When sipping a L’Apéro les Trois Lavender Lemon Spritz on a hot summer day with friends and family, while someone splashes in a pool or riverside, history is probably not uppermost in your mind. However, both lavender and lemons have long histories that are part of this drink.
Provence, in southern France, is the region of the world most closely associated with lavender today, but it did not originate there. The Romans brought it there 2,000 years ago where it thrived in the dry Mediterranean climate. Lavender was growing wild on the rocky slopes and cultivated in the herbal gardens of the early Gallo-Roman farms. During the Middle Ages, monasteries and abbeys grew lavender in their gardens for medicinal purposes.
Over the centuries, lavender spread throughout the harsh, dry hillsides and plateaus of Provence and was harvested on a first come, first served basis by local families. The lavender was cut with hand scythes and carried out in huge linen bundles to be weighed and sold to brokers and merchants.
In the mid-to late 1800s, the French perfume industry – centered in Grasse – was booming. Lavender flowers were distilled into essential oil and became an increasingly important ingredient in the scents created by the great perfume houses like Fragonard and Gallimard.
By the early twentieth century, the gathering of wild lavender had become regulated with an open and closing date for the harvest. Some families acquired portable distilleries, making it possible to distill their lavender harvest on site and to sell the valuable essential oil rather than the fresh lavender.
During these early years, it was noted that there were two distinctly different types of wild lavender, and occasionally a third. The third type, called lavandin, was identified in 1927 as a hybrid of the other two and was considered the most desirable for fragrance and oil. This type became the standard for cultivated lavender.
By the 1970s, the family gathering of wild lavender and family distilleries had disappeared, replaced by the now famous plateaus and rolling hills of cultivated lavender that have become emblematic of Provence.
Although most of the lavender today still goes to the perfume industry, there is also an increasing market for artisan culinary lavender for both sweet and savory uses. Dried lavender is important for the floral industry and of course for soaps, creams, and other beauty products.
Not surprisingly, lavender thrives in California’s Mediterranean climate. And while the plantings are yet to rival those of Provence, they are an asset to the local markets. Many of the growers produce lines of soaps and other products, including Capay Valley Lavender Farm, which is not far from the L’Apero les Trois tasting lounge in Winters.
So, as you sip that refreshing spritz redolent with lavender, you are sipping history.
Fête de Lavande
In June L’Apéro les Trois is joining with Capay Valley Lavender Farm to celebrate the harvest with a three-day Fête de Lavande in the French style at the L’Apéro les Trois tasting room in downtown Winters. Samples of food and drink using lavender will be available, bundles of fresh lavender, cut daily, will be for sale, along with a variety of lavender products. Special guest, Sherri Wood, founder, and owner of the Capay Valley Lavender Farm will be speaking. Please join us!
- June 16 – 3:00 PM to 8:00 PM
- June 17 – 11:30 AM to 8:00 PM; Sherri Woods at 3:00 PM
- June 18 – 11:30 AM to 5:30 PM
Lavender Lemon Spritz
Make sure all ingredients are well-chilled. In a cocktail or apéritif glass, add the syrup, followed by the wine and aperitif. Stir well. Add the Perrier, and 3-5 ice cubes.
- 1 teaspoon Capay Valley Lavender Farm lavender simple syrup
- 2 ounces Berryessa Gap Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc
- 2 ounces L’Apéro les Trois Meyer Lemon Apéritif
- 1 ounce Perrier
- Ice cubes
- Fresh lavender sprig for garnish
Makes 1 cocktail