The weather was ugly and cold and snowy in the mountains. So we choose a lighter hiking option today, took the bus to Sierre, and enjoyed a 10km walk along the vineyards in the warm sun.
Chris had found something about a Wine Museum down in the valley, with two sites and some 8km? of trail linking them. We looked at the weather (cloudy and misty and drizzly in the high mountain valleys), and remembering Fernando’s choice from yesterday (“I’ve had enough of marching 8 hours through mist and fog and 0 degree wet weather”). With our health improving (my knee healing faster than expected, Craig recovering), a nice levelish walk sounded fine in the 20C sunshine. Oh, and did I mention there’s wine too.
So we departed on the bus, a hourlong journey some 20km down down down to Sierre, and walked through town to the start of the wine trail at Chateau de Villa next to the wine musuem. Ah, darn, the museum is closed until 2pm, it’s only 11am. Let’s have some samplers, and enjoy these fabulously stylish comfortable chairs (I want some for the patio at the house, they’re made by Fermob)
After that enjoyable break, we headed up and east into the vineyards, just puttering around. Lots of portapotties were being setup for some huge weekend festival all along the trail; we just enjoyed the weather and the views, and little things like catwalks so the cats could climb in the second story windows, cool modern houses, and (ahem) a few plums off of a tree that no one seemed to own; better me than the crows. Life is good.
After awhile, the trail became a sidewalk and we hiked through some upscale burbs, looking uphill to the fancypants condo towers far above in Cras Montana, a ski resort. The elevation around here is so abrupt that you can have a mostly Mediterranean climate down in the valley, and a few thousand meters upslope it’s a ski resort.
We left the suburbs behind as we got closer to Salgesch, and entered yet more vineyards; with the bit of elevation the trail had gained it was a super scenic walk towards the “ravine”, essentially a large stream cuts through a gorge. The ravine is much more interesting as a linguistic feature than a topological one, as it divides French-speaking Vallais from German-speaking Wallis... though Vallais and Wallis are the same Swiss canton.
As we headed up that steep hill out of the ravine, a “geoffnet” sign pointed off to the right to some winery. Should we stop in? Sure!
An older man came over and waved for us to sit down, and brought out some wine, a wonderful white wine that suited the hot day perfectly. He asked how things were, and we said wonderful, and when he found out where we were from he apologized for his poor English, he’s 70 and losing words, he last used English when he was a ski instructor in Aspen in the 70s.
All the time he really focussed on me, and I nodded, he mentioned that he really had a lot of work to do, so he couldn’t join us for a drink because of the 12000 people expected tomorrow (the event tenting was definitely in place, for what he said was 200 or 400 people)... and he said the winery was great but a lot of work, and he didn’t want to be doing it when he was in a wheelchair or anything (looking at me, again!). He was looking to sell, looking for the right buyer to take over (was he selling to me???) and that he was looking forward to moving to Belgrade, where he spends 5 months of the year now, a perfect wonderful place, we must visit, perhaps through Budapest and then southeasterlywards, and warned me I shouldn’t find a wheelchair.
It was wonderful, really, charming and cozy and all that, just getting a sense of this man. I asked if that was his hame on the bottle... Gregor Kuonen ... and he said yes, this is his place.
We thanked him for the wine, and kinda started to make motions to leave... until he brought out a second bottle, a wonderful tasty pinot noir, meaty and delicate and cedary as I recall, and then he joined us and we all got that wonderful buzz, enough to be lucid but not too much to become stupid.
It was a wonderful treat, and will certainly be a highlight of this trip, just this random encounter with this man who’s been making wine for decades (and that we’ve been enjoying for a couple of weeks and many years in the future.)
We had just finished the bottle when one of his buddies pulled up in a fun electric scooter to help set up for tomorrow’s events, so we bid him farewell and hustled down to the train... our plans were to stay once again in Leukerbad, and have another spa-weekend. Chris and I got fascinated with the 1960s murals and Swiss design here and there too, so there are more pictures than there should be.
And maybe tomorrow there might even some hiking, which I think I’m up for. My right knee doesn’t feel wonky, it’s more the muscles above it that feel kinda bruised, like I took a mallet to my quadriceps.
Or maybe that’s the wine talking. We’ll see tomorrow.