Friday, June 8, 2012

Loire Valley: Chateau Cheverny & Romorantin Wine

We are spending a week in a French gite an hour south of Paris in the tiny village of Thourey-Ferroutes near Fountainbleu. The gite is quite spacious with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, full kitchen and living room. It is within the grounds of a large chateau, and the owner Sylvie, is very gracious and speaks perfect English.

We are relaxing in the area and also taking day trips. So far we have visited Chartres, Monet’s garden in Giverny (stayed there the first night at a B&B), and took the train to Paris (leaves every 30 minutes from the delightful town of Moret Sur Loing. Today we drove to the Loire Valley (1.56 hours).

Our first stop in the Loire Valley was the beautiful town of Blois along the river. We wandered through the pedestrian-only downtown, gazing in the shops and finally settling down for lunch at Le Marignan restaurant recommended by Rick Steves. We had the 14 euro menu with included a choice of crepes, chicken, or beef, as well as terrine and salad to start. Quite nice. The restaurant is located on the main square in from the Chateau Royal where Louis XII lived. You can tour the chateau, but we just took pictures and looked inside the gates. I was fascinated with the porcupine symbol that was emblazoned on the castle walls – the emblem and favorite animal of the king. Probably most amazing about Blois was the House of Magic on the square created by Houdin which had 5 large mechanical dragons which came out the windows and roared every half hour. Very unusual! (See photo)

After lunch we spent an hour shopping and then headed to Chateau Chambord about a 20 minutes drive from Blois (see top photo). It was already late in the afternoon, so we did not do the tour, but we walked around the huge spired-studded castle and took many photos. It is so large and unusual looking that it seems surreal.

Next we drove another 15 minutes to Chateau Cheverny which is the most well-preserved castle in the Loire with all its original furniture from the 1600’s. The reason it is so well kept is the same family has been living there the whole time – spared during the French revolution. We paid the fee to tour and enjoyed the exquisite d├ęcor and many paintings throughout the chateau, and also appreciated the expansive vegetable garden, grounds, and seeing the hounds fed. (See photo of gardens below)

We stopped to taste wine at the small wine shop on the way to the parking lot. They allow you to taste 3 AOC Cheverny and one AOC Cour-Cheverny wines for free. The first 3 were a sauvignon blanc/chardonnay combination (2011) which had the wonderful grassy smell and high acid I enjoy. The second was a pinot noir/gamay rose – very fruity and delightful, while the third was a 2010 pinot noir/gamay/cot blend – very earthy, subdued fruit, high acid, scratchy tannins and similar to an average quality Burgundy. The most unusual had to be the white medium-bodied wine made from the rare romorantin grape. It is only found in the tiny AOC Cour Cheverny, and was an unusual, dry, straw tasting wine with a touch of lemon and very high acid. It reminded me vaguely of a Vin Juane from the Jura region.

The long drive back was not enjoyable, but we managed to make it to our gite around 9pm. The summer evenings stay light until after ten, so it wasn’t a problem. We immediately got out the many cheeses and salami we keep in the fridge and I opened a new bottle of Loire white – a delightfully fruity sauvignon blanc blend. I also had a taste of an open bottle of a 2009 St. Nicolas de Bourgueil from Les Domaniales. This is a wonderful red Loire 100% cabernet franc wine which I picked up for 5.50 euros at L.Eclerc – an amazing value with good intensity, dark fruit and violet notes, and firm tannins.

The rest of our week we are taking day trips to Fountainbleu (quite close), another train trip to Paris again, and a visit to Versailles before we head back to CDG to fly to Montpellier for a week in the south of France.

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