A Guide to Wine, Food & the Good Life


John Tilson • 1/20/16        Print This Post Print This PostComment Bookmark and Share

Provence wine map

In the fall of 2011 my wife Laurie and I, along with our friends Jim and Marcia Wolf from here in Santa Barbara, visited Provence and the South of France where we visited several wineries and enjoyed some marvelous food (in Saint-Tropez, a bucket of steamed baby mussels with Pomme Frites and a bottle of Cassis Rosé was simply sublime). It was a great trip. Santa Barbara is known as America’s Riviera, but Provence is well, Provence. There is nothing quite like it – great scenery, climate, people, wine, history, and art. Provence has it all! Click to read my article Three Cru Classé Ladies of the Côtes De Provence and click on the following to visit the websites of the wineries mentioned in the article:

Recently I received a press release from the Provence Wine Council, regarding Provence Rosé and art. I was instantly reminded of our great visit. In addition to the wineries mentioned in my article, there are many other wineries to visit in Provence that are interesting and feature art as part of the visit. Some of these are mentioned in the press release below. Please take a look. This is a great introduction to planning a trip to Provence. And this year would be a great time to make the trip!

Provence: A Destination for Iconic Rosé and Artistic Masterpieces

– Works of Art are Showcased at the Region’s Vineyards –

For fans of Provence’s acclaimed rosé wines — considered The Gold Standard of dry pinks — it is sometimes overlooked that many of the region’s wineries are also living museums and art galleries. Provence is a global destination for art, architecture and cultural heritage, where the region’s famed rosé wines are on display alongside artistic masterpieces.

Provence’s scenic environment has long been the inspiration for great works of Impressionist, classical, modern, and new emerging art. Its diverse terrain stretching nearly 150 miles from coast to côtes between the Mediterranean Sea and the Alps Mountains and filled with lavender fields and historic hillside villages, is the perfect palette for creative artistic expression.  The cities of Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, Nice and others, offer an additional abundance of museums and art festivals.

Within this vibrant environment, Provence’s revered wineries share with visitors a glorious artistic past and dynamic contemporary art scene. For more additional information on individual winery operating hours and hospitality capabilities, please visit the websites below.

Domaine Houchart: Walking in the footsteps of Cézanne

According to the owners of Domaine Houchart, the story of its family and estate is closely linked to the famed Impressionist painter Cézanne.  It is said that one of the family’s ancestors, Aurelien (1840-1918), studied at the college in Aix-en-Provence as a classmate of Paul Cézanne and Émile Zola. Remaining lifelong friends, the painter and Houchart visited together often at the ancestral home, strolling the countryside while following the banks of the Arc River along with Zola. Cézanne’s dog, Black — appearing in many of the great artist’s youthful paintings — was also part of these visits. At the entrance of the family home, a marble place commemorates these memorable times. Today’s visitors also may walk in the footsteps of Cézanne.  Website: www.famillequiot.com/domaines.php

Château La Coste: Inspiring contemporary artists  

Also located in the heart of Cézanne country between the Luberon and Aix-en-Provence (near Musée Granet, Collection Planques, Hôtel de Caumont, Atelier Cézanne and Château de Picasso), Château La Coste is a vineyard where wine, art and architecture live in harmony as an ambitious arts complex. Artists and architects are invited to the domain for inspiration and to create works that will remain here. Today, approximately 40 sculptures, pavilions and art installations are accessible to the public, including an indoor Art Gallery in the old winery designed by French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte. Other gallery spaces are designed by leading architects like Richard Rogers, Renzo Piano, Oscar Niemeyer and Sou Fujimoto. The domain’s first exhibition was by internationally acclaimed painter Sean Scully.  Historically significant works by Jean Prouvé, Le Corbusier and Alexander Calder also reside here. Website:  www.chateau-la-coste.com

Château Coussin: One-of-a-kind art and a wine label by renowned sculptor César

With its vineyards laid at the foot of the Sainte-Victoire Mountain — the source of inspiration for many Impressionist painters including Cézanne, Château Coussin is owned by an old Provençal family producing wines for eight generations since the 13th century. The Sumeire family sees viticulture and wine making as a form of culture and therefore art, influencing the domain’s architecture as well as its wine labels. Inspired by the Château, famed sculptor César created a compression for the wine labels and signed his work “César à Sumeire” to demonstrate his fondess for the family and his native Provence.  A special cuvée called Cuvée César has been created with his signature and thumb print on the label.  Website: www.sumeire.com

Château du Rouët: From 19th-century architecture to 20th-century film production

Halfway between Aix-en-Provence and Nice in an area home to numerous museums and The Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul de Vence, Château du Rouët regularly welcomes artists, painters, sculptors and film directors, the latest being Woody Allen working on “Magic in the Moonlight.”  Its architectural heritage spans the late 19th to early 20th century, representative of pre-war residences. Italian School frescoes line the ceilings of the Château; the chapel is painted with the images of rare plants.  Annual “Art & Vin” exhibitions are organized each summer.  Website: www.chateau-du-rouet.com

Domaine de l’Amaurigue: Backdrop for historic architecture and contemporary art exhibits

Situated in the heart of Provence, the Domaine de l’Amaurigue was built in 1786 when used primarily for agriculture. Inside the Domaine today one can find ancient elements of the estate such as the old, stone-made bergerie. Also typical for a farm growing grains and threshing wheat, a huge “aire de battage” is on display in the winery. A reception room called “Arcades” is used to present new artist works during “Art & Vin” expositions held annually in June and August.  Website: www.amaurigue.com

Domaine Bunan: Contemporary artists on display

For the past 20 years, Bunan has worked with contemporary artists, painters, sculptors and photographers.  The southern light characteristic of Bunan has long attracted and inspired visionary artists, and the Domaine continues this tradition. A different artist is invited here annually to show works during July and August.  Bunan boasts sculpture gardens, and an exhibition space in “the salle des foudres” — a striking “cathedral of wine” where barrels are raised above the heads of visitors.  Website: http://www.bunan.com/       

Domaine du Dragon: “Art & Wine” installations appear each summer

This Domaine participates annually in the region’s “Art & Wine” program, and accepts a meaningful installation each summer. On property are an ancient château, chapel and the ruins of a mill.  Website: www.domainedudragon.com

Domaine Les Trois Terres: Building for the future

This domaine is working on the future development of gallery and installation space in order to welcome the works of sculptors and painters within the best possible winery environment. The beauty of its landscape is an inspiration for local artists.  Website: www.domainetroisterres.com

As it has for centuries, Provence’s brilliant landscape and rich cultural history continue to provide the backdrop for generations of artists moved to create new works close to nature.  Visitors can draw similar inspiration from the region’s iconic wineries that combine the art and wine of Provence in a singular experience for the senses.

So there you have it – a teaser to introduce you to Provence. What are you waiting for?


In Vino Veritas,Sig

John Tilson


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8 comments for “A GREAT 2016 VACATION IDEA: PROVENCE”

  • helen says:

    What is the best wine in your opinion?

    • John Tilson says:

      I assume you are talking about Provence. If so, remember that most of the wine production in Provence is rosé. Its year round warm weather climate makes it ideal for making and drinking rosé. There are so many great Provence Rosés that I cannot pick just one. When we were there a few years ago it was a lot of fun to just try ones I had never heard of (despite sharply increasing sales of Provence Rosé to the US in recent years, most of the Provence Rosés are not exported). I would recommend that you do the same. There are also some lovely whites and reds (particularly the reds from Bandol).
      Have fun!
      In Vino Veritas,

  • Ruben says:

    Hey John,

    Nice post! I saw you sent a comment telling the best wines are from the France.

    Have you ever drunk Argentina’s wine? Can you share your opinion about them, please?

    Me and my wife are going to Buenos Aires in 4 months and I’m so excited to go there because my friends told me good things from there.

    But I really don’t what expect from their Wines. Can you please share your experience?


    • John Tilson says:

      I have never been to Argentina and I have not had much experience with Argentinian wines. But wine production in Argentina goes back to the mid 19th century. Malbec, a rather obsure Bordeaux variety (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the two dominant Bordeaux varities), is probably the best known Argentinian wine. However, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo, and other varieties are grown there as well. So the best thing is to try a variety of local wines when you are there. After all, “When in Rome….”
      In Vino Veritas,

  • José says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation. This is a preview; your comment will be visible after it has been approved.
    Great suggestion… thx..
  • Andre says:

    Hi John! In your opinion, which countries have the best wines you have ever tasted?
    I’m starting to look for more information because I’m a total newbie, but I’m sort of enjoying this wine world.
    Obviously, France would be in this list. Thanks!

    • John Tilson says:

      Thanks Andre.
      I like a lot of different wines. But, if I were pressed to limit it to a few, they would include:
      Old Bordeaux
      Old California Cabernet Sauvignons
      Old Spanish Red Wines especially Vega Siclia.
      French Rosés
      Many of these wines are from France. France’s history with wine goes back thousands of years!
      But, remember one of the great things about wine is tasting a lot of different wines and forming your own opinions. This is how you learn. You will find many articles on this subject as well as what to avoid in wine on the website. Happy hunting!
      In Vino Veritas,

  • Jill BARTH says:

    The finer things in life pair well together! This itinerary would be an absolute treat. I recommend the wineries of Les Baux-de-Provence AOP coupled with the Van Gogh sites of the region and the absolute divinity of the exhibits at Carrières de Lumières. Outstanding cultural & natural experience. Cheers!


    • John Tilson says:

      Hi Jill,
      Thanks for your suggestions. And, I totally agree that the finer things in life do pair well together. That to me is the definition of a good life. Hopefully, we can get back to Provence soon!
      In Vino Veritas,

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