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La Bruguière, a 16th Century mas cévenol or Cévennes farmhouse, is deep in the Gard, a département of the Languedoc, where the fortunate find themselves safe in the hands of hostelry owners Pascale and Philippe Nusswitz. She’s a chef, trained in Relais & Châteaux hotels; he’s both sommelier and vigneron. Named Best Sommelier in France in the 1980s, Philippe eventually decided, he says, “to move to the other side of the bottle” and make wines (his highly rated Orénia and Miratus are served with meals). For wine explorers he organizes séjours à thème, wine programs of two hours or two days. Both feature tutored tastings of local wines; the two-day séjour includes visits to producers, cellars and vineyards.
On the western edge of the Anduze-Alès-Nîmes triangle, La Bruguière is ringed by vineyards and garrigue, the tough, low-growing Mediterranean scrub. It is, in the old expression, sunk in nature. You can laze poolside and graze at Pascale’s table or you can request a pique-nique basket (like her table, it will be strictly seasonal and local) and set off to explore (and count the syllables of) nearby villages, such as Durfort-et-Saint-Martin-de-Sossenac, Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort, Saint-Geniès-de-Malgoirès, Saint-André-de-Majencoules. Alternatively there are golf, hiking, tennis, riding, cycling and kayaking in the area.
Kitchens, baths and décor in La Bruguière’s accommodations are up to date (i.e., modern but not aggressively so); their exteriors are not: they look centuries-old and are. “La Bergerie” is a mini-mas or mazet known, in the 1600s, as the house of Oncle Jacques, of whom nothing further is known. Later a stable, it’s now a comfortable one-bedroom with patio and total privacy. “La Provence,” a large suite with a salon, double bedroom and terrace, has direct access to the pool and a view toward the village of Durfort. “La Magnanerie,” named for the silkworms raised there for the Languedoc’s once-mighty silk industry, includes the remains of an 11th Century tower. It has one bedroom and a terrace overlooking the pool. The capacious “Le Cévenol,” a duplex gîte, can sleep eight in two bedrooms (one with sleeping loft) and the TV corner’s convertible sofa. It has a dining room and a vine-covered barbecue patio.
When I visited in early October there was a minor crise: just before dinner Philippe realized with horror that, “We’re out of cheese! I must go to my cheesemaker.” Did I want to come? Of course! “But we must hurry. It’s late. We cannot miss him!”
We piled into Philippe’s car and hurried off into the foothills toward Fressac and the revered fromager Bernard Rivollier. His chèvre, or unpasteurized goat-milk cheese, is the fabled A.O.P. Pélardon-des-Cévennes, one of Charles de Gaulle’s equally fabled “246 different kinds of [French] cheese.” En route we learned the futility of haste as free-range goats clambered onto the narrow road and took their own sweet time getting to the other side. (Philippe, eyeing them critically, said, “Not Rivollier’s.”) Fortunately, M. Rivollier had kindly waited, so our return to La Bruguière was triumphant, burdened as we were with double-armloads of puck-sized cheeses in every stage of raffinement from the sweet, spreadable new-made to the months-old, tangy and wrinkled.
That night, dinner at Pascale’s vast table was warm and memorable, more like a feast. With wine and food in abundance (to say nothing of the cheese), with stories and good cheer, it brought to mind that old ideal: “to live like a god in France.”
La Bruguière, Route de Canaules, 30170 Durfort-et-Saint-Martin-de-Sossenac.
Tel. : 33 4 66 80 40 45. Fax :33 4 66 80 40 46.
E-mail: [email protected].
Rates (low to high season): Double rooms with breakfast, €75-110; “Le Cévenol” duplex, €675-950. Dinner, with local wines and drinks, € 30 per person.
Bill Marsano’s pouredwithpleasure.com is devoted to his insights, laments and bizarre opinions on wine, spirits, food and almost anything else that crosses his mind and keyboard at the same time.
©2010 Bill Marsano
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