After three days of cycling in the Cote Chalonnaise and Cote de Beaune, Jon and I headed north from Beaune to sip the (mostly) reds of the Cote de Nuits for another three days.
First, the low point of the trip: we stayed two nights at the Castel de Tres Girard in Morey-Saint-Denis, which is best described as style over substance. It looks lovely enough from the outside, but inside, our room windows opened on to the industrial-sized exhaust vents from the kitchen or boiler room (maybe both). Why would the hotel even have a room like this? Oddly, there was also no place to put our clothing – no dresser drawers. Just a closet already stuffed with extra bed linens. And forget about free internet, unlike the other hotels of our trip.
- Service at the hotel was also pretty unhelpful, especially in the hotel restaurant, which has the distinction of serving us the worst meal of our entire trip (to be summarized in a separate post about Burgundy restaurants we tried). I’m sorry I didn’t take a photo of the burnt, wrinkly, fresh-from-the-freezer croissants that were a centerpiece of the hotel’s breakfasts. It’s not like we were in a country full of good boulangeries or anything.
On the plus side, we fell in love with the Caveau des Vignerons in Morey-Saint-Denis. If you go, ask for Catherine, who started out a bit wary of us in our cycling clothes, but in response to our questions, quickly grew warm and chatty, as well as generous with the tastings. She’s passionate and knowledgeable about all the local wines and winemakers (e.g., who’s just had a baby, who’s been sick). It was a dose of small-town charm in a region of big-money wine.
At the end of our first visit, we asked Catherine if she’d open (for tasting) a bottle by Alain Jenniard, a local vintner whose wines sounded appealing from the tasting notes (in French) located throughout the shop. Sure enough, when we dropped by the next day, Catherine was waiting to open one of Jenniard’s bottles for us to try. (On any given day, “only” five or six bottles are open for tasting).
We also happily tasted and purchased several wines by Domaine Virgile Lignier, and I would love to return to taste more. The shop stocks a full range of local wines, with plenty of bottles in the 25-35 euro range (a modest sum in Burgundy), along with offerings by big-ticket local vineyards like Clos de Tart.
Not far from where we were staying in Morey-Saint-Denis was Clos de Vougeot, which was a lot more fun than I expected. For starters, after the 18-euro travesty at Chateau de Pommard, I was delighted that Clos de Vougeot’s ticket price is a humble 3.90 euros. Even better, the displays and exhibits inside are actually well-written and interesting.
- Clos de Vougeot’s ancient wine presses were especially impressive for their size, age, and the fact that I suspect it could still be used if needed. It was easy to picture medieval monks putting their back into it to squeeze out every last drop of precious juice.
- And finally, the photos of the Chevaliers on display were highly entertaining. For more on les Chevaliers de Tastevin (who now own the Clos de Vougeot), click here.
The stretches of Cote de Nuits vineyards that Jon and I cycled through felt less divided-up than in the Cote de Beaune, and we were amused to find carloads of tourists clumped around certain patches of vines. This is what celebrity looks like in the Cote de Nuits:
At the Romanee Conti field, you’ll find several prominent signs saying, in short: “don’t even think about coming near these vines,” in French and English. Personally, I wouldn’t have even considered climbing over the wall into the field but for the sign.
Cycling south back to Beaune, we couldn’t resist making a small detour to climb up to a recommended panoramic viewpoint in Pernand-Vergelesses. Let me tell you – that was one steep motherf*cker. It wasn’t just steep for cycling. It was steep for walking. I’m including in this post the photo I took because I need the world to see that I made it to the top, except I’m sad that it doesn’t look that high up in the photo. Like most “must-see views,” it was nice, but probably not worth the effort. It was a good place to break for a picnic lunch, though.
We knew we were close to Beaune when we passed by Chateau de Corton Andre with its colorful glazed tile roof, typical of Beaune and its surrounds.
Back in Beaune, the highlights were the personal tour of the Hospice led by Sarah, one of the owners of Detours in France, as well as the Saturday town market, which is much livelier than the Wednesday version. Jon and I couldn’t resist picking up an old champagne bucket from one of the antiques stalls. For 25 euros, it seemed a steal until we realized that it’s not easy carrying around a champagne bucket back to London.
We spent our last night in Burgundy seeing the sights in Dijon. The old town is quite charming, and I learned that in addition to mustard, Dijon prides itself on its gingerbread. Mulot et Petitjean is the fountainhead of all pain d’epices, apparently. I can’t tell you firsthand because the portions sold were too enormous for one or two people to share. The shop had that cluttered “grandma would love this” look.
- If you’re in town for just one night, I’d recommend staying at the Hotel Le Jacquemart. The place is bring-your-own-toiletries no-frills (Jon esp. loved dragging our suitcases up four flights of stairs), but it’s clean, shabby-genteel-looking, and incredibly well-located near the old Cathedral. For 60 euros a night, we couldn’t have asked for more. Skip the hotel brekkie and walk half a block left down the street to a superb boulangerie. Also nearby is the old covered market, Les Halles.
And that’s it on everything-but-the-food from our trip in Burgundy. Next and last post about Burgundy will be on the restos. A bientot!