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Goldring Travel’s 2018 Culinary & Cultural Cruise – Part II (Marseille, France and Ajaccio, Corsica)

The Goldring Travel 2018 Culinary & Cultural Cruise continued with a bit of a change in plans due to the weather.  But while some wind and rain might dampen others, not our intimate and friendly group. In fact, as it should be with travel, having a bit of flexibility makes for things to be a bit more exciting if not as planned.

Chateau La Nerthe

One thing that did not change was our day in Chateaunuf-du-Pape, France the home of my favorite wines!  Our group was broken up into two vans, each with a highly qualified sommelier, for about an hour’s drive outside of Marseille where we would visit two important vineyards and have an elegant lunch.  We left the Seabourn Encore with blue skies and hopes for a sunny day enjoying Provence.  Well, that didn’t exactly happen, but our spirits were not dampened…though we were a bit.

Our first visit was to Chateau La Nerthe, one of the oldest vineyards in the appellation.  While under relatively new ownership, one thing is very apparent in the French wine culture:  History and traditions are to be honored.  In fact, they are essential. Upon arrival we were given a private tour of the cellars, as the history of both the vineyard and the varieties of grapes grown there, were explained. 

The Goldring Travel 2018 Culinary & Cultural Cruise “Ensemble”
at Chateau La Nerthe

As was explained, in Chateaunuf-du-Pape not only must the grapes be produced in the appellation, the wine must be as well.  This is distinctly different than the adjoining (actually circling) Cotes du Rhone appellation where the wines need not be made, though the grapes must be produced, there. 

Chateau La Nerthe maintains private storage of its wines
 for individuals and restaurants around the world
for some of its most prestigious vintages
And, of course, the Chateau has its own extensive reserve collection

After our tour, the Tasting I have been anticipating since I put this event together:  Five wines including two white and two red Chateaunuf-du-Pape as well as one of the Chateau’s finer Cotes du Rhone.  White Chateaunuf-du-Pape generally represents less than 5% of the overall production, so finding it in the United States is difficult…and it is a special wine according to my palate!  And, of course, a Cotes du Rhone can be made in Chateaunuf-du-Pape so it is a wine of the appellation.

It was an extraordinary tasting as we truly visited the styles of the appellation.

It was then time for our lunch at La Table des Fines Roches which, of course, had its own private reserve at Chateau La Nerthe.  Unfortunately, we could not dine al fresco due to the weather, but the setting in a private dining room was, nonetheless, beautiful.

La Table des Fines Roches
The Goldring Travel 2018 Culinary & Cultural Cruise “Ensemble”
at La Tables des Fines Roches

While we could not dine al fresco, we still were able to take in the views of Provence

Here we enjoyed a three course paired luncheon with three different Cotes du Rhone:  A white, rose and red.

The star of the luncheon was not the wine, but the cuisine…as I had expressed it should be!  It is a Culinary Cruise, right?

Our first course was either Veal Terrine with White Vinegar Condimento with young salad or Lentil Salad with Grilled King Prawn.  (Based upon the sounds of joy and clean plates the lentils were amazing!)  To be honest, the veal was so rich and delicious a Chateaunuf-du-Pape would have paired perfectly…but oh how I nonetheless “suffered” with the red Cotes du Rhone.

Our second course was either Poultry Ballotine of Chicken filled with Mushrooms accompanied by Gratin Dauphinois, Candy Carrots and Sauce or Red Mullet, Asian Condimento, Butter Leek and Mashed Carrot.  This was a tough one as both were absolutely delicious.

Our final course…the most important one…was dessert.  The choices were simple:  Tatin Apple Tart or Tiramisu.  Let’s just say that nobody was disappointed.  One of my guests said it best, “This is the best tiramisu I have ever eaten”.  And the tatin tasted even better than its picture perfect presentation.

After lunch we headed off to, that’s right, another five wine Chateaunuf-du-Pape tasting; visiting Domaine du Grand Tinel.  While this is actually another ancient vineyard the tour disclosed that it has been very much modernized. 

But not to worry, the younger white Chateanuf-du-Pape wine we tasted was beyond delicious.  And the 2006 Heres limited reserve was outstanding.

As the Seabourn Encore changed her departure time from 11:00 PM to 6:00 PM with our itinerary eliminating St. Tropez due to high winds and seas too rough to tender, we only had a few minutes to visit the remains of the Pope’s former summer castle for some breathtaking views of Provence and the Rhone Valley before heading back to the ship.

After arriving back to the ship, after 13 outstanding wines and a delicious lunch let’s just say it was a quiet evening.

The next day brought a markedly different experience:  Ajaccio, Corsica.  As we were supposed to be in St. Tropez and the Ensemble Travel Group Experience wine tasting there obviously cancelled, while efforts were underway to create a new Experience, I had the day to explore on my own. 

Sunrise – Ajaccio, Corsica

Ajaccio, Corsica Harbor

I had been to Ajaccio about a year earlier with my daughter while I was hosting a cruise on the Regent Seven Seas Voyager.  It brought back to me how different Seabourn is and how much more it focuses on the guest experience rather than marketing.  On Regent Seven Seas they sought to prevent me from bringing any Corsican cheese or cured meats back on the ship.  On Seabourn they not only allow it, they expect it from me!  I also more appreciate, among other things, my Seabourn suite with its great shower, modern furnishings and a stewardess (Tiare on this cruise) that no only has a mastery of the English language, but engages in friendly conversation, while doing a great job of caring for me.  But I digress!

Since we are spending two days in Ajaccio I thought the first day would be a great day for a hike.  So off I went with Google Maps in hand to find Sentier des Cretes (The Crest Trail) which climbs up the hills overlooking Ajaccio and, if you take the entire trail, 4.5 hours later winds up on the western coast.  However, with a 9 hour round trip hike not in my plans, I opted to hike to the crest and then back into town; winding up with a nice 4 mile hike.

Can you see the Seabourn Encore?

As I wandered down the hill, I strolled though some of the backstreets and along the water, where even in October the water was warm and the air temperature was becoming hot.

I had two more things to do this day:  Head to the market to purchase some Corsican cheeses and cured meats for the Goldring Travel Culinary events and buy some Coriscan wines, which can be quite good, if relatively unknown.

There is a small daily market located walking distance from the pier, which I knew from my last visit here.  I so enjoyed sampling a wide variety of sheep and goat cheeses (even an interesting one that is a mixture of the two) and some fairly unusual cured meats including one called Figatellu which is made with pork liver and meat; tasting a bit like beef jerky.

Coriscan cheeses are relatively strong, softer, cheeses…and delicious

Corisca is known for its wide variety of cured meats.

With a large bag filled with goodness the challenge was not getting it onto the Seabourn Encore, but not cheating and eating it before Chef David can get a hold of it for our upcoming events.

After a bit of a rest and doing some work it was time to find the excellent wine shop I had been to for my 8:30 AM wine tasting on the Regent Seven Seas Voyager.  It was one of the “free” tours…and if you are up for drinking wine before breakfast I guess such an offering is a decent value.  Personally, it was a bit much, but at least I knew where to find some good wines.  So it was off on a 4 mile walk along Ajaccio’s waterfront to/from Le Chemin des Vignobles (ironically, “The Wine Trail”).

The Seabourn Encore in the distance on the Ajaccio, Corsica waterfront

I had seen Vin de Myrte in the local market and inquired what it was and if it was truly typical of Ajaccio or more of a tourist thing.  I was assured it is a very local aperitif made from myrtle in a fairly complex manner.  It can be made made quite strongly or as a wine.  I figured we should try the wine as chilled it is probably more enjoyable.  We shall see…And that is the fun!

After a walk back carrying two heavy bags of wine (because I stupidly forgot my Goldring Travel backpack on the ship) in the blazing sun it was time for a shower, rest and then Sushi; one of the great dining venues on the Seabourn Encore (and Ovation).

Blessed with a second day in Ajaccio it was time to be a bit lazy.  A soak in the forward whirlpool, a relaxing cocktail at the Patio Bar…

And then it was time to “Go Culinary”!  I headed out to find the perfect place for a Corsican lunch. 

A Unicorn and the Seabourn Encore in Ajaccio, Corsica

A rule which many did not follow:  Never pick a restaurant right on the waterfront if there are literally dozens of restaurants.  Generally they want volume, not quality, business and know they will never see you again.  You need to head to the backstreets; the residential areas.  This is true as true in Venice, Italy as it is in Ajaccio, Corsica.  It can be a bit unnerving the first few times, but the payoff is worth it.

And so I wandered, circled, and strolled.  I came upon La Sur Braise down an alley and up a few stairs.  While the restaurants below were crowded this one was empty, but it had a good feel.  The waiter was kind, but spoke very little English.  Perfect.  After a bit of a struggle figuring out the menu (including the waiter engaging in a bit of Charades!) I ordered an Octopus Salad and Grilled Sea Bream with a local Corsican red wine. The photos do not do the cuisine justice!

A beautiful and delicious octopus salad

Grilled Sea Bream and a delicious salad. 
The waiter recommended drizzling olive oil on the fish:
Thought it was strange, but it was fantastic.

As I dined the restaurants eight tables began to fill…all with locals.  Perfect!

It was then time to head back to the Seabourn Encore; knowing that the next day, in Monaco an Ensemble Travel Group Experience tasting wines outside of Nice, France and hopefully some moules frite (mussels and french fries) with a nice rose vin de Provence await.

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