Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Rainy Saturday in Burgundy

Saturday, April 3, 2010

It’s Easter weekend and pouring rain in Burgundy. What is one to do? Spending the day in Beaune, the commercial heart of Burgundy, seemed to be the most viable option. Programmed the GPS and off… Arriving in Beaune, I strolled through the renowned Saturday farmers’ market. Everything is available, including flowers, sausage, fish, vegetables, and clothing. Oh, how I want a kitchen here.

Being a holiday weekend, requesting appointments with local vignerons for wine tasting is inappropriate and fruitless. Alternatively, my favorite wine shop, La Boutique des Domaines, was a logical next stop. As always, the proprietor, Fréderic Henry, recognized me from past adventures and handed me his weekly printout of available inventory and… a glass of wine. This is the civilized way to shop.

This is my third trip to Burgundy in the past three years. Thanks to the advice of Oregon Pinot Noir producer and Burgundy importer, Scott Wright, I have found La Boutique des Domaines to be the best of the countless wine shops in Beaune. Finding a couple of hard to find gems at a good value (relatively speaking) is always doable at this address. This year was no exception. As in the past, a Domaine Armand Rousseau grand cru was among my discoveries. The Ruchottes-Chambertin is a tiny grand cru located above the Mazis-Chambertin and Close de Bèze Grand Crus and next to Bel Air, one of my favorite premier crus.

From Burghound fame, here are Allen Meadow’s comments on the 2007 Ruchottes-Chambertin - Clos des Ruchottes: “Rousseau noted that in 2007, the Ruchottes received 25% new wood whereas in the past, the percentage was zero. An elegant, cool, restrained and lilting nose of rose petal, cranberry and raspberry aromas merges into medium weight flavors brimming with minerality and culminating in a relatively powerful finish underpinned by ripe tannins and excellent length. This really stains the palate and I very much like the underlying sense of tension.” 92/2015+

2015! Since when have I had patience?

There’s more—a bottle of Humbert Freres’ (a personal fave) 2006 Gevrey-Chambertin, Les Estournelles St. Jacques Premier Cru, is also coming home with me.

Now, after all that shopping, Je suis faim—starving A few doors from the wine shop is one of my favorite Beaune culinary havens, Caves Madeleine. A renowned food writer, whose name escapes me, was once asked to share the name of his favorite restaurant. He answered, “The one that knows my name.” Although, the owner, Lolo (phot0-showing the bottle), didn’t know my name, today, he recognized me clearly from many past visits (the last was over two years ago) and offered a hearty and warm greeting. At Caves Madeleine, you feel more like a guest in a home, than a restaurant. There are fancier restaurants in Beaune and Burgundy with higher culinary reputations, but none are more fun. Lolo always seats you next to the most interesting people at the long community table. And to choose a wine, simply scan the bins along the wall. Take your choice from the bin and set it on the table. Lolo will pop the cork for you. The price of a bottle of wine is retail, not restaurant mark-ups. Where else can you find a reasonably priced Meursault and a 2000 premier cru by the glass? If desired, a hefty wine list is available for those older gems in the cellar.

Following lunch, a tour of the Hospices de Beaune, Hôtel-Dieu (Phot0-R), Beaune’s most famous landmark, proved to be the perfect activity for a rainy afternoon. Built by the Duke of Burgundy in 1443, this hospital has been preserved completely. From the Middle Ages to the 20th century, this charitable hospital served the poor, middle class and nobles. The artwork includes Isaac Moillon’s illustration of the miracles of Christ and Flemish artist Roger Van der Weyden’s Last Judgment. The kitchen is any foodie’s fantasy.

For more photos go to

Despite the weather, this was a full and fun day in Burgundy—and still raining. Tomorrow, Easter in Paris!


Sarah Vino said...

ooo great info!! And blog :) Hopefully after finshing WSET this year I'll see some of those areas!!!

Bill Sanders said...

Sarah, thanks for your post. Burgundy is marvelous and I hope to visit Australia in the future. I did some work the past year for Yalumba through the Australian embassy here in DC. Good luck with WSET.