We Made New Friends and in the Process, We Unraveled the Mystery of Sablet House
Some of you have stayed one or more times at our home in Sablet, in the South of France, or walked past our house when you visited our pretty village. Maybe like Shirley and me, you looked up and saw the stone plate on the wall and wondered whose name is engraved into the stone that you see from the terrace and street below.
Over the years, we have learned that our house most likely dates from around 1600 and that the name engraved into the stone seen below, Ausonio Urban, is the name of the stone mason who restored the house most recently. That is all we have been able to learn until a few weeks ago.
We arrived in Sablet a few weeks ago after an 11-hour flight from San Francisco followed by a 3-hour ride on the TGV train from Paris to Avignon. Too late in the day to shop, too tired anyway, we opted to dine at Bistrot des Copains in the center of Sablet. You can read about our meal on Sablet House Facebook page.
We had a delicious 3-course meal prepared by Chef Melissa (there's a whole another story about how she ended up in Sablet) accompanied by a well-made, tasty 2016 Paul Roumanille Côtes du Rhône Villages Sablet red wine (see below).
We liked the wine so much that we decided with friends Steve and Mary, that we would find Mr. Roumanille's winery and see if we could taste wines at his "cave". I had never heard of the winery or Mr. Roumanille, so I asked Bruno, the charming owner of Café des Sports and Bistrot des Copains, where it was located?
Bruno said, the Paul Roumanille winery was located just before the turn off for the lake of Sablet that I told you about here. We found the winery easily, just off the D69 between Sablet and Rasteau. There, we encountered a very friendly and charming gentleman who welcomed our group into his modest "cave".
During the process of tasting his excellent wines, we learned that Paul is the 4th generation of the family to grow grapes and make wine at this location. He said he is semi-retired and unfortunately, he does not have children who wish to take over the winery. He has a daughter and no sons and the daughter has no interest in continuing the family wine business.
Before long, as usually happens, he asked where we were from? I told him California and our friends, Michigan, but we own a home in Sablet. He perked up and asked where? I described the location and he seemed a little puzzled, so I pulled out my mobile phone and showed him a picture of the Sablet house.
He immediately responded, "I know this house." He continued on to say he drove his tractor and wagon filled with stones, to the house for the mason, Mr. Urban, for rebuilding the house. It turns out, Mr Urban is his neighbor and friend.
Paul said that if we wanted to meet Mr. Urban, we should call the night before and he would get Mr. Urban to the "cave". He said I should use the password "Californie Michel" anytime I called so he would know who was calling.
As circumstances so happened, we ran into Mr. Roumanille and his wife, Francoise several times during the week, including the "Fête des Vins" (wine festival) of Sablet and another time when we were dining again at the Café des Sports and Bistrot des Copains. He stopped at our table and pointed to where they were dining with friends and invited us to come to their home after dinner for some champagne.
That would have been a treat, but it was already late, so after we paid our "addition" (bill), we went to their table to give our regrets, but he wouldn't hear of it, insisted we sit with them and have some wine at least. One wine led to more wine, let's just say we had a great time.
I should mention Mr. Roumanille is a very thoughtful gentleman; telling me several times to speak in English (he and his wife don't speak English but their friends from Germany spoke very good English) so Shirley could understand some of the conversation, which of course made Mr. Roumanille a hero in Shirley's eyes.
The next week, we were honored by a visit from our neighbor's son Taylor, who is working on a Master's degree in Nottingham, England, and playing Lacrosse for the British national team. Taylor wants to work in the wine industry and will be working through a harvest at a winery in England this September.
We had decided it would be nice for Taylor to taste wines at some of our favorite wineries in the Côtes du Rhône, including Domaine de Mourchon in Séguret and Domaine de la Charbonnière in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. We decided it would be interesting for him to taste at Paul Roumanille winery and see how wines were made in the "old" days.
We went to the Paul Roumanille winery at the appointed hour with friends Steve and Mary and neighbor Taylor.
Shortly after we arrived, Mr Urban walked into the "cave", short in stature but well dressed and very friendly. We immediately learned from Paul Roumanille, that Mr Urban is quite the lady's man and he loves good whisky.
Besides that, we learned Mr Urban's family were nobles in the Austria-Hungarian empire but had to flee after a family member went against the monarchy. They landed in Venice, Italy, before Mr Urban and other members of his family moved-on to Sablet.
He said at the time he started the reconstruction of our house, it had totally fallen in and was just ruins. He began to rebuild the house in 1977 and it took 12 years to finish. He believes the house dates back at least 100 years earlier than what we have been led to believe, putting the house's origins closer to 1500 than 1600.
One of the most interesting things we learned was the caves under our house (a clean up project I hope to undertake at some point), were connected to caves under neighboring homes through a network of tunnels. The locals would travel to their neighbors through the tunnels rather than on the street. The entrance to the network of tunnels was near the fountain and lavoir between our house and Festival Boulangerie.
Meeting Paul Roumanille and Mr. Urban was among the highlights of our sojourn in Sablet. We extended an invitation to the two of them along with Mrs. Roumanille, to come to our home for dinner when we return to Sablet. They both said they would be happy to come. I promised that I would bring Mr Urban a bottle(s) of some very good Whisky/Bourbon. I know nothing about whiskey, so need suggestions of what to buy him.
If you want to taste wines with a charming Provencal winemaker, we encourage you to go taste at Paul Roumanille winery. The wine we loved was only 9.50 Euros a bottle. Where in the US, can you buy an outstanding wine for 9.50 Euros?
Paul Roumanille Winery
220 Route de Rasteau
Tel: 04 90 46 92 26