Bandol: Provence's Best Kept Secret
In the past, serious wine drinkers have been known to roll their eyes at the mention of rosé wine. If you spoke to sommeliers about rosés a decade ago, the conversation would have focused on the frustration of persuading an unwilling public to give them a try. Now, in the summer the public wants little else. A good rosé, at a lunch served outdoors, preferably seaside or at a sidewalk café table, will transport you to Provence as quickly as you can say Brigitte Bardot. Some of the best rosés come out of the Mourvèdre-dense terraced hills above Bandol, as it is not only one of the most recognized rosé-producing regions, but one of the best in the world. Your day in Bandol will be led by our American-born, super-star sommelier guide, Kelly, so you are in for a treat.
Domaine Tempier and its winemaker, Daniel Ravier, are considered by most to be Bandol's best and most celebrated wine producer. The Tempier estate has become a citadel for wine and food lovers due, in part, to the quality of the wines and the world-wide success of the popular cookbook "Lulu's Provencal Table," written by the gifted food writer Richard Olney who was deeply inspired by Lulu Peyraud's Provencal recipes and her husband Lucien's iconic wines. As the estate rarely accepts groups, this is an extremely special opportunity to enjoy a tasting with their winemaker.
Your next stop is Domain Frégate. The estate is nestled in the hills above Bandol overlooking the Mediterranean and the Port d'Alon. Owned by the same family since 1882, the estate has been producing wine since 1943. Their winemaking team produces high quality wines from Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Cinsault. Begin your visit with a guided tasting of their wines, then take a short walk through the countryside to the estate's nearby restaurant at the Hotel Dolce Frégate. Take in stunning views of their golf course, surrounding hills, and the sea while enjoying a wine-paired lunch.
After lunch, a 20 minute drive inland brings you to the medieval village of Le Castellet. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Var River plains, the village retains its original fortified look with its ancient portes, an imposing 15th century chateau and old homes. The meandering cobblestone streets are lined with cafes, restaurants, shops and art galleries. Here you can take time to explore the village before returning to the ship.