April in the Loire Valley

Spring in the Loire is one of our favourite seasons.  The mass of tourists have not yet arrived yet the bulk of the chateaux and other attractions are open, almost all of them from Easter onwards.  But for us it’s the colours and the freshness of the countryside which we find very appealing.  The vines are bursting into leaf in the mass of vineyards around Le Puy Notre Dame.  The area is dotted with the vibrant yellow of rape and spring flowering plants are bursting out with the exuberance which comes after the short days of winter.  The courtyard and garden here at Le Clos des Guyons becomes a riot of colour, the asparagus starts to go into overdrive producing masses of edible shoots every day, the vegetable garden becomes alive with lettuce and radish, potatoes, peas, beetroot, cauliflower, chard and sprouts are all growing apace. The real bonus is that the whole of our outside space has a glorious aroma of Wisteria, Lily of the Valley and Lilac.  Here are a few photos:  Just click on any to start the gallery.

Happy Spring Gardening


Gites in the Loire Valley




At the end of the afternoon's escorted and 'tutored' "Wine Tasting Discovery Tour" with our guests last week, Angela, Andrew, Bernard and Jan, at the organic vineyard of the Domaine de la Paleine, within walking distance of our holiday gites, making visits all the more enjoyable!

At the end of the afternoon’s escorted and ‘tutored’ “Wine Tasting Discovery Tour” with our guests last week, Angela, Andrew, Bernard and Jan, at the organic vineyard of the Domaine de la Paleine, within walking distance of our holiday gites, making visits all the more enjoyable!


Angela, Andrew, Jan and Bernard, have been returning wine guests since we moved to the Loire Valley in 2001, so naturally they were welcomed with a few glasses of chilled sparkling Saumur Rosé Brut ‘Method Tradionelle’  bubbly after their journey from the UK!

Loire Valley Wine Tours

Sheila on glass washing duty after the wine tasting.

We do so love their comments in our guest book and this one made us feel happy! It said:-

“Another superb holiday in your beautiful part of France! Le Sauvignon is a lovely comfortable gite and your friendly hospitality guaranteed a memorable holiday which was all too short! Many thanks to you Brian for the private Wine Tasting and Tour of the local vineyards which was easily the most enjoyable and interesting one we have ever experienced. We are glad we didn’t miss that! We spent lovely days at interesting places such as Fontenvraud and Montsoreau but sadly eventually ran out of time so we will have to return! Hope the car suspension can cope with all the boxes of wine”!  Voila and Au revoir!

They enjoyed their week’s wine trail around the Loire vineyards and really did struggle to get their boxes into the car!  But as they explained it was for a good reason, as Angela and Andrew’s daughter was getting married next month and they wanted to have the Loire Wines for the big day!  Nice idea!!



…….. wishing everybody a really Happy Easter Weekend and some warm sunny days!

A bientot!

Sheila and Brian

Loire Valley Wine Tours


Take a look at our new website. You can take an informative and entertaining ‘ Wine Discovery Tour’ during your gite holiday. You will have a personal guided tour of the winery including meeting the winemaker, walking the vineyards and galleries of underground caves learning about winemaking methods, then afterwards an extensive ‘tutored tasting’ of their wines. Combine your stay with a visit to Saumur – see the imposing fairytale chateau overlooking the Loire, just one of many local attractions in the Loire Valley France. See our “What to do in the Loire” page





Loire Valley Wine Tours

Salon des Vins at Thouars

The Salon des Vins et Terroirs at l’Orangerie du Chateau in Thouars is one of my favorite wine calendar rendezvous.  This Wine Fair is a relatively relaxed and friendly event. It has a complete personality of its own unlike for instance the Salon des Vins de Loire held earlier in the year in Angers which is the showcase of the rich Loire Valley terroirs and is for the main players in the world of wine – large scale retail and catering buyers, vintners, importers, operators and journalists.  This time I had to go on my own as Brian was leading a wine tasting group here in Le Puy Notre Dame. First created in 1947, the annual Salon des Vins et Terroirs was held on the 28, 29 and 30 March with over 105 viticulteurs representing 50 wine appellations locally and throughout other regions of France. Producers were not only from Nord Deux Sevres, Saumur, Anjou, Touraine, Centre-Loire and the Nantais but from as far away as Alsace, Beaujolais, Gaillac, Provence, the Herault in the South of France and Marcillac Valon in the Aveyron, to name but a few! Marcillac is an up and coming wine appellation for uniquely red wines and is a small department with vines sitting on steep, terraced vineyards along the southern slopes of the rugged hills that surround the Vallon de Marcillac. A lovely area. And so the salon is a  great opportunity to walk through the halls with your ‘drop and stop’ glass meeting all the different winemakers, exchanging views whilst sharing a tasting of his wines and discussing his vineyards – a lot can be learned!


Domaine des Costes Rouges, Marcillac-Vallon.  Costes Rouge literally means red slopes and that is exactly what the vineyards are.

I am always happy to say hello to vignerons I know and of course to see Franck Bimont, the vigneron at the Domaine des Guyons who always represents Le Puy Notre Dame at the event.   Of course I tasted his Saumur Puy Notre Dame ‘Odyssée’ (characterstic deep garnet coloured red with flavours of red and black fruits evolving in the mouth to a long rich finish), along with his vin blancs ‘Vent du Nord’ (delicate aromas of white fruits, fresh in the mouth, full and elegant) and ‘L’Ardile’ (beautiful golden yellow in colour with a nose of violets, smokey with a note of toast – a powerful, complex, substantial wine with a unique character). His wines are highly recommended. This event is not just about wine though.  There is a huge hall devoted to food producers from far and wide, with breads of all sizes and shapes, delicious patisseries, olives, sausage specialities (thin black sanglier sausage from Corsica), loads of patés, foies gras, oysters and mussels from the Vendée and Brittany coasts, jams, cheeses from everywhere including Cantal (which I love), chocolates, nougats, the list goes on!  It demonstrates that eating is just as important as drinking! The event is organised by volunteers of the Thouarsais area. An entrance fee of 3 Euros includes a complimentary wine tasting glass and ‘wine pourer’ for the customary “Drop and Stop” degustations.

Loire Valley Wine Tours

Domaine de Cru d’Arche, Sauterne,Bordeaux

After a day like this you appreciate more that wine goes hand in hand with pleasure and conviviality which is so much the passion of French culture and one of many reasons why I enjoy ‘Living in the Loire!  It has always been my pleasure and will continue to be so for a long time to come!

Bon Salon à tous!


Visit our NEW website to find out more about our Wine Tours and Gite Holiday Accommodation in the Loire Valley, self-catering holidays with pool and selection of Loire Valley Wine Tours from one to three day breaks, in the pretty medieval wine village of Le Puy Notre Dame in France’s Royal Valley.


le puy a vins

In Le Puy a Vins Restaurant with our regular guests and friends, Jim and Sue from Kent, who came to Le Clos des Guyons for a March break.

It’s always been a bit difficult for us to eat at Le Puy a Vins Restaurant at 10 rue des hotels, in our village of Le Puy Notre Dame, as we are such good friend of Jean-Yves who is’ le patron’ of the older village restaurant, le Bouchon Ponot  but, as he was on holiday, we ate at le Puy A Vins Restaurant without feeling guilty!  Situated in a wonderful position at the side of the gothic, Collegiale church, the restaurant is just a five minute walk from our holiday accommodation gites “Le Sauvignon” and “Le Chenin” at Le Clos des Guyons  in rue du Moulin.

The ambiance of the restaurant is lovely, with a warm welcome, nice fresh tablecloths and lots of softly lit candles making it all the more inviting. The food was prepared by their excellent chef, David Beaufreton, who offers lots of culinary creativity.  This was accompanied by a bottle of 2010 AOC Saumur “Puy Notre Dame” Vin Rouge made by fifth generation winemaker Bruno Albert of the  ‘Domaine du Vieux Pressoir’ situated in the adjoining commune of  le Vaudelnay. Of course we were not disappointed!  This Domaine now has 26 hectares of AOC Saumur  and Saumur-Puy Notre Dame vineyards located on two hills of different terroir (Turonian and Jurassic) and a high reputation for excellent wines.

We liked the restaurant wine list having an extensive range of over 60 Loire wines, all from the Loire Valley but with an emphasis on the local wines within a 20 kilometre radius. Romain Amblard, is in charge of the wines and he has made his clients very spoilt for choice!

Le Puy a Vins Restaurant offers ‘Cuisine Gourmande” to its customers and is open all the year round for service at midday and evenings. Lunchtimes prices are a  two course menu at 14 Euros or a three course menu for 18 Euros. Evening prices ares a two course menu at 19 Euros or a three course menu at 24 Euros. We are looking forward to making another visit very soon and recommending to our guests but don’t tell Jean-Yves who’s restaurant we will, of course, continue to frequent as well!  In fact we are very lucky indeed to have two quality restaurants in such a small village.

Bon appétit a tous! Sheila and Brian

Gites in the Loire Valley

See all our restaurant reviews here



Chateau de Monserault

The magnificent Chateau de Montsoreau situated on the banks of the Loire – a lovely day out!

We had never visited this Chateau and so when we received an invitation by the Chateau to share an afternoon with other partners in tourism, it was a perfect opportunity to visit. There were lots of friendly staff to welcome us (with excellent English too) explaining the planned afternoon events, which included a tour of the Chateau with its great views from the turrets and gardens, followed by a river boat trip on the Loire. Well that was just going to be great!

Our guests holidaying this week, Jim and Sue from Plaxtol, were taken by surprise when we invited them to join us and they didn’t hesitate to accept our offer!

Drive from Saumur along the Loire and you will find this Chateau, built in the 15th century and known as  “La Dame de Montsoreau”.  It’s another well preserved medieval ‘gem’ beautifully situated on the confluence of La Loire and La Vienne so you can see where the rivers meet. It was a strategic fortress controlling river traffic between Chinon and Saumur.

In fabulous sunshine we strolled around and enjoyed the Chateau’s wealth of history.  Although it has a sparse interior we did find that  the many well presented displays of sound and vision transported you into the past life of the sailors and their typical Loire boats were really interesting. The turrets are a great place to take photographs of the Loire and enjoy its magical and panoramic views too. We were reminded throughout the castle that Alexandre Dumas‘s novel La Dame de Montsoreau is based upon the amorous escapades of two ladies who occupied the castle during the reign of King Henri III!

If you are visiting the Loire Valley then this a lovely day out. So easy to combine a Chateau visit with the historical village of Montsoreau with its great walks up and around the little rues, not to  mention along the top side of the coteaux in the vast and stunning vineyards which are a reminder that we are in the wine producing area of Saumur Champigny.  Held each second Sunday in the month is a Brocante (flea market) which swarms all day with visitors. There are several nice bars and restaurants where you can chill out a little and rest your feet, not to mention the boulangerie where you can buy sandwiches and picnic on the banks of the Loire which we do sometimes. It’s not hard to see why the village has been awarded two labels: “Village of Charm” and a  “Plus Beaux Village de France”. As a bonus for our Clos des Guyons visitors this year we will passing on to them a 10% entrance fee discount on their day out!


Traditional Boat on the Loire

A trip on a traditional Loire Boat

What better way to enjoy the Loire scenery than to cruise along the river! We embarked on the little traditional wooden cabined boat known as a ‘Toues Cabanées’ seating just ten passengers!  Have to say I was a little alarmed when I first saw it sailing down the river to collect us as I had been expecting a bigger boat(?!) and with my background of feeling anxious on water, Brian was having a bit of a giggle especially when I had to mount the steep little plank and be gripped tightly on either side to stop me from wobbling and falling in.  (Won’t mention the joke that just at that moment a Pompiers (Fire Brigade) speedboat came rushing past causing lots of waves, so Brian was laughing and jesting that they had arrived because they had heard Sheila was here and their emergency services could be required at any moment)!!  BUT … I boarded and disembarked safely and fooled everyone of course!!! So nothing to worry about and I do recommend this to our visitors this year. As we quietly moved along the water and the side of the beautiful Chateau we enjoyed excellent views including the little houses at Candes St Martin. It was one of the most relaxing things I have experienced in France. What made it more memorable was the hot sunshine temperature of 25 degrees!   Apparently these boat trips will be running certain days of the week in June, July and August from Candes St Martin.  Other boat trips are available throughout the season from Saumur, La Ménitré, Saint Mathurin and Angers, offering more extensive programmes.

We are looking forward to doing more Loire scenery cruising this summer!


Sheila and Brian

Why not take a look at our NEW website giving extensive details of our charming and well restored Gites “Le Sauvignon” and “Le Chenin” well situated in the pretty little medieval wine producing village of Saumur Puy Notre Dame in the Val de Loire known as the Cité de Vignerons and on the route to St Jacques de Compostelle.  The Loire Valley is a fantastic place to take a relaxing holiday and can be combined with a Wine Tasting and Wine Tour with us if you wish. At Le Clos des Guyons we offer One day ‘Vineyard Discoveries’ and other ‘Wine Tours and Tastings (with or without accommodation) enabling both amateurs and professionals alike the opportunity to taste the diverse wines of  the Loire with its 69 appellations AND it’s always made enjoyable for everyone!

Please contact us for more details. Thankyou.