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Switzerland: If You Go

Per-Henrik Mansson
Posted: February 27, 2002

Leopoldo's black tagliolini with lobster and zucchini.
  Switzerland's Surprising Wines
Long sheltered from competition, the Alpine nation's wines are now improving in quality.
  ABCs of Swiss Wine  
  Related Links:  
  When It Comes to Winegrowing, the Swiss Aren't Neutral  
  Swiss Vintners Carve Wine Cellar Out of Glacier  

From palaces rich in marble and opulence along the shores of Lake Geneva to cozy and warm inns perched high in the Alps, Switzerland's hotels are run with well-practiced professionalism. And the spirit of Frédy Girardet, Switzerland's now-retired Michelin three-star chef of world renown, lives on. Many of the Michelin-starred chefs in the French-speaking part of Geneva, Vaud and Valais credit Girardet for inspiring them to pursue excellence.

Switzerland offers many attractions to travelers -- pristine nature, boating on its many lakes, and hiking and skiing in some of Europe's best resorts, including Zermatt, Saas-Fee, Verbier, and also in the Portes de Soleil region centered around Champéry.

And Switzerland is small enough for wine lovers to visit the leading regions easily. Valais, the largest viticultural area, where no fewer than 52 different grape varieties are grown, is a 90-minute drive from Geneva on a scenic elevated freeway that cuts through hillside vineyards. Vaud, the second largest wine canton, is a one-hour drive from Geneva and is peppered with traditional vigneron villages such as Cully and St.-Saphorin in Lavaux. Geneva is the third largest winegrowing canton.

The fourth largest is the canton of Ticino. It's the sunny, Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, where palm trees grace the shores of the Lugano and Maggiore lakes. It's just an hour's drive north of the Milan airport.

The restaurants and hotels listed below are notable for their proximity to wine regions or for their strong wine lists. Seasons and hours of operation are subject to change; call ahead to confirm. Establishments take all major credit cards.


Domaine de Châteauvieux
Peney-Dessus Satigny 1242

Telephone (011) 41-22-753-1511
Fax (011) 41-22-753-1924
E-mail chateauvieux@bluewin.ch
Open Hotel: Jan. 8 to July 31 (closed Easter week), Aug. 15 to Dec. 23; Restaurant: dinner, Tuesday to Saturday, year-round, except as noted for hotel
Cost Menus $101 - $119
Rooms 18
Rates $116 - $229 (double occupancy)
Best of Award of Excellence

Philippe and Bettina Chevrier turned Châteauvieux into the greatest food and wine destination in all of French-speaking Switzerland. In fact, Chevrier has gone from strength to strength ever since he received his second Michelin star in 1994. Châteauvieux's chef's creations, which always deliver explosive flavors and bring unparalleled lightness to French haute cuisine, gain an edge over the competition from all that surrounds it. The 60-seat restaurant and 18-room hotel are housed in a tastefully restored 13th century country mansion, which is surrounded by vineyards of the commune of Satigny. You can dine on a terrace overlooking rows of vines, far from the hustle and bustle of Geneva, which is a 20-minute drive away. And the impressive wine list (350 selections; 40,000 bottles), which holds a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence, is full of the classics (19 vintages of Château d'Yquem going back to 1893, for example).


Osteria dell'Enoteca
24 Contrada Maggiore, Losone 6616

Telephone and Fax (011) 41-91-791-7817
Open March 1 to Dec. 31; lunch and dinner, Wednesday to Sunday
Cost Prix fixe: $52 (4 courses); $64 (5 courses)

This cozy, nine-table restaurant with fireplace and antique furniture is situated on a quiet village street in Ticino's northern wine country. Osteria dell'Enoteca features 300 wine selections and a 5,000-bottle cellar, and is especially strong in the local star varietal, Merlot, from top producers. Owner Hansueli Kellenberger personally handles the service with professional grace (but could use some help to make things run more smoothly). Chef Daniel Zürcher serves elegant regional Ticinese cuisine, including gems like perch fillets on carpaccio of zucchini, and is also creative with dishes such as braised veal with chestnut and honey sauce.

Villa Principe Leopoldo & Residence
5 Via Montalbano, Lugano 6900

Telephone (011) 41-91-985-8855
Fax (011) 41-91-985-8825
Web site www.leopoldo.ch
Open Year-round
Rooms 41
Junior suites 78
Suites 37
Rates $270 - $1,100

This magnificent estate, high above Lake Lugano on the Collina d'Oro, has been turned into a romantic and luxurious inn. Here la dolce vita can be enjoyed in Ticino's southern wine country. The two heated outdoor swimming pools are popular attractions in the hotel's gardens. Enjoy dinner alfresco at the Gazebos restaurant, with panoramic view of the lake, mountains and city of Lugano below, or enjoy the more refined cuisine of chef Dario Ranza at the main restaurant, with its northern Italian, Ticinese and Mediterranean accents. The wine list (450 selections, 12,000 bottles) is strong in Ticino Merlots, and especially impressive in Piedmont and Tuscan reds.


Fletschhorn Waldhotel
Saas-Fee 3906

Telephone (011) 41-27-957-2131
Fax (011) 41-27-957-2187
Web site www.fletschhorn.ch
Open Lunch and dinner, daily; mid-Dec. to April, mid-June to Oct.
Cost Menus $83 - $107

The husband-and-wife team of Jörg and Irma Dütsch have created one of the most complete fine-dining experiences in the Swiss mountains. Several 12,000-foot-high peaks surround Saas-Fee, and glaciers hang ominously above the picturesque car-free resort. Cozy and elegant, the 15-table, 60-seat dining room, which blends wood beams with clean modern lines accented by modern art, hums with friendly professionalism under the vigilant eye of the relaxed Jörg. A mountain stream allowed to course through the cellar (400 selections; 16,000 bottles, 80 percent from Valais) naturally controls temperature and humidity. Many of Valais' different varietals appear on the wine list, and are served in Riedel stemware to match Irma's tasty Franco-Swiss cuisine, which is elegant and flavorful. Waldhotel features several rooms (from $178 - $300, double occupancy) above the restaurant.

Restaurant Pierroz
Route de Médran, Verbier 1936

Telephone (011) 41-27-771-6323
Fax (011) 41-27-771-1059
Web site www.relaischateaux.ch/rosalp
Open Lunch and dinner, daily, mid-Dec. to mid-April, mid-July to Sept.
Cost Menus $92 - $113
Award of Excellence

The cuisine of Roland Pierroz is like the man himself -- colorful and fiery. And nowhere does his passion better shine through than in the remarkable wine list (400 selections; 60,000 bottles), which holds a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. He satisfies a demanding international clientele in a wood-paneled, "chic chalet" style, Michelin one-star restaurant that delivers impeccable service and artsy dishes emitting clean and exuberant Mediterranean aromas. The menu's strong suit is creative fish dishes such as rouget de roche croustillant a la poivronnade (spicy, crunchy red mullet).


Auberge du Raisin
1 Place de l'Hôtel de Ville, Cully 1096

Telephone (011) 41-21-799-2131
Fax (011) 41-21-799-2501
Web site www.relaischateaux.com/raisin
Open Lunch and dinner, daily, year-round
Cost Menus: $50 (3-course lunch); $116 (7-course dinner)

Adolfo Blokbergen is a rising chef in the Lake Geneva area who earned his second Michelin star this year. His cold consommé of Brittany lobster and ginger was ethereally light, and pungent with sea aromas. The main, 35-seat dining room is cozy, as is the restored building itself, which dates back to the 13th century (it was once a town hall). There is a large fireplace where meats are grilled in the winter. The wine list (300 selections; 9,000 bottles) covers the main bases from Switzerland, Burgundy, Bordeaux and California. The hotel features nine rooms and one apartment (from $154 - $327).

Hotel Le Mirador
Le Mont-Pélerin 1801 (Montreaux/Vevey)

Telephone (011) 41-21-925-1111
Fax (011) 41-21-925-1112
Web site www.mirador.ch
Open Year-round
Rooms 82
Suites 15
Rates $208 - $1,120 (double occupancy)

The views around Lake Geneva don't get much better than at Le Mirador. This resort, perched like an eagle's nest high above the Lavaux vineyards, offers a sweeping panorama of the snow-capped Alps, the lake (1,600 feet below) and the "Swiss Riviera" towns of Montreux and Vevey. The more formal Le Trianon restaurant holds a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence for its wine list (640 selections; 12,000 bottles), which includes a few rarities from Valais such as Petite Arvine, Marsanne and Heida (from Europe's highest vineyard).

Restaurant Le Pont de Brent
Brent/Montreux 1817

Telephone (011) 41-21-964-5230
Fax (011) 41-21-964-5530
Web site www.relais chateaux.com/brent
Open Tuesday to Saturday, mid-Jan. to mid-July, mid-Aug. to mid-Dec.
Cost Menus $107 - $128

Year in and year out, reserved Gérard Rabaey produces cuisine of artisanal refinement. The precision of his cooking has earned his small restaurant three Michelin stars, making him the only chef in Switzerland to achieve such status besides the retired Frédy Girardet. With critical acclaim has come a growing commitment to wine, and the list has been expanded to more than 700 selections and a stock reaching 40,000 bottles, half of which are Swiss wines.

Senior editor Per-Henrik Mansson lives in Switzerland.

This article appeaed in the the Dec. 31, 2001 - Jan. 15, 2002, issue of Wine Spectator magazine, page 141. (Subscribe today)

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