Saturday, November 26, 2011

Avignon wine tour

As many times as we've done wine travel, we've never signed up for a formal tour.  As I mentioned before, French wine is intimidating to us - so we knew we wanted to schedule a tour while we were in Provence.

Wednesday was our big winery tour with Avignon Wine Tours.   We met them right in the town of Avignon and joined up with 2 other couples from Canada.  David was our guide, and had been a sommelier for 16 years.  He was absolutely fantastic - we can't say enough good things about him.  He lead the whole tour, even in the wineries.  He gave us so many great tips on tasting wine.

This tour was solely of the Chatneaunuf de Pape AOC, which is one of the more popular ones in the Rhone Valley.  We started the tour in the vineyards, looking at how rocky the soil was.  The rocky terroir is one of the factors that really sets Chateaunuf de Pape apart from the others.  

Our first winery was at Domaine de Beaurenard.  It was one of our favorites of the day.

David was fantastic - you can see him way ahead in the white shirt.  He was very patient with everyone's questions and photo taking.  He really took time to explain so many details to us, and we really learned a lot.  Even with as much traveling as we've done, he taught us so much about making and tasting wine.  We learned how to look at the color of the wine and tell the age, smell it before swirling and then after and tell the difference, and to determine the climate of the vintage by the legs.

After Beaurenard, we went to Brotte.  It was right next door.  They have a big tour of the history of wine in the area, which was interesting.  But the wines were our least favorite of the day, for the whole group.

Then it was lunch time with some amazing views - some of the prettiest of the whole trip.

Lunch was amazing - another fantastic one!  It was another set menu, and everyone really raved over it.  It was a lamb stew, and the second one of the week we'd had - really incredible. 

We stopped back in the vineyards afterwards to see a better example of the rocky soil - it was just amazing.  The stones were everywhere.  They are heated by the sun and then keep the ground and roots warm, even when the air temperature is cool and windy.

Next stop was Roger Sabon, which we all loved as well.  Walking through the halls they have storage of very old bottles - it was really cool to see them aging wines from before we were born!

They also had lots of concrete tanks, as well as huge wooded ones.

The final stop was Clos Saint Michel.  It was just lovely!  Since we've returned we've been able to find several of their wines in Total Wine, which is really exciting!  

We went to a few others the next day, including Moulin de Gardette, in the Gigondas AOC, which we loved.  They have a tasting room set up in the town of Gigondas. The girl who we met with was really knowledgable and her English was very good.  We really enjoyed meeting with her.  

We also went to a tasting room that has the current vintage of each of the wines that are in the Gigondas AOC.  It's a great idea, and would be perfect replicated here in Virginia, or areas that wineries are spread all over.  They had these little bottles to do the tastings, and then you could purchase anything that you had tasted.  They could have had a lot more information about the different wines, and in different languages - the girl working wasn't allowed to sway us or tell us anything about the different wines.  Plus she didn't speak any English, which was a little tricky. 

Then we headed up to Domaine de Mourchon.  Located in the small, picturesque town of Seguret at the base of Mount Ventoux, Domaine de Mourchon is owned by the McKinlays, a Scottish family.  They bought the property in 1998.  We met with the owner of the winery, Walter McKinlay.  It was nice after a week of French to talk with someone who'd native language was English!

The facilities were beautiful, and adjacent to the tasting room.  The wines were lovely - we greatly enjoyed our time with Walter and tasting the wine.

The Tavel area is very well known for it's roses, and since we love roses, we visited a few of those wineries.  It was lovely, but kind of a rushed visit.  If we go back, I would love to spend more time in the Tavel region.  But I am very much looking forward to finding some Tavel roses here in the states and trying them!

I am so glad that we took some time to get to know the Rhone Valley and learn about French wines.  I am still completely intimidated by Burgundy and Bordeaux, but I feel that I have learned so much already.  I feel that it's so much more tangible, and look forward to exploring French wine even more!


  1. Reading this I realized I've never been much of a French wine drinker and I think a big part of the reason why is because it is so intimidating. It's definitely something I'm interested in learning more about. And your pictures are gorgeous!

  2. Hi Lindsey - We are going to France in May and came across your blog as I was researching wine tours in the Rhone region. My husband & I live in Florida & we will be flying into Paris for 3 nights then we will meet our friends from Tennessee in Lyon where we will take a Viking river cruise for 8 nights disembarking in Avignon where we will spend 2 nights. I was curious as to how you visited the vineyards on your own? Did you have a car or did you take a taxi? We are looking at a full day tour including the village, olive grove and vineyards in Beaumes de venise, gigondas - vineyards, lunch in a castle in chateauneuf du pape, visit to the village & wine tasting in chateauneuf du pape, chocolate tasting all with an English speaking guide. However it is pretty pricey and I was wondering if it is possible to do something like that on your own. As you have been there I was hoping you could give me some advise before I book it. Thanks Anne Dow email:

    1. Anne, thanks for your note! Your trip sounds wonderful. Since we were in Provence for a whole week, we rented a car. We didn't have any trouble getting around as the streets were well marked, and we used Google maps on my iPad. I have to highly recommend the tour group that this post is about, I thought they were great. Otherwise, we traveled around Provence on our own - markets, wineries, cooking class - and I have other blog posts on several of these items. Enjoy your trip!