On July 14, Bastille Day, the Tour de France will send riders up the mythical 6,000 plus-feet Mont Ventoux with its bare limestone summit heaving with crazed booze-fueled fans. It will be ninth time in its history that the Tour attacks the Ventoux.
The Tour that day will take riders from Nyons in the Drome Provencal to Malaucène in the Vaucluse on route D938. From Malaucène, the riders head out on D938 toward Le Barroux before taking D19 to climb the small hill – Le col de la Madeleine (photo r.) – and then descend to Bedoin where the climb up Mont Ventoux begins.
Don’t expect any of the riders next summer to approach the fastest ascent up Ventoux set in 2002 by Lance Armstrong who covered the 21.1km climb in a jacked-up-by-drugs 58 minutes.
For cyclist fans looking to book a week or two at a gîte along D938 during the Tour next summer, and taste one of the region’s top wines, here are four splendid addresses:
Le Clos Saint Michel is nestled in a bucolic park-like setting of olive and oak tress with sweeping views of the valley.
Hosts Laurence and Eric Tabardon offer week-by-week bookings at a colony of accommodations: 3 villas accommodating up to 10, 8 and 6 people respectively, an apartment for as many as 4, a studio for a couple, and day-by-day stays at a Bed and Breakfast.
There is a large pool and a room dedicated for cyclists with storage racks and a mini-workshop.
La Fleur Bleue is an exquisitely-decorated Provencal farmhouse, a restaurant and gîte near the village of Crestet north of Malaucène run by a Dutch couple, the Chef David Worm and Fiejette Worm, who minds the wine cellar.
Menus Lafleurbleue: 15€ lunch on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; menus for 22€, 30€ and 37.50€, smart selection of Southern Rhone wines. The small restaurant is immensely popular during the summer season; reservations are recommended.
There are two gîtes with Provencal decor each with a private entrance, terrace, large living room and two separate bedrooms, both accommodating up to five people.
David Worm offers cooking classes in January, February, March, April, May, October and November for an inclusive fee of 85€ for 4 hours of instruction, ingredients, recipes and a table d’hotes dinner.
Adjacent to Le Clos Saint Michel in Malaucène is a large hanger that serves as the cave of the winery Saint Jean du Barroux, the heralded vintages produced by Philippe Gimel which thrill palates in more than ten countries.
Whereas his vineyard of twelve hectares of vines on the northern lowest slopes of the Mount Ventoux is in Le Barroux, Philippe Gimel leases the spacious funky hanger where he vinifies his wines, and prepares the cases for shipment. The absence of chairs reflects his work ethic.
Since launching his brand in 2004 with a single highly-rated red vintage, Philippe now produces four red vintages, a rosé and a white vintage. His wines attract a fervent following in Europe and in the U.S.
An indefatigable marketer, Philippe conducts animated tours of his vineyards followed by tastings at his cave in Malaucene, which are a must for lovers of elegantly-styled Rhone Valley wines. Note: Visit and tastings by appointment only.
On his Facebook page, Philippe says that he is eager to serve some liquids to assist cyclists during their recovery from the Ventoux. The riders would have the time, as July 15 is a rest day before the Tour departs on July 16 from Vaison la Romaine to Gap.
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.
Domaine Saint Jean du Barroux: Chemin de Saint Jean, Le Barroux, Tel 04 90 70 84 74, Facebook, Email firstname.lastname@example.org, Importers: UK, Dudley de Fleury Wines; U.S., European Cellars. Directions: Le Cave is located off D938 between Bedoin and Malaucene next to Le Clos Saint Michel (below).
Le Clos Saint Michel, Malaucene, Tel 04 90 65 21 37, Email email@example.com, Website. Directions: Located off D938 btw Bedoin and Malaucène, from Malaucene watch for signage, turn right before bend in road to the left.
La Fleur Bleue, Chemin de Sublon, 84110 Crestet, France, Tel 04 90 36 23 45, Website, Directions: Located off D938 just south of Crestet, 6km north of Malaucène. (Photo gîte r.)
Rhone Wine Holidays: La Madelène, route d’Entrechaux, Malaucène, France, Tel 04 90 62 19 33, Email firstname.lastname@example.org, Website