The last few days, I put the pen down and decided to just take everything in… Provence will do that to a person, insisting upon one to slow down, feel the sun, savor a glass of rose dripping with dew and just… be.
We ascended into the town of Gordes late at night just a few days ago. Our hotel was perched in the side of a hill, beaming proudly with white lights and activity. It had the feel of Tuscany with its Roman influence and tall Cyprus trees everywhere. The Bastide des Gordes with a 12th century hotel that was just renovated recently. It was ‘tres chic’ and extremely unexpected. Multiple levels of terrace invited us to join the evening right away. We dropped off our bags, slipped into something comfortable and enjoyed a glass of wine to ring in midnight.
Our time here was punctuated by sleeping in, lazy breakfasts, long walks, bike rides, fresh light meals and reading by one of the more relaxing pools that also seemed to reflect an heir of calm— like it also knew that it was only too fortunate to spend its days overlooking the valley of Ventoux. I was actually jealous of that pool’s lot in life for a brief, ridiculous second and returned to feeling fortunate for my own lot. Minutes trickled by, falling into hours and then days, expecting nothing from us. Every time I come to this area of the Rhone & Provence, it’s like continuing an aimless conversation mid-sentence… one whose language feels right on the tongue— natural and homelike. It is returning to a part of myself I don’t get to know unless I am here. The cicadas are loud this time of year. The dry, summer heat livening up their lyrics, reenforcing their ritual.
We had lunch one day outside town with one of the winemakers I represent—Rodolphe des Pins of Chateau du Montfaucon in Lirac. He and his wife suggested a restaurant his friend’s owned called Chateau la Roche. This husband wife team were about as salt of the earth as it gets, and their food reflected that purity and appreciation. It was among the most memorable meals of the trip, honestly one of the better ever in France. These two were aesthetes, taking the produce from the land and giving it the best possible expression on the plate by allowing it to be itself. Nothing overdone or manipulated, the dishes were an assembly of whole foods pick at the perfect moment to deliver heightened flavor, color and character. We enjoyed a tomato salad, followed by fish with julienned vegetables, some local cheese, then a twice backed apricot with lavender honey, creamy fromage blanc and crushed hazelnuts. This recommendation was exquisite and though lunch was an exception they made for Rudi, they do offer dinner. Don’t miss this special experience.
Rudi poured us his latest release Gardettes rose, without a doubt one of the best values around this summer ($10 retail)— it was refreshing, balanced and uncomplicated, a no brainer buy when it’s too hot to overthink it. The 140 year old Clairette vines made up his next unforgettable selection. Pure Clairette is hard to find, especially one that has never seen a grafted vines due to the fact that it was protected from phylloxera at the turn of the last century. This wine has a breadth about her—floral and waxy, opulent yet somehow delicate, like a bull who is hellbent to prove it can run a china shop like a boss.
We tried a new offering that is coming out to market this Fall— a Lirac that, unlike Baron Louis, sees no oak and only three grapes versus a good five or six: Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. It has gorgeous lifted violet aromatics, a ripe sun-soaked cherry profile and noted but well-integrated white pepper on the finish.
He then generously shared the 2001 Cotes du Rhone. I love when he reaches for the library wines. Never ceases to amaze me how age worthy these ‘simple’ CdRs can be (and available for about $13)! This one came from a really great vintage for Rudi— he recalls how well the harvest went— great weather, good fruit set, little in the way of hail or other hazards, enough precipitation. A bit fatigued from a more vigorous 2000, his vines produced slightly less in 01, giving a little more concentration and character to his grapes. No oak necessary, this red has watched 14 years pass by with ease. It is in a really great place right now, as it gracefully lets go of its youthful fruit and settles into a tertiary temperament— wet leaves, black tea and a hint of black truffle. This was superb with a post-meal cheese plate.
We ate at the hotel one evening as well as another place 5 minutes outside of Gordes called Le Mas Tourteron. The setting was possibly everything you could want in Provence, complete with a rickety antique iron bike planted with flowers, chalkboard easel menus and random summer straw hats hanging on the storylike trees. White lights and candles cast a warm, delicate light on both servers and diners alike. The cicadas filled the background with their song. There was a grand table in the middle filled with homemade desserts, luring each guest eventually to select their final treats. Our waiter was young, entertaining and hoping to be a sommelier himself, eager to discuss his dreams and passions. The food was decent, nothing to inspire prose (though the split pea amuse bouche deserves a quick shout out), still it was a magical, fantastically make believe place that was perfectly placed off an unassuming side road in Provence. I highly recommend a meal at this restaurant.