Sometimes the constant presence of natural beauty can lead to a certain forgetfulness of the visual bounty all around.
We’ve lived near Lake Geneva for a long time, and while I revel in the views of mountain and lake, I don’t always appreciate just how lovely the area can be.
Fortunately, friend, writer and local expert on the area Catherine Nelson-Pollard invited me along on a day excursion, and I got a good reminder.
Twice a year, once in spring and once in fall, hundreds of winegrowers in Switzerland open their cellars to visitors.
I’d characterize the Caves Ouvertes event as one of the few real bargains in Switzerland: For the price is CHF 15 (around $15, or €15), intrepid wine tourists get a wine glass, a little neck pouch to carry it, a wine passport, a map, and almost unlimited tasting opportunities for as many wineries as you can visit in a day.
A free bus service takes pass-carriers from vineyard to vineyard along a number of possible routes in each wine-producing canton.
We did a short route in the canton of Vaud, which neighbors Geneva.
Swiss wines aren’t widely known outside the region. They tend to be lighter than their French or New World relations.
Production levels are generally small, and vineyards dot the lakeside, the hills and mountain foothills in small parcels. Almost all are tended by hand. This is not a business of vast profits and expandability of scale.
A glorious day in mid-May, white clouds blown across the lake by a bise wind rendered gentle by the warm temperatures and the sunshine. Here a château, there a wall curving inward with age.
I had driven over the border from France, so my car was waiting for me back in Nyon, a short train trip from where the wine tours started.
Because I’d have to drive home later, I maintained a strict tasting regimen – small sips, lots of water, dumping the remainder of the tasting sample once I had determined whether I liked it or not. It’s the most sober wine tasting I think I’ve ever experienced. At least, for my part.
Over the course of the afternoon, fellow travellers in other groups got ruddy faced. Someone next to me forgot the wine glass she had just put in her neck pouch and broke it against a table.
It was time to head home.
But not before buying a few bottles to share at home.
A good reminder to extend my local range from time to time, and not take its beauty for granted.