In my most recent piece for The SOMM Journal, I explore the variety of Provence’s favorite drink with Château Minuty’s owner and winemaker François Matton at Le Cirque. Keep reading for the full story, and tasting notes excerpted below.
Scallops were never something I’d thought much about: I recognized their white, cylindrical forms and enjoyed their smooth, rich texture and caramelized bits at restaurants. But growing up nowhere near the sea, I had no idea what the shell of a scallop looked like or really how it ended up on my plate. So when I found myself signing up for a cooking class that focused on preparing scallops two ways, I didn’t really know what to expect. And since it took place at the école de cuisine Alain Ducasse in Paris, I prayed that my long-dormant French would come back to life well enough to follow the teacher’s instructions.
When I visited the Chêne Bleu estate in June 2013, I was deeply impressed by the care and precision that had gone into every aspect of restoring the property, including the house and its surroundings. Visitors to the area can actually rent out rooms or the entire house for periods of time (a weekly minimum during high season) for a relaxing, elegant, and deeply restorative experience, high above Provence.
Available for rent by room or for the entire house
Chemin de La Verrière, Crestet, France
It was a gorgeous day in early summer when I visited the small wine producer Chêne Bleu, based on the edge of the southern Rhône and the Côteaux de Provence in the south of France. Getting to the winery at La Verrière, located atop a mountain amongst the trees of the Dentelles de Montmirail, is easier said than done: Our GPS couldn’t find the address, so we had to do it the old-fashioned way, winding along narrow roads above the town of Crestet, eyes open for small signs and roadside markers, praying we were going in the right direction as we passed by forests and hiking trails until we finally came upon the beautifully restored ninth-century estate, high above the Rhône river valley. Continue reading
I had the good fortune of meeting and having lunch with Nicole Rolet of Chêne Bleu (“Blue Oak” in French) on her recent trip to New York. I didn’t know much about the wines before we met, but I was immediately taken away by her story. She and her husband had renovated La Verrière, a Medieval property in Provence, high in the mountains above the Gigondas region in the Southern Rhône.
A visit to the French region of Champagne, visiting houses and growers, caves and restaurants, offers a little glimpse into the places that make these very specific wines. With their somber countenance and chic looks, the Champenois embody the seriousness with which Champagne is produced and marketed. No region in world is known so much for such internationally acclaimed brands, whose producers seek to create the same quality and style of wine year in and year out. They painstakingly blend grapes and vintages for the perfect base wine, and then they wait. The patience that is required to make these wines, letting some age for up to ten years, is the ultimate expression of refinement. Continue reading
Don’t be fooled like I was – that dark-colored bottle is clear, showing the rich, raspberry color of the wine itself. 100% Grolleau, an almost extinct deep red grape from the Loire, this red wine is classically vinified as a rosé; winemaker Pascal Pibaleau has crafted a lovely sparkling red in the frizzante (slightly fizzy) style. Continue reading
Sweet wines have a bad reputation in the United States as cheap, watered-down alternatives to the more refined, dry styles. Keep your sticky white zins to yourself, I thought when I began getting interested in wine. I’ll drink my zippy sauvignon blancs and tannic cabernets. Continue reading
I used to spend my summers in the south of France—my mother’s childhood friend had moved there to study painting, fell in love with a man, and never left. So, we obviously went to visit. From a very young age, then, I was introduced to the simple lifestyle and eating traditions of Provence. Simple salads. Fresh food that came straight from the market. Baguettes bought that morning. And Roquefort… I have been a bread and cheese lover ever since. In fact, I think there is no better meal if you are looking for something quick and delicious, especially on the go.
Today, G and I prepared a picnic that he brought to Bryant Park at lunch time. It was a perfect day—not hot, not chilly, no rain, a little breeze. We sat under the birch trees and set the table. This morning I had packed up my little cooler with a small cutting board and a paring knife wrapped on a dishcloth that ended up serving as our tablecloth. G added the fresh-bought baguette from the store around the corner, salami, apples, and the cheese—gorgonzola dolce and parmigiano. He sliced the bread and the salami and began to make little open-faced sandwiches, while I ate each separately, savoring their individual flavors. It was a perfect summertime meal: crisp, fresh, simple. When it was time to go, we shook the breadcrumbs from the cloth, rewrapped the knife, and packed the cooler, leaving it much lighter than it had been when he arrived.