Located in the heart of France’s Loire Valley region is the Cher Valley, which encompasses the area from Chenonceau to Valencay. For now, would-be travelers can scout out their next trips to the iconic chateaux of the area, which wouldn’t be complete without sampling the region’s signature wine and goat cheese.
One of the most famous chateaux in all of France as well as the world Chateau de Chenonceau is unique not only due to it being an architectural marvel, but also thanks to its legacy as the “Chateau des Dames.” The chateau has always been owned by women, notably Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici, whose lasting touches and influences can be seen today. The exceptional gardens, named after both Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici, are today managed by American gardener Nicholas Tomlan, who takes inspiration from the ladies of the castle’s past. As of last year, the chateau unveiled a recreation of Catherine de Medici’s apothecary, where Nostradamus once prepared remedies for the queen. Visitors can also tour the chateau’s own on-site floral workshop, where leading craftsman Jean-Francois Boucher creates daily flower arrangements to decorate the chateau. An incredibly unique way to see the chateau is by taking a boat ride directly under the chateau’s iconic arches, along the Cher River, either by canoe or boat. Or, see the chateau by air via a hot air balloon ride or plane.
Wine tasting stops in the area include the Chateau de Nitray, just 20 minutes from the chateau, located in a 106-acre landscaped park. Registered as a national heritage site since 1947, this Renaissance architectural masterpiece houses 25 acres of vineyards dating back three centuries, labelled AOC Touraine. For now, would-be travelers can experience the chateau via a virtual visit here. Another stop is Chateau de Fontenay, an intimate chateau-hotel and vineyard, offering five rooms in the chateau, and three cottages located in the 42-acre park. Finally, at Caves Monmousseau, visitors can try sparkling wines that have been perfected for over 130 years, while experiencing a very unique art show. In the underground cellars, images are illuminated on the tunnel walls, telling the story of the chateaux of the Loire through a spectacular sound and light show.
Sites to see in the Bourr area of the Loire Valley include the Cave Champignonnie des Roches, which grows button, shitake and blue foot mushrooms; in fact, 40% of the world’s blue foot mushrooms come from this farm. In total, 100 tons of high-quality mushrooms are produced here, all of which are harvested by hand. Other explorations include the Troglo Degusto wine cellar, where visitors can pair wine tastings of AOC Touraine-Chenonceaux with a stroll underground in a historic troglodytic cave site. For more wine tastings, Domaine de la Chapinire vineyard offers an equestrian center, vineyard and accommodations. Today, the domaine is part of the “Terra Vitis” association, an environmental certification ensuring they use sustainable practices. For families, a must-visit is the ZooParc de Beauval, regarded as one of the best zoos in the world, which is home to over 35,000 animals. In 2020, they unveiled a massive new Equatorial Dome, featuring 200 species in a bioclimatic structure, including saimiris, red ibis, and Komodo dragons.
Some of France’s best goat cheese can be found in Selles-sur-Cher, which is tangy and mild when young, becoming saltier and stronger when aged. Fromagerie HUCHET and Palais du Petit chevre in Chatillon-sur-Cher are top spots to find the cheese. Aside from tasting goat cheese, travelers should stop at Cha;teau de Selles-sur-Cher, a historic cha;teau and winery with Renaissance Pavillons, a medieval castle and a farm.
Located just 20 minutes south of the Cher River is Valencay, known largely by name for its goat cheese and wine. The Valencay vineyards, which overlook the scenic Cher, have a long history, with the first written records dating back to 965. White Valencay is fresh and balanced, with a nose of citrus and flower; red Valencay is structured, fine and fresh on the palate; and rosé; Valencay is flexible and structured. Top wine tasting spots include Domaine Roy and Domaine Jourdain. A perfect pairing with Valencay wine, Valencay PDO goat cheese is made from whole, raw goat’s milk, characterized by a truncated pyramid shape and a bluish gray rind. A top spot for cheese tasting is Fromagerie Jacquin. Find more details on Valencay AOC here.
Aside from the wine and cheese pairings, travelers in the area should look to Domaine de Poulaines spanning 62 acres of woodlands including beautiful themed gardens and an arboretum (with more than 1,200 plants). Beautiful trees and boxwood surround a Renaissance mansion and a set of buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. The domaine also offer overnight stays in private guest houses in the heart of the gardens.
Another must-visit is the Chateau de Valencay, one of the 22 major sites of the Loire Valley, featuring both Renaissance and classic architecture, overlooking the Nahon Valley. The estate’s 13-acre grounds feature traditional and modern gardens, a deer park, and a two-mile path. The chateau hosts the Talleyrand Festival every two years (with the next festival taking place in 2021), showcasing ancient musical instruments.
Located less than ten minutes from the Chateau de Valencay, at the foot of the majestic ruins of a Renaissance castle in a charming flower-filled village, is Restaurant Auberge St Fiacre. The restaurant is located in an authentic 17th-century house, transformed into a restaurant in the early 1970s, the restaurant today offers a selection of top local cuisine.