La Beaugravière is a rare, totally genuine, unpretentious place on the outskirts of an unremarkable little town near Montélimar, about halfway down the Rhône valley. Run by a couple close to retirement age, this attractive building has a simple dining room typical of many provincial French restaurants and, certainly on my visit, three slightly shabby hotel rooms. But, to lovers of Rhône wines and regional cuisine (especially truffles when in season), it takes on a hallowed status.
I have just been reminded of La Beaugravière as, reportedly, on a recent visit to the restaurant, a particularly influential American wine critic selected some surprisingly young and modest bottles, given the extraordinary gems tenderly amassed in the cellar. As La Beaugravière has been a long-standing favourite of many Rhône producers, almost every imaginable great name and vintage is present. As I was there on a freezing cold, dark January evening (during the truffle season), not only was I able to enjoy the truffle set menu, but also some spectacular wines. We treated ourselves to Château Rayas Châteauneuf du Pâpe Blanc 1989 and Chave Hermitage 1991 which partnered the food beautifully, both bottles in immaculate condition, quietly singing in complex, mellow tones, in harmony with the deliciously fragranced, earthy food. No surprise, then, that I've been haunted by the memory ever since (and hope the owners keep postponing that retirement).
(Visited January 2004)
Restaurant La Beaugravière
RN 7, 84430 Mondragon
Tel + 33 4 90 40 82 54
http://www.beaugraviere.com (the website shows it has been spruced up since my visit)