A Château in Provence

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This guest-post comes to us from Mira Advani Honeycutt, of the Los Angeles Mumbai Sister City Affiliation and author of California’s Central Coast, The Ultimate Winery Guide: From Santa Barbara to Paso Robles.

How can you resist an invitation to spend a couple of days at a château in Provence?  We didn’t.

Olivia Hsu Decker, owner of the 17th century Château Grimaldi was our host. The 11-bedroom château is in the charming village of Puyricard, just north of Aix-en-Provence.

Olivia Hsu Decker at her 17th century Chateau Grimaldi
Olivia Hsu Decker at her 17th century Chateau Grimaldi

As we approach the château, a pigeon tower comes into view. This is part of the gated 12-acre Grimaldi property, surrounded by stone terraces, rolling lawns, bubbling fountains, an olive grove and a pool towered by the dramatic ruins. A family chapel sits nearby; it belonged to Cardinal Jerome Grimaldi, who lived here from 1655-1685.

The château’s housekeeper/chef Isabelle cooked up some fabulous but simple Provencal meals for us. For lunch she sautéed chicken strips with cinnamon, honey and a good dose of 1996 Monthelie.

Seared duck breast fillet was on the menu for dinner. It was sweetened with strawberries and oranges. Lemon and fresh thyme from the garden perked up another dish of chicken strips, finished with a dash of cream.

Chicken cooked with onions, honey and cinnamon served with green beans. Accompanied by a St. Emilion wine
Chicken cooked with onions, honey and cinnamon served with green beans. Accompanied by a St. Emilion wine

Some 90 wineries are tucked around the Aix appellation. We had time for just two. At Château Du Seuil we taste a couple of refreshing rosés – a medley of grenache, syrah and cabernet sauvignon (these blends are also produced as reds). The crispy whites are blends of sauvignon blanc and grenache blanc.

At Domaine de la Brillane, we meet with owner Rupert Birch, a Brit who gave up investment banking for the bucolic Provençal life. He makes only reds that he calls feminine wines (no oak-aging) – blends of cabernet sauvignon, syrah, grenache, cinsault and carignan. However with Cuvee de Printemps, Birch pays homage to Provence by making a lighter red, his answer to rosé and to be savored slightly chilled.