The northern vineyards offer appellations in Saint-Peray, Cornas, Saint-Joseph, Mercurol, Hermitage and Crozes Hermitage. Some magnificent blends that are shared between the Ardèche, the Loire and the Drôme. An itinerary in the Rhône corridor that climbs into the vineyards with spectacular views over the Rhône River.
Château de Crussol. Lying abandoned since the XVth century, the fortress and its remnants of dwellings gathered around the dungeon seems to make just one with the rock. Perched on a rocky peak, the château overlooks the Rhône valley, giving spectacular views. Open to the public.
Saint-Péray. Small vineyard and great wine, the Saint-Péray, a product of two grapes, the marsanne and the roussane, was present on the table of the kings of France. A white wine, in AOC appellation since 1936, with a light gold colour and a very clear floral nose. A tranquil wine, it became a sparkling wine in 1829. Wagner, Baudelaire and Maupassant were inspired by its aromas. The Michelin starred chef, Anne-Sophie Pic who has her restaurant in Valence, acquired a small vineyard in the Saint-Péray area. www.saint-peray.net
Tourism office. In July and August, the tourism office organises paid-for guided tours of the wine estates in Saint-Péray, Cornas and Saint-Joseph with walks in the vineyards. Tel.: 04 75 40 46 75.
This charming medieval village, typical of the Ardèche region, has restored, in the traditional style, its terraces “courants sur les coteaux” . This remarkable work was done by passionate volunteers and has enabled the replanting of 2500 square metres of vines that now flourish in the five grapes varieties. The rural capital thus preserved and the village’s soul thus restored, the first harvest took place in September 2011. We await the next vatful! Fun and interactive, a footpath to help the public interpret the vines has been inaugurated. The starting point is on Place de la Mairie. Information at the Tourism Office. Tel.: 04 75 06 61 19.
Château de Maisonseule. An impressive building around a XIIIth century dungeon, the former feudal residence, perfectly restored, is now the home of the artist and comic, Yves Lecocq. The château is open to visitors from July to September.
Lamastre tourism office.. Tel.: 04 75 06 48 99
Alain Voge estate. Fodder, fruit trees and some vineyards on the hills, the first generation made a “vin de café” in bulk and some “effervescent wine”. How times have changed! Today, the vineyard is biodynamic. Alain Voge, with his whole team of artisan winemakers, produces Cornas and Saint-Péray wines. “It is not time that counts, but quality”, the four Saint-Péray blends are cultivated by hand. The Bulles d’Alain, the Saint-Péray champagne with light fine bubbles, continue to fizz in your glass. A tranquil wine, the 99 blend, Fleur de Crussol is produced from 70 year old marsanne plants. An elegant and suave wine with aromas of fruit and white flowers adopted by the Great Chef Paul Bocuse and recognized by Wine Spectator magazine. www.alain-voge.com
Colombo estate. Jean-Luc Colombo’s wines are vigorous, rigorous just like the work he puts into his vines. A winemaker by passion, Jean-Luc produces other Rhodanian nectars but it is his Saint-Joseph that holds the high ground. The Les Lauves 2010 vintage in red is the perfect illustration of the Cornas landscape. Tel.: 04 75 84 17 10
Erik Borja’s Zen Garden. Erik Borja is the reference when it comes to creating Japanese gardens. His garden, with the vegetation found in the Drôme region, is an interpretation of the Zen spirit. It invites you to a journey of discovery through streams, ponds, mineral and vegetal, all in harmony and serenity. Open to the public, the garden hold the “Vignobles et Découvertes” label. 530 Chemin du Jardin Zen. Tel.: 04 75 07 32 27. www.erikborja.fr
Saint-Romain de Lerps
Château du Besset
The XVth century château is set at the top of a vast hill at the heart of the Vivarais. Pablo and Florence Estrader, the owners, Dante and Fleur, their big dogs and also the horses, are all here to welcome you to the château. Never ending space, pure nature, horses, dogs.. it’s a nice place to be. Surrounded by villages with magnificent vintages, Saint-Péray and Cornas, the place is in tune. The Ardèche is at its chicest at Besset. The old silkworm nursery has been turned into just a few supremely comfortable and modern designed suites by Florence. There is nothing there to cloud the view or your mind. No tv, no shouts, no pastries, nothing ostentatious, ideal for blasé citizens, hungry for simplicity and serenity. Table d’hôte, swimming pool and unlimited walks. Tel.: 04 75 58 26 51. www.chateaudubesset.com
The vineyard route
Starting in Saint-Romain de Lerps, the small road that climbs up and winds like shoelaces through the vineyards and then down towards the Rhône River and Chateaubourg is magnificent. Hanging on the hillsides, we are at the heart of the typical Ardèche landscape, with vines supported by stakes, punctuated here and there by fruit trees.
Courbis estate . The rigour applied to the vinification of the wines on Dominique and Laurent Courbis’ estate has seen great results. Precision of the tannins, clarity of aromas, the 2009 vintage in red is tasty, subtle, a real ray of sunshine on the table. www.vins-courbis-rhone.com
The Chauvet Cave .
High place of Prehistoric times with over 4000 animals painted and engraved over 300 years ago, the Cave, discovered in 1994, is not open to the public. On the site, an exhibition with a 20 minute video reveals this remarkable treasure. The Chauvet Cave is a UNESCO World Heritage candidate site. To support its candicacy : www.grotte-chauvet.org
Mauves. The « Mauves » wine, recognised since 1956 in a Saint-Joseph appellation, stretches over 60 km along the meanders of the Rhône River in the Ardèche and the Loire. Rousanne, marsanne and syrah grapes give syrupy, lively and fruity white wine and noble red wines. The Mauves wine, cited by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Victor Hugo in Les Misérables, has a nice future to look forward to!
Gonon Estate.Planted on the granite hillsides of Mauve, the 10 hectares of vineyards on the estate are worked on in the most natural way possible. The ploughing is done with a horse that comes to work in the vines, without any weed killers or pesticides. Without any claim of organic certification, Jean and Pierre Gonon sculpt their vines and design their wines as art. An estate full of promise in Saint-Joseph appellation that offers a tasty, dense and straight wine. Visits by appointment. Tel : 04 75 08 45 27.
Gripa Estate.A wine that is authentic at the historic heart of the appellation that explains its finesse and elegance. Bernard Gripa and his son Fabrice work hard to preserve the authenticity of their Saint-Joseph without wanting to stretch towards the powerfulness and density of a Côte-Rôtie. The Saint-Joseph 2009 vintage in white reveals a pronounced and indulgent minerality with notes of warm stones. The Saint-Péray, Les Figuiers 2009 vintage, a white wine that is perfumed, fruity and round, with expressions of bergamot and lime. Pleasing drinks. hermite.fr/domaine-bernard-gripa
At the confluence of the Doux and Rhône Rivers
The Château Museum. An imposing XVth and XVIth century château perched on a rock along the river. The museum relates the history of the lords of Tournon and of the ‘batellerie’. One of the rooms is dedicated to Marc Seguin. In 1825 he built the longest suspension bridge and footbridge in Western Europe. www.ville-tournon.com
Vineyards from the waterside.A cruise is another way of discovering the terraced vineyards hanging from the hillsides lining the banks of the Rhône River from Tournon to Valence and Tain-l’Hermitage.
Tournon Tourism Office. Tel.: 04 75 08 10 23
Carafes en Folies. Wine bar, restaurant, table top shop selling carafes, the place is the embodiment of sharing and conviviality around a good wine and a good local dish. Jean-François Malsert and Amélie Claeys have simply found the right formula. 56 Avenue du Maréchal Foch. Tel.: 04 75 08 19 52. www.carafes-en-folie.com
The name rings like a promise, a taste of paradise. Well it’s a promise kept! The shop « Vignes en Vers » poeticises wine, and is an invitation to discovery, tasting, feeling. Each activity, with or around wine, is orchestrated by Marie-Josée Faure and Katia Vernet. A necessary twosome with so many good ideas. Les Sens’Ciel is a meeting crossroads. For the wines, a selection from local organic producers and also from the « Femme Vignes Rhône » group of producers. For the food, local dishes served by the plateful are perfect to accompany a glass of Cotes du Rhône. For the entertainment, you’ll always find a musical or literary evening starting at 8pm. Do take a look at their website to find out more. 17 rue Gabrielle Faure. Tel.: 04 75 07 60 99. www.vin-et-sens.com
Saint-Jean de Muzols
La Maison Delas . Dating from 1835, the Maison Delas Frères, represents all the AOC of the Rhône Valley’s great wines, from Tavel to the Côte-Rôtie. From North to South, their vineyards punctuate the Rhône Valley landscape. Their production site, the « parent company », is located in Saint-Jean de Muzols and has a winery, a barrel cellar, a showroom and a wine library that can be visited. The estate is now under the Deutz Roederer fold. www.delas.com
Michelas-St Jemms estate. Located on what used to be the land of the Marquis of Mercural in the Middle-Ages, the history of the estate, established in 1961, is closely linked to the development of Crozes Hermitage. The bottling process dates from 1970 and it is Sylvie Chevrol Michelas with all her family Corinne, Florent and Sebastien who have been running the estate ever since. Their Crozes Hermitage 2008 vintage, La Chasselière, a very aromatic wine with smoky notes, is the Guide Hachette 2011’s favourite pick. Our own favourite is the Saint-Joseph Sainte Epine 100% marsanne white, round, fat and floral with subtle aromas of blackcurrant, delicious with goat’s cheese. Tastings of wine and regional produce at the cellar. www.michelas-st-jemms.fr
The city, dominated by the hillsides on which terraced vineyards flourish, is dedicated heart and soul to the Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage appellations. Prestigious vintages where Syrah is the only grape variety making up Hermitage and Crozes Hermitage. Wines that start off slightly spicy, fine and fruity with aromas of violet, that with time, evolve onto dark fruits, chocolate and pepper.
Tourism Office of the Hermitage county. Tel.: 04 75 98 06 81
Maison Chapoutier . A reference for AOC Hermitage and Crozes Hermitage wines. This venerable house founded in 1879 has been producing wine biodynamically since 1991.
Michel Chapoutier, creator of wines, passionate man, advocate of change and respect runs the 360 hectares of vineyards. Vineyards he works on in France, with 34 hectares producing Hermitage as well as estates in Australia and in Portugal. Needless to say the list of his magnificent vintages is a long one. “Delicacies and Wine”: Chapoutier and the Michelin starred chef from the Hotel Meurice in Paris, Yannick Alléno, have partnered up to run a vineyard in Saint-Joseph. www.chapoutier.com
Caveau Chapoutier. In the centre of Tain, the shop is decorated with wood panels in true English style and one of the only, to our knowledge, to offer a large selection of half bottles in AOC with labels in Braille for the sight-impaired. 18 avenue Paul Durand. Tel.: 04 75 08 92 61
Tain l’Hermitage Cellar. Just outside Tain, it is a very impressive cellar, not least for the selection of bottles from some 300 local producers. On the shelves, the Hermitage and Crozes Hermitage take pride of place. With over a thousand hectares of vineyards, the cellar produces five classified blends and some Vins de Pays. The Gambert de Loche estate, which is privately owned by the cellar and named after its founder in 1933 produces its own wines and organises discovery workshops all year long including a “Wine and Truffle from the hills of the Drôme” course that is highly popular with visitors. 22 route de Larnage. Tel.: 04 75 08 29 82. www.cavedetain.com
In the footsteps of Gambert. Starting off from the cellar, an itinerary in 11 steps that enables you to discover the region’s wine heritage. An 1 hour 45 minute walk over 4km of terraced vineyards.
Le Fief de Gambert. The former townhouse is dedicated to wine tourism with a tasting room and workshops.
Umia – Secrets de Goût. Valhrona’s pastry chef, Frédéric Bau and Rika, his Japanese wife, settled at the Gamber estate to open this restaurant in the middle of the vineyard. A nice stop to rest and enjoy a few poetic and exotic dishes.
Route de Chantemerle les Blés. Tel.: 04 75 09 19 85. www.umia.fr
Valrhona Chocolate factory. . The birthplace of great chocolate and pleasure! The chocolate factory, established in 1938, is open to the public. For those with a sweet tooth, the shop is located right next door. 14-16 avenue du Président Roosevelt. Tel.: 04 75 07 90 62
For the more dedicated ones among you, the Grand Chocolat School proposes “Gourmet” courses. Tel.: 04 75 07 90 95. www.valrhona.com
From Hermitage to Saint-Joseph
This itinerary has received the « Vignobles et Découvertes » label and connects the vineyards of Hermitage to those of Saint Joseph. A guarantee for welcome and quality with higher visibility that has been instigated by professionals to meet the demands of wine tourists. The destination offers a selection of cellars, estates, accommodation, restaurants and sites to visit.
Tourism Office Rhône Crussol label «Vignobles et découvertes» www.rhone-crussol-tourisme.com
Le Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval. Famous and truly unique, born from the imagination of a postman, the Palace is renowned the world over. Just 30 kilometers from Saint Vallier, it is further away from the vineyards but still a must see. A dreamed up world according to Monsieur Cheval, a labyrinth of temples, mosques, medieval castles, Swiss chalets, fountains covered with oyster or snail shells. A surrealist and magical work of art. Tel.: 04 75 68 81 19 www.facteurcheval.com