As you arrive at La Maison du Moulin, a working farm and vineyard that sits a half-hour outside of Geneva, Switzerland, the sights and smells of the fields rise up to greet you. This centuries-old winemaking region hugs Lake Geneva’s northern shore and boasts terraced vineyards recognized by as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Far off-the-beaten-tourist-track, the experience at La Maison du Moulin is Swiss farmhouse-style wine tasting and tapas served outdoors at wine barrel tables with umbrellas and fire pits mixed in for warmth. Its wines are strictly bio-dynamic, and its tapas made with fresh, organic, locally-sourced ingredients. On a Friday night, you’ll walk into a lively, rustic setting to warm greetings from the smiling Philippe, Executive Chef, who grew up in the area.
Note that this hidden gem is only open Friday nights for dinner and Saturdays for brunch, which also features a vegetable market. For wine-tasting alone, La Maison is open Wednesday-Saturday.
Location: Chemin de Grand Pre 4, 1267 Coinsins, La Cote, Vaud, Switzerland. North of Gland and Nyon, above the autoroute.
Menu: The seasonal tapas menu changes by the weekend, with vegetables from the farm, mushrooms from the forest, meats from local butchers, and cheese and fruits from local sellers.
Prepare to come and linger — the wine and tapas are essentially free, based on the honor system of a 20 Swiss franc donation per person. Thus, service is casual and with a six-plate course, the tapas come out at a leisurely pace. They treat you to generous flights, showcasing the nuances among their wines. Finally, there’s a community bread plate on a large wooden table in the main building, bursting with delicious homemade wheat bread. Help yourself.
On a typical Friday evening plan to arrive around 5:30 pm and leave between 9-10 pm. The restaurant closes by 11:00 pm. I recommend making a purchase of La Maison du Moulin’s unique bio-dynamic wine while there – Swiss wines are generally not exported, presenting one of Europe’s surprisingly well-kept secrets!
On the night we visited, the tapas opened with an appetizer of soft cheese with bread, perfect with a steely 2017 ID Sauvignon Blanc. This was followed by a snifter bowl of local mushrooms from the forest, served in a broth, paired with a divine Atlas 2014 Chasselas-Chardonnay-Viognier blend. The entire presentation was delightfully creative and harvest-themed. Next came miniature pumpkins filled with a light soup, paired with an Elliott 2015 Pinot Gris, and then a mushroom emulsion that was scrumptious with the homemade wheat bread, accompanied by a Stardust 2016 Pinot Noir.
For the carnivores, the next tapa was a plate of locally-hunted venison fillets accompanied by a dollop of whipped, herbed butter, paired with a rich 2017 ID Syrah. As if that weren’t mouth-watering enough, out came another plate of venison, this time with fillets placed in a soup plate surrounded by a rich sauté of blueberries and greens, with La Maison’s house specialty Bernard Vaux 2014 Grand Cru Gamay. Heavenly.
They accommodated the vegetarian in our group with a savory mushroom and cheese omelet with pickled beets in place of the venison. The last temptation was a dessert of pumpkin macarons.
La Maison du Moulin also serves a selection of non-alcoholic natural cordials and mint teas, a wonderful alternative for those who don’t imbibe or are the designated driver.
Thoughts: My guest and I were introduced to this lovely establishment while visiting a friend in Switzerland – a good friend of hers is a good friend of the Executive Chef – and it’s a perfect example of a provincial venue that we never would have found ourselves.
You walk into an agrarian working farm environment with the smells of the fields, farm equipment, and vines surrounding the restaurant. Maison Moulin has a relationship to the earth, and the vibe is laid-back, warm, and open. Notably, you’re not walking into a tasting room with a sales pitch, the sales room is tasteful and off to the side of the big main room.
La Maison du Moulin’s motto is seasonal, local, and quality products, and it’s a treat to see what their weekly menu brings. Their winemaking respects the local soil, or terroir, and demands purity of grapes. They follow a strict bio-dynamic winemaking philosophy of natural components, no chemicals, using a system of integrated pest management (for example, stinging nettle, when fermented, makes a potent natural pesticide spray).
The region benefits from the Canton of Vaud’s unique geography of glaciers, rivers, and the jagged Jura mountains, which produces a great diversity of soils – chalky limestone, clay, and sand, with alkaline earth and a climate regulated by Lake Geneva. The lake also reflects its sparkling light back to the vineyards, producing an almost Mediterranean growing climate.
Vaud is especially known for its Chasselas grape, producing crisp, dry white wines, and for its Gamay and Pinot Noir grapes. Winemaking in Vaud dates to the Cistercian monks of the Middle Ages, who built upon centuries of winemaking before them.
La Maison’s vineyards are spread amongst 20 parcels throughout Vaud and its wines are nuanced accordingly to the differences in soil and sunlight. Each wine, each year is distinct, and with vines planted across different parts of the region, La Maison has enough fruit under cultivation to protect their overall harvest from crop damage.
They are passionate about their bio-dynamic methods – using vineyard management techniques based on the writings of Rudolph Steiner, with origins in methods developed centuries ago and felt to be the best of the best organic techniques. They produce three different lines of wine, Alpha ID, Origin, and Terroir, at three corresponding price points.
La Maison’s wine process is unique, blending old and new methods and using extended maceration to increase the color, flavor, and tannin structure of their reds. This also allows for greater aging ability. Staying true to bio-dynamics, all fermentations are spontaneous, using the natural yeasts from the skin of the grapes, nothing added.
Final tip: If you bring kids, prepare to keep a close eye on them, especially around the fire pits. It’s a working vineyard environment and the meal is not full-service – there was a group the night we were there that made everyone nervous with the lax supervision of their small children. Friday evenings may be a more of adult experience, while Saturday brunches with the vegetable markets are very family-welcoming.
Prices: You just can’t beat the combination of unique bio-dynamic wine with fresh, creative Swiss tapas for a donation of 20-25 Swiss francs each to relax on a Friday evening, or for a sumptuous Saturday brunch. This is an incredibly generous offering, underscoring La Maison du Moulin’s ethic and philosophy of sharing Earth’s bounties and the Swiss tradition of the honor system. They have a loyal local following and new guests are greeted with the same welcoming hospitality as old friends.
The wine prices are moderate, ranging from 13 to 35 Swiss francs – when we were there in October 2018 the U.S. dollar and the Swiss franc were very close to par, making a trip that in past would have been much more expensive quite reasonable!
Guest review bio: Tonya Hennessey is a freelance writer and non-profit professional who resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. She was raised in Minneapolis, MN. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, she took off for a year of travel throughout Europe and Asia, a trip that awakened her awe of the world’s varied cultures, landscapes, and, of course, foods! Since then, she has traveled extensively in Europe, East and Southeast Asia, and the United States. Along with travel, she loves to cook and avidly tends to her pepper and herb gardens.
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