Ideal Itineraries for Carcassonne Wine Holiday

Harvest 2014 is coming to an end. We are very fortunate not to have been hit by any of the hail or severe thunderstorms that occurred during this growing season. Looks like another promising year!

Starting the days at 4:00 to get our grapes in at cooler temperatures.

Hard work! but of course the fun continued with our guests!

Delicious Food & fine Wine continued to be served during the long harvest weeks!

Don’t worry we had an extra help force…. 

  • Ryan flew back from Napa for a short week …. and long days!
  • George Gracia, Maitre Sommelier, came to help entertain our evening visitors!

 

From TripAdvisor Senior Reviewer Grant Hughes who visited us with his wife Fiona. Thank you Grant!

“An unexpected surprise, but what a great evening!”

TripAvisor 5 of 5 stars. Reviewed July 22, 2013

“We are spending a few days near Carcasson in France and we got a little frustrated with driving into town, so we did a search of local places to eat……we found this just a mile or so from where we are staying and thought it was just a restaurant!!!
When we arrived we were greeted by a nice American chap(Joe) – our first surprise as when we called to book we spoke to a French lady (liz).
We were then introduced to the other 4 couples (surprise 2) and given a superb crisp white wine to try.
Then Joe gave us all a tour of his vines and his winery and told us all about how he makes his wonderful wines. More tastings ……. Moving on to some out of this world reds (OMG is a good name for it!).
Then we all sat down to a lovely meal (prepared by Liz, who had obviously spent hours in the kitchen and prepared all sorts of interesting and tasty things for us all to eat) the wine and the conversation flowed and we met a crowd of interesting and friendly people.
This was more like a dinner party for friends than a meal out and we had a fantastic time and, even though we are not particular wine buffs, we appreciated the very fine wines that our host gave us, which he obviously was very proud of and rightly so.
This family obviously love their work and have a passion for their art! If you like wine you should try all of them! You can buy them through Naked wines on the Internet . Look for ‘Domaine O’vineyards’
Then we sat on the terrace in the warm evening looking over the vineyards and ‘sampling’ more delicious wines with cheeses and a hand made desert! More conversation and laughter…….
We finally bade everyone goodbye at around midnight and back to the b+b.
The wines were so pure and unadulterated……. No hang over this morning (surprise no …. I lost count after about the third bottle!)
I thoroughly recommend this as a ‘ must do’ if you are in the area. One of the best holiday decisions we have ever made!
Thank you Joe and Liz for a wonderful dinner party, great wine, great company and great food!”

 

Posted by Joe The Winemaker:

“Finnnnnnnnnnished! The 2102 harvest has finished fermentation and the pressing of the skins was completed Saturday 3rd of November!

When you grow grapes and make wine, you sometimes wonder whether the months of September and October exist. You start to clean and prepare for harvest in late August and the next thing you know; you are getting ready for Christmas!
During the harvest season, visitors are always amazed at how much happens on a daily basis.

Anyway we are extremely happy with the quality of our 2012 harvest and look forward to tasting with all our visitors!”

This summer, O’Vineyards is celebrating the arrival of its newest wine, O’MG 2011, by extending the opportunity to all visitors to enjoy it before bottles go on sale outside of O’Vineyards later this fall.

The O’MG Summertime Special begins at 12pm with a winery tour and wine tasting, followed by a picnic basket lunch and half a bottle of our new wine O’MG per person. You are free to enjoy the picnic basket lunch on our sunny patio overlooking the vines. The price per guest is 35€ all inclusive. Please call or email ahead for reservations as limited space is available.

We want to take this opportunity to inform our readers that the five course meal at the Winemakers’ Table will be exclusively available at dinnertime until our harvest time. Thank you and see you soon!

Photos de Domaine O'Vineyards, Villemoustaussou
Cette photo de Domaine O’Vineyards est fournie gracieusement par TripAdvisor

note: This post is written as advice for winemakers offering tours.  If you are looking to participate in a wine tour, you can learn about our winery visits and wine tastings.

By looking at feedback we receive from our clients through social media and review sites like TripAdvisor, we’ve learned a surprising lesson about the top priorities for travelers visiting a winery.  Almost all reviews highlight a casual, relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.

TripAdvisor reviews about hospitality and atmosphere

  • “Joe, Liz and Ryan are excellent hosts, and we all immediately felt relaxed in their company.”
  • “The O’Connell family is warm, friendly, and kind.”
  • “Ryan: some guy JUST LIKE ME, yet with an encyclopediac knowledge and passionate interest in grapes (and all that goes one with them!). There is no pretension or snobbery here – just big smiles and AMAZING wine.”
  • “Ryan, Joe and Liz made us truly welcome”
  • “As well as the gorgeous wine the other outstanding thing at O’Vineyards is the great hospitality and wonderful food.”
  • “Instantly I felt at home.”
  • “Then we relaxed in the cellar”
  • “Not to worry”
  • “The owners Liz and Joe were so friendly and inviting. From the moment we arrived we were greeted with smiles and friendliness.”
  • “C’était une très agréable visite pour nous, surtout parce que nous n’étions pas les seuls à nous amuser–eux aussi!”

These are all excerpts from tripadvisor reviews we’ve received in the past year or so. I think TripAdvisor is more than just a new arm of marketing/PR.  These reviews are really helpful because they give amazing insight into the psychology of our visitors.

A recurring theme that leaps out of our reviews is a focus on feeling relaxed, welcomed, and unpretentious.  Some reviews include detailed accounts of visiting the winery, tasting from barrels, looking at vines, and other more technical aspects of the tour.  But virtually all the reviews talk about atmosphere, hospitality, friendliness, relaxing, and so on.

This was an exceptionally important realization.  We were very focused on providing good information, great wine, good tasting conditions, and so on.  Of course, these things are important, but we now learn that putting your guests at ease is even more crucial. The wine doesn’t have to be at exactly 17 degrees centigrade and served in finest crystal.  But you do have to be smiling, welcoming, and fun to be around.

Quality of food and wine

All that said, it is really important that the wine tastes great.  The quality of the wine is mentioned in virtually every review.  And literally everybody who ate my mom’s cooking at the end of the tour has mentioned how good she is in the kitchen.  So food is exceptionally important.

Don’t be pretentious

The point of this post is to share surprising lessons from TripAdvisor reviews.  We’re not surprised that people want good food and wine.

We were sort of surprised at how much of the reviews are devoted to explaining that we are nice people.  Being friendly and unpretentious is super-important!

Since I know a lot of really friendly people in the wine trade, and because I’m pretty confident about my wine knowledge, I had forgotten how intimidating this world is.  And a lot of our visitors share horror stories about visiting wineries and wine shops where the wine tasted great but the service was awful.  Usually these stories focus around a person who clearly knows a lot about wine and serves delicious wine, but treats the visitors like dirt just because they’re not as knowledagable or rolls their eyes at simple questions.  And even if these stories constitute a minority of wine experiences, they scare people to death!

A quick look at our reviews reveals that people are really worried that the atmosphere won’t be relaxed or welcoming.  And so they are very pleased to discover it is!

So don’t be a jerk!  Smile a lot.  Remember that nobody is born knowing a lot about wine.  And even very well educated people don’t know everything.  And smile again.  Your guests will appreciate it!

More practical advice

Aside from smiling, there are a few things we’ve started doing differently because of this discovery.

  • Communicate on the fact that our wine tour isn’t for snobs.
    • Feature customer testimonial from people who say “this was my first winery tour and…”
    • Feature customer testimonial with words like “welcoming” and “relaxed”
  • When guests arrive, put them at ease
    • Tell them to interrupt you
    • Insist that they can ask questions
    • Look at everybody in the group while you talk, even (especially?) children
  • Don’t get too distracted by technical elements of the tour – if serving the wine at just the right temperature in a specific type of glass is impossible, don’t worry.  Never neglect your guests to attend to some detail they don’t even care about.
  • Small doses of self-effacing humor help, but don’t get too morose
  • If you’re too busy to give a good tour, let your guests know beforehand. Explain what’s going on and ask if they’ll put up with these circumstances.  Offer them a free glass of wine if they’re unhappy.  Small groups are generally willing to wait fifteen minutes if it’s with free wine. :)

We were already doing simple stuff like smiling and being nice.  But taking these extra steps has resulted in even better feedback and even happier visitors.  And I assume this is how we got so well ranked on TripAdvisor!

I know that you know that I lift wires at this time of year.  But you know what else I do?  Answer a lot of questions from tourists. It seems like I get at least four or five emails each week about travel plans around Carcassonne and in the Languedoc Roussillon in general.

My emails tend to be very personalized based on what languages you speak, where you’re flying into, whether you have a car or not, etc.   It’s fun setting people up with really good trips, but it takes a lot of time.   And sometimes, people don’t really need super-personalized advice.  If you want a few wine travel ideas around Carcassonne, you might just want to check out Wink Lorch’s Wine Travel Guide – Ideal One-Day Itinerary.

Wink tends to pick places that are equipped to greet you in English.  And for these short one or two day trips, the estates often have restaurants or rooms to stay in so you don’t need to spend half of your wine holiday in a car looking for a poorly marked country road.

The One-Day and Two-Day trips around Carcassonne have really good ideas. Like a short run down to Limoux where you can visit small indie estates and then go to Gayda for a nice meal and a place to stay.  That trip’s especially nice if you have a spouse or travel partner that only drinks white wine.  Or you could do a quick jump north and visit Pennautier who also have a restaurant, rooms, etc.  I would naturally add that while you’re already in Pennautier, you should hop over to O’Vineyards . . . OF COURSE. :)   I’m just a few kilometers away and I’d really love to see you.

Also, if you’re planning your trip on a Sunday, good luck. You’re best off emailing me.  ryan@ovineyards.com

Anyway, I like Wink’s guide and appreciate the work of her head Languedoc researcher Richard James.

And I’m going to steal this idea of an ideal one-day itinerary if you’re looking to spend a day around Carcassonne or if you are flying in with RyanAir and have a day to spare before driving to your next destination.

Ideal One-Day Itinerary

MORNING

Leave Carcassonne, going northwest on the N113 that sort of follows the Canal du Midi.  Check out O’Vineyards in Villemoustaussou.  33 (0)6 30 18 99 10

Winery visits include young wine tasting from tanks as well as barrel tastings.  Call ahead and we can do a table d’hote where you eat with the winemaker and family.  It’s a lot of fun.

winery visit

AFTERNOON

Then you have two options.  You either lounge around the vineyard all day drinking delicious wine and soaking in the countryside vistas, or you can get back in the car and head to another destination.

UK Angels visit O'Vineyards near Carcassonne

Possible destinations include:

  • Chateau Pennautier – Big, fancy winemakers in Pennautier
  • Chateau BrauOrganic winemakers in Villemoustaussou (call ahead)
  • La Cité de Carcassonne – visit ramparts, have a coffee, just chill out. Whatever you choose to do, you’re doing it in a medieval castle!! How cool is that?

How to find us

Domaine O’Vineyards is just a few kilometres north of Carcassonne. GPS coordinates: 43.259622, 2.340387

Domaine O’Vineyards
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou, France
Tel: +33(0) 630 189 910

  1. Follow the signs to Mazamet/ Villemoustaussou until the D118 (the last straight road) and the Dyneff gas station on the roundabout.
  2. Take the exit towards Pennautier. Continue 500m to a small roundabout and go straight over.
  3. Look out for the second road on your right, Avenue des Cévennes which goes up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire.
  4. At the last juction, bear left at the road sign “Ave de la Montagne Noire” (confusing as it seems to show a right turn)
  5. After another 500m you will see our red brick color building in the middle of the vines.