We caught the (too) early morning Glacier Express train out of Zermatt. This time the scenery was completely different: it had gone from fall to winter overnight and now it was all snow covered trees and even snow-laden cows! Signs were piled high with a dusting of powdered snow, all the rocks had snow mounds stacked on them. When the train reached Lake Geneva’s wine country, some of the vines stacked on the hills were even covered in snow, their golden leaves peeking out beneath the white.
Lake Geneva, in the French speaking region of Switzerland, is filled with picturesque villages surrounded by vineyards, with Geneva at one end and Montreux at the other, with the Montreux Riviera in between. We were headed to Lutry, an idyllic small town on the lake right smack in the middle of Swiss wine country, where we were staying at Le Bourg 7 Boutique Hotel, a homey little hotel furnished with elegant decor and spread over two historic buildings right near the lake.
The city of Lutry sits beside a beautiful lakeside promenade, with France on one side across the lake, and Swiss wineries sloping upwards from the water on the other side. You could even see the town of Evian, France (yes, where the bottled water comes from) clear across the lake. Lutry is filled with cute winding streets housing wine shops, bakeries, and all sorts of local specialty shops. The sparkling clean streets were adorned with a wine barrel here, an old well there, and plenty of decorative green and white striped shutters beside fancy hanging wrought iron and gold signs. Lutry looked just like a classic French town—but this was Switzerland—friendly, efficient, English-speaking, spotlessly clean, easy to navigate, and multi-cultural. I love that you can travel between French, Italian, and German speaking regions in Switzerland, each with their own distinct cultures.
Swiss Wine Country: Lavaux
The terraced vineyards on Lake Geneva between Lausanne and Montreux make up Lavaux, a UNESCO world heritage site that is known as “the land of three suns”. This beautiful section of the Montreux Riviera is speckled with dozens of picturesque small towns like Lutry. We met our local guide and ventured out to the nearby town of Cully for lunch at the ultra-modern Hotel Lavaux, with its abundant picture windows overlooking vineyards and the lake.
Perfect for this cold day was the creamy chestnut soup infused with cranberries, accented with a single prawn. Following that was the local specialty: fresh féra, a fish from Lake Geneva. For dessert? Couldn’t get more Swiss than Gruyère cheese ice cream with figs.
The Lausanne marathon heads through this region every year, and we happened to be in town during it so on our way to wine tasting we crossed paths with the runners several times, running straight into snow flurries.
The last stop of the day was a visit to Melanie Weber’s wine cellar, a one-woman winery. Melanie seemed like a very cool winemaker, running the entire family business by herself, but I was distracted during the entire tasting because the tasting room was infested with grape flies. When we walked in, thousands of flies lifted off from a basket of stale breads on the table, descending in buzzing ringlets around the room as they spread out and the bread changed from a black mass of flies back to beige again, the grape flies occupying the air instead.
Although Melanie assured us the bugs were perfectly normal after the harvest, it was hard to concentrate on anything with grape flies constantly flying into my eyes, mouth, and nose. It was also impossible not to drink a few of the flies as I sampled the wines. A few bugs never hurt anyone, right? These weren’t the first bugs I’ve eaten, although they were not nearly as tasty as the fantastic roasted insects I bought from a street vendor in Thailand. I wasn’t the only bug consumer either—at one point our poor guide began to cough and choke, and perhaps in an attempt to help with the choking somehow, she picked up one of the formerly bug-blackened bread pieces, (with several live stragglers still on it), and devoured the entire thing!
Still, it was an interesting day, full of great food and stunning scenery, in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Stay tuned for more Lake Geneva stories coming up!