Suffering In San Tropez. Big Bad Bandol Wines.


>We set out for the western part of the Riviera. I've always wanted to see St. Tropez famous to me not only because of Bridget Bardot in And God Created Woman, but for a song on Pink Floyd's 1971 album Meddle:

As I reach for a peach
Slide a line down behind a sofa in San Tropez
Breaking a stick with a brick on the sand.
Riding a wave in the wake of an old sedan.
Sleeping alone in the drone of the darkness,
Scratched by the sand that fell from my love,
Deep in my dreams and I still hear her calling
“If you're alone, I'll come home.”

Backward and home bound, the pigeon, the dove,
Gone with the wind and the rain, on an airplane.
Born in a home with no silver spoon,
I'm drinking champagne like a good tycoon.
Sooner than wait for a break in the weather,
I'll gather my far-flung thoughts together.
Speeding away on a wind to a new day.
And if you're alone I'll come home.

And I pause for a while by a country stile
And listen to the things they say.
Digging for gold in a hoe in my hand.
Open the book, take a look at the way things stand.
And you're leading me down to the place by the sea.
I hear your soft voice calling to me.
Making a date for later by phone
And if you're alone,I'll come home.

But the Saint Tropez (San Tropez) immortalized by Bardot in And God Created Woman showed it as a playground of sex, nudity, women and parties. The Saint Tropez I found on this cold January afternoon was far from the frolicking femme fatales firmly implanted in my mind. Instead I found Club 55 on Pampolonne Beach closed for winter. Nikki Beach? Closed. We settled on Tahiti Beach and a wonderful but way to hearty lunch at Millesim Beach Club Tahiti.

We parked our car between two coconut palms in the nearly deserted sandy parking lot. We were the only customers in the restaurant. Our hostess offered and immediately pushed a button to pull the awning back to the main building so we could dine under the Saint Tropez sun. Meanwhile two co-workers removed spent candle wax from woven rattan place mats and refinished the tea furniture. Down the plage (beach) a lone beachcomber slowly weaved his way toward the restaurant. Looking over the famous beach I tried to imagine the bikini clad goddesses who tempt the libidinal urges of the men who flock to this beach. Instead I saw a beach littered with ugly seaweed. While I couldn't argue with my seaside view, I couldn't imagine the crowds this narrow beach serves at the height of the season.

We left the beach with a promise. A promise to return and compare and contrast are January experience with one in May or September. Finding the road toward Toulon, we decided to make time to visit yet another medieval village or two and one of the most famous vineyards in the Provencal region — Domaine Tempier.

Bandol. Wine. And More Medieval.

Using a rough map from the winery's website we pulled into the driveway of Domaine Tempier. Following us down the driveway was a young boy of 8 or 9 years. He walked into the office behind us and quickly made his way into the home connected to the office. We were greeted by a nice looking woman in here 30's. I asked if she spoke English. No luck. I muttered a few badly pronounced French words but the two or three that made it through were dégustation (tasting) and Kermit Lynch. Kermit is the Berkeley-based importer responsible for discovering and bringing Domaine Tempier into the United States.

Bandol and the successful wineries in the region can thank Tempier's founder, the late Lucien Peyraud, who in 1941 helped gain Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée status for the region. We were soon greeted by Catherine Peyraud, Lucien's daughter-in-law, who explained her husband Jean-Marie had retired in 1999 and winemaking duties had been taken over by former Domaine Ott winemaker Daniel Ravier. While Bandol is known for its big and hearty reds, the wine must be aged in casks for at least 18 months and contain at least 50 percent Mourvèdre, I was most interested in its Rosé — yes a pink wine.

Unfortunately the Rosé was sold out but coincidentally one of Kermit Lynch's representatives had visited Domaine Tempier the day before so there were a small amount of the Rosé we could taste. Glad I asked. We then tasted the 2001 and 2001 reds. I'll refrain from making this post any longer than it already is by not including my tasting notes. Instead, I'll urge you to find a bottle of 2000 Domaine Tempier (it ranked #53 in Wine Spectator's top 100 wines of 2003). Or look for Domaine Bunan or its other properties including Chateâu La Rouvière, Moulin des Costes, Mas de la Rouvière and Domaine de Bélouvé for a true taste of Mouvedre from Bandol. They are perfect with hearty winter meals of Coq a Vin, bouillabaisse, stews, lamb and roasted pork. Hmmmmm.

As we left Domaine Tempier the sun was setting. Off in the distance we saw another village perched high upon a hill. Hoping to find our first and last medieval village of that day we pointed our Peugeot 307 in the direction and drove into Le Castellet.

Photos: (1 & 2) Bridget Bardot; (3) Gnarly old Mouvedre vines at Domain Tempier in Bandol region of France; (4) Entrance to Domain Tempier; (5) Catherine Penraud of Domaine Tempier; (6) Sunset over Bandol; (7) Medieval church in Le Castellet, France.