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Black Tie International Travel  1
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Black Tie International Magazine Travel
La Mère Germaine

  Andre Mazy, Owner of La Mere Germaine. Picture by:  Jesse Nash

Andre Mazy, Owner of La Mere Germaine.
 
Photo by: Jesse Nash
 
La Mere Germaine:
The Soul of Chateauneuf du Papes
by Barney Lehrer and Jesse Nash

 

In western Provence the medieval village of Châteauneuf du Pape reigns above the most productive and renowned wine appellation in the southern Rhone Valley. The wine by the same name, created by the Avignon Popes in the 14th century, has been prized by generations of wine lovers and is recognized as one of the leading legendary wine regions in the world.

In this region rich in legends a new one is in the making. It is a legendary restaurant where the tales, folklore and history of an incredible wine live on. This legend is called La Mère Germaine. Although it is called just a restaurant-hotel, it is a lot more than that. It is the soul of this place. 

“Châteauneuf du Pape,” roughly translated as "The Pope's new castle,"  refers to the building (now a ruin) on top of the hill overlooking the village that the Popes built and used as a summer palace during period of the Avignon Papacy (1309 to 1376) and the “Great Schism, ” when there were two competing Popes (1376 – 1417). Forced to flee the political turmoil of Rome, Pope Clement V, a Frenchman, and his French successor John XXII, created this legendary wine by planting vines around their château and producing some of the medieval world's most famous wines.  

The spirit of this historic past continues within the walls of La Mère Germaine, as it celebrates “all things wine.” The Popes drank these wines hundreds of years ago -- and the passion for them is even stronger today. And so it is fitting that this is the place where today's local aristocracy -- the winemakers of Châteauneuf du Pape and other renowned Rhone appellations -- can meet on any afternoon or evening to eat, drink, talk, argue and wheel and deal. It is the place where families come to socialize, where wine critics and wine journalists from all over the world, as well as local Rhone Valley characters and tourists from around the world come to celebrate the wines of Châteauneuf du Pape.

And they just don't come to La Mère Germaine for the excellent gastronomic food. They come for a warm atmosphere and a Châteauneuf du Pape/Rhone Valley wine education through tasting some of over 100 different great wines from the region on the wine list www.lameregermaine.fr/vinswines.html 
 La Mère Germaine is a wine lover’s dream.

Yet, sadly, it almost didn't survive.

La Mère Germaine was first opened in 1922 by Madame Germaine Vion, the chef at the Élysée Palace (French presidential palace) at the beginning of the 20th century. From the beginning it was the center of village life.

But in 2010 the place closed down. The owner had financial difficulties, the quality of the food and service was low, the morale of the staff was glum. André Mazy, the general manager for many years, had quit. It was a “ship without a rudder.”

André, however, did not want La Mère to sink. In early 2011, after the former owner had completely gutted the restaurant and kitchen, André bought the place! After months of planning renovation and hiring, La Mère Germaine began to come back to life. By May 2011 the doors were reopened, to the relief of the Châteauneuf wine industry.  Today La Mère Germaine once again shines as the “soul of Châteauneuf du Pape.”

When you arrive at La Mère Germaine, the first person you meet will be André. With a big smile, easy laugh and insightful understanding of your needs, André (in French, English, Spanish or Italian) will bring you an aperitif. Perhaps it will be a small new wine discovery. Or perhaps a local liqueur. After you settle in to the beautiful dining room or, in warmer weather, the sumptuous terrace overlooking the vineyards of Châteauneuf du Pape, André will fill you in on the latest wine gossip and, of course, tell you about the menu and “André’s Special Wine Selections of the Month,” a special list of excellent but lesser known wine from the region at moderate prices. From there on you will have an afternoon or evening of culinary bliss.

Should you happen to be thinking about going to France for your next vacation, schedule a trip to Châteauneuf du Pape, and you, most definitely, need to make a reservation for lunch or dinner at La Mère Germaine. You may love it so much, you will want to book a room overnight or for a few days. Whatever you decide, André will be there waiting for you

Sidebar:

Born November 5th, 1964, in Toulouse, André (Dédé to his friends) has survived various forms of hardship and struggle throughout his  life. But it's never stopped him from living it! He never knew his birth parents, and he lost a best friend at a young age. These types of traumas, devastating as they would be to anybody, perhaps also set him on his life path. Things got better: he was able to attend the Sorbonne in Paris and finish his studies at the University in Aix-en-Provence.  After that there were adventures traveling throughout the world – United States, Australia, Thailand and beyond. He had more lucky breaks along the way; meeting the right people at the right time... it was clear that André was going to be a success.

Owning a restaurant, however, was not at the top of his list nor even on his mind. Indeed he originally wanted to be either a police commissioner or a priest, as he felt that his mission in life was to bring justice to the world. And yet he always found work in restaurants, whether as a waiter at a 3 star restaurant in Paris, managing a restaurant in the Pyrenees, or food and beverage manager at the top hotel in Bangkok.

In late 2005 André found a position as manager La Mère Germaine.
 It soon became clear this was his calling. He became passionate about the village, the wines and the restaurant.

In 2010 the place had to close. The owner had financial difficulties and was not able to keep the place going.  He completely gutted the restaurant and kitchen. It remained shuttered for over a year. André knew he had to save this most important home-away-from-home to so many in Châteauneuf. After intensive legal wrangling, he finally realized his dream -- and bought the place. The rest is history.

 
Joyce Brooks

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