Here we are in the Rhone Valley of France in the village of Vaison-La-Romaine, just on the edge of the Southern Rhone Valley. Our stay in Vaison is perfect for daily trips to the neighboring Cote du Rhone village wineries and a chance to visit the French countryside in its fall harvest colors. Our stay is in a condo, owned by a charming couple, overlooking ancient Roman ruins, the largest in France. The condo is ideal for groups of 2-4 persons with two bedrooms with two modern bathrooms and a third smaller one. The appointments are excellent and the hosts are solicitous about their guests’ needs. The rent is quite reasonable. We love waking up to the inspiring views of the ancient ruins.
Vaison is a small city of 6300 residents and most services are within walking distance. The people are friendly and used to tourists, Vaison being a popular summer retreat for Parisians. If you’re interested in staying in a Rhone village that has a great mix of old and new, Vaison fills the bill.
Wines of the Rhone Valley
The Rhone Valley has been producing wines for 2000 years but has lived in the shadow of the great wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. But in the last 25 years or so the Rhone Region has become well known for its amazing wines of Syrah and blends of Grenache, Mourvedre, and Cinsault, among other grapes. Although white wines take a back seat to the fabulous reds, the whites are among the very best in terms of a broad-spectrum of characteristics that set them apart from the usual Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines. Viognier is the most known but other varietals include Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Marsanne. The latter two are usually blended.
There are many backroads that lead from our home base in Vaison to the villages of the Cote du Rhone. Thank goodness that we have our Garmin GPS to guide us to each destination. We would have spent countless hours lost in the vineyards of the Rhone were it were not for our Garmin leading us to our destination. We have affectionately named our Garmin voice Claudine.
Cave de Cairanne
The first winery we are able to visit is Cave de Cairanne. It is a good place to start our Rhone wine adventures because they have a wonderful exhibit describing the Rhone Valley, its terrain, and soils. It is a self-guided tour that also includes a sensory station, so one can learn some of the characteristics of Rhone wines. In our vast wine country travels, this is one of the best educational exhibits we have encountered.
The Cairanne wines are delicious and the prices very reasonable. The tasting is free and includes all the wines produced by Cave de Cairanne. The winery has invested in a state-of-the-art dispensing system that keeps the wines fresh and free from any oxidation. We sample several wines and happily carry out a case (six bottles) and return to our condo in Vaison.
The beauty of having a home with a full kitchen is that you can cook many of your meals at home. Typically we eat breakfast at home, then have lunch at a restaurant in one of the small villages. We enjoy shopping at the local stores for our evening meal. It’s very interesting and lots of fun to learn the shopping customs and live like the locals for a short time.
Tomorrow we are off the famed wine region of Chateauneuf du Pape.