Domaine Terre de Mistral RoussetSet in its own vineyards and olive groves, the Terre de Mistral is a perfect stop if you are touring the Mont Sainte Victoire and countryside round Aix or Saint Maximin la Sainte Baume.

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It is run by two families, the Gueurys and the Davicos. The Gueurys specialise in olive oil production (click here to read more about that).

The Davicos are vintners who have been making wine in Provence for generations, dealing with the local co-operative. More recently they decided to go it alone and develop more ambitious wines.

The Domaine Terre de Mistral celebrated its fifth anniversary in 2013 with a piece of excellent news: it was one of the three main winners of the Prix national de l'oenotourisme (the National Wine Tourism Prize), an award jointly administered by the French Ministries of Agriculture, Tourism and Culture.

This achievement was all the greater given that the competition attracted some very heavy hitters. Winners in the other categories included Rémy Martin cognac and Château Soutard, which produces a grand cru classé Saint Emilion.

Terrace Domaine Terre du Mistral RoussetBy contrast the Domaine Terre de Mistral is a small and informal operation that offers a wide range of activities in addition to its winery, olive mill and restaurant.

On family-oriented days you might find donkey rides or a vegetable sculptor who turns aubergines into penguins. Once a month there is dinner jazz with musicians from the region and, on another evening, a system of addition libre, when diners are free to pay whatever they think their meal is worth.

Nocturnal walks, vineyard and olive mill tours and quiz nights figure among the other events organised throughout the year (check the Domaine's website, linked below, for details). No accommodation is available yet, but it's planned for the future.

So far the clientele at the Domaine Terre de Mistral is mainly regional, but the sights are firmly set on attracting more international tourists. And, yes, some family members do speak English.

We first visited its restaurant in 2012 for an unusual and excellent meal based on the theme of cooking with pastis. Since then Domaine Terre de Mistral has acquired a new chef, Sylvain Devaux, whose previous restaurant, near Chambéry, featured in the Gault & Millau guide.

Delvaux's cuisine favours unusual combinations and dramatic presentation, judging by the meal we sampled. Daintily garnished with grapefruit and radishes, a tartare of Saint Jacques came with a truffle-flavoured mousse - and, just to intensify the flavour, you got a little pipette of truffle oil to squirt on the dish yourself.

A tagine of poulet with preserved lemon, pictured, arrived in a cellophane bag instead of the traditional North African ceramic couscous dish, in order to seal in the aromas.

Tagine de poulet at the Domaine Terre de Mistral RoussetThis time - "to prevent accidents" - it was the waiter who unwrapped the stew with a flourish at the table, assailing your nostrils with a sudden blast of oriental spices.

The meal ended with a selection of traditional French desserts, including chocolate mousse, crême brûlée and a version of lemon meringue served in a verrine (shot glass).

At other times, depending on the season, you might find on the menu chicken breast in a pesto sauce, partridges from the Terre de Mistral farm or a strawberry smoothie with olive oil and basil sorbet.

The Appellation d'Origine Protégée wines made on the domaine are variously Côtes de Provence and Côtes de Provence Sainte Victoire. We especially liked Nadia, a brand-new top-of-the-range white wine named, romantically, after the wife of the chief wine-maker, Serge.

The Terre de Mistral continues to focus on what the French call une cuisine du terroir, with a gastronomic twist.It's a ferme auberge, an official designation which means that at least 50 per cent of the produce served in the restaurant comes from its own farm. Papie (Grandpa) looks after that side of the operation, we're told.

Apart from the wine and olive oil, this includes fruit and vegetables from the kitchen garden, plus pheasants, partridges, guinea fowl, chicken and pigs. There's no formal menu, just a small selection of daily specials chalked up on a blackboard.

Restaurant at Domaine Terre de Mistral RoussetThe restaurant itself is open-plan and airy with a high ceiling and big arched windows. Designed around a central bar and tasting area, the room has, at one end, a shop selling wines, oils and other produce such as honey and tapenade and, at the other, the dining area with space for 40-50 covers.

There's seating for 30 more outside on the new terrace (and for plenty of cars in the car-park), though be warned: the Terre de Mistral lives up to its name (the Mistral being the fierce north-west wind that sweeps through this part of Provence).

So you should check the weather forecast first if you are set on eating al fresco. Whether inside or out, you'll enjoy panoramic views over the vineyards towards the mighty Mont Sainte Victoire.

Visited May 2012 and May 2013

Where: Domaine Terre de Mistral, chemin du Pavillon, route de Peynier, 13790 Rousset. Tel: (+33) 4 42 29 14 84. Website for the Domaine Terre de Mistral in Rousset

 

 

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