Travelogue – The Northern Rhône: Ampuis, Condrieu, Tournon-Sur-Rhone, Cornas

Hi wine-lovers, sorry for the silence.  I’ve enjoyed a summer full of travels and exciting life happenings, the time just seems to slip away faster and faster and here we are!  I’ve been sitting on these travelogue updates so stay tuned for a play by play of another wonderful tour through France.

First up, the Northern Rhône, a region I honestly knew very little about.  We started our 10 day trip here by flying into Lyon (by way of Manchester on Thomas Cook airlines, I’m sure you’ve never heard of them, we hadn’t, but for $200 you can fly from JFK).  We spent one night in Ampuis in a forgettable hotel, but the price was right and location set us up for the start of our tasting and tours.  We enjoyed a fabulous dinner on the back patio of Bistrot de Serine with 2 bottles of local wine.  There is nothing better than that first sip on the first day of vacation!!

After the deepest most amazing sleep ever, we started our day with a tour and tasting at Domaine Gerin.  Jean Michel’s son Alexis tasted us through their range of Cote Rotie wines.  I don’t have much experience with Syrah but these wines were such a wonderful expression of the grape.  The terrain in Cote Rotie (which literally translates to “roasted slope”) is steep terraced vineyards that make for backbreaking work to farm, a true labor of love.  The wines are powerful, rich, yet luscious.

We continued on down the road to Yves Cuilleron in Condrieu, the heart of “Viognier” territory.  Another grape I don’t have much experience with, but need to drink more of!  These wines were delicious as well, with an astonishing offering of different blends and single vineyard selections to choose from, we were able to taste and compare the influence of the terroir of each site.

We drove through the gorgeous hilltop town of Malleval as we continued down the valley to lunch at Auberge Monnet.  Jared said this was his favorite lunch of the trip!  Another lovely back patio to enjoy.

After lunch we did a quick tour through Valence, which was a slightly larger town, but looked like it would be a nice place to stay as well with lots of cute shops, squares, and buzzing restaurants.  We were too late for the Saturday morning market but apparently it’s a good one.

Our last stop of the day was a tasting at Jean-Luc Colombo in Cornas.  We piled into a vintage Defender for a ride to the top of the steep sloping vineyards overlooking the Rhône, Valence, and Saint-Péray.  Back to the tasting room for a run through some of their best Syrah, Viogner and Roussanne.  I had only ever had their rosé before so it was great to see the full line-up.

With a full-day of tasting under our belts, we made our way back up the Rhône to the town of Tournon-sur-Rhône.  In contrast to our first night, Hôtel de la Villeon was a magical reprieve in the middle of the town.  An unassuming front hides the majestic interior of a completely refurbished 18th century townhouse mansion, complete with a lovely back patio and spectacular rooftop with views of Hermitage hill!
A warm welcome at Hôtel de la Villeon Views from the rooftop of Hôtel de la Villeon
We enjoyed our welcome drink on the roof before one of my favorite dinners of the trip at Le Cerisier.  My brown butter langoustine starter and fish entree with horseradish beurre blanc were truly the most memorable of the trip.  A bottle of Saint-Péray from Domaine Clape was the perfect accompaniment.

We returned to the hotel for a nightcap on the roof.
Gorgeous Views at Hôtel de la Villeon
The next morning we took a walk on the hill above the hotel, providing sweeping views of the Rhône, Tain, and Hermitage hill.  Breakfast at the hotel is not to be missed, with a delicious assortment of breads and pastries, cheese, dozens of jams and honeys and the cutest little egg steamer for a perfectly boiled egg.

We were so sad to leave this little slice of heaven but our trip only allowed one night.  We packed up and visited the Sunday market in Bourg-les-Valence then returned to Tain for a visit to Domaine Chapoutier.  Darling Maude welcomed us into the tasting room and gave us the best introduction to these wines. 

Afterwards, we made the pilgramage up to the top of Hermitage hill and walked out to the famous “La Chapelle”.  The views were incredible, it’s no wonder this is one of the most iconic vineyard sites in the world.  The vines near the Chapel are over 100 years old and produce some of the most prized wines in the world.  We stood at the top, looking over the curve of the river, a picture-perfect end to our tour of the Northern Rhône.

We jumped in the car for lunch on the road and a 3 hour drive north to the Jura.  Stay tuned!

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  2. Valérie Antomarchi September 20, 2018 at 6:23 am

    Dear Caroline,Thank you so very much for your so kind appreciation about your stay in our mansion – we were truly glad to welcome you and we hope to meet you again in Tournon-sur-Rhône, please feel comfortable to contact us anytime shall you need anything.
    The entire Team wishes you all the best,
    Kindest regards,

    Valérie Antomarchi – Director

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