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Jan 14, 2008 07:41 PM

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: 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, (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.