Friday, April 10, 2015

Wednesday, April 8, 2015 - Wine tasting in Montravel region of Bergerac

Katie made a "Route des Vins" for us for exploring a part of the Bergerac wine region. Clark had set 2 requirements: wines from the Montravel AOC (Appelation d'Origine Controlee) and English spoken.
The Orange area is where we are heading - half hour west of Bergerac.

Besides the wine-tasting, we were also following a driving tour suggested by the Michelin Green Guide for Dordogne. 

But to start, we had to drive to Bergerac to find the Barclay Bank in hopes of fixing our issues with our pin numbers. We're beginning to think Barclay used false or at least misleading advertising for their European card. In Europe, credit cards use a chip and pin technology where a pin number is embedded into the card and must be used at transactions where the card is inserted into a card-reading machine. They don't use magnetic stripes to encode the bank information and thus are generally more secure than our US stripe cards. European card readers can read our stripe information and generate a receipt that must be signed. That all works fine when the card reader is attended. However, toll booths and some gas stations are unattended and you can only complete a transaction using your pin in the card reader. (If it doesn't recognize that a pin is required, it gives a glaring: REFUSE. Trains likewise use chip and pin cards only, even at ticket tellers. It's that or cash. 

Using online and phone help has proved useless in resolving the problem. So, Bergerac being the nearest branch of a Barclay bank, we make that the first stop. Of course, it's market day and the whole parking lot of the square where the bank is is taken over by vendors. Street parking is full with those shopping at the market. But we manage to find a spot, probably not legal, and leave Dave in the car while we head to the bank.

French banks require you to be buzzed in through a double glass vestry, which they are not usually thrilled to do if you look like a tourist. However, a bank lady was chatting out the front door with a French customer and so we had an in. Not that it mattered. Barclay France has no communication with Barclay US and she can't help us or give us any useful information about WHO might help us. 

Don't bother with a Barclay card if you're getting it to be able to use it in Europe. We're cancelling ours as soon as we get home. Too bad. We would have paid the annual premium to keep it since we travel to Europe relatively regularly. Shame on Barclay for making our lives so miserable in trying to make this work.

But now, back to the fun part of the day.  We head west with Katie in the lead. Our wine growers don't really have addresses, but rather towns, which means we'll have to use a very sketchy map from the tourist office to try to locate the vineyard. Sounds like adventure brewing.

Past Bergerac, we are soon out in the country surrounded by vineyards whose vines look only like dead sticks right now. The rolling countryside presents vistas of agricultural land and small villages. It's a beautiful sunny day and the fruit trees are setting their blossoms.

Clark's picture. Isn't it beautiful?

Our first vineyard is Château Le Raz owned by the Barde family. 

We were a bit confused when we saw this sign since we didn't yet know that the Barde family owned Chateau Le RAZ
This sign makes it all clear.
We've tasted this wine (and bought a bottle) at La Maison des Vins in Bergerac and we want to try more. We make our best guess of direction from the center of the village listed as the address of the vineyard and head off. We luck out and see a sign, head that direction and are rewarded by finding the vineyard. There is a Château where the current wine grower's grandparents and sister currently live. The family has been involved in winemaking since the 1400s, but the Chateau has been in the family only since 1958 when his grandfather purchased it.  

We taste whites and reds and leave with a case of wine (the rosé is wonderful) and plenty of pets for their dog Merlot. 

Next we head for the Green Guide tour stopping at Romanesque churches in St Martin de Gurson, 
St Martin de Gurson

Carsac de Gurson, and 
Romanesque church at Carsac de Gurson

Church at Carsac-de-Gurson

Altar of church at Carsac-de-Gurson

Villefranche de Lonchat which was also a bastide town. 
St. Anne in Villefranche-de-Lonchat - has no front - there are shops to the left of the bell tower.

Interior of St Anne's
Villefranche de Lonchat was built above its original town. The townspeople liked the security of the bastide, but complained that their church in the old town was too far away and the parishioners of the church complained about the bastide residents coming down to their church. The king (or lord?) gave permission to the congregation to use the stones from one of his houses to build the church of St. Anne. 

We then searched out the ruins of Château de Gurson. This of course got us into trouble as we entered a farm where it said "Vente de vins" and we kept driving through the farmyard, up the hill on a tractor path where old farm machinery came to die and donkeys grazed. Hopping out to take photos, we were yelled at by a French farmer saying "Privé". We left, knowing we had been trespassing, but not repentent. 

Next stop, lunch by the Lac de Gurson, a recreation area with swimming beach. 

Then back in the car to look for our next wine stop - L'Ancien Citadelle in Montcaret. Montcaret is known for its ruins of a Roman villa, worthy of a brief stop to check out its museum. However, after traveling all the streets of Montcaret and asking several people, we never found the winery. 

Oh, well, we have a backup plan. We head to Montazeau (where Le Raz is) to the Château les Grimard where we have a delightful tasting in a working bottling room with a winegrower with a dry sense of humor. We leave with half case and a 5 liter box of rosé. 
Tasting room is the production room with stainless tanks, bottling machine and inventory.

How is it that Janis is always the one with the wine?

Pop-Pop photobombs Evie and Dave. Evie's not sure what to think about this winetasting stuff.

The ride home is long but aperos followed by soup, salad and bread finished the day just right.

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