The best thing about Part Deux of our wine route adventure is that the Clos Ste Magdeleine was .4 miles from our AirBnb, a ten minute leisurely walk, albeit uphill.
We set out for the winery shortly after it opened to avoid walking up hill in the heat, but really it was just a gentle incline and not a bad walk at all. It was market day in Cassis and the sidewalk was quite busy with residents going into the town center for their shopping.
Upon arrival, what I thought was the entrance door was locked, so I poked around the corners to see if I was in the correct spot, and as far as I could tell I was. My only option was to ring the bell and speak in terrible French asking if they were open for a tasting. I had emailed ahead of time and was again told to come by during open hours. It is somewhat intimidating to ring a French person’s, or in this case business’s door bell. But, we had just walked up a hill and I have enjoyed this wine many times, so I gathered up my courage and rang the bell.
Me: Bonjour. Parlez-vous Englais?
CSM: Yes, how can we help you?
Me: Merci. Are you open for a tasting?
CSM: Yes, but we are only tasting one wine this morning. Do you still want to do the tasting?
Me: Oui, si vous plais.
The gate is unlocked from inside and we enter into a courtyard. We are greeted by a golden colored and very friendly dog. Just as soon as I bend down to scratch her upturned belly, a young man named Pierre greets us. I ask the name of the dog and learn that is Canaille, after the nearby landmark, Cap Canaille.
We are escorted into the tasting room where we are poured a small sample of the Cassis Blanc, a blend of Marsanne, Ugni Blanc, Clairette, and Bourboulenc. It is again explained that they cannot ship to the United States because we can purchase the wines from Kermit Lynch there. We are not given a bottle limit, however, my suitcase is full of Domaine Tempier and I do not wish to press my luck.
I am also told that they quit doing tours of the winery and the vineyard a few years ago because it is just a few of them at the winery daily. I offer to come and work for them solely to conduct tours but I get the impression this is something they would like to avoid.
I do purchase a bottle of the Vermentino. I have never seen this in the United States, although Pierre tells me that Kermit Lynch does import it. I also learn that there is only about 1 ha of Vermentino grapes on the property so I decide my suitcase can hold one more bottle.
I will write in depth about this wine when I open it. Vermentino is usually called Rolle in this area, and while used in rosé production is rare to fine as a stand alone varietal, unless you head to Italy.
The Clos Sainte Magdeleine property is sitting, literally, on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. In Kermit Lynch’s Adentures on the Wine Route he says that the “fish can literally kiss the grapes.” I’m not too sure about that but the property is stunning with terraced vineyards that do appear to go all the way down to the water.
Although we cannot take a tour, Pierre tells us that we can look out at the view from the terrace. The lovely patio is just begging you to sit and enjoy the views. I didn’t think to ask if we could purchase a bottle to consume on the property, or perhaps even just a glass. I walk back in to the tasting room and Pierre is conducting another tasting already, but I ask if we are able to purchase wine to enjoy on the terrace and he says no, it is against their licensing laws or something like that. C’est la vie eh?
On the way out of the property I notice that there is a building at the front, just to the left of the gate that I did not notice on the way in because I was petting Canaille. It has clothes hanging on the line and I wonder who lives here. It seems unlikely to be the current owner, but on the other, I would think it hard to find more lovely property in Cassis. I feel as though we’ve already overstayed our welcome so there is no way I’m going to ask such a nosey question.
For me, it is truly a fun and wonderful experience to visit a winery who’s wines I have enjoyed, and that I’ve read about in such a well known and iconic book. Clos Sainte Magedeline is a fairly small operation, making a living doing what they love. In France, it might be better said that they are doing what they were born to do, pre-destined by Divine accord. Haha. They are making a living making wine and not tourism, this is an important distinction from wineries I have visited in the States and Italy. Perhaps it is the Kermit Lynch aspect, or perhaps it is just the French way.
I was asked by a friend why I don’t tell wineries that I am a wine writer? It’s a fair question, however, I have never been paid for publishing and I feel as though it is somewhat deceptive. Even though the visit was slightly anti-climatic, it was a great way to spend an hour in Cassis, which, at the end of the visit is all we have invested.
If you find yourself in Cassis, I recommend the little walk up the hill to Clos Sainte Magdeleine, you will be rewarded with a sip of wine, a gorgeous view, and perhaps a friendly dog.