Syrah Travel Guide

Where to go to experience the best

 


If you’re going to travel in search of Syrah, there is only one destination in my book: The Rhône Valley.

On the steep slopes that flank the Rhône River, you’ll find the home of benchmark Syrah: Hermitage, Cornas and Côte-Rôtie. On the lower slopes and some of the flatter portions of the region, the wonderful values (some are at least) that are St. Joseph and Crozes Hermitage make their home.

The twin cities of Tournon-sur-Rhône and Tain l’Hermitage are at the heart of the Rhône wine district and share a bridge that makes travel between the various regions convenient, whether by car when you are in search of wineries or by foot should you set out on your own gastronomic tour!

Photo courtesy 1yen via Flickr/CC

Hotels Azalees

While Tournon-sur-Rhône and Tain l’Hermitage are the best locations for a home base, they are not really tourist destinations in themselves, so accommodations are modest. The appeal of the region is primarily visiting wineries. Wine geeks are certainly known as an accommodating bunch.

For the most part, we are perfectly happy living life as a local when on location, and the Hotel Azalees offers a taste of that Rhône life backed right up to the vineyards of St. Joseph!

Restaurant Azalees

Rooms here are simple but well decorated with some modern conveniences, like free Wi-Fi and on-site parking included in the room rate. The house restaurant serves food typical of the region. If you’re lucky, after a day of hard wine tasting you can even dine under the stars with a bottle of Gonon St. Jospeh or Graillot Crozes-Hermitage, chosen from the restaurants small but well-selected wine list!

Hotel Azalees
6 Avenue de la Gare
07300 Tournon-sur-Rhone

Visit the hotel web site here!
 

Valence

If you’re looking for a bit more luxury and don’t mind a bit more driving around, Valence, at the southern end of the great northern Rhône appellations, offers many additional options. In fact, some of these are quite luxurious.

The Maison Pic for example is very well appointed and features a highly acclaimed restaurant, but all the trimmings come with a price of several hundred dollars a night. This is just too much in my book, so that’s why I instead suggest Hévéa Résidence Hôtel, a small, luxury property located in the heart of Valence. Rooms run a bit higher than those at Azalees on a nightly basis, but are heavily discounted for weekly rentals.

Hévéa Résidence Hôtel
83, avenue de la Marne
26000 Valence (France)

Visit the hotel web site here!
 

Pont-de-l’Isere

A final choice for accommodations might be Pont-de-l’Islere, located just between Tournon and Valence. One of the main attractions of this small town, besides its location on the southern edge of the Crozes-Hermitage vineyards, has to be Michel Chabran, the Michelin starred restaurant with a lovely hotel attached!
Here you can dine on some of the finest cuisine of the region. By staying in the hotel, you not only get easy access to the restaurant, and your room after dinner, but you also get to enjoy breakfast in the peaceful garden of Maison Chabran!
 

Michel Chabran

The Hotel Michel Chabran is a luxury property, though the prices are quite affordable. The property is located within the village of Pont de l’Isere, but with grounds that make you feel as though you are removed to the French countryside- a very attractive place from which to both start and ends one’s daily activities!

This stylish property benefits from recently renovated rooms featuring modern amenities, all just steps away from the timeless beauty of the surroundings. Both Wi-Fi and parking are included in the room rate. It’s a great choice that seems to combine the best of all possible accommodations in the region.

29 Avenue du 45ème Parallèle, 26600 Pont-de-lʼIsère

Visit the web site here!

Maison Pic

I mentioned that Maison Pic is well known not only as a luxury hotel, but also as a culinary destination. The three Michelin star-winning restaurant, Pic 1889, is one of the region’s best known restaurants, producing modern interpretations of many classic French dishes and creative flights of fancy that track the inspiration of Chef Anne-Sophie Pic.

The history of Maison Pic does indeed go back to 1889, when the property was established by the Pic family. Anne-Sophie is following in her father Jacques’s footsteps. Jacques and Andre Pic maintained Maison Pic as a Michelin three star restaurant from 1934 through 1994, an amazing feat!

MAISON PIC

285 avenue Victor Hugo, 26000 Valence – Drôme
 

Tain l’Hermitage

We can always circle back to our first stop and investigate the culinary scene there as well. While Le Mangevins is not a Michelin starred property, it is winning accolades for its casual combination of seasonal cuisine with one of the most forward-looking selections of wines in the region. This is the place to discover the undiscovered. The owners are busy networking with the local vignerons and really have their fingers on the pulse of the region. Plus, it is conveniently located in town, so you can spend the night working on your discoveries and simply amble back to your room when the mood strikes you!

Le Mangevins

6 Avenue du Dr Paul Durand, 26600 Tain l`Hermitage

Other Things

Yes, there are other things worth doing in most wine regions and the Rhône is no exception! While we might find our time better spent sipping, sniffing and spitting, sometimes one has to keep the peace.

Every town has churches, cathedrals and even some castles worth visiting, and the surrounding villages such as Charay and Perouges are particularly attractive as they have remained essentially untouched by the progressive hand of modern man.

Vienne, on the northern edge of the region, is famed as an ancient Roman port where (surprise) wine was the most important commodity shipped. That might have something to do with the name, you know!

And of course there is Lyon, just a few kilometers distant and packed with enough to fill several days with non wine related discoveries and activities. I think we would be better off leaving that for another trip!

The Wines

And then of course there are the wineries to visit.

I can make some recommendations regarding my favorite wines, but the truth is that what I like is not necessarily what you like. Feel free to add to the list by commenting below. I’d love to know who you think I’ve missed!

Alain Graillot

Chapoutier

Jaboulet

Pierre Gonon

Thierry Allemand

Franck Balthazar

Jean Paul et Jean Luc Jamet

Domaine Ogier

Photo courtesy Kobrand Wine and Spirits

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Comments

  • It may be more romantic to think of the originator of the syrah's popularity as the Rhone Valley, and while good wines come from there, the best of the varietal, ironically, comes from right here in California, the Santa Barbara County area around Santa Inez and Los Olivos. They REALLY know how to make the rhone style! Try some to be blown away, start with Beckmen.

    Feb 20, 2012 at 4:50 PM


  • This is potentially very helpful indeed, and certainly stimulative of further research.
    There is also the Valrhona Chocolate factory to visit in Tain l'Hermitage ......
    Valence is on the very fast train track from Paris Gare de Lyon (to Lyon)
    Thanks Snooth
    W

    Feb 21, 2012 at 4:51 AM


  • Snooth User: jmeluzio
    367669 128

    Yves Cuilleron has a Napaeque style tasting room and his wines are terrific. I highly recommend Le Mangevins. We ate there last year and it was a better meal than either of the Michelin places we went to. In fact, I wrote a trip advisor on it. I would not recommend staying Tain though and agree Tournon would be better. Also, in Tain is the Vahlrona factory. What could be better than great wine and great chocolate.

    Feb 21, 2012 at 1:28 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 213,942

    Thanks folks. Valrhona and Rhone wines. Could be an article there!

    Feb 22, 2012 at 8:51 AM


  • Snooth User: maffe
    146867 51

    If you go syrah-hunting in the south of France you must not miss the Languedoc region, and especially the beautiful Hérault district. Of course you have to search the Vins de Pays, as there are no syrah mono-varietal AOC's here. Check out the Domaine de la Baume, Domaine La Croix Belle or Domaine de Bellevue for example, all in the Côtes du Thongue appellation. Food friendly and extremely priceworthy stuff.
    The Languedoc was the most successful region in the Syrah du Monde 2011 competition, winning 5 out of the 7 gold medals awarded to France.

    Feb 22, 2012 at 4:54 PM


  • Snooth User: alanol
    Hand of Snooth
    458649 44

    If your NOT going to travel in search of syrah, you need look no further than the Sierra Foothills. There is an abundance of great Rhone producers in this lesser known wine country and Syrah is one the best varietals grown in this area - particularly in vineyards located within the American River watershed area. In my opinion Rhones grow here better than they do in the Rhone Valley. The weather is more consistently favorable, the fruit is more full bodied an expresses the unique characteristics of the Rhone varietals in a way that is more suitable for the "American" plate,- we like them better - more approachable, less astringency, a full dimensional experience (no barnyard nose, full front end fruit, comforting mid palate mouthfeel and lingering finishes without the wine "going south" at the last minute). Save the plane fare - hop in you car and experience Syrah as good as it gets right here at home. Good places to start are David Girard Vineyards, Skinner, Holly's Hill and C.G. DiAire. Give 'em try - you'll never look across the Atlantic for syrah again.

    Feb 25, 2012 at 11:51 AM


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