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Chateau de la Riviere, Fronsac

It was hard to leave Paris behind. We'd had such a wonderful time and it was so beautiful. Could a few days in the countryside be as good? Actually, more than emotionally difficult to depart; the travel agent booked our TGV tickets for the wrong day.

But we sorted that out and soon found ourselves at Chateau de la Riviere, a working winery with a castle built in 1577. Our room was in the Renaissance wing, built in the 19th century by the renowned Gothic Revival architect Viollet-le-Duc. It was a beautiful place to stay.

Melanie tours us through the caves

After settling in, we toured the chateau and its enormous labyrinth of caves. They stretch for more than 8 hectares beneath the vineyards and woods and contain over half a million bottles of wine and aging barrels. We sampled some wines from the chateau and the other family wineries and discovered that we can get at leat one of the vintages in Tokyo.

Drawing vines while the cat plays with invisible foes

For dinner, we walked to the nearest restaurant, Chez Carles, about half an hour away, using Melaine's loaned lamp to pick our way along the dark forest path to the road. In true proof that my French is really horrible, I told the waitress when we arrived, "Nous sommes reservation." We are a reservation. Well, she got the point. Dinner was surprisingly wonderful for a place where we were the only patrons.

As we finished up with coffee and dessert, the waitress, who chattered pleasantly though we simply didn't understand, brought over the phone. The owner of the chateau, M. Gregoire, was calling. It had begun to rain slowly and he insisted on bringing his car down to collect us. How generous and thoughtful.

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