France: The Rhone Valley: A Wine and Gastronomic Adventure
September 14-21, 2016
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The stunningly beautiful countryside of the Rhone Valley is the backdrop for this study tour, and those who relish cultural treasures will find much to enjoy here, such as Lyon's Musee des Beaux Arts and its Renaissance Quarter, the Pont d'Avignon, the Roman and Romanesque monuments of Arle, and even the nougats of Montelimar.
However, the Rhone Valley is best known today for its internationally acclaimed wines and a cuisine that weakens the knees of foodies around the world. Wine and food will be the primary focus of this tour led by Abby Nash—wine expert and restaurateur, who taught wine and cooking at Cornell's School of Hotel Administration.
With Abby's guidance, we will visit some of the finest vineyards and wineries of the northern Rhone, whose harsh winters and warm summers favor the Syrah grape, and of the southern Rhone, whose milder winters and hot summers produce the Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a famous red blend, and some exceptional whites. This tour will include food and wine pairings and a terroir dinner. Participants in previous wine tours with Abby say they've never laughed as much and as hard. It will truly be a feast for all the senses. Bon appetite!
Abby Nash taught at the Cornell Hotel School from 1991 until 2005, where he created two courses about wine in culture and history—the only courses of their kind in the United States. He also taught Introduction to Wines, Beverage Management... > more
- Double occupancy: $6,788
- Single supplement: $750
- See What's included?
- See Travel links and resources.
- Fitness scale: Slightly strenuous. May require extended walking over uneven ground as well as the ability to climb stairs and to stand for considerable periods of time.
Wednesday, September 14: Depart U.S.
Depart the U.S. on an overnight flight to the Marseille Provence Airport (MRS).
Thursday, September 15: Arrival in Avignon, France
- An ISDI tour director greets participants upon arrival at the Marseille Provence airport (MRS).
- Board a private motor coach for a group transfer to Avignon.
- Check in at the four-star Avignon Grand Hotel, conveniently located just outside the city's walls, just a fifteen-minute walk from Palais des Papes.
- In the afternoon, embark on an introductory walking tour of Avignon's well-preserved historic center, taking in its impressive medieval walls.
- In the evening, gather for a welcome dinner at one of Avignon's well-rated restaurants in the old historic center.
Avignon Grand Hotel (D)
Friday, September 16: Appellations of Southern Rhone
- Begin with a lecture by Abby Nash, which will cover the wine and gastronomy of the southern Rhone Valley.
- Depart on a full day's exploration of the southern Rhone Valley where Grenache, the most widely planted grape in the southern Rhone, forms the foundation of the area's popular wine blends.
- Take a thirty-minute drive north of Avignon for a visit to a well-established domain in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation, considered to be the best southern appellation.
- Enjoy a leisurely lunch near Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
- Continue on another thirty-minute drive to the charming Provençal city of Vaison-la-Romaine, lying amidst green rolling hills with over 2,000 years of history. Follow a local guide on a brief tour of the city's two spectacular Roman archaeological sites and high Roman bridge.
- In the afternoon, visit an old domain in the nearby village of Gigondas, with its own lesser known but worthy appellation for Grenache-based red wines. This appellation occupies an area located at the base and slopes of the Dentelles de Montmirail foothills.
- Return to Avignon for an evening and dinner at leisure.
Avignon Grand Hotel (B, WT, L, WT)
Saturday, September 17: Nimes / Olive Oil Production
- Drive twenty minutes west of Arles to the city of Estezargues for a visit to the Caves des Vignerons Estezargues, a cooperative cellar founded in 1965 that is truly unique in the wine world because of its fundamentally different approach to winemaking. The Caves de Vignerons Estezargues' artisanal approach to winemaking has made some of the best value wines in the Rhone Valley.
- Continue driving further west towards Nimes, one of the most delightful cities in Provence. Stop at a local olive oil mill in the heart of the rosemary-scented fields of southern France. Here discover olive oil's traditional and present-day manufacturing secrets. Visit the property's olive grove and end the visit with a light Provençal lunch.
- Continue north to Nimes, a city adorned with architecture and masterpieces of Gallo-Roman antiquity. Take a guided tour to marvel at the amphitheater, currently the best preserved of the Roman world, and the Square House (La Maison Carré), built in 5 BC, known for the elegant design of its capitals and cornices.
- Return to Avignon for an independent evening.
Avignon Grand Hotel (B, WT, L)
Sunday, September 18: Secrets of French Cuisine
- This morning, join a renowned local chef and his wife in their private home, located in a pleasant little village near Avignon, as he demonstrates the secrets of French cuisine and shares his passion for all things "gastronomique." Watch and assist the chef as he prepares two local dishes, then gather around the table for lunch.
- Return to Avignon and spend the remainder of the afternoon exploring the city on your own.
- Gather this evening for dinner at one of Avignon's Michelin-starred restaurants, Restaurant Christian Etienne, located in a twelfth-century stone house perched on a rock next to the Palais des Papes.
Avignon Grand Hotel (B, L, D)
Monday, September 19: Appellations of Northern Rhone
- Check out of Avignon Grand Hotel and depart for a full day's exploration of the northern Rhone Valley, which begins south of Lyon at Condrieu and Vienne and continues for forty miles to Cornas. The majority of the wine made here is made from the Syrah grape, and we will have a chance to taste the most famous wines from this region, which are the deep-flavored, long-lived reds, Hermitage and the more fragrant and delicate Côte Rôtie.
- Drive about an hour and a half north of Avignon to the famous hills of Hermitage for a visit and tasting at Maison Paul Jaboulet's Vineum center. The Maison Paul Jaboulet, created in 1834 by a family with a passion for winemaking, produced some of the region's best wines for almost two centuries. In 2006 it was purchased by the Frey family, which had a rich winemaking history in Champagne and Bordeaux. The Freys have made large investments to further improve and streamline the operations at Maison Jaboulet.
- Enjoy a gourmet lunch at one of the top-rated restaurants in Tain-l'Hermitage.
- Continue north for another forty-five minutes to the town of Condrieu, known for its white wine made exclusively from Viognier. Visit one of this region's vineyards located on a winding section of the Rhone River and experience the Condrieu white's unusual balance between delicate perfume and substantial body.
- Drive to Lyon and check in at the Hotel Sofitel Lyon Bellecour in the heart of the city. Take advantage of an evening on your own to try one of the many renowned restaurants of the food capital of the world.
Hotel Sofitel Lyon Bellecour (B, WT, L, WT)
Tuesday, September 20: Gastronomy of Lyon
- Begin with a lecture by Abby Nash.
- After learning a little about the Lyon gastronomy, take a guided stroll through the alleys of the covered Paul Bocuse market of Lyon—a pilgrimage every foodie should make. Discover the products that make the world capital of gastronomy so famous, from cheese to fresh seafood to macarons. The guided tour of the market will end with a tasting of regional products.
- Free time will be provided for lunch in Lyon's city center.
- Later, follow a local art expert on a guided visit at Lyon's Musee des Beaux-Arts, one of the largest French and European museums housed in a former Benedictine abbey dating from the seventeenth century. View highlights of the collection ranging from traditional portraiture to Surrealism and beyond and admire works by artists such as Rubens, Matisse, Monet, and Picasso.
- Continue on a private guided tour of the workshop and chocolate boutique of the world-famous Bernachon. Since the early 1950s, Bernachon has been one of very few shops that make chocolate directly from the bean on the premises. After the tour, try the famed palets d'or (discs filled with ganache and flecked with real gold).
- Drive to the nearby ancient village of Ampuis, cradle of the Côte-Rôtie appellation, where wines draw their character from the extremely steep hillsides. Visit one of the region's estates for a reception and wine tasting.
- Gather in the evening for a celebratory dinner at the Hotel Sofitel prepared by the Michelin-starred chef of Les Trois Dômes and enjoy the most beautiful panoramic views of Lyon and the Rhone River.
Hotel Sofitel Lyon Bellecour (B, T, T, D, WT)
Wednesday, September 21: Return to U.S.
After breakfast, check out of the Hotel Sofitel and take a group transfer to the Lyon-Saint-Exupéry Airport (LYS) for independent return flights to the United States.