Carême Organic Vouvray and Lunch at Chateau de Pray #Winophiles

Vincent Carême.

This is a name several people mentioned to us when we said we were looking for organic and biodynamic winemakers in the Loire while we were there as members of the US Wine Tasting Team before the World Wine Championships in nearby Chateau de Chambord. In particular, we were looking for someone to visit in Vouvray.So I emailed Vincent Carême. but hearing nothing back meant I had time for a drizzly morning soak in the hot tub outside our truffuea cave dwelling (read more about that here). Much of the region is filled with this soft stone that has been excavated for use in building, leaving behind the caves that were at first low rent residences and storage facilities and now run the gamut from abandoned to very upscale residences, accommodations, and more.

As we knew the December #Winophiles led by Jeff Burrows would focus on Vouvray, visiting a winery in the region was high on our to do list– and we really didn’t want to pass through without a stop.

But as Caroline Henry had warned us in Champagne, it can be very difficult to get appointments with organic and biodynamic houses. So far on our adventure, we had been very fortunate: Caroline helped us in Champagne (read about our visit with biodynamic winemaker Vincent Charlot here) and in the Loire, we spent time with winemakers at Manoir de la Rouge, Clos de Quaterones, and Chateau Yvonne, with plans to visit with the winemaker of organic Clos du Tue-Boeuf later that day; more on all of these topics coming in 2020.

While these winemakers do make white wines, and some sparkling, cabernet franc is really what they are famous for.

And Vouvray is all about Chenin Blanc with Vincent Carême. being Mr. Chenin Blanc: on Jancis Robinson in May 2019, writer Tamlyn Curtis says that: ‘Chenin is his gift to the world’ Eric Asimov of the New York Times and others are definitely fans.

Just as we were about to leave for our afternoon appointment, I checked my email one last time — and we got the go ahead to come by the tasting room– it would be open for us but Vincent was busy as harvest was just finishing and there was much to do still in the winery.

 

 

On that drizzly morning, after tasting through the Vincent Carême wines pictured above, we are fans also; Sue even bought a few bottles to bring back (which she shared with her mom and a good friend who loves white wines).

The tasting room is inside a truffeau cave which maintains yearlong temperatures ideal for aging wines. In the soil above our heads, we were told, chenin blanc grape vines grew that provided grapes for the wines in our glass. Vincent Carême makes a full range of wines from chenin blanc from sparkling to dry to sweet still wines. The back label has lots of helpful information to  help you choose which one will be best for you. But you will have to wait to learn more about those wines pictured above because I have bigger fish to fry with this post!

With the tasting room nearing closing time, we asked for a lunch recommendation, ideally a restaurant that has Vincent Carême wines on the list. The tasting room manager suggested a cafe nearby or a “restaurant gastronomique” which “partners” with Vincent Carême. That sounded exactly like something we’d want to do! She gave us the name, we put it into the GPS on my phone, and away we went trying to get there before they closed the kitchen.

 

Vincent Careme has a partnership with L’Orangerie so they feature his wines by the bottle and by the glass; photo by Gwendolyn Alley

We had the slight matter of another appointment that afternoon and we were on a bit of a time crunch … but we figured there was plenty of time to get there and eat.

Little did we know that the restaurant she had suggested was not a place where we could rush in and out to make our appointment…No, not at all…

We should have had our suspicions from the name– Chateau de Pray. But that didn’t mean anything to us although as we drove up the place seemed rather grand.

The name of the restaurant  L’Orangerie — didn’t register either — but if I was up on my Michelin starred restaurants it would have! Instead, we were much more occupied with finding the place and getting parked as it seemed like it might be closing soon and we didn’t know where else to go.

Well.

Well.

Well.

I parked our little rental car in the lot and it took us a bit to figure out where the entrance was to the restaurant.

Because, like our accommodations the previous night, the restaurant was tucked into a limestone cave. And we weren’t just about to have lunch — we were about to experience French cuisine par excellence.

The outside fo Chateau de Pray, home to L’Orangerie a Michelin starred restaurant in the Loire does not hint that it is tucked up to a limestone cave.

Don’t even think it was dark and dank. This was the most elegant and amazing restaurant I’d ever been into. The whole front of the cave was all about windows and light which blazed inside on this cool fall day. Inside the bright light bounced about the white walls — and brightly painted art too.

Too bad we didn’t have time to hang around…

As we rushed in, we told the young men that we had just come from tasting at Vincent Careme, that we were on the US Wine Tasting Team, that we were writers, and couldn’t we PLEASE have lunch? How could they say no?

 

We weren’t exactly sure what we were in for… but at those prices we expected something spectacular. And it was. The Vincent Careme wine was perfect with every pairing.

While it was just past the time of service, they explained they could seat us and we could eat off of the main menu. When we saw the prices, we were just fine with that… we looked at each other and decided to just say yes to what was on offer.

 

As promised, the organic wines of Vincent Carême are featured at Chateau de Pray’s onsite restaurant L’Orangerie.

As the driver, I declined the sparkling wine opener, and yet I ended up with an amazing, refreshing non-alcoholic beverage (that cost almost as much as the glass of sparkling wine…). Of course I sampled the Vincent Careme sparkling wine in Sue’s glass! I knew if we bought a bottle, we would be very tempted to drink it all and then who knew when we’d get to our appointment much less make it to Chateau Chambord to meet up with the US Wine Tasting team and get to that evening’s festivities!

Because  they didn’t seem to be in any rush to serve us, we decided we had best to just settle in and relax and notify our next appointment that we would be running late…

Sparkling wine by Vincent Careme paired with salmon eggs with cream in a crispy cup, and cheese biscuits with fresh butter on the rectangular piece of wood. On the circular wood, herbed butter topped with salt and cocoa, and a little pate triangle. Just a few little bites to get us started. Photo and description by Sue Hill

 

Goose liver pate with a smear of hazelnut and sea salt: creamy and delicious, incredible flavors! Details and photo by Sue Hill

 

Local goat cheese and local mushroom topped with toasted grains. It was so hard not to lick the plate! photo and comments by Sue Hill

 

Monk fish on with baby potatoes and zucchini, the monk fish was prepared in parchment with lime zest and herbs. The green smear on the plate was a zucchini purée, and the cream sauce on top of the fish was to die for. Photo and commentary by Sue Hill

Crab and fish with herbed gelatin on top, avocado purée to the side. Olive tapenade with an anchovy on top dabs of a citron paste and spiced chocolate for aesthetic. Photo and description by Sue Hill

 

Our main course: monk fish in parchment for two… with our waiter having fun with us. Photo by Gwendolyn Alley

 

When we saw the cheese tray at other tables we knew we would have to say yes to this also… our waiter was such a great sport! We were so enthralled and enthusiastic that he joined us in having fun with us. We gave up trying to choose and just let him decide.

 

we said yes to sorbet too…

When all was said and done, it was the most expensive meal either one of us had ever paid for. And it was worth every penny — or euro!

as we were driving away, we saw that L’Orangerie is a Michelin starred restaurant …

Learn more about Vouvray with the French Winophiles by joining our 8am twitter chat — see discussion questions below — and check out our articles:

Discussion Prompts and Times for the Twitter Chat; All Times in EST

  • 10:55 am ET Welcome to our Vouvray French #Winophiles discussion! Let’s explore this special wine.
  • 11:00 am ET Q1 Welcome to the #Winophiles French Vouvray chat. Where are you tweeting from? Introduce yourself, share a link to your blog. Visitors too!
  • 11:05 am ET Q2 Are you a French Vouvray fan, or was this region and wine new to you? Vouvray is the name, Chenin Blanc is the grape. #Winophiles
  • 11:10am ET Q3 Did you uncover anything noteworthy on your research of the region? The Loire Valley holds so much history and fascinating geology and climate. #Winophiles
  • 11:15am ET Q4 Vouvray is unique in that it can appear as a sparkling wine, a dry wine, an off-dry wine, or even a very sweet wine. Which French Vouvray did you sample? Pick one to tell us about #Winophiles
  • 11:20 am ET Q5 How would you compare the Vouvray wines to those from other communities in the Loire Valley? Similarities or differences? #Winophiles
  • 11:25 am ET Q6 Did you pair food with your French Vouvray? Did you find a Loire Valley recipe? What were your thoughts before the pairing? #Winophiles
  • 11:30 am ET Q7 Your thoughts on your French Vouvray pairing, success or failure, no matter! #Winophiles
  • 11:35am ET Q8 When it comes to pairing, are there foods you would avoid? #Winophiles
  • 11:40am ET Q9 The Loire Valley is the home of many organic, biodynamic or natural winegrowers. Was your Vouvray in this category? Thoughts? #Winophiles
  • 11:45am ET Q10 Have you ever visited the the Loire Valley or Vouvray in particular? Would you like to? What would you do? #Winophiles
  • 11:50am ET Q11 Do you have any final thoughts or new questions for the group? #Winophiles
  • 11:55am ET Thanks for joining #Winophiles. Join us next month as we share our thoughts on introducing French wines to a curious friend or French Wine newcomer. See you then!

 

 

12 thoughts on “Carême Organic Vouvray and Lunch at Chateau de Pray #Winophiles

  1. You’re so lucky (or convincing or sincere looking) that you could just show up and be seated! I love humble little cafes, but I think dining at a Michelin Star restaurant on occasion is also so worthwhile. Sounds like you had a great visit!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jeff… I have to say, it would be hard to say no to Sue and I with our bumbling enthusiasm! And I am sure that it helped that we sung our Bon Jour! and kept saying we had visited Careme and were writing about food and wine… and honestly, we are so humble and appreciative and so happy and grateful! Everyday on that trip was SO AMAZING and we are SO FORTUNATE!

      Like

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