to a winery for tours tasting and dinner then to Toulouse
Liz & Joe O'Connell Domaine O'Vineyards
Its Friday morning and today we are making the short trip to Domaine O'Vineyards near Carcassonne. Domaine O'Vineyards is a winery and B & B run by Liz & Joe O'Connell. They are know to the locals as "Les Americains" but this is only part of the story. Liz is French New Caledonian ( via Paris) and Joe is of Irish heritage but hailing from Tampas, Florida.
They have settled in this part of France where they now pursue their joint passions of wine making and food.Their B & B sits atop a hill with commanding views to the Montagne Noire to the north and the La Cite of Carcassonne to the south.
Upon arrival we get a hearty welcome, especially from their dog, "Muse", and are shown to our very large and comfortable room. Then it is off for a short tour of the vineyard and to the cellar for a taste.
Joe has approximately 19 hectares of vines, including a small plot where he has planted an example of every type of wine grape grown in this region. The cellar is impressive with plenty of large stainless steel tanks and barrels for ageing the vintages.
Margie and I taste wines direct from tanks and then barrels. (Plenty of time for trying the bottled stuff later). This is itself is a new experience for 10.30am. Joe explains the trials and tribulations of being a new comer to wine making in this region. It is apparent however that he is prepared to go the extra mile to produce the best product he can and this care and attention to detail is obvious in the wine we taste.
After the tour it is back upstairs for a lunch prepared by Liz. This is where we get to sample some of the local food products, fois gras, pheasant rillette, duck terrine, turkey with tarragon and local cheeses. Now we have wine from the bottles, all O'Vineyards stock and very good.
After lunch George ( the Sommelier from the Restaurant Barbacane in L'Hotel de La Cite @ Carcassonne) arrives to taste and talk wine. Joe and George have an impromptu blending session which is interesting to observe and participate in.
Its been a big day already and only 3 pm. Margie retires for a siesta and I take Muse off to explore the surrounding hills.The wild country on the hilltops is fascinating with obvious remnants of 1000's of years of habitation now abandoned and being reclaimed by nature. There are ancient orchards, stone walls and mounds and many wild herbs and berries.On the way home I think I've lost Muse but she is waiting for me when I plod up to the house. The "What took you so long" look is easy to interpret.
That night Liz prepares a magnificent dinner, lobster first in a bisque and then tossed in sauce and served in the shell, roast beef, cheese and delicious dessert pastries. Now we taste some of the Proprietor's Reserve. Very special.
A big day and as we drift off to sleep we watch the lights of rural France twinkle over the hills to north. A good day.
A day in Toulouse
Breakfast at O'Vineyards, goodbye to Liz, Joe and Muse and we are off on the 60 minute drive to Toulouse. Alex is coming in on the plane from Paris tonight and we are picking him up.It is a good chance to spend a day in one of France's my stylish and vibrant cities.
The kilometres melt away on the French Freeway and we are soon parking near the centre of the city
First stop on the agenda is the Augustin's Abbey which now houses the Musee de Augustins. There are some very fine examples of C18th Neo-Classical, Roman and Gothic sculptures along with painting from C14th to C18th, including works by Camille Carot,Edouard Debat-Ponsan,Amelie Saurel and Gioacchino Assereto and a Rueben's.All these are housed in a magnificent old Abbey right in the centre of the city.
After finishing in the Abbey we are off to do some shopping. Toulouse is famous for its rugby team (champions of France last year) but in addition is a stylish and vibrant city. Today the population is out doing their Christmas shopping and the large mall running the length of the city centre is packed with shoppers.
We finish our Christmas shopping and both Margie and I buy clothes....everything is stylish and great value. I love the way the French proclaim "made in France" to proudly emphasise that the garment you are buying was not imported from some other country where labour and materials are cheaper.We could learn a lot from their attitude here.
I also find a couple of good wine shops and buy a fine burgundy (a 1st Cru Nuit-St-Georges) along with Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet to accompany the food at final dinner we are planning before leaving our maison de Pierre. More about that later.
We have a quick dinner, a huge bowl of black mussels (moules) and after a few minor dramas find the airport and pick up Alex. Whilst catching up with Alex's news the time flies and before we know it we are negotiating the narrow streets of Olonzac and the close of another adventure..