On a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon in September, we took a self-guided driving tour of the Madiran Wine Country in Southwestern France. What an amazing experience! We found a beautiful vineyard and we were able to see the grapes looking ripe and near time for picking. The tasting room was absolutely lovely with stone walls and dark oak furnishings.
The village of Madiran looks like something out of a post card. The rough stone buildings and cobblestones make you feel like you have stepped through a time machine. After taking advantage of the complimentary wine tasting, we purchased some of our favorite bottles and enjoyed the scenery. What a wonderful afternoon! We highly recommend this little village as a stop on your next trip to the French wine country!
Cruising the many canals of Burgundy is a wonderful and unique way to see the wine country and we highly recommend it! You can rent your own boat for a private excursion or you can book a multi-day cruise on a full service barge complete with cabins and fine dining.
We took a week long tutored French Wine course on a beautiful luxury hotel barge. Our instructor was John Sherwin who is an experienced wind advisor from L’Universite du Vin de Suze-la-Rousse. Needless to say, he knows his stuff. He has taught many wine appreciation courses and been a judge at major international wine competitions.
Our daily routine on this cruise would begin with a tutorial and tasting on board the barge. The boat had a wonderful marine stereo system that not only played beautiful music, but allowed Sherwin to communicate with all the guests easily. Luckily they use waterproof speakers because it rained one afternoon! After the tutorial, we would disembark and visit local vinyards. All the while Sherwin was there to instruct us in the history of the area. There were other activities intermingled, but my favorite part was the delicious dinners, back aboard the boat in the evenings.
By the end of the trip we not only had an enjoyable time, but we felt vastly more educated in history, wine making techniques, and how to pair French wines with food.
In the past, some of the world’s most famous wine country in France was not at all welcome to tourists and visitors. Vinyard owners in those areas, apparently wanted to be left alone to the beauties of their surroundings to make the world’s finest wines. There were very few restaurants or places to stay for an eager wine enthusiast. Today, however, the “buy our wine, but don’t bother us” attitude is changing. Wonderful dining experiences and quaint country inns have come to the region, inviting guests and wine tasters from around the world! In this article we will look at a few of the must have experiences in French wine country.
In the Loire Valley, one place we would not want you to miss is La Cote des Monts Damnes. This resort includes a hotel, bistro and a wonderful restaurant that is owned and operated by Chef Jean-Marc Bourgeois. The bistro serves dishes like duck salad with nut-oil vinaigrette, while the main restaurant serves diners seeking a higher class experience dishes such as tagliatelle with nutmeg butter and goat cheese. But don’t forget the wine, of course! Given the family name, there is obviously Sancerre on the list in both the bistro and the restaurant. You must try the Sancerre rouge which is hard to find in the USA. The bistro’s wine list includes 2008 Reuilly Blanc from Claude Lafond and 2008 Les Bonnes Bouches from Henri Bourgeois.
In the Rhone Valley we suggest La Colline du Colombier which is owned and operated by the Troisgros family. This exclusive (and expensive) restaurant has a unique dining room placed inside of an ancient renovated stone barn. To contrast the ancient stone there are modern light fixtures with draping extension cords. Sounds odd, right? But it actually is quite amazing. The main chef is Michel Troisgros who prepares delicious dishes such as spice-braised lamb shanks, wonderful buttery potato omlets, and my favorite, the meringue with toasted nuts. Yum! The wine list, of course, features all the best that Rhone has to offer including 2005 Coche Dury White Burgundy. The Troisgros family also operates a quaint hotel about nine miles away. Sipping wine while enjoying the stunning view from the porch is highly recommended!
Speaking of Burgundy, we certainly shall not leave that off of our list of top wine country places to visit. Olivier Leflaive is one of the few famous wine producers in Burgundy who enjoys mingling with his guests at his resort, appropriately called La Maison d’Olivier Leflaive. The hotel is actually a renovated 17th century mansion which has all the ambiance of the era. The restaurant, called “La Table” is situated nearby. The chef, Claudine Tixier supplies his guests with unforgettable dishes such as Basque-style stewed chicked and eggplant. The wine list features elite offerings such as 2006 Meursault Premier Cru Charmes. Leflaive is a people person and he loves to walk the dining room and converse with his guests as they enjoy their meals.