Learning to Love Burgundy’s Complexities – One Step at a Time

Learning to Love Burgundy’s Complexities – One Step at a Time

Over the last decade or so, I’ve gotten a pretty good grasp of the wine growing regions of France and Italy. I can stare at the wine labels at a wine shop reminiscing about meeting wine-makers and walking among the vines – then leave the shop with an old familiar friend.  And though we’ve visited Burgundy vineyards before, I’m not familiar enough with this complex region to even explain it to a third grader. So we’re back in Burgundy again today, staying in Beaune and visiting all the major villages in Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune sub-region. It’s not too hard to do in one day because the farthest one away, Santenay, is only 10 miles south of Beaune. In addition to improving our knowledge and appreciation for the wines of Burgundy, we also had our eyes open to the beauty of daily life on a January day in the country.First stop was actually a little to the north of Beaune. The obsolete moat bed still surrounds one of the castles in Savigny-lès-Beaune. The owner’s collection of fighter jets is a bit of a shocker.

Peaceful morning among the endless miles of vines. It’s the time of year for trimming all of the fall’s post-harvest growth back to just the trunk and in some cases, just a single whip for next fall’s clusters to grow on. Some of the vineyards were dotted with workers pruning and burning the extraneous branches.
Mobile bottler comes to the barn door, fills empty bottles with wine pumped from the vats, IMG_9977 (video)  corks them and delivers pallets full of unlabeled bottles back to the winemaker. All the winemaker has to do is label and box them for delivery to the wine shops. Could you pick up six full bottles at a time?

The near constant mist and cloudiness turns the tops of the 1,000 year old stone walls into an ecosystem for all sorts of mosses and succulents.This Meursault wine retailer lists on his window, the names of the individual winemakers from the sub-region that are available in his shop. I’d would take quite a while to get acquainted with the 80+ producers just in this shop.Some of the best architecture was in Meursault.Backyard of Meursault’s City Château. Could have been a watchtower on a now disappeared wall; now just another outbuilding.Another architectural feature along Meursault’s old city wall.Finally, we compared four of France’s finest whites – Montrachet from the tiny village of Chassagne-Montrachet. Each the same vintage -2017 – from a different parcel within yards of the tasting room. Each was distinctly different. We liked the second bottle from the right the most. Fresh with bright minerality.The first bottle on the right, the Champs Gan, was from this plot-maybe 10 acres total.Last stop, the southernmost village, Santenay. This sign points to the farms and producers (called Climats here but terroirs elsewhere) that can use the name Santenay on their labels.On the way home we passed through Volnay, happy to have moved the needle a bit on the dial of our understanding of the people and place that produce this prized wine.

Villages and Vines in the Languedoc

Villages and Vines in the Languedoc

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Our to-do list for La Belle Cour our village house near the Mediterranean in the Languedoc (recently re-named Occitanie), is never-ending – but sometimes you’ve just got to take a break and enjoy the surrounding beauty! So after a morning meeting with the water company in the village, we’re off to the arriere-pays – the lesser-known inland villages, hills and valleys of the region. From the heights of Béziers, the closest city, 30 minutes inland from Vias, our gaze encompasses vineyards, the Canal du Midi, villages and winding roads blanketing the plain to the Montagne Noir in the distance. Cazouls-les-Béziers, our first stop, is one of the many places that include the big city in their name. It’s a quiet village (we don’t see a soul as we walk around!) set in the middle of vineyards, with a pretty church, St. Saturnin.
Scents of  the garrigue – scrub covering the uncultivated hills – wild rosemary, thyme, and other aromatic herbs – waft into the car (we’ve rented a convertible for this trip – perfect weather to ride al fresco!) as we slowly meander the narrowest roads we can find, traversing vineyards, vines heavy with grapes ready for harvest.
Puisserguier is our next stop, a circulade (walled circular village) with abundant flowers throughout.
We’ve noticed several of these delightful murals in Beziers and surrounding villages – wonderful trompe l’oeil details that make you want to walk right in!
The Languedoc cross flies over the chateau, dating from the 1200s,  atop the village. We’re invited to pause for a tour, but decide to wander the rest of the village and continue on to St. Chinian, a respected wine town where we sample a few local tipples, and come away with a few bottles for our cave in Aix. The harvest is in full swing around here, and nearly everyone is out in the vineyards. Chateau La Dournie, on the edge of town, has been woman-owned and operated for six generations, and Mme. Etienne (whose daughter is the current winemaker) is kind enough to take time away from her post in the office to show us the winery, fragrant with crushed grapes. Whites and reds await the magic of the winemaker – sweet to the taste, right off the vine. Dropping a light down into a vat, she shows us the grapes beginning to bubble and ferment – on their way to becoming a valued wine.
We’ll definitely want to try one of their vintages when we return to Vias!
Last stop today is Murviel-les-Béziers, another circular village surrounded by ramparts. The elegant Chateau de Mus sits atop the town, with expansive views. Intricately carved portals, doors and mullioned windows are a testament to the importance of the town in centuries past. Today, it quietly surveys the acres of vineyards carpeting the valley of the Orb River.
We’ve had just a sampling of the many villages and views awaiting exploration in the quieter interior of our area of Occitanie – and we look forward to discovering more!


Memories and Wine in Provence

Memories and Wine in Provence

Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016
Southern France

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We’re looking ahead to Spring – Prague and Budapest, or Venice and the Veneto – join us!

Today we’re going Christmas shopping – a couple of months late. You know that cool dark cave we’ve mentioned, down spooky ancient stairs to a dungeon like area below our apartment? Well it’s time to put something delicious and interesting in there, not just unused furniture or household items. Something we can find in the hills north of Aix, so we’re driving to an area filled with 15 years of memories, past the pale pink of almonds,02031601 almond trees first to bloom the first blooms of spring.
We’ll end up in the pretty wine village of Gigondas, but first we head for the places that bring a smile to our faces – Sablet, the village that shines on its hill at night, 02031601 gigondas no restos to vaison via sablet remember out windowbest viewed from our bedroom window in our dear friend Karen’s former beautiful countryside villa where we first visited in the summer of 2000. A little further down the road Seguret clings to the side of its hill. 02031601 memories of weddings and partiesAnother village that gleamed its light to the villa at night, and where we toasted an elegant civil wedding that preceded a joyous celebration by the vines in the garden of the villa later that year.
By now it’s lunchtime so we buzz on to Vaison la Romaine, where the old parking lot, surrounded by cafés, is now paved over.02031602 forgettable lunch on vaison square no more parking Lunch at a café is forgettable, but the town is still full of fun memories – the Roman ruins which watched over our departed friend Suzy’s house 02031602 marc antony suzys house(she always said Marc Antony was looking in her window), and, beneath the medieval part of town, that graceful Roman bridge, 02031602 old town above roman bridge stayed 1992which survived the horrific 1992 floods even when all of the newer bridges were washed away.
No one’s home at the villa where we spent many happy times today, so we walk around the back, Kirk recalling the hours prepping the garden to be as beautiful as possible for the wedding of Miles (Karen’s son) & Mira in the fall of 2000.02031602 stop by kvf I can still picture that lovely couple, framed by the dramatic Dentelles in the background, that lush vineyard spreading behind them.02031602 views of jagged dentellesOh the hours we’ve spent here, relaxing, feasting, laughing, celebrating….
The little village of Gigondas is tucked up against the jagged Dentelles, surrounded by prime vineyards. 02031603 gigondasWe’ve had a few choice bottles from here through the years, and stop by the village wine shop, where we have a choice of vintages from all the surrounding vineyards – Christmas shopping done!
Life moves on – but the memories remain, to enjoy forever!


A Tiered Village in Southwest France

A Tiered Village in Southwest France

Sunday, March 29, 2015
Puy l’Eveque, France

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We’re looking ahead to summer – join us on the fabulous Amalfi Coast in July?

Not far from Cahors is the multi-tiered village of Puy l’Eveque…and rain or shine, the tour must go on! We begin at the Mairie (Town Hall), 03291501 AM rain or shine Puy l Eveque

then wind uphill (passing a castle for rent – any takers?) 03291501 castle for rentand gaze yet higher at intricate carvings on centuries-old homes.03291501 high above us renaissance carvingsWe visited this little village years ago with Jill, and what I remember are the pretty trompe l’oeil-ed walls, but we don’t see those this time.
Heading down towards the port, “La Cale” we pass a rushing streamlet by a mill, 03291501 milland a humbler abode tucked into the hillside.03291501 more primitive shelterThere’s much to appreciate in this multi-leveled charmer – and we’d like it even better on a sunny day!03291501 tiersNext, stop, a vineyard – Clos Triguedina, home to pioneering wine makers, the Baldés family, since 1830. 03291501 winery Clos Triguedina homeMr. Baldés, the 7th generation to work this land, is laid up with a severe sciatica attack, but his charming wife, whom he met in Beaune while studying at France’s prestigious Wine University there, does a wonderful job of introducing us to the estate. 03291501 winery tour damp and cold glad for every layerShe, one of the last to be born in the gorgeous Hospices de Beaune before it became a museum, has brought some Burgundy input to this fine property. 03291501 winery Clos Triguedina 7 generationsAfter tasting their fine wines, we choose a bottle to take home with us.
A surprise awaits us at enchanting Le Caillau, where we stop for lunch. Inviting seating areas are arranged around a courtyard – 03291502 a pretty spot for lunchthe sofas in the open barn look like a wonderful place to while away an hour or two! We’re seated inside in a charmingly rustic dining area, 03291502 excellent food and great setting good for tea or drink tooand as we begin our lunch, the owner walks over to us “Mr. and Mrs. Woodyard? I’ve heard about you!” and hands us a bottle of wine and a note. What prompted this, we wonder…and open the note….03291502 surpriseit’s a sweet missive from Jill – what a lovely surprise! No wonder we fell in love with this delightful and thoughtful lady from the first time we met!
Our delicious lunch is completed with a dessert as tasty as it is adorably served –03291503 creme brulee earl grey Earl Grey crème brulee with shortbread shaped like a tea tag. Yet one more place where we’d love to spend more time!





Wines of the World in Perugia

Wines of the World in Perugia

February 1-2, 2012
Perugia, Italy

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Next on the itinerary: Our spring tours in Barcelona, Venice or Prague

Have you heard that it’s cooooold in Italy? From Washington Dulles to Rome we flew on the last night of January, leaving the mild winter of Virginia for chilly Europe. A busload of travelers from around the world were then transported to Perugia for the 4th annual International Wine Tourism Workshop. Wine’s not in our tour company name, but it’s always a valued part of each trip, as we introduce our guests to the delicious vintages of Italy and France, often close to where they’re produced.
We’re in Hotel Gio, which is a wine, jazz, and chocolate themed hotel. Our room’s in the jazz side, contemporary, with a CD player loaded with some great jazz right on the wall as you enter. We have a scant 30 minutes to check in, splash some water on our faces to help wake us up, grab some business cards and head to the conference room, where the sessions are on Italian Wine Tourism, then Croatia as a grape escape destination… and the announcement of Croatia as next year’s venue for the conference.

And then the sipping begins… with a tasting of wines from Georgia, accompanied by traditional nibbles such as walnut stuffed sweets.

Moving on – to wines and savories from Umbria, the Italian region of which Perugia is the capital. Platters of grilled bread drizzled with just-pressed green olive oil are a favorite of all.

Dinner has been prepared by Croatian chefs…. note the plethora of glasses awaiting Croatian wines! Lots of wines to try today, but the Italians remain our favorites!

The jazz hotel uses LP records as placemats in their New Orleans restaurant – cute!

Thursday is filled with meetings at the historic Palazzo Priori, in the center of Perugia.
The bus can’t enter the center, so we walk through the snow to the vaulted hall,

where the symbols of medieval Perugia, griffons from the 1200’s that were on the Cathedral, are kept safe from the elements.

Anthony Swift, the founder of the International Wine Tourism Conference, fills us in on the activities and history of the group.

Does Perugia by any chance bring CHOC- OLATE to mind? The whole world knows of their signature candy, Baci. A slab of chocolate (chunk off your own piece) is part of the morning refreshment break.

We nibble our treats and enjoy the view down on Perugia’s much-loved Fontana Maggiore, designed and sculpted by the Pisani family in the late 1200’s in honor of the arrival of water via acqueduct for the city.