Exploring Southern Beaujolais
Go to Villefranche-sur-Saône tourist office, not far from the marketplace for a booklet on Beaujolais country. It includes a map, itineraries, and lists the wine-tasting cellars open to the public. It also lists and details some 30 villages.
Any tour of Southern Beaujolais should include the pedestrianized, medieval village of Oingt—officially designated as one of the most beautiful villages in France. Only the tower remains of the medieval castle, but it’s worth climbing for the panoramic views over Beaujolais. A good place to stock up on local Beaujolais wine is Terroir des Pierres Dorées (www.vignerons-pierres-dorees.fr; tel. 04-78-15-91-07), at place de Presberg on the edge of the pedestrianized center.
Another pretty village is St-Julien-Sous-Montmelas, 11km (6.75 miles) northwest of Villefranche (take D35). Claude Bernard, the father of physiology, was born here in 1813. His small stone house—the Musée Claude-Bernard (tel. 04-74-67-51-44)—exhibits the scholar’s mementos, instruments, and books. The museum is open from April to October, Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 12:30pm and 2 to 6pm; admission is 5€ or free for children 12 and under.
If you like fairy-tale castles, you should visit Château de Montmelas (www.chateau-montmelas.com; tel. 04-74-67-32-94) in Montmelas-Saint-Sorlin. Known locally as Sleeping Beauty castle, it has been home to descendants of the same aristocratic family since the Middle Ages. From this hilltop castle, you’ll find breathtaking views towards the distant Mont Blanc. The castle interiors are only open to the public on the first Saturday of the month at 11am (unless you’re willing to pay 175€ for a private visit), but you can telephone in advance for a wine tasting in the cellars with the charming Comtesse d’Harcourt, Delphine. Award-winning red and white table wines, and even sparkling wines are produced by the Comte himself. If you’d like to stay, two four-bedroom gîtes are available for 2 nights or more. From St. Julien, take the D19 west and then the D44 towards the castle.
Exploring Northern Beaujolais
Château de la Chaize
Fresh from a top-to-bottom renovation of its cellars, this 17th-century castle is re-opening for wine tastings and garden visits in summer 2019. Home of the Marquise de Roussy de Sales, Château de la Chaize, Odenas (www.chateaudelachaize.com; tel. 04-74-03-41-05), is a fairy-tale setting to taste the sought-after wines of Brouilly. The immaculate grounds are complete with a topiary garden and star-formed vegetable patch.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.