I always love to share a list of the bites, sips and places I laid my head for those traveling (as well as for myself in future visits!).
Visit Chateau Saint Jacques d’Alba. This phenomenal regional winemaker not only has a couple quaint gites for rental on his property, he also has a kind British accent and great recommendations for places to go in the area. Wake up to the vines, go for a jog and enjoy the remoteness and tranquility of the south.
Very nice accommodations, Hotel Oceania Metropole has been restored and updated for modern times with remnants of the past to remind you what it once was (an old elevator and other relics on the walls and ceiling). Very clean and comfortable. Large rooms. Nothing fancy but very centrally located. Nearby train lines, restaurants and the main Gare.
- At La Girafe, we enjoyed a really wonderful Mediterranean meal. Looking around, I saw that others did as well. A very small but decent wine list as well as interesting flavors that offer something more than French onion soup and steak frites makes this a good discovery I would return to again.
- L’Alliance des Plaisirs came on recommendation from a few of the winemakers we work with–in fact, we joined Domaine Begude, Chateau Saint Jacques and a few others for this memorable evening. It is likely one of the best places to eat if you are looking for serious, reflective haut-cuisine. Only two people run the show here– a husband and wife. The husband is a genius in the kitchen. His lovely wife manages an unbelievable balancing act as hostess, waitress, translator, busgirl, and sommelier. A truly incredible meal. You don’t really make the decisions. They do. You just need to decide 3 courses or 5. Love that! While service is understandably a little delayed, it is the perfect excuse to eat slowly, focus on each dish and visit with friends.
- Completely on a whim, we chose to eat the final evening at a restaurant just a couple doors down from L’Alliance des Plaisirs (why I cannot find the name in my notes is driving me mad!). Their wine list out front was by far the best we had seen, and the tapas concept seemed like a perfect idea. The food was quite solid, but the wine was the show stopper. Our new obsession with Domaine Chabanon had us trying both a white of his as well as a red with some age. Despite a decade of sleep on the latter, the 2004 was determined not to show one wrinkle of time in its expression. It was incredibly long lived and impressive. There were numerous other options too (including very, very old Chartreuse), but I can only consume so much in an evening. Next time!
Chateauneuf du Pape
We stayed at Hotel La Sommelliere. Just outside the main drag, this quiet hotel offered a lovely patio and pool which seemed great if it weren’t the middle of January! Although my extrasensory paranoia had me feeling a little spooked for whatever reason, the accommodations were incredibly affordable and clean. The morning breakfast was a lovely array of options of homemade baked goods, eggs, yogurts and fresh squeezed juices.
- For lunch, we dined with a winemaker (Moulin de la Gardettes of Gigondas) at a wonderful restaurant called La Mesclun in Seguret, the next village over. It was possibly one of the best lunches I have had in a while. Not only were the flavors divine in the shrimp bisque I enjoyed followed by stuffed squid on risotto, but they were perfectly portioned as well. We enjoyed a local white. Plus, there is a breathtaking view of the Southern Rhone. It especially looked adorable for summertime, as they had a very idyllic terrace outside.
- That evening we had dinner at Restaurant Le Table de Sorgues. It was a sensational meal as well, complete with a really grand wine list with fair pricing, boasting classics like aged Fonsalette and Beaucastel as well as new discoveries as well. I really can’t recommend this place enough. We had a 4 course meal plus amuse bouche and other surprises for 39 Euros. And their cheese cart is epic. I was hoping I would get that experience at some point during my visit!
A very short walk from the Gare de Lyon is a really comfortable, clean hotel–Hotel Elysee Gare de Lyon–with impressively large (still small, but you can move!) rooms. It was one of the most comfortable beds on the whole trip, and their pillows were divine. It is pretty no frills, but wonderfully utilitarian, centrally located and close to Metro lines for easy access to other corners of this fabulous city.
Finally! I was able to check out Frenchie Wine Bar. No reservations accepted, but it was worth the crowded hour and a half wait. They serve small plates and very hip wines from lower profile winemakers around the world. A look around tells you it is where the cool kids hang out. I tried a little grower Champagne followed by a sensational bottle of 2000 Domaine du Collier Saumur Blanc. Neither color nor structure indicated such age, but the aromatics of slight tertiary notes of mushroom accented by the classic notes of mineral stone, white flowers, and faint wild honey displayed development and elegant maturity. It was absolutely stunning. You will likely have to wait, but it is pretty flipping awesome.