8 ways Lyon is better to visit then paris

the new york times on why to visit lyon
As our readers know, we love wine and good restaurants. We also like jazz and this trip gave us an opportunity to enjoy them all. Lyon is the third largest city in France, and contrary to what many believe, it is considered the culinary capital of France. So, it has many great restaurants, including many with Michelin stars. As for the wine, it is located directly between several of the leading wine regions of France - Beaujolais and Burgundy to the north, and the Rhone Valley located to the south. As fot the jazz, just south (about 25 KM) of Lyon is a small town called Vienne, which has a well known jazz festival during the first 2 weeks in July.


In addition to all the above, we found Lyon to be a lovely city to visit, with world class museums, and lovely parks. It's clean, very walkable, and has a great public transport system. It also has its own music festival called Fourvier Nights during June and July, and we managed to attend one of the concerts. More about that below.

We spent 5 nights in Lyon, then we rented a car and drove north into Beaujolais, where we visited a few wineries. We stayed overnight in Vaux-en-Beaujolais, continued our visit of the area the following morning, and at the end of the day, drove to Vienne, where we stayed for 4 nights. While in Vienne, we spent our mornings and early afternoons visiting wineries in the northern Rhone Valley, and our evenings in Vienne proper. On one evening we ate at our hotel's 2 star restaurant, and on the other 2, we went to jazz concerts.

While in Lyon, we stayed at the Hotel Silky (the whole rather cumbersome name is "Hotel Silky by Happy Culture"), which is located right in the middle of the Presquille area. This is an absolutely perfect location. It’s surrounded by shops and restaurants, and there is a metro station (Cordelier) about a 1 minute walk away. It's walking distance from Bellecour, the Fine arts Museum, and the old town. Other positive things about the hotel are the helpful friendly staff and the happy hour wine and snacks at 6 PM.


There are a few negatives as well. We took a superior double room. It was large but not very well designed. There were no shelves or drawers to put our belongings. Except for a small desk, there were only tiny little tables to put a few things on. Also, the breakfast room was in the basement, with a tight spiral staircase to get down into it. Access to the breakfast room is impossible for anyone with mobility restrictions. All things taken into account, we might stay here again on another visit to Lyon.

silk weavers of lyon

silk weaving in historic lyon
We visited 3 museums in Lyon - one of the biggest, one of the smallest, and one of the most interesting. The biggest was the Museum of Fine Arts. This is one of the leading art museums of France. It is well worth a visit. We spent between 2 and 3 hours there. The smallest museum was hardly a museum. It is the "Maison des Canuts", located in the Croix Rousse quarter. It's a tiny little storefront with a couple of rooms detailing the history of the silk industry in Lyon. Entry costs a couple of Euros and it was a fun, albeit short, visit. They also sell  a variety of items made of silk. We were there with a class of 5th graders.

exhibit in the
silk museum


The most interesting museum was the "Lumierre Institute", which chronicles the lives and the works of the Lumierre brothers, the earliest pioneers of the film industry. The museum is set in the mansion they lived in for most of their lives, and is full of their inventions, with a big collection of their early work. If you can only visit one museum in Lyon, this is the one not to miss. On the morning we visited, there was also a large street market taking place right outside the museum.

pioneers of cinema

early cinema:
lummiere brothers

As noted above, there is a music festival in Lyon during June and July, called Fourviere Nights.There are several venues, but the main events take place in the Ancient Roman Theatre located on Fourvier Hill. We attended one concert here, with the British singer Benjamin Clementine. The setting is trully amazing. Fourvier hill is located above the city of Lyon, and the views of the city are incredible. The ampitheatre is well preserved, with seating for several thousand spectators.  There are actually 2 Roman theatres located on Fourviere Hill, but we never saw the second, smaller one which is called Odeon.   The other attractions up on Fourviere Hill are a large park, the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere, and great views of the city.

Basilique notre dame de fourviere as seen from the city

We enjoyed the concert, although we found the amphitheatre quite difficult to navigate. It was packed, without a free seat, and it was impossible to get up and walk around, even to the bathroom. Also, the high stone stairs were quite difficult to deal with. The security check was quite thorough, and umbrellas and water bottle tops were taken away! The umbrellas were checked and we understood why, but water bottle caps? This was inexplicable and no one ever managed to explain to us why. Not surprisingly, water was spilled all over because of the uncovered bottles.

clementine performing alone at the end of the concert
As for the performance by Benjamin Clementine, he was very entertaining. Here is a youtube video of one of the funnier moments during the concert. When we entered the concert, we were all given free little cushions to sit on. At the end of the concert, the entire audience started flinging the pillows like frisbies onto the stage. Clementine took it all in stride and contrinued performing on-stage, alone, for another 20 mintues amongst hundreds of little pillows strewn around him.

a view of part of the crowd with lyon at sunset in the background

It's possible to walk up to Fourviere Hill (a tough climb!), or take the metro line which used to be a funicular. You can drive up as well. Another attraction up on the hill is a large park, and the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere. It's a beautiful church in a beautiful setting  towering over the city below.

saint-jean cathedral as seen from above on fourvier hill
Another major attraction of Lyon is the old town, which has several places worth visiting. First of, there is the Cathedral Saint-Jean which has a very popular astronomical clock. The old city has lots of history that reflects the development of the city. It has 3 sections, "Saint Paul" in the north, "Saint George" in the south, and in the center, "Saint Jean", which is the heart of the old town. The main street is Rue Saint Jean and it is a delightful street for a stroll. It's full of interesting stores and restaurants, and also has its share of "Traboules", the tunnels under the houses only found in Lyon.

So, what are these traboules? They are tunnels which run under the houses and connect various streets or courtyards. They are entwined with the history of the city and are found in several different quarters, although the most are in the old town and the Croix-Rousse district. Many are closed, but the open ones can be visited and there are various tours available to see some of them. At the information center in Plaza Bellecour, there is information, and the possibility to sign on for a free tour. Here is a link to a free tour.

Unfortunately, while we were in Lyon, there were no tours available. On the other hand, any guided tour of Lyon old town, or of Croix-Rousse includes a peek into the traboules. We noticed that the entrances to the traboules which we saw while we were in the old town are locked with a coded entry. Apparently, the tour guides know how to get in. There were several tour groups walking around, and they all visited the traboules. We just went in after a couple of tour groups while the door was still open, and saw what there was to see. Picture of a trboule tunnel to the right.

inside a traboule

We visited the Croix-Rousse district where there is the biggest street market in Lyon every Friday morning. This district is the center of the silk industry and is a must to visit. Here we visited the silk museum, and saw one of the symbols of modern Lyon - the urban "murals". In the 1970's, the Lyon city government began commissioning incredible murals in various parts of the city, depicting its historical aspects  and its historical figures . One of the links to the right describes the historical background, and this site includes a map and some great images of the most famous of the approximately 150 murals in Lyon.
slideshow on the murals of lyon

history of the lyon murals

professor arnie greenberg on the lyon murals

The first one we came across is one of the best known - "Mur des Canuts", which is located in the Croix-Rousse neighborhood. It is really extraordinary. The detail and colors and realistic perspective draw you right into the mural. To the left is a full view of this mural, and to the right is a closer-up shot which includes Alisa "interacting" with one of the figures. I was most impressed by the fact that these murals are maintained properly and  are in perfect condition. There's no peeling paint or unappealing graffiti added to them by over enthusiastic street painters.

above and below

We saw a few other murals, but the most impressive one  was called "The Mural For The People of Lyon" (in French - La Fresque des Lyonnais). It is incredible. It wraps completely around a building, and depicts 31 historical personages connected to Lyonaise history. It is located at ALISA IN THE MURALS

the guardian:
10 top restaurants in lyon

the best restaurants in lyon

There are 2 significant kinds of restaurants in Lyon (other than fast food, pizza, or various small eateries). There are the fine dining restaurants, and the "Bouchon" restaurants. Lyon has more than its share of Michelin star restaurants, but the city is just as famous for its Bouchon style restaurants . What is a Bouchon? Below is a concise description taken from this site (the online food magazine Saveur) which provides a full description and history of Bouchons in Lyon:

"Bouchons are bistros of a sort, but with even more limited menus. Their decor tends to be modest to the point of austere. Some have paper tablecloths, and some don't change the cutlery between courses—but the food and ambience of any good bouchon will warm the coldest heart. The majority of these establishments are family-run, and most of the chefs are women—the spiritual descendants of Mere Brazier, Mere Fillioux, Tante Paulette, and other female master chefs who contributed so much to the glory of Lyonnais gastronomy earlier this century. Bouchon prices are always reasonable: Ample menus for $25 or so (including service but not wine) are common."
how to spot an authentic lyon bouchon

foodcrafter's guide to lyon bouchons

alisa considering her options at le musee
I hunted for a bouchon as typical and authentic as possible, and picked "Le Musee", as the one. We weren't disappointed. We made a reservation, and it's good that we did. The place was packed only a few minutes after we had arrived. The seating is at long tables elbow to elbow. You get to know your neighbors quickly. Here at Le Musee, there is no menu - just the waiter telling you what's available. The food is typical country fare - heavy on the meat and organs. There's fish and salads too - for the fainthearted. We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch here.  Our neighbor to oneside explained to us that he has been eating there for 30 years, and treated us to a carafe of wine.
All in all - "a good time was had by all". 
The restaurant has no website, but here is a short description of the restaurant by the Michelin Guide.

rabbit terrine
at le musee


This is a beautiful restaurant located about halfway up the Fourviere Hill, so it has an incredible view of the city of Lyon below. Unfortunately, the reservation we had made a month earlier on the Fork site, didn’t get to the restaurant. I later found out that Fork had confused the date of the reservation, and the restaurant thought we were dining there 3 days later. I wrote to Fork to complain, but unfortunately, their response was inadequate and disappointing. In the future, if I make a reservation with the "Fork", I will check directly with the restaurants.

Fortunately, the restaurant had open tables, although we had to sit in an “inner room”,  rather than on the beautiful terrace with the lovely view. Happily, the fabulous meal we had made up for any unpleasantness regarding the reservation, and we quickly forgot about it.
Everything about the meal was excellent. My wife ordered a la carte, and I had the gourmet menu with 3 courses. There were 2 amuse bouche, one with 2 parts, one of meat and one of cheese. The other was a creamed paella.


My wife ordered Dublin bay prawns with ceviche and wild turbot. My standout dish was sweetbreads with cauliflower puree, which was fabulous. I also had a delicious dish with breast of pigeon pictured on the left. All the food here was exquisite, with excellent vibrant flavors. We washed it down with the first of many Condrieu white wines which we drank on this visit, which we found amazing. This one was from Chateau Cuilleron.


chicken stuffed with escargot

It's another lovely restaurant and we had a wonderful lunch here. Alisa had a 2 course menu, and I ordered the "Decouverte menu". Alisa dishes included lobster with citrus and celeriac, and sea bass with artichoke. My menu included langoustine grilled lightly with mushrooms and panchette, and chicken stuffed with escargot. Everything was delicious.

The most exceptional part of the meal were the desserts, which looked like they came straight from Disneyworld, or maybe outer space. They were incredibly presented and were delicious. Our desserts to the left and right. They were too comlicated to even try to describe.



the lovely amuse bouche for 2
described to the right
Le Passe Temps is a Michelin star restaurant featuring French cuisine with a Korean touch. We had dinner here. The service was very polite and precise. The dishes were all presented beautifully, but we were a little disappointed that the flavors were so “subtle”. I’ve eaten Korean food in Korea so I expected something a little different. The restaurant is very small – maybe 10 or 12 tables – and the self-standing wine cabinet in the middle takes up about half of it. Despite the prominent wine cabinet, the waiter introduced as the sommelier was not very professional.

The first amuse bouche was little balls of gruyere with cream – very tasty. The second amuse bouche was tiny tarts with avocado and peapod, and a delicious cold soup – very impressive, and very delicious. Picture to the left. My lamb dish was the best dish of the night, with artichoke, little potatoes, and grean pea sauce, picture to the right. The price for the menu we took (Menu Balade) was very reasonable at 50 Euros.

To summarize our visit to Lyon, I can say that it is a lovely city, with plenty to do and see, and plenty of great restaurants. If the opportunity arises, we would happily come back for another visit.


We rented a car and left Lyon on a Saturday morning. Our destination was Beaujolais, the wine region directly north of Lyon. Beaujolais has gotten a "bum rap" because of the totally commercial worldwide event associated with it - "Nouveau Beaujolais", where people all over the world drink "new Beaujolais" at midnight on the third Thursday of November. The wine is young and cheap, and usually not very good, and doesn't  represent the very good wines which are produced in Beaujolais.On the other hand, it is the world's largest single annual wine event, and it's put Beaaujolais on the worldwine wine map.
Lonely planet's beaujolais
wine route

how to find good beaujolais wines

interesting facts about Nouveau beaujolais

we were in beaujolais, but the sign indeed says "Bourgogne"
Driving through Beaujolais is a delight. It's a lovely region. Many compare its rolling hills to Tuscany in Italy, and it's generally considered to be the prettiest of France's wine regions. In addition, Beaujolais is administratively part of Burgundy, although its wine and terrior are quite different. Some of its wine, during certain years, has been labeled as Burgundy wine. The main red grape is gamay. We visited several towns and tasted wine at several wineries during our 2 day visit. It was a lovely weekend.
We started by driving to Villefrance-sur-Saone (large and uninviting), then Oingt (small and beautiful), and spent the night in Vaux-en-Beaujolais (small and quaint), at a lovely small hotel called Auberge de Clochemerle. More about each below. 

beautiful scenery in Julienas, in northern beaujolais

tasting wines at Guillardière
There's nothing to write about Villefrance. We stopped, parked, looked around and decided to continue to Oingt. Oingt (pronounced "waa" with a gutteral "aa"), is a really beautiful village, with all the houses finished in beautiful honey colored stone. Here we visited the Domaine  la Guillardière. This winery is owned and run by Pascal and Isabelle Guillard, who were delightful hosts. We had a lovely tasting of their refreshing wines, bought a bottle of their best, and then Isabel drove us to the restaurant she recommended for lunch in Oingt. She drove us because she explained that it is impossible to park in the village, but the restaurant is close enough to walk back to the winery.

visit oingt, by
"france this way"

the view from the window at Guillardière

lovely honey village of oingt
The restaurant Isabel recommended was called "la vielle auberge d'Oingt"  (The Old Inn of Oingt"). It was a lovely and lively little restaurant with a pleasant lady who ran the place, took the orders, served the food, and probably cooked as well. The food was country fare with vegetarean possibilities, and we enjoyed the meal, even if the service was a bit slow. Then we walked back to Guillardière, said goodby to Pascal and Isabel, and drove off to Vaux-en-Beaujolais.  

Vaux-en-Beaujolais is a pleasant little town in the countryside of the Beaujolais region. It includes a couple of boutique hotels, the “Caves of Clochemerle”, (a musty wine bar and museum), and a mural telling the story of the Beaujolais. The mural adorns the small tourist center which is located right across from the Caves of Clochemerle. It’s a charming little village to visit.

the caves of clochemerle
We visited the "cave", although there are no caves to be seen. It's just a bar/museum with lots of artifacts and pictures on the walls. Wine tasting was available of a selection of the local wines, but we just had a couple of glasses on one particular wine. This wine bar is situated on a little square which includes the local tourist office whichis artfully camouflaged by a Lyon City style mural. Picture to the right.

building covered by mural

There is an amusing story which goes with the town. The village was the actual town (in the book called Clochemerle) in a novel called "Clochemerle" written by French novelist Gabriel Chevallier in 1934.  In the story, a urinal is setup in the center of the village which leads to lots of humor. I plead ignorance about this story, as I only found out about it while compiling information for this travel page. Here is a Youtube video about the urinal in 2011. I assume it is still there (it's a planter today). We may have walked right by it without noticing it (or using it). According to this site, the book was made into a movie and a BBC comedy series. The book is available on Ebay and Amazon. Here is a site with a short explanation.

breakfast room at auberge de clochemerle
In Vaux, we stayed in a lovely little boutique hotel called Auberge de Clochemerle. The hotel is beautifully decorated, and the hotel’s Michelin star restaurant is absolutely great.
Be aware that there is no elevator and the rooms on the second floor require ascending 2 flights of stairs. Breakfast cost extra but was elegantly presented with the flair of the restaurant’s chef, Romain Barthe. The heart of the entire operation is Garth’s wife Delphine. She clearly runs the whole show, and is obviously an artist at heart, and the entire hotel is beautiful and well maintained.


The meal at the Clochemerle restaurant was outstanding. It’s lovely and the food and service were impeccable. In some ways chef Romain Barthe is almost too creative. There were so many dishes, and so many flavors, including about 5 different amuse bouche.  Even the 3 kinds of bread were artfully presented.

Everything was delicious, although there were several highlights which were unforgettable. My favorite dish was the langoustine with fennel and some sort of foam, although my perfectly prepared lamb dish was also fabulous. If you are in Lyon, a meal at this restaurant is worth the ride to Vaux-en-Beaujolais.

my absolutely wonderful
lamb dish


arthur sellers on moulin a vent & chateau gimarets

forbes on
remaking moulin a vent wine

We left Vaux-en-Beaujolais on Sunday morning and headed north to Moulin-à-Vent, the region with what is considered the best Beaujolais wine. The wine made here is known as the "king of the Beaujolais crus".  As far as I could tell, there's no town or village called Moulin a Vent, and the most significant town (village?) is called Romanèche-Thorins. We visited 2 wineries here - one carrying with it the history and prestige of the entire region, and the other a small family winery making new history for the region.


The first we visited was Chateau Moulin-a-Vent, a historic chateau carrying the name of the appelation. We were welcomed by the owner of the chateau, Jean-Jacques Parinet. He made us feel welcome and we tasted a variety of the chateau wines. He explained to us how this area of Beaujolais is considered to be part of Burgundy, and showed us that certain vintages of Chateau Moulin-a-Vent have been labeled as Burgundy wine, but not all. We came to understand that there are "political" factors involved.

The second winery we visited was Chateau des Gimarets. This is a tiny winery with only 4.5 hectares (small even by local standards) and run by a lovely young couple called Eric and Nathalie Boyer. They have owned the winery since 2007, and are very welcoming to guests who are interested in their wines. We tasted their wine, had some snacks prepared by Nathalie, and bought a bottle of what Eric said was their best vintage - 2009. We tasted newer vintages, but I am sure that the 2009 will not disappoint.

alisa with eric and nathalie gimarets

julienas countryside
From Moulin we drove to the lovely town of Julienas for lunch. Julienas is set in beautiful countryside, and is a recognized appelation (cru) of Beaujolais. It is the farthest north appelation of the region. It is also a pleasant little town. We ate at the "Tavern de Coq", a well known restaurant in the middle of town.

the secret to finding good beaujolais wine
It's definitely "country dining". It’s a great stop for lunch if you are in the area. I had escargot and we both had "classic" Lyonnaise salad, although Alisa had hers without without the ham. The amazing thing about the salads was that each had about 4 hard-boiled eggs – no shortage of protein! They were also full of freshly picked greens.
After lunch, we got in our car and drove to Vienne for the next leg of our trip.

the village church
could pass for st emilion in bordeaux

Vienne is a small city of about 25,000 population about 30 KM south of Lyon. It's was an important town in Roman times and sports a world class Roman amphitheatre as well as several Roman ruins, as well as the well known and well preserved Temple of Augustus and Livia. Today, Vienne is known mainly for 2 things. It is known as the northern gateway to the Rhone Valley, one of France's most prestigious wine regions, and for hosting "Jazz a Vienne", one of the best known jazz festivals in Europe. In fact, the jazz festival is the reason we came to Vienne.  

new roman ruins found near vienne

vienne tourism & sightseeing

Jazz à Vienne is held in Vienne every year at the end of June and the beginning of July. It runs for about 2 weeks, and is held in several different venues around the town. The main venue is the 2000 year old Roman Ampitheatre, known as "Vienne Théâtre Antique". According to this site, it was originally built for 13,000 spectators, and we were told that it holds about 7,000 today.

We went to 2 concerts. The ampitheatre is close to the center of town. We took a taxi to get there (8 Euros) and walked back as there is no public transportation and no taxis at the late hour that the concerts were over. Even the taxi to get there, we had to order in advance, as there are is regular taxi service in this little town. We enjoyed the performances very much, with the headliner and biggest attraction of the 2 nights was Jamie Callum. 



The 2 nights we were at the ampitheatre turned out to be 2 totally different experiences. The first evening, the  amphi was only about 80-90% full, and we had no trouble finding seats  with a good view. We were even able to get up, stroll around, and even go to the bathroom if we wanted.The second night (maybe because of Jamie Callum), was quite the opposite. If the amphi has places for 7000 people (as we were told), they apparently sold 10,000 tickets. The place was packed, and we could not find any place to sit without climbing to the top of the theatre, which also appeared to be full. We are "mature" people and the uneven stone steps leading up to the top were not very inviting. We appealed to the ushers, who were all over the place, and after some minutes, they managed to find us places on the level we were already standing.The service staff ushers was super helpful!

The performance logistics were handled well. This includes security, the various booths selling food or souvenirs, and as I mentioned above, the ushering staff. Water bottles caps were not taken away, and umbrellas weren't hunted down and removed as was done in Lyon. Cushions were not handed out for free (as they were in Lyon), but there were very useful cushions available for sale at 5 Euros.  

There's not a lot to write about regarding Vienne, but the hotel we stayed at was certainly noteworthy. It turned out to be one of the nicest hotels we have ever stayed in anywhere, anytime! We stayed in La Pyramide, a beautiful boutique hotel with a 2 star Michelin restaurant and is a member of Relaix & Chateaux. The hotel was as close to perfect as you can get. It is beautiful, the rooms are modern and well designed, the service was outstanding, and I can't find anything negative to say. One of the reasons for this is that the owner and chef Patrick Henriroux is a hands-on owner, and he could be found onsite most of the day. We stayed here for 4 nights.



As for the restaurant. It deserves its 2 stars and our meal here was wonderful. There were 2 amuse bouche, one was a triple and the other was a superb tuna tartare with cream sauce and bacon bits. Alisa ordered "puffed cream of crab with cavier and crunchy artichoke", and sea bass with shrimp (it sounds simple, but it wasn't!). I ordered the "Pyramide Menu", which was superb. The menu included 3 courses before the cheese and dessert. They were all excellent, and I will describe only one of them, which was "saddle of lamb in bread crust, fennel in crystallized lemon, and slightly acidic juice of beetroot". Picture to the upper right.

Below on the right is one of the desserts - "convolution of strawberries and soft white cheese, sherbet hibiscus, and wild strawberries". It was both beautiful and delicious.



my "convolution"
of strawberries

Our days in Vienne had a definite "routine". In the morning, we made coffee in our room, and then I went out to drive to a pattisserie located about 1 KM away. This pattisserie was wonderful. In addition to the standard (and wonderful) bakery goods they made, they also made salads and sandwiches to go. I brought back to the hotel salads for both of us. We have to have our salad in the morning, and anyway, we didn't want the full hotel breakfast..
After breakfast, we headed south  to the Rhone Valley wineries, where we visited a winery or 2 before lunch, and then lunch in one of the charming towns of the area where we happened to be. After lunch, back to the hotel for a nap. In the evening (we had 3 evenings), 1 dinner at La Pyramide, and 2 evenings with jazz performances. Lovely!

the slopes of the northern rhone valley
The Rhone Valley is one of the best known wine regions of France. The northern section runs from Vienne in the north to Valence in the south. Farther south is the area associated with Provence with the most well known names being Chateauneuf de Pape, and Gigondas. The differences between these 2 regions are striking, including the climate and soil (it's hotter in the south), the rules for wine making (more blending in the south) and the predominant grapes grown. In the north the predominant grapes are syrah, vionier, marsanne and roussanne. In the south, granache may be the predominant grape, but there are 14 other varieties grown and used. Another significant difference is the size and topography. The south is mostly flat and much larger than the north and produces 95% of the Rhone Valley wines. The north is famous for its steep slopes, making cultivation difficult and therefore it's mostly done by hand. 
a comparison between north and south rhone wines

northern rhone wines

southern rhone wines

a guide to rhone valley wines

There are several little towns in the northern Rhone Valley. Ampuis is the farthest north (only 10 KM south of Vienne), and is the main town of the Cote Rotie appelation (more on Cote Rotie below). A few KM south of Ampuis is Condrieu, thecenter of the appellation of the same name. Condrieu is famous for its white wines, and we found them to be rich, full-bodied and excellent. 50 KM south of Condrieu is Tain l'Hermitage, with 3 nearby appelations - Hermitage, Croze Hermitage and Cornas. Because of the closeness to Vienne, we spent a lot of time in Ampuis and Condrieu, which are small modest towns, while Tain l'Hermitage is the largest of the 3 with about 10,000 inhabitants. Tain l'Hermitage is a real city, but with a big problem. The main road of the town is clogged with traffic and huge trucks. It wasn't pleasant driving there. 

cote rotie
official web site

travel guide for the rhone valley

wine growing in the northern rhone
In any case, we started planning this trip because of the Vienne Jazz Festival, but I had another reason - I had been dreaming of visiting Cote Rotie for years ever since our visit to Provence in the year 2000! At dinner in a wonderful restaurant in Avignon, we had a bottle of Cote Rotie from the winery of Guigal (the biggest name in Cote Rotie). We both decided that this was the best wine we had ever had, and I promised myself that one day we would visit this legendary appelation. Cote Rotie means "roasted slope" in France, and the slopes are steep, and the landscape is beautiful.   


So, this trip was for jazz, restaurants and Cote Rotie. We had our fill of Cote Rotie wines, and visited several wineries (details below) which produce Cote Rotie.  The appelation is very small and the amount of wine produced is limited. The wine is medium bodied, elegant, very flavorful, and needs 8-10 years to reach its peak. For all those reasons, it is also expensive.
In the final anlysis, an interesting thing happened - we came for Cote Rotie, but we came home with Saint-Joseph. This is another very small appelation, located about halfway between Condrieu and Tain l'Hermitage, and many consider its wine to be second only to Cote Rotie. 90% of the wine made in St-Joseph is red, and we enjoyed those we drank or tasted, but we found the whites to be absolutely fabulous. Here's a great article about the emergence of St-Joseph wines. 

We visited 4 wineries and 2 restaurants during our days in the northern Rhone Valley. I mention the restaurants, because one of them is connected to a big winery and is also a wine bar, so it was almost like visiting another winery. We found the vintners here most friendly, and in 3 out of the 4 wineries we visited, we were met by the owners or vintners. They were all very hospitable and understood that we could buy only a bottle or 2 and not a few cases. Here's a summary below.


Cave Yves Cuilleron owns 52 hectares of vines which are located all over the region. The winery produces 3 different wines Cote Rotie. The visit here was a little disappointing as we didn't meet with the owner or vintner. We visited the winery store/center in the village of Chavanay, located just a few KM south of Condrieu. We were met by a couple of friendly girls who were happy to try to speak some English with us. The wines were nice and here is where we bought our first real Cote Rotie. It was the wine called "Madinière", vintage 2015, which means it is young and should rest for a couple of years.


Domaine Duclaux is a small winery with about 6 hectares of vines. It's run by the 2 Duclaux brothers, Benjamin and David. We were greetd by Benjamin.  They produce around 2000 cases a year and specialize in Condrieu and Cote Rotie wines.  The visit here was intimate and warm. Benjamin was most gracious. Here we bought a Condrieu white which was exceptional.



Domain Jamet is up on the slope overlooking Ampuis and  provides an incredible view of the Cote Rotie slopes. Here we were greeted by Louik (I think that was his name), the son of the owners. We tasted some wonderful wine, but Louik sadly informed us that they had none to sell at the moment. We found it most gracious that we were provided a tasting even though they had no wine to sell.The setting was beautiful.



M. Chapoutier is one of the biggest producers in the northern Rhone Valley and is located in the center of Tain l'Hermitage. It's really big and produces wine all over the area as well as outside of France. The wines include Hermitage, Côte Rôtie, Chateauneuf du Pape, Saint-Joseph, Crozes Hermitage, Luberon and a few others. The facility we visited can only be called a "showroom", with tasting rooms, lots of wines for sale, and a full staff to greet the many visitors.


We were hosted by Morgan, and since we had made an appointment beforehand, he took us for a walk to the nearby slopes to view the incredible vinyards up close. It was a memorable visit. We tasted quite a few wines and bought a St-Joseph white called "Les Granilites". As for the town itself, parking is a problem, and the main street is clogged with traffic and heavy trucks. 


Le Vineum is located right in the center of Tain l'Hermitage and is owned by Domain Jaboulet. Jaboulet is another large producer and rivals Chapoutier in size and reputation. The restaurant is also a wine bar and Jaboulet wine can be tasted here. We had a nice lunch here. The menu is limited, but the food was very tasty and we had a couple of glasses of Jaboulet wine. I had a delicious lamb stew – very much a country classic in this area.



Bistot de Serine is not connected to any wineries, but it is located right in the middle of Ampuis. We ate lunch here on our last full day. The restaurant has an inner area, but on this day, all the dining was outside. It was a hot day, but there were large umbrellas which provided plenty of shade, although a few fans would have been a welcome addition. Alisa had carpaccio of swordfish, and tortellini. I had terrine of rabbit, and marinated chicken with lemon. The 2 main dishes were excellent, but the 2 openers were just ok. The dessert, peach pie with ice cream (pictured to the right) was also very good. Service was slow and uneven.


All in all, this was a very enjoyable trip. We discovered the lovely city of Lyon, ate at soem wonderful restaurants, toured Beaujolais, attended the jazz festival in Vienne, and got to taste the best wines of the northern Rhone Valley, including and especially Cote Rotie. Lyon is a city we would gladly visit again.







LYON WINE TOURS (commercial site)





This is a page from our site "Travels with Steve & Alisa".  It describes one of the many trips we have made together. We've built these pages not just to describe our trips, but to help other travelers if we can.  Please use the information we've provided freely, and let us know if you have any questions we might be able to answer about your own planned trip, or just let us know if we have helped you. Or perhaps you have some information we could add to the site. Visit our home page using the link to the right.   

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FIRST UPLOAD: Aug 20, 2017