I finally saw our visitor this morning….after he scurried across the roof, he found his way to the window grate and peered into the living room. No mouse was this unwelcome guest….I think it might be a subspecies of the European brown bear! I guess our truce will continue as long as he understands that his home is outside and ours is inside.
This uneasy start to the day helped to define today’s expedition…..booze and more booze.
We started the morning at Domaine de la Provenquiere, They produce one of our favorite wines so we’ve been anxious to try their other wines. After a short drive on rugged backroads that sometimes felt more like bike paths, we found the winery and drove through its tall iron gates. The winery looks like a mini-Versailles….a U-shaped chateau surrounding a gravel courtyard. A charming woman….blond, casually dressed, in her early 40’s….led us through a door into a large room with cream-colored stone walls, orange bistro tables & chairs and a hodgepodge of counters showcasing their offerings….bottled wines, boxed wines, gift items and brochures for local attractions.
She explained their three types of wines…. Les Fruits Défendus (single varietals….Vermentino is the one that brought us here), Les Cuvées P (table wines using two varietals) and Les Invincibles (complex blendings of multiple varietals). After our degustation (tasting), our favorites were Les Cuvées P Rosé (a friendly blend of Cinsault & Cabernet Sauvignon), Le Téméraire (a complex yet fresh blend of Sémillon, Chardonnay, Vermentino, Viognier, Sauvignon & Marsanne) and Le Généreux (a mellow, silky blend of Cabernet-Sauvignon and Merlot). They’ll start our winter wine cellar….unless we have a terrible thirst before then.
From there, we ventured on to Marseillan, a lively fishing town on the edge of the Etang de Thau. The etang, about 12 miles long by 5 miles wide, is separated from the Mediterranean by a narrow spit of land. It’s home to fishermen, oyster beds, wind-surfers and canal boats moving from the Canal du Midi to points north.
As usual during our forays, we arrived at lunchtime. Since our final destination was near the port, we decided to dine nearby at O Soleil. Their prix-fixe menu was inexpensive and featured local seafood. For our first course, we chose tomate et mozzarella au basilic (tomato and mozzarella with basil) and bulots et crevettes (whelks and shrimp). The mozzarella was layered within the sliced tomato with drizzle of pesto on top. The whelks (sea snails) went down easier with the strong aioli sauce that accompanied them and with copious amounts of local white wine.
For our entrées, we chose grilled dorade (sea bream) and seiche (cuttlefish….a local specialty). The dorade, quickly cooked in butter, was delicious. The seiche had a very salty taste and it’s texture was reminiscent of a leathery overcooked scallop….our first French disappointment.
Two cups of espresso and we were off to the object of our visit…..Noilly-Prat, home of the original French vermouth. On a short tour, we learned that local grapes are used to produce a white wine that cellar-ages in Canadian oak before further aging outdoors in French oak barrels where the salty sea breezes of summer, the cool, crisp nights of autumn, the harsh rains and snows of winter and the gentle spring sun imbue the wine with the flavor of France. After this long year has done its magic, the wine is moved back indoors, this time to Italian oak, where aromatic herbs and spices are infused to create these distinctive liquors. And to think we thought vermouth was only a minor ingredient for Martini’s and Manhatten’s.
After sampling their three varieties of vermouth.…Dry (using 20 herbs and spices including chamomile and juniper), Rouge (with saffron, quinine, cloves and nutmeg among its 30 ingredients) and Ambre (cinnamon, vanilla and bitter orange are in its secret recipe)….we bought bottles of all three and headed home hoping our visitor had moved on.
À votre santé…..to your health