Linda Field spent 18 years working for JP Morgan in London by day, while, by night, she studied for her WSET Wine Diploma and taught wine appreciation to City bankers. In a fortuitous act of timing, she left London in July 2008--before the global banking crisis--to realize her dream of running a wine school from her Provençal farmhouse near Carpentras. Today, her Auberge du Vin offers rooms, courses (such as “Le Wine Weekend” and the “Rhone Ranger Adventure") and private guided tasting visits to top Rhone Valley châteaux. I asked Linda to suggest a few restaurants for wine lovers and she was delighted to share five of her favorites. Linda made her selections based not on who has the largest or most-expensive wine list but focused instead on "small, welcoming places where the wine enhances the experience of the food and ambiance." All the restaurants mentioned here serve three courses for less than 39€ at both lunch and dinner. Linda says: "At any of these places, do ring ahead, check opening times and make a reservation. Bon appetit et Salut!"
Domaine de la Camarette , a vineyard and farm just outside of Perne les Fontaines (04 90 61 60 78, domaine-camarette.com), is my insiders tip for a real local experience. Their set-price menu of 30€ includes a feast of their own organic-farm produce, paired with unlimited glasses of their locally grown wines. Nancy Gontier is the family's welcoming front of house, while her partner Hugo Maurrec is in the kitchen.For a more stylish occasion, Dolium ( 04 90 12 80 00, dolium-restaurant.com), next door to the Beaumes de Venise wine co-op, offers modern French cuisine and the opportunity to try both the Cave's sweet muscats as an aperitif and their powerful reds with seasonal fare of venison, lamb or truffles. Chef Pascal Poulain has already been recognised with a fourchette from the Michelin guide, and his Monday night cookery courses in winter are de rigeur for local residents looking to recreate his brilliance in their own kitchens.
Two restaurants with great terraces for sipping wine on a summer's day: Le Vergers des Papes (04 90 83 50 40, vergerdespapes.com) in Chateauneuf du Pape and L'Auberge du Beaucet (04 90 66 10 82, aubergedubeaucet.fr) in the eponymous village. Robert Parker, the US wine critic, has been spotted at Le Verger des Papes, enjoying some of Chateauneuf du Pape's older vintages. Every month, they select a different house white and red wine from the appellation (at 5€ a glass/38€ a bottle) to be savoured underneath the olive trees whilst overlooking the panorama of the Rhone Valley. The terrace at L'Auberge du Beaucet is perched on a sheer rock, overlooking wooded hills and forests. Beautifully presented food and the best cheeseboard in the region. I have wonderful romantic memories of sitting here on my wedding day drinking Persia by Domaine de Fondreche, for me (and for Robert Parker!), one of the best wines in the AC Ventoux appellation.
The daddy of all restaurants for wine lovers has to be Chez Serge in Carpentras (04 90 63 21 24, chez-serge.com). You could not wish for a better introduction to the wines of AC Ventoux and the Rhone Valley than from Serge Ghoukassian, Gault Millau's Sommelier of the Year 2008. Serge loves matching his 300+ wines with both the winter and summer truffle (the latter redolent of hazelnuts and coconut), offered on pizzas, scallops or in seasonal dishes. Wine tasting dinners once a month allow an individual local vigneron an opportunity to showcase his/her wines and their passion with Serge's clientele.