THE PROVENCE WINE TOUR, MAY 2020

May 9 - 21, 2020

Limited to 12 participants* 2 LAST SPOTS AVAILABLE
transatlantic flight, moon
Approaching Europe
rooftop, nice
View of Hotel in Nice's rooftop with pool and jaccuzzi.
nice, place Gambetta
Nice
nice, chateau, baie des Anges
Le Démon sur la Baie des Anges
sylvain Hoesch, domaine richeaume
Visite at Domaine Richeaume, Sylvain the Wine Magician
montagne sainte victoire
Montagne Sainte Victoire
poppies, coquelicots
A field of poppies near our hotel in Camargue
Chateau Romanin
Chateau Romanin
dentelles de montmirail
Dentelles de Montmirail from the extreme overlook
Our Hotel in the Rhône Valley
Our Hotel in the Rhône Valley
contrast tours meal
A Meal in Provence
Gorges de l'ardeche, belvedere
Gorges de l'Ardèche
pont d'arc
Pont d'Arc
pont du gard
The Pont du Gard
denis brihat
Denis Brihat and visitor
denis brihat print show
Looking at Denis Brihat's work
damien rozier, domaine Rose Dieu
Damien Rosier, Domaine Rose Dieu
route, chateauneuf du pape
From the Road to Chateauneuf du pape
valence, vallée du rhône
Chez Moi
La Palette, café, bistrot, paris
Des Amants dans mon Café
bleu, nice
Bleu de Nice
nice, place massena
Dans la Ville Baroque.
beach restaurant, nice
Lunch on the Beach in Nice
vignes sur fond de Sante Victoire
Domaine Richeaume
Hotel camargue
Hotel Camargue
petite camargue
Petite Camargue
pink flamingoes
Pink Flamingoes in Camargue
rhone, camargue, flying cranes
Cranes Flying over The Rhône in Camargue
lunch, Provence
Vacqueyras White on the Beautiful Table
Route, provence, platanes
A road in the Alpilles
Rhone Valley, mont ventoux
Flirting with clouds at the top of the Mont Ventoux
Mont Ventoux, alps
Mont Ventoux, looking toward the Alps, Italy.
Mont Ventoux
Northern View from the Mont Ventoux
grotte chauvet
In the Grotte Chauvet.
Gorges de l'ardeche, belvedere
Gorges de l'Ardèche
dinner in Vacqueyras
The Joy of a Meal in Provence
vacqueyras, village, provence
Vacqueyras in Earnest
Vacqueyras, vins
Vacqueyras
tgv
High Speed Train to Paris
paris, eiffel tower
Vue Imprenable
ITINERARY:
* Saturday May 9: Departure from RDU (or wherever you depart from) to JFK and then to Nice via direct flight, or whatever other flight arrangement suit you.

* Sunday May 10: Arrival in Nice International Airport after a striking descent on the beautiful Bay of Angels.

This day will be dedicated to acclimating after the trans-Atlantic flight. Lunch at a restaurant on Nice's downtown beach. After lunch, relaxing stroll in Old Nice up to the Castle to capture the view seen on the photograph "Le Démon sur la Baie des Anges." Also lounge by the pool on the hotel's rooftop (see photograph on left).

Apéritif and dinner in the old town.
* Monday May 11: We'll leave the hotel by 10:00 and drive to Domaine Richeaume, see photograph on the right. The estate sits at the foothills of the Montagne Sainte Victoire, which was Cezanne's favorite subject, and mine too when I was living in a nearby village in pre-historic times.

The Domaine Richeaume is a ground breaking domaine which has innovated and set trends in the region for the past 45 years. Sylvain, the son of the founder, is a stupendous wine maker. The production of the Domaine is absolutely stunning, with reds that are rich, deep, strong in fruit, notably black currant, with completely melted tanins, refreshing but profound whites and robust rosés. All the wines are biodynamic.

We will have a picnic at the Domaine with Sylvain, of course accompanied by his sublime wines.

After the visit we will first take a little road offering a stunning view on the Sainte Victoire, see photograph on the left, and then will head to our hotel in Camargue, where we will stay two nights. This hotel, was once owned by Victor Hugo's family. They received the luminaries of the time, artists, political celebrities like Jean Cocteau, Erik Satie, Leon Blum etc. The hotel has been modernized since, see photograph on the left.

There is a beautiful pool there and we will have an aperitif, then dinner at the hotel.

* Tuesday May 12: Camargue is the estuary of the Rhône river, the largest river in France. It is a swamp, not unlike the bayous of Louisiana, only under a different climate. We will first visit Aigues Mortes, and notably go around the town on top of its ramparts.

We will then have lunch in a charming seafood restaurant, home cooking style, in the Saintes Maries de la Mer, a cultural mecca dancing at the rhythm of the Flamenco. This is where the Famous band "The Gypsy Kings" are from.

After lunch we will take a stroll in "Les Saintes," absorbing its rather rare "Gardian" (cowboy from Camargue) atmosphere. before heading to see some pink flamingoes.

We will finish the day at Domaine Scamandre. Scamandre is a Domaine created from scratch by a couple of dentists who fell in love with the region and teamed up with an oenologue. They produce wonderful organic wines following a very thoughtful and scientific process. We will visit the domaine with Nadine Renouard who founded the Domaine with her husband almost 20 years ago, and then will proceed to a festive evening at the domaine with a game of pétanque, apéritif and delicious food prepared by our hosts.
* Wednesday May 13: Today we head to the Rhône Valley, first driving through the Alpilles, the lovely mounts north of Arles that seduced Alphonse Daudet, Van Gogh and many other artists.

Our destination is Chateau Romanin, a 60 Hectares estate on the north side of the mountain range. We are there in the Baux de Provence appellation, a rather new appellation, but a very promising one, notably for rosés and whites. Chateau Romanin is an organic producer, and their white and rosés are stunning, extremely expressive, with an elegant balance and distinctive aromas. They also produce two remarkable olive oils.

We will visit the cave and will have lunch with members of the staff in their reception room overlooking the Rhône Valley.

After lunch we will visit the oil press in the Baux de Provence which presses Chateau Romanin's olives.

From there we will drive to our hotel nested in a 16th century castle in the heart of the Rhône valley, see photographs. This hotel is nothing short of magnificent, with a gorgeous pool of course, and many luxurious amenities, including a unique SPA. Its organic garden is a model, and a good part of the food we will have there (all our dinners) will come from that garden.

The place will be an idillic location for many pétanque games.


* Thursday May 14:
Today we start our exploration of Rhône Valley wines, in its epicenter: the Plan de Dieu. You will understand when you see it why it was named that way, and why the Côtes du Rhône would not be that famous all over the world whether this amazing vineyard in its very geographical center. Contrast Wines is proud to work with the Domaine Rose Dieu where Damien Rozier produces exceptional Sainte Cécile and Plan de Dieu wines. These are characterized by a superior concentration and excellent balance, they deliver the almighty power of the Grenache and Syrah wrapped in a velvet glove. We will have a visit with Damien on one of his plots and then a tasting either there or at his cellar, depending on weather conditions.

Through some winding roads cutting though the stony landscape, we will arrive to one of the best tables of the area, at the foothills of the giant. The meal there will be, as always, a perfect reflect of provençale hospitality, creative, classy and delicious, and weather permitting, on the most inviting terrasse.

After lunch we then will turn ourselves to the king of the region, the Mont Ventoux, famous for his testing ascent in the Tour de France, which often sorts the ultimate winner from the rest of the peloton. We will drive to the peak, probably understanding what riders of the Tour de France endure in this legendary stage. From the top we will be cousins with the clouds, and will have a breathtaking 360˚ view on the Rhône Valley and also on the Alps, seemingly all the way to Italy on a bright day, see photographs on the right. Apart from its magnificence, the view really helps grasping the geography of the entire region.

There is a lot of driving today, as I cannot resist to the temptation to do a not so small detour through some hidden charming gorges on our way back to the hotel.

Dinner at the castle.


* Friday May 15:
Lazy late start as we are going about 15 minutes away, to the tony estate of La Présidente. This is one of the largest estates in the Rhône Valley, where it became prominent with the work of Max Aubert who bought it in 1968 and developed it. La Présidente produces some excellent Cairanne, and a stunning Chateauneuf du Pape, on 20 Ha that they owned there in one of the best locations there, in the vicinity of other prestigious names.

We will visit the estate, and have lunch in a very nice restaurant in Chateauneuf du Pape, with Patrick Galant, the notorious Oenologist who directs the property, before visiting the village.

On our way back to the castle we will drive through the lovely route that leads to Orange. There we will visit the antic Amphitheater, one of the three best preserved in the world. This is a marvel from the first century, and it is fascinating to see its phenomenal wall right in town, a literal stone throw away from cafés and restaurants. The acoustic of this theater is so good that it is, to these days, the theater for one of the most prestigious lyric art festival in the world.


Pétanque, pool etc. Dinner at the castle.


* Saturday May 16:
This morning we head to Uzès, a beautiful little town that has preserved an historic center offering a rare collection of architecture from the 16th, 17th and 18th century. On Saturdays the town vibrates with its market, one of the nicest and most authentic ones in France. We will loose ourselves in this colorful melting pot of vegetables, fruit, olives, charcuteries, hats and scarfs.

We will have lunch by the market, sharing the effervescence of this vibrant and unique little town.

In the afternoon we will explore Le Pont du Gard. This Unesco World Heritage site presents the tallest Roman aqueduct in the world, built in the 1st century and wonderfully preserved (see photograph on the left). We will enjoy a guided visit explaining how and why this aqueduct was built. We will have a privileged tour of the third story of the bridge that will offer both a beautiful view and a captivating perspective on the history of this edifice and how it functioned.

Please note that the third story was being repaired in the fall of 2019, and we will not know until some time in the spring if it is allowed to re-opens for visits.

Pétanque, pool etc. Dinner at the castle.


* Sunday May 17:
Late start and relaxing today. We go to the Luberon, the legendary part of Provence subject of countless books notably the Peter Mayle ones, who by the way, was a fan of my mentor, our host today.

Our Destination is Bonnieux where I have arranged a special lunch at my mentor's house. Denis Brihat is a photographer of international recognition, and the current spiritual heir of Edward Weston, the West coast photographer who first promoted photography as an art form, and inspired Ansel Adams. Denis settled in Bonnieux in the 50's after living in Biot in the vicinity of Picasso, Jean Cocteau etc... His work is unique in the history of photography and has had a big influence on mine. His wife Solange will prepare a lunch that will be accompanied by some of the wines we visit. This will be a rare treat, blending provencal wines with world class art and delicious home cooking.

After lunch we will take the back roads to the castle, and hit a few villages along the way with a stroll in at least one of them.

Pétanque, pool etc. Dinner at the castle.


* Monday May 18:
Drive to Chateau Rochecolombe in Ardèche on the other side of the Rhône river. Rochecolombe is a stellar organic vineyard producing award winning wines. The Estate counts 60 Ha of vineyard run very efficiently, and the wines are truly the best value one can find in the Côtes du Rhône appellations. We will have lunch at the Castle catered by a gem restauranteur from the surroundings.

After lunch we will drive to the Grotte Chauvet, and after its visit we will drive down the Gorges de l'Ardèche, stopping at several breath taking belvederes.

The Gorges are known as Europe's Grand Canyon, and are a magnificent site, where many caves can be found that were inhabited by our pre-historic ancestors, as early as 300,000 years ago. The most treasured of the caves is the Grotte Chauvet. It is registered as a Unesco World heritage site, and contains some of the earliest known and best preserved figurative cave paintings in the world: 38,000 years old. It is not possible any longer to visit the actual grotte, but French authorities have built a perfect replica, which is the world's reference for conservation of parietal art.

Pétanque, pool etc. Dinner at the castle.


* Tuesday May 19: This morning we head to Vacqueyras and all along the way will be graced again with the sight of the Dentelles de Montmirail. We will climb all the way to a hidden spot in the Dentelles, from which we will have a breathtaking view on them and the entire Rhône Valley behind.

We will also go visit Adrien Roustan, one of the rising stars of wine making in the Rhône Valley. Adrien grows organically notably in Vacqueyras and Gigondas, with one of the highest elevation plots in the Dentelles. His wines are very well balanced and show a delicatessen seldom encountered in Vacqueyras. I am willing to bet that you will be eventually able to say "we had lunch with him when he was little known ..."

Lunch with Adrien and Alexandra.

Our senses well satisfied we will visit Séguret, a lovely village perched on the flanks of the Rhône valley, and offering the intense beauty of a provençale village-fortress now living in peace.

Pétanque, pool etc. Dinner at the castle.


* Wednesday May 20:
I don't know yet about you, but personally I am now used to live this way and it is always heart pinching to have to say "adieu" to the beautiful castle and the lovely people who hosted us. But we will leave our castle to see a papal one in Avignon. Today we indulge in a visit of this superb town, nested behind its ramparts, and where the popes lived in the 14th century. The town is full of architectural jewels.

We will have lunch in Avignon and then leave the Rhône Valley in a high speed train for Paris where we will arrive 2:40 hours later.

We will go to our hotel in Saint Germain des Près, close to the Seine, the perfect location.

Dinner and stroll in Paris.



* Thursday May 21: Taxi to Paris Roissy Airport. Delta direct flight to RDU, or any other flight that will get you to where you came from.


Those wishing to book additional nights in Paris can do so through me, either touring the town with me or on their own. See here all the options for Paris, including my Paris itinerary.
paris, montmartre, selfie
In Montmartre
La Tartine, café, bistrot, paris
La Tartine
St Etienne du Mont, Paris, chuch
Church in Paris near the Pantheon
ABOUT THIS VOYAGE:
Jean-Christian Rostagni, Monsieur Contraste
Jean-Christian Rostagni

This is Your Hosts
Lineup:

to learn more about these characters, click on the thumbnail and then on "Open" in the lightbox in order to see what they are up to.

René Tanguy, marin
René Tanguy


This trip is for those seeking an authentic French experience exploring the French Riviera, Provence and the Rhône Valley, which saw the start of the wine production in France during Roman times. I have designed this itinerary with the hope of providing an exceptional journey through the legendary wines and food of the region. I am proud to say that the wines I am lucky to represent and import, are unparalleled due to the connections that I am lucky to enjoy in that industry in that region. You may expect a trip that will take you in stunning comfort, quite further than what you may already know about Provence and the South East of France in general.

We will travel through history with important "time-machine-like" site visits, going back to Roman and even pre-historic times. Such experiences have changed my perspective on many aspects of life.

DATES: May 9-21, 2020 with a possible extension in Paris with me if you'd like, or on your own. See the Paris options here.

Limited to up to 12 travelers*, plus René Tanguy and myself, your travel companions, drivers, guides, interpreters and hopefully entertainers.

$5,725 per person based on double occupancy, + airfare if 12 participants and in "classique" room in Paris. $5,625 if 13 participants, $5,825 if 11 participants, $5,945 if 10 participants, $6,250 if 8. Only 3 "classique rooms" in Paris, and 4 "supérieure rooms, slightly larger and with A/C for a supplement of $53 per room/couple. The single accommodation supplement is $1,050. Price includes hotel, meals, wine during meals, transportation, entrance fees when applicable, and should be considered all-inclusive, save for beverages in your room or at the bar and other services you might want to enjoy that are not part of the group activities. Contrast Tours purchases the Group Protection plan, which offers benefits for Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption and more, on behalf of all travelers. If interested in the optional Cancel For Any Reason* coverage please contact Contrast Tours for rates and information. A copy of the plan document will be provided.
*CFAR is not available to residents of NY.

Photography: I will happily provide photographic assistance and share my photographer's perspective throughout the tour. You will even be able to get a second opinion from René Tanguy, who will co-host the trip. He was in photography school with me during antiquity, and is also a photographer with a several decades-long career and an impressive list of customers, shows and books.

During this journey you will be able to compare wines from many different appellations from France's south east, see what the differences are, and get to understand why there are such differences. Our meals will typically be paired with wines from the wineries that we visit. Most wines are imported by Contrast Wines, a division of Contrast Tours, and are available in wine stores and restaurants in NC.

A "Carnet de Route" will be published about this trip and a copy will be provided to you prior to departure, as long as there are at least 10 participants to the tour. This booklet will include a detailed itinerary with a description of sites and wineries that we will visit, as well as descriptions of the wines we will enjoy, with enough space for you to take notes and keep a diary should you wish to.

The exact itinerary is subject to modification due to scheduling considerations. Please note that this is an epicurean journey, and while I will attempt to satisfy special requests when possible and if mentioned at booking, I cannot guarantee being able to accommodate all dietary needs. Please inquire if this is a matter of concern.

Please email me (use Contact Us button below) if you want to book or have any questions. You may also call me: 919-416-1111.

* If we have one an odd number of participants, the number of travelers could go up to 13.
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eric hodge, wunc
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Jean-Christian Rostagni

a.k.a.

Monsieur Contraste


My name is Jean-Christian Rostagni, I am a photographer, and as such the subject of Rodrigo Dorfman's film Monsieur Contraste. Here is my photographer's website.

I am French and I have been living in the Triangle, North Carolina, since 1993. Over the years several gracious people expressed that they would like to travel with me as a guide in France. I wanted to see if that was true, and this is how Contrast Tours was created. You might want to read this article that explains the genesis of Contrast Tours as well as its philosophy in which art and wine get married.

We specialize in wine tours in France that provide an authentic French experience of voluptuous quality. I started with a tour of the Rhône Valley and its wines, as that is the region that I am from, and I know it very well. It is also a region that lands itself to this type of travel due to climate, geography and history. I am currently developing a tour of Bordeaux and one of the French Riviera and Corsica that will be launched in 2018.

I hope to have the pleasure to transport you.

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eric hodge, wunc
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René Tanguy


I have known René for 40 years. We were both in the second school of photography that I attended. It was a great school, in the Unité de Recherche in Chemistry at the Faculté des Sciences Saint Charles in Marseille, totally unique, Some of the greatest French photographers of the time taught there, and it is where I met my mentor, Denis Brihat. It was such a great school that both Denis and I were fired, Denis became even more the revered photographer he already was and me, well, I am here! René stayed, finished his courses and had a long and often enviable career, notably working with major French corporations.

I have always loved René, everybody does. He is a better looking Gerard Depardieu, without the theatrics, more real, often with an irresistible sparkle in his eyes that have toured the world. René is from Brittany (can you tell?), about 2/3rd the polar opposite my mostly latin self, and we complement each other well. He is easy going, well spoken, very natural and thoughtful. I am very happy that he has accepted to tour with us and I know that you will find him a kind soul.

Here is René's website.
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nice, bleu
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nice, place massena
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nice, beach lunch
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nice, place massena
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nice, chateau, baie des Anges
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domaine richeaume, montagne Sainte Victoire
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montagne Sainte Victoire
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petite camargue
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pink flamingoes, camargue
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rhone, petite camargue
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chateau romanin, alpilles
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dentelles de montmirail
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chateau romanin, alpilles
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vacqueyras, vins
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route, provence, platanes
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rhone valley, mont ventoux
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Alps, mont ventoux
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mont ventoux
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Meal, Provence
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Gorges de l'ardeche, belvedere
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Grotte Chauvet
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Pont d'Arc, Gorges de l'ardeche, belvedere
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Gorges de l'ardeche, belvedere
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dinner vacqueyras
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Pont du Gard
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denis brihat
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atelier denis brihat
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coquelicots, poppies
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vacqueyras, village, provence
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damien rozier, domaine rose dieu
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vacqueyras, vins
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rhone valley, mont ventoux
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valence, Vallée du Rhône
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tgv
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La Palette, café, bistrot, paris
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Paris, eiffel tower
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paris, montmartre, selfie
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St Etienne du Mont, Paris, chuch
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La Tartine, café, bistrot, paris
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sylvain hoesch, domaine richeaume