Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spring has arrived in the valley. The vines are starting to show green.  And with that, a new season begins.

And also a new year for Mas de la Lionne, with a number of changes in the works:

First, the NEW new website...coming real soon!  This new site will have a new look and feel to it...similar to the Tours du Rhone website, AND it will have a brand new capability:

You will be able to BUY  Mas de la Lionne wines IN THE U.S!!!

I have teamed up with a company in California which specializes in importing wines from small European and Canadian producers.  This company then also acts as the e-commerce retail arm.  So, to buy the wine, you go onto the Mas de la Lionne website and follow the "Buy our Wine" buttons to the shopping cart.  And, VOILA!, the wine will be shipped directly to you.  Pretty cool, huh!!

We are working to have the wine pysically in the U.S. (Bay Area) by watch for more details!!

And in other news.  Some of you may have seen on our FACEBOOK page that we have added a new wine to the protfolio.  Starting with the 2012 vintage, we have added a Chateauneuf-du-Pape red wine to our stable. This wine will be availble this summer (here in France) and by fall in the U.S. I am very excited to be able to produce this wine.  It has been a part of the dream every since I arrived. I am happy with this first effort, and look forward to the future.

On a personal note, this year was the year I was eligible to get a 10-year Carte de Sejour (residency permit). So I submitted the application...and lo and behold..they gave it to me.  So now I am 'street legal' for 10 more years.......guess I'll be staying for a while longer......

All for now..need to get to labeling the 2013 rose and the 2012 Ombre du Chateu.  Busy, busy, busy.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


I know, I know.  Its been like forever since I posted last.  Have you forgotten about me..?

Well, I'm back..and I promise to do better if you will stick with me.


If you have found your way here, then you have seen the new updated, improved website.  Pretty cool, hih?!?! 

We thought it was time (way past?) to update it to change the focus on what the winery now is -  we are now a NEGOCIANT.  That means that instead of growing the fruit for the wine, we contract with other growers to buy either juice or grapes.  And then we finish the wine - aging, blending, filtering, bottling, etc. And then sell it.


The touring business is going even better than I anticipated.  Having been included in Rick Steves' France book has really kicked it into a higher gear.  I had heard about the impact of being listed, but now I can vouch for the positive impact.

And the best thing about it is getting to meet a variety of nice folks.  Everyone who has joined me has been great - they are all interested in learning about the wine region, and visiting and tasting at various venues.  And while they all come at it from different perspectives - from real amateur to Executive Chef to confirmed collector - they all share the love if what's not to like!


As you are probably aware, with the sale of the winery and the transition in winemaking, I did not produce any wine from the 2011 harvest (Isable bought that harvest along with the vineyard). So I have been without new wine for a bit, and I have been continuing to sell the stock of the 2010 Cotes du Rhone in the interim.  But I have jumped back into it again - starting with 2012.

I released the 2012 rose last Spring, and it has found a following.  Its a bit darker than years gone by, but has the same red fruit and bright citrus notes that make it a great wine-on-the-terrace wine.

Also, I just released the 2012 Cotes du Rhone red - just in time for the Fete de la Veraison in Chateauneuf-du-Pape last weekend - the picture below is the booth we had at this year's fair.  It was my 5th year!!I

The 2010 Ombre du Chateau (the old vine barrel aged cuvee) is now sold out.  Next up for that wine will be the 2012, which is currently resting in barrels in the winery.  I expect to release it in February or March next year.

And my thoughts begin to wander to other areas.  Should I make a Gigondas; or maybe a Chateauneuf-du-Pape??  With this new business, I have many choices.   I'll need to decide soon so I can plan for the 2013 harvest.

So, I think that brings you up to date. I promise to be better about posting regularly.

Be well out there!


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hello to All

Been a while.  I have a few new things to share.

Vineyard first:

Vineyards in the area are all doing well.  We've had seasonably warm (70's and 80's) weather together with a few thunderstorms, so the plants are thriving.  And, of course, so are the weeds.  I have been watching from afar as the folks at Domaine Saint Prefert tackle 'my' vines.  Looks like it is going to be a good crop - flowering went well, with no heavy rain or wind to disturb the flowers turning into fruit.


I have the 2010 Cotes du Rhone in bottles, and some I have labeled and ready for sale.  Labeling has been a hand-done process this year - many of you may know that my neighbor had been letting me 'rent' his labeling machine - but he and I are no longer close since he got upset ( can you say temper tantrum) when I sold the vineyards to someone else.........

The 2010 Ombre du Chateau will be following it this month.  With friends arriving from Seattle, I have a great opportunity to put them to work helping me label/capsule bottles (they have a surprise coming....).

Sales continue to languish this Spring and into Summer.  I cannot think of a good reason why, but its way down from last year, and even the year before that. Good think I don't have to make a living off of it..

Tour Business

The touring business is starting to grow a bit.  I have conducted 5 so far, with reservations for 3 more on the books - all since the first of May.  So I am pleased with the way it is starting out.  And so far its all by internet.  I have flyers printed up, but have not yet distributed them into local hotels, etc., because I am about to off on vacation for a couple of weeks - seems like putting up flyers..and then not being here....not cool.  So as soon as I get back - out they go (again, perhaps with help from my friends.....).


Lots of news on the personal side.


So - I had to go to Paris to do it.  Its the ONLY school in France that both teaches the course and gets the examination in English. That meant having to go up to Paris more than once to get it it turned out it meant 3 trips.  First was for 3 1/2 days - intensive studying for the written exam (its REALLY TOUGH) and then to take the exam.  And, of course, they CANCELLED the exam at the last minute.  So, I had to go back about 2 weeks later.  And because the exam is in the morning, I had to go up the day before- again.  Passed it with flying colors !! YAY!!  NOTE: as many of you may remember, back about 18 months ago I tried it in French and failed miserably, so this was a BIG deal to get that behind me.
SO, written exam in hand, its off to driving - 8 hours required before the school would put me up for the test. 
ASIDE: You who know me, know that I am now 62.  I have been driving legally and otherwise, since I was 11 1/2 - so call it 50 years of experience.....and I am required to take driving classes and an exam..really ??!

So - Off I go for the driving part.   Did a couple of hours the day the written exam was cancelled - and then a couple more the day of the exam...and then 3 hours the day before the driving test.  So I got in 7 out of 8.  Intensive stuff - particularly to un-learn some of the bad habits we all get into.  I mean, come on!! - full 2 second stops at stop signs ??  Who does that!?!?!

Show up for the morning test, and I am thirs in line.  So I  wait for about an hour (test takes 25-30 min).  Finally get behind the wheel with the examiner and off we go.  20 minutes later we're done...and I'm good to go!! Whew..finally. 

BTW - the LAW is that once you have received your Carte se Sejour (Residency card) - you have to have a driver's license in a year...for me its been 3 1/2..oops............

Next up - - NEW CAR

With the re-focusing of the business into the touring area, its seemed like the old Kangoo just wasn't gonna cut it.  A little small.....a little light on the luxury...and no AC...and summer is coming.....and it's gonna be hot....

So - I stepped up and bought a 'new' vehicle - a 2009 Nissan QASHQAI.+2.  Its their French/European crossover model.  The one I bought holds 5 comfortably and 7  in a pinch.  Its nicely equipped with most of the bells and whistles - AC, Bluetooth for phone, CD/MP3 player, cruise control, sunroof.  Its a nice rig, and the one I found had only 40,000 miles on it - which for a diesel is no big deal.  Runs well - with a 6-speed its got plenty for the highway. Just picked it up in time for summer, and visitors. So when you come, I can show you around in style!!

I think that's about it for today.  Ned to get organized for my tour tomorrow.

Be well.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Hello Again - Happy Spring!!

First - vineyard news:
The vineyards around the area are all growing by leaps and bounds.  We have had mostly sunny and relatively warm weather, with the occasional rainy day - - just what the vines need to grow up big and strong.  Its a great start to the new year.

It is this time of year that makes me SAD to have needed to sell-off the vineyard.  I have always looked forward to the new growing season with anticipation for a great vintage- but not for me this is now up to Isabel at Domaine Saint Prefert.

I should mention that she has bottled her Domaine Saint Prefert 2011 Cotes du Rhone from THE property.  It is really good!! And, as I expected would be the case for her - SHE HAS ALREADY SOLD OUT (at a price higher than mine)!!! She had, last fall,  brought by the people from Wine Spectator, as well as  Jancis Robinson, and Steven Tanzer, and even Rober Parker - to show them her new acquisition - and pointed out to them what a great Cotes du Rhone it would make, etc....and with her 98-100 point 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape reputation, they swooned all over it...and the rest, as they history.  So - Congratulations to Domaine Saint Prefert for bringing the recognition to the vineyard that it deserves.

On the wine front:

This has been a really, really bad quarter for selling wine.  April is turning out to be another dismal month for sales - way down from the last two years..with no apparent reason.  Added together with January and February and it is pretty bleak.  It is this type of sales trend which makes me HAPPY to have needed to sell off the vineyard.  With sales like these, I would be up to me ^#%# in alligators trying to figure out how to pay the bills.

I have just released the 2010 Cotes du Rhone - so I am hoping, because of the mailer I sent out to announce the release, that sales will pick back up soon. I will be bottling the 2010 Ombre du Chateau next month, and have it ready for release in mid-June. And the wine fair in Chateauneuf will be coming up in August - so I have that to look forward to again this year.

On a Personal Note:

NEW Crazy Story

As many of you may know, I have never been successful in getting a French Driver's License (Conduit de Permit).  The rules are you need on after you have been a resident for 1 year (and of course I have been here almost 4 now).  I tried before to get one, but taking the course in French and then trying to pass the exam - in French - was really tough!!  I got close but not close enough.  So, I decided...#%& IT - I'll wait. (Though what I would wait for I no idea....divine intervention maybe?!?!?).

With the change in business/lifestyle strategy - to include conducting tours of the wine areas- it seemd more incumbant that I have the right certifications.  So - I decided to try again.  Fortunately, I found a school in Paris that teaches the course in ENGLISH and arranges to have the test taken - in ENGLISH !!! YAY!!!!!!

So - signed up and off to Paris I went - just this last week.  The deal was - I was to go to school for 2 days and then take the exam on Wednesday.  So I jumped on the train Sunday afternoon and tooled up to Paris - hopped on the Metro and got myself to the hotel in time for dinner.  No Problemo!

Up the next morning, I arrived promptly at the school and spent all day taking practice exams and discussing the finer points with the instructor - one-on-one.  So Far So Good!

Tuesday - after having the morning off - and doing some wandering of the streets of Paris - in the RAIN!! - I went back to the school after lunch for more of the same drill.  Finished about 6:00 pm and headed downtown (Louvre area) for more sight seeing and dinner...having arranged to meet with the instructor and other students at 8:00 the next morning for final prep and trip to take the exam.  ALL SET AND FEELING GOOD!!!

And then.....its 7:30 - I am about to walk into a restaurant on the Rue Rivoli, not far from the Place de la Concorde - and the phone rings.  It is the school.  They have JUST received notice from the Prefecture de Police that the examination for the next morning has been CANCELLED!!!!  And they have not rescheduled it.  And may not.....

So now I am out train tickets, and hotels and restaurant meals for a trip that, while not completely lost - certainly means having a DO-OVER !!!  And added to the cost of the 'Private Lesson"..the cost is going up and up and up and up......MERDE!!!!

So I spent Wednesday morning starting the driving portion of the lesson..and discussing options for taking the exam at a later soon as they hear from the Prefecture.

So - much EURO's later..and tired feet from wandering Paris in the rain..I returned to the house and the nice weather...and wait for word from Paris on when to start the whole circus over again...

C'est la vie francaise!

More later

Friday, March 9, 2012

Hi All - the travelogue continues:

This Week - HILL TOWNS of the COTES DU RHONE (part deux)

This week takes us to Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Beaumes de Venise - homes to some most interesting wines.

First stop is maybe a quick nip into La Bastide Saint Francis, which is actually down on the flats just outside the small town of Violes, But they have vineyards up in the AOC of Gigondas, and make some very nice its on the way.

Or, another potential visit is to Domaine Saint Damien - another 'along-the-way' stop down on the valley floor. This is a small producer of very fine Gigondas reds. And as a little guy, its one I can relate to.

Now up into the town we go. The BIG stop in town is the Caveau de Gigondas - the cooperative wine-tasting center located in the middle of town. They just finished an extensive remodel, and the new space is really nice - much roomier to handle more guests, while retaining a nice warm feeling. They offer tasting of more than 65 domaines (and some 80 or so wines), so you could spend all day here doing comparative tastings. The very informative staff is great, and very patient in helping people get a feeling for the wines of the AOC. There are SO many to choose from!! I try to limit myself to 4 or 5 each time I visit - so I can really concentrate on the similarities and differences.

Lunch this day is in the town square at one the restaurants with outdoor seating - as the weather is surprisingly mild for early March, and eating outside just seems 'right'.

After lunch its back down the hill, and off toward Vacqueyras which is just 4 miles down the road.

Some producers who are located along the route and between the towns own vineyards in both AOC's, and so produce both red wines. It can make for interesting comparisons of the terroir - if the winemaking style and the techniques are the same (since its the same producer) than the variations in the wines may very well be based on where the grapes come from. Typically Vacqueyras wines tend to be a bit more muscular, while Gigondas can be more refined. This would perhaps be a reflection of how far up on the hillside the vineyards are located.

Only continual drinking and discussion will tell...some many wines, so little time................... :-)

First in Vacqueyras, we go to visit Clos de Caveau- a ways up in the hills above the town. Their vineyards are located at the estate, and higher in elevation than most in Vacqueyras. They produce both Vacqueyras and Cotes du Rhone reds.

Next is a stop at Chateau de Montmirail, whose caveau is in the town center. This producer is one of my favorites, and has yet to disappoint. They make a very good selection of Vacqueyras, Gigondas and Cotes du Rhone wines. This is one of those stops for comparative tasting.

Now - onward to Beaumes de Venise, home of the renowned dessert wine: Muscat de Beaumes de Venise.

First its up the hill and way back into the hillside to Domaine de Durban. These are folks that have been my 'neighbor' at the wine fair in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and they make a great Beames de Venise red wine as well as a rose and the typical white dessert wine. Their red is a lovely soft grenache/syrah blend - a real quaffer. Its a bit of a hike to their domaine, but the wines, and the views are well worth it.

Back down the hill and into town. Many of the local winefarmers do not make their own wines, but rather only grow the grapes (white grapes) and then sell them to the cooperative - where they are combined with others in the region to make their famous sweet dessert wine. the cooperative offers a wide selection - ranging from semi- to very-sweet. They make a wine to fit every pallette. This will be the final stop today, because to taste anything red after the sweetness of the muscat just won't work.

So - back to the maison.

Next week - The Luberon Valley!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hi All

I know, its been more than a week!

Up this week: HILL TOWNS OF THE COTES du RHONE (part un)

This trip we start with the little town of Seguret. This home to about 200 folks is built into the side of the hill toward the northern end of the hills - the Dentelles de Montmirail. They are the eastern border of the Rhone Valley. And it is here that most of the Cotes du Rhone Villages are situated.

We start by going up to, and then past, the entrance to the town and push our way up the hillside to Domaine de Mourchon. Established back in 1988 by Walter McKinlay, this domaine produces outstanding Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Villages (Seguret) wines.

In addition to being a producer, they also act as a negociant (buying juice from farmers and then aging and re-selling the wine under their label "Mourchon"........sound familiar!?!?

As can be seen on the way up/down, their 'estate' encompasses just about every square foot of land that is plantable up on the hillside.

Now, back down the hill to the town itself. It is one of the sleepiest of the hill towns - as home to just 200, it is tiny, and its narrow lanes enhance its beauty. A few small shops, one restaurant and one caveau for winetasting makes this a quick visit. But a MUST VISIT it is...for the outstanding view of the Rhone Valley. This 180 degree vista really shows what the Cotes du Rhone is all about.

Descending further down to the valley floor, its off to Sablet...all of about 3 minutes away (around here, all the towns are close to one another..the trip from Avignon to Seguret is only about 45 minutes).

Sablet is the quintessential hill town. With its church spire sitting high above the center of town, even in the distance its charm is apparent. One of the great 'photo opportunities' of the area.

Its only a quick jaunt up to the center of town for lunch in the main square. Then available restaurants are small but charming, and the offers of salads, pizzas and wine on the terrace makes for a great meal.

Either before or after, it makes sense to make a quick stop in the Office of Tourism in the town. They provide a lot of info on the town and the surrounding area, as well as the opportunity to try a wine or two form the 'AOC Cotes du Rhone Villages Sablet'.

Back down the hill we go for a quick visit to one of the local producers. To choose from today are: Domanine de Pasquiers -on the road to Seguret - a producer of both Sablet and Gigondas wines; or Domaine de Verquiere - a solid producer of Sablets and Cotes du Rhone and my neighbor in the stands at last year's Fete de la Versaison in Chateauneuf-du-pape.

But the choice for today is Domaine de Boissan. Christian Bonfils and his family run this small domaine at the foot of the town. He has been a friend and a great resource for information when I first made the purchase of my property. Together with his son, they make a variety of white and red Cotes du Rhones, including both Sablet and Gigondas. With his 'urban vineyard' in front of the house, he is the epitome of the small winefarmer.

That's it for today.

Next week, I will continue the Cotes du Rhone Hill Town tour, working my way south through Gigondas, Vacqueyras, and Beaumes de Venise!

Stay Tuned!!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Hello to all

Since winter time is down-time here - no work in the vineyard (now that is is sold) - no winery sales (only a few clients come out this time of year) - no work around the house...not much news

So I thought, to help get TOURS du RHONE up and running, and to keep you all entertained, I would start including in this blog a bit of a travelogue - I would go and scout-out the potential spots for touring, and fill you all in on what's what.

Every week I will strike off to visit one or more of the local wine spots and report back - with pictures and ideas for stops on the tour(s).


(Note: when tasting red wines it is always best to start with the less powerful and finish with the big hitters. Today, however, we are doing it in reverse...because Chateauneuf-du-Pape is closest to home).

Chateauneuf, the town, is about 2000 people, most of whom are directly involved in the wine industry. The wine AOC covers about 7800 acres, and is owned by more than 300 winefarmers.

First stop is, of course, to observe the vineyards, with their unusually rocky soil. These large galets (stones), taken together with the red soil, is what makes CDP wines pretty unique..and the most powerful of the southern Cotes du Rhone AOC's. The grenache grape, which is the dominant grape of the area, takes real well to this rocky well-draining soil. This time of year, all the vines are dormant, and most of the winter pruning has been done, so all that's left are the stubs - from which will grow the new shoots in the spring. For Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines, grenache is king, but you also found a lot of syrah and mouvedre in the reds (8 varieties are allowed but not all used).

White wines (about 6% of production) are primarily based on grenache blanc, rousanne, clairette and boubelenc grapes. No rose wine is allowed in the AOC, but some houses will make a Vin de Table for themselves.

Since it is still winter, and traffic is WAY down, many of the domaines are closed - its their time to unwind from harvest and get ready for Spring - many take time off in February for vacations to the sun (Corsica, Canary Islands, Carribean). But i was able to at least swing by a few and check-in for the upcoming year.

Cuvee du Vatican is located just on the outskirts of town as you leave toward Courthezon. The name is a reflection of the Papal approval given to the wine back in the 1950 (the Diffonty family goes back some 450 years here in town). They own about 16ha ( 40 acres) spread out over the appellation, and produce both red and white Chateauneuf-du-Pape as well as Cotes du Rhone and VDT wines.

Next, its into town to explore a bit. As it is mid-winter the crowds today are non-existent, and the streets are quiet. Shops are doing their own winter 'spruce-up' to get ready for the season.
Lunch typically would be in one of the small restaurants in the middle of town - (La Mule du Pape; Le Pistou; La Masionetta; La Mere Germain) great variety of foods and styles. I am late and I have missed it for today..rats.

After that, its just a quick stroll up the hill to visit the remains of the Chateau that gave the town its name. The Chateau was built back in the 14th century as the summer chateau for the Pope - during the period in which the Catholic church was centered in Avignon. Not much remains after it was almost totally destroyed in WWII. While there is not much to see of the chateau, the commanding 360 degree panorama is not to be missed - - to the south you can see down the river to Avignon, and to the west Mont Ventoux looks to be oh so close.

From the top of the hill, its only a quick jaunt down to visit Domaine Bosquet des Papes. Another long-time family of the area (15 generations!!) - they own about 27 ha (65 acres) of vines - but spread out over 40 parcels (which is very typical for this area). From that they produce 3 or 4 different cuvees of red Chateauneuf-du-Pape and one white wine. One of their red's is about 98% grenache - with the others following the traditional 80/10/10 split with syrah and mouvedre,

Last stop is at the small Domaine du Banneret just down the street. Jean-Claude Vidal - who's nephew Jean-Marc Espinasse owns a wine domaine in the Cotes du Rhone (Domaine Rouge & Bleu) - owns 3ha ( 7+ acres) in 7 parcels. Using most of the 13 varieties allowed, and farming biodynamically, he produces some great wines in the traditional style.

And with that, its a wrap for today.

More next week......Hill Towns !