Wednesday, July 26, 2023

David Miller: From Lyon to Paris, Burgundy and Champagne Tour by ombiasy WineTours, July 02 - Thursday, July 13, 2023

From Lyon to Paris: Total Immersion in Burgundy and Champagne 2023 by ombiasy WineTours took place from Sunday, July 02 - Thursday, July 13, 2023.

The tour started in Lyon and ended in Paris.

The group consisted of 14 members, including David Miller, who, at the end of each day, shared his impressions of the day with his facebook friends.

With the permission of David, this posting puts together all his postings in on piece. David posted on facebook a text with 3-5 photos. In this posting, however, I combine David's text with my own photos, which was much easier to do than to use his photos (except for the top photo). I apologize. If you want to see his photos you need to go to the facebook page of David.

Summer 2023 - Saturday, July 1: It was a long day of traveling from London to Lyon, mostly because I had to leave for Heathrow hours before I normally would because of street closures for the big Gay Pride parade. So I had some time to kill at the airport. I finally got to Lyon and after I unpacked I headed to the corner and Le Broc’Bar, my go-to bar under a big tree (photo courtesy of Christian Schiller). It was a very pleasant evening.

Summer 2023 - Sunday, July 2: I got up late and went to Old Lyon in the afternoon. We stopped at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvieres, on the highest point of the city; there was no Mass in session, so I got to see the heavily decorated interior. On the walk back down the hill we stopped at the old Roman amphitheater, still in use a thousand years later with the addition of a modern soundstage.

Summer 2023 - Sunday, July 2: On Sunday evening we had our first group dinner at the Grand Cafe des Negociants not far from Lyon’s city hall. It’s a grand old place serving Lyonnaise food. I had a pate of duck and foie gras, a saucisson (sausage) with pistachios on a bed—more a sea—of lentils, and a cheese plate. Wine may have been involved. A pleasant time was had by all.

Summer 2023 - Monday, July 3: We were up early and on our way to the rolling hills of Beaujolais, where we visited the Domaines Chermette, now headed by Pierre-Marie Chermette, who took us out to see the young grapes in the fields and then led a comprehensive tasting of the domaine’s products.

Summer 2023 - Monday, July 3: Lunch today was at a simple local place in Villie-Morgon. Simple doesn’t mean simple, exactly. I had foie gras mousse, slices of a cured unsmoked pork roast, potatoes with leeks, a cheese plate and a chocolate mousse—again, wine was involved— at an extremely reasonable price.

Summer 2023 - Monday afternoon, July 3 - Our next stop in Beaujolais was the large, modern property of Chateau des Jacques, with its imposing buildings and pristine facilities. They have a long history of innovation and continue as leaders in production in Beaujolais.

Summer 2023 - Monday afternoon, July 3: There are acres of sunflowers in Beaujolais!

Summer 2023 - Monday, July 3: We’re spending the night at the Chateau de Pizay, and it’s an incredible property, from the avenue of sycamores with yard-thick trunks to the ancient castle keep that is now the main building to the eccentric topiary garden… Dinner tonight was great; it started with a perfectly ripe fig and some foie gras mousse, followed by red mullet in broth, then a piece of sirloin, and finally an eclair with some vanilla ice cream. Again, wine was involved. 

There’s a little pond behind the main building at Chateau de Pizay. During the day there’s a fountain splashing in the middle. As the sun goes down, it’s taken over by frogs. Lots of frogs. Turn the sound on for this clip. Good night, everyone.

Summer 2023 - Tuesday, July 4: Left Beaujolais and spent the morning in Pouilly-Fuisse at Domaine Ferret, a producer of good wines since 1840. The village is small and practically every square foot is cultivated.

Summer 2023 - Tuesday, July 4: Lunch was in Davaye at Le Millesime, the lunch of the day, which was a sort of quiche Lorraine that had mild sauerkraut mixed into it, boeuf Bourguinon, and selections from the cheese platter. There was dessert, too, but I forgot to photograph it.

Summer 2023 - Tuesday, July 4: Not Star Wars. When your crop’s about four feet tall and grows in very long rows about four feet apart, you have to design your equipment differently.

Summer 2023 - Tuesday, July 4: Later in the afternoon, we visited Domaine Menand, a top organic producer in Mercurey whose husband-wife owners do almost all of the work themselves.

We went back to Beaune for a very pleasant dinner outside at La Table du Square - a mushroom bisque with a poached egg, a roasted whole shoulder of lamb, and an apricot tart with apricot sorbet—apricots are in season. Wine was involved.  

Summer 2023 - Wednesday, July 5: 0900 in the morning, standing in dirt and looking at grapes—that’s what I signed up for. We were outside of Santenay in the Cote de Beaune, looking at vines owned by the Domaine Jessiaume, founded in 1850. New owners in 2006 hired an American winemaker who has led the winery to new heights. They have one of the nicest tasting rooms I’ve ever been in, a 19th century salon overseen by Saint Vincent, the patron saint of winemakers.

Summer 2023 - Wednesday, July 5: Later in the morning, we met at the Meursault city hall for a walk in the vineyards. It was very picturesque,but I have some trouble walking, so I went halfway and then waited under an almond tree while the others walked up to the top of the hill behind the village. I’d seen it five years ago… 

Lunch was at L’Agastache, in Volnay: hummous, braised pork on polenta, and panna cotta, altogether delightful.

Summer 2023 - Wednesday, July 5: The afternoon was devoted to a tour of the Chateau de Rully led by Count Raoul de Ternay, whose family has occupied the castle since it was a fortified keep in the 12th century, or some 26 generations ago. It’s quite a sight. We also had a tasting of some of the wines produced on the estate at Domaine Rully.

Summer 2023 - Wednesday, July 5 - We had an excellent wine pairing dinner, a different wine with each course, at Le Relais de Saulx in Beaune—a green bean salad, marinated salmon with herring roe, Pork with fennel and carrots, and two kinds of chocolate cream.  

Summer 2023 - Thursday, July 6: This morning we went to Puligny-Montrachet to visit the grand cru Montrachet winery Maison Olivier Leflaive. I was here in 2018, but there have been a lot of updates in the facilities since then. I’m still a bit gimpy so I skipped the 3/4 mile hike out to the vineyards and back. We were treated to a comprehensive overview of the operation by Olivier Leflaive himself (I’d met his partner/brother Patrick in 2018) and then we enjoyed one of the best luncheons I’ve had this year, three courses plus dessert and seven wines. We started with a green pea gazpacho. This was followed by couscous topped with prawns and fennel; then came pork roast with green beans and pignole in a tomato confit. Dessert was a pistachio tart with apricot sorbet—did I mention that apricots are in season? The wines were remarkably good.

Summer 2023 - Thursday, July 6: We left Puligny-Montrachet and went to Chateau de Pommard in Pommard, where everything looks different since I was last there in 2018. They are remodeling most of the buildings and building a hotel. They’re devoted to biodynamic winemaking and are the only winery we’ve been on this trip that’s using horse-drawn equipment on their 50 acres of enclosed fields. The wines,as usual, were very, very good.

Started Friday morning, July 7, at a favorite, Domaine Faiveley. Their new facilities, which resemble an old Paris railroad station, weren’t finished the last time I was here, and it’s a remarkable space now. The caves are still enormous, and St. Vincent still watches over them. My favorite among the wines we tasted hasn’t changed.

Lunch on Friday July 7at the Hotel Richebourg was very good—a “bruschetta” that was basically an open-faced grilled cheese sandwich, a really nice piece of whitefish., and a chocolate dessert that was so rich I couldn’t eat it all.

VisitSummer 2023 - Friday, July 7: We had had bus trouble and the company sent a tech with a truck. We were late to lunch and had a truncated tasting at the hotel afterwards. Then we trundled off to Louis Jadot, a house very well known to American consumers, where we had a number of very interesting barrel samples. Their new winery is really well-designed.

Summer 2023 - Saturday, July 8: We started Saturday morning with a vineyards tour in Vosne-Romanee in the Cote de Nuits; of course we had to stop for the obligatory photo at the white cross of Romanee-Conti, the source of the most expensive wines in the world. 

We went on to a delightful Burgundian lunch at Domaine Trapet, with jambon persille (ham with parsley in aspic), boeuf Bourguignonne, and a cheese plate —wine was involved, most of it very good.

Summer 2023 - Saturday, July 9: I ended Saturday under the streets in the heart of Beaune in the caves of Joseph Drouhin, which date to the 13th century; one branch ends abruptly at a section of Roman wall from even earlier days. 

The others went on to Meursault for a wine festival, but I went back to the hotel to rest my leg. 

Summer 2023 - Sunday, July 9: Up late while the others were off to the Hospices de Beaune, a medieval hospital and charitable institution whose annual benefit wine auction is a major event in Burgundy. 

Then off to Vougeot for an al fresco lunch at Au Creux de Vougeot—jambon persille again, a grilled tuna steak with frites, and fruit compote for dessert. I ate about a third of it and had half a glass of wine.

After lunch it was off the the nearby Chateau du Clos de Vougeot, a Renaissance manor house attached to a 12th-century winemaking facility that was once the heart of 125 acres of historic grand cru vineyards and today serves as the headquarters of the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, an organization dedicated to promoting Burgundy wine. They have preserved a great many historical artifacts related to winemaking, including wine presses from the 15th to the 18th centuries which are marvels of carpentery and early mechanical invention. 

My late dinner was oeufs meurette, eggs poached in wine, and a nice piece of cod. Minimal wine that night. 

Summer 2023 - Monday morning, July 10: We had our first tasting at Domaine Servin, a large, old, and very well-regarded family wine estate in Chablis. Before the tasting proper we got to taste a cask sample, right out of the spigot, and a barrel sample, pulled up with a wine thief. The wines are very good.

Summer 2023 - Monday morning and lunch, July 10: After Domaine Servin, we went out into the Chablis countryside to the very small village of Prehy to visit Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard. We got a detailed look at the operation, enjoyed a comprehensive tasting, and really enjoyed what they called their “winemaker’s lunch,” a spread of cold meats and salads and desserts that was as good-looking as it was tasty. I had a plate of ham and some rabbit terrine with several different salads, and enjoyed the view from the top floor of their new facility—grapes about as far as you can see in most directions.

Summer 2023 - Monday evening, July 10: Monday afternoon’s schedule was mercifully light after our two morning tastings and a big lunch; I relaxed for several hours until dinner time at the restaurant Restaurant Le Maufoux, Domaine William Fevre. We arrived to discover that the chef and a helper were the only people there to work the dinner shift, and there was one menu—no real choices—as a result. We had a very good pork pate, salmon with green beans, and a cheesecake-y dessert with raspberry sauce. Wine was involved.

Summer 2023 - Tuesday morning, July 11: Tuesday saw us leave Chablis on our way to Epernay in Champagne. We made a stop along the way at the Abbey of Fontenay, founded by St. Bernard of Clairvaux in 1118. It’s remarkable that so many of the Romanesque buildings survived the Hundred Years War, the French Revolution, and other upheavals. The arched wooden roof of the monk’s dormitory dates from the mid-15th century. While no longer an active Cistercian monastery, it is slowly being preserved by the private owners, who live on the property.

Summer 2023 - Tuesday, July 11: After we toured Fontenay Abbeywe went on into Champagne, stopping in the southern end in the small town of Gye-sur-Seine for a simple lunch at a local restaurant, 

followed by our first tour and tasting at Champagne Jean Josselin, in business since the mid-1800s. We met the winemaker and looked at a lot of their new facilities. 

Afterwards we had a long ride the 150 kilometers up to Epernay, where we’re staying in the heart of town. 

I unpacked and went out to look at some of the big Champagne houses along the Avenue de Champagne, and settled for some cold cuts and a glass of champagne for dinner. 

Summer 2023 - Wednesday, July 12: The morning started in nearby Chouilly, at Champagne Legras & Haas, a smaller, family-owned house that had been growing wine grapes to sell to others for six generations, but in 1991 decided to start making their own champagne. Three brothers now run the enterprise; we had a tasting and spent time in the cave with Jerome Legras, one of the brothers. 

Then we went on to Champagne Maison Gamet in the valley of the Marne River,and tasted their wines. 

I skipped lunch. Back in Epernay, we visited Champagne Alfred Gratien, a large producer and one of only two champagne houses left—the other is Krug—that does all its fermentation in oak. We went 55 feet under the streets of Epernay to tour their cellars, then had an excellent tasting.

Summer 2023 - Wednesday evening, July 12: My leg was hurting from all the walking and climbing during the afternoon, and I almost didn’t make it to our last dinner of the tour at a French-Thai “fusion” restaurant call Cook’in. Mine was more Thai than French. I got some fish sauce with chilis to go with my rabbit curry and got my first hot pepper fix in weeks.

Summer 2023 - Thursday, July 13: We left Epernay and headed to Paris, stopping in Reims along the way for a tour and tasting at Champagne Ruinart, producing since 1729. We went about 125 feet underground to see their storage in caverns created when the Romans excavated stone to build the city around the 4th century A.D. Ruinart had the nicest tasting room we experienced on the whole trip. The wines were exceptional, and anyone who wants to buy some for me will be a friend forever. 

Then it was back on the bus to speed to Paris and a very late lunch at La Coupole in Montmartre—shades of Josephine Baker—after which we went our separate ways. 

It was a great tour—next year, back to Bordeaux!

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