The Forgotten Grapes Wine Tour
of Provence & The Rhone Valley
June 23rd - June 30th, 2013
It's that time of the year...Time to get yourself ready and psyched up for our annual Forgotten Grapes Wine Tour of Provence and the Rhone Valley in France. For 2013 we’ve got a fantastic itinerary planned that covers nearly all of the major and minor wine regions of both the Rhone Valley and Provence – from France’s gastronomic capital Lyon in the north down to the Riviera towns of Cassis and Bandol. Forgotten Grapes will introduce you to many of the different appellations and wine varietals of southern France, and of course, we'll drink through many, many of the wonderful wines and wine varieties produced in these areas.
Whether you've traveled to and wine tasted in France before or this is your first time on the Continent, we promise you this will be one of the most memorable wine-tasting vacations you have ever taken in your life, and something you would not be able to recreate on your own. Forgotten Grape wine tours are the ultimate exploration of the lesser-known and uncommon wine regions of France and we could not be more excited to have you join us on what looks to be our most exciting and wine-soaked trip yet!
$3895 per person (Double Occupancy)
$4095 per person (Single Occupancy)
Yes, the pricing may look a little bit expensive, but bear in mind that this price is ALL-INCLUSIVE, covering for the entire eight days and seven nights of your tour all luxury accommodations, three gourmet meals per day, all ground transportation, all of your winery visits and wine tastings AND that once we get over to France those prices and expenses have to all be converted into Euros, then when you break down the price, it's actually a bargain for what you're getting: eight days in one of the most wonderful places on earth and a trip-of-a-lifetime upon which you'll hang one thousand and one different memories.
All trips require a $500 per person deposit before a participant's reservation can be confirmed.
Please note, though, that the total cost of the 2013 Forgotten Grapes Wine Tour of the Rhone Valley and Provence does not include airfare or train travel; all guests will be responsible for making arrangements getting to France and specifically to the Valance TGV station in southern France on Sunday, June 23rd on their own.
Because our 2013 Forgotten Grapes Wine Tour will have us splitting time between the Rhone Valley and Provence, we'll be utilizing two luxury hotels during our trip.
Our hub for the first half of the trip will be the quaint town of Bourg St. Andeol, located on the northern border of the southern Rhone valley. You’ll be able to wake up every morning and see the Rhone flowing by from your hotel room in the gorgeous boutique Hotel Digoine. This bed-and-breakfast is owned and operated by our good friend Olivier, houses only a dozen rooms each designed after one destination on Marco Polo's silk road between France and China, and evokes both the decadence and poshness of Louis XIV's Palace of Versailles and the quaint warmth and comfort of a southern French farmhouse.
When we travel south to Provence, we will take up residence in the capital of the region, Aix-en-Provence, and the more modern yet equally spectacular Hotel Aquabella near the city’s labyrinthine old quarter. You’ll be able to use the hotel’s immaculate pool and other spa facilities as we use Aix as a jumping-off point to explore the viticultural wonders of southern France, including the famed Bandol and Cassis wine appellations.
Both hotels provide luxury accommodations, full amenties, wi-fi, a round-the-clock staff at your disposal, and other luxuries and creature comforts you would expect to make any vacation - let alone one in France wine tasting - complete.
As mnetioned above, your meals for the trip are included in your total price, three squares a day. And we're not just talking about basic staples or boxed lunches either. You'll have the option of a filling, traditional French breakfast every day at our two hotels (of course, since you're also on vacation, we don't blame you if you want to sleep in and skip breakfast), and you'll enjoy lunches at traditional French bistros where you'll typically get your choice of items off the menu. And of course wine will be served with lunch as well (it's a mealtime staples over there, after all).
But the dinners are where the trip truly shines. We'll be spending our evening experiencing the wide range of different culinary styles on display in the south of France, from the traditional homestyle meal of a winemaking family to seaside seafood dinners literally on the beach of the Mediterrainean Sea to the epitome of French gastronomical decadence: a twelve-course tasting dinner of local delicacies paired with local wines of renown perfectly matched with the meal. Suffice to say, you won't go home hungry after this trip, but you might be bringing a few pounds back with you (and probably plenty of photos of the amazing meals you shared).
Please note: while we will do what we can to accommodate individual's food preferences and allergies, dining in France often requires an open mind and an adventurous palate. We regret that we cannot guarantee that all food requirements or special requests can be fulfilled.
Here is a look at our planned itinerary for this summer’s trip. Please note that this itinerary is still subject to change, and we’ll be updating it as necessary, so please come back often to see what changes and additions to the trip we have made.
SUNDAY, JUNE 23rd
Orientation and Your First Taste of France
9:00am – 5:00pm: Guests should arrive at the Avignon TGV station where you will be greeted by your hosts Chris Kern and Teresa Rhyne. You will be transported from the station to your accommodations for the first half of the trip at the gorgeous Hotel Digoine in the town of Bourg St. Andeol, right on the banks of the famed Rhone river.
6:00pm: We’ll take a short trip to the Notre Dame de Cousignac winery for an aperitif and a brief introduction and orientation before enjoying a welcome buffet of regional specialties in the winery gardens (weather permitting)
MONDAY, JUNE 24th
The Ardeche and Your Introduction to French Winemaking
8:00am -10:00am: Breakfast will be available in the Hotel Digoine dining room.
10:00am: Today we’ll be exploring the local Ardeche department and its Cote du Rhone and Cote du Vivarais AOC appellations. Our first stop will be a tour and tasting just down the road at Domaine Gallety, a small, family-owned winery that produces only two red Cote du Vivarais wines made from Syrah and Grenache. Gallety typically sells out their entire stock every year in France alone, but we’ve recently found a few bottles in the United States.
11:45am: From Gallety we’ll head west to the medieval town of St. Montan. Founded in the 7th century but deserted in the late 1800’s, the town lay in ruins for nearly a century before the local government adopted a plan that allowed families to move into the village in return for working on its restoration. You’ll have ample time to explore the cobblestone streets of the town and the ruins of its chateau (castle) before a grilled lunch of local meats and vegetables (with wine, of course) at the quaint outdoor Le P’Tit Bistrot.
2:30pm: From St. Montan we’ll drive into the hills above the Rhone for a tour and tasting at the Mas D’Intras winery in Valvigneres (which translates to “Valley of the Vines”). Another small, family-run winery, Mas D’Intras produces red, white, and rose wines blended from a variety of traditional Rhone grapes (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignan) and a few Bordeaux varietals as well.
4:30pm: During our return to Hotel Digoine, we’ll drive through the world-famous Gorges d’Ardeche. These massive limestone gorges have been carved out over thousands of centuries by the Ardeche river and are a popular summertime tourist destination, providing breath-taking views and a scenic drive on our way back to the hotel.
6:30pm: After a quick stop at the hotel to freshen up, we’ll once again head over to the Notre Dame de Cousignac winery and take our aperitifs into the Cousignac vineyards where winemaker Raphael Pommier will guide us on a tour of the grounds and the still-operational 13th century chapel on the property. We’ll then receive a tour and overview of their winemaking operations and a private tasting of the wines of Notre Dame de Cousignac. We’ll finish the evening with a sumptuous dinner of regional specialties prepared by Raphael’s wife Rachel and paired with Notre dame de Cousignac and other regional wines.
TUESDAY, JUNE 25th
Hermitage, The Northern Rhone, and Lyon
7:00am – 9:00am: Breakfast will be available in the Hotel Digoine dining room.
9:00am: Today will feature the northern Rhone valley, home to some of the most famous Syrah and Viognier-based wines on the planet. Our first stop will be the home of one of those famous wines, the Paul Jaboulet Aine vineum and the storied “La Chapelle” Hermitage. The Jaboulet vineum serves as the primary storage and aging facility for Jaboulet’s wines, and it is a million-square-meter cave that was once used as an aircraft hangar during World War II. After our tour, we’ll receive a private tasting of some of Jaboulet’s most famous wines, including the “La Chapelle” Hermitage and the “Le Chevalier du Sterimberg” Hermitage Blanc. Plus, everyone will receive a bottle of Jaboulet’s “Parallele 45” Cote du Rhone to take home with them.
12:15pm: We’ll drive northwest from Jaboulet to the actual Hermitage hill, considered the Mecca of Syrah by wine connoisseurs around the world. But we won’t be admiring Hermitage from below – we’ll be driving up to the top to enjoy a traditional French picnic lunch among the vines and in front of the famed “La Chapelle,” the small cloister chapel from whence the hill got its name and Jaboulet christened their flagship wine.
3:00pm: After lunch we’ll follow the Rhone north through the St. Joseph appellation and into Condrieu, perhaps the most famous white-wine-only appellation in the world. Condrieu produces only 100% Viognier wines, and we’ll stop for a tasting at Domaine Georges Verney, one of the top Condrieu producer and one of the growing number of wineries in France with a female winemaker, in this case Georges’ daughter Christine.
5:30pm: From Condrieu, we’ll drive further north through the famed wine region of Cote-Rotie, where you’ll be able to see first-hand the exceptionally steep rocky cliffs that produce some of the best Syrah grapes in France. Our next destination is Lyon, France’s cosmopolitan second city and the gastronomic capital of France. You’ll have two hours to explore the wonders and sights of Vieux (Old) Lyon, walk along the Rhone and Saone rivers, shop at some of the luxury stories in town, and soak up all that Lyon has to offer (don’t worry; we’ll provide maps) before we rendezvous at 7:30pm at one of Lyon’s famed bouchons for a satisfying meal of Lyonnais delights, including potatoes Dauphinnois and Salad Lyonnais.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 26th
The Diois and a 12-Course Degustacion Dinner
8:00am – 10:00am: Breakfast will be available in the Hotel Digoine dining room, and for the early risers and those that love to shop, the local town market will be taking place this morning along the quay along the river just beyond our hotel.
10:00am: We head north once again today, but rather than following the Rhone, we’ll head east into the Haut-Alps to one of the highest and most unique wine appellations in France, the Diois AOC, home to the sparkling Clairette de Die and Cremant de Die wines.
12:00pm: First, we’ll stop for lunch at Le Caveau restaurant in Chatillon-en-Diois. This cozy restaurant is famed for its raviole, small pasta pockets filled with Herbs de Provence, fried or boiled, and then served with a variety of different toppings and sauces. We highly recommend trying them, but the restaurant also serves other French and regional fare to suit every appetite.
2:30pm: After lunch, we’ll visit Jaillance, one of the large cooperative producers of Clairette de Die and Cremant de Die in the region. Both sparkling wines only use the Muscat grape and the traditional Methode Champenoise style, but while the Cremant is allowed to ferment fully to produce a dry, crisp sparkling wine, fermentation on the Clairette is stopped early to produce a slightly sweet effervescent wine with plenty of refreshing citru s flavors and bright acidity. We’ll tour the Jaillance facility, get a first-hand education in the production of Clairette and Cremant de Die, and of course taste some examples of these two wines as well as other wines Jaillance produces from vineyards all over France.
6:30pm: We’ll arrive back at Hotel Digoine to quickly change into our dressier clothes and perhaps enjoy a quick aperitif at the hotel.
7:30pm: Then it is off to Garde d’Adhemar, a medieval town high on a hill that was once used to house the local bishop’s armies in case of attack. We’ll have time to enjoy the town’s cobblestone streets, terraced medicinal gardens, and the 360-degree views of sunset across the southern Rhone valley before we head for dinner.
8:00pm: Dinner tonight is a special treat: a 12-course gourmet tasting experience at the renowned L’Escalin restaurant in Garde d’Adhemar. We’ll dine on twelve courses of freshly prepared local Ardechois favorites – including foie gras – and the courses will be paired with local wines from L’Escalin’s extensive wine list.
THURSDAY, JUNE 27th
Avignon and Chateauneuf-du-Pape
8:00am – 10:00am: Breakfast will be available in the Hotel Digoine dining room. Feel free to bid a fond adieu to our innkeepers Olivier and Alix and make sure to pack up all of your belongings and bring your bags downstairs before we depart for the day, as this will be our last morning at Hotel Digoine.
10:00am: All luggage will be transported separately to our hotel in Aix-en-Provence, but now we depart for Avignon, the capital of the Rhone Valley and the former home to the Roman Catholic papacy in the 14th century.
11:00am: We’ll arrive in Avignon and head to the Place d’Horlogie, the central meeting square of the city and just steps away from the Palais du Papes, where the Popes of the Great Schism resided through their reign. Lunch will be on your own (don’t worry; we have maps and recommendations) and you’ll have plenty of free time to explore Avignon, shop, taste wines, tour the Palais du Papes, or just sit and relax at a local café with a coffee or a glass of wine.
4:00pm: We’ll depart Avignon and cross the Rhone to the famed wine appellation of Chateauneuf du Pape. Famed for its rocky soil covered in smooth, round, insulating stones called galets and for allowing thirteen different grapes to be blended in its AOC wines, Chateauneuf du Pape is perhaps the most famous of all southern Rhone wine appellations and features more wineries per acre than any other Rhone appellation. We’ll park in the heart of Chateauneuf du Pape and take a walking tour of three to four different tasting rooms, allowing you to taste the wide variances in Chateauneuf du Pape wines that come from the same varietals, same soil, and same terroir.
5:30pm: After our walking tour, we’ll visit the Ogier Caves du Papes. Ogier is one of the larger and more prestigious producers in both Chateauneuf and up and down the Rhone, and we’ll receive a guided tour of their cellars featuring massive, centuries-old casks and barriques, an interactive presentation about the singular terroir of Chateauneuf du Pape, and most importantly, a tasting of not only their Chateauneuf wines, but also some of the other wines they produce throughout the Rhone valley.
7:00pm: After our tour at Ogier, we’ll hop in the van once again and drive to the top for a brief visit to the ruins of the actual Chateauneuf du Pape (the former castle used by the Avignon Popes as their summer home; sadly, most of the castle except for a few outer walls was destroyed in a German bombing during World War II). Just steps below the Chateauneuf ruins lies our dinner destination Le Verger du Pape, a charming restaurant featuring breathtaking views of the Rhone and southern Rhone valley.
10:00pm: After dinner, we’ll say goodbye to the Rhone valley and head south to our destination for the next four days, Provence and its capital Aix-en-Provence. We’ll check into our accommodations at the glorious Hotel Aquabella near the labyrinth-like old city of Aix and give everyone a good night’s rest on our first night in Provence.
FRIDAY, JUNE 28th
Aix-en-Provence and Cassis
8:00am – 9:30am: Breakfast will be available in the Hotel Aquabella dining room, or feel free to take a morning dip in the hotel’s immaculate pool.
9:30am: We depart for the French Riviera and the storied beach town of Cassis, where it’s market day and the weather is sure to be gorgeous!
10:30am--3:30pm: You’ll have plenty of free time in Cassis to explore the local market and pick up traditional Provencal wares, sit and lounge at one of the many seaside cafes, or take a boat ride out to explore the Calanques – the large granite fjords cut into the shoreline that are now havens for boaters and sun-worshippers alike. Lunch will be on your own.
3:45pm: We’ll hop back into the van for a short, scenic drive up through the natural viticulture amphitheater that forms the Cassis AOC appellation above the coastal town.
4:00pm: We have scheduled a tour and tasting at Chateau de Fontcreuse, one of the oldest and most respected houses of the Cassis appellation. Founded as a winery in 1922 by a English military officer on holiday, Fontcreuse today is owned by winemaker Jean-Francois Brando and produces a classic Cassis white blend of Marsanne, Clairette, and Ugni Blanc along with its Grenache and Syrah based rose and red wines, but it is most well know for the uniquely shaped proprietary bottles (called the ‘Fontcreuse”) in which it bottles its wine.
5:15pm: We will leave behind Chateau de Fontcreuse and return to Aix-en-Provence.
6:00pm- 8:00pm: Upon arriving back at the hotel, you’ll have just about two hours on your own to freshen up, take a quick nap, enjoy a swim in the pool, or walk the streets and enjoy the sights and shopping of Aix-en-Provence, the capital of Provence and a wealthy southern enclave where old traditions meet new modernism. We will meet back at the hotel at 7:50pm to depart for dinner.
8:00pm: Dinner tonight will be in the gorgeous courtyard dining room of the four-star Hotel Pigonnet, located just south of the center of Aix. Despite its urban surroundings, Hotel Pigonnet instantly transports you to the Provencal countryside, and you’ll enjoy tonight’s four-course dinner (once again paired with a selection of local and regional wines) surrounded by the topiary, statues, and bubbling fountains of a secret garden in a Provencal manor house.
SATURDAY, JUNE 29th
Bandol and A Seaside Dinner
8:00am – 10:00am: Breakfast will be available in the Hotel Aquabella dining room, or once again take a morning dip in the pool or wake up early for a walk around town.
10:00am: Once again we head south to the coast, but this time rather than the whites of Cassis, we’ll be spending the day tasting the fabled Mourvedre-based reds and roses of the famous Bandol AOC appellation.
11:00am: Our first tasting destination is Chateau Salettes. Located at the northern edge of the Bandol appellation at the foot of the hilltop village of La Cadière d'Azur (the heart of the Bandol AOC), Chateau Salettes’ vineyard stretches over 100 acres amid pine trees, olive trees and terraces above Golfe des Lecques bay. The terroir of Chateau Salettes has been farmed for sixteen generations by the Boyer family, and we will taste their red, white, and rose offerings with a member of the family.
12:30pm: After our tasting, we’ll follow the slope to the shore and enjoy lunch at one of the many charming bistros in the town of Bandol. This delightful seaside town has two natural lagoons and shares some similar traits with its Mediterranean sister Cassis, but comes off as a bit less touristy and provides more hustle and bustle and authenticity, as you might expect from a still-important fishing center in Provence.
3:00pm: Following lunch, we’ll head back toward La Cadière d'Azur for our second Bandol wine tasting of the day at Domaines Bunan. A lesser-known Bandol winery often overshadowed by its more famous and often overhyped neighbors, Domaines Bunan is small and family-run with only 40 acres producing the Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault that has made Bandol famous. Our one-hour tour of the property will include a walking tour of the property and the grounds lead by a representative from the chateau, followed by a tasting of their red, rose, and white vintages. And as an added bonus, every member of our group will receive a bottle of Domaines Bunan wine to take home with them.
5:00pm: Our final Bandol tasting takes us deep into the pines to one of the highest points of the appellation and the spectacular Chateau Pibarnon. Housed in a restored 16th century Provencal farmhouse and with views from the mountains to the sea high above their terraced amphitheater vineyard, Pibarnon is one of the most beautiful wineries we’ve visited in France, with not only beautiful grounds but also a striking cave perfect for wine tasting. And of course, their wines are astounding as well. We’ll receive a tour of their operations and taste through their red and rose wines, and if we’re lucky, they’ll open some vintage bottles for us and let us try their marc, distilled brandy made from their macerated Mourvedre grapes.
7:30pm: Your last dinner in France is truly a special and unique one, as we’ll head east along the coast just past Bandol to dine at La Brise Plage in Six Fours La Plage. Not only overlooking the Mediterranean Sea but built right on the beach of a small bay, La Brise Plage specializes in freshly-caught local fish and seafood elegantly prepared in the classic Provencal style. We’ll enjoy a dinner soundtrack of small waves lapping at the beach, and either during or after dinner, you can take off your shoes and dip your toes into the mighty Mediterranean. After dinner, we’ll return to Aix and the Hotel Aquabella to pack up your belongings and enjoy one final night’s sleep in the south of France before departing in the morning.
SUNDAY, JUNE 30th
Your Last Day in Aix-en-Provence/Departure
8:00am – 10:00am: One final breakfast will be available for you in the Hotel Aquabella dining room.
9:00am – 5:00pm: Chris and Teresa will provide transportation to all guests from Hotel Aquabella to the Aix-en-Provence TGV station based on specific departure times. Guests should schedule their return train tickets from the Aix-en-Provence TGV station to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport (the 3 ½ hour TGV train goes directly to the airport) or to wherever their next destination may be.
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Forgotten Grapes Wine Tour Fee, Refund, and Cancellation Policies Terms and Conditions
Fees and Costs
The 2013 Forgotten Grapes Wine Tour of Provence & the Rhone Valley is scheduled for eight (8) days and seven (7) nights starting Sunday, June 23rd, 2013 and ending Sunday June 30th, 2013. These dates are subject to change and may be changed at any time. The total cost of the trip includes accommodations for seven nights split between Bourg St. Andeol and Aix-en-Provence according to the finalized itinerary; transfers from the Valance TGV train station on June 23rd and to the Aix-en-Provence TGV train station on June 30th; ground transportation between June 23rd and 30th; all breakfasts, lunches, and dinners during the trip, including beverages, tax and gratuities; and all vineyard and winery tours and tastings.
Deposits and Reservation Confirmation
A deposit of US$500 per person is required to confirm any reservation. From the date and time a reservation request is received, the participant will have 7 (seven) business days to provide a US$500 per person deposit either via credit card or via check by mail to confirm the reservation and secure a room on the requested tour.
Words & Wine, LLC dba Chris Kern's Forgotten Grapes only accepts payment by credit card or check or money order. Checks and money orders should be made out to Chris Kern's Forgotten Grapes, and mailed along with your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address to:
Chris Kern's Forgotten Grapes
Attn: 2013 Forgotten Grapes Wine Tour of Provence & the Rhone Valley
1735 Spruce Street, Suite A
Riverside, CA 92507
When the credit card deposit payment clears or the deposit check/money order is received, reservations will be considered submitted retroactively to the date when the online reservation request was submitted. Because of the double occupancy policy for this trip, reservations will not be confirmed until deposits have been received. Once all payments clear, we will notify participants of their confirmed reservation (space permitting). If we do not receive your deposit within the 7 (seven) business day period, your reservation request will be considered made on the date your payment is received. If no space is available as of receipt of the deposit, the participant will be notified as soon as possible, and may choose to either transfer their deposit to a future trip (based on availability) or have their deposit refunded in full, minus a US$50 processing fee.
Due to limited space availability, trip reservations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. All reservations are subject to review by the managers of Forgotten Grapes, who reserve the right to make any changes to the reservations, participants, accommodations and space availability as deemed necessary. All decisions made by the managers of Forgotten Grapes are final. In cases of simultaneous registration receipt, Forgotten Grapes does give preference to double occupancy participants, provided that deposits from both parties are received within 7 (seven) business days.
Upon receipt of the participants’ US$500 deposit and confirmation of the reservation, the remaining trip balance is due in full 30 days before the start of the trip, or before May 23, 2013. Remaining balances can be paid either via credit card on the ForgottenGrapes.com website or via check or money order, made out to Chris Kern's Forgotten Grapes, and sent to the address listed above.
Cancellations and Refunds
All cancellation requests must be received in writing by U.S. mail or facsimile; email cancellations are not acceptable. Cancellation requests should include the full name and address of the participant or participants, e-mail addresses, and a full explanation of the reason for the cancellation.
All cancellation requests must be received on or before 11:59pm PST 30 days before the trip to qualify for a partial refund.
If a cancellation is timely received, a refund of the deposit and/or full amount will be granted, less a US$50 handling fee. Cancellations received after the limit will result in a permanent forfeiture of the deposit. Any payment made in excess of the deposit will not be refunded, but the registrant will receive a credit of such amount paid (in excess of the deposit) for use on any future trip within the next two (2) years, space permitting.
There is an additional US$50 handling fee for any and all returned checks.