I told Sheila what would happen if she didn't behave.

I told Sheila what would happen if she didn’t behave! ha ha!

I did warn her that retribution would follow!  We found this photo going through old albums.  I think it was in Châteauneuf-duPape. Doesn’t seem to have had much effect.  I’ll have to try again.

à bientôt

Gites in the Loire Valley



Aperitifs on Christmas Eve here at Le Clos des Guyons in the Loire Valley.

Aperitifs on Christmas Eve here at Le Clos des Guyons  in the Loire Valley, France.

From our guests and neighbours at Le Clos des Guyons, Le Puy Notre Dame, in the heart of the Val de Loire, we are raising our glasses to wish all our lovely clients both old and new, friends and family far away, a “Joyeux Noel” and “Very Merry Christmas”!

the local "tuffeau" limestone.  Totally inefficient of course but what a centre-piece!

The 300 year old traditional Loire fireplace made from the local “tuffeau” limestone. Totally inefficient of course but what a centre-piece!

Here we are in the photograph (Sheila is missing because she is taking it) with our neighbours and current guests from Kent and New Hampshire, USA, in our Salon in front of a roaring fire at the start of our Christmas Eve Reveillon, sharing conversation and aperitifs over a Magnum of the Domaine de la Paleine’s Saumur sparkling wine.  It was such a perfect Christmassy evening before the feasting of our delicious six course meal paired with other amazing Loire wines.

We sincerely hope you too enjoy a lovely Christmastime and holiday wherever you are!

There are lots of things to do over the next week, Christmas markets everywhere to enjoy with all the local artisan production of gift ideas, foods and wines and Chateaux and castles to visit ALSO last but not least our Wine Tour around the Le Puy vineyards and Wine Tasting in the village.


Sheila and Brian and


Aperitifs in the Loire

Barbara and Nick enjoying nibbles and a few flutes of Saumur Brut Sparkling Wine.

It’s been ‘Apero Time’ outside in the courtyard at Le Clos des Guyons this week and our new guests enjoyed the arrival of some wonderful warm Spring sunshine to make their stay in Le Puy Notre Dame complete with temperatures at times up to 25 degrees!  We’ve even got the first asparagus popping through.

Barbara and Nick from Tasmania, who headed to the Loire for a short stay here, enjoyed daily strolls around the village and nearby Chavannes, Sanziers and Vaudelnay, where they were fascinated by the architecture of many beautiful mansions and gateways to be found. Also the many underground caves and and cellars  –  indeed this is the complex basement of the village incorporating 100’s of kilometres of wine cellars and mushroom caves.  Of course they had visits to the Cafe/bar for refreshments after their excercise and to the two restaurants for a lunchtime value ‘Plat du Jour’ at Jean Yve’s Le Bouchon Ponot and neighbouring Le Puy a Vins.  Food is always the essence of French life and culture and so to be part of France you have to be part of the food too! And this is one of our great passions of French life!!

Being wine lovers, on their last day they managed to indulge in a wine visit and tasting session of Loire wines with Brian before they left for their journey to Paris.  Also, courtesy of the Domaine de la Paleine, whose wines they tasted, they managed to organise a delivery of their chosen favourites to be forwarded on to Paris for their extended holiday stay.

Bonne degustations Barbara and Nick and happy memories for us both – we loved to hear of your amazing travel adventures and feel honoured you came to stay with us in Le Puy Notre Dame!


Why not visit our NEW website  If you are interested in coming to the Loire Valley combining relaxation with tasting Loire wines, then take a look at our holiday accommodation.  We have Three Star ‘Gites de France’ gites and are ideally situated in the village both for wine domaine tours and tastings, sightseeing and walking to the local restaurants and artisan boulangerie too!


Map of the Wine Appellations of the Loire

Map of the Wine Appellations of the Loire

In February, we accepted our annual  invitation to the 2014  Salon des Vins, one of France’s largest Trade Wine Fairs held at the Parc des Exhibitions d’ Angers and the largest Regional Wine Fair in France. This event is when the entire, enormous  Loire Valley Wine region comes together with 550 Exhibitors in an exhibition area of 15,000 square metres, offering an ever increasing range of reds, rosés, whites, dry, sweet, still and sparklings. The map above which myself and friend Bob are discussing, gives an idea of the multitude of appellations which cover the length of the Loire. This year there were between 8,500 and 9,000 visitors, being a slight increase on last year which contradicts those who said that numbers were down.  

Wine Tasting in the Loire

‘ Wine tasting at Le Salon des Vins de Loire

There are, however, valid points of view particularly about the cost for wine makers being 1 200€ for a shared stall and 2 000€ for an independent one.  And don’t forget that they already pay large annual  subscriptions to “Inter-Loire” who organise the show.  One idea put to me whilst I was tasting the medal winners was why didn’t the organizers think about lifting the ‘professionals only’ restriction on the last day, opening it up to the public with a small admission fee and the potential for wine makers to extend their list of clients.  Good question!  Anyway these are questions for the future and we shall continue to enjoy the show no matter what the format.

We  love meeting  both well known local producers and those from further afield always being eager to taste their new offerings and find  new ‘hidden gems’ and new producers – and we do our best but always run out of time as the day is so busy!

And so we joined the swarm of visitors in the entrance hall and ventured into the designated tasting areas to quickly familiarise ourselves with the tables of wines and  afterwards we ventured into the nearside area for the lucky medal winners.

Wine Tours of the Loire Valley

One of the multitude of Tasting Tables

Amongst the fine display of wines we were particularly happy to see the new appellation of Saumur Le Puy Notre Dame Rouge from Domaine de l’Enchantoir  had received a gold medal for their 2011.  Bravo to Pierre et Bridgitt Van Den Boom who are receiving more and more awards each year but this one was well deserved, being a delicious example of Saumur Puy Notre Dame, tasting of rich fresh blackcurrants  with a  savoury twist.  Equally good for this appellation was the offering from Marc Vincent at la Paleine, (rich, velvety and spicy),  and Bruno Albert at the Domaine de Vieux Pressoir (2012 –  red fruits, cherries and spices).

Award winning Saumur Blanc from "Robert et Marcel", the Saumur Co-operative.

Award winning Saumur Blanc from “Robert et Marcel”, the Saumur Co-operative.

 Another familiar name, ROBERT ET MARCEL, previously the Caves des Vignerons de Saumur, had received an array of awards and we really enjoyed tasting their 2011 Blanc, which  had a distinct taste of lychees and pineapples with a citrus fruit finish and a long length. Definitely a good start for them under their new brand name!

We  want to mention that we met Anthony and his wife Stephanie from the Famille HUET being now the fifth generation of winemakers from Domaine de Montfort situated on Route de Brossay, in the beautiful small village of Montfort, just a five minute drive from Le Puy Notre Dame.    Domaine de Montfort is a family Domaine of 15 hectares of vines.  They enjoyed sharing their wines with us including their Bronze Medal winner, Saumur 2013 Blanc, a dry white wine, having a golden reflection and  tasting lively with citrus, mineral aromas and fruity. Very refreshingly zingy – perfect for the hot summer  evenings to come!  The majority of this vineyard we learned is on flints and limestone not like the rest of the Saumur appellation and therefore the flint gives a different taste and aroma. They have lots of passion for their winemaking and we want to pay them a visit soon perhaps with one of our wine tour guests.

We visited the Domaine des Guyons stand and chatted away to Franck Bimont, who was eager to share his latest cuvées.

Domaine de Monfort

Anthony et Stephanie Huet from the Domaine de Montfort

This Domaine is always a treasure trove of new wines so it was not to be missed!

Some other gems were:-

La Domaine du Petit Clocher from Cléré sur Layon produced the most superb Crémant de Loire, my favourite sparkler in the show:- 100% Chardonnay, buttery, full of toast and enlivened by a zing of acidity.  Congratulations to Jean-Noel and his team.

One of my favourite reds was a quirky rouge from Sancerre:-  Mattias and Emilé Roblin have produced a light 2012 which was brimming over with Pinot Noir fruit.  Perfect for summer drinking.

The most stunning white I tasted was a 2009 Savennieres from the Clos de Closel, cuvée Clos de Papillon.  This wine was not only majestic but it restored my faith in Savennieres which had been rapidly eroding:-  Rich caramelly nose, lots of white fruit with an overlay of citron.  Dry, mouth filling and complex.  A great success.

By the way, the date for next year’s edition is already organised for the 2nd – 4th February 2015 and is in our diary!

A big bravo to all the organisers of this huge event despite its difficulties of clashing with other important wine events on these dates.  Bizarre they can’t co-ordinate it better especially as the cost to hire the stands at these fairs is really astronomical and so important for the winemakers to capitalise effectively on their expenditure and effort.

Loire Valley Wine Tours

And Santé! from us all at Le Clos des Guyons (Pat, Bob, Sheila, myself) and Franck Bimont from the Domaine des Guyons.

A bientot

Brian at Loire Valley Wine Tours

We offer self catering holidays at Le Clos des Guyons.  Our accommodation has been awarded  ‘Three Stars’ with the ‘Gites de France’ network and you can stay in either ‘Le Sauvignon’ for 4-6 persons and ‘Le Chenin’ for 2-3 persons. An ideal place to recharge your batteries and enjoy a half day or full day wine tour and tasting during your stay.  See our new website for details:-


Why the Saumur Wine Producing Cooperative was re-branded “ROBERT ET MARCEL”

The new label of the Saumur wine co-operative

The new label of the Saumur wine cooperative

The ‘Caves des Vignerons de Saumur’, Route de Samoussay, Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg   is the Saumur Cooperative, about 12 kilometres from our gites at Le Clos des Guyons and a  real must visit for our guests during their holiday!  The tour begins with a large, twelfth century vaulted cellar and from there it continues in the maze of 100 kms of underground galleries. Indeed an underground ‘safari’ and great place to visit, taste and buy wines of the region.

And now a change! If you did not know – everyone is talking about their new brand name of “Robert et Marcel”.

Initially we thought why would they want to call a Cooperative Cave Robert and Marcel but apparently the reason for the new name is that Robert and Marcel Neau  were the names of the founding Chairman and Director back in 1957 and hence the Cooperative wanted to put this story forward.  Marc Bonnin  became President of the winery in January 2013.

The new name was unveiled on November 14th 2013, so  with continual quality improvement over the past few years and a respectable haul of medals, a new logo and new marketing strategy, they have chosen this concept to be at the heart of their new strategy whilst all employees are now  apparently called Robert or Marcel!

At first, the new brand will apply to wines sold in the basement of the Cooperative at Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg, which annually hosts 56,000 customers a year, the biggest individual selling point in the Val-de-Loire (10% of turnover of the cooperative, or  2.5 million€ ).

Afterwards the label Robert and Marcel will be available throughout region in 2014 through Alliance Loire, responsible for marketing the wines of the cooperative, and finally at the national level in 2015.

Good Luck to the new initiative!!

A bientot!


Wine Tours of the Loire Valley

Hotel Le Bussy, Montsoreau – Restaurant Review

Hotel le Bussy, Montsoreau

Since we moved to the region in 2001 one of the things that we have noticed is that it is actually quite difficult to eat anywhere with really great views of the Loire.  There are some restaurants of varying standards but they are few and far between.  However, one that we have found only recently, (don’t know why because it’s not far away), is the Hotel Le Bussay in Montsoreau, just the other side of Saumur.

Montsoreau is one of the “Plus Beau Villages de France” and worth a visit just for that.  It has a famous Chateau and a stroll on the “coteaux” the narrow, winding streets on the hillside opposite the chateau, is well worth the time and effort.  The hotel is just past the Chateau, heading East towards Candes-Saint-Martin on the higher road which passes in front of the Chateau although there is a track up to the restaurant which goes from the road alongside the Loire.  It starts just past the Chateau again heading East.

The Hotel is one side of the higher road and the restaurant on the other, overlooking both the river and the Chateau and the views are truly stunning. We have only eaten there at lunchtime because we called in on the last day before it closed for the winter so we can’t say what the full evening dinner is like.  Lunch was the typical three course formula which is so common in these parts.  For around 12€ it was extremely good value, simple local produce mostly cooked on a giant BBQ outside the kitchen.  As in any eating establishment around here it provided good, well made wine from local producers.  So, well prepared and tasty, to be fair, not exactly a gastronomic masterpiece but, then again, what would you expect for that price.   Certainly when the restaurant re-opens at the start of the season, we will be eating off the menu and, if it is as good as the ambiance, I’m sure that we won’t be disappointed.

Brian and Sheila

Restaurant Reviews

Loire Holiday gites and Wine Tours


Le Puy Notre Dame centre

Le Puy Notre Dame Centre


This is a story about previous American guests, Lea Duffy and Andy Kosusko from Oregan, who enjoyed staying in our “Le Sauvignon” gite at Le Clos des Guyons in Le Puy Notre Dame, a wine producing village with its own appellation Saumur Puy Notre Dame, in the Saumurois, along with their Belgium friend Aurore.

Here is the picture of us altogether in the Loire sunshine sharing a few glasses of Saumur Rouge, along with our other regular gite guests, Geoffrey and Doreen, very sadly Doreen has since passed away since the photograph was taken but Geoffrey still returns and we are looking forward to seeing him in July this year for the fabulous Bastille celebrations!

Lea and Andy at Le Clos des Guyons

Lea and Andy at Le Clos des Guyons

We did not know of Lea and Andy’s future plans after leaving France and so it came as quite a surprise when they told us about their adventures. This is a testimony from them, telling us they have built their own dream hostelry back in  Oregon, USA, using the charming wine village of Le Puy for its name!

Their hostelry is so called  “Le Puy – A Wine Valley Inn”  built on a hill-top with 8-bedrooms, in the Willamette Valley.

The Story from Lea and Andy:-

“So many people ask us why the name Le Puy?  I think most people look at it and think … why would you name your inn that?  Well, thank goodness there is a good story behind it.  First of all to put to rest the mystery of how to pronounce it… think “pwee”.  Le Puy.  Easy! 

We toured the Loire Valley in France with our home base in Le Puy Notre Dame, a quaint French countryside village. 

The land surrounding us was full of vineyards and where the soil was deemed unsuitable for grapes, there were rolling fields of sunflowers.  Inspired by the beauty of the Loire region and the simple sweetness of the name Le Puy, we looked further into the origin and meaning.  Basically, it is old French for “isolated hill” or “volcanic hill”.  There are several Le Puys throughout France.  They are most often ancient worship sites which contained a dolmen (sacred stone) and were usually replaced by Christian churches.  Le Puy Notre Dame contains bones of Mary or a saint, I think. (Actually for the record, the Collegiale holds a relic of the belt of  the Virgin Mary which was brought back from Palestine by William IX, Duke of Aquitaine, from the Crusades.  Le Puy Notre Dame is hence on the traditional pilgrim route through to St Jacques de Compostelle and on many village houses you can see the symbol of the pilgrim which is the scallop shell embedded above the door).

Our own property, although located in wine country, is not really suitable for grapes, so that is why we infused the sunflower theme into our name.  We sit on a hillside with spectacular views of the Chehalem Ridge and peeks at the Coastal range, Mt Hood and Mt Jefferson.  We feel the mix of nature, spirituality and deep rooted history behind the name, fits into our dream for creating a holistic, sustainable Inn.  Thus, “Le Puy, our Wine Valley Inn” was born”.

And voila!  ……… Lea and Andy have recently added two new builds to their Inn,  the Saumur Room, named for the city closest to the village of Le Puy Notre Dame, which they use as a wedding venue and the Loire Room used for wine tastings, meetings and parties.

We exchange Christmas cards reminding us of  happy memories at Le Clos des Guyons and guess we will be friends for life now with our shared Le Puy connections!

One day they hope to return to France to visit their namesake village and you never know, perhaps we may pay a visit to Le Puy – A Wine Valley Inn that would be nice!  

Anyway, it’s complimentary they took inspiration from the spirit and life of the village of  Le Puy Notre Dame (but that’s not hard to do!) and the Loire Valley region of France, all the way to Oregon for their dream Inn!

A wonderful story.

Sheila and Brian

Take a look at our NEW website 

We have two fully renovated and charming, well equipped, self-catering holiday gites to rent on the edge of the village within walking distance of the Collegiale, Boulangerie, Office of Tourism, , Wineries, Café and two Restaurants:- “Le Bouchon Ponot” and “Le Puys a Vin” plus the Mushroom Caves St Maur (albeit 2 kms).