The Mysterious Provence Olive Oil of Norma Kamali (New York Times)

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“What’s the point,” was the bemused reaction of a confrere in the Vaucluse to a first read last fall of an article in the New York Times, “Steal My Vacation: Norma Kamali’s Provence” by Stephanie Rosenbloom. A footnote informed readers that “Steal My Vacation” is a “new column devoted to tastemakers and their favorite getaways.”

Beyond the celeb designer’s anodyne hyperventilations on olive oil in Provence, the vapid and gauzy prose has little to say about Provence and even less about olive oil. It reads like a reverie.

The piece fails to describe the three classes of olive oil: Vierge Extra – Extra Virgin olive oil; Vierge Fine  – Fine Virgin olive oil and Vierge Courante  – Ordinary Virgin Olive Oil. Nor does it mention the three types of olive oil: fruité vert, fruité mûr, and fruité noir, the latter being unique to France.

Olive oil festivals are ignored, as is the place where most visitors can find locally-produced quality olive oils: the farmers’ markets.

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For a soi-disant travel piece, there is no sense of place, as Ms. Rosenbloom did not ask Ms. Kamali the location of the chateau where she resides when visiting Provence (it’s a big area), nor does she inquire about the origin of the olive oil – its appellation and its producer. The location of the chateau and of the producer would compel naming a département and a town.

What the article boils down to is the New York Times offering a platform for Norma Kamali to promote her brand, her store and its website, as well as an olive oil tasting held at the store in November. Note: Reporter Rosenbloom penned a Dec 2011 piece on Ms. Kamali’s beauty products.

Back to my confrere’s question – voici le point faible:

The olive oil sold by Norma Kamali at her Wellness Café on West 56th Street in New York is labeled Provence I, Provence II and Provence III at $58 per bottle. (The same generic category is applied to olive oils from Tuscany).

Although the origins of olive oils from the south of France are delineated by seven AOP’s (L’appellation d’origine protégée) and one AOC (l’appellation d’origine controlée) Provence, which covers other areas in Provence not included in the seven AOP’s, Ms. Kamali does not reveal the AOP or the AOC of the olive oil sold at the Wellness Café, nor the name of the producer.

Curious, PVB made a few calls to the Wellness Café and spoke with two women who were minding the store. Neither woman had the slightest idea about the identity of producer of the generically-labeled Provence olive oils.

Imagine drifting into a wine store, and being offered a bottle of wine labeled ‘Rhone Valley” for $58 without any reference to the appellation or the producer (such a wine label is freak’n illegal in France, and French regulations dictate that the origin of the olive oil appear on the bottle).

For the prices that Ms. Kamali is demanding for what she calls “liquid gold,” shouldn’t she reveal the AOC or AOP as well as the name of the producer?

Or perhaps a gawking NY Times reporter will pierce the bubble of celebrity, and ask the proper question. Bordel de merde, un peu de reportage.

 

Read: Olive Oil Wars: A Sunny Business with Shady Practices here

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Carpentras: Grenache Bistro – A Jazzy Wine Shop and Wine Bar for Honing Your Palate on Rhone Valley Vintages

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At Le Bistro Grenache in Carpentras, the simpatico owner / sommelier Christian-Paul Peyron knows how to liven up a set, having worked as a location and set manager in the French film industry.

For the evening of International Grenache Day on Sept. 20, Christian recruited an animated cast that had the terrace and sidewalk of Le Bistro Grenache heaving with merry wine lovers celebrating Grenache and a good bit of other French grape varieties; the evening kicked off with oysters and Sancerre, and then moved onto charcuterie and the hearty Grenache blends of the Rhone Valley.

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This wine shop and wine bar is a swell place to hone your palate on the various appellations of the Rhone Valley, including the often overlooked vintages of the Ventoux.

Christian launched his wine bistro last year in Carpentras after rounding out his passion for wine by completing studies in 2011 at the Wine University in Suze la Rousse, an esteemed school that organizes technical, oenological and commercial training for all professions in the world of wine. A native of and a huge supporter of everything Carpentras, he spent seven years in 1980’s in Los Angeles teaching at the Lycée Française.

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The wine cellar has a selection of wines from the Rhone Valley, Languedoc Roussillon, Provence, Bourgogne, the Loire Valley, Bordeaux, the Southwest and Champagne. The Grenache Bistro is the only wine shop in France to offer the wines of the Domaine Murmurium in Mormoiron. The bar is also stocked with whisky, rum, Cognac, Armagnac, Porto, beer, Eaux de vie and liqueurs.

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On Thursday to Saturday evenings, the Grenache Bistro serves charcuterie, cheeses, antipasti, tapas, tomatoes, olives and other delicacies to pair with wine. There are accessories for wine drinkers such as the snazzy decorated small metal barrels that hold replaceable 3 litres of bag-in-box wine (see photo below).

Wine enthusiasts visiting the Southern Rhone can familiarize themselves with local wines at the Grenache Bistro, which also serves as a launching pad for sorties into the wine country north of Carpentras – Beaumes-de-Venise, Vacqueryas and Gigondas.

And the Grenache Bistro offers one other thing in sort supply in busy Carpentras: free and easily-accessed parking.

Basics:

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Le Bistro Grenache, a wine shop and wine bar: 107 Place De Verdun 84200 Carpentras, Tel 06 09 48 17 42

The ‘Cave” is open Tues. 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Wed – Sat, from 10:00 am. to 1:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.; The Bistro-Restaurant open from 8:00 p.m. until midnight. Wines by the glass during regular hours. Reserve for evening servings.

Directions: The Place De Verdun is located on the eastern side of Carpentras, Ave Jean Jaures intersects with Ave du Mont Ventoux (D942) Google Map

Facebook, Email: cavelegrenache@gmail.com,

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Crillon Le Brave: A Romantic Rendezvous Heightened By Local-Produce-Cum-Local-Wine at the Bistrot 40K

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In the pleasant verdant countryside of the Vaucluse, about a half-an-hour drive northeast of Avignon, stands a large proud stone edifice on the perched hill of a village in miniature, Crillon le Brave, which before it stretches out a commanding vista of the 6,000 foot limestone-crested Mont Ventoux.

Crowning the hill top, the eponymous hotel – Crillon le Brave – appeals to the smart and fashionable set for its remoteness and tranquility; the village of about 400 is veritable cul-de-sac bereft of vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

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For its well-heeled guests, the feeling of the hotel is not that all dissimilar to the experience of members of a private club where a youthful well-mannered staff ‘cares’ for you and your every need. Almost as if placed there as a prop, the narrow driveway at the hotel’s entrance cradles a car that by its make and model is assuredly owned, not rented.

For those yearning to dine in the serene comfort of its premises, the Crillon le Brave moderates cost without sacrificing quality in its new Bistrot 40K, nestled on a small charming terrace, the Cours du Puit, and in an adjoining comfy dining room, the Reboul house, both archly removed from humming hotel activities.

With eight or so tables in the dining area and on the terrace, the ambiance is relaxed and the dress code is casual.

At first sight, you perceive that this is a place for couples of a certain genus – those who have that particular expression around their eyes that communicates a sense of emotional assurance; exchanged gazes creating an envelop of privacy around them, an atmosphere upon which it is presumptuous to intrude.

Local wine producers tipped off PVB to the Bistrot, which takes its moniker 40K – kilometers not thousands mind you – to indicate that all the ingredients, produce and wines originate within a radius of 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Crillon le Brave.

Perched on a stone wall of the Bistrot 40K, a blackboard announces the evening fare at 40€ per person, which changes every night, including a starter, a choice of a main course, and dessert, with substitutions upon request.

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Better yet, you can descend down into the Reboul Wine Cellar and pick out your own bottle of red, white or rosé wine for the evening.

For lovers of local wines, there are plenty of friendly faces such as the Ventoux reds from Fondreche, Olivier B., Unang, Vendemio, Pesquié, Valcombe, and Tix. Any questions, the engaging enthusiastic Benjamin Ruggiero knows his wine stuff (il est dans le truc).

In these times of recessionary pressures when there are so very few new restaurants that appear within the orbit of Mont Ventoux, it is a pleasure to discover a fresh small star on the horizon that shines brightly.

Basics:

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Bistrot 40K, Hôtel Crillon le Brave, Rue Église, Crillon-le-Brave, Tel: 04 90 65 61 61, Email: reservations@crillonlebrave.com, Open five nights a week from 7:30 pm until 9:30 pm. Website

At the Hôtel, lunch is served in ‘La Grange’ Bar or on the terraces from 12.30 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. Le Restaurant offers seasonal menus from 60 Euros for four courses.

 

 

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Provence Wine Shops and Wine Tours: Romancing the Grape in Avignon, Arles, Apt, Menerbes, Malaucene, Aix-en-Provence and Marseille

Any place that you stay in Provence is only a hop and a jump to the wine cellars of vineyards and wine cooperatives, which are sprinkled about the countryside, where you can buy direct from winemakers for prices well under retail.

Now, when you are out and about in the region and require a quality bottle or a case of Southern Rhone wines – or one from another wine region – here are some fine wine shops where you will find a superb selection and advice.

Aix-en-Provence

Cave du Félibrige, Vins Fins & Spiritueux, 8, rue des Cordeliers, Aix-en-Provence, Tél 04 42 96 90 62, cavedufelibrige@orange.fr, Website

Top wine ship in Aix run by wine pros Francois Barre et Vincent Stagetti (photo above). Selection from all major regions in France. Enthusiastic service.

Arles

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Cave de Trinquetaille, 8 Av. de la Gare Maritime, Arles

Open Tues – Sat 9:00 a.m. – 12:30p.m. , 3:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., Sunday 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Email:contact@cavedetrinquetaille.com, Tél  04 90 96 64 34, Website

 

Elodie and Romain just celebrated their tenth anniversary as Cavistes in Arles. A superb selection of wines from southern France.  Try the Domaine de l’Oratoire St Martin (Cairanne) and the Syrah of Domaine du Tix (AOC Ventoux),

Avignon

Le Vin Devant Soi, 4 rue du Collège du Roure, Avignon, Tél  04 90 82 04 39, Email contact@levindevantsoi.com, Open Monday 2:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., Tues – Sat. 10:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m., Website

Offering more than 130 labels from the Rhone Valley and the Languedoc-Roussillon, Le Vin Devant Soi has 32 wines available for tasting during store hours.

Apt

La Cave du Septier, Place du Septier, Apt, Tel 04 90 04 77 38, Website

Open Monday 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. to 07:00 p.m., Tue – Sat9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. to 07:30 p.m.

Best wine shop in the Luberon. Great selection of bottles from the Southern Rhone and all the major wine regions in France.

Ménerbes

 

Getting around the Luberon appellation for tastings at the farflung wineries can eat up days as well as petrol.

La Maison de la Truffe et du Vin du Luberon has a unique wine shop which offers only wines of the Luberon from about 50 vineyards for the same price that the wines are sold at the wineries. There is also a shop on the main floor offering olive oil and delicacies of the region.

Maison de la Truffe et du Vin du Luberon, Place de l’horloge, Ménerbes, Tél. : 04 90 72 38 37 Wine Shop open daily from 12:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Monday and Friday evenings. Website

 

Wine Tours – 3 to Pump Up Your Wine IQ

Aix-en-Provence / Marseille

Provence Wine Tours offers a range of full-day and half-day regular wine tours from Aix or Marseille with distinct itineraries to various wine appellations.

Tours include private visit to wineries, meeting winemakers and tastings. Transportation in a minibus.

Booking can be made online at Website. Facebook.

Avignon

From Avignon, the major appellations of the Rhone Valley – Châteauneuf du Pape, Vacqueyras, and Gigondas – as well as the Côtes du Rhône Villages are included among the six distinct wine circuits offered by Avignon Wine Tours.

Departures Monday to Saturday, leaving at 9:00 a.m. and returning at 5:30 p.m., with lunch at a wine bistro restaurant. (Photo above: Avignon Wine Tours at Le Tourne au Verre in Cairanne)

Book by Avignon Wine Tours Website. Tel 06 28 05 33 84,

Malaucene

Rhone Wine Holidays: A unique all-inclusive package at La Madelène, an elegantly renovated priory where a single price covers tutored tastings, visits, accommodation, all meals at La Madelène and out at restaurants.

Your hosts are Philip and Jude Reddaway. Philip migrated from the corporate media world in London to studying wine and qualifying as a WSET approved wine instructor. He ran a number of successful wine courses in Brighton and London before moving to France.

Choose between a three-day tour (three nights lodging) of Selected Domaines of the Southern Rhone, or a one-day tour (one night lodging) of  “Rhone Stars.” Consult website listed below for details and pricing.

Rhone Wine Holidays: La Madelène, route d’Entrechaux, Malaucéne, France, Tel 04 90  62 19 33, Email rhonewineholidays@googlemail.com, Website

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Saint Didier: Awesome New Flavors at Silvain frères, Gnarly Nougat Heaven – Take Home the True Flavors of Provence

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Shes as sweet as tupelo honey
Shes an angel of the first degree
Shes as sweet as tupelo honey
Just like honey from the bee

– Van Morrison –

Spend some time tasting samples in the shiny boutique of Silvain frères and you will develop the jones for nougat, the authentic Provencal kind mind you, assuring yourself that in your search for the very best nougat in Provence you have reached the highest peak for consistency in texture, flavor and pure artistry.

Not a second more wasted glancing at nougat bars on tourist shop counters or in supermarket isles. At Silvain frères, you are in gnarly nougat heaven.

The frères have introduced this saison three new exquisite nougats (pictured above) offering a melange of flavors ‘en bouche’: fig, abricot and pistachio; red fruits, and pistachio, saffron and cranberry.

It’s the almonds – the essential ingredient in making high-quality nougat. Silvain frères puts a heaving 40% into their Nougat Blanc (photo below)along with 25% honey heated in a copper kettle until white. The tender Nougat Blanc, which is wildly popular with visitors, leaves no sweet aftertaste.

Nougat Noir (photo below), the traditional Provencal nougat served at holiday time among 13 desserts, is caramelized, flambéed in cognac with orange flavorings. Hard or crunchy. As slicing the hard bars is tricky, pick up the wrapped pre-cut Noir pieces.

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Children go for the nougalettes, small pieces of caramelized honey and crushed almonds with notes of vanilla and rhum. For high tea, grab their pain d’épices.

This is homegrown homemade stuff: the brothers Pierre and Philippe are almond growers and beekeepers as well as nougat artisans.
 

By the way, the tightly-sealed nougat makes for swell gifts or souvenirs to take home as it keeps its freshness for a year.

You may remark that the color of Nougat blanc bears resemblance to the distressed white limestone crest of the iconic Mont Ventoux. Memories in a mouthful.

Basics:

Silvain frères is located in Saint Didier on the Route to Venasque, a three-minute walk from the center of the village. Open daily. Guided tours on Wed. at 10:15 a.m. Tél. 04 90 66 09 57, Email: infos@nougat-silvain-freres.fr, Website

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Olive Oil Wars: A Sunny Business with Shady Practices. Read the Label, Carefully.

The urge to indulge oneself in the delights of everything Provence is symptomatic of the impoverished assumption that everything in the region is authentic, e.g. made in Provence. Not so.

Market day somewhere in Provence. You approach a stand displaying a sunburst of colors: the many hues of locally-grown olives, the warm beige of honey, the black night of tapenade, the deep ruby red of cherry or strawberry preserves.  You grab that bottle of olive oil with a pretty provencale design.

Now, read the label.

NPR ran an interview  with Tom Mueller, an Italy-based contributor to the New Yorker and the author of  Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, which documents a sunny business with shady practices.

PVB’s survey of olive oils sold in the Vaucluse resonates with Mueller’s what’s-in-that-olive-bottle warning.

A French TV Channel 5 documentary ripped into the olive oil biz and the slights-of-hand and dodgy product labeling that infantalize consumers.

The FR5 video with sub-titles would be riveting entertainment on Air France’s inbound flights rather than those dull movies that you never dared place in your Netflix queue.

French regulations demand that the origin of the olive oil must appear on the bottle. Look closely. At times, such info appears in mouse type. The FR5 sleuths embarrassed one shady vendor at a market in Aix-en-Provence who was selling olive oil from Spain.

Take the generic phrase “a product of the European Union” that appears on the back-of-the-bottle label of the popular French supermarket brand Puget. Origin of this olive oil: Spain. The French company refused an interview and visit from the truculent FR5 reporters at their bottling facility in the south of France.

No different in Italy as Mueller surmises that “4 out of 10 bottles that say Italian olive oil are not actually Italian olive oil.” The gimmick: import olive oil from another country and have it packed in Italy, or ship it via Italy. These are not illegal practices mind you, but the consumer is being defrauded.

A quick primer. Virgin olive oil is harvested by hand or machine to preserve the integrity of the fruit, and undergoes no chemical treatment.

In the bottle, virgin olive oil possesses an acidity of not more than two grams per 100 grams; extra virgin olive oil has not more than .8 grams per 100 grams of acidity. Spain produces about a third of world production. Boutique olive oils in Provence can run from 15 to 40 euros a liter.

Pictured above is an authentic Olive Oil  “etiquette”: Huile d’Olive Vierge, Recolté et Mis en Bouteille par le Producteur Catherine et Serge Constant, Earl La Rambaude, 339, Chemin de Saint-Roch 84210 Saint-Didier, Origine France. This olive oil is on sale at the Monday Morning Market in the village of Saint-Didier.

Repeat: Inspect the label, carefully at a market or a shop / supermarket to verify the producer and the origin of the olive oil before purchasing.

So if you have come all this way, why not splurge for the real Provencal stuff and buy direct from a producer like Catherine and Serge Constant.

For buying direct from local producers, here are some “Moulin à huile” (Producers) in the Vaucluse:

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Moulin Saint-Augustin, Oppède. 04.90.72.43.66, Website

Moulin Mathieu, Oppède. 04.90.76.90.66, Website

Moulin Dauphin, Cucuron. 04.90.77.26.17, Website

Moulin du Clos-des-Jeannons, Gordes. 04.90.72.68.35, Website

Moulin à huile de la Chartreuse, Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. 04.90.25.45.59, Website

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Cucuron: Le Pavillon de Galon (au lieu d’un Gite)

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“You must know it’s right
The spore is on the wind tonight…”

Steely Dan, Rose Darling

Is it a bed and breakfast? Or is it a painting, an art work à la provençale? Both, when you find yourself amidst the lavender-washed grounds and gardens of Le Pavillon de Galon. The astonishing palette of colors seem prearranged to invoke in you a covetous and joyful envy.

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Le Pavillon de Galon is a a restored 18th century hunting pavilion siting on the edge of Cucuron, a worn biscuit-colored village, known among the culinary cognoscenti by a single star, the Michelin kind mind you, which illuminates the appetite: La Petite Maison and its ebullient chef Eric Sapet.

Before your eyes, a glorious skyscape to the east of Cucuron stretches out to the feral rugged part of the Luberon.

The décor is high tone, an exercise in studied elegance, with an accent on warm golden tones. Vivid Provencal colors accent ancient and modern furnishing.

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The two delightfully decorated high ceiling guest rooms, accessed by a private entrance, are on the second floor with southern exposure and terraces with views of the splendid gardens. Guests may choose a king size bed or twin beds. Each room has a spacious daylight shower, television, and WiFi.

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Water is omnipresent: small Roman pools grace the gardens, a 30-ft swimming pool, heated when necessary, is framed with wooden chaise lounges, and an immense natural pool runs for 90 feet.

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Amenities include cooking classes, massage and manicure, and the domaine’s limited production AOC Luberon wine Hocus Pocus. The entire wing at Le Pavillon, the bedrooms and a furnished kitchen, may be rented for up to five people on a weekly basis.

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The landscaped gardens with small sculptures at the Pavillon are designated a “Jardin Remarquable” (a remarkable garden) by the French Culture and Environment Ministry.

Basics

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Le Pavillon de Galon, 84160 Cucuron, Email: bibi@pavillondegalon.com, Tel 04 90 77 24 15, Website

Directions: Cucuron is 8km east from Lourmarin on D27.  From Cucuron, head east on D189 towards Cabrières d’Aigues, just out of town, watch for signage, turn right on Chemin de Galon, continue 700M to Le Pavillon de Galon.

La Petite Maison: Place Etang, 84160 Cucuron, Tel 04 90 68 21 99, Email: info@lapetitemaisondecucuron.com, Website

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Carpentras: Château du Martinet (au lieu d’un Gite)

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“Let’s get lost, lost in each other’s arms
Let’s get lost, let them send out alarms
And though they’ll think us rather rude
Let’s tell the world we’re in that crazy mood.”

Chet Baker

If you are in a romantic crazy mood and want to get lost, there is no better place than on the 70 acres of the magnificent Château du Martinet, a veritable Château first built in 1712 and then rebuilt in 1846 after a fire during the revolution with stones from the ramparts of Carpentras.

The Château was the residence of the Marquis des Isnards. The Isnards are one of the most distinguished families in the Comtat Venaissin dating back to the end of the 12th century.

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When the French employ the phase “une vie de Château” they mean a life of luxury and comfort, and these are appropriate adjectives for the opulent décor and regal ambiance of the Château du Martinet.

Once within the gates of the Château, you experience a delightful sensation of living in a luxurious manner within a self-enclosed envelope of privacy.

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The atmospherics are soothing. The setting is lush. Columns of rose marble, sculpted ceilings and high walls, precious ceramics, antiques and period paintings. The large salon opens to a spacious terrace with a majestic view of a meadow.

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The delicately fashioned rooms (5) are bathed in a rich and refined décor, with two rooms having twin beds and the others doubles. All of the rooms have television, high bandwidth internet, and air conditioning. Bathrooms have Italian fixtures with baths and showers. Continental breakfast is included in the room price.

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On the spacious grounds, there is a large swimming pool, a tennis court, a jogging trail, billiards, a ping-pong table and the traditional Provencal games of boules.

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Dinner (Table d’hôtes) is available on Tuesday and Friday evenings with a reservation, which is served in the majestic dining room (photo above). Gourmet platter may be ordered for lunch.

For private self-catering accommodations, there are two pavilions (gites) for weekly rentals (see website below).

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For planning a visit to the nearby wine appellations in the Southern Rhone, a good place to orient your palate is Chez Serge, a wine bar restaurant in Carpentras. At Chez Serge you will find a rich wine list with all local appellations represented as well as some keen advice from Serge and his staff on vintages and particular wineries to visit.

Basics:

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Château du Martinet, 2807 Route de Mazan, 84200 Carpentras, Contact: Françoise and Ronald Devries, Tél 04 90 63 03 03, Website

Directions: From the center of Carpentras, take highway D942 to the west in the direction of Mazan. Look for signage a few kms out of town, turn left on an access road to the Château.

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Beaumes-de-Venise: Le Clos Saint Saourde (au lieu d’un Gite)

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“A fragrance that blows cool and warm, dry and sweet. A landscape in Provence, dry earth, fragrant purple fields, the wind of the mistral… draped in a luxurious coat of mouthwatering licorice.” Jean-Claude Ellena, creator of “Brin de Réglisse”

 

The dreamy fragrance of Hermes “Brin de Réglisse” is a distinctive spicy lavender that once you smell it, the scent becomes burnished in your memory, and much the same phenomena hits you after a sejour at the magical provençal Le Clos Saint Saourde.

Note: Réglisse means licorice, and the adjective is often attached to descriptions of spicy Rhone blends, such as the “Cerise et Réglisse” vintage produced by the Clos des Patris in nearby Caromb.

Unforgettable at Le Clos Saint Saourde are its dry stone walls whose impassive earthy tones warm the two suites and two rooms of an L-shaped 18th century farmhouse (a mas), lying under the gaze of the jagging silhouette of the Dentelles de Montmirail, hugged on all sides by vines of the appellation Beaumes-de-Venise. Saourde is Provencal for the natural spring at Le Clos.

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The images of the accommodations: imperishable. There are two elegant suites which occupy a former hayloft: The Suite Castillon has a ground floor living room with a stone staircase leading to the bedroom (pictured above). From the courtyard, a stone staircase leads to the Suite Roche d’Espail (pictured below) with adjoining living room. Both suites have fireplaces and sweeping views of the vineyards and countryside.

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The divinely-appointed two rooms are spacious, with couches and tables. All suites and rooms have queen size beds, WiFi, and include continental breakfast. The two suites and one of the rooms have both bath and shower. The décor of the bathrooms is immaculate: stones, Italian showers and wrought iron lamps.

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Le Clos Saint Saourde offers a fully-furnished tree house on stilts, and a two-floor gite / cottage that can accommodate up to ten with four sleeping rooms and a private pool. (See website below for details).

For wine buffs, it is a short hop to Vacqueryas, Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. For stocking your room with rosé and Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, try the Balma Venetia wine cooperative in Beaumes-de-Venise, a few kms from Le Clos.

A mild irony comes calling when you find yourself within Le Clos Saint Saourde: there is so much to explore and experience in the Vaucluse, yet the comfort and luxury of Le Clos is so reassuring and felicitous that your impulse is to hang at the pool with a verre de Muscat, gaze fondly at the scenery, and let your mind wander. La vie oisive…Ça va sans dire.

Basics:

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Le Clos Saint Saourde, 1769, route de St Véran, 84190 Beaumes-de-Venise, Tel 04 90 37 35 20, Contact: Géraldine and Jérôme Thuillier

Email: contact@leclossaintsaourde.com Website, Youtube

Directions: Leave Beaumes-de-Venice on D21 east toward Caromb, outside the town, take D222 Route de Saint Véran to Le Clos.

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L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue: Le Mas des Busclats (au lieu d’un Gite)

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“It is something to do with the light, I suppose, and the airiness and bareness and frugality of life in the Midi, which induces a simplicity of thought, and a kind of whittling to the bone whatever may be the matter in hand. Sunlight reflected from red-tiled floors on to whitewashed walls, closed shutters and open windows and an air so soft that you live equally in and out of doors, suggest an experience so sweetly simple that you wonder that life ever appeared the tangled, hustling and distracting piece of nonsense you once thought it.”

Stella Bowen, Drawn from Life

L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is renown for its bustling Sunday morning market: part flea market, part antiques fair and part farmers market with the atmosphere of a Moroccan souk. Business is brisk. Dress is casual, rarely sexy.

A sobriquet for the town is “Venise Comtadine” (it is part of the Comtat Venaissin in the Vaucluse) as the Sorgue river divides into several canals which offer picturesque waterside strolling and dining.

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For visitors to the Vaucluse, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue has a strategic location: it offers easy access directly west to Avignon and a quick gateway to the Luberon down D901 to D900 which runs to Apt. The town has several haute cuisine restaurants as well as wine bars.

On the northern outskirts of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is Le Mas Des Busclats, a lovely 18th-century farmhouse wearing lavender colored shutters, framed by a well-manicured courtyard, a large swimming pool a verdant garden of more than an acre.

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This tasteful bed and breakfast offers guests a choice of four colorfully-decorated rooms: two rooms have double beds, one has two single beds and a fourth three singles. Two of the rooms have a shower; two have a bath. The decor at Le Mas Des Busclats is obligatory Provencal, very smart mind you, and the bathrooms are likewise with modern fixtures.

In addition to tables in the pebble-covered courtyard, poolside and in the garden, there is a spacious salon for your petit déjeuner or dining.

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For quality dining, the one-star Michelin restaurant Le Vivier is down the road towards L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.

Basics:

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Le Mas des Busclats, 1356, Route de Saumane 84800 L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Tél: 04 90 38 67 61, Website

Directions: Leaving L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue via the Cour Fernande Peyre towards D938 to Carpentras, after roundabout, take Route D25 towards Fontaine de Vaucluse, and then immediately veer left on Route D178 to Saumane and follow to the Mas.

Restaurant Le Vivier is located at the roundabout noted above.

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