France: Loire Wine Tasting Part 2

Day 14  Wednesday, October 8, 2014

More Yum

Another day in the center of France and all is well.

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Who wouldn’t sleep well here?

As we sat at breakfast this morning enjoying our yogurt with homemade rhubarb sauce and savoring the homemade peach preserves, we did indeed stop to be grateful for this terrific adventure. We feel very blessed.

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Preserves that made us jump out of bed to run to breakfast
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Some local cheese with breakfast
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Magical

We left bright and early to go to the Anjou region just west of where we are staying. (We looked for pears all day, and other than the one on our salad at lunch, we never spotted one.) The highlight of our day was our first stop at the Chateau De Fesles vineyard that is know for its “noble rot” wines.

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This is why the wines can taste mineral-ish.

We were lucky enough to be able to walk amongst the vines with the winemaker himself. He explained the noble rot and how they tell it from rotten rot.

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The progression with the sweetest on the left

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It was very exciting to learn about the making of the sweet wines for which they are famous. We pre-packed this morning and determined that we can carry home one, and only one, more bottle of liquid. That’s a shame because his rose wines were the best we’ve ever had. We are bringing home a bottle of Bonnezeaux (rhymes with Gonzo) to share on New Year’s Day. We have a photo of the winemaker signing our bottle.

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We are so pleased with our autographed bottle and wish we could have several cases to take home.

We stopped for lunch at a little spot that used to be a railroad station in the middle of the country. The food has improved dramatically since it was a station we assume.

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The view of the vineyards from the table
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Today’s menu

We started with a salad with pears and a large triangle of toasted walnut bread onto which was melted a piece of blue cheese. Yes. It was incredible.

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Cindy had fish over a cheesy risotto and Jim had veal with thinly-sliced zucchini. Not a bad Wednesday lunch.

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We toured the area a little before visiting a vineyard with a very friendly dog and a view that went on for days.

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We drove around some more and stopped for a little hike up a slate hill before heading to the vineyard of two of the host’s friends.

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They live in a chateau that was once captured by Foulques Nerra, aka The Black Falcon, aka the ruthless count of Anjou who lived from 970 until 1040. It was a very interesting chateau and in an idyllic setting by a lake with a mill. You could put yourself back in time and imagine life long ago. There were four falcons flying over one of the chateau’s towers as we headed back “home” and we took it as a sign of The Black Falcon watching over the place.

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We had dinner in Le Puy Notre-Dame again this evening overlooking the church. What a perfect evening.

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We have our driving directions for getting to Chartres tomorrow and our bottles tucked away for traveling. We’ll be sad to leave this beautiful part of France.

 

France: Loire Wine Tasting Part 1

Day 13  Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Yum

Following a delightful breakfast, we met in the the pigeon roost to make plans for the day.

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Each hole held a pair of pigeons.

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We toured around the Saumur area today and we wouldn’t begin to be able to follow our tracks on a map. Our host took us on back roads that were behind the back roads.

The first winery was the smallest of the big wineries in the area. http://www.langlois-chateau.fr/ The guide “taught” us about the winery in a building that used to be a one-room school for boys. She did a fine job and Jim was the star pupil who knew all the answers. We saw the wine being gently pressed in a large cylinder with an inflatable bladder that pressed the grapes from the center of the cylinder toward the outside that had perforations through which the juice seeped. All of their grapes are picked by hand so the stems are still on them. Once the juice is pressed out, the bladder is deflated and the skins and stems are dumped out of the cylinder. We toured the caves that were originally carved to quarry the stones to build the houses in the surrounding town—now being used for wine production.

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We had a picnic lunch under the portico of a small 13th century church overlooking the Loire River, vineyards, and several small towns. It was very picturesque.

The view of where we ate lunch
The view of where we ate lunch
The view from where we ate lunch
The view from where we ate lunch
The view of lunch
The view of lunch

In the afternoon we went to two very small family-run wineries.

http://domaine-de-nerleux.com/

Given that there are really only two types of grapes grown here, chenin blanc and cabernet franc, it is amazing the variety of tastes that are created.

This looks like it would be great fun for about two minutes.
This looks like it would be great fun for about two minutes.
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Deep in the cellar
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House of the Black Wolves

We also visited a chateau with a pigeon house that makes the one at our place seem like a shack. It had a ladder system that rotated to gather the eggs and the pigeons from the thousands of pigeon holes. The chateau wasn’t shabby either and we were told that it has the deepest dry moat in Europe. http://www.chateaudebreze.com/castle-france-loire-saumur.html

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For dinner this evening we went to nearby Le Puy-Notre-Dame. Wine was first produced in the town and surrounding area in the 6th century. Our hosts suggested a little restaurant across from the church, and gosh it was good. http://www.lepuyavins.com/en/

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We each had cauliflower soup that was almost cloud-like.

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More please

We had cod and pork, both of which were super. That was followed by a roasted banana and chocolate pastry and chocolate mousse with coffee cream. This dinner was outstanding. We drank water with dinner—we’re done with wine until tomorrow.

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France: Saumur

Day 12  Monday, October 6, 2014

Bring on the Wine

When we arrived in Normandy a dozen days ago, one of the first things we saw was a T-shirt with two people standing barefoot wearing raincoats and rainhats. The label under them said “Naturists (Nudists) in Normandy.” We have been very careful not to write about the weather to avoid jinxing it. We have had marvelous weather. Everyone keeps telling us how lucky we are to have great weather. We had one heavy downpour and that happened when we were inside the restaurant in Cancale on Saturday. The rain stopped before we finished our lunch. Today we had steady rain as we drove from Dinan to our next home. For you map people, we went south through Rennes, then to Angers, and finally to Saumur.

We stopped just outside of Saumur to visit a mushroom farm and museum. http://www.musee-du-champignon.com/ We learned more about mushrooms than we thought there was to know. We are in awe of the variety of mushrooms and methods that are used to grow each type of mushroom. The mushroom caves (and the wine caves as well) are carved out of the tufa hills. The tufa is the stone used to build the beautiful chateaus in this area.

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We are staying at La Grande Maison  http://www.lagrandemaison.net/, which is in the middle of a vineyard sort of near Les Puys-Notre-Dame.

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The B&B is a 17th century nobleman’s home. The nobleman owned about two thousand acres in the area. They know this because of the number of pigeon roosts in the pigeonniere. Go figure.

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The pigeonniere is the round building.

No streetlights here because there are no streets. Our hosts have three English Spaniels who have really enjoyed the homemade dog treats I brought for them from the prairie. By the time we finished petting the dogs, enjoying a cup of hot tea, and unpacking, the rain had stopped and allowed us some walking time. We really are completely surrounded by vineyards. Just over the hill from our place, there were folks harvesting with large machines and by hand as the sun was setting. Not a bad image.

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Our hosts served a lovely dinner this evening. It began with a goat cheese soufflé that was heavenly for we lovers of goat cheese.

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The main course was chicken and vegetables with a wine sauce, of course.

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Then there was a cheese course with local cheeses. This area is pretty famous for goat cheese.

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Dessert was an apple tart (tarte tatin) with crème fraiche. Each course was served with some wine from the region—most from within walking distance—and our host told a story about each. After dinner, we shared some of the Calvados cream from Normandy that we have with us.

We’ll be up bright and early tomorrow for wine touring!

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I wonder what we’ll dream about tonight?