Meetup at our home + French Sloppy Joes (A Sicilian-inspired recipe)
Porquerolles sea-hunting trip + My husband's creative (and quirky) side

Décontracté at Chateau de Pibarnon: a visual report

Chateau de Pibarnon countryside
Yesterday we spent a relaxing day at one of the most prestigious vineyards in Provence: Chateau de Pibarnon. Listen to the previous sentence in French, just below, and don't miss the entire post and photos. First, today's word:


relaxed, calm, serene

Click the following link to listen to the French sentence (English version above)

Hier nous avons passé une journée décontractée dans un des plus prestigieux domaines viticoles de Provence, Le Château de Pibarnon


by Kristi Espinasse

Thanks to our friends at French Country Wines, and to my husband, Jean-Marc, who harvested there a few years ago, we were invited back to Château de Pibarnon for an unforgettable lunch with a most gracious, charming, and witty host, Eric De Saint Victor.

Our friends Bruce, Hilary, Geneviève and Jean-Philippe, who you may remember lounging on the beach Cassis, joined us here at Mas de Brun, where we began our convoy toward Bandol, up the steep and winding road to one of the most famous Southern French vineyards. We were about to, as Geneviève said, experience an "eonological and gastronomical blast, thanks to Eric De Saint Victor..."

Entrance to Chateau Pibarnon photos c Genevieve Guy

I will tell you about that gastronomical part in a minute, for now, here are some scenes from the wine-tasting. On the way in, olive, cypress, and mulberry trees line the chateau entrance, with its iron gates and stone murette. Photo by Geneviève Guy of Bistro Provence

Chateau de Pibarnon facade

A peek at the chateau. To the lower right, the wine-tasting entrance is located just in front of a shady mulberry. Open to all, the tasting room hours are Monday-Saturday, 9-12pm and again at 2:30 to 6pm.

Wine barrels Eric de Saint Victor and our group at Chateau de Pibarnon photo Genevieve Guy
Kristi, Hilary, Jean-Marc, Eric, Bruce, and Jean-Philippe in the chai , or wine storehouse, at Chateau de Pibarnon. Here, Eric gave the wine-tasters a wonderful tip to bring with you when you visit any vineyard: There will be various barrels or containers of wine, but ask to taste the press of all the blended grape skins, for this is where the socle (he compares it to a boat's cradle) or the soul of the wine is found. Photo by Geneviève Guy

Marie Genevieve Pauline
Among the wonderful strong female characters I know (like Cécile--ma frangine), here are three favorites: Winemaker Marie Laroze, Geneviève and her daughter, Pauline. Jean-Marc introduced me to Marie a few years ago, for our common interest in permaculture and natural farming & gardening. Jean-Marc tells me these natural principals are expressed in the way Marie makes wine.

Nathan Kristi Pauline Jean-Philippe Hilary in the tasting room at Chateau de Pibarnon
Back in the tasting room, just before Nathan and Pauline left us to spend the rest of the afternoon poolside, where Eric's family took the kids under their wings, and fed them pizza and ice-cream.

Genevieve and Jean-Philippe at Chateau de Pibarnon with fleurs de courgettes
Geneviève of Bistro Provence, Houston, and Jean-Philippe, of French Country wines in Houston. After the cellar visit we were treated to hors-d'oeuvres on the terrace overlooking the sea. You can see a short video here. Our host, Eric, created a seasonal menu with local ingredients. These cheese-stuffed zucchini flowers were a hit. The fleur de sel was the finishing touch. Next, came the delicious anchoiade, which Eric made, he says, by crushing some anchovies and...I didn't hear the rest of the recipe (while so enraptured in the experience and the wonderful tastes...)

  Ann-Laure Chateau de Pibarnon
Charming Provencal terrace and the lovely, Anne-Laure, in charge of the château's events (see about the weekly evening tasting, at the end of this post).

Around the table photo c Genevieve Guy

Sitting around the family table, we were catered to by a true gentleman. Though his family is noble, Eric is as down-to-earth as the ingredients he collects from his Mediterranean surroundings--or at the local supermarket, where you can sometimes find him sprinting through for a forgotten item (anchovies? fleur de sel?). 

Eric de Saint Victor

In the kitchen. Excuse the blurry photo, but it captures Eric's spirit.

He is a most attentive and witty host, who tells colorful stories (you should hear how he got this giant fish from a certain kissy-faced fishmonger, Bertha, at the port (she encouraged a puckered recompense after procuring a rare daurade of this size!). His story rivals the famous one about the sardine that blocked the port of Marseilles). As Eric shared his stories and we shared ours back he poured his world-famous Bandol wine and maintained his place, according to Le Figaro, as the world's ambassador for the mourvèdre grape.

Looking around the table, our friends were more that satiated, they were dreamy-eyed. Finally, Hilary's husband, Bruce (opposite Eric in the photo, above), put into words what all of us were thinking: Could I please move into just a tiny corner of this beautiful place? Eric could just toss me a scrap of bread every once in a while. As long as as he pours a little of his wine to go with it!

la murette = little wall
fleur de sel = "flower of salt", highest quality sea salt
anchoïade (m) = anchovy dip for vegetables
la daurade = sea bream
la récompense = reward

If you have yet to discover Château de Pibarnon wine, you need to taste it to understand what Bruce is talking about. While we were very lucky to be Eric's guests, the good news is you are all welcome to visit the domain. Put it on your To Do list next time you are in Provence. And note that every Thursday night, July - August, they welcome you at the top of the vineyard....

Le Pi-Bar Ephemere

Dog at Chateau de Pibarnon
Vineyard dog, Darius.

French Country Cooking: Meals and Moments from a village in the vineyards
Eiffel Tower Dog or Cat bed, click here.
CARON PARIS Fleur de Rocaille - a classic French scent

Kristin Espinasse Chateau de Pibarnon

In my previous post about Château de Pibarnon I told you about a slight mishap during dessert. (Thank you, Anne-Laure, for the photo)

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Thank you for this posting - beautiful world you live in and share. Going to French Country Wines today after birthday celebration with dear friends. Must get more Mas de Brun and ask about this wine. Have a beautiful day.

Jean-Marc Espinasse

Thank you Nancy for your support
Please give a big hug from me to Phyllis and Tim


A beautiful day you shared! Yearning for Provence and it's many glories. You gave us such a good 'taste' of that beautiful property and lovely, talented people!

Diane Young

Thanks for sharing some of your beautiful day with us. The setting is so lovely.

joie in Carmel

What a delightful day. And, oh, cheese stuffed squash blossoms are one of my favorites! What kind of cheese does he use? I usually use a herbed goat.

Suzanne Dunaway

Wow, what a feast!!! And such a lovely vineyard...lucky to have visited and been wined and dined.

Kristin Espinasse

I think it was goat cheese. This time he used chestnut flour. 

Suzanne Codi

You both live a charmed life, but you work hard for it, and you deserve all the decontracte' afternoons in great company and surroundings that you can get! Putting the Chateau de Pibarnon on my list of places to visit on our next trip.
Bises to you and JM


Beautiful photos! With two grown children, you remain a beauty, Kristi!

Barbara Barrielle

Love this story dear Kristi! And I so want to visit Chateau de Pibarnon next time I'm in France! You look fantastic in that dress...

Stacy - Sweet Life Farm

Thank you for sharing this day with us. It's like a dream - the setting, the chateau, your cordial host, the food and wine! I'm grateful for this reminder of how such experiences hold true riches.

I agree with Bruce. In exchange for that tiny corner, I'd gladly do dishes! I will visit you at your little shopfront and it looks like one of my dogs is awaiting me. Love the photo of you, Kristi. The years seem to only add to your beauty.


Our dear Kristi,
Oh!You are gorgeous!Not only on the outside(which is obvious!) but also on the inside!In all the years I have been privileged to enjoy your blog(and your pictures) I do not recall,ever!hearing you say an unkind word about anyone,or lacking to find the silver lining in any situation.
(I only wish that I could say the same for myself!)
This day,this place,and YESSSS(!!) this repast is like something out of a fairy tale with the ending of "and they lived happily ever after".
How do this get better???
THANK YOU for sharing with us.Completely makes our weekend!
Natalia XO

Lynn Rush

Beautiful photos- a lovely life you lead, and well deserved. Enjoy!

Lee Isbell

Bonjour Kristi,
I've just returned from a visit to France, the first part in Ste-Cécile and the second part up north with a college tour in Brittany and Normandy. (I'm exhausted!) We had our usual wine-tasting at Rouge-Bleu with Tomàs and Caroline and TWO little ones. They weren't able to come over to our place for BBQ, as Caroline didn't want to bring two little ones, and Tomàs had just returned from a long trip and feared for his life if he left the rest of the family behind. Again. The lavender was gorgeous already and promised to be spectacular. We had a lovely time (as expected). I HOPE I'll be back in the fall. Lee

Kathleen from Connecticut

Oh what a spectacular day and the food. We are having squash blossoms tonight but with ricotta. I have not thought about using chèvre but that sounds so much better. Maybe we'll try both.
I will also put Chateau de Pibarnon on my to do list for Provence.
Lovely pictures and you are gorgeous.


Cynthia Galbraith

Hello Kristi,
I have enjoyed your posts for a while(and now am enjoying Jean-Marc's wine)! Your writing is very descriptive and inviting. In reference to the Mas de Brun rose, I was able to get my nephew, who lives in Houston, to "discover" French Country Wines and to arrange to have a few bottles of Mas de Brun sent to me here in New Orleans, LA. (I have one bottle left and am keeping it until next week to celebrate my 75th birthday! I'm sure I will be getting a few more bottles to enjoy before the end of the summer.)
Thank you for sharing your life stories. Please don't stop! Also, good luck in your getting your house situation settled soon.
Avec mes amities,

Marianne Rankin

This was so interesting, and the pictures are wonderful. Glad you had such a pleasant time and fabulous food.

Sometime can you share the story of how a sardine blocked the port of Marseilles?

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