Wine Not Strasbourg?

However my real disappointment came when I finally tried the cremants from Alsace back in Canada. not because they weren’t amazing they are! they are so amazing all I could think was ” I could have been drinking these the whole time.’

I can’t quite remember why I wanted to go to Alsace, especially Strasbourg but if I think back, it is probably because I love the French dish Choucroute garnie. IMG_6041Choucroute garnie is a regional dish from Alsace . It is made from sauerkraut, sausage and often ham hock, shoulder or even bacon. It is made with white wine (Alsatian of course) and it is all kinds of delicious. Enough of a reason to visit Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace for me.

If you visit Alsace, Strasbourg in particular, you could be forgiven for not knowing if  you are in Germany or France. Alsace through its history has been both German and French and both cultures have a historical and cultural presence in Alsace. The half timbered houses, meat and sausage heavy dishes speak to its German influences (as does the use of sauerkraut). The love of wine, baguettes and its tarte flambee/flammekueche suggest its French influence. Despite the name flammekueche is a onion tart dish with cream that reminds me more of France.

Strasbourg in Alsace is beautiful. The Petit France area in particular is full if life, good food and plenty of pottery that is beautiful and unique. (seriously bring and empty suitcase and buy lots of it!!!) the river in Strasbourg is scenic, and dotted with tons of little river boat cafes.

We didn’t eat here but it was a great spot to stop for a mid afternoon drink. Which I did of course. Strasbourg is also the host to the European Parliament . It is well worth a visit. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/portal/en

So obviously when we arrived  in Strasbourg we were on a mission. Te mission included eating as much local cuisine as possible, (check), buying as much pottery as possible (check and check) , exploring the beautiful city (check), and of course appreciating the Alsatian wine (check but really fail)

I love French wine and if you asked me, I would have told you I truly appreciated the wine from Alsace. And to be fair I did try it but as a person who doesn’t really drink white wine, I failed to understand what I was ordering and didn’t really take the time to understand and appreciate it. I quickly switched to back to reds (mostly from the Rhone) and carried on smugly thinking I had given Alsace wine a fair shot. I didn’t though.

Since then I have been taking the French Wine Scholar Course online through the Wine Scholar Guild (Yes that is an obvious humblebrag) and After studying the Alsace region. Well I knew nothing and failed to appreciate it even more! Alsace uses the German method of labeling ( that is putting the grape on the label) and use Riesling, Klevner, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir (to make whites and roses!! and a few reds) and Gewurztraminer as the main grapes. Few of the varieties are blended and if they are they are known gentil (contains 50% of the Noble grapes)or Edlezwicker which is blended with any Alsace grapes. Knowing and understanding the grapes (especially the blends) with the soil type and vineyard (is it a grand cru?) can make for a more pleasant wine drinking experience. For instance if you like Rieslings and blends, you may want to try a gentil. also the Alsatian wine glasses are beautiful. Short clear goblets with a green stem!

However my real disappointment came when I finally tried the cremants from Alsace back in Canada. not because they weren’t amazing they are! they are so amazing all I could think was ” I could have been drinking these the whole time.’ They were smooth, easy drinking but still sparking. Perfect for the warm summer day! I encourage everyone to try them, they are incredibly enjoyable and considerably less expensive. Also if you don’t enjoy the sweetness that often accompanies a prosecco or the crispness of the cava, the cremant from Alsace is for you! That said, If you like white, Alsace has truly amazing whites, which I have also since discovered.

However to truly appreciate the Alsace wines, take a road trip on the wine route down to Colmar. I know that is my plan for my next visit to Alsace, that an an empty stomach for the amazing food and empty suitcase for the pottery!

Bordeaux, Worth the Hype?

We were pleasantly unsurprised at their amazing wine selection. Yes these definitely are my people too.

By now, my love is of France and all things French is well documented. However I have always been reluctant to visit Bordeaux. There is no real reason, except the well documented rivalry between Burgundy (Bourgogne to be exact) and Bordeaux, my heart has always been with Bourgogne. Bourgogne is renowned for being a culinary and wine epicenter. The culture embraces , relishes and celebrates its famous dishes and wines with gusto. Food fads (looking at you quinoa) and calories counting don’t have a place in Burgundian culture. There wines and wine making are known the world over for their velvety smoothness, complexity and all around amazingness. So why would I go to Bordeaux?

Bordeaux and Bourgogne are the best known and most revered fine wine producers from France. They are held in the highest esteem (and price tags) the world over. Bordeaux is known for its Chateaux and large vineyards on the west and south (ish) corner of France. ( It is also known for the Merlot grape,as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon blanc) Bourgogne is known for its Domaines and small vineyards on the east and north (ish) corner of France ( it is known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes ). Both regions produce amazing and sometimes unpredictable wine. In short as the World Atlas of Wine states “If Bourgogne is sensual, than Bordeaux is cerebral.” So why would I want to go there?

Well as its turns out, World Atlas of Wine does not mean this as an insult, so the answer is lots and lots of reasons. Bordeaux is a wonder.IMG_4503 But just how did I get there? Well as it turns out @benton8tor has a thing for rather intense borderline insane drives. He wanted to drive through the Pyrenees and the best place to start from that has an airport connecting to Rome is Bordeaux (side note: It is Ryanair that flies from Rome to Bordeaux, though the staff are very kind, the airlines policies are terrible so there is a good chance you will pay another regular airline ticket price for extras, I DO NOT recommend them, there are many other airlines regular or budget that are infinitely better any one from City Jet, East Jet to Air France or British Airways, Many other better airlines fly to Bordeaux, rant over)

Arriving somewhat hesitantly in Bordeaux, my sulky mindset was determined not to like it. This took about 45 seconds before I changed my mind. 20160901_153038Arriving at the luggage carousel is a giant bottle of Bordeaux wine (yes it is fake). Could these be my people too? Bordeaux is a beautiful city, old with stunning architecture but surprisingly easy to navigate. Upon arriving at our hotel the Best Western Gare St Jean http://www.hotel-bordeaux-saint-jean.com/en/ We were pleasantly unsurprised at their amazing wine selection. Yes these definitely are my people too. Our room was modern, clean and quite pretty. The hotel itself is full of old world charm and beauty. Just like Bordeaux itself.

We were able to settle in and the hotel staff recomended some wines from Bordeaux to start us off. Tasting wines from St Emilion and Pomerol on the right bank of the Medoc, I was surprised at how good they were. I had always believed unless you paid top dollar (which I can not afford) Bordeaux wines were boring. Not at all, these wines were amazing! Velvety and silky. I had to have more. I then tried a Saint Julien from the left bank. Also great, albeit different than the right bank with more tannins  and spicier? flavours present. What the what? Even more surprising I thought Bordeaux food was also rumored to be boring. Again not so, my amuse bouche snacks of olives, tapenades and nuts were surprisingly tasty. Bordeaux was slowly sneaking its way into my heart.

We toured the city and its quaint but robust shopping in the centre, beautiful churches and walked along the River Garonne. Walking along the river is not only beautiful there are some amazing almost hidden restaurants and wine bars to sample the amazing Bordeaux wine.

Cafe du Levant is a Belle Epoque esque restaurant near the train station. It is worth a visit for the decor alone but as I was starting to discover its wines were amazing. Stick to local specialties like steak with bordelaise sauce or fish. http://cafedulevant.ch/IMG_4527

Unfortunately for me, we were off too soon to to the Pyrenees ( but not before sampling the Sauternes YUM!!!) and I was full of regret, regret for my snobbish preconceived notions preventing me from going to an amazing place, trying amazing wine and tasting amazing food. Regret for not enough time and most of all regret for not having enough time to visit the chateaux,  the villages and taste more wine.

Bourgogne has my heart but Bordeaux? Well Bordeaux has found its rightful place there too. Both regions are a love letter to wine and too life. Neither should be missed and with that, Bordeaux, Toute le monde.

Vines and Voyages 5 Fav Restaurants in France

Le Vivier is nothing short of amazing and considering it is a Michelin restaurant, very affordable. The food is updated Provencal. I had a green tomato gazpacho that was out of this world

Often when travelling, deciding where to eat can be a challenge. Maybe you have done your research, read the reviews, and made your plan. There is a lot of value to this approach. You are less likely to be disappointing and it can save time but… you can miss out on lesser known amazing restaurants, you can be disappointed and maybe once you are actually travelling you feel like trying something different. Or maybe you take the other approach and decide to ask locals once you are there or simply scout around looking for a restaurant that looks good. Whatever the approach, they all have benefits and drawbacks.

Eating in restaurants and trying different foods is one of my favorite reasons to travel. In France especially, the food is usually fresh, seasonal and regional. Asking for recommendations is key and staying away from restaurants in tourist areas (i.e. Eiffel tour) is key. I have put together a list of my top 5 favorites.

5. Cafe L’absinthe Paris France. https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g187147-d4341374-Reviews-L_absinthe_Cafe-Paris_Ile_de_France.html. Located in the northern part of the Marais, Cafe L’absinthe is a very local bistrot. The service is especially friendly, the atmosphere cozy and the wine delicious and inexpensive. The food is solid. I had the charcuterie and @benton8tor the lamb. Also try the absinthe!

4. Brassiere le Carnot in Beaune, France has the classic French feel. dark wood, french lighting and wine served in beautiful porcelain jugs. thumbnail_IMG_0704Beaune in the heart of Burgundy is the center of Burgundy’s famous wine and the epicenter for Burgundy’s legendary gastronomy. Burgundy is famous for bœuf bourguignon, Coq au Vin, and more. Le Carnot features local ingredients. In the summer the gazpacho is amazing along with the jambon. Beef tartare is a don’t miss. http://www.brasserielecarnot.com/

3. Still in Beaune La Grilladine offers amazing set menus featuring Burgundy classics. Both the restaurant and the patio offer a lovely atmosphere.Europe June 2010 393 The bœuf bourguignon is delicious as is the parsilined ham.. @Benton8tor swears by the perfectly cooked Charolais beef and scallops. My dad loved the escargot and my mom had the underrated chicken in mustard dish ( You are close to Dijon so…). The wine is incredible ( you are in Burgundy after all) but ask the servers for recommendations to pair to get the best wine experience. My dad and I had wines from the famed cote de nuit which we loved. Desert for me was pears poached in the the burgundy wine. Definitely check it out. http://lagrilladine.fr/

2. Olivier Leflaive. Well we are still in Burgundy. It is a culinary hot spot so it makes sense. If you are violivier-2siting Burgundy make sure to check out Olivier Leflaive. located in the famed Puligny-Montrachet village and appellation, Olivier Leflaive is vineyard, hotel and restaurant and is not to be missed. The 5 courses were paired perfectly with some of the best wines.2014 We started with the lightest gougeres and moved on to a ham terrine with mustard sauce.We also enjoyed a amazing carrot souffle, chicken and desert. We upgraded to the 7 tasting with our meal which included a a few grand and premier crus. Looking for a wonderful French experience, try Olivier Leflaive. https://www.olivier-leflaive.com/en/

  1. Leaving Burgundy fr Provence, My favourite French restaurant to date is Restaurant le Vivier in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is amazing. @benton8tor had researched Michelin starred restaurants and we decided to give it a try. Away from the main drag in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue le Vivier is nothing short of amazing and considering it is a Michelin restaurant, very affordable. The food is updated Provencal. I had a green tomato gazpacho that was out of this world, followed by a bacon, mozza and tomato soup. My pork course was amazing and my peach and chocolate desert with raspberry sauce was incredible. @benton8tor nicknamed it the space odyssey dessert as when you poured the raspberry sauce on the chocolate sphere, it opened to reveal a peach based dessert inside. The wine was Provencal, light and easy drinking. @benton8tor opted for a rose and pigeon pie. His dessert featured violets from the neighboring Langedoc. the patio overlooks the river and the service is perfect. You won’t be disappointed. https://www.levivier-restaurant.com/cuisine-gastronomique-etoile-restaurant-le-vivier-vaucluse/

There are many other amazing restaurants in France, I didn’t get to mention but asking locals, restaurants featuring regional specialties, or just going to the market yourself, you are sure to enjoy France and its its world famous food.

Les Beaux Villages

Chateauneuf-du-Pape is about 30 minutes north of Avignon.Not only do you get to see a stunning village, you are in the heart of some of the most well known, tasty, boldest red wines produced in France. You could spend ( and if you are like me you probably will) your entire day tasting wines

Visiting villages is one of my favourite things to do when I travel. Though they can be touristy, more often than not, they provide an authentic experience of what the region has to offer. Provence in the south of France is especially famous for its Beaux Villages. If you visit there you can see why! They are amazing. This week I will focus on my top 5 favourite Beaux Villages in Provence. These are only my to 5, Seriously  in Provence, I don’t think you can go wrong with any village.

ChateauIMG_4798neuf-du-Pape is a very famous wine region, in fact this Southern Rhone region is so famous for its wine, it is easy to forget Chateauneuf-du-Pape is also a village and a beautiful one at that. Located in the Vaucluse region of Provence, Chateauneuf-du-Pape is about 30 minutes north of Avignon.Not only do you get to see a stunning village, you are in the heart of some of the most well known, tasty, boldest red wines produced in France. You could spend ( and if you are like me you probably will) your entire day tasting wines at vineyards or négociant ( essentially a wine merchant that represents certain vineyards) . Why not go??

Well go for the wine and stay for the scenery. Despite being a bit of a tourist/wine mecca, Chateauneuf-du-Pape gives you the feeling of a slow , dreamy, beautiful pace of life. The streets are beautiful, clean and studded with trees, there are many restaurants and shops tucked in amongst the wine merchants and wineries. In short there is plenty to do even if that means just people watching on one of the many sidewalk cafes.

We almost didn’t make it there. Though @benton8tor loves Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine, he loves new exploring new places even more. We had never been in the village but we had visited wineries in the area before. He wasn’t really game but seeing we had just come out of a 2 day white knuckle hysterical crying fit (on my part) drive in the beautiful Pyrenees, he wasn’t in a position to say no. Besides by this time he probably realized copious amounts of wine were only going to improve my mood so away we went. After a morning of shopping in l’Isle Sur la Sorgue, we arrived in Chateauneuf-du-Pape for lunch. We finally picked a place near a fountain in the square with lots of wine tourist passing by on their way to the next tasting.IMG_4778 @benton8tor rolled his eyes and sighed ” I guess I am just going to have to eat bad food” He assumed any restaurant on the tourist path would be bad. I however had a pretty good feeling. Sitting on the beautiful patio, Ben struck up a conversation with the table next to us. Turns out they were English, tasting wine and had just enjoyed the best burger ever, Ben still dubious, however ordered it. Turns out it was the best burger he ever had in France, and well you couldn’t go wrong with the wine. The burger had a hint of pink (@benton8tor likes his burgers on the rare side with a trusted source) and the fries were crisp and tantalizingly golden. My tomato pate with cinnamon sorbet was sweet, and savory and decidedly refreshing.  Our server recommended wineries to try and gave us thoroughly excellent service. I could have sat there all day, relishing in my smugness of being right, but there was wine to try.

Our first stop was at a négociant. We probably spent an hour with him. We tasted quite a large varthumbnail_IMG_6362iety of wine and spent a good deal of time chatting about the various vineyards, the grapes, and the producers. It reminded me of some of the producers in Burgundy. We ended up tasting one of the best wines ever.Cuvee des Jeune filles IMG_4797Lacoste- Trintignan. We spent more than we thought we would, but the wine was well worth it. 

 

 

We spent the rest of the afternoon at various wineries. try as many as you can, you can’t go wrong but Chateau de Nerthe is a beautiful vineyard with amazing wine so it is a must do.http://www.chateaulanerthe.fr/

Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a very walkable village, and probably not the best village if you are looking to experience a typical French country experience. The draw of the wine makes it far to much of a touristy for that  but yes there is more to Chateuneuf -du-Pape than wine but the wine is so delicious, why would you miss out?