Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Sommelier Larry Stone was the first American to win the title "International Best Sommelier in French Wines and Spirits" and remains the only American to have earned the title of Maitre Sommelier from the Union de la Sommelerie Française. He is also an English-certified Master Sommelier, one of a handful of people who passed the exam on the first attempt. Today he runs the award-winning Rubicon Estate in Napa Valley and is working on his own wine label, Sirita, named for his daughter. Larry loves Provence and so I asked him to tell us five of his favorite local vineyards.

Updated in 2020: Larry now runs Lingua Franca, a winery estate in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, which he co-founded in 2015, inspired by the exceptional vineyard site in the Eola-Amity Hills that he bought in 2012.

1) Brusset Cairanne and Brusset Hauts de Montmirail, nestled up to the slopes of the Ventoux, produce some of the best wines in the region. (Great olive oil can also be found in the district.) They have a place in Cairanne as well as in Gigondas. Go to Gigondas for the views and local flavor. There are some other great wineries there too, like Domaine de Pallieres and Domaine Raspail-Ay

2) Domaine de Trevallon, 7 km west of St. Remy, is making some of the most original and striking wines in Provence. Because his slopes are north-facing Eloi Durrbach planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, instead of the predominant and traditional Mourvedre, which in spite of that makes a wine that exudes the terroir of Provence and the special soils found in Les Baux (as in "bauxite", i.e. aluminum). 

3) Mas de Gourgonnier, near Les Baux. It's family owned and has been farmed organically for over three decades. They utilize a mix of traditional varieties along with some Cabernet Sauvignon for their red wines and Sauvignon Blanc for the white. Their olive oil is a blend of four traditional local varieties.

4) Domaine Tempier's Bandol Rouge La Migoua, La Tourtine, Cabassaou, and also the Ros are legendary wines which are the product of the genial Lucien Peyraud who passed away a decade ago, but under whose guidance this old family estate, owned since 1834, became the birthplace of a modern Provencal renaissance. This estate continues to be the summit of French Mourvedre viticulture; it's the classic and defining grape from Provence. Located near the town of Castellet, the local color is also attractive yet sophisticated with F1 and motorcycle races taking place here. It was also the location for the Marcel Pagnol film, The Baker's Wife

5) Domaine de Rimauresq is in the Cote d'Azur in the beautiful town of Pignans and makes a delicious and unique white wine from around 85% Rolle, with a little Ugni Blanc. The red wines are also outstanding and the estate was one of the top places after phylloxera beginning in the late 1880s. The winery is modern in technique but the vineyard is old and traditionally farmed. It was acquired in the late 1980s by a Scottish family and is located near Toulon.

Also...Chateau Vignelaure near Rians is making excellent wines...and so is Richaume in Puyloubier (Cotes de Provence), created by a cello-playing history professor and now run by his son.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Think of This Blog as a Bulletin Board

Bonjour! I'm hoping my new blog will be a great way to keep each other posted about things we experience and love here in our little corner of paradise.

I hope that when you discover a charming village, new restaurant, gorgeous hotel, unique shop, great-value wine or anything else worthwhile, you'll share the names with us. If you hear about an upcoming event that sounds like fun--an art show, concert, dance performance, truffle festival, whatever--please let me know so I can post it.

If you're looking to buy or sell something...if you know of groups that need volunteers...or interesting classes...or good deals...or a great beach...or a new business that needs our support...or anything that will make our lives here more meaningful or more fun...email me at: provenceblog@aol.com

As time passes, I'll see how this works and decide if it makes sense to continue. My dear friend Terry Kelleher got the ball rolling with his website AlpillesNews.com; it served a great purpose and is definitely missed. Now I'm hoping I can take things to the next level and I really hope you'll all participate. All advice and comments welcome!

Finally, a big thank you to Ruth Phillips and Julian Merrow-Smith, my new best friends in the Vaucluse! They were complete strangers when I wrote them this morning to see if the name I had chosen for this blog (Postcards from Provence) was too similar to the name of Julian's blog and website (it's called Postcard from Provence and you see it at http://shiftinglight.com/) and if they'd prefer that I change it. I had barely hit send when they replied that I was welcome to use the name...but because they were so nice, I changed it. And then, of course, it turns out that we have friends in common and share food as a passion....and we're already trading restaurant tips. Julian's paintings are very beautiful and quite affordable; they're sold auction style. The pitcher and brioche at the top of this post are his...and I encourage you all to visit his site, which changes daily.

Best Wishes!