If it wasn’t for the pink color, would a Rosé smell as sweet?

Living in Geneva in the summer, most picnic blankets hold at least one bottle of rosé.

Being Americans, to us, pink generally = boxed wine.  So, this prevalence of pink wine was a surprise to us our first summer.   However, it didn’t take long to adapt to the European phenomenon of rosé.

Image courtesy of KitchenRap Blogspot

Far different from its cheap boxed distant cousin, the rosés of France are complex and a national treasure.  We got more of an education during our trips to Southern France, both in les Alpilles and the Tavel region.

R and Mom with some delicious rosé

In fact, Fabrice of Domaine de la Mordorée, in Tavel, told us when wine critic Bob Parker rated their rosé ‘the best in the world,’ he was insulted as it is in his opinion ‘the best in the Universe’.

Domaine de la Mordorée

Rosés are made with red grapes.   There are a few methods of making rosé:

  • Saignée, or bleeding, is achieved when the weight of the grapes do the pressing. The skins are left in only for a brief time.  Because the juices don’t have a lengthy contact with the skins, the result is a light and juicy flavored rosé.
  • Skin contact methods are used when the red skins are used to achieve ideal color, after which, they are removed and the rosé continues to ferment without the skins
  • Blending methods (or run-offs) is when the juice from the red is used, along with the white juice, making a more opaque rosé.  This shortcut technique is practically illegal in France.

The rosés are a French favorite.   Reading Of Wine And War, when I got to the chapter about the Americans and French taking back the French countryside, I couldn’t help but chuckle at this part:

“Their job was vital, said Monsabert of his American allies, “but the vinously minded historian will note that it did not take them near a single vineyard of quality. Now follow the advance of the French army. Swiftly they possessed themselves of Tavel, and after making sure all was well with one of the finest vin rosés in France, struck fiercly for Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

While rosé hasn’t become my favorite French wine, I certainly am glad for getting more exposure to it during our time in Europe.

A picnic at St. Cosme

When I went to the South of France most recently, the group was led by an incredible guide.   Having lived in Paris and Southern France, K knows a ton about the food, wine and landscape of France.

One of K’s favorite spots in the South of France is the chapel of Saint Cosme in Gigondas, in the heart of Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape country.

She had the idea that it would be nice for our group to see the chapel.   That morning, we stopped in Bonnieux for the morning market to stock up on more French cheeses, breads, olives, and tapenades.   We all shared our purchases in the form of a picnic to enjoy and experience the beauty.

Our picnic

This chapel is partly ruined.  In fact, we camped out in the nave with our picnic because of the intense wind that swirled around the chapel.  Luckily, there was a small bench that was useful as a “table”.

Seeking shelter in the nave

A special group of ladies

Luckily, we had a nice ‘community’ supply of wine from our stops at the L’Auchan grocery, Château Beaucastel, and Château de Ségriès.

Lining up the wine at Chapel Saint Comse

After tasting a few delicacies, I wandered around the stone path that led above the chapel.

Walking around Chapel St. Cosme

Beautiful pathway

Climbing into the vineyards above the chapel

The chapel is surrounded by gorgeous vineyards above.   It makes such a beautiful panorama in the Provençal sky.  Our group is grateful to K for taking us to this special place.

Thursday market day in Isle sur la Sorgue

While in Provence we visited the sweet town of Isle sur la Sorgue. The town literally translates to island on the Sorgue (river), and this riverside ambience plus cute French architecture is what makes the appeal.  It happened to be market day, full of fresh produce & foods as well as Provençal artisans.

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I got a few gifts in the form of soaps, tapenades, and herbes de Provence. Later, I walked the banks of the Sorgue river, enjoying the loveliness of this precious village.

The Highest Point in the Valley of Hell

Les-Baux-de-Provence, France, is known for its bloody and ruthless past.  Known for pushing individuals off the rocky cliffs, decapitation, and other cruel methods of death, the lords of Les Baux are not characters you’d want to cross.   Thus, the area was feared.

It is said Dante modeled one of his layers of hell in the Inferno off of the rocky landscape of Les Baux.

I am not sure which contributed to it, but area became known as “The Valley of Hell.”

An omnious sky over Les-Baux-de-Provence

Gabe and I visited Les-Baux-de-Provence on our whirlwind trip to see the lavender this summer. However, short on time, we didn’t climb the entire way to see the castle & fortifications.  Instead, we wandered around the village checking out churches and views from the mid-heights.

However, this time, Mom & I were up for the adventure.

The wind was whipping at the top of Les Baux

Le Mistral, the fierce Provençal wind, also accompanied us.  However, pressing against the bursts had its rewards.  The top was very impressive with bell towers and rooms carved into the face of the stone cliffs.

Rocky facade of the castle

The sky definitely accentuated the scariness

If you go to Les Baux, don’t miss going to the top!

 

Related Links:

The Swiss Watch Blog:  Les Baux de Provence

Schwingen in Switzerland :  We Didn’t Know the Valley of Hell was So Beautiful – Les Baux

Popping some bottles in Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a wine region within Southern France.   The area became notorious in the 14th Century when Avignon, France, became the seat of the Pope during the Catholic schism.  The Popes were lovers of wine and in particular, of Burgundy wines.   However, they needed to find a closer source than Burgundy.  In 1321, Pope John XXII requisitioned wine from this particular area and the production became named ‘Vin du Pape’ for wine of the Pope.  Later the name evolved to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, referencing the wine of the ‘new castle of the Pope’.

The Papal Palace was located in nearby Avignon

I’m sure Pope John XXII was thrilled when the Beastie Boys crooned the verse,  “Like a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape / I’m fine like wine when I start to rap.”

The rocky terrain in Châteauneuf-du-Pape

In addition to its rich history and presence in Beastie Boys songs, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the wine king of Southern France, claiming price points similar to Burgundy and Bordeaux.  The region is known for the rocky terrain, many meters thick, which was created many years ago when the area was once the bed of the Rhone river.

Now the Rhone rests a few kilometers away and the rocks, galets roulés , serve as heaters and water insulators for the terroir.

I was lucky to get a special glimpse at this wine area with a group traveling from Virginia.    Our first stop on the wine tasting adventure was at Château Beaucastel, a lovely maker of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

The view from Château Beaucastel

The morning we visited, I had just finished the book, Of Wine And War.  Wine was considered France’s national treasure, and the lengths to which the French winemakers went keeping their good wine from the Nazis was really interesting.   From sending the bad vintages, to building faux walls, and even burying in in the soil, they tried everything to preserve the historic vintages for France.   Our guide at Château Beaucastel said not many vintages had likely escaped Nazi hands as there were not many pre-war bottles left today.

Cellars at Château Beaucastel.  I was inspecting for pre-war bottles, but found none.

The group also visited  domaine de la Mordorée, Domaine Grand Veneur, and  La Bastide St. Dominique, all which produce Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

My graduation year

Related Links:

Schwingen in Switzerland: Wine Museum in Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Schwingen in Switzerland:  Châteauneuf-du-Pape rocked us….literally

Art therapy at St-Paul de Mausole

Just south of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence are groves of olive trees and rows of cedars. Driving along the D5 highway, one might miss the Maison de Santé Saint-Paul de Mausole which rests back from the highway. I know our first trip to St-Rémy, we certainly did.

The olive groves off of D5

However, back in the surroundings of this traditional Provençal landscape is a special place of rest.  It is a home for psychiatric patients, individuals with special needs, and the elderly. Art therapy is used with the patients as a method of healing.

Cloister at St-Paul de Mausole

Grounds at St-Paul de Mausole

And one of the patients…Vincent Van Gogh.   The courtyards and grounds are filled with scenes familiar to many.  From an art standpoint, his time in Provence was his most productive period.

Scene for Les Oliviers

Vincent Van Gogh’s, Les Oliviers, image courtesy of Google Images

Scene for Le ravin des Pairoulets

Vincent Van Gogh’s Le ravin des Pairoulets, image courtesy of Google Images

Van Gogh lived here after his stay in Arles, and after the loss of his ear, committed himself.  It is evident the staff appreciated Van Gogh as they let him paint alone outside, a designation not given to many.   In St Rémy, Van Gogh created 143 oil paintings and  100 drawings within one years’ time.

My aunt, Miss Talent, enjoying the grounds at St-Paul de Mausole.

Still today, patients create masterpieces in the form of painting and sculpture. They are for sale in the small shop that sits below Van Gogh’s old room.  It makes you wonder about undiscovered potential, perhaps within one of today’s artists living there.  After all, Vincent maybe earned $100 as an artist before he died.

The Irises, was also painted by Van Gogh at St-Paul de Mausole.   In 1987, it was the most expensive painting ever sold. Image courtesy of Google Images.

Our leader Kay read this quote as we pulled away from the site,

“The world concerns me only in so far as I have a certain debt and duty to it, because I have lived in it for thirty years and owe to it to leave behind some souvenir in the shape of drawings and paintings – not done to please any particular movement, but within which a genuine human sentiment is expressed.” ― Vincent van Gogh

I for one am very glad for his souvenirs.

Desalpe Festival

Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I realize that we live in Switzerland.   We love getting to experience a completely new way of life and new customs.   This past weekend was no exception, when we attended the Semsales Desalpe Festival.

What is a Desalpe you might ask?    In Switzerland, the cows happily live in the Alps in the summer, munching away on the greenest of grassy pastures.  However, the cold snowy temperatures that come in the winter are even too harsh for Swiss cattle.  So every Fall, the happy Swiss cows come down from their summer home in the high Alps to their lower grassy pastures and barns.

Most small villages celebrate their return home with a Desalpe Festival, literally translated, “from the Alps”.

We attended the festival in the town of Semsales, in the canton of Fribourg, near Gruyeres.   This festival is special because of its spacing.  Typically, all the herds are condensed in one parade.  However, in Semsales, each group gets the individual spotlight.    From 10:00 in the morning until 18:00 in the evening, a total of 14 families march through town proudly, welcoming their herd home for the winter.

We got quite an awakening to the procession when parking our car.   Literally, one of the herds came into us!

Well, hello there.

Walking into town, we got to see quite a few more processions.    The first few cows wear very tall ornamentation.  Sort of like Christmas trees on their heads:

Nope – not Christmas in October. Just the Desalpe festival!

Then comes the more subdued cows….smaller floral arrangements.

This lady has a classier look going on. But what she looses in floral prowess, she makes up in cowbell size. Holy cow.

Moo-ve over and get out of my way, lady.

Just an everyday walk on the highway

In addition to the cows, groups of musicians were also a special part of the Desalpe.   We enjoyed the cowbell group:

The cowbell band

Handling their bells. The muscles on these folks have to be strong!

We really enjoyed the Alphorn band

They also have delicious cheese and meat based foods.

This was a super big pot of cheesy potatoes

Local meat, cheeses, and breads for lunch. Plus some nice red wine from the nearby vineyards.

If you are attending a Desalpe, just make sure to wear old shoes or maybe even some wellies.  You are most certainly going to step in something nasty.

Hey lady, maybe you want to keep your baby out of the cow poo

I thought this was my best picture of the day until I realized what was happening.

For a more interesting visual, check out the video footage from our day at the Desalpe: