Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Back in the USA; Jura Recap

  We're now re back in the US, and I’ll briefly recap the last half of our week in the Jura as a vehicle to post some more photos.
   On Wednesday of that week, we spent time visiting a couple more spectacular Plus Beaux Villages not far from where we were staying: Chateau-Chalon and Baumes les Messieures.  We also drove by 2 nearby chateaus, Chateau de Frontenay and Chateau le Pin, and stopped at two more cheese fruitieres to pick up some Morbier and Comte.

                                  Village of Chateau-Chalon

                                  Chateaux Frontennay and Le Pins:
    On Thursday we spent most of the day in Dole, the largest town in the Jura, which is dominated by a large church in the center of town perched high on a hill.  The Doubs River runs through the middle of town, as does the Rhone/Rhine Canal.  Before heading back to our gite we took a long walk along the canal, and watched a boat traversing one of the locks in Dole.
The next day, our last full day in the Jura, we drove through the wine village of Pupillin again, stopping to pick up more sparkling Cremant de Jura at DesirĂ© Petit, and also tasted some wine at Domaine de la Pinte in Arbois.  We then drove into the hills outside Arbois and through the nearby valley, stopping at the village of Les Planches to see its waterfall and at a few viewing points with some spectacular views of the valley below.
     We also spent part of the day observing, and also feeding, some of he wildlife in Brainans, the village we were staying in.
              Some cows in the field behind the back yard of the house we were renting:
                                           Hungry cat in the village:
                 Feeding the goats grazing in the field by the church:

      On Saturday morning we left our gite in the Jura.  Before leaving we spent some time talking to the gite owners and the Alsatian family who had rented the house next to ours, and we found out a little more about the extent of the volcanic eruption in Iceland and airport closures, although we were told that the problem might clear up in a day or two.  It wasn’t until we got to our next destination that it became clear that we wouldn’t be returning on Monday as planned.

    After leaving the Jura we drove to Yvoire, another one of the Plus Beaux Villages of France, which is located on Lake Geneva.  We didn’t do much of anything there besides walk around the medieval center of Yvoire, admiring the architecture, flowers, and the chateau that dominates the town.  With dinner at our hotel (Le Vieux Logis, located at the entrance to the medieval center of Yvoire), we continued our exploration of obscure regional wines, trying some white wines from the minuscule Savoie appellation of Crepy, which is situated near Lake Geneva isolated from the rest of the various Savoie appellations.

  After we left Yvoire the next morning we drove to Segny, on the other side of Lake Geneva but also in France.  We chose Segny because it was only a few miles from  the Geneva airport, where we were returning our car and flying home from the next morning, or so we thought. But, as I have already written about in a couple of prior positings, we wound up spening an extra night in Segny at La Bonne Auberge, 3 nights in Annecy, then the final night in Geneva.  And now here I am in Las Vegas writing this posting and dealing with the fallout from my mother's death a couple of weeks ago.  Funny thing is, Las Vegas seems far more foreign than France.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ice Cream in Annecy; Fondue in Geneva

    Here I am in our hotel in Geneva, after having had fondue for dinner, wishing I could have some ice cream from one of the fantastic ice cream shops in Annecy. On our last full day in Annecy we decided to do a comparison of some of the ice cream places in town.  There are ice cream shops all over the center of the town, as there were in the small town of Yvoire, where we had stayed last weekend.  When we spent a week in Annecy in April 2009, we visited one particular shop – Glacier des Alpes – several times, and never experimented with any others, because it was so good.  Amazingly, when we stopped at this shop this week, the proprietor came up to us and said hello and shook our hand, saying that he remembered us from last year.  Since this place is always swarming with business, I couldn’t believe that he remembered us.  And this afternoon, when we had an ice cream there after lunch just before leaving for Geneva, he did what he did last year on our final visit – he gave Ann her ice cream without charge; but not mine.
  Here's the shop before it opened for the day:

      Here's a view of it from our hotel window, at the end of the narrow street:

    In any event, we decided to try some other places to see how they compared with that shop. At first it was going to be a “scientific” test, comparing each shop’s Noisette (hazelnut) -- which is Ann’s favorite – and Cassis – which is one of my favorites.  However, several places didn’t have Noisette, so we couldn’t follow through on that.  Also, we found it impossible to try every place, since there were too many of them and we got full too fast.  The verdict – all were good, some better than others, but none were as good as Glacier des Alpes.  Below are some photos of a few other places.
               And across the canal from our hotel window:

   We did do more in Annecy than eat ice cream.  Like eat cheese and drink wine. And take walks around the lake.  Yesterday we took a bus along the lake to the town of Talloires, which we discovered in walking around the town, has a branch of Tufts University.  Here's are a couple of views of the lower part of Lake Annecy taken from the bus stop in Talloires:

   We didn't take any pictures in Geneva.  After the beauty of the rural countryside and medieval Annecy and its lake, Geneva was kind of a letdown. It's just a huge, bustling city of business.  And not a place to try to get by on a budget.  But we did have very good fondue and Swiss white wine for dinner, including wine from the Aigle region from the Chasselas grape, which had been recommended by a friend and also by a resident of Geneva whose sister is a good friend of ours.

  And tomorrow we return home, where I hope to finally post some photos from the last half of our week in the Jura.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Wine and Cheese of the Day

  This morning in Annecy was packed with action - an early morning walk along the canal, a walk to our favorite cheese shop to pick up some cheese and a bottle of wine for lunch, followed by a 6-8 mile walk along the lake.
      By the time we finished the walk, we were as hungry as these two ducks:
  At the cheese shop, we talked to the owner, whom we had met last year, and left some cheese from Maine when we arrived at the start of the trip.  He thought the cheese, from Hahn's End in Phippsburg, was excellent.  And the wine we bought today, a 2008 Chignin-Bergeron from Denis et Didier Berthollier, was amazing.  Chignin-Bergeron is a small appellation in the Savoie which only has white wines from the Roussanne grape variety, which is one of the noble grape varieties of the northern Rhone.
    We had a couple of goat cheeses with the wine at lunch -- one was from the Savoie, and one was from Burgundy, which we had bought at a market earlier in the trip.  Links for the wine producer (in French only) and Burgundy cheese producer are listed below:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Back in Annecy .... Again

  My first posting on this trip was from Annecy, entitiled: Back in Annecy, France. I didn't expect to be back so soon but here we are, probably for 3 days.  At some point I still hope to post some photos from our week in the Jura, but for now I'll just continue from the last post.

        On Monday, the morning that we were supposed to fly home from the Geneva airport, we extended our car rental and our stay at La Bonne Auberge for one day, and then drove to the nearby village of Challex.  We had read that the only vineyards in the entire area were in and around Challex, on the Swiss border, and I knew absolutley nothing about the wines of the region. In Challex we saw a sign for Domane de Mucelle, and although the owner/winemaker normally only opens his doors to visitors from 5-6 p.m., he said he would be happy to open his tasting room for us.  He said there were a few other grape growers in the village, but he was the only one who bottled and sold wine.  We tasted a couple of whites -- a 100% Chasselas and a 100% Pinot Gris – and a few reds (Gamay and Pinot Noir are the rd grapes grown here).  There are no AOC wines in the area; all of these wines were designated Vin de Pays de l’Ain (the Ain is the department we were in).  I was amazed at how good the wines were, and we bought a Gamay, a Pinot Gris, and a sparkling Chasselas.  We had bought some wine glasses at a winery the week before, and having managed to secure a corkscrew and a cheese knife, we enjoyed these wines over the next couple of days, along with a lot more cheese.

    That afternoon we drove through the Jura mountains and visited some small villages in the valley on the other side.

    That night I managed to book a hotel in Annecy over the Inernet, so on Tuesday we returned our car at the Geneva airport and took a bus to Annecy, where our trip had started exactly 3 weeks before.  The hotel, while modest, was right in the center of the old part of Annecy, and we had amazing views of the canal below, as well the chateau and church high above the town.  These photos were all taken from our room:


Monday, April 19, 2010


   Our vacation has been extended for the rest of the week; the earliest flight we could get was Saturday.  So now we have to do some planning. Meanwhile, La Bonne Auberge, where we stayed last night, had a cancellation, so we're here one more night.  Below is a view from our window, plus a photo of a nearby chateau and a resident cat.  This town and the nearby towns are not overly attractive, but at least the Auberge is charming, there is an excellent bakery and cheese shop across the street, and there is an abbaye not too far where cheese is produced, so we're planning a trip there.  The Jura photos will follow when I can get them organized.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


  I'm hoping to do at least one more post, as I have a lot of photos.  Because of the volcano, we're "stuck" in France; our flight tomorrow has been cancelled, and I don't know when we'll be home.

Friday, April 16, 2010


  First, a few more photos from the Ardeche that I didn't have time to post yesterday.

             On Saturday, April 10, we left the Ardeche and drove to the Jura. Our first planned stop was at the Cave de Sarras wine cooperative in the northern Ardeche, which we knew closes for lunch at noon. We figured we’d just make it, but there were several traffic delays after we got off the main road. We pulled into the parking lot at the Cave at about one minute before noon, and to our horror we saw that the metal grate at the entrance was just starting to roll down. So we missed it by less than a minute.

            After driving out of Sarras, we decided to take another detour, this time to a village, which we knew wouldn’t close for lunch! We stopped at Perouges, one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France (Most Beautiful Villages in France), and took a brief stroll around the village. We then headed off to our gite in the Jura, in the tiny village of Brainans, arriving right on time to meet the owners. Brainans is a tiny village with a church high up on the hill overlooking the village. From the road outside our gite there is a good view of the church and its clock tower, with a vineyard between the church and the road:

        We later drove to the nearby commercial center of Poligny, where we stocked up on some provisions. That night, we drank the Cremant de Jura from Domaine Boisson that was given to us by the gite owners. Most producers in the Jura make sparkling wines, with the AOC being Cremant de Jura. The Boisson Cremant, like many sparkling wines from Champagne, was made from a Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend, and it was a dead ringer for a good Champagne. Jura sparkling wines are rarely seen outside the region (although one, Domaine Rolet “Couer de Chardonnay,” is available in Maine), and the best rival most Champagnes at a fraction of the price.

          We spent the next morning in Arbois, a modest-sized town that is the center of the Jura wine region, and stopped at the tasting room of Domaine Rolet Pere et Fils. We tried a full range of their wines, and bought a Vin de Paille and a Cote de Jura that was 100% Savagnin grapes. This Savagnin was made in the traditional oxidized, oaky style of Jura Savignans, not dissimilar to a fino sherry. After lunch at our gite we returned to Arbois via back roads along the Routes des Vins, visited the wine museum there, and went to 2 other tasting rooms: Domaine Andre et Mirielle Tissot, and Domaine Jacques Tissot. We both thought the wines of the first Tissot, now run by son Stephane, were rather bizarre and not to our liking. But we loved the wines of Jacques Tissot, and bought 3 of their wines: a Cremant de Jura Brut; a Vin de Paille; and an Arbois Savagnin “Nature,” which was a fresh and fruity wine made in the newer style of Jura Savignans, which emphasizes fruit and avoids oxidation and excessive oak.

  For more info on Jura wines, here are some sites:

Thursday, April 15, 2010


  A prior posting about the southern Ardeche covered through the first part of our week there. The latter part of the week involved drives to a number of small villages scattered throughout the hills of the Ardeche, visits to a few more wine producers (plus 2 more stops at Domaine Mazel), and a couple of trips to market towns.

  On Thursday afternoon, after going to the morning market in Vallon Pont d’ Arc, we drove towards the Cevenne Ardechoise hills, first stopping in the village of Vinezac, so named because of all the vineyards surrounding the village. After Vinezac, we stopped at the small village of Faugeres, where winemaker Jerome Mazel’s mother hails from. The village is dominated by a church, with spectacular views to the surrounding countryside.

The next morning we went to the market in Ruoms, where we bought a large supply of fromage de chevre from a local goat cheese producer, as well as a bottle of 2005 Domaine des Vigneaux “Peyrol” Vin de Pays Coteaux de l’Ardeche, a 100% Syrah wine aged for 1 year in oak. I didn’t know anything about the wine, but the wine seller, who seemed to be partaking of plenty of his wares, highly recommended the producer. We had it a few days later with dinner, and it was outstanding; a complex, smooth red wine on a par with just about any northern Rhone Syrah wine I’d ever had.

Friday afternoon we took a long drive, through the larger towns of Aubenas and Val-les-Bains and then up into the hills to several small villages: Antraigues, Meyras, and Thueyts. These 3 village, along with a few others we visited, are officially designated as Ardeche “Villages of Character.”
                                          Antraigues, a hilltop village:


             We finished the day, our last full day in the Ardeche, with another stop at Domaine Mazel, where Jerome’s father had just put a printout of my web posting about the domaine in a sleeve for display in the cave/tasting room. We chatted with Mazel pere et fils one more time, bought some more wine, and said au revoir. The next morning we left the Ardeche after one more brief stop at ... not Domaine Mazel ... Ruoms for some photos

  To be continued (with more photos) when I get faster Internet service, hopefully tomorrow ......