Tag Archives: Provence

rose wines

Five Rosé Wines to Enjoy this Summer

The summer of rosé is in full swing! It’s an international love affair, with rosé wine being made around the world from a variety of different grapes.

Try one of these AG picks tonight:

Cune RosadoCune Rosado Rioja 2013
Rioja Alta, Spain

From CVNE (pronounced Coo-nay), a family owned and operated winery founded in 1879 in Haro, Rioja, this dry rosé is 100% Tempranillo. Produced using the saignée or bleeding method, the juice was removed from the grape skins and seeds after around 24 to 48 hours, resulting in a magenta-pink color. Floral aromas introduce flavors of strawberry, tart cherry and red currant.
$14, 14% alcohol by volume

Esporao Defesa RoséEsporão Vinha da Defesa Rosé 2013
Alentejo, Portugal

Established in 1973, Herdade do Esporão is a family-owned estate and winery that takes its name from the tower on the property that is thought to have been built between 1457 and 1490. This rosé is a blend of Aragonez and Syrah. The grapes underwent pneumatic pressing after a short period of skin contact. Bright pink in color with berry aromas, the wine has flavors of raspberry, cherry and Victoria plum, with a hint of mint on the refreshing finish.
$15, 13.5% alcohol by volume

Bridge Lane RoséBridge Lane Rosé 2013
North Fork of Long Island, New York

This wine comes from Lieb Cellars, founded in 1992 on Long Island’s North Fork. Lieb was the first winery on Long Island to plant Pinot Blanc, which has become their signature wine and makes up part of the blend in the Bridge Lane rosé. The 2013 wine is 63% Cabernet Franc, 21% Merlot, 8% Pinot Blanc, 5% Riesling and 3% Gewurztraminer. Light and easy to drink with a pretty pale pink color, the wine has flavors of wild strawberry, raspberry and rose petal.
$18, 11.9% alcohol by volume

Cape Bleue RoséJean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rosé 2013
Provence, France

The grapes for this wine from the noted French winemaker come from hilly vineyards near Salon de Provence, an area influenced by the nearby Mediterranean Sea.  It is a blend of 67% Syrah and 33% Mourvedre, and was made using the saignée method. Salmon-pink in color,  the aromatic wine will transport you to the South of France. Flavors of ripe strawberry, red cherry and rose are layered with subtle fennel and white pepper notes.
$14, 12.5% alcohol by volume

Houchart RoséDomaine Houchart Rosé 2013
Provence, France

Bought in 1890 by Aurélien Houchart, the 90 hectare estate near Aix-en-Provence and the foot of Mont Sainte Victoire has been consistently farmed since Roman times. Today it is owned by the Quiot Family and run by Geneviève Quiot, Aurélien’s great granddaughter. This Côtes de Provence rosé is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. This crowd-pleaser is pale peachy-pink in color, with delicate flavors of strawberry, loganberry and watermelon that culminate in a crisp finish.
$11, 12% alcohol by volume



From the Archives: A Guide To Gordes

Originally posted on October 1, 2010

Photographs are only able to capture a portion of Gordes’ beauty. There really isn’t anything quite like the first time you drive up the narrow winding road and then — through a break in the trees — get your first glimpse of the perched village.

It’s no surprise that Gordes is classified as one of The Most Beautiful Villages of France. Walking around you want to take a picture of every street, every building and every view.

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Provence Rosé Continues to Impress

By Maxine Howard

Two years after a grand tasting of Provençal rosés prompted me to write “Rethink Rosé,” apparently many Americans have done just that. In 2013, U.S. imports of rosé wines from Provence increased by 40% over the previous year. Not only are we drinking more rosés from France, but we are also discovering new rosés by a number of California winemakers in the Provençal style using grapes traditionally blended by the French vintners.

And why wouldn’t we relish drinking these wines? They grab your attention with their gorgeous color, ranging from pale pink to salmon blush; they tantalize with aromas of flowers and tropical fruits; and they quench a summer thirst with their dry yet flavorful taste and a hint of minerality.

In their return to San Francisco for another tour in March, the Vins de Provence reinforced their stature as serious purveyors of rosé wines in the fragrant yet lean style. Twenty-one producers sampled their wines, showing a range of styles and flavors. Some of the differences reflected varying combinations of the traditional grapes use in Provence rosé: Grenach, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvedre, Tibouren, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon. Other differences resulted from the varying soil and climate conditions. And the final differences came from the sensibilities of the individual winemakers.

Here are some favorites from the tasting:

Chateau de PampelonneChateau de Pampelonne Rosé 2012
This wine from Les Maîtres Vignerons de Saint Tropez in Gassin is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, Tibouren and Mourvedre. The grapes grow in sandy soil on the St. Tropez peninsula next to the beaches. They are harvested early in the morning while they are still cool. They are macerated for just two hours before being pressed, and remain on sediment for two months.

The wine is pale pink and has floral aromas. The taste is well balanced with hints of tropical and citrus fruit and has a pleasant minerality on the finish. It would go well with fish and simple chicken dishes. But would taste just fine sipped by itself on the deck watching the sun go down. $19.99

Première de FiguièrePremière de Figuière Rosé 2013
Saint André de Figuière is a family-run producer located in La Londe-les-Maures. It is between the Mediterranean Sea and the hills of Provence. Beneath the top soil the ground consists of mica and schist, which the winemaker describes as fragile yet capable of producing wines with finesse. This rosé is composed of 50% Mourvedre, 30% Cinsault and 20% Grenache. That is a stark contrast with most of the area rosés in which Grenache predominates. Each variety is harvested and vinified separately before being blended.

This wine has a bit more blush than the Chateau de Pamplonne that I would describe as a pale salmon. The bouquet has more citrus than floral notes. On the palate one tastes peach and citrus as well as a little earthiness from the Mourvedre. The overall impression is of an extremely well-balanced, delicious wine. Because it is a little heartier, it should stand up well to seafood and fowl dishes.

Chateau La MascaronneAnother wine I enjoyed at the tasting was Quat’ Saisons 2013 from Chateau La Mascaronne in Le Luc. Unfortunately, the winery did not have an importer at the time of the tasting. But the fascinating thing about the owner, an American from Indiana, is that he formerly owned and produced wine at the property now owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Readers will remember the Amateur Gastronomer’s review of Brad and Angelina’s Miraval Côtes de Provence Rosé last summer. Apparently, the couple were flying over the Miraval estate in a helicopter and were stunned by its beauty. They made a generous offer to buy, and the proprietor had to agree. Already owning a second property, he moved all of his wine-making operations to Chateau La Mascaronne and has continued producing wines under its label.

The rosé is a blend of Cinsault and Grenache. It has a wonderful floral aroma and controlled fruits with both a touch of citrus and a pleasant minerality on the finish. Robert Parker gave the 2012 a 91-point rating. The suggested retail price is $22. Let’s hope it finds an importer soon.

More Rosé Wines | White Wines | Red Wines

AG Pick: Clos Cibonne Tibouren 2012

One New Year’s resolution that will be easy to keep is a resolution to try new grapes – and new and less familiar grapes are what we love to share at the Amateur Gastronomer.

For our first wine article of 2014 the AG would like to introduce you to Tibouren – the 2012 Clos Cibonne Cuvée Spéciale Tibouren.

Clos Cibonne TibourenTibouren is a red wine grape from Provence, in the south of France. In the Côtes de Provence appellation where Clos Cibonne is located, Tibouren is primarily used as a blending grape, and often overshadowed by Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and other Rhone varieties.

The Roux family is passionate about preserving this grape. In the 1930s André Roux replaced all of the estate’s Mourvèdre with Tibouren, thinking it to be the ideal grape for the region. The estate even received special permission from the A.O.C. to list the grape on its labels. Today it’s André’s granddaughter and her husband who preserve the tradition of Tibouren.

Flavor and style wise, Tibouren is similar to Grenache. The red wine is light bodied and aromatic, with bright red fruit notes and soft tannins.

The 2012 Clos Cibonne Cuvee Speciale Tibouren has flavors of raspberry, cherry and wild strawberry that are layered with rose, white pepper and a hint of dried thyme.

The Clos Cibonne Cuvée Spéciale is a food-friendly wine. Like Grenache and lighter-bodied Pinot Noir, Tibouren can pair with pork, turkey, chicken, veal and fish. Serve the Tibouren slightly chilled.

For more information on Clos Cibonne visit www.clos-cibonne.com.

$27, 13% alcohol by volume

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Winzer Krems Grüner Veltliner Sandgrube 2012

Kremstal, Austria

Grüner Veltliner is a white wine grape from Austria. Don’t let the name throw you off — the wine made from Grüner Veltliner is easy to drink and very food friendly. Crisp and dry, this light to medium-bodied wine has bright citrus fruit flavors and subtle white pepper, with gentle wet stone minerality and refreshing acidity. A touch of spice lingers on the finish. Extremely versatile, Grüner Veltliner can pair with food ranging from shellfish and salads, to spicy dishes and Asian cuisine.

El Supremo Torrontes 2012

Mendoza, Argentina

As Malbec is considered the red wine grape of Argentina, Torrontes may be considered the white wine grape of the South American country. This is an extremely aromatic wine, with floral and citrus notes. El Supremo Torrontes has aromas of jasmine, gardenia and Meyer lemon, with crisp flavors of white grapefruit, white peach and subtle honeydew. Give the wine some time to warm in the glass and the floral notes will grow more vibrant.

Colombier Ventoux Rouge 2012

Côtes du Ventoux, Rhone, France

In the area surrounding Mont Ventoux, the Ventoux AOC in France’s Rhone region is one of Provence’s most picturesque areas. Perched villages, local markets, sunflowers, lavender and acres of vineyards have inspired artists, authors and vacationers. The Colombier Ventoux Rouge is a blend of Rhone grapes Grenache and Syrah. Medium-bodied and richly textured, this wine has aromas of ripe black fruit and flavors of blackberries, plum, pepper, black olives, rosemary and a hint of mint.

Sierra Batuco Reserva Carmenere 2011

Maule Valley, Chile

Carmenere is a red wine grape that is originally from Bordeaux. Today you’ll find it primarily in Chile, where it has become the country’s signature grape. Pepper and spice characteristics are what make Carmenere a treat to sip, and make the wine an ideal pairing for steak and grilled meats. The Sierra Batuco Reserva Carmenere is full-bodied with concentrated flavors of blackberry, black cherry, black and green pepper, smoke and a touch of mocha on the long, velvety finish.

Winzer Krems Gruner VeltlinerEl Supremo TorrontesColombier Ventoux RougeSierra Batuco Carmenere


For more information on wine consulting by the Amateur Gastronomer email info@amateurgastronomer.com

Chateau Miraval Rosé: Worth It?

The hottest rosé to get your hands on this summer is the Miraval Côtes du Provence Rosé. Made by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in partnership with the Perrin family, the first cases to arrive in the United States sold out right away.

Chateau MIraval RoseThe new shipment has arrived on US shores and you’ll find it at numerous wine stores in Atlanta. But costing around $30 a bottle is it worth it?

Here are the AG’s tasting notes:

Location: Château Miraval extends over 500 hectares in the Côtes du Provence appellation. The Château is located in the town of Correns, north of Brignoles in southern France. Grapes for the rosé came from the organically-farmed Chateau and a selection of neighboring vineyards.

Grapes: The 2012 wine is a blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Rolle. The grapes were hand picked and hand sorted. Five percent of the wine spent time in barrels with batonnage (stirring of the lees).

Miraval RoseAppearance: Starting with the shapely bottle and minimal labeling, this is an eye-catching wine. You can’t help but be attracted to the color of the rosé: a lovely pale pink.

Nose: The Miraval Rosé has subtle aromas of pink grapefruit, white raspberry and rose. It’s not as aromatic as other rosé wines recently tasted by the AG.

Taste: Dry and elegant, the wine has flavors of raspberry, wild strawberry, grapefruit and lemon. Light in body with gentle mineral notes and a crisp finish, this is a rosé for white wine drinkers. There was a little heat on the finish (the wine is 13% alcohol by volume), which faded over time in the glass.

Verdict: This is a very nice rosé from Provence but take away the celebrity and it would be priced more in the $17 to $19 range. The Miraval Rosé won’t likely become your every day sipping rosé, but at $30 a bottle it’s fun to taste and well worth trying it for yourself.

Want more Miraval? A white wine from Château Miraval is expected to be released this fall, and a red wine is coming in spring 2014.

More Rosé Wines | White Wines | Red Wines

AG Pick: Mas de la Dame Rosé du Mas 2012

The French know how to do rosé right. And some of the best rosé can be found in Provence, in the south of France.

Les Baux and vineyardsThat’s where Mas de la Dame is, in a commune called Les Baux-de-Provence. It’s a gorgeous area in a beautiful part of Provence, best known for ruins of a fortified castle that overlook the vineyards and olive groves below.

Owned by sisters Anne Poniatowski and Caroline Missoffe, Mas de la Dame has 140 acres of vineyards at the foot of the medieval village of Les Baux. Farming is done organically, and the grapes are harvested by hand. Jean-Luc Colombo is the consulting winemaker.

Mas de la Dame Rose du MasIt’s hard to imagine a more perfect setting for enjoying rosé than sitting outside with a chilled glass during the summer in Provence. But with a glass of the Mas de la Dame Rosé du Mas 2012, you can nearly recreate the experience at your own home.

The wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 20% Cinsault. The grape juice spent 4 to 8 hours with the skins to get its pale peachy-pink color.

The Rosé du Mas opens with aromas of fresh berries and rose. On the palate are delicate flavors of ripe raspberry, wild strawberry and peach, with subtle fresh mint notes. The finish is clean and refreshing.

This is a rosé to make even the most skeptical wine drinker a rosé fan.

Enjoy the Mas de la Dame Rosé du Mas outdoors on a warm and sunny day with lunch or as an aperitif. It pairs well with salads, light pasta dishes, grilled pork, barbecue or fish. Serve the Rosé du Mas chilled.

$14, 12.85% alcohol

Wines for Celebrating Valentine’s Day

Whether you prefer to say “I love you” with something sparkling, sweet or pink, here are wines that are perfect for celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Demarie Birbet Brachetto
Roero, Italy
$20, 6.5% alcohol by volume

Lightly sparkling, a touch sweet and a deep magenta hue make Brachetto an ideal sip on Valentine’s Day. This wine comes from the Piedmont region in northwest Italy and is made entirely from the Brachetto grape. Like Prosecco, Brachetto gets its bubbles from the Charmat method.

The Demarie Birbet Brachetto has flavors of ripe raspberry, strawberry and cherry, with floral notes of rose and violet. Enjoy the Brachetto as an aperitif or with dessert.


Biltmore Pas de Deux
Monterey & Arroyo Seco, California
$19, 12.5% alcohol by volume

The Biltmore Estate, a popular destination in Asheville, North Carolina, produces a range of wines using grapes grown at the estate and sourced from California. The Pas de Deux, a gently sweet Methode Champenoise sparkling wine, is made entirely from Muscat Canelli grapes from California’s Central Coast.

Meaning “a dance for two,” the Pas de Deux is meant to be shared with someone special. It has round flavors of orange, lemon, white raspberry and wildflower honey, with small and energetic bubbles. Enjoy the Biltmore Pas de Deux as an aperitif or with lightly sweet or cream based dishes.

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Domaine Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer 2011
Alsace, France
$30, 14% alcohol by volume

If it’s flowers you enjoy giving or receiving on Valentine’s Day, then Gewurztraminer is the grape for you. This white wine is extremely aromatic – take a sniff and you may be able to smell honeysuckle, jasmine, gardenia and rose.

The gentle sweetness in the Domaine Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer is nicely balanced with mouth-tingling acidity. Flavors of Meyer lemon, tangerine and a hint of white chocolate culminate in a pleasing finish that has a lingering touch of orange blossom honey. Oysters are a great pairing with the Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer, as are other shellfish, seafood, and spicy dishes.


Domaine de Triennes Rosé 2011
Var, France
$18, 12.5% alcohol by volume

The French know love – and rosé wine. This rosé from Provence is a partnership of two of Burgundy’s great estates: Aubert de Villane, co-owner of Domaine Romanee-Conti and Jacques Seysses, founder of Domaine Dujac. The wine is mainly made from Cinsault, with some Grenache and a dash of Merlot.

Light peachy-pink in color, the Triennes Rosé is elegant and aromatic with red fruit and floral notes. Round flavors of wild strawberry, raspberry and a hint of herbes de Provence come together in a clean, dry finish.

Mini Rosé 2010
Languedoc, France
$11, 11% alcohol by volume

This rosé from southwest France is made from the Cinsault grape. Pale salmon in color, the Mini Rosé has delicate flavors of white raspberry, strawberry and red grapefruit with refreshing acidity. Enjoy this wine with fish, grilled chicken, salad or pasta. Bonus: with only 87 calories per glass, you won’t feel guilty consuming a few extra pieces of chocolate.


Dark Lady of the Labyrinth Pinotage 2011
Wellington, South Africa
$20, 13.5% alcohol by volume

Smoky and seductive, the Dark Lady Pinotage is sure to spice up your Valentine’s Day. This red wine from South Africa offers a unique alternative to Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel.

Intense aromas of smoked meat, leather and black fruit introduce a palate of blackberry, black cherry, black pepper, mocha and pipe tobacco. The wine has a silky mouthfeel, with gentle tannins and a long, satisfying finish. This wine demands to be served with a steak.

Provence’s Best (and Best Hidden) Ruins

The Amateur Gastronomer spent the month of August in Provence.  This is one of a series of articles on the region.

One of the greatest things about Provence is that there are ruins everywhere. From the well preserved Roman sites in Arles to the remnants of a 10th century château in Les Baux de Provence, the past is still very much present. And unlike in many French gift shops, there are no signs stating “touch with your eyes.” Climbing on and around the ruins is part of the fun.

I vividly remember climbing all over the château ruins in Les Baux de Provence during a trip with my family when I was six years old. The two weeks that we spent in Provence preceded by two weeks in Paris set in motion my lifelong passion for all things French.

Though I have since traveled to France more than a dozen times, it wasn’t until this past August that I returned to Les Baux.

Twenty one years later it was just as I remembered — a stunning sight on top of a hill with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore — though with more protective railing to prevent people from getting too close to the steep drop offs. There was that tall and narrow staircase leading to the top of the fortress, with deep grooves in the steps from hundreds of years of use. It was a bit tough to ascend as a full grown adult; I can’t imagine how I was able to climb up when I was younger. And I’m pretty sure that metal handrail wasn’t there when I visited in 1989.

While it was fun to revisit the sites from my first visit to Provence, it was the ruins in Oppède-le-Vieux that became a highlight of our trip.

Meaning Old Oppède, this tiny village is nestled into the Petit Luberon mountains and a short drive uphill from the more populous town of Oppède.

My husband and I happened upon Oppède-le-Vieux by chance, taking a scenic detour on a drive back from Cavaillon. We stopped to take photos of the old stone buildings and small square, and returned to explore the village and the ruins on foot a few days later.

We found it strange that none of our guidebooks had more than a sentence or two on Oppède-le-Vieux. The ruins there are one of Provence’s best kept secrets, with their open access and breathtaking views.

To get to the ruins, you walk through the arch underneath the bell tower and start heading uphill. The walk is a bit steep, over well-worn stones. Footing gets a bit precarious once you enter the château ruins and there are some steep drop-offs. I’d definitely recommend wearing a good pair of sneakers.

The first building you come upon as you make your way up the hill is a Romanesque church. Dating back to the 13th century and rebuilt in the 16th century, Notre-Dame-d’Alydon is currently undergoing a renovation. Inside faded frescoes add splashes of color.

The château ruins are a mix of walls, windows  and arches, with passageways that test one’s fear of heights. On one side you have a view of the tree-covered mountains, on the other the valley and surrounding villages. There are no railings so you’ll want to be careful near the edges and keep a close eye on any younger visitors.

After you finish exploring the ruins, the cafe beside the bell tower is a nice place for a leisurely lunch or coffee.

You’ll be hard pressed to find it in most guidebooks, but with its charm and off-the-beaten-path location, Oppède-le-Vieux is a great place to discover.

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A Guide to Gordes

Photographs are only able to capture a portion of Gordes’ beauty. There really isn’t anything quite like the first time you drive up the narrow winding road and then — through a break in the trees — get your first glimpse of the perched village.

It’s no surprise that Gordes is classified as one of The Most Beautiful Villages of France. Walking around you want to take a picture of every street, every building and every view.

A great day to visit Gordes is on market day — Tuesday. Like with any market in Provence, especially during the summer, it’s best to arrive early (between 8:30 and 9am). After 9:30am the market quickly gets crowded and parking gets difficult. A parking lot at the base of the village offers easy access to the market as well as a downhill walk back to the car when your arms are full.

Gordes’ market is located in the heart of the town by château. There you can buy anything you need to make a great meal — locally grown fruit and vegetables, saucisson, cheese, bread, spices and more. You’ll also find wine, olive oil, clothing, flowers, soap, Panama hats, tablecloths and other gift items.

Once you’ve finished at the market, follow the French example and have a picnic. A wonderful place for a picnic is just a few minutes’ drive outside of Gordes. Driving north through the town, head in the direction of Murs. You’ll come to a clearing with a spot to park your car and a breathtaking view of the valley to your right. When driving around Provence you’ll always want to keep a blanket in the car for when the urge to enjoy a picnic strikes.

Of course, any great picnic is complemented by drinking a local wine. For around 5 Euros you can buy a great bottle of white, red or rosé at one of the many nearby vineyards. You’ll see signs for caves and domaines if you drive towards Les Imberts, though you can’t drive too far in Provence without passing a winery. If it’s quantity you’re looking for, continue into Coustellet where you’ll find large wine shops that sell local wines by the liter, directly from the tank. A five liter box costs around 5 Euros.

After a day of sightseeing, Gordes is a great spot to watch the sunset. In addition to the gorgeous views of valley turning from day to night, the setting sun bathes the buildings in light, giving them a pink glow.

If you’re in the mood for something fancy, head to hotel La Bastide. Right on the main road as you’re entering Gordes from the west, it’s one of the best places in the village for an upscale meal with a view. One flight down from the hotel lobby, the outdoor tree-shaded patio is the perfect spot for enjoying a cocktail as the sun goes down.

Le Cercle RepublicainFor something more casual head to Le Cercle Republicain, a small bar in the corner of the town square facing the western wall of the château. Order a “pression” (draft beer), then walk towards the back and you’ll find a small patio with a great view looking west over the valley.

Wandering around Gordes’ streets you’ll find plenty of places to eat. You L'Estaminetdon’t have to go too far to find L’Estaminet.  Given its location right in the heart of the town, L’Estaminet is a great spot for a casual meal or for sipping an aperitif while people watching. The menu is a mix of French and Italian bistro fare with a modern twist. Prices are fair (for both food and wine), and portions are pretty big. You’ll want to make a reservation for dinner on weekends during the summer, especially if you want to sit outside.

If you’re celebrating a special occasion or are looking for an extraordinary meal, make a reservation at the gastronomic restaurant at Hôtel Les Bories, located a short drive from the center of Gordes. The food is excellent and is complemented with a voluminous wine list, and the service is impeccable.

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