Posted in French wine, Travel, Wine Regions

Rhone Valley wine region in 7 days

Visiting the Rhone Valley wine region

I had the good fortune to visit the various Rhone valley wine regions for seven days. The areas within are visually beautiful. The wines of the North can best be described as elegant and delicate. In contrast, the wines of the South are rustic and full of personality. Probably my favourite wines of Planet Earth.

This has been one of the great experiences of my life. Share it with me.

The Rhône valley produces a host of exciting wines under various Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) designations. The major appellation in production volume is Côtes du Rhône AOC.

The Rhône is usually divided into two sub-regions, each with its own vinicultural traditions. The Northern Rhône (Rhône septentrional) and the Southern Rhône (in French Rhône méridional). The northern region makes red wines from the Syrah variety, sometimes blended with white wine grapes, and white wines from Marsanne, Roussane and Viognier grapes. The southern sub-region produces a large range of red, white and rosé wines, often blends of several grapes. The most famous  appellation is Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Here are the links to the wonderful experiences of all seven days. Enjoy!


Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Day Four and Day Four continued

Day Five

Day Six

Day Seven

Thanks for experiencing it with me,

The Wine Baron

Posted in Austrian Wine, French wine, italian wine, Wine, Wine Regions

On the lookout for truly great red wines? Look into this one. Structure, balance, and very impressive

What do we have to do to get truly great wines?

I don’t know about you, but personally, I’m not impressed often enough with the red wines people bring to the house when I’m entertaining.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful for the gift, and even more thankful that they’ve come so I can enjoy their company. That means a lot to me. But let’s face it, there are a lot of just so-so wines out there, especially reds. Part of the reason is that it costs more for the winery to make a decent wine than many of us are willing to pay. We should up our budget a bit.

We should up our wine budget.

This is the single most effective way to acquire better wines. Buy less often if you have to, at least your purchase will be enjoyable.

That said, I don’t want to necessarily place the burden on my guests to buy more expensive wines. Not cool. But maybe I can drop a few hints on great wine regions, eh? Yeah, I think I’m on to something.

Go for Wine Regions that Deliver!

Ok, so now for a little list of lesser-chosen wine regions that generally produce truly great wines (with one or two varietal suggestions from each). Some of these come at a slight premium, but won’t break the bank:

  • Kremstal, Kamptal, Südsteiermark, Austria (grüner veltliner, riesling, sauvignon blanc)
  • Abruzzo, Italy (montepulciano d’abruzzo)
  • Southern Rhône, France (Côtes du Rhône Villages, usually with multiple varietals, including grenache)
  • Languedoc-Roussillon, France (just about any type, especially grenache based blends, but don’t get the cheapest)

And now here’s an example of a Côtes du Rhône Villages that a dear family member brought over during the holidays. A delightful wine that impressed me immensely.

Valreas Cotes du Rhone Villages
Valreas Cotes du Rhone Villages

Domaine Grande Bellane Valreas Cotes du Rhone Villages 2010

A blend of 30% grenache and 70% syrah, this wine speaks volumes to the palate. My first impression is that it has a gorgeous palate, with complexity and balance. Not too much of any particular flavour nuance, not too intense with tannins. Just right. The deep colour and aromatic bouquet lead to wonderful flavours of dark cherry, plum and subtle spice within an elegant, yet slightly rustic overall presentation. It pairs beautifully with red meat, game, and a wide variety of other foods.

Posted in dining, French wine, Wine

Paris restaurant wows us. Outstanding French Cuisine.


Remember the name. There are great restaurants in Paris and not so great. Drouant is great! When in Paris, be sure to dine here

This historic Parisian restaurant was founded in 1880, and has been the recipient of the famous Goncourt and Renaudot prizes since 1914. Antoine Westermann became owner and chef in 2006.

The restaurant was just a one block walk from our hotel, the Hotel de Noailles at 9 Rue de la Michodière, 75002 Paris. It was all very proper. The Sommelier came first to take our wine order and make some pairing suggestions. We settled on Le Vendangeur Masqué Bourgogne (means masked picker) Chablis, see photo. A bit about the producer here, and  about the wine here:

Alice and Olivier de Moor make pure, natural wines from small plots in Chablis.

They have been tending their organic vines near their village of Courgis for over sixteen years. Corgis is northwest of Dijon. The area is cold, leading to low yields from the vines. Both Alice and Olivier share the winemaking.

All grapes are picked by hand. Only natural yeasts are used and the wines are matured in oak barrels that are generally one to four years old so that the oak does not dominate the delicate chardonnay flavours.

The waiter then came and took our food orders. We went for braised lamb in gravy with full garlic cloves and of course, French fries. The fries were the best I’ve ever had.

Other Typical Menu Items


Souper, dès 21h30…
Nos suggestions à déguster dans l’ordre

ou, le désordre…

Pâté en croûte de Drouant – 25 euros

Tartare de saumon à l’aneth – 17 euros

Minestrone de légumes au pistou – 18 euros

Salade d’endives & de pommes, Fourme d’Ambert – 17 euros


Suprême de pintade de Challans rôti,
fricassée de pomme de terre Grenaille
& de champignons – 23 euros

Tartare de boeuf,
frites maison & salade verte – 27 euros

Dos de cabillaud poêlé, jus au persil
& fricassée de légumes de saison – 29 euros


Millefeuille à la vanille Bourbon – 14 euros

Le Paris-Brest – 14 euros

Le Baba au Rhum de Drouant – 16 euros

Le Crumble aux pommes, glace à la vanille – 16 euros


Posted in French wine, Wine, Wine Regions

Sablet. A sensuous Southern Rhone wine from one of the most romantic villages in France.

What a fine experience it was to have a vertical tasting of Sablet wines all the way back to 1990 here. And great to meet Jean Autran from Domaine de Piaugier. Outstanding wines of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre. Rustic yet elegant, rich, yet sometimes delicate.  Sensuous flavours in the glass.

Sablet is a commune in the Vaucluse department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France. It is a fortified Provençal village founded in the 800’s and rich in history.

Great little drive back to our Bed and Breakfast in Cairrane through misty blackness punctuated by little galaxies of light, each a village nestled in the Alpine foothills here in the Southern Rhone.
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Posted in French wine, Wine, Wine Regions

Chateau Jean Faure, St. Emilion charms in a most special way, both as a destination and as a wine

Our gang exploring the Jean Faure estate
Our gang exploring the Jean Faure estate

I’m at Chateau Jean Faure in St. Emilion. I feel like I’m home. The sunny disposition, soil, and general feeling of this place seem familiar and magical.

The chateau’s historic roots, its reference terroir, and a passionate owner: Olivier Decelle make it very special. Monsieur Decelle explains: “This is a historic terroir. There are two main parts to the terroir of Saint Emilion, limestone and clay. Here we are in the clay and iron dross part, and in fact it is more Pomerol, the plot touches Château l’Evangile in Pomerol, it neighbours Cheval Blanc, and this section over here is close to Petrus and Château Figeac, which is 50 % Cabernet Franc. This gives a lot of tension and structure to the wines. They may be difficult to understand when you first taste them, but they’ve received exceptional care and have a personality that delights me.”

We had a chance to get a tour of the wine cellars, vineyards, and the section of the chateau where you can stay.

The Estate:

Chateau Jean Faure is an 18 hectare estate in St. Emilion. They have old vines that are 40 years old. Vinification is in 80 hectoliter concrete vats that are shaped slightly differently than you find in many St. Emilion cellars. The vats are wider, similar to those in Burgundy.

Stephane Derenoncourt is consulting winemaker. The estate has one of the largest concentrations of Cabernet Franc and Malbec planted in the entire Bordeaux appellation. Production is close to 8,000 cases per year.


Grapes are carefully placed in small temperature-controlled vats without being crushed. Fermentation occurs with indigenous yeasts. The cap is punched four times per day with a minimum of pump overs. Maceration is about 21 days. Maturation is for 18 months in French Oak Barrels. The final blend is a combination of 50% new oak (with malolactic fermentation in barrels) and 50% in concrete vats.

The Wine:

The estate offers a single wine.

2010 Château Jean-Faure St. Émilion Grand Cru
The wine is a blend of 54% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot and 6% Malbec. Deep garnet colour and a subtle nose of black raspberries, licorice and dusty earthy scents. The palate is elegant and fresh with a long finish. This is a balanced, complex, sweet, full bodied St. Emilion. And it was a grand year for Cabernet Franc in St. Emilion.

The Accommodations:

A rustic elegance dominates. The building was gutted and refurbished in 2006, with ample original beams and stone blocks. This is a beautiful place to stay; just a short drive or an easy walk into the historic and ridiculously gorgeous village of St. Emilion.

Google Map it


The village of St. Emilion. Historic, cute, and unforgettable.

chateau_jf1 chateau_jf2 chateau_jf3

Posted in French wine, Wine Regions

Beautiful Gigondas village, in the Southern Rhône, is a setting of stone edifices, narrow lanes and …

My recent visit to Gigondas, Rhône, France.

Beautiful Gigondas village, in the Southern Rhône, is a setting of stone edifices, narrow lanes and steep hills. I am here to taste the iconic wines of the area: Gigondas, Vacqueyras, & Beaumes de Venise. I’m finding truly excellent and affordable wines here.

The further south I go in my travels of the area, the more robust and serious the wines become. Northern Rhône wines are structured, elegant, delicate beauties. Southern Rhône wines are big, fruit driven, and food friendly. This charming old village is presided over by 11th-century Ste. Catherine’s church, sitting up high, with its clock tower, belfry and old sundial. It’s a fairly large complex of buildings and grounds still in operation. The narrow cobblestone streets below are lined with stone houses and shops.

While in the village, be sure to dine at Carré Gourmand restaurant. I ordered a medley of appetizers and enjoyed them with 2008 La Syrah de Pénélope Gigondas. Dark and mysterious, exuding a dusty, leathery, dark berry bouquet with flavours of blackberries, vanilla bean & dark chocolate, with firm tannins. The finish is surprisingly soft, satisfying completely. An intriguing wine of Cotê du Rhone.

More about Gigondas, the village:

Spectacular photos of Gigondas:

Arial photo of Gigondas:

Carré Gourmand Restaurant:

More about the wine: