Eva and Ed at 10pm one week in May
This was a great house. Although we were just two people the house would comfortably accommodate three couples. It has three bedrooms each with an en-suite bathroom with shower and a fourth bathroom with a tub. There isn’t anything one could want in a holiday home that wasn’t provided including two salon quality hairdryers. There’s plenty of outdoor seating on the terrace and in the garden and they are wonderful places to relax or enjoy cocktails and a meal.
The location of the house is perfect for touring this part of Burgundy. It is close to the main thoroughfare so it’s easy to tour around yet it is in one of the most charming villages in the area. Within a five minute walk you have a boulangerie, several tasting rooms, a bar and a few restaurants.
Although Peter, the owner, lives in the UK he was extremely hands-on during the rental. He introduced us, via email, to a local private wine guide, who we used for a wonderful full day wine tour. He also suggested and arranged for a taxi to pick us up at the train station which was a blessing since there weren’t any taxis waiting there. He had asked us to text him when we arrived in CDG and when we got the taxi but we couldn’t get a SIM at the airport. To make sure everything was ok he called the car rental in Beaune at the time we were expected to be there and we spoke to him then. He called us again at the house to check if we had any questions about the property that weren’t answered by the housekeeper who let us in and he checked in several times via email.
This was a wonderful start to our three week Burgundy vacation.
I like to sketch out a plan for each day so that we’re assured the things we want to see are open, avoid market days when we don’t want those, balance relaxing days with more active days, etc. This way we have a plan around which we can improvise and make changes and tradeoffs as the vacation progresses. Most days we left the house between 9 and 10am and got back by around 6pm. Most dinners were relaxing picnics of wine, cheese, etc. in the garden or patio at the house after a busy day of touring and long, big lunches. We only eat dinner out if we can walk to the restaurant so we can both enjoy wine with dinner and not have to worry about driving home.
Day 1 (Saturday) – Arrived on time from our overnight American Airlines flight from New York. We had a 3-hour wait for our TGV to Beaune. The train ride, with a transfer in Lyon, was on time and uneventful. The taxi driver, which our host kindly arranged for us, was there waiting and took us to Europcar where we picked up our rental car. We drove to our gite in Puligny-Montrachet (about 15 minutes away) and were met by the housekeeper who showed us around the lovely house. We got there around 5pm and had a stroll around the village. PM is a charming village, it has two main squares with restaurants, tasting rooms and shops and the houses are very attractive with lots of rose bushes and hidden gardens. One of the squares even has a large bronze statue of vineyard workers. We were too early for dinner and since we had been up for about 30 hours we opted for a light snack of the bread, cheese and wine provided by our hosts and went to bed early.
Day 2 (Sunday) – After a very restful sleep we were off to the Sunday morning market in Chagny less than 15 minutes away. This was a great market and was much bigger than we expected. We didn’t get to either the Dijon or Beaune market so I can’t compare it to those but it was bigger and better than the Chablis market. Our first stop was the boulangerie for croissants which we took to a café to have with our cappuccino and tea and people watch. This market had everything – lots of prepared foods of various ethnicities, fruit, vegetable, cheese, sausage, nuts, olives, etc. that all markets have but it also had uncooked Bresse chickens (with head & feet), a large clothing section (everything from underwear to suits), flowers and a large gardening center. We bought a Basque cheese that was our favorite cheese of the trip, some other cheeses, fruit, olives and a baguette for the first of our many picnic dinners.
We drove to a supermarket for among other things cereal and low fat milk for breakfast. The whole milk that our hosts left for us was so thick and rich I couldn’t drink it. Maybe it’s just me, but even the low fat milk tasted like cream. Then we went home to drop off our food and change for lunch.
We drove about 20 minutes to Levernois (just south of Beaune) for lunch at Hostellerie de Levernois (1 Michelin star). This lunch was wonderful. The grounds are beautiful and the service is attentive but still relaxed and welcoming. We relaxed in the garden while we each enjoyed a glass of rouge gorge (the house aperitif – translates as red robin – which is a red wine based cocktail) with breadsticks and olives. We then went inside to the dining room and ordered a la carte. I had the foie gras entrée and sweetbreads with asparagus plat and Ed had an asparagus entrée and beef two ways with a large marrow bone plat along with a glass of ’09 Gevry Chambertain and tea. Four hours and 210€ later it was time to go home.
We got home just in time to freshen up and walk next door to our guide’s tasting room to discuss the details of our private wine tour scheduled for later in the week. As I mentioned above, our guide was referred to us by the owner of our gite. We communicated with him via email a few months before our vacation and he suggested a meeting before the tour to get to know each other. The minute we met him we knew we would be in for a wonderfully informative and fun day. His passion for wine and lust for life is infectious.
Day 3 (Monday) – Today we planned to spend the day in Beaune. Our first stop was the Hotel Dieu. We enjoyed the architecture and design but quickly abandoned the headset guide which was lacking in any real information and seemed to be aimed at children. We used our Michelin guide instead. The buildings in the area around the Hotel Dieu were very interesting and we enjoyed strolling around. We passed Alain Hess’ cheese shop on the way to lunch but decided to wait until we were ready to go home to buy cheese.
We had a wonderful lunch at Ma Cuisine. The restaurant is casual with traditional Burgundian home cooked food. We shared an ouef meurette, we each had the Beef Bourgignon, shared a dessert made with Epoisses and a ½ bottle of 2011 Savigny-les-Beaune (96€). The food and service were excellent and we really enjoyed our meal. The plan was to walk the ramparts and see more of the town and then buy cheese before heading back to the car. Unfortunately, it was raining rather heavily after lunch so walking about was not an option and Hess was still closed for the lunch break. So, back to the car empty handed. We drove around the ramparts which was not quite as interesting as walking it would have been but was a considerably dryer choice.
By the time we got to Meursault the rain had stopped so we strolled around this charming village. There are lots of wine shops, restaurants and bakeries, a large church and lovely views because it sits a little above the countryside. Meursault is our favorite white wine and it was nice to finely see where it comes from.
We spent the evening listening to our favorite classical music station via Wi-Fi on our phone, reviewing the day’s photos, doing emails and having a wonderful picnic dinner on the terrace overlooking the Puligny-Montrachet vineyards.
Day 4 (Tuesday) – Today’s plan was to spend the morning at the Dijon market, have a casual lunch, walk the owl trail and then have dinner at Le Montrachet. Since we were unable to get a SIM card for my iPhone at the airport and there is an Orange store in Dijon that is “open” during lunch we thought we’d also drop in there and get a SIM. We passed the Orange store on the way to the market so we dropped in to get the SIM. (Note to self… markets close early so don’t get distracted on the way!) It’s a long, sad story that no one, including me, wants to hear so suffice it to say it took forever and although the store was “open” during lunch all but one sales person took an early lunch break. I got my SIM but the market was almost empty of stalls by the time we got there. Les Halles is lovely to look at even when it’s almost empty but it was disappointing not to see the vendors and their wares.
We had lunch at one of the restaurants near Les Halles. It was good but nothing special. We walked the owl trail which we very much enjoyed. The architecture in Dijon is wonderful. It was one of the highlights of our trip. The many half-timbered buildings around the area of the Palace of the Dukes are remarkable.
Dinner at Le Montrachet (1 Michelin star) that evening was a great disappointment. The food was very good and artistically prepared but the service was unacceptable. The service staff is very pleasant but inexperienced. I sat with an empty wine glass for more than 5 minutes until I called a waiter over to pour some (even if the wine bottle had been within reach, which it wasn’t, attentive service would have been refilling the glass even before it was completely empty). This happened twice to me and once to Ed. In addition, the glass of red wine that I ordered to accompany my main course didn’t arrive with the main course and after eating almost half of it I finally got a waiters attention and reminded them to bring the wine. Based on our experience, they do not deserve a Michelin star. Our a la carte dinner consisted of ½ bottle of Chassagne Montrachet 2011, 1 glass of Santenay Graviere, Roasted Foie Gras and Sweetbreads for me (I can’t resist ordering them if they’re on the menu), Oeufs en Meurette and Asparagus with Morvan Ham for Ed, Strawberry Soufflé and tea (211€). [Editor’s note: Le Montrachet has improved. Please ask for the current feedback we are getting on this restaurant].
Day 5 (Wednesday) – We had a wonderful day on our private tour with our guide. He is extremely knowledgeable and provides wine education in an easy and approachable way. We’ve had wine tours many places around the world and we always learn something new. His explanations of the burgundy terroir were enlightening and because he has experience in several aspects of the wine business his tour was unique. It gave us a somewhat insider’s view into the burgundy wine world. Our plan was to taste top wines but to buy everyday wines that we would drink during our vacation. We can’t drink a full bottle at one meal on our own and didn’t want to “waste” good wines on our picnic dinners. Also, we didn’t want to schlepp wines home in our suitcase.
We met our guide at 10am at his tasting room next door to our gite and off we went. All along the wine route our guide regaled us with stories about the wine industry, the various vineyards we drove past and the people he knew. It was fascinating. Our first stop was to Comte Senard in Aloxe-Corton where he had arranged for a private tour of some of the vineyards and their 13th century wine cellar and a tasting. We did a tasting of 6 wines including 2 1er cru and 2 grand cru (30€ each which could be put towards a purchase). They were wonderful wines and we couldn’t resist buying a 2007 Grand Cru Corton (82€) and a 2009 Grand Cru Corton en Charlemagne (84€). We will carefully pack these in our suitcases and hopefully get them home in one piece to enjoy with friends on New Year’s Eve.
Our next stop was a hidden gem of an overlook at the Pernand-Vergelesses valley 1er cru vineyards and villages. Then it was off to a restaurant frequented by the local wine growers and workers, Grillades au Feu de Bois, in Villars Fontaine. This was a wonderful, off the beaten track restaurant. Of course our guide knew the owner and stopped to chat with several of the patrons. There was a wood burning grill in the back where the proprietor held court grilling meat and fish. We drank a bottle of 2012 Haute-Cotes de Nuits, 2 menus (Ed’s was salami salad and boeuf, mine sardine salad and pork stew) and our guide had a ham with parsley salad (89,50€).
Our second tasting was at Philippe Leclerc in the village of Gevry-Chambertin. Before starting the tasting we visited their fascinating museum of antique farm and wine making equipment. This was an extremely interesting place to visit. Even if you don’t want to do a tasting here I suggest stopping by to see the museum. Entry is free and it’s well worth a stop. The tasting is also free and we were able to taste several vintages of the same wine for comparison. We tasted 6 wines plus some alternate vintages. Much to our surprise, in most cases we enjoyed the younger vintage. The first wines we tasted (2011 Chambolle-Musique) we didn’t like at all and I thought we in for an awkward experience but the second wine was a major improvement. By the time we got to the 1er cru we were back to being happy. We really liked the 2011 1er cru La Combe aux Moines and the 2011 1er cru Les Champanets so we bought a bottle of each (104€) to keep the Comte Senard company in our suitcases. I’m not sure when we will drink these since I couldn’t get a satisfactory answer to my question as to whether we enjoyed the ’11 better than the ’09 and ’10 because of our preference for the vintage or because we like Leclerc’s wines better when they are young. So, I don’t know whether to drink them now or age them a year or two.
We weren’t up to any more tastings; our palates and wine tolerance were exhausted. Instead, we drove to Vosne-Romanee and drove around the side roads to the Romanee-Conti and Romanee St Vivant vineyards.
We spent another evening listening to our favorite classical music station via Wi-Fi on our phone, reviewing the day’s photos, doing emails and having a wonderful picnic dinner on the terrace overlooking the Puligny-Montrachet vineyards.
Day 6 (Thursday) – This morning we went to Abbey Cluny. I don’t know why but the Abbey left us cold. This was surprising because we really like ruins and have seen many in much worse shape that we’ve enjoyed. We couldn’t figure out what it was that disappointed us but we were underwhelmed. The funny thing is that while reviewing my photos, which I use as a source for writing my trip report, I find the photos more interesting than the site was when we were there. I’m more puzzled now to remember that we didn’t enjoy the visit. We had an OK lunch at Café du Nord on Place de L’Abbaye. The service was fine and the location was convenient but, not surprisingly, the food was just average (17,60€).
In the afternoon we visited Chateau Cormatin, a 17th century privately owned home. It’s in a lovely village and I’m sorry we didn’t stop here for lunch instead. You need to take a guided tour which is conducted in French in order to visit the house but you get an English language guide. The house is nicely furnished and the painted woodwork and ceilings are marvelous. The grounds are beautiful and worth visiting even if you don’t want to pay to tour the chateau. Cormatin reminds me of a miniature Loire Valley chateau.
At our guide’s recommendation, we had a very nice dinner at L’Estaminet des Meix in Puligny-Montrachet which is another local favorite. We had a ½ bottle of 2012 Pommard and 2 menus (75,50€).
Day 7 (Friday) – This morning we relaxed and did our laundry, got dressed for lunch and drove to Chagny for our lunch at Lameloise (3 Michelin stars). The meal was extraordinary. The service was flawless and friendly and the food was delicious and works of art. Lunch started in the lounge with 2 glasses of kir royale made with crémant along with three trays of amuse bouche. They were all great but my absolute favorite was, of course, foie gras lollipops.
I had the lunch menu of foie gras with summer truffles (which I gave to Ed because I don’t like truffles) and fillet of perch with artichokes and a beautiful and fantastic vacherin with pineapple, passion fruit gelée and chantilly mascarpone. Ed had white and green asparagus, Charolles beef and a cheese plate from the à la carte menu and a glass of La Grima white port. 3 ½ hours and 362€ later lunch was over.
Back at the gite we took down our laundry from the line in our garden, packed our suitcases and took another stroll around the town. Then another evening of music, photos and picnic dinner on the terrace.
Day 8 (Saturday) – Sadly, we had to say good-by to our gite.