The Vercors, St.Jean, Regional Food and Wine
The Vercors, St.Jean, Regional Food and Wine
This huge national park of over 6000 square kilometers, lies between the relatively flat Isere river valley running from Grenoble in the north and down its west side to Valence and a sheer line of limestone cliffs with spectacular views over the Alps running down its eastern flank. It is a unique region renowned for its spectacular gorges and ancient roads carved out of the limestone cliffs at the end of the 19th Century for the purpose of transporting wood from the high plateau and to make the Vercors more accessible to the surrounding areas. Its topography also makes it one of the most thrilling places to ride a bike. A hugely diverse terrain in a relatively small radius from the flattish matrix of roads at the base of the Vercors (240m above sea level to the vertiginous cliff roads leading up to the plateau (1400m above sea level. A hugely, rich and diverse landscape; rivers, waterfalls, prairies, forests, balcony roads, medieval towns, aqueducts, walnut groves, hairpin roads. Not forgetting the gastronomic regional food and wine the Auvergne Rhone-Alps region has to offer. Above all, the quiet roads, a low population and no mass tourism make it a perfect play park for cyclists.
We are situated in the historical town of St Jean-en-Royans nestled 240m above sea level at the foot of the Vercors National Park in the beautiful Royans valley. With a population of around 3,500 it is the biggest of the six villages in the Royans and perfectly placed to access the high Vercors and the network of lower, quiet secondary roads. The main house (our home), the gites and grange all formed an historical wood mill dating back to the 19th century. It was used as a mill up until the 1970's until it became a family home. We bought it in 2007 and set about renovating in 2008 with Velo Vercors opening in 2009.
Traditionally agricultural lands with wood, transported from the forests on the Vercors plateau and mulberry trees producing silk, mainly for the Lyon market, were important trading assets, St.Jean and the other villages are a quiet backwater populated by French locals without mass tourism.
Shopping for food is easy as a short five minute stroll will bring you into the heart of St.Jean-en-Royans with its infrastructure of shops, cafes and restaurants. The small, independent food shops pride themselves on sourcing high quality, local products direct from farms and where possible with organic status. The three boulangeries all make their bread and gateaux in house. The butchers sources its meat from local farms in the Drome region. The artisan patisserie creates delicious cakes, hand made chocolate and ice-cream and a few doors down is the local wine shop stocking wines from around France and specialising in those produced in the Auvergne Rhone-Alps. The greengrocer is owned by Natalie who seeks out small, local producers to support and it has a super deli selling local cheeses, hams and olives. She stocks high quality meat products from three local farms on the plateau and local, seasonal fruit and veg as well as basics.
The town also provides a host of other smaller shops and facilities you may need during your holiday including, banks, chemists and a newsagent.
The weekly food market sets up outside the Mairie every Thursday with local producers selling cheese, vegetables, honey and fruits of the season and is a good opportunity to taste and relish the delicious local produce on offer.
If you want to stock up the local Intermarche supermarket is situated just on the edge of town in the same location as a petrol station and sports shop. Both the supermarket and the sports shops stock some cycling equipment but they do not specialize in cycling. ie. you can buy an inner tube but not a bike frame.
Across the road is Biocoop, an organic supermarket selling fresh fruit and vegetables as well as a huge choice of other organic products.
The town is well served with 4 cafes, 3 bistro restaurants, 1 hotel restaurant and a couple of good quality pizza and burger takeaways. Like all regions in France, restaurants like to cook and promote their classic regional dishes and its the same in St. Jean where you will find ravioles and trout on most menus. The local 'ravioles' filled with a mild cheese and herbs are served 'au nature' or as a delicious gratin with cepes, trout or whatever takes their fancy. Ravioles are also served in most of the restaurants on our bike routes and eaten plain with a sprinkling of parmesan its an excellent lunch time choice for cyclists' - filling and satisfying, but light on the stomach. Ravioles are served in salads lightly fried and add a delicious crunch. They are even served on pizzas! Whole baked Trout is often served with local walnuts and of course, there are many local and regional cow, goat and sheep cheeses that must be tasted. There is one addition to mention and that's Le Breizh K-Fe - a fabulous creperie 9kms in St. Nazaire-en-Royans.
The small, independent shops in St.Jean pride themselves on producing the best quality foods and sourcing from local farms and producers.
Walnuts, Trout, Cheese and Ravioli are the famous foods of the region and there are specialist local outlets selling all of them direct to the public:
Next door to us is the Paol Organic Trout Farm selling fresh trout. Open every morning.
3kms away is the Ferme de Caillets where you can buy a delicious selection of cows cheese, yoghurts, creme fraiche, fresh unpasteurised milk and freshly made butter all produced from their cows on the farm. They also sell free range eggs from their chickens. If you don't want to visit the farm, they have a stall at the local Thursday market outside the Mairie.
The St.Jean-en-Royans Ravioli factory is on the outskirt of town where you can buy fresh and frozen, ravioli, dumplings and pasta.
Travel a little further out of town to visit the Vercornoix boutique specialising in local walnuts. Taste, discover and buy the many walnuts products including jams, wine, walnut butter, chocolate coated walnuts, chutneys as well as bags of walnuts.
Ferme du Roussets is a communal farm set at the base of the Combe Laval, selling their fruit and vegetables every Friday evening.
There are weekly markets in many of the towns in the Royans and in the Vercors. Here in St.Jean, the market is on a Thursday morning from 7am-12pm outside the Mairie with local producers selling cheese, seasonal fruit and vegetables, honey, herbal teas, fish and meat and is a great opportunity to taste and relish the delicious local produce on offer.
Other local markets in the region:
Today, the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region has become a must visit region for gastronomy and local products. Here in the Drome, there are over 500 organic farms making it the most organic producing region in France. From the rivers to the pastures and the orchards, organic producers have been drawn by the rich, diverse landscape and all it has to offer.
The specialities of the region are walnuts, trout, ravioli and cheese. Not forgetting the incredible wines grown in the diverse landscapes; from mountains, in the plains or on hillsides, which results in diverse soils and grape varieties. There are 10 vineyards in the region Rhône Valley, Beaujolais, Savoie, Coteaux du Lyonnais, Bugey, Diois, Côte Roannaise, Côtes du Forez, Côtes d’Auvergne, Saint Pourçain.