Ménerbes: Playful and Color-Splashed Canvasses of Kristian Desailly at the Galerie Pascal Lainé Until June 18

Kristian Desailly is an abstract painter with broad shoulders and a mop-like coiffure drawn back into a ponytail, who has lived since 2004 in Gordes on a mountaintop amidst green oaks and ancient bories where during the warm months he mounts large canvases on an outdoor stone surface to paint in plein air.

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Kristian diverges from pure abstraction by evoking playful and inventive gestures and images, which appear as figurative motifs such as birds, fish, animals, urban landscapes, stars, sun or the moon, summoning up the styles of Chagall and Kandinsky.

It was at the age of fifteen that Kristian discovered his artistic calling when he was swept into rapture by the work of Paul Klee. The childlike drawings and primitive art forms of Klee  Joan Miro would inspire artists to establish CoBrA. These artists – Karel Appel, Constant, Corneille, Christian Dotremont, Asger Jorn, and Joseph Noiret – drew up a manifesto in 1948 for the “Mouvement CoBrA”, the name derived from their home cities of Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam, heralding complete freedom of color and form. Although disbanded in 1951, CoBrA influenced the work of abstract expressionists in the decades of the 50’s and 60’s as well as the adolescent Kristian.

After studying at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, Kristian served for fifteen years as an assistant to Victor Vasarely, a master of geometric abstraction, and then worked for over a decade with Jean Miotte, a lyrical abstract painter based in the Var.

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Last Saturday evening, Kristian descended from his serene refuge to the Galerie Pascal Lainé in Ménerbes to greet patrons at a vernissage for an exhibit of his recent works of acrylic and watercolor on canvas or paper, embellished with drawings in charcoal and pastel.

On Saturday, June 7, at 7:00 p.m.,  Francoise Buteau will speak on the long harmonious collaboration between the writer Pierre Jourde and Kristian Desailly. In French.

A personal reflection: PVB first met Kristian Desailly, then based in Paris, at a vernissage for Jean Miotte in the French countryside in 1994, and only last year, nineteen years later, eyes peering over a glass of rosé at a vernissage in Ménerbes, did the silhouette of Kristian reappear “comme par enchantment.”

Basics:

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Exhibit: Kristian Desailly, Recent Works, May 24 to June 18

Galerie Pascal Lainé, Rue Sainte Barbe in the center of Ménerbes. Tel: 04-90-72-48-30, Email: gpl.gordes@orange.fr, Website

Hours: Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

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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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Arles: Growing Pains and Parting Shots as Photo Fest Director Throws in the Towel; Green Light for Frank Gehry’s Luminous Tower

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François Hébel, the director of the wildly thriving summer photo fest known as Rencontres d’Arles, knew all along that he was going to throw in the towel.

He was hip to bagging it this past summer when he was bad mouthing the Luma Foundation, which is funding the construction of the Parc des Ateliers in Arles to the tune of about 100 million Euros ($132M), for not making the proper iron clad pledges assuring long-term space for the international photo fest at the Parc, which currently houses fifty percent of the Festival exhibit space.

He intuited that packing it all in was prefigured with the issuance of a construction permit in July, after five years of maddening delays, to clear land in the Parc des Ateliers for a luminous tower of twisted aluminum foam designed by Frank Gerhy.

He sensed that hanging it up was ineluctable when on October 22 the Ministry of Culture rejected his alternative proposal to create a “World Center of Photography” that would occupy space within the Parc des Ateliers for a permanent location of the Festival at the cost of 34 million euros, funded by 50% from public funds.

Anti-climatic the moment was when François Hébel shot off a five-page letter to Jean-Noël Jeanneney, president of the Festival, in which he announced his departure after next year’s event and elaborated on his frustrations, fears and discontents.

What drenched irony comes calling when one considers that the Luma Foundation has been an awesomely generous supporter of the Festival.  Ça va sans dire that if François Hébel was so deeply moved by what he perceives as threats to the Festival – exhibit space, job creation, classes – did he not want to stay on and fight for the event’s artistic viability.

A vrai dire, François Hébel could never “debarass” himself of the choking indignation at the way he felt that the Luma Foundation and carriéristes in governmental posts had cheated him from managing the whole show in Arles, along with an inborn mistrust of corporate money tainting artistic good taste. He knew that however much reasoning he put into convincing himself that he was right, he could never come around to settling for the idea of sharing some executive decision making with new players.

Alas, his letter comes off as petulant, and the issues that he raises are for those, who have made the saga of modernizing Arles a profession, stale beer.

Beyond his trenchant bitterness, there is something poignant, something that François Hébel finds hard to admit, something he has to conceal out of ego and pride, which is to say that there is merit in the way forward being undertaken on Arles, a sentiment that he will never come to confess.

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The Modish Tower Designed by Frank Gehry for the Parc des Ateliers in Arles

The way forward in Arles is being propelled by an alliance of private and public interests, with the Van Gogh Foundation and the new Ecole nationale supérieure de la photographie joining with the Luma Foundation and other private parties in working with the City of Arles and the Culture Ministry.

There is no other town in France, and Arles has more the feel of a town than a city, where every public surface wears a patina of antiquity – a patchwork of lurid biscuit colored edifices and decaying gray stones, all of which dismantles modern memory into sepia tones – an antediluvian panorama befitting a fresh coat of modernism.

As a year-round artistic nerve center, the new Parc des Ateliers will encompass, in addition to the Frank Gehry tower, seven renovated buildings, workshops / ateliers, and the largest public park in Arles with more than 400 trees.

Les choses avancent bien.

Basics:

Backstory: Read about the maddeningly strenuous process of the Parc des Ateliers on PVB here

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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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Simply Stunning Syrah: Nine Wineries in the Ventoux and the Luberon to Spice Up Your Palate

Hence this scenario at an upscale restaurant in Provence where I experience acute frustration over my perceived self-indulgence in requesting which local reds on the ‘carte’ are Syrah-based; I find myself glancing at my cell for messages while the waiter scurries to the ‘cave’ to retrieve the bottles on which the “back label” reveals the percentages of grape varieties within.

Now, this behavior on my part risks coming across as the somewhat condescending concern of a rude, spoiled, self-absorbed American faux wine snob, as French Syrahs distinguish themselves in the Northern Rhone (Heritage, Côte Rotie, St. Joseph) but are not top-of-mind in the Southern Rhone where Grenache blends rule.

Rare to be surprised by any restaurant listing the grape varieties of a bottle on the wine list, and even rarer that patrons realize what they are drinking, or they assume that since they are in the Southern Rhone it must be Grenache-based blended with Syrah or Mourvèdre, or a bit of both.

As anyone who hits the wine trails of the Vaucluse are quick to discover, the Syrah-dominate wines — from 70% to 100% Syrah – produced in the Ventoux and the Côtes-du-Luberon are a stupendous drink: deep violet in color, displaying intense flavors of blackberries, black currants and plums, bolstered by black peppery notes, and they are often the elite offering of the estate. Here are nine estates – clustered by the regions of the Ventoux and the Luberon – which produce Syrah-dominate vintages:

VENTOUX SYRAHS (in no particular order)

Domaine du Tix (pictured above): Cuvée Bramefan, a 90% Syrah blend with 10% Grenache. Ruby red color with silky and velvety texture, complex structure of vivid fruit flavors, smooth tannins and a spicy finish. Forty sommeliers of leading restaurants in France offer the Bramefan. Excellent price / quality value.

Address: 84570 Mormoiron en Ventoux, Vaulcuse France, Tel: 04-90-61-84-43; Directions: Arriving to Mormoiron on D942, turnoff to gravel road on south side, opposite side of direction to village. Look closely for signage. Website

U.S. Distributor: Bond Street Imports, Website

Domaine de Fondrèche:  Cotes du Ventoux Persia, 90% Syrah (from 50-year-old vines) and 10% Mourvedre. Consistently one of the top quality producers in the Ventoux. Robert Parker at the Wine Advocate raves about this estate, and loves this blend: “Abundant notes of blackberries and cassis interwoven with hints of espresso roast, white chocolate and acacia flowers are found in this tightly knit, full-bodied, impressive 2010. Tasting like a top-flight northern Rhone Hermitage rather than a wine from the Cotes du Ventoux..”

Address: 2589 La venue Saint Pierre de Vassols – 84380 Mazan, Tel . 04 90 69 61 42, Wine Cellar open Monday to Friday from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m., take D163 north from Mazan. Website

Importer: Robert Kacher Selections, Washington, DC; tel. (202) 832-9083, Website

 

Olivier B: La Première: 100% Syrah, matured 18 months in barrels, only 1000 bottles every two years, massive structure, dense fruit, and obscenely rich, distinct chocolate notes. Wines grown in organic tradition and harvested by hand.

Olivier B’s ‘auteur’ wines find their way to some of the better restaurant tables in Provence. A passion for self-expression asserts itself in Olivier’s blog where he pretty much says what’s on his mind, and in the dedications printed on the labels of his bottles. Logo: A black silhouette of Olivier B wearing a short brim African straw hat.

Wine Shop: Center of Villes sur Auzon, next to the bakery. Open Friday, 4-7 p.m., Saturday 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., 4-7 p.m., and Sunday 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (Hwy 942 east from Carpentras)

Tel: 04-90-61-72-07 or 06-25-39-08-60 Email: obvigneron@free.fr, Blog

 

Château Pesquié: Quintessence (Pesquie’s top cuvee), 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache, aged 12 months in oak, and bottled unfiltered. Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate flipped over this bottle: “Its dense opaque ruby/purple color is followed by sweet aromas of blackberries, blueberries, charcoal, and acacia flowers. Dense, thick, unctuously textured, exuberant, and ostentatious, this terrific wine can be enjoyed over the next 3-5 years.” The Quintessence is full-bodied with a clean finish.

The approach to Château Pesquié, the largest estate in the Ventoux, is impressive, its grandeur and scale summon up properties in the Châteauneuf du Pape.

Address: Route de Flassan, 84570 Mormoiron, Tél. 04 90 61 94 08, Wine shop is open all year long from Monday to Saturday included from 9 to 12 a.m and from 2 to 6 p.m and everyday from Easter until September 30th. Website Directions: Take D144 north from Mormoiron. Check out Gary V’s Wine Library videos on Pesquié Wine Tastings, such as this one with Fredrich Pesquié here,

Importer: Eric Solomon, European Cellars, Charlotte, NC; tel. (704) 358-1565, Website

LUBERON SYRAHS  (in no particular order)

Château Val-Joanis, Château Val-Joanis Rouge, 90% Syrah, 10% Grenache. Balanced, well-rounded and smooth with concentrated fruit of black currants and cassis, and a clean finish.

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Château Val-Joanis is one of the renowned properties in the Luberon. Located on the site of a Roman villa where wines were once delivered to Rome, the property and the vineyards underwent major renovations and rehabilitation beginning in 1977. The vineyard of 145 acres extends up to an altitude of 1640 feet, the highest plots are called Les Griottes. The Château welcomed Anthony Bourdain and his “No Reservations” Travel Channel crew (photo above). Lovely wine shop open in July and August everyday from 10 am to 7 pm.

Address: 84120 Pertuis, France, Tél: 04 90 79 20 77, Website

Importer: Wineberry, NY, (212) 481-0322, Website

Château Fontvert: Les Restanques rouge, 70% Syrah, 15% Grenache Noir, 15% Mourvèdre. Deep purple color, aromas of red fruit and soft spices, round, well-balanced with very dense blackberry and black currants and a clean finish (With 20% less Syrah than some of the other cuvees, the spices are softer and rounder).

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Address: Chemin de Pierrouret, Lourmarin, Tel: 04 90 68 35 83, Cellar open May – September From May to September, Monday to Friday : 9 am – 6.30 pm, and Saturday : 10.30 am – 12.30 am and 3 pm – 6.30 pm. Website

Directions: Just as you leave the village of Lourmarin towards Bonnieux and Apt on D943, the Chemin on the left. Easy to locate once you are in Lourmarin. Note: The Avignon Wine Tour visits the Château Fontvert on its Tuesday Circuit.

Importer: Wilson-Daniels, St. Helena, CA; tel. (707) 963-9661 (not released)

Château La Verrerie: The Grand Deffand Red, 95% Syrah and 5% Grenache, is a wine of great complexity with intense fruit and aromas of black currant, toasted coffee and leather.

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If you have one Syrah to take away with you from the Vaucluse, this one gets PVB’s nod. An astonishing site and vineyard of 45 acres renovated and reinvigorated by Jean-Louis Descours and his son Gérard. When the Descours assumed control in 1981, a wine cooperative accepted the property’s entire production.

Address: 84360 Puget-sur-Durance, Directions: Enter Merindol take Direction Lauris-Pertuis. After 6,6 Km, turn left, direction Les Baumes (C12), and 0.8 Km, take a right, direction Lotissement Les Baumes (D 173). After 0.8 Km, enter the Bastide de la Verrerie by a small bridge on the left. Tel: 04-90-08-32-98, Website Note: Avignon Wine Tours visits this estate on its Tuesday wine circuit.

Marrenon: Grand Marrenon, Cotes du Luberon, 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache from old, high altitude vines aged in 30% new French oak. Deep purple in color, smooth tannins, and reasonable price points. Marrenon is a cooperative of 2000 wine growers taking in 15,000 acres of vineyards. They produce three Syrah-based cuvees. Website

Address for Wine Shop: Boulevard St Roch, 84240 La Tour d’Aigues, Tel 4 90 07 27 47, Open Monday to Saturday from 8.30a.m. to 12.30 2.30p.m. to 7p.m. Open on Sundays and public holidays from 9a.m. to 12.30.

Importer: Kappys Importing and Distributing Company, Everett MA, Email info@kappys.com. Website

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La Bastide du Claux, La Motte d’Aigues: 100% Syrah L’Orientale, rich and exquisite Syrah from this quality estate of Ludmilla and Sylvain Morey. Popular choice among ‘bonnes tables’ in the Luberon.

Address: Campagne le Claux, 84240 La Motte d’Aigues, Tel 04-90-77-70-26, E-mail : contact@bastideduclaux.fr, Website

Located in the eastern Vaucluse: Directions: Take route D37 south from the village, left on Chemin du Claux,  follow signage.

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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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Mormoiron: A Panoply of Delish Hand-Crafted Wines From Domaine Le Murmurium; The Benison of Northern Exposure and Altitude

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Saved by the wind. A mild irony strikes you as you gaze northward from the wine cellar of the Domaine Le Murmurium toward the mythical Mont Ventoux when considering the furious measures taken in the region for protection against the Mistral winds that blow in from the north.

In the Southern Rhone the constant heat threatens to rob grapes of their freshness and acidity, yielding wines which are hot (high alcohol), jammy (compoté) or flabby (low acidity).

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Yet, it’s not the daytime heat but lower nighttime temps, the temperature gradient, which are of capital importance to induce freshness and acidity. At the Domaine Le Murmurium the vineyard’s northern exposure captures the breezes streaming down the Mont Ventoux which brings down temps four to six degrees (F) before daybreak, and after a rainfall the wind dries out the vines, preventing rot, while the soil maintains its moisture.

Now consider this: a cooler altitude of 1000 to 1200 feet and low yields at higher levels, organic farming without chemicals or pesticides with harvesting done by hand (at times at night), 100% destemming, late harvesting, and each varietal (cépage) vinified separately.

After more than a decade in the wine exporting biz, Marc Pichon purchased the 28-acre Domaine Le Murmurium in 2008, and a few years ago acquired another 10 acres of mature vines.

Two Brands – 15 Vintages

A wine is never more fully alive than when a winemaker’s expertise allows us access to the terroir, transcending flavors and aromas, and pure delight.

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Marc Pichon is a winemaker who delivers on this promise by combining passion with intelligence and imagination. No time for pretense, ostentation and vacuous marketing slogans, Marc takes an intense approach to the nuances of winemaking, turning out 15 vintages (cuvées) of varying styles from specific parcels including 6 single-varietals (mono-cépage) with two brands: Anne Pichon (his Danish wife) and Domaine Mur-mur-ium.

His wines are accessible to the palate and to the pocketbook – some cuvées rate at the top of the scale on quality / price, and are of great appeal to sommeliers who desire to please clients while maintaining margins at a reasonable price. (Mega wine reviewers ignore price by endorsing many flamboyantly over-priced vintages – anodyne commentary for ubiquitous shelf-talkers.)

Exemplar how wind and altitude manifest their effect in the bottle are two superb single-varietals – a honey-scented 100% Roussanne, fermented in new oak, with herbal and floral notes, perfectly balanced, and a 100% Syrah-Sublime, with rich fruits and smooth tannins which belies the hot high alcohol Syrahs produced at lower levels.

A Syrah-based (80%) blend with Grenache Noir (20% 34-year old vines), unfiltered, Anne Pichon ‘Sauvage” reminiscent of crushed fruits and light spices at 12.5% alcohol.

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The Ventoux Extrem is a blend of 50% Grenache and 50% oak vat-aged Syrah, richly textured with black fruits and spices, a superb blend to pull out of your cellar.

Then a bit of trailblazing: two 100% Grenache vintages – very late green harvest where leaves are removed by hand to prevent rot – with natural residual sugar of 6 g/l for the Grandiose and 10 g/l for the Mammouth, the highest level in the Southern Rhone.

In effect, the intense pure richness assets itself in both of these vintages as the sugar level suffocates the high alcohol of 16%. Highly recommend the Grandiose with La daube provençale. The Mammouth would delight senior steadies.

With many projects in train and an ambition to expand his vineyard to cover another 25 acres with an additional 10 vintages, expect more imaginative styles along a range of price points.

A talented winemaker in mid-career, Marc Pichon compels you to become a discerning taster of his wines. Put him on your watch list.

Basics:
Domaine Le Murmurium, route de Flassans, Mormoiron. There is no website. You can taste the wines of Domaine Le Murmurium only at:

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

Domaine Grange Neuve, Maison d’hôtes and restaurant, 436, chemin de la Grange Neuve, 84210 La Roque sur Pernes, Tél 04-90-66-55-27, Website

U.S. Importers:
Monsieur Touton Selection, New York, Website,
T. Edward Wines, New York, Tel 212-233-1504, Website;

Here is the lineup of the Domaine’s 12 vintages offered in the U.S. with PVB favorites in bold. Note: 2011 is an elegant vintage.

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White:

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Ventoux LE RETOUR, 2011/12, (70% old Clairette, 20% Grenache, 10% Viognier, hand-harvested at night )
VIOGNIER, 2012 , IGP. Vaucluse, (100% hand-harvested at night & fermented in steinless steel tanks)
ROUSSANNE, 2010/11 IGP. Vaucluse (100% fermented & aged 9 months in new oak barrels)
Rosé:
Ventoux LE RETOUR 2012, (Rosé Direct Pressing, hand-harvested at night, Carignan, Cinsault, Syrah, Grenache)

Red:

Ventoux LE RETOUR, 2011/12, (70% Grenache & 30% Syrah)
Ventoux CUVEE ANNE, 2009/10, (60% old Grenache & 40% Syrah vines, 1/3 aged in oak barrels)

IMG_6897Ventoux EXTREM, 2009, (50% old Syrah & 50% old Grenache Noir, fermented & aged 11 months in new oak)
MERLOT – ELIXIR 2011/12, IGP Vaucluse, (100% hand & late-harvested)
SYRAH-GRENACHE Anne Pichon ‘Sauvage, 2011 AOP Ventoux (80% Syrah steinless-steal , 20% Grenache Noir oak aged)
SYRAH – SUBLIME, 2009/10/11, (100% Syrah, 30% fermented & aged in new oak vats)
GRENACHE – GRANDIOSE, 2011/12 (100% hand-picked & late-harvested, 6gr. Residual Sugar)
GRENACHE – MAMMOUTH 2011, (100% hand-picked, & late-harvested, 10gr. Residual Sugar)

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Gordes: Relics of Ancient Winemaking; Stone Cabins Called Bories Outfitted with Wine Vats Hollowed out of Rock

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It began with a walk on a hot bright afternoon, before seeking shade to share a bottle of Châteauneuf du Pape.

On a high wooded mountain top, which before it stretches across a valley the village of Gordes, stands a small colony of bories: ancient huts and cabins fashioned out of dry stones (pierres sèches), carefully stacked without any adhesive or binding, a practice dating back to the Bronze Age and enduring until the 18th Century.

Now, among the cluster of bories and fences scattered amidst a 35-acre plot of oak trees, the artist-owner of this property leads PVB to a borie designed uniquely for winemaking, the colony being of sufficient number to merit a dedicated unit for vinification.

Wine tanks hollowed out of rock are one of the original structures for making wine. The most numerous vestiges of this winemaking method are found in the Vaucluse in the appellations of the Ventoux and the Luberon where about 80 rock-carved wine tanks were identified in research carried out by Regional Service of Archeology in Aix-en-Provence between 1983 and 1993. The owner dated this particular wine borie from the 16th century.

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Harvested grapes were brought to the mouth of the borie and placed in a hollowed out rectangular basin (photos above), which served as a wine press (un fouloir). Crushed by feet or by the use of planks, the grapes released their juices and skins which flowed through a hole into a hollowed out vat for fermentation.

Research revealed that the rock vats had a standard size: 5 feet deep, a volume of 110 cubic feet, holding about 88 gallons of wine must.

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Once primary fermentation was complete, the juice was released through a hole at the bottom of the vat where from narrow trench on the outside the wine was collected in containers and bottles, and carried off to homes (bories). A head stone make for a roof covering the collection area (photos below).

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The clandestine location of this winemaking borie – tucked away on a mountain top far from any village or vineyard – was a common tactic to avoid paying the tax on wine (les droits de souquet) or other taxes levied on wine.

The wine tanks hollowed out of rock were identified in the following communes in the Vaucluse: Venasque, Le Beaucet, Saint-Didier, Saumane, Fontaine de Vaucluse, Cabrières d’Avignon, Lagnes, Ménerbes, Murs, Gordes, Saint-Pantaléon, Goult and Bonnieux.

Standing in the stocky sturdy borie makes you a little dreamy, as there is some retrograde part of your brain that imagines perfectly how tidy and unalloyed the process of making wine naturally was way back when.

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