On Friday evening, Francois led the way from the University through Montpellier to Chateau Chirac – his wife’s (Anne) family estate. It was about a one hour drive through the rain and on the way we stopped at a tasting room in Pic St. Loup to take a short break and watch them fill up people’s take-home plastic gallons of wine. The Chateau is near the town of Uzes, but is in the country. It was built in the 1800’s by Anne’s great grandfather and has been passed down through the family.
It was a lovely old Chateau built in the traditional stone with a tower and blue shutters. There are two large iron entry gates with posts, and outlying buildings attached to the chateau so it appears to be a small village. They rent out some of the buildings and have remodeled the barn to be a lovely house. The Chateau is reserved for the large family on holidays. There are also about 60 hectares of land which used to be under vine, but is now primarily wheat and orchards.
They used to have a winery there that was known for its great red wine. Francois has now sold the winery to a Belgian who makes equally good wine, primarily from syrah and mouvedre. We had a bottle with dinner which was chicken with tomato and a lovely zucchini a gratin for which I got the recipe (cut and saute zucchini in olive oil and garlic, then put in a baking dish and cover with béchamel sauce. Then grate gruyere cheese on top. Cook until cheese melts and is a golden brown.) Next course was a green salad, then a cheese course, followed by a flourless chocolate cake. We also had a bottle of the old vine carignan that I brought from Famille Lignares with dinner. I should mention we started with a glass of my Vin Jaune and tapenade appetizers. After dinner, we had tea with local honey by the fire. A huge storm blew in and rattled the windows with rain, thunder and lightning. Anne’s father, mother, and brother joined us for the meal.
The next morning was bright and sunny and I walked around the grounds taking photos (some included with this blog). Breakfast was café au lait in a bowl with toast and homemade jams and chocolate chestnut jelly. Francois said the locals used to live off the chestnuts in the mountains. The area is also known for mulberry trees and silkworms – similar to Lyons. On the third floor of the chateau, Francois showed me a room that had been used to raise silkworms. It had a fireplace in each corner to keep them warm. He said they fed them mulberry leaves and then when they cocooned, locals would slowly extract the silk and weave fine fabrics.
The experience at the chateau was magical and one that I will treasure for a long time to come. To have the opportunity to stay in such a magical place with a real French family was very special.