Wine Walk Through the Village…What’s Not to Love?

 

When staying in the Languedoc Roussillon area of France, and our host suggested we might like a ‘wine walk through a village’, we readily agreed. What foodie and wine lover wouldn’t like to have the opportunity to taste some of the 30 or 40 local wines, sample gourmet food prepared by an excellent chef, visit with wine makers and growers throughout the day, and experience a beautiful natural park near the village?

Sign us up…

Nestled between scrubland, ponds, and hills, the village of Peyriac de Mer sits on a diversity of soils, including limestone, chalk, and gravel. Combine those soils with the variety of microclimates found here and you have the perfect combination for enhancing the character of different grapes. Hence, producing exceptional wines.

So far, sounds amazing…

Ready for our wine tasting and gastronomic walk, we bundled up and headed off to meet our host. Since a pesky cold front was hanging around, we wore layers. I do mean layers. As we headed out onto a dock along the edge of the lake, the wind whipped up white caps and threatened to knock us into the choppy, gray water.

Quickly, we realized we were not walking through the delightful village, but up and around the lake, past an old, working salt flat, across a high ridge where the views of the Mediterranean were fantastic, and through the Nature Park. Walking shoes would have been appropriate for the six plus kilometer journey that took us up over 300 meters from where we started. The village…that’s where we ended.

What did we get into?

Another reason the wines here are special, is the wind. It contributes to soil ventilation, thus improving the quality of the wines. All well and good, unless you’re trying to walk along the top of the ridge as the wind is determined to blow you into one of the lakes below. I’m quite sure it could have blown me off the top and into the Mediterranean had I not been hanging on to my husband.

So, what did we think once we finished our ‘walk’ and headed into the village for coffee and sunshine?

Wines…they were fantastic. All of them. What’s not to like about a glass of Montfin Blanc from Chateau Montfin, a glass of Grenache Blanc from Chateau Fabre-Cordon, or a glass of Rose from Abbaye Sainte Eugenie? Visiting with the wine makers and growers, often the same person, made those glasses even more special. I almost hated to leave one wine stop and hike to the next one. Until I tasted the next group of wines, that is.

Food…also fantastic. Who wouldn’t want a piece of fresh, crusty bread with perfectly sliced beef carpaccio, copeaux or shavings of semi-soft goat cheese, and rosemary sprigs to pair with your glass of Carignena? Next stop, salmon gravelax, sprinkled with petit peas, and a dollop of lemon cream, and our choice of Grenache Blanc or Vent Marin Blanc. Of course the epaule or shoulder of lamb with sprigs of thyme, olive oil, and petardon peas was perfect with my glass of Mire la Mer. When we made it to the dessert stop, we were ready to be on flat ground again as we ate our crème caramel with candied oranges, beurre sale, and almonds. Paired with either a sweeter Musc’ito or a Banyuls Ame de pierre, a blend of Grenache, Grenache Blanc, and Grenache Gris made us smile as we headed to the village. We were in Heaven…and full.

The walk…incredible views, friendly people, knowledgeable wine growers, and even some hunters who offered homemade salami and saucisse. Yummy, beautiful, and nothing like we had ever done before.

Asked by our host if we would do this again…even with the weather, terrain, and wind as challenges. Absolutely. Why would we complain about being in the wonderful French countryside, eating delicious food, and drinking amazing wines?

After all, this was not any ordinary ‘wine walk’…it was so much better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Do This?

Recently I read where Honolulu will become the first major city in the US to pass legislation making distracted walking a crime. In October anyone who is caught looking at their phone or tablets while crossing a street will be fined.

Apparently, those who do this are thought of as ‘smartphone zombies’ and are viewed as dangerous as they walk and text.

Fines may range from $15 to $99.

Thoughts?

Valpolicella Wines…Do You Like Them?

THE HARVEST 2017 WILL BRING THE FRUITS OF AN EXCEPTIONAL YEAR. THE 6th OF SEPTEMBER THE PRE-HARVEST CONFERENCE ORGANIZED BY THE CONSORTIUM FOR THE TUTELAGE OF VALPOLICELLA WINES

The Consortium clarifies the members of the crucial points about the new telematic fulfillment for the traceability of wines. With this aim, it will discuss the wine-growing campaign, whose harvest this year promises very well, controls and registrations during the September 6 pre-harvest meeting at Park Hotel Villa Quaranta.

The year 2017 will certainly be remembered among the best millésimes of Valpolicella. An optimal grape quality, both from the health point of view and analytical parameters. Distressed problems related to meteoric events, unlike many other Italian territories, which have been not so fortunate, with the only element of difficulty found in water shortage, caused by the low rainfall affected by non-irrigated vitrified soils.

Following the greeting of President Andrea Sartori, Renzo Caobelli, the Consortium agronomist, will analyze the climate and the course of the pathologies and highlight how the vine withstanded the warm and dry course of the season and at the same time hampered the spread of “moisture lover” diseases and insects.

The grapes ripening status, found in the vineyard stations that are monitored each year, will be illustrated, measuring the main chemical and phenological parameters.

“This year’s results show an early grape ripening, compared to last year, with optimum values ​​for both sugar content and total acidity. This is a vintage that leaves a great hope in the export, “says Olga Bussinello, the Director of the Consortium.

Moreover, Luca Sartori from Siquria, will discuss about vineyard and fruit control in relation to the harvest in progress and to conclude Roman Popa from the company Validus, will give operational indications on the keeping of telematic registers, now mandatory after the actual conclusion of the “accompanying period” and the official entering into force of the DM 293/2015. In particular, he will analyze the traceability of products that will be trademark with the RRR logo (the Sustainability Certificate created by the Consortium), starting from the 2017 harvest.

Lake County…Just One More Wine Destination

Fall and travel just seem to go together. Whether it’s far or near…traveling is a good way to see new places or to see familiar places in a different light. Memories are just part of traveling.

In my case, I review places for different blogs and publications and I showcase some of those reviews here.

Recently, we spent a weekend in Lake County, California. It’s about a two-hour drive from San Francisco or from where we live. Parts of the area we visited were ravaged by major wildfires in 2015 and we wondered what we would see.

Some of that destruction is still obvious as shells of cars and partially burned homes remained in a few of the smaller towns. Hillsides with blackened sticks of burned trees, brilliant green grass abundant around them, sat right next to vibrant trees which weren’t touched by the flames. Forest fire is an odd creature.

Closer to Clear Lake, green hills, dormant volcanos, and brilliant blue skies were the sites we noticed. It’s easy to see why the American Lung Association has proclaimed the air here some of the cleanest in the nation. All we had to do was breathe to figure that out. With all the clear air and not a lot of light pollution, the Taylor Observatory offers some amazing star gazing.

If you’ve never heard of or spent time at Clear Lake…you should. With over 100 miles of shoreline, it is the largest natural freshwater lake wholly within California. And…for you fishermen, it’s supposedly the land of bass fishing.

Those old volcanos…their soil rich in ash is great for producing impressive Cabernets and Suavignon Blancs. We tried several…and have to agree.

Stay tuned for more reviews of this amazing area.

What’s the Most Photographed Chateau in the Loire Valley?

Chateau de Chenonceau

Quite the distinction to say Chateau de Chenonceau is the most visited and the most photographed chateau in the Loire Valley in France. It’s also been called the ladies chateau, as ladies have been the most influential in its design…from early on to the stunning structure we see today. Wives, mistresses, widows…all had their hand in the way Chateau de Chenonceau looks.

In the 16th century, Thomas Bohier and his wife Katherine Briconnet demolished an old castle and mill, which were standing on the site. Supposedly wanting to control the River Cher, the chateau sits all the way across it. Soon after completion, the chateau was seized by King Francois I, because Bohier couldn’t pay his debts. His successor, Henry II, gave the chateau to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, who spent time and money redesigning the expansive gardens.

When Henry II died, his wife Catherine de Medici removed Diane and redid the gardens to her liking. More ladies and more renovations. When walking through the chateau, around every turn, in every room, on every staircase…there is a trace of one of the queens and mistresses who lived here.

Renaissance furniture, massive tapestries, paintings, and a small chapel are in fantastic condition. You can almost see how kings, their queens, and their mistresses lived here. The kitchen is its own special place. Or, should I say kitchens? There is one for baking breads, one for cutting meat, one for pastry work, one for bringing in the vegetables….and more. The copperware collection alone is worth looking at, and be sure to check out the 16th Century chimney in the pantry.

Chenonceau played an important part in more modern history as well. During WWI, the owner allowed the chateau to be used as a hospital, and during WWII one end of the castle was in the Occupied Zone and the other end in French Free Territory.

Definitely one of the prettiest chateau in the Loire Valley…in my opinion. Worth the visit.

For a special treat, have lunch at L’Orangerie, located on the grounds. Take your time…it’s worth it.

 

 

 

Chateau de Chambord…Not Your Typical Hunting Lodge

Chateau de Chambord is the largest of the Loire Valley Chateau, even though it was originally built as a hunting lodge for King Francois I. His main palaces were located at Chateau d’Amboise and Chateau de Blois.

Keep in mind…not what you might expect as a hunting lodge.

It’s grand…grand enough that the Loire River had to be diverted to make some more space for its construction. In fact, the grounds cover 50 square kilometers. As a hunting lodge, Francois I apparently only spent seven weeks here when he was hunting. That’s because his hunting party included around 2,000 people. Difficult, at best, to get that many people all here at the same time!

When walking through, you can see much of the unfinished work in rooms where the moldings are not quite complete or the tapestries are only partially hung. After Francois I died in 1547, the castle remained in a state of abandon for almost 100 years. Several different kings or brothers of kings worked on it and owned it over the next century. That explains the different architectural lines, towers, staircases, rooms, turrets, moats, and roof lines…all with their own variation from side to side and front to back.

Since no records or plans exist on how the original chateau would look, it’s not easy to imagine what the first architect had in mind. Da Vinci’s sketches and influence is easy to spot here. After all, he lived here for a while and was invaluable to the king at that time.

Nothing along the roof line, archways, or skyline looks quite the same from one section to the next. It’s not your typical chateau…yet it’s impressive from a distance and from close up.

You’ll see distinct French Renaissance architecture with traditional medieval defensive structures, classical Italian aspects adapted from Milan and Toscane, a Greek cross-shaped center plan design, intricate sculpted ceiling medallions, countless chimneys, and stairway turrets which seem to go nowhere.

Be sure to look at the central staircase, as it is the architectural highlight of this enormous chateau. The stone staircase rises the entire height of the castle, and is a double helix. This means that two independent staircases are wound around each other. People going up and people coming down the staircase will not meet. Not a narrow staircase, each step is several meters across.

Check out the second floor where this cross-shaped room is unique. Each wing consists of a huge vault adorned with the emblems of Francois I…monogrammed “F” salamanders spitting out water. Supposedly, the spitting water was to extinguish the bad fire and the salamanders swallowing the good fire assisted. You’ll see salamanders all over the chateau…sculpted, not real.

Definitely one of the most notable chateau in Europe, especially since it consists of over 440 rooms. Did I mention it was built as a hunting lodge? Could that be why there are 365 fireplaces throughout? Check for yourself and start counting.

 

 

Do You Have Museum Phobia?

Have you ever felt a museum is intimidating? Have you been to the Louvre?

It’s big, it can be exhausting, and it can be so overwhelming you’re not sure what you saw. Here are a few tips to make a visit to this museum slightly more enjoyable. After all, you don’t want to spend your time rushing past walls and walls of paintings, looking down at the map to find the Mona Lisa, or getting lost while wandering around in circles on a lower level.

First…buy your tickets ahead of time. Better yet…buy a museum pass so you won’t stand in any lines.

Next…use the high-tech coat room if you need to check something. No sense carrying a large bag or coat through the museum.

Pay attention to everything here. This used to be a palace of the French kings for about four centuries before the French Revolutionaries turned it into a museum. And, since kings lived here…everything was built for them. Look at the ceilings, the walls, and the floors. See if you can find the names of kings, from Louis to Henri, carved into the stone.

The museum has three main wings…Richelieu, Sully, and Denon. The central foyer, under the massive pyramid, is the starting point for all three. In Richelieu, you can go back thousands of years and visit the three greatest civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, and the Persians.

In Sully, you’ll find the collection of Greek and Roman sculptures. Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory are here.

Head to Denon for the Mona Lisa. You’ll also see masterpieces from the Renaissance.

Of course, there’s more here than those. But, that’s a beginning. You could be here for days, or weeks. There’s that much to see.

It might be time for a coffee break and consulting your map.

 

 

US News & World Report…Travel Credit Cards



Travel credit cards explained…there’s so much to know. 

If you travel, it would be a good idea to read what U.S. News found out in their survey. They’ve done the legwork…you just need to figure out what’s best for you.

Recently, I was asked to collaborate with U.S. News & World Report regarding travel credit cards. As a nationally recognized publisher of consumer advice and information, they conducted a nationwide study of consumers who own credit cards.

From this study, they created a guide which shows travelers how to best use their cards and get the most from them.

Finally, something that compares cards and gives me information that makes sense.

Throughout the next month I will post results from that study. Hopefully, you will learn something about your credit card.

The link to the entire study is https://creditcards.usnews.com/travel#heading2

Travel credit cards are rewards cards that help users earn free travel, achieve elite member status with hotels and airlines and enjoy many other travel-related perks. Although travel credit cards can often be used for cash back too, consumers receive better value when using them to collect and redeem points for travel.


Travel credit cards fall into one of three types: airline cards, hotel cards and general travel cards. A cobranded airline or hotel credit card enters you into a specific brand’s loyalty membership club and rewards all types of spending, however the points you earn can only be redeemed toward that single brand and its partners. General travel cards also reward all types of spending, at a lower, flat rate, but the points you earn can be redeemed with a variety of airline and hotel loyalty programs, based on the partnerships secured by the card issuer.
What’s in This Guide
    6. Best Travel Cards of 2017
This is one of the most comprehensive and valuable studies I’ve read. It’s worth your time to figure out what is going to work for you.

You may change your mind about the credit cards you use or how you use them.

Have fun traveling…