Roaming around the Rhone and eating a little too much.

One of my most memorable trips was to France in 2012, when I visited the Rhone with two of our buyers. I love the breathtaking landscape and scenery, the wines, and the visits to our producers.

Travelling South from Lyon there were steep terraced vineyards amidst windy roads that spiralled around pointed mountain cliff tops. As we journeyed further South the landscape started to flatten out and became more rolling hills and Mediterranean in look and feel.

On our first night we stayed at La Gerine, a charming B&B high up in the hills of Cote Rotie with stunning views. That evening we ventured out, down winding roads and across the River to Vienne. It was our first night and we were eating out in style. L’espace PH3 is a restaurant owned by chef Patrick Henriroux, a very cool place, lots of modern décor and amazing art. I actually felt a little ‘uncool’ and out of place, but soon as we started eating I was in another world.

The following day (our first full day in the Valley), we were taken out to lunch at Auberge de la Source in Condrieu by our friend and supplier Tom Blagden who would be with us for the next two days. The views were amazing, breathtaking, but if you don’t have a head for heights do not take the window seat!

After lunch, we journeyed further South and our final stop for the night was in Tain, staying in Hotel des 2 Coteaux. A lovely hotel with a great view of the River Rhone. That evening we had dinner at Le Mangevins. I have to say this was an amazing evening, the menu was written on a chalk board on the wall and constantly changed. The restaurant itself, is very small and cosy so booking is essential, their food is something else, and of course the wine list is bang on. We had a 2006 Hermitage Le Gréal, Marc Sorrel. It was stunning, still a little young but it certainly did impress and matched the duck perfectly that we all had selected as our main course.

Leaving Tain and heading further South into the flatter landscapes we had another busy day of visits. We had a very filling lunch with Albéric Mazoyer, producer of Domaine Alain Voge who took us to La Villa Rouge, a rustic French restaurant with generous portions, I was in desperate need of a nap afterwards and fortunately I did manage a quick 5 minute snooze in the car.

A few more visits in the afternoon and then we headed for The Wine BB, this is where we were to be based for the next three nights. On arrival Daniele was there to greet us and show us her stunning home, I have to admit I loved staying here and one day hope to go back. That evening was to be our last with Thomas and he drove us into Avignon where we had a lighter meal of Japanese and sat outside people watching. It was a great evening but I really could not eat much after the huge lunch.

Still two full days left of visits and tastings, this time with Vicky from Gauntleys, a supplier who Lay & Wheeler work closely with. After a morning of lots of big Châteauneuf-du-Pape we were in need of more food, and a light lunch was provided by Vincent Maurel of Clos St. Jean who then showed us around his gleaming new winery.

That evening we were invited to dinner by Marie Giraud from Domaine Giraud (who we had visited that morning), we met and ate at Le Verger des Papes, a very pretty restaurant on the heart of Châteauneuf. Again more lovely food and matched with a wine from Domaine Giraud of course. Their top cuvee, Grenache de Pierre from 2006. It was superb.

On our last day of visits, we even managed to stop and take some stunning scenery photos around the Dentelles de Montmiral. Lunch was had at a little Pizzeria Restaurant, that unfortunately I cannot remember the name of, and after a fruitless search on the internet am none the wiser. Back to the Wine BB and we had a little time with Daniele our host, she gave us a tour of her Cellar and also rooms of the house that she had not yet renovated. A very interesting and talented lady. If you want somewhere to stay in Châteauneuf du Pape I highly recommend the Wine BB.

On our final meal out which was just the three of us, we found a lovely restaurant a short walk away, La Maisouneta. A wonderful selection on the menu however we all selected a fish dish, served with a simple house white, as I think we had all eaten plenty of meat that week!

Published on 09/11/2015 / By Paula Hunter