Small and cozy hotel restaurants can be found almost anywhere in the countryside. White Charolais cows peacefully graze in neighboring pastures. A lonely country-house comes into sight, surrounded by vineyards, and its weather-worn stone walls oozes history. And some of the most famous French wines come from this region. Burgundy, with its fine wines and outstanding Michelin-star restaurants, is much favored by gourmets, too. Although sometimes a lovely picnic spot in the midst of a fantastic landscape seem even better. You may just buy a local wine and snacks at a nearby town's marketplace and, going along a remote countryside road, find a lovely place close to Clos de Vougeot vineyards, sit in the grass and enjoy a fabulous view. Lovely!
Unlike the Bordeaux region, where rich and quite modest chateaus are surrounded by vineyards, in Burgundy vineyards and wineries are located at a distance. Some fields are shared by several winemakers and only an unweeded furrow here and there serve as a borderline...No wire fencing, just an insignificant plaque would tell that you are standing in front of the famous Romanée-Conti vines. In another place a symbolic half a meter high wall is protected by a sign telling: "We respect your interests. Please, do not step into vineyard."
Wine producers themselves can be met in nearby villages. Usually these are small to middle-sized wineries, plain and simple - a cellar, a winery on the ground floor and a living space on the first floor. No flashy signs outside give away them either - you can easily pass by without notice.
Among small group guided wine tasting tours, offered by Burgundy Discovery, you will find also Domaine Bouzerand-Dujardin - a local production in the very centre of Monthélie village. Visitors are met as good old friends there and the owner himself shows a house, a winery and a wine cellar. It's a great opportunity of getting more personalized experience, unlike big wine producing conveyers.
Pleasant surprises, however, can be expected also from large wine producers, like Michel Picard, featuring an elegant design hotel right next to the winery, with a marvelous view on Chassagne - Montrachet vineyards.
Surprising it may seem, but even Aubert de Villaine, co-owner and co-director of the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, even during harvesting - the busiest season of the year - still readily accepts guests and offers tours, although, forwarding this task to his wife...
Yet, wine supplies should better be entrusted to small vineries. Visiting of several wine giants of the city of Beaune leaves impression that no one is really interested in export to Latvia. Meanwhile, the owner of a small Le cellier Morvandiau shop, some 100 meters from Bernard Loiseau restaurant in the village of Saulieu, without even speaking a single word in English gladly shows you whole of his wine cellar. And some pretty impressive Burgundies are hidden there, too - La Tache, Echezaux, Chambertin and Romanée - Conti. Without wasting any time, a mystic name Lettonie is found in Green Pages - and a couple of weeks later a box full of bottle has already arrived!
A small medieval town of Mont-Saint-Jean located in the very heart of Burgundy features an amazing castle, dating back to the 18th century. Two energetic foreigners - Tobias and Marco - are its owners and masters for about already three years. Les Roches Chambres d'Hotes can easily be called the chicest boutique guest-houses in this part of France. A Parisian lawyer by name Perrot commissioned this building to his mistress and her stone profile can still be seen above the main entrance of the house.
Lounging in a garden and sipping tea after an exhausting tour of vineyards seems like a godsend - with country peace and quiet spreading all over. The style of the house is quite unique to Burgundy and offers just five classic style accommodations, with large semi-circular windows.
The service is impeccable there, offering lots of personal touch. Probably because guests are never more than ten, they are served by the duet of the hosts themselves and no other personnel can ever be seen around. Dinners offered on Thursday and Saturday nights are their performance, too, and are culinary marvels, indeed! True gourmands themselves, Tobias and Marco literally read their guests' wishes, offering most sophisticated gastronomic pleasures in a warm and friendly atmosphere!
Les Roches offers its guests also a Burgundy cooking experience with Alex Miles, one of the best Burgundy's chefs. It takes place each Friday - be sure not to miss it! The former White House pastry chef (who maybe has made cakes for Gorbachow, too) and the owner of several pastry shops in New York has lived in France for over 25 years already. Now a good-humored man in his sixties does not look like an American at all. A cooking experience with Alex includes a visit to the Dijon market on a Friday morning, followed by the cooking itself on special stoves in the Les Roches kitchen. The cost of this adventure is 150 euros per person - it includes the best products, excellent wines and an exceptional experience! Lamb stew is incredibly delicious but a Napoleon cake - simply heavenly...Alex knows all the best chefs of the region and alongside with cooking itself he would also suggest the best nearby restaurants. And believe me, you can trust him!
Alongside with Tobias and Marco the guest house has two more permanent residents - Buttons and Ustinov, lively king Charles Spaniels. At least a Les Roches lounge - especially a spot close to the fireplace - quite often catches their attention.
In the near future it is planned to install also a swimming pool but a wine cellar is already under construction.
Price per double room per night - starting from EUR 105
A small village Saulieu, in the middle of nowhere, 20 minutes by car from Les Roches, is sometimes referred as a gastronomic centre of the whole Burgundy. And deservedly, as one of the most famous Michelin star restaurants in France - Bernard Loiseau - is located there. A very peculiar feeling surrounds this place and its visitors, especially those, who know its history - namely a tragedy that sounds much like a legend now. Bernard Loiseau - the owner of the restaurant - fearing for the loss of the third Michelin star, committed suicide, shooting himself with a rifle given as a present by his wife. A word "suicide", however, is never pronounced there. Asked about the famous culinary master, waiters probably will refer to him as „disappeared".
Nevertheless, disappearance of Bernard Loiseau has not influenced a quality of gastronomic delights there. Not in the least! Famous frog-legs in garlic sauce are as delicious as ever and jellied jamon with parsley and mustard as tempting as a sander. And a chocolate cake - yummy! Champagne, served in the garden, and a slightly ceremonial but still very pleasant service. A fusion of traditional Burgundy and French cuisine is full of surprises and a bottle of the best Crème de Cassis into the bargain, too! Burgundians eat much. There is no risk of leaving Bernard Loiseau feeling that something is still missing and there is a space for more dessert in your stomach. A dinner at the most famous restaurant may turn into a gastronomic marathon in the length of some four hours!
The restaurant is always full, even on Sundays, and a table should be booked in good time. Prices, in comparison with other Michelin counterparts in Paris are pretty favorable, too.
A completely different experience offers Chez Camille, a hotel restaurant at a small village Arnay-le-Duc. No exquisite glamour can be found there. Instead, an elderly woman with trembling hands will enquire again and again what you have chosen - perhaps English sounds very strange to her ears. Ordering is a guessing game, too - a menu is in French only. If you do not know it, the only other choice is to look for some more familiar or heard of names in it. A chef, hustling behind a big window, has no scruples to yell at his people, seeing that guests have to help themselves to some wine. Not a single Michelin star - but what a charm can possess a small and simple countryside restaurant!
- The best way to get there is an express-train Paris-Dijon (the capital of Burgundy).
- The best way to get to know Burgundy region is going by car along N74 road northwards (Cote-de-Nuits). In the southern end (Cote-de-Beaune), in its turn, mostly white wine is produced.
- Books about wine and Burgundy travel guides provide detailed maps, where all the wineries of the region are marked.
- Visits of wineries should be arranged in advance, as owners of small productions may not always be there. Otherwise you will manage to see only vineyards.
- Burgundy Discovery suggests wine producers that might seem interesting only to newcomers to the field. For those, who have been in wine business for quite a time, visiting of big wineries will not seem too exciting.
- Due to climate warming, a harvest-time arrives a bit earlier, too. During the last years it has been even the end of August.
- The town of Beaune seems to be quite touristy - swarming with Japanese tourists and prices being pretty escalated, too.
Maison Michel Picard
Château de Chassagne - Montrachet
5 rue du château, 21190 Chassagne - Montrachet, France
Tel.: +33 3 80 21 98 57
Fax: +33 3 80 21 98 56
Place de l'Eglise
Le cellier Morvandiau shop
21 rue de la Foire, 21210 Saulieu
Tel.: 03 80 64 14 19
Posted in 2008.Share it:
Keywords: Burgundy, winery, wine, region, hotel, design, castle, chateau, frog-legs, restaurant