21 September 2008

Valençay for wines and the château

Peter and Jill arrived yesterday at noontime. We made lunch — green beans from the garden seasoned with duck fat and served with chicken livers, duck gizzards, and my pork rillons, along with a platter of cheeses. Fresh fruit for dessert.

Jill and Peter in front of the Valençay wine coop

Then Peter, Jill, and I set out for Valençay to see the château there and, for me, to buy some Valençay wine. Peter and I drove over to Valençay on his last visit a year and a half ago, but we had found the château closed for the season back then.

Flower beds and statuary at the château in Valençay

This time the weather was beautiful, and there was no way the château would be closed on a September Saturday afternoon. We were not disappointed. Our first stop was to see the kitchens, and then we walked through part of the gardens and took a quick tour of the interior of the château itself, including the dining room with its enormous round table that seats 24.

Valençay was owned by Napoleon's powerful foreign minister, Talleyrand. Talleyrand hired one of the greatest of France's chefs, Carême, to do the cooking at the château for state dinners and other fancy affairs, so Valençay has an important place in French culinary history.

Before arriving at the château, we stopped at a wine cooperative that I had driven by a couple of months ago. I wanted to buy some white wine, and why not some Valençay? This way I could check out the wine and the prices without making a special trip over there (it's 10 or 12 miles from home).

The sign at the coop still says V.D.Q.S. It needs updating.

Valençay is a wine district that received its AOC designation in 2003. Before that date, it was classified as a V.D.Q.S. wine — that means Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure, and it means the wine was recognized as a good local product. Valençay grape-growers and winemakers were held to certain standards. AOC — Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée — is a step up from V.D.Q.S., which means the growing and winemaking standards are stricter and the wine is more prestigious.

Anyway, I got 10 liters of Sauvignon Blanc for 16.70 euros. Jill and I tasted it at the coop, and we thought it was light, fruity, and refreshing.

Posing for a photo at Valençay...

We had a little bit more last night with dinner. Walt made pumpkin-stuffed raviolis with a sage-butter sauce for an appetizer, and I made a roast loin of pork with apples for the main course. Walt made little pear tarts for dessert. The pumpkins, apples, and sage came out of our garden. It was a success.

...and ready for her closeup

It's a challenge to cook for Peter Hertzmann because he is such an accomplished cook himself. You can see his web sites here and here. We're going to the market this morning and Peter will be doing the cooking later today.


  1. You know Peter Hertzmann? Wow – Simon and I know his website – lots of useful stuff there.

    It's Open House weekend here in London, and I've noticed that most of Europe tends to go with the same dates for this. I don't think it is strictly an international convention, but interesting buildings open up to the public one weekend in September. These are often buildings that aren't usually open. Valençay is probably just open because its still the season I expect though. I'm amused by their painted statue. Hopefully she is plaster and the real one is tucked away in safe storage out of reach of the weather.

  2. Hi Susan, I met Peter on-line in about 2002. It turned out that he and Jill lived just 30 miles from us in California. They invited us to dinner in Dec. 2002, just as we were packing up and getting ready to move to the Loire Valley. He has visited us three times since we moved here. It's a treat to have him here ... and in the kitchen. This is Jill's first visit to Saint-Aignan and we are really enjoying spending time with her.


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