On the Trail

Working the French Regional Side of Things

Keith Mabry

I landed earlier today at Charles de Gaulle and I forgot my damn noise canceling headphones on the plane. Not the best way to start two plus weeks on the road. I’ll get over it because I don’t really have time to dwell on it. There is much doing to be done here.  My plan is to spend a day in Paris to acclimate a little and have a falafel at my favorite Israeli restaurant in the 3rd Arrondissement. That will be followed by a train ride to Dijon where I will pick up a car and begin my journey in earnest. I plan to cover the regions of Jura, Bugey, Condrieu, Saint Joseph, Hermitage, Gigondas, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Lirac, Sablet, Terrasses du Larzac, Picpoul de Pinet, La Clape, Minervois, Corbieres, Limoux, Fronton and Cahors. There’s plenty of other little micro regions along the way but we’ll get more into that as the trip progresses. This trip is a bit of a marathon. Covering so many wine regions requires lots of driving and most of these visits bouncing region to region will take between one to two hours between visits. All said, I should cover approximately 1600 km worth of road with a duration of some twenty-one hours of in the car driving. If anyone has any cool music playlists they can forward to me, send them along to my email: keithmabry@klwines.com. None based solely on Country but other than that, I’ll try to give them all a listen. There may even be a prize for my favorite one!

I must say Paris is a remarkable city.  I have strangely encountered many who argue the opposite of my statement but they are truly in the minority and it is unlikely I possess the skills to change their minds. I visited Paris twice last year and the first time I was here was a day much like today.  I had less than 24 hours to experience it. That’s why I came back later in the year to spend a long weekend and get to know her better. Today is basically the anniversary of my first visit here.  I have one day/night to wander the town—on a Sunday no less.  For those in the know, most European cities shut down for commerce on Sundays; cafes, a few restaurants and museums are usually the only things to do on Sunday.

But Paris can be great on a Sunday.  If you wander, you’ll be surprised at what you find.  Every art gallery I walk by has someone in it.  If you are in the right neighborhood, plenty of shopping to do. The one drag, my favorite falafel place was closed today in celebration of Passover. That just forces me to change the game a little.  Explore deeper in the neighborhood.  Perhaps try the competitor across the street that has a line forming because they can’t line up for the other place but they still need falafel!  I always wondered how they would be considering I go to my #1 spot and haven’t had the time or inclination to do a side by side tasting. Turns out though, still pretty satisfying.   

Next discovery, move over cupcakes, I found the next food trend.  How about, blinged out ice cream bars?  Would you stand in a line for this?  I did.  A fun afternoon nevertheless with a chance to breathe in one of the world’s great cities.  A little rest then off to look for dinner.  I fell asleep, so my options became a bit more limited. 

I settled on one of my favorite tapas bars anywhere in the world – l’Avant Comptoir.  Basically a narrow bar that serves wine and small plates but with a Spanish sensibility.  Very cool, eclectic selection of wines by the glass.  The menu actually hangs from the ceiling.  Each dish is artfully photographed with a brief description and hangs individually from the ceiling.  Pretty much open anytime I need a quick bite and a good glass of wine. Not pretentious at all, and everything is prepared with utmost seriousness. This place is deceptive though. You have a few dishes and a couple of glasses of wine and you’re out 40 euros. Who am I kidding though, it would $60 to $80 in LA or SF.  

-Keith Mabry