In Burgundy it’s all about the terroir, and what terroir it is, producing some of the worlds greatest red and white wines. Most come for the wine, but with a rich history, picturesque villages and incredible cuisine there’s so much more than just Pinot and Chardonnay. Our friends JoJo and Elle arrived in Beaune last fall after a few days in Paris. Beaune, part of the fabled Cote-d’Or, is considered to be the heart of Burgundy. They stayed at the home of Denis Toner, who was their guide and host for the following two very busy days eating and drinking.
Looking for lodging.. stay at Abbaye de la Bussiere, this Relais and Chateaux property located between Beaune and Dijon dates back to 1131.
Most wineries are closed on the weekends, so plan on visiting only on the weekdays.
Brand new, The Cook’s Atelier, in Beaune is a stunning multi purpose space offering cooking classes and market tours, a wine shop and a larder in which to buy artisan products.
Go back to school at Taste Burgundy Wine School, take a half day or full day course.
Continue your eating and drinking in France…it’s only an hour and a half by train to Lyon, considered by many to be one of the great culinary cities. Stay at the spectacular Chateau de Bagnols, outside of Lyon in Beaujolais.
Wake Up: Before starting out on our wine tour we headed into Beaune to one of the many great bakeries to have a typical French breakfast-- coffee and a baguette. Nothing fancy, but perfect.
Tour: Drive through the small towns that read like a restaurant’s wine list: Pommard, Volnay, Aloxe-Corton. Be sure to stop along the way and sample some wines at the “Domains” whose doors are open, a sign that they are welcoming visitors. Most of the wineries require an advance appointment. (This is where Denis was a huge help.)
Lunch: At Le Montrachet, in Puligny-Montrachet, recently awarded a Michelin star. We found the best choice was to order the menu of the day; a great value with many choices. The wine list was excellent, naturally.
Taste: Get a real feel for Burgundy, as you taste wines in the cellar of a husband and wife team who are just starting out at Pernod-Belicard. The wines they are producing were impressive.
Walk: Explore the medieval and vibrant city of Beaune, often referred to as the wine capital of Burgundy. It’s a great city for walking, wander down the main street of the old town filled with bistros, boutiques and gourmet shops. Visit the Hospices de Beaune where the well-known annual auction takes place. Inside there is a small wine museum.
History: Tasting at Maison Joseph Drouhin, one of the largest wine producers in Burgundy. Their historic cellar encompasses over 6 acres under the city of Beaune. You can view Roman remnants nearly 2000 years old. Fascinating!
Dinner: We loved Bistro de L’Hotel de Beaune. You must order the Bresse Chicken for two carved tableside. Our friends had the Cote du Beouf, also for two, also served tableside, which was cooked to perfection.
Local Take: Sample more great Burgundies, if you haven’t had enough, at the lively and local Bar du Square.
Breakfast: Once again, we ventured out for a coffee and swapped the baguette for a croissant.
Tour: Denis drove us through the picturesque small villages in the Cote de Nuit, the Northern region of Burgundy famous for some of the world’s greatest red wines. The Cote de Nuit produces mostly Pinot Noir, while the Cote de Beaune, the southern region of the Cote d’Or, is known mostly for Chardonnay. Make sure you stop in the town of Vosne-Romanee to take the requisite photo in front of the wall of Romanee Conti.
Lunch: At Le Millesime, another great meal, a superb wine list, and the marshmallow cart is not to be believed!
Drink: Next we tasted wines at Clos de Vougeot, a winery created by Cistercian monks of Citeaux Abbey. The vineyard is beautiful and at 125 acres the largest single vineyard in the Cote de Nuit.
Nap: What do you expect after all that wine! (It was a good thing Denis was driving)
Dinner: We dined at Bistrot du Bord de L’eau, located in the 5 star Relais Chateaux Hostellerie de Levernois. The restaurant is located in the kitchen of the building that dates back to the 1750’s.
Last Impressions: Location, location, location-- everything comes down to the land, to the soil. And of course, the farmer, winemaker and seasons all are extremely important. Burgundy is a special place, with a respect for the past and the way things have been done for generations. It’s more intimate than Bordeaux and Napa, both, which can feel more like a business than a labor of love.
Footnotes: Denis Toner, an American who has lived in Beaune for over 20 years, offers an insiders look at Burgundy, a true immersion in the area. He offers customized guided itineraries including winery visits, a visit to a truffle farm, cooking classes and winemakers dinners. True up close and personal experiences. In addition, you can arrange to stay with Denis and his wife Susan, they have a private home in Beaune attached to a small winery. Contact Denis at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 011.322.214.171.124.74