Our Trip to the French Wine Region of Beaujolais

Our Trip to Beaujolais - Love & Lemons

In 2015, I had the amazing opportunity to visit vineyards all over the Rhone Valley. I loved every bit of it – the hilltop views, the lavender fields, the food, the wine (of course)… the only thing missing was my better half, Jack, who was stuck at work. This past fall we not only got to go to Beaujolais together, but it happened to fall on the week of our wedding anniversary. It was picture perfect, except the little mishap in the beginning where we missed our flight.


We scrambled to get on a flight the next day, landed in Paris, ran to catch an Uber to make our train, and suddenly, after nearly 24 hours of not sleeping, we were here: Château du Moulin-à-Vent, the first stop of our Beaujolais experience. This chateau was like a picture out of an oil painting. It was dark and stormy outside, but we cozied up to the wine inside and breathed a big sigh of relief that we made it. Now I will breathe a sigh of relief, as Jack wanted to tell the rest of the story. Here he goes!

Our Trip to Beaujolais - Love & Lemons Our Trip to Beaujolais - Love & Lemons

Our first meeting with ​at Château du Moulin-à-Vent was the perfect way to start our trip. It was very emblematic of the Beaujolais region as a whole – the chateau was beautiful, steeped in tradition, and humble all the the same time. The current owner, greeted us with their wine and a few of the traditional foods and pastries of the region, including the pink pistachio pastries pictured above.

He was more than happy to tell us about the chateau, the windmill that the region was named for, and how they tend to the grapes. But he seemed most proud of various old artifacts from the chateau’s past. His family only recently bought the property, but he has been scouring ebay for old menus, invitation cards, and other pieces of the chateau’s past. It feels like everyone in this region seeks to maintain a connection to the past, even those who have only recently arrived.

Our Trip to Beaujolais - Love & Lemons Our Trip to Beaujolais - Love & Lemons Our Trip to Beaujolais - Love & Lemons

The next day, we were hosted by Jean-Luc Longère for a hike through his vineyards. We were in Beaujolais just after most growers had harvested their grapes, but there were still plenty on the vines, and we were able to try them. For some reason, I expected the grapes to be bitter, but they were delicious.

As we hiked, Jean-Luc pointed out his vines, and his friends’ vines as we just walked out in the open. Jeanine asked if his grapes were organic, to which he replied “well, yes, but not officially… I like to spend my time in the vines and not in the office doing paperwork.” Then he pointed out how his soil had grass growing through it and explained that many of the winemakers find that letting things like grass and other life into their soil is better than “dead” soil and pesticides. But again, the paperwork…

Our Trip to Beaujolais - Love & Lemons Our Trip to Beaujolais - Love & Lemons

We then arrived to something that seemed out of The Bachelor – a small table in the middle of the vineyard where we were to have lunch. He opened his backpack and out came wine and a picnic lunch prepared by his Michelin star chef friend Romain Barthe of Auberge de Clochemerle. While we were enjoying the food (including the one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had) and Jean-Luc’s wine, I jokingly asked if he could point out which grapes went into that bottle. Without missing a beat, he said “the ones about 5 meters behind you.” 

Note: if you come to Beaujolais, you must call up Jean-Luc and have this same hike and picnic experience. Call at least 3 days in advance to book it.

Our Trip to Beaujolais - Love & Lemons Our Trip to Beaujolais - Love & Lemons

The first few nights of our trip we stayed at the Château de Bellevue (pictured above – see more on instagram here), who both bottle their own wine and run a bed and breakfast.

Our Trip to Beaujolais - Love & Lemons

At every turn, each view looked like a postcard. We wandered through the above entryway, through Château Thivin, to emerge to this dreamy back yard view…

Our Trip to Beaujolais - Love & Lemons

Not bad, huh? Mont Brouilly is the largest hill in Beaujolais and the vineyards all around it in Côte de Brouilly gave us some of our most breathtaking vistas on the trip.

These sorts of views were always stunning, but never really got boring. Even though the region is relatively small with a shared history, I felt like everywhere we went was beautiful but distinct. In fact, that’s how their wine is – they have four completely different types of soil that yield very different wines, but largely one type of red wine grape – Gamay. It’s fascinating to see how one people, one grape, and one region can be both so alike and so different over the span of about 35 miles.

Our Trip to Beaujolais - Love & Lemons Our Trip to Beaujolais - Love & Lemons

This is Château Thivin, where we met Claude Geoffray, one of the nicest people I have ever met. He welcomed us into his home, where I got to hear wine singing for the first time.

What does this mean? He took me down into the cellar where I noticed a bunch of wine barrels, each with a single leaf placed on top. This piqued my interest – we had seen plenty of wine barrels on this trip, but none with leaves like this, so I asked him about it. Since the harvest had just happened, he had the wine in aging in barrels for a few weeks. He took the leaf off of a barrel and it was covering a hole. When I leaned over and listened inside, I could hear the wine bubbling. Aggressively, like a low hum. This was the wine singing, and I’d never heard anything like it. I asked why he put leaves on top, to which he said that’s what his father and their fathers did – they put a Gamay leaf over the hole. Does it do anything? Who knows, but they did that so he does that.

We all then sat, talked, thumbed through some old family photo albums, and admired the countryside. All while tasting his wine, of course.

Pictured above: The future Love and Lemons garden.

Everything in Beaujolais looks like a painting. This is the town of Oingt (pronounced wahnt, I think) in the Golden Stones region of Beaujolais. Remember how I said everything is distinct here? Well it’s true. It turns out that a lot of the stone and soil in certain parts of the region is gold-colored, so a few towns, like Oingt, are totally built out of it, and it’s beautiful.

We had a great lunch in town at La Table du Donjon. It’s a great way to end a stroll through the town and the restaurant has a stunning view.

The final night, we stayed at Château du Bagnols, which is an ancient castle on a hill that’s been renovated into a 5-star stunning boutique hotel. We had a fantastic dinner that night at their Michelin Star restaurant, 1217, where they must have known about my weakness for mushrooms, because I don’t think I’ve had a better mushroom tart. We wished we didn’t have to leave.

We finished the stay with a lovely walk on the grounds.

Also, in case you thought we only drank wine on the trip – we had plenty of pastries too. Breakfast of French champions.

Of course, our final morning, we just couldn’t get enough castle time, so we hit one more giant ancient castle, Chateau Montmelas (and one more 9:30am wine tasting!) before rushing off to the train station.

Beaujolais was an absolute dream. It’s small enough to be approachable, but distinct enough to never be boring. Nothing ever felt “touristy” and the people were so genuine and welcoming. The views are stunning, the people friendly, the food fantastic, and the wine is like nothing you’ve ever had before. Jeanine and I fell in love with the Gamay grape, and we recommend bringing an extra suitcase, as the wine is ridiculously affordable for how good it is.

We got to explore, eat, drink, learn about people, and see views that are as amazing as any view we’ve seen. We were welcomed into peoples’ homes with open arms, a sincere smile, and a bottle of wine. What’s better than that?

If you’re in Paris or Lyon for a bit and want to take a few days to relax with some of the nicest people on the planet, head on over. Or if you want to rent a car and take a week out to learn about a life you wish you could live, do that too. Either way, I’m sure we’ll be back one day, leaving with bags at least 8 bottles heavier than when we started.

Other favorite recommendations (not pictured):

Au 14 Février in Saint-Amour
Michelin Starred French-Japanese(!) restaurant – one of our favorite dinners of the trip!

Chataeu De Pizay
A hotel with a gorgeous garden that felt like a scene from Alice and Wonderland, wine tasting, and a fun interactive game to test your wine-tasting palate.

Domaine JG Chasselay
Inspiring tour and tasting with Clair Chasselay, an award winning female winemaker. I really wish we got better pictures, because she was a fantastic host and taught us a lot about the science behind the wine-making process.

Dinner at Calad’in Comptoir – Super nice owner, fantastic food, and just a great local spot.
+33 4 74 68 56 04

400 Route Nationale 6, La Chartonnière, 69400 Gleize

Domaine Jean-Jacques Paire
A fun wine museum with an amazing collection of bottle openers :). We loved our tasting with Jean-Jacques. Even though we thought we knew how to taste wine, we didn’t – but JJ was a great, funny teacher!

Special thanks to Atout FranceInter Beaujolais, Air France, and Rail Europe for sending us on this trip of a lifetime.

Pasta World Championship in Milan & Parma

Pasta World Championship in Milan & Parma

It’s been a crazy few months. We moved into our new place in Chicago, almost immediately left for a whirlwind trip that took us through France and Italy, then ended back in the Midwest in Madison before heading back home. I’m eventually going to share a little bit about each trip, but for today I’m starting with the most logical place to begin – the middle! Italy!

Jack and I spent 4 days in Milan and Parma at Barilla® Pasta World Championship. It’s crazy to reflect and see where our work takes us. Eating our way through northern Italy was a blast, to say the least.

Pasta World Championship in Milan & Parma

The competition started in Milan with 19 young chefs competing, each with their signature pasta dish, for the title of Pasta World Champion. Each dish was more creative and artful than the last. Look at those colors! My #1 takeaway from this event was that my pasta twirling skills definitely need some work 🙂

Pasta World Championship in Milan & Parma

At the end of Day, 19 chefs were narrowed to 10 to compete the following day. We weren’t in Milan very long, but we managed to squeeze in an evening walk to the Milan duomo and the next day, of course, some gelato time.

Pasta World Championship in Milan & Parma

On day 2 of the competition, each chef made their version of Spaghetti Pomodoro. It was fun to watch the variations that each chef made using tomato, pasta, and basil. The dish at the top of this post was my favorite (not the winner, but maybe next time they’ll let me judge, ha ha).

Pasta World Championship in Milan & Parma Pasta World Championship in Milan & Parma

After the competition was whittled down to 3 contestants, we headed to Parma where we strolled the picturesque cobblestone streets with fellow bloggers Gaby from What’s Gaby Cooking and Jenny (with her husband Jordan) from Spoon Fork Bacon. (Not pictured, we had 2 great meals at La Forchetta and Ristorante Cocchi).

On day 3, each chef made their signature dish again and a winner was chosen – Chef Accursio Lota the chef from San Diego (originally from Sicily) was named the Pasta World Champion. We were especially rooting for him, not just because he was representing America, but because his dad (who speaks no English) bravely stopped waiters from taking my bread away at dinner the night before.

Pasta World Championship in Milan & Parma

The last day was the day I was waiting for – the day we visited a Parmigiano Reggiano factory. Look at those rows! We also visited a balsamic producer where we tasted tiny drops of the best aged balsamic vinegar ever in Modena.

Pasta World Championship in Milan & Parma Pasta World Championship in Milan & Parma

So that was it, and we had a blast! We got to photograph and taste amazing pasta, hang out with friends and see Parmigiano Reggiano making in Parma! Plus, we can’t wait to visit Chef Lota’s restaurant in San Diego and try more of his delicious pasta!

Two days in Copenhagen

Copenhagen / loveandlemons.com

Ever since watching those chef-y TV shows about Rene Redzepi, I’ve wanted to go to Copenhagen. Sadly, we didn’t get into Noma (we were #1400 on the waiting list when Jack entered us 5 months ago, ha!), but we had a blast eating our way through Copenhagen nonetheless. We had only 2 short days to take it all in, but I think we did pretty well. Thanks to all of you who gave us so many amazing recommendations on Instagram!

Copenhagen / loveandlemons.com

Day 1:

We checked into this Airbnb, had a conference call and took a nap (#werk).

Later, we walked through Nørrebro and had an awesome first dinner at Manfreds. It’s a tiny vegetable-focussed restaurant that, first off, smells amazing when you walk in – like sourdough bread baking and onions roasting. It was so warm and cozy especially since we had just walked in from the cold pouring rain. (The photo below, was taken the next day when it wasn’t raining). Our dinner consisted of about 8 shareable courses – my favorites were the roasted spring onions with pistachio cream, grilled cabbage with tarragon, and the olive oil chocolate mousse. The great thing is that they can cater to special diets & allergies if you ask. Be sure to book a reservation a few days in advance.

Copenhagen / loveandlemons.com Copenhagen / loveandlemons.com

Day 2:

By popular recommendation, we had porridge for breakfast at Grød (the one in the Torvehallerne market because it was closest to us). I got oatmeal with almond milk, topped with granola, fruit and dried strawberries. Jack got (the better bowl), which was topped with homemade caramel sauce, apple and roasted almonds. Afterward we took a long walk to Copenhagen Street Food, which is a giant warehouse full of tons of food trucks/stalls – there is a stall representing pretty much every cuisine of food – Indian, Moroccan, French, etc, etc, etc. I had smørrebrød (the open faced sandwiches that are everywhere in Denmark), Jack had something meaty, and afterward we walked through Christiana Free Town. 

For lunch #2 (so much to eat, so little time), we went to 42 Raw since so many of you had recommended it. I had the veggie burger with vegan tarragon mayo and sweet potato fries. Although I was really wishing I had gotten one of the avocado sandwiches because they looked incredible. (I have this thing where I can’t help but look at other people’s food!)

For the rest of the afternoon, we walked around central Copenhagen and popped into the Design Museum when it looked like it was going to rain.

The highlight of our trip was a late dinner at Relæ (make a reservation in advance). We sprung for the 8 course tasting menu (although the 4 course option would have been totally sufficient). It started with the most delicious sourdough bread I’ve ever eaten. The rest of the courses were a series of creative, seasonal vegetable dishes. Some of the most memorable were: a salad with pickled green strawberries, marigold and chives, cold cucumber soup with sorrel & nostrum, and these wonderful thyme roasted carrots en papillote with hollandaise sauce for dipping. We had organic natural wines (although I’m not sure how I feel about those, but they were interesting to try), and yogurt panna cotta for dessert.

Copenhagen / loveandlemons.com Copenhagen / loveandlemons.com

The next day before heading to the airport:

We took a quick walk through the Torvehallerne Market, had a more smørrebrød at Hallernes Smørrebrød – I had one that was piled high with potatoes, cucumbers and chives, and a slice of carrot cake at Laura’s Bakery.

Copenhagen / loveandlemons.com

Super quick trip, but we’ll be sure to go back! If you have favorite Copenhagen places, feel free to list them in the comments!

A Picnic at Hamilton Pool

A picnic at Hamilton Pool

Since Jack and I first moved to Austin, we’ve loved exploring all of the local natural springs and watering holes. The heat here in the summertime is no joke and the best way to beat it is by getting around some water.

A few weeks ago, we took the day off and spent a lovely afternoon hiking and picnicking at Hamilton Pool. For this post, we’re partnering with Bota Box to share our little local adventure. Hamilton Pool is SO beautiful.It’s a natural pool with a gorgeous 50-foot waterfall. It’s about a 40 minute drive outside of Austin – an easy half-day trip.

A picnic at Hamilton Pool

There’s a quarter mile hike down to the pool. It’s scenic, but be sure wear decent walking shoes that will probably get a little muddy. Another quick tip: pack a lighter picnic than I did above unless you have as nice a husband as I do who will carry it all. (note: glass containers actually aren’t allowed, as we discovered later. Bota Mini’s are perfect to bring along since their alternative packaging contains no glass). 

Here we go!

A picnic at Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs TX A picnic at Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs TX

The pool was naturally created thousands of years ago when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to massive erosion. It’s fun (and totally safe!) to hike around the massive limestone formations. Be sure to grab a walking stick at the beginning of the trail, it was surprisingly helpful.

A picnic at Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs TX A picnic at Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs TX

The day we were here, swimming wasn’t allowed, but that didn’t hold us back from enjoying our picnic on the small beach. I packed my favorite picnic sandwiches, hummus & veggies, a lemony chickpea & radish salad, and these vegan chocolate chip cookies. We brought Bota Minis because what’s a picnic without wine? The Bota Minis are so convenient and easy to pack. Because the weather was warm, I packed their Mini Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay white wines.

A picnic at Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs TX A picnic at Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs TX

I just loved spending this day with Jack. It really reminded me that we should get away from our computers and go explore something new, yet nearby, more often.

A couple of tips before you go: be sure to make a reservation, they only let a certain number of people in at a time and, especially in the summer, it gets full. If you can take off a weekday afternoon, I highly recommend it!

This post was created in partnership with Bota Box. All opinions are my own!

My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II

My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II

Last week, I spent six days in the Rhone Valley(!) The trip was so packed that I decided to break this into two posts. If you missed part one, click here. If you’re planning a trip to the south of France, I hope you find these posts helpful!

My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II

Day 4:

After a lovely breakfast at Hotel de la Villeon, we headed to Maison Chapoutier which is a short walk from the hotel. This area, the northern part of the Rhone Valley, produces more complex wines that are less fruit-forward than the wines I tasted further south. Maison Chapoutier is a great place to taste a big variety. I also learned more about biodynamic wines and I found it fascinating how they use the moon as a guide to grow and harvest the grapes.

We then walked to the Valrhona Chocolate museum. If you’re traveling with kids, put this one on your list and come with a sweet tooth.

As if I hadn’t overindulged enough, we had a fancy lunch at Vineum Paul Aine Jaboulet. It was one of my favorite meals of the trip. We had the 3 course lunch menu with wine pairings – the one I loved most was the lemon curd & strawberry dessert pictured at the top of this post, although the menu changes based on the seasons.

After lunch came the vineyards of Domaine du Tunnel. This place was really different because their cellar is stored in an old train tunnel (hence the name). It was really neat to see. The cool, humid space is the perfect temperature to store wine barrels.

My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II

Day 5

This was my favorite day of the trip. In the morning, we headed to Domain de la Croix Blanche and visited the vineyards (and a tour of the area which includes a massive scenic canyon area) in a vintage car.

I had a leisurely afternoon lunch with the family – they made homemade tapanade using olives from their olive tree, olive oil that they produce, and garlic and basil from their garden. They also served stuffed zucchini, meats, and cheeses. We sat outside for hours, eating fresh food and drinking amazing wine. Before we left, we strolled through Aigueze, which was named “Most beautiful village in France” in 2016:

My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II

Before ending the day, we visited Laudun Chusclan Wineyards and drove to the top of their vineyards which was where I captured this amazing view (all photos are taken on my iPhone, btw):

My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II

That night, I stayed at Domained des Clos, an 18th century wine estate that is now the most chic & peaceful boutique hotel. The grounds are so gorgeous and I loved my modern-provencial style apartment. I wanted to move in! I’ll definitely be coming back here with Jack one day.

My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II

Day 6

The very last vineyard we visited was Château du Mourgues du Grès. We hiked to the top of the hill, tasted wine and ate peaches and plums from their nearby trees.

We ended the trip back in Avignon with a fancy lunch at L’Agape, which was another one of my favorites (be sure to make a reservation for lunch or dinner).

My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II My Guide to the Rhone Valley, part II

Special thanks to Atout FranceAir France & Rail Europe for sending me & to my new friends at Inter Rhone for taking me around!