One of the best decisions Brad and I made during our vacation in France was opting to keep our rental car a bit longer. We had no need to purchase our train ticket from Nice, on the Riviera, to Vaison la Romaine, in Provence. So, when we discovered that we really liked driving in France, we decided to extend our rental car. Riding the train has some up sides too, like being able to sleep and do other activities without worrying about who has to drive. But we liked the freedom of having a car and flexibility it gave us to stop wherever we liked.
It didn’t hurt that the interstate speed limit allowed us to drive about 100 miles an hour. No, that didn’t hurt one bit. We like to drive fast.
The drive from the French Riviera to Provence is only a few hours (maybe 3?).
As soon as we arrived, Brad and I immediately started comparing the landscape to Napa. However, they had a few mountains that were much larger than those around Napa.
I was perusing through Rick Steve’s Guide to France along the way, checking out his recommended vineyards, only to find that we were very close to a highly recommended winery.
Forget checking into our room! I wanted to dive right into the wineries. It was day seven of our trip and I had yet to set foot into a winery. Clearly we had our priorities out of whack, until then.
Finding the winery was a bit of an adventure, but I’m like a St. Bernard when it comes to these things so there was never any doubt in my mind that we would find it.
We landed at Domaine de Mourchon, which is in the Cote du Rhone appalachia, about 45 minutes before the English tour was about to start. The owners are Scottish, which is why they make an English tour available. I’m sure this is very attractive to English speaking tourists.
One of the owners graciously gave us a sample of cold white wine while we waited. Those little sips of wine were enough to make Brad and I realize we were very sleepy. Nice had brought out the party animals in us and an early morning car trip was starting to wear on us.
So we took the remaining 30 minutes to nap in the car. If I learned anything in France it was 1) butter makes everything taste amazing and 2) I can nap anywhere.
After our cat nap, we returned to the tasting room to join a bunch of fellow English speakers from Denmark, England, and Germany. We were the lone Americans.
Whoops. I learned from some Canadians never to call myself that (which inspired quite a discussion on my Facebook wall).
Let’s just say, were were the only citizens of the U.S. (Must I really say that each and every time, Canada?) I’m a bit out of sorts about this.
Our winery tour started off with a very smal trek to the vineyard — only several yards from the tasting room doors.
The scenery was lush and gorgeous.
We learned that these Syrah grapes will be ready for harvesting in September. They just need to retain some water and plump up first.
More grape vineyard photos for your viewing pleasure…
While I photographed grapes for 20 minutes, Brad learned all about grape harvesting.
We left the vineyard to learn about what happens to the grapes after they’re harvest.
Here’s my five second summary…
Here is where the grape juice goes to ferment into wine.
And here is where the wine goes to age.
And here is where the wine goes for me to taste it.
The winery tour was very informative. Brad had a great time asking questions while I had a great time getting the perfect photo of the grapes. Something for everyone!
We sampled five different wines while monopolizing the time of the winery owner’s daughter who was running the tasting. This is no surprise if you know us. Brad and I are a talkative bunch.
We also had a great time getting to know our fellow wine tasters. Overall, the experience was a lot of fun.
After the tasting, Brad and I settled on two different wines — one from Chateauneuf du Pape, which is actually in a different (but nearby) appalachia, and the Tradition, which changes slightly every year based on the preference of the official wine taster and the winery owner.
Official wine taster — where do I apply for that job?
After our venture through the vineyard and the wine tasting, it was time to finally check into our room. For our three days in Provence, I chose an apartment-style room in Vaison La Romaine’s medieval upper portion. There are other options in the lower more modern part of the town, but I’ve wanted to stay in an ancient town with a castle since visiting Tuscany. This was my opportunity.
This is the main area of the apartment.
Even though the setting was centuries old, the apartment was quite modern and roomy. Much too large for Brad and I. We actually ended up with the largest apartment they had, which could sleep seven people.
Another view of the main area
The living room
The dining room
The modern kitchen
The upstairs loft bedroom
The master bedroom
The back terrace
Another view of the terrace
After our drive, we rested a bit, then decided 10 pm was the perfect time for dinner.
Since it was so late, we didn’t opt for a fancy restaurant needing reservations. Instead, we sought out food in the limited restaurant choices in the upper town.
Our hunger caused us to step outside of our “all French food, all the time” rule while in France and we decided to try the wood fired pizza at Pizzeria Le Vieux Vaison.
I chose a simple pizza with basil sauce (pesto) and was not disappointed, to say the least. The flavors were amazing and I really loved the super thin crust.
Brad got the equivalent of a meat lover’s pizza with a lot of prosciutto.
We also shared a salad with tomato, mozzarella, lettuce, and a balsamic sauce. This meal was such a nice change of pace from the traditional French food we had been eating for a week.
I hadn’t really considered this, but you can get some pretty fantastic Italian food in France, especially in the southern region. I guess because they share a border there are a lot of transplants from Italy. It’s kind of like the quality and authenticity of Mexican food is much better in the United States than any country in Europe because of our proximity to them.
Stay tuned for day 8 where we embark on our own self guided tour of the Cote du Rhone wine country. Let’s just say, it was definitely an adventure.
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