A Vineyard Walk through Les Celliers de Sion, Valais, Switzerland
When we arrived in Sion, we were surrounded by vineyards! What a pleasant surprise. Although we wouldn’t be renting a car there, we were determined to find a way to make our way over to the grapes. They are ripening now and it’s the perfect time to go see them.
I searched on Trip Advisor and found an excursion that included a walk through the vineyard and lunch. Just what we were looking for! Les Celliers de Sion (The Cellars of Sion) were only about a 20 minute walk from our AirBnB and although it was warm, we agreed it was close enough to make it happen.
We always have an adventure when we travel and of course this trip would be no different. The route on the map looked like it was for cars as it traveled down a main road but we were sure we had put in “walking directions”. As we walked, most parts had a sidewalk so it wasn’t too bad but then we had to walk through a rotary. After the rotary we found a dirt path that lead us right to the door.
Our tour included 6 glasses of wine each and our hostess let us know these could be spread out through the day in the tasting room, at the restaurant, and then back at the tasting room after our hike.
The Cellars of Sion is a joint venture between the winemakers of Bonvin and Vadrone. They also make a few wines together under another brand, simply called The Cellars of Sion. There is a trail through the vineyard that leads to two different restaurants, each specializing in different types of food. The Cube wasn’t open that day. We went to Guérite Brûlefer, that offered both raclette and fondue!
This would be our introduction to Swiss wine and we were so excited to give them a taste! In order to rest from our walk over, we started in the tasting room for our first samples. We closely studied the tasting menu and each chose a Fendant, the Swiss grape we had already seen on menus, to try first.
When Neil and I go wine tasting, typically I order one wine and Neil orders something else. This way, we can each taste both samples. We’d be following this method today.
Since Fendant is a new grape for us to try, we chose two different brands in order to compare them. The bottles were different shapes and the wines were different colors! The Fendant by Varone was more yellow where the Fendant by Bonvin was lighter in color. Once we started tasting them, they were very different in aromas and flavors too.
The Varone Fendant, reminded Neil of an oaked Sauvignon Blanc; light and clean but also some malolactic fermentation that was mellow and oaky. I had a different experience. I thought it was like a muscadine grape with floral, peach and musky aromas. The flavors were soft but there was a petrol element or funk in the finish.
The Bonvin Fendant had a clean mineral aroma with a flavor unlike anything Neil had tried before. He was describing the way it felt on his tongue and around it as lemon butterscotch. I picked up pear and apple aromas and then smelled butter. I didn’t notice a feeling of the flavor moving around my tongue but did think it tingled a bit. Although we disagreed on the flavors, we did both like it and we were glad we had a chance to try it.
Once we had a little wine, we were ready to start our trek through the vineyard. The hostess had given us an idea of how the trail would continue along up the hill and some landmarks to look for. There was an app that had a live map too but unfortunately we didn’t have cell service that day so we’d be winging it. Basically we needed to follow the trail markers up the hill until the aqueduct. At this point the route would be flat and we’d follow the water until the restaurant. The journey to the restaurant should take about 45 minutes to an hour.
The first part of the trail followed a road, which we’d guess is in use during harvest. There were so many grapes to see above and below us and we also saw the red umbrellas identifying our restaurant.
Of course, I was taking pictures like every two minutes of grapes and grapes and grapes! I didn’t know which grapes they were but much later on the trail, I’d find a sign that showed each variety. In addition to the photos of grapes, we also took photos of each other and a few videos to document our day at The Cellars of Sion!
After about 20 minutes had gone by, we came across something that we could only describe as a grape rollercoaster. We looked at it for a few minutes and wondered how this cart on a track could be used during the harvest. It must be a way to get the grapes from the top of the hill down the bottom, but we’d never seen anything like that before. Then Neil realized there was even a seat, perhaps for someone to ride along with the grapes? This seemed way too scary for Maria to imagine so they continued on. These grape rollercoasters were spread all through out the vineyard.
I started feeling a little hungry and I couldn’t resist the chance to walk up to the vines and take a taste of one of the grapes. The grapes looked like they must be sweet now as they were the appropriate colors. I climbed up one of the stone staircases to grab a sample. Don’t worry though, I only ate 2 or 3 and boy were they sweet and wonderful!
Our next stop was the picnic area that had the winery brand marked on it. We don’t know if it’s meant for the staff during harvest or people like us just exploring the trails but we stopped for a few photos and made our way down the path. Around this time we wondered if we were close to our destination as the sun was hot and we were getting pretty worn out from trekking straight up the vineyard hills. About 45 minutes had passed but we knew we kept stopping for photos, so we were probably a bit delayed. A few more vineyard selfies and we continued on.
The landmark we were supposed to find was an aqueduct. We heard some water and saw a trail marker sign, so we kept going. We walked up, and up and up, which seemed way too steep to be the right way. Time passed and we didn’t have the realization that those sounds of water must have been the aqueduct and we turned the wrong way. We attempted to find where we were on the map (but admittedly we were just in a vineyard somewhere along a trail!)
Luckily there was a person on a bicycle heading our way so we asked “Where is the Cube restaurant?” He showed us that it wasn’t too far in front of us and made his way along the path. We walked over there but apparently we were way higher up on the hill than we should have been. Our destination wasn’t The Cube but we knew we’d see it first in order to confirm we were going the right way. Since we were so high up, we had to figure out how to get back down to the path which seemed nearly impossible at that point, due to the intense heat. I could see people on the path so there was a bit of reassurance that we weren’t stranded out in the vineyard all alone.
Mere minutes passed but it seemed like hours. All of the grapes were beautiful so we could have been in much worse places! We made it down to the aqueduct and were back on track, about 30 minutes late though. Luckily I had asked the hostess before we left if we had to eat by a certain time and she said “No, lunch would be available all day.” The aqueduct was so tranquil but we couldn’t concentrate much on it’s beauty as we were too stressed from our detour in the wrong direction. We attempted to get back into Pura Vida mode so we could enjoy ourselves.
The sign with all the local grapes was a few minutes down the trail. I snapped a quick pic. Let’s see if I can figure out any of the grapes by bunch or leaf shape? Well that will have to wait until I have some food in my and my brain starts working again.
It did take us another 30 minutes before we got to Guérite Brûlefer and you can only imagine how happy we were when we saw the sign. Of course, wine was in order and no we didn’t take any tasting notes. We just appreciated the fact that it was white, cold and wet.
A few minutes went by before our salad came out but we took that time to become human again. The salad had marinated trout on it and it was so good. I think we would have eaten that slate board if that was our only option!
There was another lady that we had seen when we were on that upper path that arrived at the restaurant the same time as us. She introduced herself and we started discussing things to do in Switzerland. We spoke of traveling the world, drinking wine and where else we should try before we left Sion. It’s so nice to be able to strike up a conversation with new people over wine!
Neil and I both ordered the same rosé to have with our fondue. And when the meal arrived at the table, we were a bit confused as it wasn’t a pot of cheese. We just went with it and embraced trying something new. The strips of beef had been marinated in herbs and they were really tasty. At least we got to have some protein to continue navigating the vineyard trails.
Our final course was dessert which was one of their sweet sparkling wines with sorbet floating in it. Imagine a wine ice cream float, well kind of. And of course that tasted good too!
The views were beautiful up there and there was a nice breeze, so once our initial craziness wore off we really enjoyed it. We ended up spending about an hour and half but figured we should probably continue our vineyard walk. And if you remember, our package for the day included six glasses of wine so we still had 3 more waiting for us when we arrived back at the tasting room.
As we left, the waitress let us know that we’d only be on the aqueduct for a short amount of time. (She had heard our story of how lost we were earlier and she didn’t want us to repeat that!) We walked for a few minutes and came to an empty pole that seemed important but there was nothing on it. We continued past it for a couple minutes and then turned around and went back. Guess our mental compasses weren’t functioning too well that day.
We passed more breathtaking views and some newly planted grape vines. After taking all those pics on the way to the restaurant, I could stop a little less and enjoy the views more. Of course, I still stopped for a few more shots of us, the grapes and another video.
We ended up off the path one more time but were able to just hop over the little wall to get back to where we needed to be. Just as the vineyard trail ended, we looked up and saw the umbrellas where we had eaten lunch. And up ahead of us was the mirrored building where we had began. The walk back took us about 45 minutes but luckily it was much more relaxing than before. And thankfully it was downhill!
Our reward was to go back in the tasting room and try some more wine. We also got to look around at the bottles for sale and the wine barrel room just off to the side.
We had misunderstood what time the tasting room closed but in the end, we spent two hours there. This was plenty of time to try out another rosé and then a couple reds.
Since we were back in the tasting room with the air conditioning, we could focus on tasting notes again. There were still a couple rosé wines that we hadn’t tried yet so we ordered two more to compare. The Dôle blanche rosé was a lighter pink with dry mineral aromas and a hint of fizz. The Dahu rosé was a darker pink that was a little sweet, with a watermelon aroma and a full body.
Then we were ready to move onto the red wines. I was excited to try some more Swiss wines so I chose the Cornalin by Varone, which uses the Cornalin grape. The aromas were like blackberry jam and I just kept wanting to swirl and sniff it! The flavor was dry with a spice finish and then later a leather flavor appeared too. Neil said it was dry like a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Neil had a Pinot Noir because he’s Neil and that’s what he likes! And in answer to my delicious aromas he said, “No mine smells good!” He thought it tasted smoky and spicy and that it would have the capability to age. I noticed clove and black olives in both the aromas and flavors.
Next I chose a red blend of Syrah, Merlot and Pinot Noir which seemed it could be a “fancy red” from the name. Sadly, it just had notes of spice and pepper. Neil’s final wine was a Syrah that also seemed fancy from the name. He described it as a spicy Syrah. It seems we might have both been a little saturated with wine and no longer able to say much about our wine.
Since we had our fill of wines, we took a quick look through our notes to see if we’d like to take any thing home with us that day. We had both liked one of the Fendants at the very beginning of tasting so we decided to take that one home. And if you may remember, we had to walk back on that car route in order to get back. We’d better go before we have no energy remaining for that trek.
What an adventure we had that day! Sure some of it challenged us but a walking trail through a vineyard, with lunch and wine tasting isn’t something you find everyday. Also we got to finally try some Swiss wine which was only a legend for me up to that point. So happy we found out about The Cellars of Sion, and thanks to our hostess there for all her help that day!
The wines we tried throughout the day:
Soleil du Valais, Fendant by Varone
Brûlefer Fendant De Sion by Bonvin
Plan Loggier TROIS (Pinot blanc, sylvaner, heida) by Bonvin
Petite Arvine (Nobles Cepages) by Bonvin
Sortilege “œil de perdrix” rosé by Bonvin
Dôle Blanche rosé by Varone
Dahu rosé by Les Celliers de Sion
Cornalin by Varone
Pinot Noir Terra Cotta by Bonvin
Cuvee Rouge Barrique Clos Du Château (Syrah, Merlot and Pinot noir) by Bonvin
Syrah Grand Cru Ville De Sion by Les Celliers de Sion