Loire Valley: Chinon & Blois


There is a lot to see in the Loire Valley, too much to write about in one post. The first time I went, I visited the Chateaux. Chenoceaux and Villandry were my favorites. Several times we’ve stayed in private Chateaux while there pretending for a minute it was our own. That’s always a sure fire hit with the kids.

This time I was alone and simply on the way back to Paris from our home in the Bordeaux region. I decided to stop in Chinon for an evening to break up the trip and to treat myself to a little wine tasting. I was pleasantly surprised to find what a beautiful town Chinon is. Not really a village but neither a city Chinon boasts with a gigantic fortress and Chateau dating back to the 11th century which lords over the town.

Wandering around Chinon as the sunset was a delight. There are several good restaurants here including Les Annèes 30, La Part des Anges & L’Entrepotes. I even found a cute brocante (antique shop) where I bought a little Jean of Arc souvenir. It seems she stayed in Chinon’s Chateaux back in the 1400’s and no one has yet forgotten about that brush with greatness.

After a pleasant night, I woke up and did what any true Francophile does after breakfast – I went wine tasting. One could spend quite a bit of time in town tasting this delightfully affordable red wine made almost exclusively with cabernet franc. As I didn’t have loads of time I chose one of the larger and more well known vineyards, Couley-Dutheil one of the largest and oldest estates in the area.

I tasted four of their wines. What surprised me the most was their white Chinon, something that doesn’t technically exist in the AOC so they call it simply Chenin Blanc, whatever its know as its delicious and I had to have some. Its a perfect cross between the crispiness of a Sauvignon blanc and a chardonnay style wine though its made from the chenin blanc grape varietal.

Their reds are delicious too. I sampled their Le Clos de L’Echo, Diligence and Les Gravières as well as a special sweet ice wine L’Interdit which they make only during certain years where they can let the grapes freeze on the vine in ideal conditions before harvesting. I also was able to see their old cellar and soon I was off after buying a few ½ cases for our Paris cave.

Next I headed towards Blois where I would stop for lunch before arriving in Paris that afternoon. By luck and a little google search I discovered what looked like was going to be a carefully made lunch at Assa, but it turned out to be so much more.

For just 29 euros I had a three-course meal made by a Michelin star chef. I had no idea I’d stumbled into foodie heaven. As is the current trend in Paris, Chef Anthony Maubert has partnered with Chef Fumiko who is Japanese and together they are creating near perfect French-Japanese fusion cuisine. I’ve had type of food a lot of this in Paris at Sola, Abri and AT but this small wood paneled resto was competing with the best of them.

There is much to see in Blois as well as another Chateau however the road demanded me to get back on it and I returned to our Ile St. Louis flat in under two hours. The Loire is so close and holds so many treasures, I promised myself I’d be back very soon.