Let’s begin in Tournon-sur-Rhône, a charming medieval village located on the right side of the Rhone river in the Ardeche department. The town is surrounded by steep hillsides where old vines were planted for the first time by the Greeks and the Romans.
Those vineyards are part of the Rhone Valley St Joseph appellation. You can taste them in the village local winery or go directly to wine makers always eager to defend their terroir.
Castle, Gardens and Vineyards in Tournon-sur-Rhône
Walking down the paved streets, pass by the imposing Tournon castle built between the 14th and the 16th centuries where local lords lived. Dauphin Francois, the first son of Francois I, King of France, died there in 1536 at the age of 18.
A museum within the fortress walls features a library, paintings, medals, busts, marble statues and tapestries. Continue towards the flamboyant gothic Saint-Julien church. At the end of the village, the hidden Jardin d’Eden (garden of Eden) is a must-see.
A one-hectare beautiful hillside garden with fountains, ponds, a Renaissance tower and former ramparts. The property, once owned by a Franciscan monastery, will soon have its own vineyard. A 1 500m² parcel on the top of the garden. Every terrace provides a stunning view of the village, the Rhone river and the pedestrian bridge leading to Tain L’Hermitage.
Wines and Chocolate in Tain L’Hermitage
Tain l’Hermitage is a familiar location to any wine lover. Some of the most prestigious wines of the Northern Rhone Valley comes from Hermitage Hill.
A 140-ha vineyard of fragmented plots overhanging the village with terraces supported by low walls of dry stones.
Tain l’Hermitage is also the home of ValRhona, a chocolate factory with an international recognition among professionals.
The luxury chocolate brand has also a school and a museum named the City of chocolate where visitors can test their knowledge while tasting chocolate squares.
Try Valrhona blond chocolate. An original recipe created a few years ago when a white chocolate unwittingly heated for too long. The chocolate changed color but tasted (really) great.
As surprising as it may sound, fine chocolate matches perfectly with local wines. You can also attend a wine and chocolate workshop (16 Euros – English groups) with an œnologist and a chocolate expert or go to Vineum wine bar restaurant in the town centre to taste Jaboulet premium wines with Valrhona Grands Crus chocolates.
Truffles and Dauphiné Ravioli in Romans-sur-Isère
Local white wines match perfectly with milk chocolate. Their “minerality” goes also well with black truffles, another food specialty produced in the Drome des collines (Drome Hills), on the east of the Rhone between Tain L’Hermitage and Valence.
You can go to La Baume Saint-Antoine, a farm located just 5 minutes from Romans-sur-Isère, to visit a truffle-field, attend a cavage demonstration (truffle hunting) and taste the so-called black diamond with white wines produced by Ferraton Père & Fils.
The winery located in Tain L’Hermitage is going to open a restaurant in early 2018 with truffle workshops.
After such a great appetizer, stop by Romans-sur-Isere for lunch or dinner. The historic capital of luxury shoes (you can go to the international museum of shoes, go shopping in the city or in Marques Avenue factory outlets mall) is also known for the Dauphiné Ravioli.
Ravioles (Ravioli of Romans) are small pieces of ravioli stuffed with herbs and cheese. You can taste them in restaurants surrounding the beautiful Place Ernest Gailly or buy them at the famous Mère Maury grocery store opened since 1885 (groups of at least 20 people can visit the oldest ravioles factory for free). A ravioli museum may also be created in the coming years in Romans by Saint-Jean company, the number one producer of ravioles.
How to get there?
Take the A7 motorway Tournon /Tain l’Hermitage (90km), Valence (103 km), Romans (104km, 20 km from Valence).
By Train (from Lyon Part-Dieu Train Station)
Tain L’Hermitage (55 min) , Valence (1h10 to Valence Ville station, 35 min to Valence TGV Station, then take A 10-minute local train to the city centre). Romans-sur-Isère (5/10 minutes from Valence TGV, 15/20 minutes from Valence Ville).