I am not a wine expert, but I do enjoy wine. Very much. So before the year's end (when everyone having anything to do with wine seems to shut down at least a week or so for new year's break) we had to replenish our wine cellar--especially the whites. Accordingly, we headed to the Chateauneuf-du-Pape area, in the Southern Rhone Valley, not too far from Avignon.
Our first stop was in Courthezon, to the hospitable young brother and sister team of Baptiste and Dominique who head the Grangeon family's Domaine de Cristia. We were quite happy with their vivacious, floral Chateauneuf-du-Pape white and rather voluptuous red...of course this did not preclude tasting the full range, including some no longer available for sale. While the number of wines on offer is fairly small, the quality is focused and consistent; a stop by their table is easy to recommend. That Dominique speaks excellent English and can beautifully express the idiosyncrasies of her family's wine is of course very helpful to visiting Anglo-Saxons. If you find yourself around Avignon, give them at call at +33 (0)490 70 89 15, and stop by for a visit.Once the cases were loaded, we were on our way to nearby Domaine de Fontavin. You come to this domaine not necessarily for the warmth of the welcome, nor for the charm of the wine-tasting space (a rather sterile re-done entryway) but rather because you like sweet wine. They make a gorgeous Muscat de Beaumes de Venise that goes so well with foie gras, should you be so lucky as to have some. Failing that, it is an excellent dessert wine--particularly paired with my ginger-flecked apple tart...Others come no doubt for the rather ambitious range of other wines they offer, which include Châteauneuf-du-Pape white and red, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Vin Doux Naturel Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, and Côtes du Rhône in red, white and rose. To offer such a range, they of course have bits of terrain in all the requisite AOC regions. As the 2009 Guide Hachette makes mention of their Chateauneuf-de-Pape 2007 white, we tried it; perhaps it needed to be uncorked sooner. At any rate, we stuck to our winner moelleux and left. I was somewhat distracted by thoughts of potential food-wine pairings; same wine, novel combinations...(Domaine de Fontavin, +33 (0)49 070 72 14).Our last stop was by Laurent Brotte. To welcome visitors to the storied wine region, they have built a Maison de Vin, which serves as a spacious museum and tutorial to the various processes around wine-making. It is worth a visit, as you can also pick up a few bottles of their award-winning wines while there (and you can even duck into the immaculately clean bathrooms if the need arises). While the children wandered through the museum, we stocked up on the spritely Côtes du Rhône Villages Chateau du Bord white. (http://www.brotte.com/).
The weak winter light was fading. It was time to head home. Tomorrow we take down the Christmas decorations...Happy New Year!