On our first Monday in France, we engaged the services of Mike's Wine Safari. This personal tour came highly recommended from Rick Steve's and we rolled the dice on an entire day to devote to craft of wine making and tasting. It was entirely worth it. And obviously we drew some spiritual parallels all day thanks to the book "Scouting the Divine" and the multitude of scripture that directly speaks to wine and wine making.
Mike is not only an incredible sommelier, but he knows this region inside and out. He took us to several towns and gave us a great tour and history of the region that we would never have had on our own.
Our first stop was in the town of Gordes. This is the home of some very famous people and the film "The Good Year" was filmed here. We had some cafe (to which I am now addicted) and visited the local sites for a bit.
This picture shows why I rented the lens (24-70mm) from borrowlenses.com. The wide angle in low light would never have been captured on any lens I have in my kit. You can rent lenses for any camera you have, you can even rent a camera! I loved having this lens, but I probably wouldn't buy it. It was huge, heavy and I was super scared to break it all the time. But, I loved having it for this trip and it was a fun treat to rent it.
Down the road we saw a beautiful Cistern Abby that houses monks living in complete silence and have since the 12th century.
Lavender at the abby.
Next, we went to Tara Domain Vineyard.
Here is Mike. Imparting all of his wisdom to us.
Here are the highlights about wine from the Luberon region in the Cote de Rhone.
- wine started in the Luberon region when Bordeaux wines were suffering due to imperfections.
- The government created a standard for the specific regions (the AOC) to highlight those winery's that hit the "standard mark" set forth. So Bordeaux wines taste specifically different than a Chateneuf de Pape, than a Cote de Rhone etc.
- The Cote de Rhone-Luberon AOC wines have to be 80% Grenache grape, 20% syrah. Otherwise they are a table wine or Vin de Pays on the label.
- The SOIL is the most important aspect when it comes to wine production, not grapes. The poorer the soil, the better. If it is good, easy soil, the grape vines get lazy and you have grapes that are tasteless, devoid of flavor.
- Hard, tough, rocky soil in a drought produces a rich, full of flavor wine because those grapes had to fight for life and nutrients.
- Once pollination takes place, the vintner calls it "100 days of war" because they can do nothing but wait for the fruit. Their lives revolve around the weather conditions and pests.
- The soil in the Cote de Rhone, is almost ALL composed of rocks and there was a severe drought in place. Take note of the 2011 wines. This is predicted to be a very good year for wine.
If they see a bad vine, they must remove all traces of the bad vine and leave the field fallow for seven years.
Mike shared with us, the quickest way to go lose money is go into the wine making business. If you plant a new field, you can not take the grapes to bottle for 4 years. That is the rule in France.
He said, 10 years before you can really get anything going. 20 before you have a reputation. Maybe.
We loved everything they offered here.
Of particular note was the Rose.
None of us was a fan prior to our Wine Safari day. After that, we found out how to pick out a bottle and what to look for.
Wine Cave Sign.
Syrah grapes at La Citadelle Domain. Another full scale vineyard and winery that we visited outside of Menerbes. We loved their wines-especially their more expensive ones.
Our haul from the day.
In addition to his 1/2 day and full-day tours, Mike offers a week long tour throughout the south of France where he takes you to vineyards and introduces your palate to varying wines PLUS the food to pair it with properly each evening which he prepares. He happens to be a chef as well.
Look for this to be an excursion that I blog about sometime in the next 20 years.