Mountain Men


Climbing the heights of Pic St.-Loup

I’ve visited a lot of vineyard estates, but when it comes to inspiring awe, few compare to the Ermitage du Pic St.-Loup in southern France.

Size makes a lot of the difference. On a clear day around Pic St.-Loup—a craggy 2,159-foot-high, sharkfin-shaped mountain in the Languedoc region—the sky seems as big and blue as it gets. In all directions are the rugged lands of the Ermitage.

The owners, the Ravaille family, cultivate 110 acres of vineyards, most of which fall in the newly designated Pic St.-Loup AOC that debuts with the 2017 vintage. But their estate, spreading out from the ruins of a 13th-century castle, covers more than 1,300 acres of Mediterranean forest and the fragrant Provençal scrub known as garrigue—including the entire sheer southern face of the Pic itself.

“Right up to the cross on top of the ridge is ours,” explains winemaker Pierre Ravaille as his mud-splattered truck bounces up a mountain path on a winter morning.

Ravaille calls the vineyards îlots (“little islands”) in a sea of wild green. “We have no neighbors, which is very good for preventing diseases,” he says. “Especially when you work organically.”

Ravaille stops his the full blog (free) at