More Bandol

3 Mar

March 1, 2010


We’re learning how to use the GPS….not to just trust it, since it tries for the shortest path, which is through the center of the ville, with narrow, winding roads, sometimes wrong about one-ways. Instead, review the entire route and figure out how to get on the desired main road, and then follow the GPS…

Tour du Bon is the first visit of the day. The vigneron wasn’t there, but Christope, her husband, offered a visit and degustation. We had nice wines, then walked around the property, just beautiful…see pictures. The weather was nice enough for Ray to abandon his coat (but not Lori). We had the (now) usual white, rose, entry level red and special red. After the walk was a dessert wine, d’Ou, 16%, made in the Maury style (using big glass bottles for fermentation), and was fine. The white and the rose’s were a little cold, so it was hard to tell how good they were.  The reds are excellent, especially the Saint Ferreal single vintage rouge, with mostly mourvedre. It’s seeming common to have an entry level red with significant Grenache, and one or more rouges with mostly mourvedre (a maximum of 95% is allowed).Garrigue during walk

Christophe said that it’s unusual to have both of the main types of soil (limestone and clay) in the Bandol in one wine, which they do. This is a Kermit Lynch winery, and excellent as expected. This is a very small winery, only 12 hectares total. So far, it’s hard to go wrong, which continued at the next stop.

La Bastide Blanche – another fine tasting…especially the first (bigger) rose and single vineyard rouge (Estangnol, 2004), which we may be able to get back home. It had a beautiful dark and intense nose, with black licorice and complex garrigue on the palate…love it…only 20 euro at the winery. The two roses are typical, a lighter one as an aperitif and a second bigger one that is fine for many meals. La Bastide Blanche uses both small and large barrels. As we also learned at Pibarnon, small barrels impart too much oak and tannins for mourvedre, which have their own big tannins and flavors. I took a picture of a little symbol on the label showing a pregnant woman, to warn against drinking too much wine.

Ray at Bastide Blanche

For some unknown reason, this symbol is not allowed in the USA, so the wineries have to make a special label without it for wine exported to the USA. The pourer was nice, but his boss seemed to be lurking around, a brooding dark presence.

We then drove to La Cadiere d’Azur, a hill town with winding intricate narrow roads, alleys, dead ends, etc.

Lunch at L'Arlequin

We parked early on, having learned not to try to navigate through these villages. A photographer would have a field day here, stopping every few feet to take more pictures. We walked to the top, took in the views, and eventually found a perfect place for lunch, called L’Arlequin. We shared two orders. They supplied delicious bite size sausage encroute while the food was being prepared. We had eggplant carpaccio, with parmesan, and excellent ham (a French prosciutto), black olives, with perfect spicing. The other was veal cutlet in a sep (mushroom) sauce, creamy but elegant, surrounded by a nice salad with a garlic herb dressing (with a touch of mustard), dressed just right. A half carafe of house rose went well with the food. It was just what we were looking for.

Domaine La Suffrene was next. We met the owner, winemaker and all around person, Cedric Gravier, who was a friendly, knowledgeable and informative host. We enjoyed this visit, and are interested in the wines. The white was bottled the previous day, very fresh on the nose, but a bit closed…so Cedric tasted us from the barrel, where the fruit came through nicely on the palate. Their aperitif rose is very nice, also very new…a second stronger rose isn’t available for export. They have two rouges, a regular cuvee and the Cuvee Les Laures. We tasted both from 2007, the regular from 2003 and the Laurer from 2004.

Domaine La Suffrene

The last was my favorite, very complex, lovely, long, big tannins in a nice way. This and other vintages may be available in Mass. The Regular cuvee from 2007 also was exemplary. Cedric provided some insight on how wines from this area have improved, including making Mourvedre more drinkable earlier. The process has been slowed down, using less stems and less contact time with the skins, and getting rid of some the old big oak barrels which, after 25-40 years, start impacting the wine negatively. Cedric’s wines have trended toward more elegance.

We finished with Domaine Tempier, perhaps the most famous winery in the area, in part because of the writings of Kermit Lynch. While the 2 wines served were very nice, the atmosphere was formal, with the emphasis on maintaining their position and ability to sell wine for high prices, rather than living the philosophy. Although the family is still involved, another organization manages the winery. The “manager” who runs everything (whispers from the pourer) walked past with only the briefest acknowledgement to our hellos…not a friendly or communicative place. They have complete sets of notes and stories of the winery, and leave it mostly to that.

Next we drove to Bandol to check it out and find a place for dinner (Marie from Pibarnon had given us her favorites). Walking around was OK, but the city is pretty touristry, and dinners don’t start until 7pm earliest. So after a nice walk we headed back to Bruesset, the town where we were staying and found a place to eat. It was good but not great. Interestingly, they didn’t have wines from the Bandol region since they are so “expensive”


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