Wednesday, October 25, 2023

France’s Premier Chocolate, Valrhona


     Wine-Knows will visit Valrhona's on its tour to Champagne, Burgundy, the Rhone & Provence

Today's article is the third in October's three-part series on France's Rhone Valley.  When one thinks of French chocolate, the name Valrhona is at the top of the list.   Valrhona is synonymous with quality.   Revered by Michelin star chefs around the globe, Valrhona chocolate is made in the Rhone Valley.   Take another look at the name:  Val - Rhona, short for Vallee du Rhone (or Rhone Valley in English).  The chocolate is named after the region in which it was first made more than 100 years ago.

                                   The Rhone Valley is famous for wine as well as chocolate

In 1922 pastry chef and candy maker Albert Giuronnet opened a chocolate shop in Tain Hermitage, a thriving small wine town located on the Rhone River.  Attentive to quality, Monsieur Giurronet insisted on roasting his own cocoa beans.  It didn't take long for his chocolate products to become well known and he became the supplier for the best pastry chefs in the Rhone Valley.

      One of Valhrona's iconic products, the "Rinette," is still made today by hand in Tain Hermitage

Fast forward 100 years:  Valrhona's chocolate empire remains in Tain Hermitage a croissant's toss from the Rhone River.  Today, it's a large high-tech factory with a visitor's center called the Cite du Chocolat (City of Chocolate).  Within this complex is the Ecole du Chocolat (School of Chocolate) where professional chefs from around the world flock to learn about the wonders of cooking with Valrhona's expansive portfolio of high-end chocolate products.

              The Rhone Valley offers dramatic vine-draped beauty, top wine & premier chocolate

Wine-Knows will be visiting Valrhona's Cite du Chocolat next September to tour the facility.  A word of warning:  there will be many samples for tasting!   We have a few vacant spots remaining on this trip which also visits Champagne, Burgundy & Provence.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Ground Zero for Luscious White Viognier

                 Wine-Knows will be visiting the home of Viognier wines next September, 2024

This is a second article in this month’s series devoted to wines of the Northern Rhone wine district.    Do you know Viognier wine?  If not, you should!  The appellation of Condrieu is ground zero for lovers of the highly perfumed white Viognier grape.  While Viognier is often used for blending in the Rhone, in the AOC of Condrieu it is 100% varietal.  In fact, the only wine that can be sold under the Condrieu AOC is a white wine made entirely from the Viognier grape.

                    Condrieu's appellation allows only one wine:  white wine made from Viognier

Viognier from Condrieu is a rich, opulent wine.  One of its pleasures comes before sipping.  The Viognier grape makes highly aromatic wines (think summer honeysuckle and/or fragrant roses).  For Viognier’s flavor you’re in store for another exotic summer experience (think ripe mango & papaya or even sweet tangerine).  

                             Viognier is known for its aromatic intensity and full bodied taste

Now for the bad news.  The Rhone’s Viognier production is very small.  If you see Viognier from the Rhone on a wine list (or on the shelf in a wine store) you’ll most likely be somewhere in the Rhone Valley.   While Michelin star restaurants in France will usually have a few Viogniers, the wine is not plentiful outside of the Rhone Valley.  That being said, here’s a magical trio worth every dollar and they’re all available through K& L Wine Merchants.

  • Andre Perret Coteau du Chery Condrieu ($80)
  • Clos de la Bonnette Legende Bonnetta ($60)
  • Francois Villrad “De Poncins: Condrieu ($70)


If you’re interested in tasting Viognier in the Rhone, why not come with Wine-Knows next September (2024) on its trip through the Rhone, Champagne, Burgundy & Provence.   There are 3-4 spots remaining.

Wine-Knows Travel – For the Discerning Traveler (

Friday, October 6, 2023

The Rhone’s World-Class Hermitage Wines

          The Hermitage hill as viewed from the hotel where Wine-Knows will be staying in 2024

This is the first in a three-part series on wines from the Northern Rhone.  Hermitage wines have a cult-like following by serious oenophiles.   Located just south of the city of Lyon, the small Hermitage appellation is situation on a perfectly positioned steep granite hill.  Drenched in full afternoon sunlight, this vine-draped slope overlooks the majestic Rhone River which cools during the valley's sizzling summers and provides warmth during its frosty winters.  The Hermitage hill is named after a tiny chapel which adorns its crest.  

                      The birds-eye view Hermitage chapel provides a perfect view for wine lovers 

The Hermitage appellation is known for its red wines which are made from the Syrah grape.   For Syrah devotees, Hermitage is the Holy Grail.   This is not surprising considering the Syrah grape comes from the Rhone region.  When young, these wines are rich and concentrated with bold tannins.  Their youthful profile is one of blackberry, dark cherry, spice and mineral.   Older Hermitage wines are elegant and complex with an earthy spectrum of leather, cocoa and coffee.  Because of their tannins, these opulent Hermitage can age for decades.

                         "La Chapelle" vineyard is one of the most coveted on the Hermitage hill

Hermitage is one of the few appellations that allows an addition of up to 15% of white grapes into its red wine.   Luscious Marsanne and Roussanne that are used to complete these perfect reds, adding interesting floral, stone fruit and citrus nuances.   Both of these white grapes are also used to produce the area’s rare white wine.   These hedonistic whites, known for their dense texture and a long finish, are highly coveted.


Hermitage’s red wines are the benchmark by which all other Syrah wines are measured.    For an up-close-and-personal experience with Hermitage wines, why not consider coming with Wine-Knows on its September harvest next year, 2024?  We have 3-4 openings left at this time.