Rollicking Road Trip Through France: Chapter 6
This is the part of the trip where things start to go off-script in the most surprising and delightful of ways. So much happened that this is roughly organized as Day 1 in Beaune.
We picked Beaune as our homebase to explore the vineyards of Burgundy. As we arrived fairly late (after our detour to Dijon), we quickly picked up dinner and settled into our latest airbnb. We really liked this apartment. It had a really nice, mostly Ikea kitchen with a large attached table that doubled as counter space. The main bedroom and bathroom were on the second floor. We spent very little time in the apartment and never had time to use it for cooking, although we would have liked to.
Table d’Hôte at Domaine Comte Senard
S knows (sort of) a Frenchmen from one of his previous jobs. I say “sort of” because they’ve never actually met, but have just corresponded recently over some work topics. However, his recommendations would come to shape this trip pretty significantly. He recommended we visit Domaine Comte Senard in Aloxe-Corton in the Côte de Beaune area. He also put us in touch with C and her husband G, who are part of the Senard family and live right on the estate. We decided to book a lunch at the Table d’Hôte there as a good way to sample their wines. Table d’Hôte literally means “host’s table” and essentially means a fixed price menu. Many domaines offer this and serve their wines alongside the meal.
We arrived at Domaine Comte Senard right around noon and were greeted by Anthony (a sommelier) and Baptiste (a sommelier-in-training who was interning at the estate). We started our visit with some history of the family and their estate, a short tour of the closest vineyard (Clos des Meix), and a walk through their 13th century wine caves. The caves were dark and damp, and there were bottles and barrels everywhere covered with dust and cobwebs. It was awesome.
We happened to run into C and her husband on our tour. We introduced ourselves and then planned to stop by after lunch for coffee. After finishing up our tour, we made our way to the dining area. The space was intimate – about 5 tables of varying sizes with bright red chairs, curtains, and accents. It was just us, so we had the place to ourselves (I know that’s kind of the theme of this trip).
I didn’t necessarily expect the food to be memorable since we came for the wine, BUT – I was so, so wrong.
- A small basket of Gougères to start. Luckily, I know what these are thanks to my own delicious attempts at them
- Jambon Persille (ham terrine with parsley)
- Boeuf Bourguignon with Pommes Dauphinoise. The Boeuf Bourguignon was perfect. It was so freakin good. So flavorful, so tender, and pretty much just goodness that melted in your mouth. The potatoes were amazing as well and the perfect partner for the main dish, but the beef was outstanding.
- Cheese course comprised of Époisses, Citeaux, and Délice de Pommard. Époisses is a very strong, pungent cheese – definitely not for everyone, including S. Délice de Pommard is something I’d never heard of. It was a creamy cheese rolled in mustard seeds. It was delicious. S said it tasted like ice cream.
We selected the 3-wine pairing option – i.e the least expensive option (no jobs, remember?). Typically, you get 1 régional, 1 village, and 1 premier cru with this option. Anthony upgraded us and gave us 1 premier cru and 2 grand crus instead. These guys were very friendly, warm, knowledgeable, and generous hosts throughout our visit. While Baptiste poured, Anthony introduced each wine, showed us the plot where it came from on the map, and described the flavor profile. I was hanging on every word (course a lovely French accent helps). We tried the following:
- Aloxe Corton 1er Cru Les Valozières 2014
- Corton Paulands Grand Cru 2010
- Corton Clos Des Meix Grand Cru Monopole 2010 – If you recall, this was the vineyard right on the estate. So we were drinking wine from the exact same plot of land that we just toured. That was really cool.
All three of these wines were red. Even though Burgundy is more often associated with white wine, this particular producer makes mostly red. Since red burgundy is all Pinot Noir, tasting wine here is a great way to learn and appreciate how wines with the same grape can vary dramatically just based on its terroir. And yes, I sound totally pretentious saying that. Moving on.
I should say, this whole experience felt like a birthday celebration. It was just such a special experience and we felt so taken care of throughout.
Coffee with C and G
After lunch, we were escorted over to C’s house. They started a fire and brought out coffee and chocolate. We spent a while with them talking about everything – our time here, previous jobs, politics, France, etc. They are such a fun and interesting couple and gave us great recommendations about how to spend our remaining time in Burgundy. In fact, they mentioned their niece was having a party of sorts – featuring Balkan music – on her nearby farm and they graciously asked us if we’d be interested in going. It sounded just crazy enough for a couple of crazy kids that just quit their jobs and moved to France. We said sure and agreed to meet back at their house the next evening.
You’ll have to wait for the exciting conclusion of this excursion until the next post. It will be worth it…
Clos de Vougeot
On C’s recommendation, we left their house and drove north to visit Clos de Vougeot. This is a vineyard that was created by monks in the 12th century and continues to be symbolic of the wine history of this region. There is a chateau and ancient wine presses on the grounds to explore. And in-what-must-be-the-coolest-most-exclusive-club-ever, the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin (Fraternity of Knights of the Wine-Tasting Cup) uses the chateau as their headquarters. Their mission is to promote all things Burgundy – particularly, her wine. What a job a description.
Hospices de Beaune
We also visited the Hospices de Beaune. This is a beautiful building that was built in the 1400s and was a hospital for the poor. It has one of those gorgeous polychrome roofs and was one of the more interesting museums we’ve seen. As you walk through – there is a ton of history about how the place was run back in the day as well as medical instruments, a pharmacy, kitchens and kitchenware, etc.