May 26 2010

Summer in CH=Wine, Bikes, Lakes

by at 10:38 am

Switzerland is mainly known for its wintry sports scene, of which we sort of take part by snowshoeing and once-yearly terrified sliding down mountains, but wow, is summer amazing.  The sun just started to shine, our CSA provided us with a kilo of delicious strawberries last week, the public pools are open, the 2009 wine vintage is ready for drinking, and the fields of canola flowers are in bloom.  Since I can’t be an academic writing machine 24/7, I’ve decided I do need to take advantage of the season, so the past two weekends, we’ve gone on fun little day trips.

Fields of canola flowers

We went to the Caves Ouvertes in Valais (caves ouvertes=open wine cellars) with Adar and Horesh, buying plenty of wine from grape varieties I’ve seen only in Valais.  We were able to decide where to go by simply picking a village (Chamoson) off the map provided by the official web site that looked like it had  dense collection of vineyards, there turned out to be welcome tables and a free little shuttle around the town, it was busy but not crowded, there was as much free wine and raclette as we could down, and everyone was friendly.  What an odd setup for Switzerland; it was great.  I highly recommend it.


Building on such success, we decided we would go to the Caves Ouvertes in Vaud this past weekend.  Rather than choosing the Lavaux as our destination, we went for something more unusual and aimed for the  Bonvillars region alongside Lac Neuchâtel.  This was much less organized than our day in Valais…there were signs in the towns that announced the existence of caves ouvertes that weekend, but no signs, shuttles, or people directing visitors to said caves, and the vineyards weren’t especially evident from the road.  Fortunately, we’d decided to turn this into a bike expedition as well, making use of the second bike we’ve recently acquired.  We took the bikes on the train to Yverdon-les-Bains and planned our trip using the incredibly helpful veloland website.  As it turns out,  Lac Neuchâtel has flat, non-trafficky paths and roads alongside much of the lake, so it was gorgeous and easy going until we climbed into the hills towards the vineyards and my bike refused to switch into its lower gears.  Eventually, we found a winemaker in Concise who was happy to let us try and buy some wines, and we sipped away and munched on bread before turning around and heading back to Yverdon.  Given that I haven’t bike in a year, my legs were really sore, and I was too tired to do any work that night. But now I feel better and am hoping that maybe this weekend we can combine a bike ride and strawberry picking adventure as a break from studying human rights law (final exam next week…).

Lac Neuchatel

By the way, the winegrowers all seem to be saying that the 2009 vintage, while still young, will be incredible given a few more months, as the grapes were exceptionally sweet and healthy last fall, so stock up!

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