May 9-16, 2023 | 8 days/7 nights
Lyon | Tain l’Hermitage | Côte Rotie | Condrieu | Saint Joseph | Côtes du Rhône | Châteauneuf-du-Pape | Luberon | Avignon
Join your Paso Robles’ beloved winemaker Carl Bowker and his wife Pam on a custom journey through France’s iconic Rhône Valley to visit some of the region’s best wineries. Ranging from well-known producers to hidden gems, this trip promises to deliver an intimate experience that will be unlike any other, even if you’ve been to the Rhône before.
Special guest Sommelier Kelly McAuliffe, who you may know from his frequent appearances at the Hospice du Rhône in Paso Robles, will accompany you throughout the trip as your Tour Manager. Kelly is an ex-pat American who has made the Rhône his home for over 25 years, and he has “magic keys” to gain access to wineries and restaurants that others only dream about.
During each of the days we devote to wineries, expect to visit at least 2-3 producers. In addition to tastings, we will also be arranging experiences including vineyard walks, wine blending and more. The specific wineries and exact details of the visits will be shared before the trip, in early 2023. We will also have a wine-paired lunch on each of these days, at one of Kelly’s favorite restaurants.
What is included in the price:
- 7 nights hotel in Lyon and Avignon with breakfast and taxes included.
- Private arrival and departure transfers (1 per couple).
- Deluxe bus with a private driver at your disposal as per itinerary and schedule.
- Sommelier Kelly McAuliffe as tour manager throughout the trip.
- All winery visits, including some with paired lunches or experiences such as vineyard tours, to be determined before the departure date.
- Lunch daily, which will be paired with wine, except on days 4 and 6.
- 2 dinners—1 in Lyon and 1 in Avignon (drinks on own).
- Multiple food tastings at Les Halles Paul Bocuse.
- Cultural tours with local guides in Lyon and Provence.
- Restaurant recommendations.
- Our 24-hour contact number.
- Operational and logistical support throughout, including triple checking all arrangements before your arrival; any last-minute changes necessary due to flight delays, inclement weather, etc.
- Hotel gratuities.
What is not included in the price:
- Meals not specified in the itinerary.
- Lunch on Days 4 and 6.
- International flights.
- Cancellation insurance.
- Personal expenses.
- Gratuities for drivers and guides.
- 6,000 EUR per person based on double occupancy
- 2,420 EUR for single supplement
Private Transfers from Lyon Airport to Intercontinental Grand Hotel Dieu in Lyon.
Set along the Rhône River in the heart of Lyon, this grand hotel was a former charity hospital dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. It transitioned to become a prominent maternity hospital until the last baby was born only 12 years ago, in 2010! Intercontinental transformed the building into a magnificent 5-star hotel, located in the city center. The public spaces ooze with historic architectural details and gardens, while its rooms have all the modern touches. The Hotel Dieu’s Le Dôme Bar, with its impressive dome you can see in the photo, is considered to be the best bar in Lyon.
Check In – Tuesday, 9th May 2023
Check Out – Friday 12th May 2023
Time to adjust to France time. Welcome dinner in Lyon at one of the best “bouchons,” the restaurants which serve the authentic cuisine that Lyon is known for.
Full Day Tour in Northern Rhône Valley with Kelly McAuliffe –Tain l’Hermitage, Côte Rotie, Condrieu and Saint Joseph
Meet your Tour Manager, Sommelier Kelly McAuliffe for your first day of winery visits in the Northern Rhône where Syrah is king. You’ll be visiting several wineries in the regions of Côte Rotie, Tain l’Hermitage and Saint Joseph.
Today’s wineries may include Stephan Ogier, Francois Villard, Gaillard, Voge, Tunnel, Clape, Coursodon, Colombier, Combier, Chapoutier, Jaboulet, Delas and La Cave de Tain.
A wine-paired lunch at a restaurant chosen by Kelly is included. If there is time, you’ll also visit the Valrhona factory and taste their famous chocolates.
Return to Lyon at end of the day. Evening on your own.
Full Day Tour in Côte du Rhône
Pick up and drop off: Hotel in Lyon.
Today’s journey will take you further south to Côte du Rhône, visiting Kelly’s favorites in this region that you didn’t get to visit yesterday, such as Cave Yves Cuilleron and E. Guigal.
Wine-paired lunch is included.
Return to Lyon at end of the day. Evening on your own.
Day in Lyon-Transfer to Avignon
The day will start with a walking tour of Lyon accompanied by a passionate local guide. This tour will give you a chance to see the iconic places of Lyon which are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. You’ll tour The Peninsula (Presqu'ile), where you’ll see some of Lyon’s most beautiful architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries and view how Lyon is at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers. Then you’ll visit the Old Town and see a couple of the secret passageways known as traboules. You’ll conclude your visit at the magnificent Basilica that sits atop the Fourvière Hill, with time to marvel at its amazingly intricate mosaics.
If time permits, you’ll also peek into a silk printing studio to see how silk art is created. Lyon is a famous silk-producing region dating back centuries, and in fact, the process of silk-screening is what led Lyon’s Lumière brothers to invent the first film used for movies.
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, our coach will transfer you to Les Halles Paul Bocuse. This is not “just” a covered food market—it is the city’s homage to its native son, Chef Paul Bocuse, the father of Lyonnaise gastronomy. If you visit nowhere else in Lyon, you must visit Les Halles to discover the culinary culture and flavors of the city. Strolling through the market with your epicurean guide, you will taste the best produces in the region. Your guide will tell you the stories, about the Mères Lyonnaises and other anecdotes about starred chefs and local specialties in this temple of cuisine. You will have multiple tastings: from the traditional quenelle to the numerous cheeses and charcuterie, including sweet treats such as pink pralines and Coussin de Lyon, marzipan-covered chocolate ganache candy unique to Lyon. Tastings will vary based on seasonal availability, but your tour will be a gastronomic treat, whatever you taste.
After the guided tour, you’ll have some free time in the market before departure, perhaps to try some oysters or foie gras. Or, if you want to make a little shopping trip, the Westfield Mall is right across the street and you can get your Galleries Lafayette fix!
It is then time to say au revoir to Lyon. You’ll have about 3 hours to nap or enjoy the scenery as you head to one of the best preserved Roman vestiges in the world, the Pont du Gard. This masterpiece of ancient Roman architecture was built in the 1st century AD to capture water and deliver it to the city of Nîmes. Pont du Gard is 49 meters high (over 160 feet) and is the highest bridge-aqueduct of antiquity. Even if you’ve seen the photos, nothing compares to seeing this three-level stone aqueduct in person. Your guide will take you to the top of the bridge and to the former gallery where water used to run so you can see for yourself the marvel of ancient Roman engineering.
Following the visit to Point du Gard, you will continue to your hotel, the five-star Hotel de l’Europe in the heart of Avignon. It is located between the Palais des Papes and the St. Benézet Bridge. This 16th-century house has been home to travelers and royalty, not to mention Napoleon Bonapart. While there, you may want to reserve one evening for dinner in their Michelin-starred “gastronomic” restaurant. The evening will be on your own to explore the restaurants, shops and bars all within easy walking distance.
Full Day Tour in Châteauneuf-du-Pape with Kelly McAuliffe
After breakfast at your hotel, you will be picked up for a day designed by Kelly. Known for being one of the best wine regions in the world, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is one of Kelly’s favorite regions of the Rhône, and he will choose his favorite wineries for you to visit.
The list is long, but here’s just a sample of ones you’ll select from: Janasse, Clos du Caillou, P Usseglio, Giraud, Domain de Beaurenard, Grand Veneur, Pegau, Font du Loup, Vieux Telegraph, Clos de Calvaire, Bosquet des Papes and Mont Redon, to name a few. Kelly will make sure to include both well-known and secret boutique wineries to give you a broader sense of the best of this region.
Lunch will be a paired meal at an authentic local restaurant that is one of Kelly’s favorites.
Return to Avignon. Evening on your own.
Full Day cultural tour in the Luberon region
Since many places are closed on Sundays, you’ll take a break from wine to explore some of the charming villages in the area.
In the morning, you’ll be driven to the picturesque village of L’Isle-sur-Sorgues and discover what Sunday life is like in one of the most beautiful villages in Provence. Here, your guide will take you through the vintage and antique market held in the center of the village. You’ll have time to stroll on your own, perhaps getting a coffee on the terrace of one of the many cafes that will welcome you.
After lunch on your own, your guide will drive you through the Luberon Region to visit such other beautiful villages as Gordes, Roussillon, Menerbes or Lacoste. You’ll return to Avignon by early evening, where you will have a “pre” farewell dinner at one of Kelly’s choice restaurants.
Full Day tour of the Southern Rhône with Kelly McAuliffe
Pick up at Hotel in Avignon after breakfast.
Full day visiting wineries of Kelly’s choosing in Gigondas, Vacqueras, Ventoux and possibly Luberon or Tavel, depending on time.
Today’s wineries may include Clos de Trias, Saint Cosme and Bosquet in Gigondas, Clos de Caveaux and Sang de Cailloux in Vacqueyras and Domaine de la Mordorée, Lafond or Maby in Tavel. Since this is one of Kelly’s favorite parts of the Rhône, he also has some favorite restaurants, so today’s wine-paired lunch will be an extra special treat.
Return to hotel in Avignon. Evening and dinner on your own.
Au Revoir to the Rhône Valley
After breakfast at the hotel, check out and private transfer to Marseille Airport (other transfers, such as to the train station, upon request.)
Caliza Owner & Winemaker
Carl’s first experience with farming came from tagging along with his father, an irrigation specialist, to local farms in Hawaii, where Carl was born. His early experience working with the earth and soils was the inspiration to get into the wine industry…but that came much later.
After graduation from the University of Hawaii, Carl left the islands for California to begin a corporate career, which he did for several decades before deciding that “office work” was not for him. Following a life-changing trip to Europe with his wife Pam, during which they drank wine and met with winemakers, Carl realized his passion was the connection of wine with the land. This was to become his new career.
Carl and Pam chose to purchase land in Paso Robles, California because everything about the region was reminiscent of the Rhône, which was their favorite wine region in France. Carl also completed a winemaking and viticulture program at Napa Valley College to gain technical knowledge in the planting and production of wine.
Everything came together in 2006 when the Bowkers planted their first 20 acres on a hillside vineyard in the famous Willow Creek AVA located in Paso’s Westside. With its warm-to-hot days, cooled by the coastal fog that is carried in through the Templeton Gap, Caliza’s land is perfectly suited to grow the Rhône varietals that Carl and Pam love so much.
Today’s Caliza Winery has grown to 60 acres, with 28 of them planted. Rhône grapes, including Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Roussanne, Marsanne and others, comprise the majority of the planting. Ever a pioneer, Carl also grows non-Rhône grapes such as Petit Sirah, Primitivo (Zinfandel) and Tempranillo, to give him the ability to be even more creative in his winemaking.
Carl’s winemaking has won him many awards and 90-point plus ratings from the world’s most respected wine critics.
Sommelier and Guide
Kelly Mc Auliffe has been the only American sommelier working in France for the past 25 years. Born in Carson City, Nevada, Kelly started his career in the fashion industry. This led him to live all over the world, ranging from Paris, Tokyo, Italy, Brazil to Australia to Los Angeles. During his travels, he developed a passion for food and wine, so he returned to the US to study wine at UC Berkeley.
After learning about California wines, he and his French-born wife moved back to her hometown of Avignon and began working in French restaurants. He also earned a degree in wine at the renowned University of Wine in the south of France. Three days after completing his degree, Kelly was offered an internship with world-renowned chef Alain Ducasse at one of his Michelin 3-star restaurants in Paris.
Kelly moved on to several other Ducasse restaurants in France before returning to Avignon to be closer to family. There he worked at Christian Etienne, a 1-star restaurant, which also gave him exposure to the best winemakers in the Rhône. Chef Ducasse had other plans for Kelly and convinced him to return to the US, this time to Las Vegas, to become the Wine Director at his restaurant at Mandalay Bay. From there, he became the French Wine Specialist for Southern Wine & Spirits, the largest distributor in the world. But France was calling, and he returned to his adopted homeland to take travelers like you to visit all the wineries and places he loves. Kelly will be our Tour Manager throughout our journey enhancing your passion for all things Rhône.
Deposit: A deposit of 500 EUR per person due at the time of booking and no later than October 31, 2022. Starting November 1, 2022—February 14, 2023, the deposit will be 50% of the total price. (See Terms & Conditions on “Book Now” for complete terms.)