1 Day in Avignon/Ch-de-Pape
Folks.....as the final piece of my "research", I'm seeking any and all "expert" or first-hand advice on our day in Avignon - Chateauneuf-de-Pape.
Our home-base is Aix, and we have a vehicle. 3 couples, 5 wine-lovers + 1 very happily "sober" non-drinker but who is perfectly comfortable with others in the group doing so.
We'll leave Aix soon after breakfast.
General plan is to explore and have lunch in Avignon (suggestions please!), then up to CDP for afternoon wine tasting, and hopefully visiting one or two estates/vineyards (in addition to any caves or tasting rooms in the village).
This will be all of our first time there, and we are doing everything "on our own" without tour guides, etc. So any helpful hints from any of you veterans will be appreciated!
"Lunch in Avignon" is likely to take two or three hours. You may not have much time to get to CduP after that if you do a sit-down lunch in a restaurant. Exploring/lunch in Avignon is really another day.
I would head up to CduP and get (or bring) fixings for a picnic with you. Head up to the ruins of the Papal Palace to eat your picnic. The view is wonderful from there. Then you'll be fortified for your tastings.
If you want to taste at any specific domaines (especially the better known ones) I suggest you make appointments ahead of time. The welcome and the tasting/tour is much more fun when you're expected.
Duly noted...and thank you for the time-budgeting tip. And that raises another question...what is a reasonable number of domaines to expect to visit? My only experience is in Napa Valley where we seemed to log as many visits, rapid-fire, as possible. I've got a sneaking suspicion that's not the case here!
Well, if you go to the estates themselves, you will go to fewer. However, in the middle of town (CduP) a whole bunch (maybe 40 or so) producers have set up tasting rooms. If all you care about is seeing how much (or how many different) wines you can taste/drink, you can gulp a swallow from a lot of different places very rapidly. I've always suspected this is set up for the "tourists." OTOH, if you visit a few estates, you will likely have time only for four or five, by the time you get a tour and perhaps a cellar tasting. The producers are very proud of their wines, and want you to know all about them. :) And there are some really good ones that don't get over to US..
Relative to picnicking near the ruins of the Papal Palace, that is great if the Mistral is not blowing. It is very exposed up there and when the Mistral is blowing much at all, it can be quite unpleasant. Be prepared to make alternative plans.
I agree that doing a visit to Avignon, then lunch, will not leave you very much time to visit CDP.
Many of the "caves" around the center of the village have no ties directly to any wineries.
Vinadea is owned by the trade association and have a very good selection of wines to taste and buy on site.
If you are making the trip to CDP, I would encourage you to go one or two of the wineries and taste there especially if you speak French. Unless you are an importer, you won't be buying a lot of wine so you might as well go somewhere and have a great experience.
A couple of the wineries where you will be warmly welcomed with or without advance appointments are Domaine de la Charbonniere, Clos du Mont Olivet, and Clos du Caillou. At Charbonniere, both daughters speak very good French.
Two weeks ago, we drove up from our home in Italy to buy a carful of the great 2010 Chateauneufs and Gigondas. We ate and spent the night at, by far, our favorite place on the Ligurian and Tuscan coasts, Conchiglia d'Oro in Varigotti. I’ve written about it several times, one example here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/768884.
Next day for lunch, in Cannes at Le Bistrot a Huitres for some excellent fines de claires (No.3) and Gillardeau (No.2) and some mussels. Next table… a woman in her 70s, starts with 12 oursin, finishes, then another 12, finishes, then another 12 and then she had her main course. Wonderful to see the pleasure on her face.
Spent two nights at L’Oustelet in Gigondas. L’Oustelet now has three rooms, extremely well done and very comfortable. Great one person staff. Definitely a place to stay.
The restaurant was good, but nothing special. We had seen it a few years ago, but hadn’t eaten there. Again, extremely comfortable, well done in a tasteful modern style. Seats about about 30 and there is an outdoor terrace used on warm days for lunch and during the summer for lunch and dinner. Service was really excellent, professional but informal.
The food was good, nothing more. Some dishes were very good, others not. We ate there both nights. The first night, after the lunch in Cannes, we just had cheese and dessert, although they threw in a few other things. Some cheeses were better than others: the Livarot was fantastic; the Epoisse was over the hill. Desserts were very good. We had two bottles (didn’t have to drive) of Gigondas: the 2010 Domaine du Grapillon D’Or, Excellence; and the 2010 Saint Cosme, Valbelle. Both excellent.
Saturday night we ordered a full menu. The pork and veal dishes were very good, as was the minestrone. The ravioli stuffed with lobster was poor. A short decent menu. Drank a 2010 Gigondas, Famille Perrin, Clos des Tounelles. Again, excellent bottle.
The wine list is good, but in many ways disappointing. The Perrins own the place and yet the Beaucastel selection should have been much better than it was. There were several CDP “Hommage” but the one I wanted (2007) was 500 Euros so we passed. Very surprisingly, there was no V.V. from Perrin, which is a bottle I would have ordered if it had been on the list and the right year. Lots of other producers, but, again, I would have thought the list would be more extensive.
All in all, a lovely fun place, but nothing out of the ordinary.