On Thursday May 25, which was a holiday in France, we (Walt and I plus four friends from California) drove over to the château de Valmer, which is known for its gardens.
Valmer is also a wine château. The owners produce Vouvray wines, which include still and sparkling white wines made from the Chenin Blanc grape. Vouvray wines run the gamut from very dry to very "sweet" -- that's the inadequate term in English for the French term moelleux, meaning "soft, mellow, smooth".
Vouvray's moelleux wines are produced in very good years and are wines in the same style as Sauternes or Monbazillac from the Bordeaux area. Only in good years can the grapes be left on the vine long enough for the noble rot to develop and concentrate the grapes' sugar.
Château de Valmer is the name of the wine estate, but is now a slight misnomer when it comes to describing the property. The château burned down in 1948, unfortunately. There are some buildings left, and the gardens are intact, but the main building is gone. It's former location is marked by a ring of yew hedges.
You pay 7.50 euros in admission at Valmer, but at the end you get a tasting of Vouvray wines for the price. We tasted a sparkling that was very good, and a moelleux that I wasn't too impressed with.
Between entering and tasting, you can wander around the grounds and gardens at your own pace. The setting is very nice. If you walk down the long tree-lined driveway and turn left, you can climb a gravel road up into the vineyards for a view of the property from above.
The whole site is very picturesque. The grounds encompass 200 acres of land, much of it forested, and are completely enclosed by a stone wall. There are formal gardens, an herb garden, and a large vegetable garden.
There's a rare (according to the Guide Michelin) troglodyte chapel on the estate. It's carved out of a rock cliff near the site of the old château and dates from at least the 16th century.
The formal gardens and terraces remain intact at Valmer, even though the château is gone.