A festive “grape harvest day” in Cheverny – Meanderings through France n° 197
By Annick Dournes & Frédéric de Poligny
For the ninth consecutive year winegrowers and winemakers of the Cheverny DOC organize a wine festival on Saturday 7 September 2019. This “grape harvest day” is an entertaining opportunity to walk or bike through the vineyards, enjoy good food and wine tasting and have fun in a festive atmosphere with live music to dance the night away. A good reason, if need be, to also visit the Chateau de Cheverny made worldwide famous as being the model used by Hergé to create Marlinspike Hall, Captain Haddock’s castle.
This wine area is only a few minutes drive from Blois on the southern bank of the Loire River. It gathers two different DOCs, the Cheverny DOC and the Cour-Cheverny DOC. Although these two DOCs are located in the same area they produce very different wines. Cheverny red, white and rosé fruity wines are all made by blending several grape varieties while Cour-Cheverny wines are only white ones made with only one little known grape variety, the Romorantin. This grape variety is only grown here and nowhere else. It makes a unique wine meant to age several years before drinking. A wine for connoisseurs! Learn more at www.maisondesvinsdecheverny.fr/en/
On Saturday September 7 your day will begin with a 9 or 13 kilometres long walk on paths going through the vineyards or with a 31 km long bike ride on beautiful small roads along the Loire’s banks and of course through the vineyards made even more beautiful by their fantastic autumn colours. Back in the lovely Cheverny village by 11 am it will be time for food and wine tasting, the best way to meet local producers and discover their specialities. Live music bands will entertain you all day long.
The Chateau de Cheverny, one of the most beautiful castles of the Loire Valley
Cheverny is a private estate belonging to the Marquis de Vibraye family since 1865. It was the first private French castle to open its doors to the public in 1922. The chateau we visit today with its harmonious white façade and black slate roof was built during the first half of the 17th century in place of an ancient outdated fortress. The de Vibraye family still lives in one of the chateau’s wing that is closed to the public. All the other main rooms can be visited and still look like a family residence fully furbished and decorated, proposing a real insight into the aristocratic French way of life.
Since 2001 a Tintin exhibition is set in the former hayloft next to the chateau. Tintin, Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus relive their adventures taking place in the chateau. In less than 10 years over 1 million visitors have seen this interesting exhibition. Close by don’t miss the castle’s kennels that house over 100 Anglo-French tri-colour hounds, a cross between the English Fox-hound and the French Poitevin. Every day at 11:30 am you can witness the dogs’ lunch and admire these tall and powerful dogs. In May names are given to the new born puppies and you are welcome to suggest a name on the Chateau website.
The visit continues in the castle’s gardens and park. There are four different themed gardens to see in Cheverny: the vegetable garden, the “Love Garden” where six monumental sculptures by Swedish artist Gudmar Olovson are reflected on the quiet surface of a small lake, the huge tulip garden where 100,000 flowers create wonderful colourfull carpets in April and May and the classic garden with its lovely flowerbeds lead the way to the former orangery that has been turned into a restful restaurant and tearoom. A vineyard has recently been created and should produce the chateau’s wine in the years to come.
The Chateau de Cheverny is open year-round. More at www.chateau-cheverny.fr/en/
Staying at Chateau de la Rozelle, an authentic castle of the Loire Valley
As for visiting Blois and its sumptuous castle (see https://b-c-ing-u.com/2019/07/18/blois-much-better-than-a-history-book-for-a-glimpse-of-french-royals-life-meanderings-through-france-n-193/), a very elegant and comfortable place to stay is the nearby Chateau de la Rozelle at only 5 miles away (8 km).
The “Chateau de la Rozelle” is an 18th century castle turned into a 4-star hotel and restaurant in 2011 by Nadine and Patrick Brocault. They will warmly welcome you in their beloved chateau that they passionately and tastefully refurbished and transformed along the past few years. The elegant chateau is set in a vast park planted with numerous larch, Judas trees, giant sequoias, linden and cedar trees and many other tree species. It is ideally located at a short distance from Blois, Chambord Chaumont or Cheverny castles and a perfect starting point to visit the region. It is also highly appreciated by those who travel by bike knowing that they will find here all the comfort and good cuisine they need after their busy cycling days. (Not to forget a fully equipped bicycle shed to take care of the bikes and a comforting Jacuzzi for the tired bodies!)
Chateau de la Rozelle has 21 large bedrooms that all have a discreet floral decor and all the amenities you may expect in a 4-star hotel, including a tea and coffee set. Most of all, you will enjoy total quietness where silence is only broken by the chorus of the birds. The breakfast buffet is very tempting with homemade or locally made products. Delicious fresh croissants and breads from the nearby baker, yoghurt from the farm, craft jams, organic eggs, cheeses and ham, homemade cakes… you will enjoy a hearty breakfast in the lovely veranda.
The owner, Patrick Brocault, takes care of the hotel’s cuisine. The restaurant is open for dinner six days a week and everything is home made with seasonal products. The chef proposes two menus (29 and 35 Euros each) and you can enjoy a refreshing ” cold Cantaloupe soup with goat cheese mousse” or a creamy “foie gras marinated with port wine, figs and walnuts”, continue with a “chicken ballotine” or a “sea bream filet with ratatouille” and end with a “three chocolates cake and warm sauce” or a “floating island with caramel and pistachio cream”. If you don’t feel hungry enough for a whole menu Nadine and Patrick propose picnic baskets that you can enjoy in the park or at a table on the outside terrace among all the other dinner guests. Simple and friendly!
Booking and more at www.chateaudelarozelle.com/en/
Practical information and more about the region at www.bloischambord.co.uk/
Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos ©Frederic de Poligny & Annick Dournes