Welcome to The Aix-Files

Thanks for checking out The Aix-Files, my

blog postings inspired by my time in and around

Aix-en-Provence and the Vaucluse. The spot includes travel tips,

discoveries of local food and wine, recipes,

cultural events, interviews and historical

tidbits about Southern France. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

We thought we were going wine tasting . . .

Vines at Chateau Saint Ser
View from Chateau Saint Ser

Tasting Room at Chateau Richeaume

Excavating at Chateau Richeaume

Domaine de la Crillonne

Vincent de Dianous selling his wine
We arrived at Chateau Richeaume after following a long and winding road out of Puyloubier, at the foot of Montagne Sainte-Victoire.  The views were absolutely stunning.  But that’s not the reason we missed the entrance, it’s that the winery is signposted – modestly - from the opposite direction only.  When we finally pulled in, Madame approached us and asked if we were there for “the tour”.  “What tour?” we asked.  It turns out, their property happens to be right on top of a Roman settlement from the 2nd century and a team was in the process of excavating.  They were about to conduct a tour for interested outsiders right at that moment, so we thought, why not? And joined in.  It was fascinating to see them in the process of uncovering all sorts of walls, rooms, even a sarcophagus with bones, still intact, of what is presumed to be a two-year-old child.  It was slow and painstaking work, under the beating sun.  They worked with little shovels, chipping off bits of earth inch by inch. The team seemed to be comprised of students, many of whom gave presentations about various aspects of the dig.

Once back at the winery, which is functional rather than fancy, we stood around a barrel with two bankers from Aix.  They were nicely suited, wearing identical loafers, one in a pink shirt.  They were there to buy some magnums, presumably as gifts for special clients (how did they get that job?). While we sampled and sipped together we discussed the importance of lunch.
One of our favourite things to do is to sample a new wine at a restaurant, then seek out the winery.    The other day, we tasted a delicious wine at l’Auberge du Beaucet, in a tiny hamlet in the Vaucluse near where we are living for the winter. We had the business card of the winery in hand (with GPS coordinates), which indicated we could visit by appointment only.  Vincent de Dianous phoned me back and we made arrangements to meet in the neighbouring village, in front of the bakery.  He needed to take us there himself, because his winery is on a tiny road and is not signposted.  We met successfully, then followed him to Domaine de la Crillonne  - a dilapidated old farmhouse formerly owned by his uncle.  He has 4 1/2 hectares of grapes, most of which he planted himself, which means he makes only 12-15,000 bottles a year.  He does absolutely everything himself, including acquiring new tractors and equipment for vinification, harvesting the grapes, making the wine.  He is also in the process of restoring the farmhouse so that he can eventually live in it and make the wine right there.  This has not been easy.  For example, he told us sadly about masons who are unreliable, do what they feel like rather than what they are asked to do, who mock you, and even insult you, before you pay them. He sold us the wine out of the back of his truck.  He was eager to give us a tour of the property and explain the history of the place.  He pointed out the impressive Alpilles mountain range in the distance. His smile was so warm and generous and he was genuinely grateful that we wanted to meet him and visit his vineyard.  He said that it helped encourage him.  He told us stories about growing up right there, running around in the fields as a kid – his childhood home is just across the way – and he was almost wistful as he admitted how much he loved the land, the countryside, the wine, and was determined to pursue his dream because of that attachment.  Now there’s a wine with heart.

-The view of Montagne Sainte-Victoire from the terrace of Chateau Saint Ser.
-The warm welcome at Vanniers, from Madame herself,  proprietor of this long-established family estate in the Bandol region, who descended the grand staircase in a snazzy pink leather jacket and sat down with us to chat and tell stories and urged us to return in the spring.  She hand-wrote the bill for us on the back of a wine label.
-Chateau de Beaupré, which just happened to be open late on Jim’s birthday as we were passing by.  It was actually their annual Christmas party.  They welcomed us warmly and we nibbled on foie gras while tasting their unusual and rare bottles, opened for the occasion.  When they found out it was Jim’s birthday, they gave him a bottle on the house.
-Revisiting our favourite Chateau du Seuil, which we went to in the late 90s on our first visit to Aix.

Eggs poached in red wine sauce sounds rather decadent, but it is actually very simple - and delicious - and a handy way to use up some red wine that happens to be open. The recipe is inspired by Patricia Wells.

This could be a lovely romantic Sunday brunch for two, or increased to accommodate a crowd for a simple supper.  Count on two eggs per person.  Here’s the version for two people:
Begin by preparing the garnishes (not essential, but a tasty addition):  crisp some bacon bits (lardons) and sauté a couple of mushrooms, thinly sliced.  Set aside.
Chop half an onion, half a carrot and crush a clove of garlic.  Place them in a medium saucepan.  Add  one cup of fruity red wine, a bay leaf, a healthy branch of thyme and/or rosemary, a few peppercorns and salt.  Bring it to a boil, then reduce by approximately half.  Strain the sauce into a bowl, pressing the vegetables to get out all of the juices, then pour it back into the saucepan.
Meanwhile, blend 2 teaspoons each of flour and butter together on a plate with a fork (a beurre manié).  Gradually whisk the mixture in, little by little, until the sauce is silky and thickened (you may not need all of it).

In a separate shallow saucepan, poach the eggs carefully in simmering water with a bit of vinegar until the whites are set and the yolks are still soft. 

Have some toast ready on warm plates.  Carefully lift out the eggs and drain, patting with paper towel if necessary, and place one egg on each piece of toast.  Surround with the sauce. 

Garnish with lardons and sautéed mushrooms, if desired.   Enjoy.

À la prochaine,
Vincent de Dianous, winemaker

1 comment:

Sandi said...

Beautifully done blog, as always, Andrea! I have passed on your blog address to a number of francophile friends who are also enjoying it.

For future reference, ôu se trouve la domaine de Vincent de Dianous? Est-ce que c'est près de Crillon le Brave, comme le nom suggère? And what was the the name of the wine?

Ron and I just got back from Thailand and Cambodia - terrific trip but we are severely jet-lagged!! Hope all is well at the house...