Our weather has been very temperamental these last few weeks. It is not unusual to wake up to grey skies and drizzle then by the time we are finished breakfast it is sunny. But it is only temporary and it surprises us with a huge downpour and hail by mid afternoon and then the cycle starts again. 4 seasons in one day is quite the understatement. But, last Monday, we woke to a beautiful warm and sunny day and it although it would have been perfect mowing and gardening weather, we decided to play hooky and go out for a drive. First stop was a winery – Chateau de la Jaubertie. This estate is near Bergerac, this area makes wines in a similar style to Bordeaux and offers superb value for money. Jaubertie is famously owned by the Ryman family of stationery fame. Their wines are 100% bio.
There are 3 ranges and price points at the Chateau: Mirabelle, Veilles Vignes and Tradition with Mirabelle being their premium wines. Only the finest parcels of the vineyard are selected for the “Cuvée Mirabelle”. The vines are green harvested, de-leafed and carefully manicured. The wines are aged or vinified in oak barrels to capture the essence of Jaubertie’s terroir. The “Cuvee Mirabelle” red is a blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. The wine is characterised by dark red fruit and truffle aromas. It is aged in the finest French oak for added structural complexity. The “Cuvee Mirabelle” white is a blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon, uniting the intensity of perfectly ripe Sauvignon with the complexity of old Semillon vines. Euro 15.50 a bottle.
The wines of the “Cuvée Vieilles Vignes” capture the depth and complexity of Jaubertie’s terroir. Yields are brought down through painstaking soil management to enhance the quality of the grapes. The “Vieilles Vignes” red is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. 100% is aged for 10 months in French oak. The “Vieilles Vignes” moelleux is made from 100% Muscadelle grapes. 30% is aged for 3 months in French oak. Euro 10 per bottle.
The wines of the “Cuvée Tradition” are intended to bring a moment of pleasure to their drinkers. They are the result of careful vineyard management and expert winemaking. The “Cuvée Tradition” red is a blend of 60% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc and 10% Malbec. 10% is aged for 10 months in new American oak. The “Cuvée Tradition” white is a blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon. 18% is fermented in old barrels for 6 months. The “Cuvée Tradition” rosé is a blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. 20% is fermented in barrels for 6 months. Euro 6.90 per bottle.
At the estate you can also purchase their excellent sparkling rosé at Euro 10. An excellent value indeed.
The estate offers, as most estates in the Bergerac region, free tastings. The lady serving us was very knowledgeable and friendly and answered all our questions even though it was well past the 12:00 noon closing time for lunch by the time we had finished tasting and placing our order. She recommended a little routier (truck stop) if we wanted to eat somewhere nearby. She explained where it was and that it was really cheap, but excellent, family style home cooking. I did not need to hear much more. We stacked our purchases in the boot and off we went in search of this little lunch place. She had explained that it was about 1 km away, through the tiny town and immediately on the left. Well, we looked but the only place we saw looked like it was closed and under construction, so we assumed that it could not possibly be there and drove on. About 3 km later and in the middle of nowhere, except beautiful fields, we decide we must have missed it and turned around.
Back to the only possible place, we parked and walked around. I walked to the right and announced that this must most definitely be the place, but it was clearly closed for construction. Stuart, being much more patient than me, and maybe very hungry and not keen to drive an hour home before eating, walked to the left of the derelict building and saw a tiny “bar/ brasserie” sign above a door.
He peeked inside and – lo and behold – this was it. There were 3 occupied tables, enjoying their lunch and it looked very quaint. There was also an outside terrace! What a surprise.
We sat down to wait for the menu. It was clear that this little place was run by an elderly couple, the wife did all the cooking herself and the husband ran the front of house. A little restaurant that catered to locals and truckers and I doubt saw many tourists, if any. The biggest surprise was yet to come: I had one of the best meals in ages. 6 courses in all, limitless wine and all for Euro 14 per person! On each table was 2 jugs of wine, a house rosé and a house red and some water. You could help yourself to however much you wanted and you could even have free refills as they would say in the US. I was imagining what might be on the menu when the wife arrived and placed a giant bowl of soup, bread and a bowl of cornichons, in front of us and with a big smile told us to help ourselves and have a “bon appétit” and her husband would bring out the next courses.
I quickly realized that we were in a typical French truck stop/family style brasserie. There was no menu – you would be served whatever the cook had prepared that morning based on what they had found at the market. A mystery meal. We had no idea how many courses or what to expect and that was all part of the experience. Our neighbors were one course ahead of us, so it gave me a glimpse as to what the next course might be, a little preview so to speak. Well, if the soup was anything to go by, we were in for quite a treat and, boy, were we! The soup was a fresh pumpkin and tomato broth with vermicelli -delicious. That was followed by a salad with a macedoine of tiny cut up fresh vegetables and tuna with hard boiled eggs and a creamy mustard vinaigrette. By now, I was already quite full and would happily have had an espresso and left. But the best was yet to come.
Next, we were served a platter of cold meats and the best tasting melon I have had in a very long time. There were several slices of saucisson, jambon de bayonne and mortadella.
This had all been starters and the “plat principal” or main course was yet to come. It most certainly did not disappoint. Thinly sliced roast pork that was so juicy and tender, it melted in your mouth, piping hot, light and crispy potato slices and lightly sautéed “côtes de blettes”, the white central part of chard. Absolutely delicious!
By now, I was beginning to wonder how we were ever going to be able to get up from the table and walk, let alone drive the 50 minutes back home, but it was all so very tasty that I did not really want the meal to end. Surely, I could manage a small bite of dessert. Well, the next dish was not dessert but a cheese platter. Now, I am not one to ever turn down cheese – dessert maybe, but not cheese. Once again, we were not disappointed.
The brie was perfectly ripe and creamy and so good and the nut cheese tasted of toasted walnuts, cream and all things good. I was in heaven. Then the owner came to offer dessert. Here we had a choice of a chocolate eclair, a coffee eclair, tarte tatin or ice cream. I simply could not face any more food so I settled on a coffee and let Stuart try the coffee eclair, which not surprisingly was light, flavorful and a perfect end to the meal.
As I said before, the meal could not have been better, the food was excellent, the service attentive and very friendly and the price was only Euro 14!!!! We will be back. We need more of these great little family run restaurants and less fast food.
If you ever find yourself near Chateau de la Jaubertie, in Colombier, near Bergerac in south west France, please do stop in at this little truck-stop. You will not be disappointed.