South from the Hill of Hermitage
Flying into Chambéry, one has s fine view of the Alps and, indeed, it is largely with skiers that we share the 'plane. Having collected the hire car, however, it is away from, not towards, the mountains that we point the abbreviated snout of what, in modern parlance, is referred to as a mini-MPV. I would guess that the term "mini" in this instance refers to the fact that if one's family has a combined mass greater than, say, a pygmy couple and their two smallest offspring, plus a modest collection of overnight bags (as long as they were no larger than the sort of handbags girls use for transporting a lipstick to the theatre and back), one would be well advised to upgrade to something larger. In any event, there are two of us; it has an engine. We are quickly in Ampuis and looking for somewhere to lunch.
And half an hour later, we arrive in Tain looking for somewhere to lunch. How we could be daft enough to imagine that a smallish town like Ampuis would have anywhere open for lunch on a Sunday is beyond me.
Lunch is salade du chef: a smattering of leaves so small it wouldn't be taken for autumn beneath a baby bonsai, but these are smothered in gesiers and local ham. A jug of cool, fat white Crozes-Hermitage is placed on the table and is welcome. Duck follows.
Feeling in need of a little leg-stretching, we drive up onto the Hill of Hermitage and stroll about, relishing the view. The Rhône has blessed us with a highly photographic day and the river beneath our feet appears not liquid, but a solid strip of blued steel, like the barrel of an expensive shotgun slammed repeatedly in the boot of the Range Rover in order to make it fit the landscape all the better.
Back in the car, we head back to Ampuis to explore the route to our first appointment tomorrow morning. It's the first time I've been up into the hautes côtes behind the town. The views are spectacular; the snows on the Alps still clearly visible in the distance.
Neither of us can wait to get tasting!
The insanely terraced slopes from where originate the wines of Côte-Rôtie