Aug 2022 France

Wed 17 Aug . 6.75 hour Drive from Moraira to Domaine Riberach, 2a Route de Caladroy, Belesta, 66720.

25 minutes from Perpignan, the Domaine Riberach has given a second life to the former Cooperative Wine Cellar. This place, which used to host the village's grape harvest, now houses a wine-making cellar and a ecolodge.. Owned by architects, they have done a good job on converting the old coop winery into a very modern 4 star hotel. Our room. a junior sweet on a Sec ret Escapes deal, faced the "wrong way - to the street rather then over the gardens. If we stayed there again, I would ask for a garden side room

They have a Michelin "Green Star" for their restaurant. There is no specific formula for awarding a Michelin Green Star, as every restaurant and its surrounding region has a unique set of conditions. The Inspectors are simply looking for those at the top of their game when it comes to their sustainable practices. They consider things such as: the provenance of the ingredients; the use of seasonal produce; the restaurant’s environmental footprint; food waste systems; general waste disposal and recycling; resource management; and the communication between the team and the guests about the restaurant’s sustainable approach. Initiatives can take various forms and no two restaurants will be alike – all our inspectors are looking for is a strong commitment to sustainable gastronomy. France has 84 Green Star Restaurants. I thought that the meal we had was exceptionally good - a multi course menu at 64 euros

Chris was not so impressed with their "eco" swimming pool - a natural pool using reeds for filtration, set a long way down in the gardens

The weather was a bit iffy, and very windy, but we did manage a walk round the village

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Thurs 18 Aug. 4.25 hour drive to Ch Maumusson. Maumusson-Laguian,

Perhaps not my best choice of the places I have booked. This claimed to be a 4 star hotel, and certain wasn't. he owner was not particularly welcoming, nor particularly charming. Little help was given to organise Armagnac visits

What looks like a lake in the publicity photos for the hotel, is in fact a small iron pot filled with water, and the photo taken from a cunning angle. In fact nothing existed of grounds, as the original garden had been laid flat. And the outside of the chateau was unkempt, moth eaten and crumbling

However the bedrooms had been restored. And our room was pleasant

Their restaurant was odd. The room itself had been well restored, and they offered a 70 euro set menu - multi course, Michelin style. However this never changed and they had the same menu for the whole year. The menu itself was "low maintenance", in other words it was virtually all prepared in advance and of low quality. It was served by the daughter of the house, and another man, whose relationship to her we never fathomed. After our first night we decided not to eat an evening meal there for the other nights. The man was not very pleased when I cancelled the other nights.The breakfast thought was fine

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Fri 19 Aug. Ch Maumusson.

A day spent visiting a couple of Armagnac bodegas, Chateau de Laubade & Domaine Entras. With a visit to an Abbey and lunch in a village square thrown in.

Château de Laubade was built in 1870 and is today composed of 260 acres of single vineyard. It is located in Sorbets d’Armagnac. The Lesgourgues family has been running the estate since 1974. When we were there, the chateau itself was locked and bolted, but the estate was working. I suspect that the family are rarely there. We enjoyed a tasting, and walked round their grounds afterwards

As we motored on to our next tasting, we passed, and stopped at Flaran Abbey A former Cistercian abbey located near Valence-sur-Baïse, in the département of Gers. The abbey was founded in 1151, as a daughter house of Escaladieu Abbey, at the confluence of the Auloue and Baïse rivers, between the towns of Condom and Auch. The abbey was founded by Burgundian monks and today represents one of the best preserved abbeys in the south-west of France. The site was purchased by the department of Gers in 1972 and underwent an intense restoration project; it is now the site of numerous cultural activities. The site houses a permanent exhibition on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, the Way of St. James. I thought the 5 euro entry cost was remarkable value for money. Included in the exhibits were Dali statues

Valance sur Baise was our lunch stop. Now that we were not having dinner, lunch was allowed. The main square of the village has three covered sides, except for the north-west side where the 14th century church is located.

Domaine Entras produces Gascony wines Côtes de Gascogne, Floc de Gascogne and Armagnac – Ténarèze. They strive for originality in developing wines and spirits. And chose cask maturation to produce their Floc de Gascogne. They bottle their Armagnac close to their natural degree of ageing. Michel and Brigitte Maestrojuan were married in 1979. They acquired “Entras” house in 1982 and opened in 1984 their tasting room and wine shop. They stopped producing milk on the farm and concentrated all their time on improving their vines and wines. New plots were planted on the clay and limestone soil of Bordeneuve : Colombard, Cabernet-Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.Particularly memorable for us is that Michel showed us round in Spanish

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Château de Laubade        
Flaran Abbey        
Valance sur Baise        
Domaine Entras        

Sat 20 Aug Ch Maumusson.

A day spent exploring. A bad start, I input Roquefort , Gers into the GPS , rather than Roquefort , Landes. 90 km in the wrong direction and the first Roquefort had little to commend it.

We visited four pretty towns recommended in the guides - Mauvezin, Labastide, St Justin and Roquefort (the right one). Lunch was at Labastide, on the square. We were too late for lunch, but had a perfectly acceptable plate of cold meats, washed down with a beer. And then bought some of their charcouterie to take home

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wrong Roquefort Mauvezin Mauvezin right Roquefort right Roquefort


Sun 21 Aug. 3.75 hour drive to Gaynor & Vic

As usual the Gunns entertained us well. The usual customs were observed - the exchange of books, a swim in the lake for Chris and a ride on the tractor for the Boys

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Mon 22 Aug. Gaynor & Vic

Tues 23 Aug. Gaynor & Vic

Wed 24 Aug . 6.0 hour drive to Hotel Villa Sonsierra. San Vicente de la Sonsierra, La Rioja.

It is part of the district of Haro. The town is on the left bank of the River Ebro in the area called the Sonsierra Riojana. The mountains drop considerably in height from north to south in this district, with some mountains in the Toloño range at over one thousand metres whilst in the Ebro Valley, there are altitudes of under 500 metres. San Vicente and Ábalos are the only towns in La Rioja on the left bank of the River Ebro.

We walked up to the top of the castle, which had been restored in places. There was an exceptional view over the river to the vineyards beyond

Our hotel, Villa Sonsierra was interesting. At the price one could not complain. THe bedroom was modern and comfortable, but there was no public rooms other than a small and windowless breakfast room. I had not done my research thoroughly, so missed noticing that the Michelin Bib Gourmand hotel restaurant was only open for lunch. So we walked into the town for something to eat - tapas in two different tapas bars. As we were walking back to the hotel the rain set in.

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San Vicente de la Sonsierra      

Thurs 25 Aug. 6.0 hour drive to Moraira