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Archive for France

Restaurants in the Heart of Bordeaux, France

in Food, France, Restaurant     

September is a beautiful month in Bordeaux, and the day after we landed we went out in search of a good meal.  M de Monbadon’s menu was printed rather than handwritten and the offerings seemed uninteresting.  C’yusha, whose chef recently came from the great Table de Calvet, was closed for lunch the day we visited.

Le Loup, 66 rue Loup, was a familiar and reasonably priced alternative.  Run by the same brother-sister pair for 18 years,  the restaurant has operated in the building since 1932.  The 17 euro menu offered a salad of goat cheese lightly fried in bread crumbs with vinaigrette with verve, followed by a tender couple of pork medallions in mushroom sauce with potatoes fried in duck fat.  Dessert was simple:  fruit cocktail with lemon sorbet.  The scallops in a sauce of honey, grapefruit  and tangelos were dreamy, mopped up by rye bread we had bought at Paul bakery.  We ordered a half bottle of Chateau Falfas 2005, Cotes de Bourg.   It was tannic and needed another  5 years, since the 2005 year was very sunny and the wines strong.  We conversed with the couple next to us in their 80’s and narrowly escaped without buying either of the two properties they were selling:  a 900 square feet apartment in Old Bordeaux, and a huge country estate between Bergerac and Perigueux! 

Friday, with great pleasure, we met our friends Patricia and Daniel Bain at the new fancy Regent Hotel Brasserie for lunch.  Since we saw them 2 years ago in Martel, the beautiful stone town where Daniel had been restoring stone houses,  they had decamped to Bordeaux, where their 13 year old son Oscar is in a new school.  They now have a new project and are renting a townhouse in the center of Bordeaux, complete with beautiful wood terrace and walls painted a combination of robin’s egg blue, bright yellow and red (not their taste in colors!).  It was wonderful to see them in such good spirits, looking well.

To celebrate Catalina’s birthday, we all ordered the 22 euro 2-course menu, a heap of tiny fried smelt,  with a glass of tartar sauce for dipping.  Some in our group did not appreciate the fish’s tiny eyes looking up at them!  The main course was either a white cod with snails in parsley butter sauce, or tender chicken rolled around perfectly cooked foie gras, wrapped in a green leaf that might have been lettuce.  Several people noted that the 2001 Graves red we ordered had slightly off flavors, but we nonetheless managed to down it all.

P&D invited us to their home, and fed us delicious chocolates and macaroons.  Hopefully it won’t be long before we see them in the gite.

Claudia, Steve, Catalina

Bordeaux’s Far-Flung Satellite Restaurants

Bordeaux’s Far-Flung Satellite Restaurants
Sallying forth in the 5 passenger Opel Zafira that we had picked up at the Bordeaux St. Jean train station, we headed for the Saturday market in Bazas south of Bordeaux.  We were ecstatic to see the sausage wizard, Patrick from Aveyron, and he was equally happy to see us after a 2 year absence.  We picked up lean pork herb sausage, duck sausages, chorizo, smoked ham, smoked duck breasts and a dense wheat and seed bread.  We bought a riot of fresh fruits and vegetables, and then went to our favorite restaurant for lunch.

Les Remparts, 49 place de la Cathedrale, Bazas.  This restaurant was just sold to new owners from far away.  Who knows what cuisine they will offer…  But for today, we savored a rich lamb tajine with apricots and pistachios on couscous.  Cat, John and Trudy chose the 3 course menus for 25 euros.  The first courses, Bazas beef terrine with a small salad, or sweet melon with Bayonne ham, were delicious.  The wine was a 2008 Coquillas Pessac Leognan.  It had an intense aroma of violets and blackberries with a taste to match.  Main courses were tender white cod on braised vegetables, Madras curry chicken (mild) with pineapple and steamed white rice.  Dessert:  flat apple tart with ice cream, an assortment of sorbets (pear, cassis, mandarin orange) accompanied by dense, bitter warm chocolate sauce and a side dish of Chantilly cream.  A terra cotta dish held crème brulee, excellent.  We rated the meal an A.  We also ordered a half bottle of white Graves, Chateau Brondelle, 2010.
Clos Mirande, Montagne St. Emilion (05 57 74 50 16).  We reserved for Sunday lunch in their casual bistro.  The restaurant was opened a year and a half ago.  As an entree (the entering, or first course), Steve ordered a green salad, and we also ordered terrines of rabbit with a parsley garlic sauce and salad.  Main courses were:  perfectly cooked sole with lemon butter, fricassee of guinea fowl game bird, braised with black grapes, mushrooms and honey, or tender layers of pork stacked then wrapped in bacon, sitting on a slice of eggplant.  It was accompanied by zucchini, carrots and turnips.  We asked the lady for a recommendation as to a local wine, and it was a good one:  2006 Chateau Vieux Rocher Montagne de St Emilion.  We also ordered a glass of white to go with the fish.  This was the best meal we have had in France so far on this trip!

Claudia, Steve, Catalina, John, Trudy

Dining in Old Bordeaux – “Vieux Bordeaux”

Report from gourmet week with friends from Clermont-Ferrand …it’s a hot and sultry week, all of a sudden.  Which made the shady courtyard behind the Vieux Bordeaux all the more inviting.  Pink tablecloths, flowers, bushes, and even a little “stream” with goldfish set the tranquil mood, right in the center of Old Bordeaux.  It’s located at 27 rue Buhan. We reserved in advance and got a choice table out of the direct sun and next to the stream.

The prices were reasonable, especially for lunch.  There was a 17 euro 3-course menu and a 26 euro 4 course menu.  We ordered the 26 euro menus, which began with a “pre” appetizer of smoked duck breast, Bayonne ham and cantaloupe melon.  The main appetizer was eggplant and pepper terrine, copper colored, a bit oily, with mesclun salad.  This menu had a fish course, consisting of St. Pierre fish with star anise, or pike perch with capers and cornichon pickles.  The meat course:  lamb filet with vegetables, a dish called parmentier, of ground meat cooked between 2 layers of mashed potatoes, or duckling sliced thin with honey and spices.  Steve ordered just a main course, the Charolais beef tenderloin, cooked to perfection with girolles mushrooms.

Michel chose a dessert of various chocolate formats ranging from gooey to liquid to melting, and the ladies a cheese course to finish.  But, as at any good restaurant, there were “after” desserts of little cherry clafouti tarts, chocolate truffles (which soon landed on our clothes), and the local molded specialty, canneles.

We were pleased with the purple velvety 2000 Lalande de Pomerol, la Fleur Chaigneau, and the half bottle of white Graves, Chateau de France 1999, dry and nutty.

We would give this restaurant a good to excellent rating, for service, setting, selection of food and wine.

Claudia & Steve

***Standard Website Disclaimer for Restaurant Reviews***
 Some restaurants have closed; check before going.

Dining in Bordeaux, Barsac and Langon “Hauterive St. James” in Bouliac

Now that we are spending months in Bordeaux , we realize what a treasure trove of fine dining the southwest of France is.  Especially in and around the city affectionately abbreviated locally as “Bdx”.

Today with friends from Clermont-Ferrand whom we had met with our friend Glenda last year in Le Puy en Velay, we hit the top restaurant in Bordeaux , the Hauterive St. James in Bouliac.  Hauterive meaning high above the eastern banks of the Garonne overlooking a spectacular view of the city.  Today was clear, sunny, cool, and tables were set out on a leafy terrace.  For starters, champagne and a glass of red.  Not just any glass of red, but a 1986 Chasse-Spleen Moulis-en Medoc , only $5 per glass, unbelievable!  Served with 3 tiny appetizers of quail egg melting into a little tart shell, basil and sardine jellied tart, and mushrooms combined with walnuts on top of a pastry base.

We ordered a 2000 Graves Chateau Seguin, recommended by our sommelier.  First courses consisted of giant green asparagus lightly fried with breadcrumbs, accompanied by fried egg and a confit of tomatoes and shallots.  A beef marrow bone was magically lifted up out of my dish by the waiter, releasing the escargots cooked with shallots and a delicate sauce.  And a vegetable and sardine tart for Michel.

The main courses: a perfectly cooked lamb filet with vegetables and caramelized shallots filled with melting goat cheese, vs. the crispy sautéed fish and long beans, and young veal with spring vegetables.  We laughed at the idea of 3 dessert courses:  the pre-dessert of crystallized coriander with curry ice cream and ginger (scrumptious and refreshing), the real dessert of spun angel hair, strawberries or raspberries on either a sand tart cookie or puff pastry layers.  Two of us passed on dessert (we won’t say who).  Finally, there was the “after” dessert, a glass arch with sunken coinlike slots holding chocolate and hazelnut candies, little raspberries on pastries, and miniature lemon meringue pies, doll-like.

We did have coffee, and after about 3 hours managed to tear ourselves away from the absolute heaven of this restaurant (we were the first to arrive and the last to leave), the service, the view over Bdx, the shady patio with the nets overhead containing a hundred tiny lights for summer evenings to come, and the refined (but expensive) cuisine.

Tomorrow we’ll go into Bdx for a lunch at another good place, le Vieux Bordeaux , where the cooking is reputed to be more traditional.  Followed by Jean Ramet in Bdx Thursday and then we really have to stop for the rest of the trip!

Dining in Bordeaux, Barsac and Langon “Le Chapon Fin” Bordeaux’s oldest restaurant

Our Mephisto shoes were not back from being repaired, but this gave us a good excuse to shoot into Bordeaux (a 14 minute train ride from Cestas), and dine at Le Chapon Fin, (05 56 79 10 10) at 5 rue Montesquieu, near the round covered market, les Grands Hommes.  It has one Michelin star. 2008: chef Nicolas Frion.

This is Bordeaux’s oldest restaurant, having been established in 1825.  On the Belle Epoque capitals overlooking the skylit dining room, are engraved the names of famous patrons:  Toulouse-Lautrec, Alphonse, Edward II, Curnowsky, the gourmet, and others.  Owned for 15 years by the Garcias, this September it was sold to Chateau Cordeillan-Bages.  The backdrop as you walk in consists of a screen of real rock formations, placed there at the beginning of the 20th century.  The rocks had been used as ballast for the ships returning to the port of Bordeaux .  The grey carpet, white tablecloths and burnt orange velvet chairs offer a stark, modern contrast to the architectural details of the structure.

We had 3 course menus for 160F ($22).  Since we had enjoyed the Graves red wines so much, we ordered a 1996 Chantegrive.  The tiny dish that arrived first was a rabbit terrine, topped by a basil garlic cream that rated as one of the most intense flavors we had ever experienced in France !  For the first course, we each chose different starters:  either a salad with packets of smoked salmon wrapped around eggplant caviar, or puff pastries containing bleu cheese and fish.  One main dish, osso bucco with vegetables, was tender and flavorful, with the bone served vertically beside the meat, permitting enjoyment of the marrow.  The mackerel with Indian spices and vegetables tasted much better than it sounds!  For dessert, banana tarte, a tiny scoop of coconut ice cream, or a vanilla cream dish were offered. 

Even with the change in owner, we were very impressed with the personal service, knowledge and kindness of the owner, chef Thierry Marx, waiter and female wine steward, all of whom came to greet us.  And the food still rates an “A”.

Claudia & Steve

***Standard Website Disclaimer for Restaurant Reviews***
 Some restaurants have closed; check before going.

Dining in Bordeaux, Barsac and Langon “La Chamade”

in France, Restaurant     

We are averaging 3 lunches out in restaurants per week, since we like to fix our own breakfast and eat lightly at dinner.  We had never eaten in any of Bordeaux’s best restaurants, which we vowed to correct on this long visit to the area.  (Editor’s Note: Please check before visiting any restaurant to ensure that they are still in business. Restaurants that have closed still have wonderful travel memories, wine information and menu pairings that can stir the soul and whet the appetite.)

La Chamade, 20 Rue des Pilliers de Tutelle, Bordeaux.  Down a curving white stone staircase, a tranquil, modern environment, with palm trees and apricot colored tablecloths.  Great English speaking service by a young chic woman named Sabrina, who had trained in San Francisco .  To awaken the palate, she served us small tureens of gazpacho with chunks of seafood submerged in the velvety liquid.  There were no more whole bottles of the 1998 Graves, Chateau Teigney, so we persuaded her to find 2 half bottles, which like most other 1998 Graves , was like velvet.  One main course was lamb chops carefully removed from the bone, the 7 herb-crusted medallions arranged artistically radially around the plate.  On the 3 course menu were seafood salad, rabbit and prunes and a light and airy apple tart.  No longer in business as of 2003.

Our list of other fine dining possibilities in Bordeaux includes:  Le Chapon Fin, le Vieux Bordeaux, Chez Philippe, Didier Gelineau, A Thibeaud, Les Plaisirs d’Ausone, or La Tupina.  Stay tuned during the next 27 weeks!

Claudia & Steve

***Standard Website Disclaimer for Restaurant Reviews***
 Some restaurants have closed; check before going.

Going Home (Where is home?)

in France, Life     

This week, fires have been roaring in our fireplace (and have ravaged San Diego and 6 other California counties at home).  It was zero degrees C (32 F) this morning in the car.   The frost was on the grass, and the mists rose slowly from the ground as it heated up.   In California , it has been hot, windy and dry.  Our thoughts turned to home (as opposed to our home away from home that is Monsalut).  And to our friends, their lives, their houses, and ours.  We asked them what they took with them as they evacuated.  We made our own list.

This week, we have gone through the motions of normal everyday life here, even as we have been seeing San Diego burn on CNN.  Monday:  laundry and picking up Steve’s medications at the pharmacy.  Tuesday Josiane came and administered our flu shots, then we took her and Dominique to Le Pistou for lunch.  Every year, we commemorate her discovering Steve’s pulse was dangerously low in 2003, leading to the pacemaker operation here.

Wednesday, Mrs. Goberville, Maurice and Fred came for aperitifs.  They had found Gail’s wallet and returned it 10 years ago now.  Our political views diverge radically, and we have difficulty admiring Fred, who would rather collect the minimum government payment of 435 euros a month (and do nothing), or Maurice, who is under 50 but “tired”, jaded and whose favorite phrase is “the problem is”,  Only Mrs. Goberville, at 80, floats above all the whining and complaining, to say “Vive l’Amerique”, when Steve tells her “Vive la France,”

Thursday was interesting.  The daughter in law of the mail carrier invited us to lunch an hour and a half drive south in St. Paul les Dax.  The N10 was choked with truck traffic to Spain , with lanes cordoned off for repairs.  The GPS got us to within a few hundred yards of Jennifer and Francois’ apartment.  They are two serious young people beginning their life together.  Her teaching job is now solid, but Francois must wait until January, 2008 to know if his short-term contract will be turned into a life-time offer.  He enthusiastically showed us samples of paneling, flooring, and exterior trim.  He’s put together the website for the wood industry here, as well as booklets and books.  The forest covering 1 million square km is the largest in Europe , and has 3 industries – chemicals, paper and wood planks and products.  They talk about buying a piece of land and building their own house (out of wood, naturally).  We strolled around Dax’s hot springs pampering palaces (3 weeks paid for by the French government on doctors’ prescriptions), the bullfighting arena, and the bridges over the Adour .

Now, it’s the end of our trip, and we thankfully will have a house to come home to.  Yet, if this place weren’t already rented for the Toussaint holiday week, we probably want to stay, to get out of the polluted San Diego air.  San Diego is home, but this is also home.  It’s a comfortable, beautiful place.  We don’t need to own it to enjoy it.

This weekend we’ll be over at Jean-Paul and Rachel’s house, then home late Monday, Oct. 29.

Claudia and Steve

La Table Calvet – Fine Bordeaux Restaurant

Bordeaux has been a construction nightmare for some 10 years, with the creation of a streetcar “tramway” service.  The tram is nearly complete, and the city peaceful and beautiful now.  However, a pleasant side effect has been the restoration and improvement of the wharves.   For hundreds of years, barrels of Bordeaux were rolled down to tall-masted ships on their way to England and points beyond.  The entire waterfront on the left bank (west side) of the Garonne river now houses bike paths, grass, playgrounds, organic markets and storage warehouses turned into cafes and restaurants.  Last year we explored the Chartrons area, with its antique shops.  Today, we went further north to the Cours du Medoc tram stop, and were impressed.

But our real objective for today was the fine restaurant associated with the giant wine merchant Calvet.  They were founded here in 1818, and the building constructed around 1880 at 81, cours du Medoc.  We reserved at La Table Calvet for noon, and they were unlocking the doors as we arrived.  The room has dark hardwood floors, golden stone walls, exposed and glowing in this elegant, spacious 19th century townhouse.  The ceiling is composed of wavy white panels drilled with holes, and this quiets the room.  The back wall is all burgundy and black, very modern and beautiful.  The service was very experienced and nuanced.  We relied on the expertise of the sommelier in choosing the 2001 Calvet Combles de Canon-Fronsac red.  It was full of fruit, but with a distinct backbone.  We diluted its effects with a bottle of Badoit mineral water.

As we gazed out over the white tablecloths, we noticed the sommelier decanting a fine bottle of Leoville las Cases costing hundreds of dollars.  The central table was used to stage all the bottles of water and wine being poured for the entire room.  The table was unusual, in that, down the central pillar bounded 4 hounds carved in wood.  The businessmen ordering the Leoville had drunk the entire bottle before their first course had even arrived.  They called for another.  Thus is business lubricated in the city of Bordeaux.

The breads were made by the restaurant, and we tried cider bread, and a dense poppyseed loaf, neither of which even came close to “Frank’s bread”, with its abundance of whole grains, lentils and seeds.

Steve went for the tender Aquitaine tenderloin of beef, which was served with a delicious fried marrow, girolles mushrooms, tiny green beans, onions, purple cauliflower, orange cauliflower and a bizarre tender green vegetable sounding like celestus.

I choose the 28 euro menu.  It started with a parfait glass with a savory avocado mousse on top of shrimp served to both of us.  My first course was a flat pastry topped by green, yellow, and different types of sweet red tomatoes.   Arugula salad perched at the side of the square plate, and dabs of anchovy dip, tapenade olive dip and basil pesto completed the first course.  The main course was especially decorative.  5 medallions of chicken rolled in perfectly cooked quinoa, with 2 other colors of quinoa on the side.  Various vegetables dotted the plate. 

Then, a wooden rack with six places for glass tubes arrived. Two of the places were filled with six inch long tubes that are reminiscent of laboratory glass test tubes, complete with corks and filled with a light, delicate “violet water”, for cleansing the palate.

The dessert was a pastry packet tied with string, filled with a dense, sweet plum compote, dusted with powdered sugar and walnuts.  Walnut ice cream on the side.  Even though we didn’t order the coffee course, the nice wait staff brought us 2 miniature canneles (molded cinnamon fluted cake, specialty of Bordeaux ), two tiny tarts with jam, and two wrapped dark chocolates.  Since Steve is on the grizzly bear diet consisting of meat, fish, vegetables and fruits, he did not partake.  No need for any food tonight!

We rated the restaurant an A, for food, décor and atmosphere (tranquil, with only 2 other tables full of business men and women, and excellent, friendly and knowledgeable service.  Also, to our delight, as of January of 2008, there is no more smoking in any restaurant interior.  Hooray!

Claudia and Steve

Home away from Home!

On the way south to Cestas Gazinet, gite owner Xavier debriefed us on all the gossip since we left last October. 

It always feels wonderful to walk into this house.  The new Bulgarian maid, Teodora, had done a good job cleaning.  Every year we notice new details.  Daniele has repainted the kitchen cabinets in a golden yellow.  We discovered a new kitchen tablecloth, new coffeemaker, microwave, and pots.  New lattice wooden enclosure out front for recycling bin/trashcan.   Desktop computer.  New shower-head, new shower enclosure in green bedroom. New bedspread upstairs in yellow bedroom.  New café chair burgundy covers.  New mini-sofa in hall. New yellow patio chairs.  And the biggest surprise:  a huge bush beside the garage had been pruned to be hollow inside, and a nice lounging deck built around a big fir tree trunk.  A secret hideaway for relaxing in the shade.

This place is no secret.  Many of you reading this have come and stayed here too.  So you can imagine what we are doing and seeing.  The first day, we set up the computer, and the satellite TV system.  Neighbors Jean-Paul and Rachel came over with the 42 bottles of wine they had stored for us over the winter.  We got the sheets and towels out of the attic, and brought the kitchen knives and pantry items downstairs.

Sunday, we went to Intermarche for groceries (we didn’t rent a car this year because the cost went up 33%).  We bought 6 oysters originating from the immense Arcachon bay, Steve grilled up some fresh duck breasts, accompanied by endive, watercress and carrot salads.  We looked out from under the patio umbrella at the tall old oaks, magnolia, pine and holly overlooking the garden lawns of Monsalut.  Six hours later we had the cheese course.

We cleaned, lubricated, and reconditioned the bicycles, as they are going to be one of our mainstays of transportation.  French literature courses skipped over the words for bolt (boulon), nut (rondelle) and chain guard (carter), but Xavier taught me as he gave us a 4mm bolt and nut set.  I am constantly learning more French.  But that first class at age 11 has given the whole French world to me.

We will also get lots of exercise walking to the bakery, butcher, vegetable stand, pharmacy, and deli in Gazinet.  We can hop on a train there to Arcachon , Spain, Nantes, or Toulouse .  We don’t foresee any problems because everything is so convenient here.

Saturday night there was a tremendous storm, with loud thunder right over my bed at the apex of the house.  Rain poured down and lightning illuminated the skylight.  It has cleared the air, and the temperatures plummeted.  In the annals of Bordeaux winemaking, such storms are noted.  Jean-Paul told us that in 2008, March was very mild, but there was a hard frost that killed most of the prematurely flowering buds on April 7.  The summer was rainy and not warm. Now the storm of August 30 will go into the books, especially if hail or wind reduced the yield further.  2008 will likely not be a good year for Bordeaux wine.

If it doesn’t rain today, we’ll visit Franck at the pharmacy and explore our old haunts on our bikes.  No doubt we’ll end up at “Les Sources”, the iron-rich spring in the forest.  Steve calls these fall months in Cestas the “spa treatment”.  For me, it just feels great to be alive here!

Claudia and Steve
September 1, 2008

100 Days After the Flowering Comes the Tasting

We learn something new each time we visit one of Bordeaux’s winemakers.  The rule of thumb here is, 100 days after the vines flower comes the harvesting.  The harvest of the local Sauvignon Blanc grapes and the earliest red varietal, Merlot, is already underway.
Tuesday, we visited Chateau LaFargue, a modest, yet award-winning property in Pessac-Leognan appellation south of Bordeaux.  We went to pick up a case of 2004 red which we had purchased last year as futures.  Not content to just “grab and go”, we stood at the tasting bar as the acutely sophisticated (and knowledgeable) blonde sales manager offered us tastings of whatever we desired.  And even threw in a wooden case with “tampon” (the end piece with the chateau’s insignia and name stamped on it)
We wanted to taste the 2000 and 2003, reputed as excellent years.  We were more impressed with their Cuvee Prestige blends, which spend 18 months in new barrels aging, and are harvested from the older vines.  The 2000 was Steve’s favorite, and Claudia preferred the 2003.  That year was so hot and dry that everyone had to apply for an exemption to exceed the maximum 13% alcohol level.  We know.  We were here 6 months of that year (including having a pacemaker installed!).  Since the tap roots of these vines delve down 100 feet for water, in spite of drought they still produced excellent wine.
The wine books chronicle what each month’s weather was like for a given year, and relates how it affects the wine.  For 2006, for example, they might write:  “there was a heat wave July 12-25, with a cool, rainy August.  On Sunday, September 10, there was a long and violent rain, with thunder rolling like massive bowling balls down the lanes of the sky.  Some parcels received damage, but the harvest had already been brought in at other properties”.  After hearing the final earth-shatteringly loud thunder bomb, we were sure the entire wine harvest had been vaporized!  But the winemakers said it had not hit the ground.
The 2004 is said to be a moderately good year, but the 2005 is the year that everyone is getting excited about.  Lucky, because French wine sales had dropped precipitously for several years.  Now, exports are up 18.6% through May (IHT 8/8/06), based mainly on avid international demand for the 2005.
The supermarkets all run “Foire aux Vins” promotions and print color catalogs in September.  J-P and Rachel again invited us to the after-hours gourmet wine tasting event at Intermarche this year.  Hundreds of faithful customers were anxiously milling about the wooden wine crates from all over France.  There was the clink of bottles being loaded into carts and the buzz of conversation.  People lined up 10 deep around the food as if they hadn’t eaten a crumb in days.  I saw one thin older man shoveling fresh Arcachon oysters into his mouth as fast as he could.  Soon the trays of cheese cubes, fatty sausages, fine ham, and olives were gone.  The trays of foie gras on baguette lasted only seconds with this crowd.
We re-connected with the well-muscled and fashionably-dressed Stefanne (fluent English speaker who visits Napa properties).  Pouring generous glasses of the sweet white 1999 Sauternes called Roumieu, he offered to take us to Brane-Cantenac and other properties later in October when our guests arrive.  We also talked with the sommelier pouring “foreign” wines, some Chilean, Portuguese and Argentinean.  There were no American wines on offer.  The French are super sensitive to their recent failures competing with the rest of the international players, so they don’t let in much non-French wine.  Only if the importer’s name is Rothschild or Lurton does it get in.
One might think that all French wines are expensive.  This is true in fine wine stores in America.  But here, where wine is food, prices are fine.  Gold-medal winning Grenache/syrah from the villages of the Cotes-du-Rhone costs 2 to 6 euros.  An Alsace Riesling or Gewurztraminer might run 3-6 euros.  The Loire Valley cabernet franc- based reds run 4-6.  The generic Bordeaux are 3-5, with the reds from the right bank running 6, and the southern Graves cost 8.  Only Burgundies and the prestigious Grand Crus run you big money.  Chateau d’Yquem, the top Sauternes, was 157 euros a bottle .  So here, even with the euro exchange rate being so high (1.27 dollars buys one euro), you can still drink high quality wines at affordable prices.
Of course, we are only consuming red wine for health purposes, not because of the convivial, fun atmosphere around here.
Claudia and Steve