Tuesday, 26 May 2009

English Cottage Garden in the Loire Valley

A few more iris's have now come into bloom in the gardens of La Grande Maison and most of the roses are now in full bloom too. The sun is shining, the springers are basking in the sun and all is well in our little corner of the Loire Valley Vineyards.
The White and Purple One
The Yellow Ones

Rose - Etoile de Hollande

Stunningly pink poppies.

This one is called Patty's Plum.

Chives growing in the Potager

A Field of Pink and Red Poppies

Friday, 22 May 2009

News from the Chinon Wine Press

So little time to write these days as we are busy running our Wine Tours and preparing fabulous Wine Sampling Supper for our guests here at La Grande Maison. Thought I would quickly share with you some of the photos from the Salon des Vins in Chinon last weekend.

60 of Chinon's finest winemakers came into the town and offered tastings of their wines from stalls dotted around the village. Each little wine outpost came with music and food to sample. A superb way to discover the town and it's wines.

Bernard Baudry 2008 and 2007

We were excited to be able to taste many of the newly bottled 2008 Chinon's from the likes of some of our personal favourites, Bernard Baudry, Olga Raffault, Charles Pain and Laure Dozon.

Laure Dozon also produces a Chinon Blanc

Olga Raffault Chinon 2006

Tasting notes will no doubt follow for those of you who are interested. Just need to sharpen my pencil first!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Storm Damage on the Meridian Line

The heavy winds of Friday night caused some pretty substantial tree damage in Parnay @ Meridien 0 - 15/05/09.
This large spruce came down blocking the entrance to Chateau du Marconnay and taking out two of the tuffeau walls in the process and only narrowly missing the neighbour's roof!
Sad to see such old old trees fall too!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

The United Colour of Irises at La Grande Maison

May is a fabulous time of the year to come and visit France. Everything springs into life and one of the early flowers to appear all over the Loire Valley is the Iris. Of course everyone flocks to Giverny (North west of Paris) to see Monet's house and wander around the beautiful gardens of full of irises and poppies. This year I wanted to share with you some pictures of the irises that are on display at the moment at La Grande Maison.

Pale Pink and Orange

White Iris

Pale Blue

Dark Purple

Yellow and Orange

Purple and White

The bank of irises outside La Grande Maison

If anyone knows the full name of each of these varieties then I would be delighted if you could let me know and in the meantime I'll do a little research!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

The Grass is Greener...in the Saumur Vineyards

We don’t usually let the grass grow under our feet and right now we are really happy with the way the grass is growing in the vineyards around La Grande Maison. Six years ago when we arrived the vineyards surrounding us had bare earth and an erosion problem. Now they are grassed between rows and the improvements are numerous. Despite our two Springers running through the vines daily the vineyards are still home to all the usual hares, partridges and pheasants. This year we’ve spotted more Montagu’s Harriers, Stone Curlews and Swallow Tail butterflies than ever before. The vineyards are more alive now than when we first arrived.

Chateau de Fosse Seche LPO Bird Refuge

Vineyards, like their subsequent wines, have a range of characteristics, much like their producers. There are still a few vineyards around Le Puy Notre Dame with bare and compacted earth but we have noticed, thankfully, that these are becoming fewer.

Chateau Tour Grise Biodynamic Vineyards

Chateau Tour Grise is biodynamic and boasts the most vibrant vineyards around, teeming with activity above the soil, plenty of humming and buzzing in the air, you just have to imagine what is going on underground.

Sadly their neighbour has a bare, dead, compacted vineyard. It is difficult to spot anything living.

At Tour Grise the “weeds” immediately beneath the vines are cut by machine and the soil is turned to minimise competitive weed growth and maximise rain absorption. Phillipe cycles to his vineyard, sometimes on his home-made tandem, with his wife Francoise facing backwards enjoying the view. He has vision and individuality and so do his wines. Their sparkling wines for example are made with re-cycled CO2! (You’ll have to visit them to find out how). Light and fruity summer time drinking, fun wines at fun prices like the Zero Pointe Rosé, a Vins de Pays.

Tour Grise mechanical method of weed control

Serious wines at serious prices are produced at the Saumur vineyards of Chateau de Fosse Seche. Currently in conversion to organic status they don’t have the problem of being bordered by a vigneron with an opposing philosophy i.e. soil mis-management. They are in the enviable situation of owning 45 hectares immediately surrounding their property with 17 hectares under vine. The vines are not on tuffeau here in this little pocket of Brossay but have a unique terroir for the Saumur region, flint (jurassic silex). The vineyards are worked mechanically to reduce weed competition so there is no use of chemical weed sprays.

Jurassic flint at Fosse Seche

The wines are all outstanding but you wouldn’t expect less from Guillaume Pire the young talented wine maker. Chateau de Fosse Seche is the only Saumur Rouge served in Michelin starred restaurants (as far as we are aware) and they definitely warrant that status.

Organic vineyards of Fosse Seche in front of the 16thC Pigeonnier

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Vin et Vinyasa August 2009 - Yoga and Wine Retreat at La Grande Maison

Aubrey practising Yoga on the beach in Thailand

Our Yoga and Wine Retreat Holidays enable you to find your balance in life and enjoy a glass of wine in the process too. Stay at the beautiful La Grande Maison in the middle of the Loire Valley Vineyards. Each morning after a healthy breakfast Aubrey will lead you in a Vinyasa Yoga Session. Three of the sessions will be followed by a picnic in the vineyards before being taken on an Organic/Biodynamic Wine Tour that afternoon by a qualified Wine Guide.

Cycle the Vineyards from La Grande Maison

After two of the morning Vinyasa Yoga Sessions you will have the opportunity to explore the local area yourself. Bikes are made available for you to follow the cycles routes through the vineyards to the local village of Le Puy Notre Dame.

Aubrey running a Yoga Session in Thailand

Aubrey will then be on hand to take 5 evening Meditation Sessions before you head out to an evening meal at one of the local restaurants. Aubrey practices and teaches a heat-building, flowing Vinyasa (breath-focused) style yoga combined with offering healthy alignment instruction intertwined with yoga philosophy and meditation. She studies with internationally renowned yoga teacher, Mitchel Bleier, his partner, Tracy Bleier, and Donna Jackson of Saraswati's Yoga Joint in Connecticut where she did her teacher's training course.

Aubrey believes the key to a happy and healthy lifestyle comes from finding your personal balance, which yoga can help everyone access. Aubrey is currently traveling the world teaching yoga, guiding scuba diving and publishing travel articles. She has most recently lead yoga holidays in Thailand, the Swiss Alps and Gozo.

We are very fortunate to be able to welcome Aubrey to our vineyard retreat in the Loire Valley France in August this year. Email resv@lagrandemaison.net for further details.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Bio Plants for the Potager at La Grande Maison

Last Friday saw the Portes Ouvert for the Crois Rouge Francaise at L'ESAT in Doue la Fontaine. There was an extraordianry choice of 'plants issus de l'Agriculture Biologique pour votre potager" (organic vegetable plants) for sale. We came away with Green Zebra and Striped German Tomatoes which we will be serving this summer along with lemon, purple and green basil, aubergines, cauliflowers and peppers. All looking extremely fresh and well cared for by some of the 40 mentally handicapped staff than run the nursery.

We also discovered that the same team produce wine at L'Arche de la Rebellerie a vineyard in Neuil Sur Layon producing organic reds, whites, coteaux de layon and cremant. This talented crew also produce delicious 'confitures' and offer apricot, cassis, strawberry, raspberry and blackcurrant jams which of course we couldn't resist either. The jus de raisin was not bad either so guess what we'll be having on our breakfast table!