This week my wife and I were invited to visit the wonderful Château La Nerthe winery in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. As guests of a friend, we were given a private tour of the cellars and grounds where we learned about the fascinating history of the estate, which dates back to the 12th century. La Nerthe was an established wine producer by the late 1700s, and in 1782 a French author noted that "the best wines are harvested in the Clos de La Nerthe….they have smoothness and charm." There are even records documenting that the winery exported wine to the United States in 1786--just 10 years after the Declaration of Independence.
The oldest part of the cellar dates back to 1560, with stone tanks with walls measuring 1.20 meters thick. Recently an archeologist examined the huge cellar stones and determined that they had been taken from the Roman amphitheater in Orange!
Château La Nerthe is one of the few estates that grows all thirteen grape varieties allowed in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape domain, and it is also one of the few that chooses to produce a white wine. Unlike many areas of Provence, the wine makers of Châteauneuf are not restricted in how they can blend the varieties, which means that each vineyard has an opportunity to handcraft very personal wines. That said, the predominate grape in La Nerthe red blends is Grenache Noir.
The 90 hectares (about 222 acres) of vines at La Nerthe are an average of 40 years old, and some date back almost 100 years. Because older vines yield fewer (but more intense) grapes, they estimate that they get about one bottle of wine per vine. And when it is time to plant new vines, despite the fact that they will yield grapes after about 5 years, it will be 20 years before any of those grapes are used to make Château La Nerthe wines. All of their wines are certified "bio" (organic), and have been long before it became something fashionable to do as a marketing strategy.
Of course our visit would not have been complete without a tasting of their wines. We sampled both the reds and whites and we were not disappointed! I don't claim to have the gift of describing the finer points of wines, but I found them to be very nicely balanced and subtle. The 2011 Red (which we purchased) was absolutely delicious, with flavors of red berries and plum, and was ready to drink (though would cellar nicely for another 10 years or more). A special tasting of their 1984 vintage was a rare treat, and the difference in flavor profiles was fascinating; to my palette it tasted of rosemary and figs.
One wine we did not taste was the Cuvée des Cadettes. These wines are in such high demand that they are not offered in the tasting room, and vintages are sold out by advance order. The winery does hold a small quantity of bottles for purchase however--something to look forward to on our next visit!
If you find yourself in Provence I highly recommend a visit to Château La Nerthe. I can't think of a more enjoyable way to spend an afternoon than to pack a picnic lunch, buy a bottle of wine, and spend a few hours overlooking the stunning Châteauneuf-du-Pape landscape.
All Images © 2014 Ken Wallace Films LLC. All rights reserved.
Château la Nerthe
Société Civile Agricole
Route de Sorgues
Tél : 33 0 490 83 70 11
Fax: 33 0 490 83 79 69
Coordonnées GPS Lat: 44.049596 Lng: 4.856644 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit of the cellar with appoitment.
Vente à la propriété.
I've just finished reading a wonderful and inspiring book called "A Beautiful Anarchy." Before you conjure up images of flag burning and demonstrations, know that it is not about "anarchy" in the political sense. The author is David DuChemin, professional international photographer, however this is not a book about photography. Rather, it is a book that asks us to look at how we choose to live.
It asks the question "Why do the vast majority of people shuffle through life, content to just make it safely to the end?" We watch movies and read books, living the lives we wish we had vicariously, rather than experiencing the world first hand. We watch the travel channel rather than get a passport and visit Tuscany or New Zealand. We trade our dreams for a 60" LED TV and an iPhone, rather than living a life we create out of intentional, meaningful choices that lead us to a place of true long term personal satisfaction.
Of course we all have excuses about why we choose to stay in jobs we hate, live in places we don't want to be, and endure toxic relationships that we know we should end: our jobs, our kids, the credit card bills, the mortgage, the expectations of peers and relatives. But at the end of the day that is really all they are: excuses. They are most often our way of avoiding making the tough choices. We are, after all, the result of an ongoing series of choices, made either intentionally or carelessly, that has led each of us to this moment in life.
But are you happy where you are? Not just content, or comfortable, but truly happy and fulfilled.
If not, maybe it is time to ask yourself what you dream of for your life, and start making intentional choices that move your life in in that direction. It takes a willingness to look deep inside, confront fear and doubt, and accept risk and responsibility. It also requires that we not care so much about what other people think.
People may think you are crazy, or selfish, or reckless, but that is their fear speaking. Who wants to define their life based on the fears (or expectations) of other people? Most likely, people will be secretly jealous that you are following your passions and making the choices they secretly wish they had the courage to make.
If this topic interests you, I highly recommend giving "A Beautiful Anarchy" a read.
It hasn't been lost on us that if we are planning to live in France, it might be very useful to actually speak la langue française. A tally of our cumulative experience amounts to some books on tape (moi) some high school french (ma femme), some first grade french lessons (ma fille), and some french fries (mon fils).
With only cing mois before we depart on our adventure it is time to appuyer sur le champignon and learn the language of our soon-to-be home.
While we are searching high and low for the perfect professeur français, some of our friendly neighbors from French-Quebec recommended an on-line learning website called Duolingo. They offer free learning software which can be used via their website, or from an iPhone or iPad companion App (chosen by Apple as their App of the Year). Your progress is saved in your account and you can pick up where you leave off from any device with the App.
The lessons are fun, just challenging enough to be interesting, yet easy enough to keep a beginner like me from getting discouraged. They require both written and spoken interaction, and I find that the act of having to write what I hear really helps to make the lesson stick in my brain.
You are required to progress through the lessons in order, and have to pass each short lesson before moving forward. A game-like reward system awards tokens as you pass lessons, and there is a social aspect that lets you track your progress against friends en ligne, and share tips on learning french on public forums.
A study by university professors "estimated that 34 hours on Duolingo may yield reading and writing ability of a US first-year beginners' course college semester, which takes in the order of 130+ hours." The same study showed that the popular Rosetta Stone course takes almost twice as long to attain the same level of proficiency (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duolingo).
And all this is absolutely free, with no hidden up-charges (they make their money by crowd-sourcing the translation of documents, which Duolingo is paid for by the companies whose documents are translated).
So if you are looking to learn a language, give Duolingo a try and let me know what you think!
la langue française = the french language
moi = me
ma femme = my wife (f)
ma fille = my daughter (f)
mon fils = my son (m)
cing mois = 5 months
appuyer sur le champignon = step on the gas
professeur français = french professor
en ligne = on-line
bon courage = have courage (literally "good courage")
I've always been a sucker for memoirs about living in a foreign country. I've read expat stories of house restorations, fledgling wineries, restored olive farms, love stories and horror stories. If you are interested in going on a little armchair adventure here are a few of my favorites.
Click on the book to open a link on Amazon.com.
And finally, my next read...
Kristin Espinasse's story of an American woman who fell in love with a Frenchman and moved to Provence to start a new life. This book is a compilation of her popular French Word A Day blog, and the first of a series of books she has written about life in Provence.
Thought we would share the most recent review from our very happy guest Frank from Georgia:
An amazing apartment in the perfect Provencal village. My friend and I stayed here for a week in May 2011 as we explored the area. Bedoin has everything you need to include a couple of great market-based restaurants and two excellent artisan bakeries. Breakfast of fresh bread and breakfast pastries on the deck was a great way to start the day. Likewise, it was nice to get back to Bedoin each evening and relax on the deck with a glass of wine while enjoying the views. The apartment is quite comfortable: kitchen has everything you really need, bedroom is large and quiet, the deck and scenery are perfection, and all the creature comforts are there (washer/dryer, wireless internet, phone, nice den/living area). The owner was quite helpful in planning for our trip and the local property manager, Marianne, met us upon arrival and helped us get settled in (wine and fresh cherries were a nice welcoming touch). We would love to stay here again on our next trip to the area.