Monday, September 22, 2014

Coming Soon to a City Near You...

When the weather cools in Provence and tourism starts to trail off, lots of locals in the hospitality biz head out of town: to visit family, to hit the beach somewhere and regroup for the busy season ahead…or to take winter jobs in far-flung locales like the Alps, the Far East or the Caribbean.

My friends Guy Bremond (a French wine expert) and Jon Chiri (an American chef) are among those who would rather keep working. So for the third November in a row, they’ll leave Provence to offer gourmet French wine-tasting dinner parties in private homes in the Western US. This year they plan to hit Washington, Oregon, California and possibly Texas. The program is called “My Chef and Master Sommelier at Home” and their website is here.

The format is simple:  pick a day from the calendar on their site and invite up to 14 people. Chef arrives at 3 pm, wine tasting starts at 6 pm, dinner starts at 8:30 pm. The wines will be shipped to you from Châteauneuf du Pape roughly a month ahead…and Guy will lead your guests in a 90-minute tasting.  Then Jon serves a four-course meal, inspired by traditional Provencal cuisine and designed to pair perfectly with the wines. Total price for the evening is either $3695 or $3995, which includes all food and wine for 15 people, service and cleanup.

So who are these guys? Guy is a master sommelier who owns Les Caves Saint Charles in Châteauneuf. It’s a tasting room in a vaulted cellar dating from the 12th and 13th centuries, located at the top of the village, right by the church. Open from mid April to early November, Guy pours and sells roughly 35 local labels, serving them up in a magical,  candle-lit space that once stored wines for the Popes based in Avignon. He’s a charming raconteur who speaks terrific English…and he loves to make the wines come alive with tasting tips and tales about the personalities behind each domaine.  Next summer, he’ll be unveiling a cooking school and a small food shop.

Born and raised in Châteauneuf, Guy trained at the Culinary Academy of Arles and the Lycée Hôtelier in Tain l'Hermitage. He earned the title Master Sommelier after a series of rigorous exams, then went to work in high-profile hotels in Switzerland and Hong Kong.  But his beloved Châteauneuf beckoned and in 2007, Guy began excavating these ancient wine caves, opening to the public in May, 2012. (More info on Les Caves Saint Charles appears below.) After the dinner series in the US wraps up, Guy will return to be sommelier at the five-star Hotel Lana in the French ski resort of Courchevel.

Jon was born in Davis, California and attended the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley. He then went on to chef jobs in New Orleans, Santa Barbara and Seattle, followed by Berlin and Barcelona. He moved to Provence in 2001 and ran the prestigious cooking school La Marmiton at the Hotel La Mirande before hopping over to be the chef at Château de Massillan in Uchaux, not far from Avignon. His next gig was at La Verriere,  the “extreme wine school” and conference center in Crestet. These days he wears a couple different chapeaux, working as a private chef, cooking teacher and bike guide around Provence.  He and a partner have the company Gourmet Cycling Travel…and he and I have joined forces to create these Luberon Foodie Tours, offered by bike or car. But with an adorable 4-year-old son waiting for him at home in Seattle, Jon now prefers to spend his winters in the US, taking private chef jobs and doing these elegant dinners. 

“We look forward to them all year,” he tells me. “Whether the table is filled with old friends or new, we love presenting the food and wine of Provence this way. It’s such a joy to share our favorite terroir with people as enthusiastic about eating and drinking as we are. And since we do all the work, the host really gets to be a guest.”

For more info or to book a table, visit the website, email Jon ( or call him on his US mobile:: +33 (0)6 46 89 85 33.

*Note: If you’d like to visit Guy in Châteaueuf, he’s open seven days a week, mid April to early November. Private 60- to 90-minute tastings  are free; groups of eight or more pay 15€ per person. You'll taste five to seven wines, including old vintages and a white Châteauneuf. Obviously Guy wants  to sell wine...and his prices are definitely higher than what you'd pay at the winery or at retail...but it’s a small premium for a unique experience  in a cool, historic setting. And, there's no heavy sales pitch: if you like it, you buy it. Another bonus to buying here is that Guy will ship wine to the US when many others won't.  Les Caves Saint Charles is at 10-12 rue des Papes in Châteauneuf. To book a tasting or for more info :  +33 (0)4 90 39 13 85,  +33 (0)6 03 46 47 37,,

Photos: Jon and Guy plating...Jon marketing...clients partying...Guy sniffing...and Guy with clients in his caves in Châteaueuf.


  1. Wow Chateauneuf in California! Where do we sign up?

  2. This sounds amazing. Wish I lived in the West instead of in New York. Maybe they'll consider the eastern US next time.

  3. Oh I wish they were coming to the Kansas City area, there are some great wineries here!

    The Arts by Karena

  4. Fantastic! I know someone in Northern Ca for whom this is a terrific match for his interests.

  5. Sounds utterly fabulous! Thank you Julie for another fantastic post!



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