Livre d’Or “Best of all was Brian’s Wine Tour and Tasting”!

This week we had the great pleasure of welcoming Robert and Maxine from Massachusetts, and Leah and Benjamin from Washington DC, USA to Le Clos des Guyons.
Wine Tasting in the Loire

Wine Tasting in the Loire

Connoisseurs on many French wine regions, this was Robert and Maxine’s twelfth visit to France.
They arrived eager to sample the Loire Valley wines and spent an afternoon at the Domaine de la Paleine in Puy Notre Dame, one of our favourite wine producers, under the professional guidance of Brian who talked them through the appellations and diverse range of wines.
What a great afternoon with lots of ‘favourite’ wines including the fabulous Casta Diva with its stunning flavours of oak, tropical fruit, lemon and honey- apparently a perfect match for their lobsters in Massachusetts, so sad they can’t take a case back home with them!!
Also during the week Benjamin and Leah celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary and so we opened a ‘special’ bottle of 1990 Chenin Chez Robert for aperitifs on their arrival.
They left a few comments in our Livre d’Or.
Sheila and Brian,
“We all have had a wonderful visit to the Loire Valley.  We enjoyed visiting the Troglodyte Villages, Saumur, the Mushroom Caves. etc., but the best of all was Brian’s Wine Tour and Tasting where we discovered the wines of the region!  The food and wine of this area was a revelation!  The accommodation was excellent and a wonderful base from which to explore the region”.
Thank you. It made us happy to read your kind comments and It’s been a pleasure to welcome you all to Le Clos des Guyons in Puy Notre Dame!


Wine fair at Saumur

All the tents house a different winemaker. In the background is Saumur’s old theatre, undergoing restauration. The dome on the top will be a bar/restaurant with panoramic views of the pretty Loire-side chateau town.

Today we had a great day out visiting FESTIVINI the Marché des Vins de Loire presented on the Saumur quayside!

Brian and Gerrard

Brian with Gerald who used to be the Commercial Manager at Le Domaine de la Paleine in Le Puy Notre Dame but now runs a Bistrot Restaurant called Les Tontons in Place Saint Pierre in Saumur. As you can see he still represents La Paleine on occasions.

FESTIVINI, in its fourth year, is a week long wine festival event held every September in the Loire over two weekends, in which it celebrates the wines of Saumur and the Loire with a programme of organised wine activities.  There is a different event every day including, hikes through the vineyards, dances, this year a privileged wine tastings of vintages at the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud by a reknown winemaker and other special dinners, wine tastings and food pairings.

We walked around for some considerable time talking to local producers (and friends)! from Saumur Champigny, Saumur Puy Notre Dame and Anjou, all welcoming and happy to fill up our wines glasses which were bought at the entrance for 4,00 Euros!

Music to taste by.

Music by the quayside.

There were lots of outstanding wines to sample.  Bravo to the Loire vignerons!  But we really have to mention the Famille Denis from Domaine du Petit Clocher, Clere sur Layon (deep in the heart of the Anjou and Layon vineyards where we used to live before Le Puy Notre Dame) who have been selected for inclusion in “Le Guide Hachette des Vins 2014” for their Red Anjou 2012.  This is a brilliant achievement as over 40,000 wines were screened, 10,000 selected from that and then 500 favourites.  The wine is a rich ruby colour, it exudes aromas of cherries and blackcurrants, on tasting it’s round, light and crisp, just delicious and it is suggested best enjoyed with chicken or Beef Capaccio!


Fredrick Filliatreau. La Domaine Filliatreau is one of “names” of Saumur-Champigny and was, almost single handedly responsible for turning the appellation from the darling of Parisian wine bars to the producer of excellent, complex, long-lasting reds.

A talented band provided music for everyone creating a wonderful atmosphere and as we strolled around in the sunshine we took time to watch the Loire Cruise boats transporting visitors up and down the river!

What a great day, Life is not boring ‘Living in the Loire’!!

A votre!

Have a look at our new website for information about guided wine tours and tastings either with/without accommodation  at an

Gracien - Meyer

Gratien-Meyer. One of Saumur’s great sparkling wine houses.

old wine producing property which dates back to before the French Revolution, deep in the Saumur vineyards of the famous Loire Valley.  We offer two charming self catering, fully equipped gites in the pretty wine village of AOC Saumur Puy Notre Dame, classed a ‘Village of Charm’ and ‘Petit Cité de Caractére’ with its magnificent Collegiale on the route to Saint Jacques de Compostelle!  Come take a look!!!



Francis doing what he does best.


This season has been a fabulous time for sharing my piano with guests and what were we playing? …… well an assorted repertoire, including my favourite and beautiful piece of music of all times, the “Moonlight Sonata” composed by Ludwig Van Beethoven! Never a bad choice!  The touching fable of Beethoven who could not hear, meeting a blind young woman who shouted into his ears ‘I would give anything to see the moonlight’ and so inspiring him to write the piece of music to portray through a beautiful melody, the beauty of a night bathed by the moonlight just for the young girl who could not see it with her physical eyes.  It’s marvellous stuff and I love it!

So I was taken by surprise on arriving home on the evening of my birthday to find Brian seated alongside neighbours and guests with an aperitif waiting for me. But then a bigger surprise on getting out of the car, I heard our guest (Francis, a professional pianist with the Ulster Orchestra – weren’t we lucky having him staying here!), playing ‘Happy Birthday’ on my piano! But then followed my favourite Moonlight Sonata (apparently Brian had told him of my love of this piece), then Chopin, Haydn, Mendelssohn and for the finalé, Offenbach’s famous Can Can!! (and not a sheet of music ……)!! It was an awesome performance! I felt very, very, honoured and the moment will stay in my mind as the best birthday surprise ever Francis!

I had a good music teacher and started to play at the age of seven, continuing until I was seventeen studying LCM to Grade 8.  Sadly I never completed that last challenging grade because  I found it too difficult to commit the time as I was studying so many other subjects then at college for my career. I did not know exactly where my career path was leaning but sadly I did not choose music even though I loved it and have always regretted that decision.  I had very supportive parents throughout and their encouragement was tremendous but I couldn’t continue and they had been very disappointed. The story gets worse because after I got married and left home I had to part with my piano.

Birthday cards

Some of the multitude of cards which I have received from all over the world.

My mother decided not to let me take it with me because as we would be moving around constantly she was worried about the damage it might do after all  they are a moving nightmare being very awkward and difficult to handle – I could understand her point. So over the years sadly I became less nimble fingered and out of practice.  She mellowed as she got older and eventually I did get the piano but I think on the last count to our amazement we discovered we had moved twelve times and with the piano six times – all successfully with one exception when my heart skipped a double beat as I saw my piano being dangerously manhandled – what horror!!  Orientation is vitally important when moving pianos and uprights need to remain vertical.  I appreciated moving it down a flight of stairs was challenging ………! but these guys flipped it on its side (?!) and then flung ropes around it to do whatever next they had in mind! But I panicked at this unexpected manoevre fearing their mistake could damage the internal mechanism – when questioned they told me they were about to get it down the stairs like this but they looked stressed and one bad bump could cause permanent damage!  So as my mother’s fears suddenly came back to haunt me (“yes pianos are large, very heavy, fragile and expensive instruments young lady”) and by now my nerves in shreds fearing the worst, they were halted ‘tout suite’ with a quick exchange of explitives! I can still wince at the thought of it!

Everyone has questions and stories to tell about their pianos! What sort is it? How old is it? Where did it come from? How big is it, etc., and I listen with great interest.  My piano is an Eavestaff Mini Royal Piano era 1940’s, there are not many around.  Its claim to fame is that it was played by the late actress and legend, Diana Dors  at a hotel near Ashbourne in Derbyshire in 1956.  (Diana Dors was the English equivalent sex symbol of the blond bombshell of Hollywood, Marilyn Monroe, and she had bought fame to the Potteries after marrying her third husband Alan Lake who was born in Stoke on Trent).

Guests have tinkled away merrily this year and it was suggested that we mention we have a piano at Le Clos des Guyons! These days, because I have a few problems with my fingers it impairs my playing, but as long as I can still enjoy that Sonata and Brian can stand the noise I shall persevere!!!




Wine Cave

Deep in part of the 150klms. of cave under Le Puy Notre Dame

As we are enjoying fantastic sunny weather and temperatures are sizzling, we had a great idea to leave the heat and the azure blue skies above ground and take our five guests, Carole, Rob, Dan, Dawn and Andy on an afternoon visit under ground to keep cool!  There are many kilometres of underground caves and passages in Le Puy Notre Dame (indeed we have our own called ‘Le Caves Ragot’ with a history of treasure hiddden by villagers during the revolution – allegedly).

Above is a picture of our guests with Brian visiting one of the many cave’s in the village, which belongs to the Domaine de la Paleine, producer of AOC Saumur Champigny and AOC Saumur Puy Notre Dame wines. The owner, Monsieur Marc Vincent, is also President of the AOC Saumur Puy Notre Dame wine appellation.

Wine tasting Group

In the elegant tasting rooms at le Domaine de la Paleine

It had been an interesting afternoon not only visiting this top class Domaine and learning from Brian his expert knowledge of the principles of wine making but also the analysis of tasting, and so we had a laugh trying to understand the tasting vocabulary!  Yes the principal vocabulary terms are important to appreciate what you are tasting and is in general a common language, but sometimes other words and expressions have been said in humour (well perhaps)? particularly if the wine is unexpectedly bad!  I have actually heard ‘Merde! C’est le vin pour en enfant‘!  for example at a recent tasting and dispersed with ‘toute suite’!  Robert Louis Stevenson once said that wine was bottled poetry – but not in that case obviously!!

And so we finally returned to Le Clos des Guyons and that hot sunshine for a refreshing dip in the pool – wonderful!

In addition to the historic chateaux and manoirs, activities below ground are well worth a visit in this region, with its many troglodyte caves, mushroom caves, fouee restaurants and wine cellars!  We even have a troglodyte conservation zoo where the animals are kept in old quarries including one which has been converted into the largest aviary in western europe.

If you would like to find out more about our region, Loire Valley wines and wine tastings, then why not take a look at our website to see what we offer our holidaymakers either with or without accommodation in our

zoo at doué la fontaine

Part of the magnificient South American Aviary at the Bioparc, Doué la Fontaine.

charming self catering holiday gites in the heart of the village and the vines of beautiful Le Puy Notre Dame with its historical Collegiale Church on the pilgrim route to St Jacques de Compostelle.



Loire Valley Wine Tours.