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Chateauneuf-du-Pape - Tavel - Gigondas, Wine Tasting Sept 2014

Bonjour!

I'm staying 4 nights in Avignon and 3 in Gigondas. Touring Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Tavel is top of list, but I'm having a hard time finding a guide that will do both in one-day. I don't need to go to many places, I just one one or two of the best. I've received one quote for 700 EU /day, which I find quite expensive. I would rather eat in a 3-star restaurant for that rate.

In addition, I understand September is a challenge as it's harvest and many wineries don't accommodate visitors ( Chateau de Beaucastel in which I'm a member of their sister winery in California said they're closed).

Any recommendations on where to go? A possible tour guide? I don't mind small groups.

Part two: I'll picking up a car in Avignon for my continuation to Gigondas and plan on touring as much as I can in that area. We're staying at Les Chambres de l'Oustalet. If there is something I shouldn't miss in that area I would love to hear from you.

Merci beaucoup!

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  1. if you're going to have a car, why not visit Chateauneuf and Tavel on your own?

    The tastings in that region couldn't get much more laid-back -- just look for a sign that says "degustation" or "vin a vendre" (quite possibly hand-painted on a sign at the end of the driveway) and pull in. You'll be greeted by the vintner, or a member of his family, and they'll be proud to tell you about their production. Do be aware that it's good form to buy a bottle or two (even if you don't love it). (One of my favorite stories is of walking into one of our favorite tiny Loire producers -- his mother was doing the family's ironing while she tended the shop)

    There are enough good producers that "the best" is pretty subjective -- lots of small producers that aren't big enough to be on the radar, but producing some pretty stellar wines.

    You're absolutely right about the vendange - -if they're picking, every available pair of hands is being pressed into service, and only the biggest, most commercial houses will be open (and even that's iffy).

    2 Replies
    1. re: sunshine842

      Thank you kindly for your response.

      You make a very good case for the car. My thoughts were that it would be a pain to have a car in Avignon and there would be plenty to do... I may have thought wrong. I looked for a food or market tour, even a cooking class, but alas, nothing. Where is Wendy Lyn when you need her! :-) I need to do more research here.

      We're picking up the car on the way out of Avignon.

      I really appreciate the tips on the signage for wineries... I was told many don't accept visitors, but now I'll know what to look for.

      Cheers!

      1. re: tastebudseattle

        You don't need a market tour, either -- just head to the market and wander! Avignon has a very good one around the old city walls -- and one visited by lots of tourists. If your French is up to the task, you don't need a cooking class -- ask the vendors how they recommend preparing their wares -- most of them (and their customers!) are happy to share tips with you.

        Here's a mother-lode list of other markets in the region: http://www.avignon-et-provence.com/ma... The enormous market in Vaison-la-Romaine is worth considering, especially with the three towns to visit (the medieval town up on the hill, the new city, and the ancient Roman city that's still in mind-bendingly good condition) Makes a wonderful day out.

        The website I linked has tons of other great information about the region, too.

        You'll find that the only regions that really have a closed visit system are the major houses in Bordeaux and Burgundy (although you can still find smaller, off-the-cuff houses in those regions) -- the rest of the country is pretty much "we'll put a sign out if we're open" -- including much of Champagne.

        Don't discount visiting the office du tourisme or the syndicat de tourisme (in smaller towns) -- they have a treasure trove of local information, maps, and most have friendly people who can at least speak a little English. Several of the villages in this region have a wine co-op in town, too, where you can taste numerous producers in the region.

        Do be aware that you're not in the city any more -- and that particularly the smaller vineyards may not have an English-speaker on staff.

        I would recommend not renting the car until you're ready to leave Avignon if possible, though. Spend a day or two poking around Avignon, then rent a car and venture forth.

    2. Slightly confused by the question. Do you want a guide for the wine areas or for Avignon?

      If you have a car when you head to Gigondas then you can tour the local wine areas - not just CNdP and Tavel but Gigondas, Vacqueyras, etc etc. As other have said you simply meander and stop at what is open. Lots of good wine orientated restaurants as well, and important to structure the days to include the local markets. Hiring a guide for this is not really going to add a lot of value and as you say better to spend the cash on a top meal in the area or in Avignon (lots of info on the board).

      As for Avignon, its pretty small, easy to explore on your own and the big attraction(s) have guided tours so again meander and enjoy the balmy September weather and relax on restaurant terraces etc.

      6 Replies
      1. re: PhilD

        absolutely --Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Sablet, Seguret, Rasteau, Cairanne, Baumes-le-Venise, Chateauneuf -- most of the most famous wine-producing villages in the Côtes du Rhone appellations are within an easy drive of each other.

        1. re: sunshine842

          sunshine, as you imply, your string of cities would make a easy and leisurely drive as well as scenic. Rasteau's red has become one of my favorites in recent years and am lucky to have a shop near by that carries a few.

          If I may, I would like to add Villedieu where you should visit on Sunday evening where locals gather outside to taste wine from the local cooperative at the bar, with food supplied by local restaurant and a few food trucks that sells Pissaladiere and other variations.

          If you like to picnic and can connect the dot to have Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes (thanks Pammel)on Saturday before noon, you will be very handsomely rewarded. It's a small local market for the village locals, and accordingly more local than most markets in the region. Quite similar in this regard as Cucuron market.

          1. re: Kurtis

            Oh, that was by no means an exhaustive list -- just the first ones that popped into my head.

            A side trip up the hill to visit the lovely village of Seguret, just across the valley from Sablet, is well worth an afternoon -- if you're feeling adventurous, pick your way to the top of the hill to see the ruins of the castle.

            1. re: sunshine842

              sunshine,

              your short-circuit neurons then have exceptional synapses, and yes, the view of Seguret from the valley below on a misty morning is an unforgettable imprint.

        2. re: PhilD

          Yes, I was thinking a guide so I wouldn't be bothered by how much wine I had consumed. If you know of someone, do please let me know. Otherwise I'll strike out on my own...

          I'm not keen on tours unless they unleash things I would't find on my own. Thanks so much for the advice!! Now I'm on to the best restaurants. So glad the discussion board is going strong!!

          1. re: tastebudseattle

            We haven't used Julie Mautner's services, but here's a link that may be of use to you:
            http://theprovencepost.blogspot.fr/p/...

        3. For Tavel and perhaps others, there is a store in center of the tiny town that sells and tastes most of the vineyards there.

          1. Bonjour, I am a private guide in Provence. I live in-Vaison la-Romaine and do many private tours in the southern Rhone, espcecially Chateauneuf du Pape and Gigondas. I can do Chateauneuf and Tavel on the same day. All my tours are custom; we discuss what interests you and I recommend and make reservations, as necessary. I also recommend wineries and restaurants for days we are not touring together. My orice is half of what you were quoted (above.) If you want more info please email: sderham@sonic.net

            By the way, Julie Mautner is a friend and collegue.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sderham

              Thanks!! I'll shoot you an email.

              -Paula

            2. Chateauneuf du Pape is a very small town. In the center there is a group of maybe 40 or so tasting rooms of different wineries. I'm guessing that you will be able to taste there even if you can't have winery tours during vendange. I don't think you need a guide for CduP, or for Avignon. Nor a car until you leave. We take the bus from Avignon to CduP. It's a fun day trip, and if you happen to sip a little too much wine -- no problem!

              6 Replies
              1. re: ChefJune

                Didn't you mean to say that in the center there is one tasting room, Vinedea Maison du Vin in CduP, where you can taste 40 or so (actually it is about 70), CduPs?

                1. re: allende

                  It's been a while since I've been in CduP. When I was there there were multiple tasting rooms, run by various wineries.

                  1. re: allende

                    Right--Vinadea is in the center of Chateauneuf du Pape. They sell wine from about 90 wineries, but only open about 6-10 total (white and red) for tasting daily. Tasting is free but of course it is nice to buy a bottle. (Price is same as at winery since this is owned by a winemaker's syndic.) Sometimes another taster will purchase a bottle they want to try and share it with others in the tasting room. The are open until about 6:30 but if you go late in the day in summer some some of the bottles they have opened may be empty!

                    In any case I have made some great discoveries here, from wineries that never open for tasting, or from places I hadn't heard about. Great staff, very knowledgeable. They are open daily; most wineries do not open on week-ends so this provides a place to taste for people whom come on week-ends.

                  2. re: ChefJune

                    I like the bus idea... I'm up for a fun day trip, but I'm really wanting a winery with a tasting room vs a tasting room in town featuring many. I'll probably do both, but I'm all about the experience. I drink Tavel Rosé all summer long. Actually going there to taste would mean the world to me...

                    1. re: tastebudseattle

                      make full use of the spit buckets, and make sure you something to eat (even a baguette will do) and some bottled water. Dehydration and hunger is a big deal.