Dear Arthur’s Cellar Wine Club Member:
What’s Up with Hélène’s Tours de Provence?!
“We had a wonderful stay at the castle – Hélène and Jim did an amazing job of organizing everything. The company, the tours, the food and, of course the wine were all outstanding. We would love to do it again and see all the places we missed.” Bruce –Vancouver, B.C., 2014
A number of wine club members and guests from previous years have asked when Hélène’s next Tour de Provence will occur. Here’s the scoop.
For a variety of reasons, Hélène isn’t able to pre-book a tour on spec any more. However, she would be delighted to organize and lead a tour if ten to twelve people got together and asked her to do so. The beauty of this is that they could choose the time of year for their Provençal explorations and she could tailor the tour to match the group’s specific preferences.
Hélène has been conducting her small, intimate tours to southern France for the past eleven years. Her extensive knowledge of Provence, superb organizational skills, eye to detail and winning personality makes these adventures truly remarkable.
Her usual home base for the week is Le Château de Goult, a lavishly restored 14th Century castle in the hilltop town of Goult in the Luberon (Peter Mayle country). Each day brings a different nearby destination ranging from village markets to vineyard tours and boat rides on the Mediterranean. Dinners at the Château feature wines from local purveyors to Arthur’s Cellar.
“My husband and I have never been on an organized tour for travel before. Our experience with Hélène and Jim has left us excited to do it again. Provence is beautiful and full of history but without Hélène guiding us to all the right spots and taking care of all the details we would never have discovered most of them. The stay in the chateau was a highlight and set the stage for much laughter, delicious meals and easy connection with the other guests. Jim with his expertise in wine kept us informed and in good ‘spirits’. If you have always wanted to explore Provence, this is definitely the way to do it; a trip of lifetime!” Susi and Steve –White Rock, B.C., 2014
What a great way to celebrate a special occasion or stage a get-together with old friends and family. Please contact Hélène for all the delicious details. We’d love to create a Tour de Provence just for you.
Hélène with her Tour de Provence 2015 guests
There have been several changes to our supplier line-up over the past couple of years and I thought I should bring you up-to-date.
Château Saint Jacques d’Albas
Our old friend Graham Nutter decided that he requires bigger and better distribution for his wines in Ontario. We are very sad to see him leave our fold. His were the first wines we featured when we began our wine club over ten years ago. Since then we have, on behalf of the wine club, placed eighteen orders for over 5,000 bottles of wine with Château Saint Jacques d’Albas. I know that many of you have come to enjoy Graham’s wines. They might continue to be available in Ontario. Please contact Graham for more information.
No need to despair over the loss of this fine Minervois winery. We have another that is equally as good, Les Cuvées du Firmament and we will be featuring them next month.
Château des Gimarets
This is a strange one. Eric and Nathalie Boyer approached us a couple of years ago asking if we would represent their excellent winery located in the Moulin-à-Vent region of Beaujolais. We tried some samples here, visited them at their winery and decided to give it a go, knowing orders would be limited. We offered their wines on two occasions to limited response. Imagine our surprise when they informed us that they were going with another agent who had secured a listing for them at Vintages! The kicker was that they sold it to the LCBO for less than half the price they sold it to us. “A distress sale,” they said. But why not to us so we could have passed along the savings (and built up brand image) to our Members and offered it to Vintages as well? Oh well, such is the world of wine. We are unlikely to look for a replacement in Beaujolais.
This well-known biodynamic winery is located literally in the Alpilles (tiny mountains) outside of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in southern France. It was recommended to us by our old friend Christian Esparza who operates a wonderful wine emporium in Saint-Rémy. We struggled to generate sales for a few years but kept trying. Then the winery switched marketing managers. We were unable to establish a decent business relationship with the replacement, so decided to terminate our representation. However, something good came of the association. Jean-Jacques Quinsac of Le Sélect Bistro visited our booth when we represented Château Romanin at a trade show. Since then we have supplied this excellent restaurant with many of our wines.
Domaine des Les Terres de Velle
This one really hurts! We had a long and pleasant relationship with Sophie and Fabrice Laronze, first when they worked with Alex Gamble at Maison Alex Gamble and then when they started their own winery in the Côtes de Beaune in Burgundy. They make very, very good wine, but Burgundies are expensive and the Laronze’s were forced to significantly hike their prices due to scant harvests. This predictably resulted in very small order quantities from our members which in turn rendered the association unviable.
Domaine Vincent Stoeffler
Several years ago when we asked a sommelier at a restaurant in Strasburg to recommend an up-and-coming Alsatian winery, he immediately pronounced, “Domaine Vincent Stoeffler.” So we visited the winery and were smitten by Vincent Stoeffler’s Pinot Gris, Rieslings and Gewurztraminers. Unfortunately, it turned out that they were too unctuous (oily) for Canadian tastes and, as the result, repeat orders were disappointing. Regrettably, we had to terminate our dealings with them.
The 2015 Vintage in Southern France
We spent some time in southern France this past May sampling many young, fresh 2015 wines from the area (it is truly a selfless task we perform on behalf of our wine club Members), some recently bottled and others from tanks and casks. They were generally terrific – both reds and whites. The 2015 growing season had been close to ideal (hot in July and part of August with little rain) and harvesting was a bit earlier than usual under favourable conditions. Last fall, during the vendange, I had predicted that 2015 was going to be a very good year for Grenache and it turned out I was right. But, to my surprise, the Syrah turned proved to be every bit as good if not better. In that these are the two principle grapes for the reds from southern France, the resulting wines are very, very good, not unlike those of 2009 at this stage of their development. My two 2015 favourites were the Domaine Palon Vacqueyras and the Domaine Roger Sabon Châteauneuf du Pape ‘Prestige’.
And that’s it for now. Have a great summer.
Jim, Hélène and Kate