Tag Archives: wine

Lavaux and Its Surroundings: A little taste of paradise

My name is Loris and I’m originally from Switzerland. You know, this little country which is in central Europe and where we have more than one language, yes we do…
French, German, Italian and Romansh are the four languages that we speak. (Mostly German and French). I used to learn Italian and German at school as I am a French native speaker and now I have an insatiable desire to travel all around the world. That is exactly the reason why 6 months ago, I crossed the Atlantic Ocean, to San Francisco, to discover a new country, a new culture and a new way of life. After having taken English Class for half a year, I’m now working at Wcities as an intern for 3 months. A company where I can share my passion for travel.
Even if I really want to discover the whole world, I have to admit that I feel grateful to live in Switzerland which is a beautiful and peaceful country. And particularly the area of Lavaux where I grew up, and that is exactly where I am going to take you today.

First of all, Lavaux is well-known for it’s wine of great personality which is one of the best in the country. Indeed, with more than 850 hectares of terraced vineyards stretching for almost 19 miles this wine area is one of the largests in Switzerland. So if you are a wine lover this is definitely the place to visit!

Lavaux

A Taste of Wine

Pinot Noir from the little village of Villette, Sauvignon from Montreux or Chardonne, are some that you must try while you are visiting the vineyards. Swiss wine is not really famous outside the country but it should be! I don’t say that because I am a wine lover who is from this part of the country but rather because it is the truth and any oenologists would tell you so.

Lavaux can be compared to the Mosel, a German wine region because of its similar scenery. We can find every sort of wine in the different wineries along Lavaux. Red, white or rosé are appreciated by everyone. The most famous variety is probably the Chasselas grape which is used to produce white wine. I like it a lot because it’s fruity and dry. Can you imagine yourself drinking one or two glasses with some Swiss cheese (the perfect match) on a terrace, enjoying the view at the beginning of spring or the warm weather of summer? I am sure you can and I can as well because of having done that more than once.

A Taste of Serenity

Either enjoying a good wine with an amazing view over Lake Léman (otherwise known as Lake Geneva but as I am from Lutry I cannot use this name), or just having a walk on a sunny afternoon, Lavaux will satisfy every one of you. Nothing but the view clearly worth it. While you are walking across the little paths, why don’t you stop by one of the many little villages surrounding Lavaux? You will probably find some wine-growers who will be very happy to inform you about the vineyard or answer some of your questions. Lavaux starts from Lutry, my hometown, directly to Montreux a touristy city at around 15 miles away. If you are brave enough you can walk throughout (or just a bit is enough) and spend some time there because there is not only Lavaux to visit but also those villages full of surprise and history.
Montreux is a popular nearby city, made famous by the annual Montreux Jazz Festival, the second largest Jazz Festival in the world(!) at which, for example, Stevie Wonder, Pharrell Williams and Lady Gaga have performed. Not only that, but some celebrities used to live in Montreaux like Freddie Mercury and David Bowie. After you have tried a variety of wine, go down to the lake and visit the famous Chillon Castle from the XII century which is one of the most visited attractions in the country.

Chillon Castel

Montreux

This part of Switzerland is probably one of the most prestigious. Lavaux of course plays a main role, but not only. If you prefer to hang around the lake you are free to do so. You can easily walk from Montreux to Cully, another village, directly in the vineyard or by the lake. If you choose the second option you can also rent a pedal boat and try to go to France on the opposite side of the lake which is half Swiss and half French. Maybe it is to ambitious… If it’s your goal, you should better rent a motor boat and reach Evian and Ivoire which are especially beautiful.

A few miles from Montreux and still near Lavaux, you can go to Vevey. This little city is one of my favourites because less touristy than Montreux. There is also more to do than in my hometown. If you are a movie fan you probably know Charlie Chaplin who used to live there with his wife and his 4 children. From last year a museum about his life has been created. Called Chaplin’s World, this amazing foundation take you across the time and through the fantastic world of cinema. But as we are starting spring and the good weather is coming, let stay outside and continue our walk through Lavaux.

A Taste of history

Since 2007, Lavaux has the luck to be part to the UNESCO which is a specialized agency reunited the most beautiful places around the world for their preservation. As I said earlier, Lavaux is surrounded by a lot of small villages. Grandvaux, Epesses or Aran are few of them.

Grandvaux

Some of the winegrowers houses around the vineyard date back to the 16th century. It’s a constant battle for people who live there from decades to ask for their renovation in a way that doesn’t adulterate the landscape. However, all the villages around Lavaux are not so small. Indeed, Lausanne (3 miles from Lutry) is the 4th most populated city of Switzerland. Starting to feel sick of the calm and looking for more life? It is not a big deal, I suggest you to visit this city. If you are keen on history you will certainly be happy. Therefore, there are also a lot of shops or restaurants where you can buy clothes or eat one of the specialities such as a fondue.. Miam. Lausanne often reminds me San Francisco because it is also really steep. Always going upstairs and downstairs, it’s good for the calfs! Particularly if you want to visit the gorgeous cathedral which is the biggest in the country, you will have to walk a lot to deserve it!

Old Lausanne

A Taste of Luxury

To conclude, I want to share with you my favourite bar, in the center of Lavaux, which is considered to have one of the best views in the world and I am sure you will see why.

Le Deck overlooks all of Lavaux. I have to admit that the prices are maybe a little expensive but it’s worth a visit. When you arrive by car, you are not sure what to expect. You enter to the bar, have a seat one of the comfortable chairs and suddenly the landscape appears totally out of the blue. This view is so breathtaking, that you feel hypnotized and cannot take your eyes off this beautiful scenery.

The view from Le Deck located in Chexbres

The outside of the bar

Please, don’t be in a rush if you decide to have a drink there, because when you order your cocktail or glass of wine, which go well with some appetizers, the waiter is certainly going to take forever. But don’t panic, just enjoy the moment. You can expect to pay $14 for a cocktail and $10 for a glass of cabernet sauvignon. After enjoying your drink, if you like, you can continue the evening by having dinner just next door at Le Baron Tavernier, (same owner). Unfortunately, I’ve never been there–too expensive for a student.

I guess that when, in a relatively short time or not, I go back to Switzerland, walking around Lavaux will be one of the first things that I am going to do. These are my roots and even if I am curious about the world I don’t think I can deny it one day. As I said I grew up in this area and I was used to spend a lot of time there. Hanging around with friends or winding down after a tiring day. To live near Lavaux makes me feel joyful and it’s for me like a way out. So see you there!

Sonoita: Arizona’s Hidden Wine Country

When one thinks of wine and where it’s made here in the United States, the popular valleys of California and the Pacific Northwest may tend to come to mind first. However, to many, the last place one might consider the climate and geology to be well-suited for grape-growing and winemaking would be hidden in one of the country’s driest, desert states: Arizona.

(Photo of vineyards around Sonoita thanks to Phillip Capper.)

Surrounded by three substantial Southern Arizona mountain ranges–the Huachuca, Santa Rita and Whetstone Mountains–the Sonoita Valley was found to be a geological sweet spot that has proven to be especially conducive for growing grapes. Moreover, the area’s Mediterranean climate, in addition to being good for winemaking, has proven to be a welcome meteorological shift for most Arizona residents and tourists who are used to the scorching heat and dryness of the state’s sprawling desert regions. As a matter of fact, the difference in climate can be felt almost immediately when traveling the short distance to and from Sonoita and its closest metropolitan neighbor, Tucson viagra achat belgique.

(Harvesting grapes at Sonoita Vineyards.)

The area’s potential for wine-making was first discovered in the early 1970s when Dr. Gordon Dutt and Blake Brophy established an experimental vineyard to study how grapes would grow in the Southern Arizona climate. Expecting the generally harsh heat and sunlight to render the grapes useless, Dr. Dutt was pleasantly surprised when the soil, combined with the elevation and its relatively temperate climate, ended up creating a rare trifecta for Arizona grape-growing.

In 1979, Dr. Dutt (left) established Arizona’s first commercial vineyard within the Southern Arizona valley of Sonoita, which was then fittingly named Sonoita Vineyards when its winery opened for business in the early 1980s. The winery saw almost immediate success, with many visitors surprised by the quality of wine that could be produced in a state that was never really known for its agricultural potential–much less for its relevance to the world of winemaking. Sonoita Vineyards, and to a certain extent, the whole of Sonoita Wine Country owes much to Dr. Gordon Dutt for his scientific findings and for bringing the gift of wine and grape growing to Southern Arizona.

Although Sonoita Vineyards still stands as the area’s premier vineyard and winery attraction, several other wineries have been vying for that position in the Sonoita Valley for the last several decades. As in most cases, some of the region’s wineries do better than others, and wine tasting continues to make up a large percentage of the sales these businesses make throughout the year. In fact, the number of wineries in the Sonoita/Elgin region remains small enough that you can make a complete tour of the area–with wine tastings and all–within a very reasonable amount of time, and with limited damage to the wallet (that is, unless you are persuaded to buy several bottles of wine, which in many cases, may become simply irresistible).

If I had to choose my two personal favorite Sonoita winery experiences, in addition to Sonoita Vineyards, I would have to choose the spectacular views of the valley and the delicious wines offered by Lightning Ridge Cellars, and the absolute creativity and festiveness of rising star in the wine world, Karel Wilhelm and the Wilhelm Family Vineyards.

Located 5100 feet (1554 meters) above sea level, Lightning Ridge Cellars offers one of the best views in all of Sonoita, coupled with an ideal climate that has boded extremely well for the quality of grapes grown on its extensive vineyard. Founded in 2005 by Ron and Ann Roncone, Lightning Ridge Cellars specializes in producing wines of the Italian variety in a way that reflects its owners pride in the homeland of their forebears. One gets the sense, when tasting the paradoxically simple yet complex flavors of Lightning Ridge’s Primitivo, for example, that great care and attention to detail is paid to each variety of wine. At Lightning Ridge, it’s evident that making and selling wine is not merely a business exercise, but a lifelong pursuit at understanding how to craft one of the most culturally (and gastronomically) ubiquitous aspects of its owners’ heritage: the perfect glass of Italian wine. Also, did I mention the view? Visitors will find it hard not to be mesmerized by the rolling hills, colorful skies and mountain ranges presented when looking out the window of the winery, or better yet, while standing (or sitting) outside with a nice, soothing glass of Lightning Ridge wine.

As you’re looping around on the quiet, country roads that connect many of the wineries in the Sonoita/Elgin area, you’re eventually bound to come across the Wilhelm Family Vineyards. The location (pictured below from the road) is relatively nondescript, tending to blend in with the other homes in the area–a feature which only adds to the casual, home-like ambiance the winery has to offer.

Upon entering the winery, visitors are greeted with a small, but cozy tasting room where the charismatic owner, Karyl Wilhelm, can regularly be seen chatting and sharing her extensive knowledge of winemaking. Wilhelm clearly has a sturdy foundation when it comes to understanding wine and how it’s made, having studied the process at one of the country’s most renowned schools for wine-making at UC Davis. This allows her to be a bit more creative than the average winemaker, and she often showcases her own unique oenological inventions, as well as those of her husband Kevin. Although the selection of wine at Wilhelm Family Vineyards presents a veritable cornucopia of flavor and variety, for the more conservative wine connoisseur, there is indeed a fine selection of more traditional wines crafted by the Wilhelms to near perfection. With a bit of an open mind and a taste for adventure, one surely cannot go wrong at Wilhelm Family Vineyards.

(Sunset at the Sonoita Vineyards winery.)

Despite the area’s potential for becoming one of the better getaway locations in the Southwest, Sonoita and its sister town Elgin still manage to hold onto their slow-paced, tucked-away charm. Thanks to Dr. Gordon Dutt and his invaluable geological research, Sonoita and its environs managed to avoid the bleak fate of residential and commercial development on a scale that would be disastrous to the area’s natural geological splendor. As such, it would seem that drawing crowds and tourists on the scale of world-renowned locations such as the Napa Valley is far from the minds and desires of the residents and wine producers of the Sonoita/Elgin areas. Yet, those who are lucky enough to stumble upon this Southern Arizona wine paradise can expect to have one of the most personable, scenic and delicious wine experiences the state has to offer.

Are you a fan of these vineyards? Have any other attraction suggestions in the Sonoita/Elgin area? Let us know in the comments section, or via our Facebook and Twitter accounts!