The highlight of our last full day in Provence was a tour of the last winery that I had arranged a tour of with the assistance of the Opimian Society. This came after a tour of a different Chateau. And the day was capped off by a visit with James Dean and the Marquis de Sade … well, sort of …
Daybreak provide a beautiful golden glow in the valley as we prepared for the day ahead.
Our first stop was the Chateau de Lourmarin. We had briefly toured the grounds a few days earlier but returned to tour the Chateau itself. Said to be the first chateau built in the Renaissance style in Provence, it was built in several stages over many years. The main wing of the chateau, including the tower, are open for a self-guided tour. The chateau itself had fallen into complete disrepair by the 1920’s but was saved from being auctioned off to haul the stone away to other locations. by Robert Laurent-Vibert. His extensive, and expensive, restoration is well worth the visit.
Sitting on 60 hectares, the winery was certainly the largest one that we visited on this trip. General Manager and Winemaker Phillipe Bru met us and took us on a tour of this magnificent property. We arrived on the last day of their harvest so we started our tour where the grapes were being unloaded. From there we continued into the winery itself to see the large stainless steel vats where the wine is made and starts its aging. From there it is aged in French Oak barrels. Their barrel room was quite impressive by its size.
One wonderful feature of Ch. Vignelaure is its art collection, which does seem to be a natural companion to fine wine. In the art gallery I was particularly excited to see a couple of original, signed, Henri Cartier Bresson-Bresson prints. In addition to the art gallery and the art on display in several rooms in the winery, the surrounding grounds contained a number of sculptures as well. All of which adds to the absolute beauty of this Chateau.
We finished off our visit with, naturally, a tasting of some of their very fine wines. After tasting the 2010, 2006 and 2004 Chateau Vignelaure, I can’t wait to taste the 2009 which I have had aging in my basement for several years!
Our thanks to Phillipe Bru for making time in a very busy schedule to take us on a tour of this amazing place.
During our trip to France we have visited five different wineries, staying at one of them. The wineries varied in size, their approach to harvesting grapes, and to making wine, but the one thing that the people we met at each winery all shared was a passion for what they do. We often don’t think about how the wine came into being when we pop the cork. Visiting wineries gives you a whole different perspective. Dealing with elements beyond their control (i.e. weather), choosing the ideal time to harvest (picking too early or too late can have serious consequences on the quality of the wine that year), each winemaker has to apply his or her skill and expertise to produce a wine that we will end up enjoying.
By late afternoon we were back in Lacoste where a couple more surprises awaited.
Shortly after arriving back at the apartment I heard Finn calling down to me to grab my camera and we would go for a drive the see the James Dean Wall and a couple of other things.
Created by Japanese sculptor Yasuo Mizui, the monument to the actor James Dean was sculpted out of blocks of stone so that it could be dismantled and moved to the USA. A dispute with the owners of the land where it was to be relocated resulted in the sculpture remaining in France. One side of the sculpture depicts stage curtains closing and is called “The Final Curtain”. The other side incorporates a bust of James Dean and is called the “Wall of Hope”. It is a beautiful piece that seems destined to remain in the woods near Lacoste where you can pretty much only find it with the help of a local.
The next stop was the Chateau de Lacoste where Finn provided some information about the building, now owned by Pierre Cardin who has done extensive renovations. A sculpture depicts a bust of the Marquis de Sade, who spent many years in prison where he did much of his writing, surrounded by iron bars but open on the top. The bars represent prison but the open top reflects that they could imprison his body but not his mind. Upon being asked about the sculpture by a passer-by, Finn launched into an impromptu and very interesting tutorial on the life of the Marquis de Sade.
Our last stop was a viewing of the house where Aristide has been squatting for years. I opted not to photograph the premises, preferring to have his face in the photographs I took of him tell his story rather than photos of the conditions, mostly self-imposed, under which he lives.
Finn’s tour was a perfect wrap-up of our week in Lacoste and the surrounding area known as the Luberon. It is a village and a region that I will long remember for its beauty and for the interesting individuals I met.