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Aix En Provence: A Serious Winery to Visit?

My wife and I will be in Aix next week. Is there a particular winery that I should be knocking on their door to visit? A specific wine that I should, well, "do whatever is necessary" to bring a bottle/case back from? Please note that I am into red, particularly full bodied red. Fifty, one hundred km is not too far to drive from Aix, either.

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  1. You aren't all that far from the Gigondas, Vacqueras area. It's beautiful in good weather, but I'm not sure what it's like in winter. Chateauneuf du Pape? Have a meal at Auberge de la Loube in Bioux near Apt - wonderful Provencal food.

    1 Reply
    1. re: zuriga1

      Thanks for the recommendation. Much appreciated.

    2. You are closer to the wonderful Mas du Gourgonnier than you are to either of those towns. Here is a link to their site: http://www.gourgonnier.com/. It's in the Les Baux appellation. It's been one of my favorites for a long time, and it's a biodynamic winery to boot!

      1 Reply
      1. re: ChefJune

        I would do both. The classic Gigondas/Vacqueras/Chateauneuf-du-Pape area is quite compact and you can tour round that quite easily. It is very pretty and the reds have a deserved reputation. I read up on an area new to me Les Baux and it sounds interesting and different with lots of organic wineries (apparently the Mistral keeps disease at bay).

        When we were last there we headed to Lancon on the coast to Chateau Calissanne which has a really good white called Clos Victoire. We sampled this on the recommendation of the sommelier at Ducasses "La Bastide de Moustiers" - a good hotel/restaurant if you get over to the Gorges of Verdun (which is a fantastic drive)

      2. If you haven't been, I'd suggest Domaine Tempier.

        If you do visit visit Mas du Gourgonnier, and if you happen to like olive oil, I have a detour to suggest. CastelaS is one of my favorite olive oils. The owners are typically on-site and happy to share information about their work.

        Chateauneuf-du-Pape is at the edge of your 100km limit, but for full bodied reds, I think it is worth the detour. If you do go, you might want to eat at La Sommelerie,
        www.la-sommellerie.fr/ (definitely recommend reservations).

        I haven't been to this area in January, but my impression is that it is a downtime. I would suggest calling ahead where ever you decide to go, to make sure they will be open, and if you need to make appointments.

        It is probably crazy the week before your trip, but I have a few book suggestions. Florence Hernandez's Wine Tours in the South of France, and Kermit Lynch's Inspiring Thirst. Also Kermit Lynch's first book is from the 80's, but if you haven't read it, it could be a great plane paperback: Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer's Tour of France (still in print).

        Hope you have a great trip!

        2 Replies
        1. re: souvenir

          as well, Robert Parker's Wines of the Rhone Valley (just the Southern part).

          1. re: ChefJune

            Thanks to everyone for wonderful suggestions. I've just open a bottle of gigondas that I bought locally in anticipation of serious research next week at its source!!! I am also going to spend the next hour or two exploring the many links everyone has given me. Thank you again.

        2. I heartily recommend a visit to Mas du Gourgonnier as well. Beautiful setting, nice tasting facilities and the family are great hosts. Was there last January. I also recommend Domaine Sang des Cailloux in Vacqueras, Domaine la Boussiere in Gigondas, Clos du Mont Olivet and Dommaine Charbonniere in Chateauneuf du Pape. Just outside Aix, you can find Commanderie de la Bargemonne which makes a fabulous Rose. I second the recommendation about Domaine Tempier in Bandol. Easier to get to from Aix is Cassis where you can find several wonderful wineries just above the entrance to town. I visited each of these areas this past January so know they are open for tasting.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Pammel

            My favorite places in Chateauneuf-du-Pape are Clos des Papes --located on the south side of town, the son (I believe his name is Vincent) is making the wines now, but M. Paul is still around -- and Domaine St. Prefert. I haven't been here since it was sold. The new owner/winemaker is a woman, and I like the wines even better than before. They have a beautiful white!

            1. re: Pammel

              Thank you again to everyone. We will-at a minimum-stop by Domaine Tempier. As it turns out on next Saturday afternoon we'll be driving on a highway fairly close to it and it will make a perfect stop.

              1. re: Joe H

                Joe, be sure to get a couple of their single vineyard bottles. I'm sure they will be a bargain there -- BIG -- compared to what they cost in US. And they are fabulous! The Rose is also one of the hardest bottles to get here.... and it will change your mind about rose if you are not a believer.

                1. re: ChefJune

                  Thank you, Chef June. I actually plan on bringing back at least a case and have a friend here (Reston, VA-suburban Washington, D. C.) who is very familiar with them, too. I will toast you in about 10 days! (I am counting!) By the way, I've now read a number of your posts on several boards/websites and really appreciate your taking the time to respond. I've been on Chowhound since 2000 and it is people like yourself and the others who responded to my initial post that make this board.

                  Thanks again to Souvenir, Pammel, PhilD and Zuriga1. Your help is much appreciated.

                  1. re: Joe H

                    If you go to Gigondas and Vacqueras, make a stop in Beaumes de Venise and try the local Muscat. Goes extremely well chilled with melon and prosciutto and you can sample different vintners' bottles in the wine shops in the main square.

            2. Again, I sincerely appreciate everyone's recommendations but we ended up bringing back a dozen bottles and tasting a number of different wines in Nice, Aix, Monaco and Cannes.

              The best wine that I have tasted so far is 2001 Chateau le Puy Barthelemy. I had a bottle there and have also opened one here. It is superb and very difficult for me to find in the States. In Nice it sold for E 47; here I have only found one store in Southern CA that has it for $100 a bottle ('03 vintage). Full bodied, I think 80% merlot with cab and carmeniere with two years in barrel, it is a "terroir" wine this is absolutely delicious.

              Domaine de la Solitude, a fairly good Chateauneuf du Pape that sold for E 24 in an off year, 2004.

              Domaine Tempier 2003 Bandol La Tourtine, about E 45 and, I expect, to be outstanding when I eventually open the only bottle I could find.

              Domaine Tempier 2002 Bandol Cuvee Speciale Cabassaou, about E 40 which I will drink during the Super Bowl.

              Thierry Allemand 2003 Cornas, about E 75 which I have not tasted yet.

              While in Aix we focused on less expensive wines in our restaurant meals, probably E 40 or less with nothing notable. Also, we ended up spending a whole day driving from Nice to Marseilles along the coast and a similar day returning that we didn't visit any wineries. Our trip included outstanding meals at the two star L'Oasis outside of Cannes, L'Etoile des Mers about ten km south and L'Ane Rouge in Nice. The "traditional bouillibasse" was an extraordinary dinner that I'll post separately about. Christian Plumail's one star L'Universe was a great disappointment in Nice along with the eccentric La Merenda which had a genuinely interesting "stockfish" soup. Still, most of the food at La Merenda was mediocre at best; we felt a shame since this tiny restaurant which packs 24 seats into a room built for eight has an incredible amount of character. I should note that the room is so small that quite literally there is no room for backs on their chairs-thus stools. Several stools also are flush with walls that have chair rail which stick into diners' backs. But I am not complaining about this-the experience was extraordinary. Just the food (stockfish excepted) was not.

              1. Souvenir, Chef June and Pommel: I sincerely appreciate your recommendation for Domaine Tempier! As I type this I am sipping a glass (OK, a bottle!) of the 2002 Cuvee speciale Cabassaou. It is absolutely delicious. My sincere appreciation for your recommendation! On Super Bowl Sunday a friend and myself had a bottle of the 2003 La Tourtine which, for me, is a distant second to this.

                I must also add that the bottle that I like the most from what I brought back is from Bordeaux, the 2001 Chateau Le Puy Barthelemy which is almost unheard of here. Finding this or any other year of this in the States is a real shot in the dark! After writing the winery they directed me to the North American distributor in CA who, in turn, directed me to one of several CA stores that sell to out of state buyers. I paid E 47 in Nice for this; here it is about $100 per bottle for the '03 rather than the '01 which is not available. (I'm guessing that with the dollar the '05 will be double this!!!) Anyway, it is a great wine along with the '02 (an off year but really good) of the Domaine Tempier Cabassaou.

                There was a time when Europe and French wine were semi-affordable. Not today.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Joe H

                  Joe- Thank you for posting your follow up reports.

                  I was so pleased to read that you found something from Domaine Tempier that you liked. I also really enjoyed reading about your dining adventures, and the route you took. I've driven most of that coastline at one time or another and love it.

                  It is frustrating that so many regions of France are now so costly. I'm buying at lower price points than you are, and the last few years have just been discouraging. Still, I would rather go to France and enjoy its wine while I'm there, not expecting to bring it back or find it affordable here.

                  I can still find some tasty French wine here in the $15-30 range, mostly southern whites and roses. For reds I find that I either tend to buy California or Spain lately. Champagne is the only thing I guess that I am willing to continue to buy at higher prices, albeit in smaller quantities (and also buy cavas and other sparkling wines as well). To try to look at it positively, I am trying things I wouldn't necessarily have tried before.

                  1. re: souvenir

                    Joe. You might be interested to know that Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants in Berkeley, CA is the US importer for Domaine Tempier wines. They sell obviously wholesale to restaurants but also have a retail shop on San Pablo Avenue where current vintages of the wines you mentioned can be purchased.

                    1. re: Pammel

                      Thanks, Pammel. I'll be in the Bay area in a month or so and will definitely stop in.

                      1. re: Joe H

                        I hope you do get a chance to visit it!

                        If you haven't seen or subscribed to KL's newsletters before, they are (happily) on line now: http://www.kermitlynch.com/pgncurrent...

                        Not too far away is another shop I like to visit when I'm in the area, Paul Marcus Wines:http://www.paulmarcuswines.com/

                    2. re: souvenir

                      Souvenir, actually, I buy at a number of different points. I'm outside of Washington, D. C. but buy a lot of wine from the Wine Library in Springfield, NJ who are 25% or more off virtually across the board on all wine. I've been buying from them for several years, probably a case or two a month. I also buy from Grapes in Norwalk, CT whose owner will negotiate along with Arrowine in Arlington, VA who have weekly e-mails frequently with excellent wine that's 20% or more off.

                      I've travelled heavily in Europe on business for over 25 years and for years would bring back a case or more on each trip in my carry on and suitcases. There was a time when almost anything there was less than half of what it cost here. Not anymore. In combination with the dollar my wine buying has changed. I also drink mostly red but a LOT of Spanish (Altos Luzon is superb in the $11 or 12 range as is Cleo in the mid to upper '30's-both prices from the Wine Library + shipping), Chilean, Australian (The oddly named Fetish the Watcher is a superb shiraz that the WS gave 92 points to and it was available for around $15 or so.) and as much Amarone as I can afford.

                      I probably loved the French Riviera as much as anywhere I've been in Europe and I've been fortunate to visit many, many places. I think almost any wine would taste better there...

                    3. re: Joe H

                      Joe - I must agree with you 100%. Chateau le Puy Barthelemy is insane! Thanks for your recommendation. I bought a case of it (6 pack) and it is worth every dime!

                      Bought it at http://www.aocwines.com for $100.99 bottle (got 10% off first order)

                      1. re: JDRoth

                        A sincere thanks for trusting my opinion and taste; I absolutely love this wine and consider it a real find for the states. Can I tell you how much I LOVED it sitting in a hotel room in Aix late on a Saturday night, wondering if it would even be halfway decent? Well into the second glass it was a GREAT Saturday night, not just because of Aix (and my wife!) but also because of this wine! Tomorrow night we'll open a bottle and will toast you....several....well, many times!

                        Thanks again.

                    4. Folks, if you want to discuss wines, or where to buy wines in the U.S., please post on the appropriate board. Any further off topic discussions will be removed.