayed in a place near the harbor.

From the sea we drove north to the town of Tavel in the Rhne Valley.

 

Its claim to fame is Ros.  


Sablet is the home of the Autran family and their lovely Domaine Piaugier.


ROLLAND GAP'S DOMAINE D'AERIA

This is always a favorite stop on the "tour," as Magalie always prepares a stellar meal, outshining most restaurants.

The evening began with a bit of tasting and blending as Charles Neal likes to have "just the right wine."

Once the formalities are out of the way, we get serious...

This was a delicious salad of  M&Ms...Mache and Mussels.

Rolland doesn't make but a few bottles of white wine and the new vintage was magnificent.


This next plate was outrageously good!

Unlike most escargot served in France, these were "wild."  After catching and cleaning them, Magalie and friends stuffed two or three escargot back into a each single shell and finished the job with parsley butter and garlic.

Here's what the plate looked like moments later....


Birds fly to the table next...

Magalie served her famous mashed potatoes with truffles...


L'ile Flottante.
Floating Islands...

I floated off to sleep shortly afterwards....

We then drove to a new little estate with lots of old vines.
It's called "Rouge Bleu" and it's managed by Jean-Marc Espinasse.

We drove south to Chteauneuf-du-Pape and Jean-Marc's Uncle's place...


A 1990 Banneret Chteauneuf-du-Pape was mature and old on the nose, but remarkably tannic on the palate.

Restaurant Hotel La Sommellerie ***
Route de Roquemaure D17

84230 Chteauneuf du Pape
Phone : +33 (0)4 90 83 50 00
Fax : +33 (0)4 90 83 51 85


We had our work cut out for us...a nice line-up of wines from the Chteauneuf-du-Pape estate of Roger Perrin.
This is not to be confused with the "other" Perrin family which owns the famous Beaucastel estate...
Roger Perrin has the "No-Castel" Chteauneuf-du-Pape.


Pumpkin soup.


Foie gras and Rabbit Terrine with a dollop of dried figs...


Sea Scallops.


2007 Chteauneuf Blanc.


These slate "roof tiles" are a popular "plate" in France these days.
Here's a nice little rack of lamb...


Moe, Larry and Curley?


Dessert.


They serve coffee in a most civilized manner here...with a small glass of Marc!




LES TERRACES D'EOLE


We tasted some good reds here at the Saurel family winery...

Yves CHeron's Domaine du Grand Montmirail was our next stop.  We arranged to meet our old friend Valerie Aigron nearby.

Yves promptly opened some Champagne.

We tasted a wide range of wines, but always seem to prefer the Gigondas.


In the morning we made tracks for the hills and visited the winery of J.C. Raspail, a little estate making a lovely sparkling wine of Muscat called "Clairette de Die."



Well, since we haven't had a meal in the past few minutes, it must be time for lunch...


This place is famous for its Ravioles de Romans Grantines.


Dfarde Cretois, some sort of "meat loaf" of the region.

Charles spotted a Clos de Lambrays 1999 on the wine list which had an old price tag on it, so we snagged this to go with lunch...too bad this truck-stop-of-a-restaurant only had tiny wine glasses...

Clairette de Die and some fruit sorbets made for a happy combination...



Mister Bubbles, Charles Neal.



We drove to the Northern Rhne and visited Clusel-Roch, a famous little Cte-Rtie producer.


Tasting these from barrel is difficult, since the wines tend to be backwards and tannic.  Brigitte Roch was kind enough, though, to open some wines in bottle...


A pair of bottles from the 1999 vintage was spectacular.  These showed the spice and herbal notes of great Syrah from Cte-Rtie.
Very impressive!

We then headed for the hills in search of the Rondeau family winery in the Bugey region.


Winemaker Bernard Rondeau poured us some of his fantastic Bugey Cerdon, a fizzy, sweet, tart Gamay.  Marjorie Rondeau's little 'sweet bread' was excellent, as well.

We drove to a nearby town for dinner in an interesting little neighborhood restaurant...

LE TEMPS D'UN RESTO
53 Rue Central
Lagnieu
Tel: 04 74 35 79 32

Cured Salmon...

Marjorie and others ordered the Tagine which was very good.


Profiteroles.



We had a look at their vineyards...very steep and certainly a lot of work.

Bernard's sister was pruning the vines early in the morning.

 

 

We went to have a look at the Angelot vineyards...


The vines had just been pruned...


Back at the cellar, Philippe had prepared a simple, but satisfying lunch for us and it was a wonderful accompaniment for his easy-drinking "mountain wines."

Local sausages are boiled/steamed in red wine and paired with steamed potatoes and a rich braise of onions...

We spoke of our preference for Angelot's "old" label and Philippe dug out a ten year old bottle of Mondeuse to share with us.


And we got to meet the next generation of Angelots...


We drove to see Beatrice Bernard at Le Cellier du Palais in Apremont, another relatively obscure appellation.


Apremont is made of the Jacquere grape and I liked both the regular and old vines' cuve here.  They're crisp, zesty and devoid of oak.

We joined Beatrice for dinner at the nearby Auberge Saint Vincent.

Auberge St-Vincent  
   73190 APREMONT  tel: 04 79 28 21 85


We began with a pumpkin soup and a small bottle of a Chignin Bergeron...

I had a salad featuring green beans and smoked sausage slices...

Charles opted for the frog's legs...

The main plate was filets of quail, according to the menu.  I thought a couple of these slices tasted more like "foie" than white meat...





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