Telluride Inside… and Out has just spent three days in Provence, and we’re now in Torino, Italy. Though we’ve left Basque country behind us for now, we still have some good memories to share; in this case the wines and distillations of Brana and the cheeses of Famille Tambourin.

Our host at La Deviniere, Bernard Carrere, wanted us to experience first hand some of the products of the foothills of the Pyrenees. The drive by itself was a treat as we wound through the beautiful fall countryside, hard against the mountains. Our first stop was the Brana vineyards and winery, where 4th-generation winemaker, Jean Brana, oversees the vineyards and the winemaking. The varied soil conditions and sun exposure allow for a mix of red and white wine grapes to be grown on the terraced steeps above the winery. Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat dominate the red varietals, though Brana also makes a special wine, Bizi Berri Vintage, of some old, nearly forgotten grape varieties. The white wines mostly come from Gros Menseng, Petit Courbu and Petit Menseng grapes.

Martine, tasting

From the Brana vineyards we visited Distillerie Brana, run by Jean’s sister Martine. Martine directed our tour of the spotless facility and gave a great explanation of the distilling process. She also made it clear that local fruit was the secret behind her products.  After touring the distilling area, we couldn’t help picking bottles of pear, plum and grape brandy as house guest gifts for our hosts along our travels.  Our regular readers will know that our friend John Steel has already alluded to the quality of the plum brandy that helped fuel a few late-night conversations Chez Steel in Menerbes.

As though these two tours weren’t enough, Bernard then took us to meet some blondes and red-heads: these are the cows (blondes d’ Aquitaine) and sheep (tetes rouses) of Jean-Francois Tambourin who makes amazing cheeses in a area so well-known for its cheeses that it has 83 stops on La Route du Fromage. The “Route” runs all through the foothills of Basque Country to the east of St-Jean-de-Luz. Jean-Francois’ cows and sheep graze on the small pastures of his picturesque farm, winter on the hay that he cuts in the summer while the animals are grazing in the association lands in the high country.

Jean-Francois & Bernard

We sampled some of the rich cheese, along with local wine (not Brana this time) before returning to St-Jean-de-Luz. Bernard made us a care package of bread and some of Jean-Francois’ cheese for our road trip to Provence. It was much appreciated.

Though our time in Basque Country was brief, it was very full, and gave us many ideas for future travels in the southwest corner of France, travels that will certainly include stays at La Deviniere and visits to the countryside above St-Jean-de-Luz.

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