One of our first ports of call when we began regular visits to France over 25 years ago was to the southern Rhône valley, the south of the Drôme département (south that is, of our old twin town, Die). This September we were back in the Vaucluse for a short overnight stay on my birthday. The photo above is from the road approaching the Domaine de Coyeux, high above Beaumes de Venise, with Mont Ventoux in the distance. Try as I might I could not convey the height and scale of this well-known obstacle in many Tours de France, but it is often there in views of the area.
When we first visited in the mid-1990s the only way to approach Coyeux was via an unmade road, snaking across the top of the Dentelles de Montmirail, itself already a worrying distance from civilisation. We've visited the Domaine de Durban, on the road towards Coyeux, quite often over the years, but now that track is closed and the road to Coyeux snakes up the hillside like a Tour de France special, until you arrive on the high plateau with the lace-like rocks that give the Dentelles their name, at closer quarters.
|On the way to the Domaine de Coyeux|
As we often do when travelling in France, we chose to stay in a Logis de France hotel - almost always with good restaurants attached. This one in Sablet, the Domaine de Cabasse, lived up to the usual good standards and is as its name suggests also attached to a wine domaine. However, with so many good wines around we didn't buy here this time - just drank some of their good red with our meal. The pool was also a welcome attraction in the afternoon heat.
The hotel is among the vines midway between the small sleepy villages of Sablet and Séguret.
As you emerge onto the little road, across the fields you can see two huge buildings typical of the caves coopératives you come across right across the south of France, but if possible even bigger. This I guessed, rightly, was the Gravillas Coop which we were aiming for after our night in the hotel. It has a good reputation, and a Rosé in particular which got outstanding marks in the latest Guide Hachette. The previous afternoon we'd stopped in another small sleepy village, Violès, on the plain between the Rhône and the Dentelles. There we visited a charming family-run domaine, the Bastide Saint Vincent, another Hachette recommendation, whose red Florentin is a splendid example of the newish 'Plan de Dieu' (plain of God, I guess) Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation.
To finish here are a few photos of the area, taken on the top of the Dentelles but a little further south and west around the Domaine de Durban, with some better views of Mont Ventoux too