On Friday, April 6, our last full day in the Ardeche, we went to the weekly market in Ruoms, then stopped at the Vignerons Ardechois tasting room to try some of their rosés. We had planned to taste some wines after our tour the previous day, but the whirlwind tour ended at noon, and the tasting room was closing. So today we tried several rosés and one white wine, clearly in the wrong order since the pourer chastised us for starting with fruitier rosés then progressing to drier ones, and also committing the cardinal sin of trying the white wine after the rosés. But we did find a rosé that we thought was exceptional, the fruity 2011 Cuvée Oréile, a blend of mostly Grenache and Gamay with a little Syrah, and we bought 6 bottles of it.
After lunch at our gite, we drove to the city of Montelimar, across the Rhone in the Drome department. Montelimar is known for the production of nougat candy (there are dozens of nougat shops throughout the city), and for its medieval chateau, Chateau Adhemar, perched high above the city. We walked through the old part of Montelimar, then made our way up to the chateau for a visit. The chateau was quite interesting and had very good views of the city below, but after leaving the chateau we felt that the 2 hours we had spent walking around Montelimar was sufficient, so we decided to depart.
We headed back from Montelimar by going south rather than taking the direct route through the dreary, traffic-clogged town of Le Teil. It was beautiful countryside once we left Montelimar, and we passed by several charming villages, including Valvignieres, where we stopped to stroll through the town. It was a beautiful village, with lots of interesting old buildings, and two very friendly cats.
There were also plenty of signs protesting against “Gaz de Schiste,” which apparently is the process of extracting natural gas from shale (schiste), or, as it's known in the US, “fracking.” We saw these signs all over the southern Ardeche, and the gite owner, Patrice, told us a little about the current controversy in the region. He was quite familiar with the issue, as his cousin is a geologist with a major French oil and gas company, and has visited the US to study our “fracking” industry.
On Saturday morning we left our gite in the Ardeche to drive to the Aveyron, our next stop. On the way out we stopped at the Vignerons Ardechois tasting/sales room to buy a bottle of their 2011 Vendange d'Octobre (October Harvest), which was being released that day. It's a late harvest sweet Viognier, and would be called a Vendange Tardive except that French law now only allows Alsace to use that term, so other regions have come up with different terms for late harvest wines (and we tried the wine a few days later, and it was spectacular).
It was about a 4 hour drive from the Ardeche to the Aveyron, mostly on smaller roads and much of it through the mountains. It was quite spectacular despite the fact that it rained a fair amount of the trip, and we passed through dozens of small towns and villages. There were also several chateaus and chateau ruins on the route, including one, Chateau de Champ, that offered spectacular views from the road.
We arrived at our gite in Belcastel mid-afternoon. The gite was fabulous and spacious, and has amazing views of the village and the Aveyron River. Belcastel is classified as a Plus Beaux Villages (Most Beautiful Villages) of France, and in this case that's not an overstatement. When the weather clears I'm hoping to take a bunch of pictures of the village, but here are some from the terrace of our gite.