For a moment, I was alone, half-naked, soaking in a copper tub full of warm water, sipping a glass of crisp Chasselas, and drinking in the view. Terraced vineyards fell away below me, sloping down to Lake Geneva, which shimmered in the late-afternoon sun. Dark clouds lined the eastern horizon and the toothy alps reached into a dramatic sky.
Nose to the grindstone, working in the Lavaux
“Could you look over here?” barked our director of photography. Oh, that’s right, we’re working. I know - hot-tubbing in a vineyard doesn’t sound much like work, but my scene at a “wine spa” was the last one in our day of shooting a vineyard e-bike tour for Real Road Adventures in Switzerland. Looking directly into the sun, the optimal light for camera, I squinted and raised my glass in a one-sided toast. Welcome to the Lavaux.
The Lavaux region of Switzerland is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the northern shores of Lake Geneva that stretches about 30km from Chateau Chillon to the outskirts of Lausanne. This south-facing slope has been planted with grapevines as far back as Roman times and has existed in its present, terraced state since the Benedictines and Cistercians of the 11th century. It’s a stunningly beautiful place which, if you’ve only got a day, is just a little too big to experience on foot.
The steep hills that required terracing for the vineyards are also a topographic hurdle to human-powered transport, but the recent flood of affordable electric bicycles has made renting an e-bike for the day an easy option. Guides are also available, either on formal tours or informally for your private group.
Pack a picnic and expect to find plenty of wine to taste along the way. Also, you’ll have easy access to parks along the Lake Geneva waterfront. If it’s a hot day, bring along a swimsuit and towel, and be aware that weather along the lake can change quickly, so be prepared. With over 200 wineries in the Lavaux, it may be hard to choose, but here are a few of the exceptional experiences we had:
This enchanting village features narrow passageways through which cobblestone streets meander. At its center is the Church of Saint-Symphorien, a stone building and bell tower built in 1520 (while originally built as a Catholic church, it became Protestant in 1536 during the reformation). Now, many artists live in this peaceful enclave. The village’s simple beauty and surroundings make it worth a stop just to take it all in and snap a few pictures.
Domaine Blaise Duboux
Winemaker Blaise Duboux is the 17th generation to work this vineyard over a 500-year family history. His wines are unique in that they are produced with certified-organic practices. The main grape, Chasselas, represents 75% of production and produces a light, refreshing white wine with mineral highlights. A tour here is usually led by Mr. Duboux himself and includes a walk through the vineyards near Epesses as well as a guided tasting. Reserve tours in advance through the website.
La Vigne - Swiss Wine Therapy
This pop-up spa features the copper-tub-with-a-view experience I mentioned at the top of the article along with a menu of other wine-related treatments to soothe your muscles and soul. After your hot bath, an exfoliation treatment using leftover pulp and seeds is followed by a Chasselas-lees wrap (La Vigne suggests that this paste of spent yeast fights the aging of the skin through its abundance of resveratrol). End with a grapeseed oil face and body massage.
As the current home of wine spa La Vigne, Domaine Bovy is a natural place to finish your tour before heading back to drop your bike in Vevey. Slightly larger than Domaine Blaise Duboux, they host tastings, brunches, and dinners on a large, modern terrace with unparalleled views of the vineyards, Lake Geneva, and the alps. There’s even an apartment (minimum 7-day rental) for 2-4 people. Reserve in advance through their website.
Suggested Tour Route
A half-day ride is enough to see a couple of wineries and have a picnic, but setting aside a full day allows for a bit more exploration. This particular route is 18 miles (30km) which, with several stops like the ones we’ve suggested, should take a full day. Renting your bike in Vevey makes it easy to venture out into the Lavaux as far as time allows without having to stick to a strict schedule.
There are plenty of good places to rent bikes or set up a guided tour. Here are a few.
Have you spent time in the Lavaux or along the “Montreux Riviera” on Lake Geneva? What were your favorite stops? Let us know in the comments and subscribe so you don’t miss a thing!