Tasting Burgundy

Tasting Burgundy

Monday, March 26, 2012, Part 1
Burgundy, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Join us on a summer tour on the Amalfi Coast, in Provence, or Amsterdam!

Grand Est, or Great East, is the name of this four-day tour provided for us by the French Tourist Office and the eastern regions of France. We’ve been in a different hotel every night, and last night’s Hotel Philippe Le Bon in Dijon was one of our favorites, with its inviting courtyard (where several of those younger members on the tour stayed up late relaxing and chatting after dinner) and spacious renovated rooms. I understand that the not-yet- renovated rooms were not at all as comfortable as ours – so ask for the upgraded rooms if you go!

If it were warmer we would have taken our breakfast out to the courtyard, but since it’s chilly we’re inside – tucked into a fireplace in the charming breakfast room.

An even larger fireplace in the foyer is big enough to house an office.

We’ve been eagerly anticipating today’s tour of renowned vineyards. Although we’re well acquainted with Bordeaux, we’ve spent very little time in Burgundy, so are looking forward to learning more (and tasting!). 
Laurent, of Wine and Voyages, is our expert guide and takes us first to the grandaddy of Burgundy’s renowned Côtes de Nuit vineyards, Clos de Vougeot. Begun by Cistercian monks in the 12th century, its a fascinating glimpse into the beginnings of viticulture in the area.
Laurent describes some of the characteristics of Pinot Noir, the grape of choice in Burgundy. Of interest to me was that its tap roots go down 40 feet!
Also, that although the volume per hectare is strictly proscribed in order to be a qualified Burgundy, from then on, the winemaker has a lot of latitude, such as deciding whether to put it in oak or not.

How fascinating that the medieval vat-house and presses have been preserved through the centuries!

Laurent tells us the origin of the Tastevin, that unique shallow cup that sommeliers wear on a ribbon around their neck. It was dark in those medieval cellars, and the monks would use a candle and this shallow bowl with convex circles on the bottom in order to see the color of the wine as they tasted for quality.

The elegant celebration hall has been  the headquarters of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, founded to promote Burgundy, since 1945.
Photos throughout the property show gala events – this group of Chevaliers, wine in hand, can sing as well as sip!

We finish our tour in the medieval kitchens, with fireplaces big enough to stand inside.

Sadly, there was no Clos de Vougeot for us to taste, but we did get to sample the vintages of a small producer,nearby.

We enjoy our last taste of Burgundy and a delicious lunch at Chez Guy in Gevrey- Chambertin.
And then on to Paris!

Dijon – More than Mustard!

Dijon – More than Mustard!

Sunday, March 25, 2012, Part 2
Dijon, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Join us on a summer tour on the Amalfi Coast, in Provence, or Amsterdam!

Does something come to mind when you hear “Dijon”? For me, it’s that served-on -every-French- salad staple, Dijon vinaigrette.  We know there’s more to Dijon that that, and we’re eager to find out!
After that marvelous morning at Les Dominicaines, our trusty busdriver shuttles us to the Mulhouse train station, and in an hour the fast train has us exiting the station  in Dijon.
Our lovely guide quickly walks us through the  town, past cheery half-timbered houses,

that renowned mustard shop

and into spacious hidden courtyards of townhomes crowned with ceramic- tiled turrets.


This is a foodie town for sure, with not just mustard, but pain d’epices (spice bread)  filling shop windows (we enjoy several samples from a friendly shop- owner) , and that ubiquitously delicious aperitif, Kir, made with the third pride of Dijon,  Cassis.

We wind through the heart of the city, which is a 97 hectare Historical Conservation area (we view just a few highlights), from the Palace of the Dukes, now the Fine Arts Museum,

into the gargoyle -fronted Notre Dame Cathedral, and the surrounding medieval streets.

That leering gargoyle may have been one of the few that tumbled off through the centuries… be careful as you walk in the door!

A sparkling Kir (which, by the way, was invented by the mayor of Dijon in the 1950’s) introduces us to dinner at Restaurant de la Porte Guillaume, and the first course, taking advantage of the plentiful Burgundy of the region (Dijon’s the capital) is Oeufs Meurette, eggs poached in red wine – a first for me! I’m not a big fan of poached eggs in the first place, and in wine??  Well, perhaps it’s an acquired taste! The main course – wait, can you guess? Beef Bourguignon, of course, and delicious it is!
We’ve seen some beautiful spots in Dijon, but what stands out is the food –  our afternoon and evening have been a tasting tour of the city!