I like wine. And when the cork on a bottle of wine is popped in Provence, it’s an occasion. The moment is made.
I also like to travel. New places, new friends, new tastes and smells. It brings my senses to the surface and makes my brain buzz with delight and curiosity.
Traveling to a place where wine is a central tenet of daily life and local economy, where vineyards stretch, literally, as far as the eye can see – this was a delightful new experience for me.
On a quick 3-day jaunt to meet Anne, our gracious and supremely knowledgeable Provence Untours Host, we spent time on our never ending quest for new apartments, villas and homes for our beloved Untours travelers (“UnTourists”) to experience their own Provence bliss. I stayed in Hermann House, a centuries-old estate just a few miles outside of the perfectly Provençal village of Pernes-les-Fontaines, and one of our longest tenured lodging offerings in the region.
After an initial day of running around, checking housing options with Anne, we found a gem of a villa in Provence. Villa Wisteria is one of the most interesting and historic homes on our entire global roster. Importantly, it’s already available for booking with us. On my second day I was set free to roam wine country on my own. Anne recommended a few wine villages, but demanded that I not miss Gigondas. I soon understood her insistence.
Gigondas is a 30-minute drive from Pernes and a slice of wine heaven. It’s what every wannabe winery in the world aspires to be. Except it’s real. After a hard right turn off of the main road to the north that weaves through the vineyard-filled valley, you rise up to the perfect wine village on a hill. Sand-colored stone homes, businesses, and churches with tiled roofs speckled in various shades of red, a few top-class restaurants that serve (of course) the best local wines – and local in this context means within the few miles surrounding the village – and an ocean of vineyards stretched out below. I spent a splendid afternoon wandering the streets, stopping in the shops for a few sips of wine, taking more photos than I care to admit, and wishing that my wife had been able to make the trip to join me, Nothing makes the heart grow fonder like an afternoon of good wine and fresh air in a romantic village in southern France, I was reminded again.
Before leaving the village, I made sure to pick up a few bottles of the local variety. I saved one to take home with me and brought the other to an evening dinner party at Anne’s home, where we were joined by a retired Untours Paris host who has decamped to Provence. That night, as we sipped a bold Gigondas red and shared stories about Untours history and visions for the future, I took a minute to savor the moment. Good company and good food, accented with a more than “decent” bottle of wine. It was everything Provence is meant to be and more.
Now time to plan my return trip, this time with my wife and maybe a few good friends along for the ride.