As you’ve probably guessed, we find the food and wines of the region very appealing. They are light, flavorful, and pleasing to the eye and taste. The white wines are light, floral, and refreshing. Reds use Syrah, Grenache, and occasionally some Cab for blending, giving these wines character and body without being heavy or tannic. Rose wines are not cloying or sweet, as used to be the case in the U.S. They are made to be pink, fresh, with a bit more heft than whites.
The food is based on olive oil rather than butter and cream, with lots of fresh seasonal produce and herbs. Hedges of rosemary grow everywhere, and the garden at our mas has that, thyme, and other herbs in abundance.
With that in mind, we have been trying, and re-visiting, restaurants and wineries. Today, we decided to go back to a restaurant just off the “main street” in Eygalieres we always had mixed feelings about, Sous les Micocouliers. The name stems from the large outdoor terrace set under the shading branches of an old micocouliers tree. In the past, both alone and with Anne & Darren, we have had varying experiences – one meal would be good, the next haphazard and mediocre. The setting was always nice, and the staff friendly, but the food left much to be desired. Through e-mails they sent to us at The Wine Traveler we knew that two years ago the owner brought in a talented young chef who had trained under master talents such as Alain Ducasse, Joel Robuchon, and Alain Senderens. We were anxious to try it.
We booked a lunch and on arriving were shown to a shaded table on the terrace. The waiter, Fabien, was charming, and eager to try his English (or as he put it, his “American”) on us. The menu was appealing, with interesting twists on Provencal dishes. I ordered the courgette farcis (zucchini blossoms stuffed with finely chopped zucchini and herbs) to start, and then went with a pave of beef, cooked “bleu.” David started with the “trois assiettes” (small portions of three different starters) that had the courgette farcis, asparagus mousse, and a pate. He opted for the Daurade (sea bream). All were wonderful. The courgette was light, almost a tempura style, and the stuffing perfectly seasoned. David’s asparagus mousse was perfect, with just the right texture and taste of asparagus (tough to do), and the pate unexpectedly light and laced with nuts and vegetables. My steak was cooked perfectly, tender, with a light touch of seasoning, and accompanied by dollops of haricot vert and frites. David’s Daurade was also perfect, moist and flaky with a brown sauce, accompanied by fresh local vegetables. The wine from a local vineyard, Domaine Valdition,was excellent and very reasonably priced. All in all, this place is now a winner from setting to service to cuisine.
After lunch we drove a couple of kilometers past our mas to Domaine Valdition. Again, this is a property that has existed for quite some time, but has recently been purchased and upgraded. There are new vineyards everywhere, all carefully tended. A manor house has been built at the end of a long tree-lined driveway, and a tasting room and store built nearby. We spent some time tasting the reds and whites of the property, and settled on two whites and a red for the mas. The whites ran 11.50 and 15.50 Euros, and the red was 16.50 Euros. All of their wines ran under 20 Euros, with some whites and reds at seven Euros. One of the whites we purchased was the one we had at lunch Cuvee Filles (daughters’ cuvee) and the other a slightly different blend of grapes with some oak barrel aging that gave it more body and character. The red was a blend of syrah and cabernet. While we were tasting and buying, Fabien came in with two of his assistants. He had brought them there to taste and learn about the wines and olive oils produced on the property, all of which are featured at Sous les Micocouliers.
With the trunk loaded with wine (and, blessedly, pot holders which we needed for the kitchen and found in the store at Valdition) we headed back to the mas.
At 7 pm, Guy Knox, the rental agent and property manager for the mas, came by for a glass of wine. We put out a little spread to nibble on – a couple of local sausages, St. Marcellin and chevre cheese, sliced bread, and marinated olives and cherry tomatoes. We opened a bottle of Vallongues white from just up the road and talked for a couple of hours about everything from his experiences living in France (he is from Tasmania), the trials of building his new business (agriculture and landscaping), and questions about the U.S. and Americans. All in all, a delightful evening.