Much is written these days about the benefits of spending time in Nature. As an example, this year the Duchess of Cambridge’s Nature Garden will be a highlight of the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show in London (May 21-25, 2019). http://www.rhs.org.uk
What better way to spend time in Nature than to have a wine-tasting and walking holiday in the French countryside, in the Dordogne Valley near the small town of Bergerac? For time-out from the hurley-burley of city and work life, it would be difficult to find a better refuge for rejuvenating personal and family time.
Within a defined radius around the communities of Saussignac, Monestier, Sigoules and Pomport, all within an easy drive of Bergerac Airport, there are many wineries where a visitor can happily indulge all three interests of Nature, Wine and Walking, or Randonnées as the French call walks in the countryside.
Holidays in the French countryside often involve staying in self-catering Gites often attached to wineries. I’ve written in my blog about most of the wineries I am going to mention and will highlight the relevant blog posts. All the wineries offer wine tastings. In cases where I know the wineries offer accommodation I am mentioning this but not making any recommendations.
Walking maps are available in the villages, usually in the Mairies (Mayor’s office) or on a notice board in public areas. Another resource is Walking in the Dordogne: Over 30 walks in Southwest France by Janette Norton, available on Amazon.
The Confrerie du Raisin D’Or, an association which supports wine tourism in the area, organizes walks every Monday and Thursday in July and August. These walks always finish with a Vin d’honneur – wine tasting of local wines. At this time of writing, the Confrérie’s Randonnées program hasn’t yet been finalized for 2019 but will be available on their website: www.confrerieduraisindor.com
Also available from March through November are jazz evenings offered in different wineries. The next concert will be held April 12 and in June, the jazz evening will be in Pomport. Check out the 2019 Jazz en Chais program: http://www.jazzpourpre.com
SAUSSIGNAC (4 km from Monestier and 12 km from Pomport and 12 km from Sigoules, 19.6 km from Bergerac Airport)
Chateau Feely and Chateau Le Tap are adjoining wineries in this village. Both are organic wineries and both offer Gite accommodation.
Chateau Feely and associated business French Wine Adventures offers wine courses, walks and talks in the vineyard. Chateau Feely has been listed in the Top 100 wine estates in France, once for education and valorization of ecological practices and a second time for accommodation. Caro and Sean Feely have been pioneers in the area. www.facebook.com/chateaufeely
Chateau Le Tap wine information and Gite accommodation offered by Olivier and Mireille Roche is available on their website. Most recently, I mentioned Chateau Le Tap in the December 2018 post, Soirée Vigneronne. www.chateauletap.fr
Chateau Court Les Muts is also in Saussignac and offers wine tastings. We have been to a jazz evening offered in their winery in previous years. See elizabethsvines archive: December 2017 “Bred in the Bone: Vigneron of the Year 2018, Chateau Court Les Mûts. Jeweller Annabelle Degroote offers her creative and hand made jewellery on site. The creative pieces are made from vine tendrils, pearls and stones. www.court-les-muts.com
Local accommodation is also available at Le 1500, a Chambre d’Hôtes (B&B) and Café offering tapas, lunch and dinner located in the centre of Saussignac village opposite Chateau Saussignac. Contact Mike or Lee: firstname.lastname@example.org
Three wine chateaux and a restaurant come to mind with respect to Monestier.
Chateau Monestier La Tour, which I wrote about in January 2019 with their herbarium and biodynamic agricultural practices. See my last blog post: “Philosopher, watchmaker, winemaker: Chateau Monestier La Tour, Monestier”. I recommend phoning to book an appointment for a visit. www.chateaumonestierlatour.com
Chateau Lestevenie, which I have mentioned several times in various blog posts, most recently in the December 2018, Soirée Vigneronne post. Chateau Lestevenie offer fun pop up dinners in the vineyard during the summer months. Sue and Humphrey Temperley can show you the variety of beautiful orchids growing on their property. It’s important to phone and book ahead for the popular (and delicious) pop up dinners.
Chateau Grinou – one of the early adopters of organic wine making practices in the area is located between Chateau Lestevenie and Chateau Monestier La Tour. I have not yet visited the winery but have met the co-proprietor Gabriel Cuisset and sampled their 2018 wine at the December 2018, Soirée Vigneronne. www.chateaugrinou.com
We have enjoyed many lunches at the Relais de Monestier restaurant, located in the centre of Monestier very near to the Chateau Monestier La Tour. Le Relais de Monestier is on Facebook.
We have visited two wineries in this community, which is between Saussignac and Monbazillac.
Chateau Ladesvignes. I wrote about this winery in 2013, which seems a long time ago now! Apart from delicious white wines at this winery, the views from here over the Dordogne Valley looking towards Bergerac town are spectacular. www.ladesvignes.com
Another nearby location to experience this amazing view is the restaurant near Monbazillac: La Tour des Vents, one star Michelin restaurant and adjoining brasserie. We have enjoyed several meals here over the years. Important to reserve in advance. www.tourdesvents.com
Chateau Les Hauts de Cailleval: see elizabethsvines archive, December 2017 “Living the Dream, Chateau les Hauts de Caillevel. I have good memories of sitting by a wood burning stove on a cold December day, drinking hot coffee and listening to the proprietor tell his story about wine making. www.leshautsdecaillevel.com
In the nearby village of Sigoules, the annual wine fair (Foire aux Vins de Sigoules) has been held here on the third weekend in July for over 40 years. It’s organized together with the annual gathering of the Confrerie du Raisin D’Or, which attracts many Confreries from all over France. The confrerie members officially parade through the village on the Saturday morning in their charming and creative costumes symbolizing the gastronomique culture they represent. It’s a colourful and happy occasion held in the market square, near the Code-Bar and bistro frequented by many locals. Le Code Bar, Sigoules is on Facebook.
There’s much more that can be written about the pleasures of this area: its proximity to the city of Bordeaux, the great wine areas of the Medoc and St. Emilion, the nearby route of the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage, the historic sites of the 14th/ 15th Century 100 years war. There are the many food markets to tempt the visitor with local delicacies and kayaking on the Dordogne River to burn off calories. The list goes on and on.
My focus here is about the opportunity for tranquility, for relaxing in nature, enjoying excellent local wine presented to the visitors by the wine-makers themselves in most situations and for walking among the vineyards and lanes of this peaceful, rural area; and, without doubt, rejoicing in the experience and having fun.