We love to celebrate at Classic Journeys. And we’re foodies. So we just have to share some good news from Provence: our long-time guide and her husband have just won two gold medals for their olive oil at the prestigious Paris International Agricultural Show. And this is no flash in the pan; last year Isabelle and Jean Roch won two silver medals. So we see a trend developing here. (Silver…gold …what’s next, is there something better than gold?)

Isabelle was born and raised in Avignon. Jean Roch is a product of Provence as well, but cut his teeth in Paris where he got his start as a chef in the mid 80’s. So it’s no surprise that their love of all things Provencal would eventually lead them to restore an old olive mill, and carefully blend their historic setting with the best modern and ancient techniques for creating their award-winning oil. Isabelle and Jean Roch’s award winning olive oil is produced at Moulin Barbentane. The mill is an historic structure, complete with its own windmill for power.

As Isabelle says, “So many people only know France by Paris. But this is not Paris and we have our own culture in Provence that I love to share with our guests!”

She goes on to rave about the olives from Provence, “Olive oil has become even more highly respected among Provencal people than wine. So producing olive oil makes me even more proud of Provence.”

At Classic Journeys, we see this as the perfect marriage of guide and region. Isabelle has been an award winning guide for 23 years, and takes that passion into every trip she guides for us, and every guest she introduces to her beloved region. And she stays close to the land and its people by helping Jean Roch at the olive mill whenever she’s not guiding.

Jean Roch was convinced that he could take what he learned as a chef and share those flavors through their oils. They have a small number of trees now and so select the best olives from their neighbors’ production. This allows them to hand pick only the best olives from a number of olive growers.

Field in provence

The results have been impressive. In 2011, they earned silver medals at Paris and Marseille for their “fruity green” pressings, and in 2012, the same fruity greens earned gold in Paris. Isabelle explains that they make four types of oil. Two fruity greens are pressed immediately after picking early in the harvest season. These have Provencal flavors like artichoke and tomato. They also press an ancient style that is made from more mature darker olives that are picked late in the season in December. The oldest villagers around them love this oil Isabelle says, because, “…they tell us it reminds them of when they were children.” And they round out their production with an oil blended with lemons found only in Corsica.

An olive oil tasting is just one memorable experience with Classic Journeys in Provence that includes visiting an abbey set in fields of lavender, viewing stunning remains of Roman architecture, following in van Gogh and Cezanne’s footsteps, shopping colorful markets, and  savoring private wine tastings and a cooking instruction.

Of course, Provence is not the only region where you can taste award winning olive oil with Classic Journeys. Other tasty spots include Tuscany and the Cinque Terre, the Italian LakesCroatia’s Dalmatian Coast,  Istrian Peninsula, and Crete on our Greek Isles tour. But as Isabelle says, “For the perfect combination of the beauty of the light, the food and the people, it’s hard to find it better than Provence!” Who are we to disagree?

All of our Provence trips visit Isabelle and Jean Roch’s lovely mill. For more information about our cultural walking adventuresculinary tours and multisport trips in Provence, drop us a line at blog@classicjourneys.com or phone us at 800-200-3887.