Burgundy - Easter 2014
The post-Easter foreign tour has become a DWS tradition. It seems that as part of this log-standing event that every seven years the destination has been the Côte d'Or. It is sometimes thought that this is self-indulgence on the part of the organisers, but their reasoning is that after seven years there has been sufficient change in membership and potential participants that there is just cause for re-visiting this great area. This year the base hotel was the Hostellerie de Bretonniere in the centre of Beaune. The hotel does not have a restaurant but the usual welcome drink - obviously a Kir - was provided by the owners. Luckily the evening was dry and relatively warm for April so the 10 minute walk round the outside of the city walls was a pleasant prelude to a very traditional Burgundian dinner at the "Caveau des Arches" one of Beaune's most highly regarded restaurants. The food, wine and ambiance lived up to its reputation.
April 23rd The first of our visits was to an old friend - Stephen Maurice of Domaine du Prieuré in Savigny-lès-Beaune. The organisers have known Stephen since he was a boy, and his father and grandfather before him. He has visited the Society a number of times and our 2007 group came to the Domaine. Stephen started by showing us the small vineyard behind the house and explained the premier crus and other plots where he has grapes. A tour of then to the tasting room for a convivial, informative and comprehensive tasting of his wines, He agreed to deliver our purchases to the hotel, giving us more time for our next appointment - lunch in Nuits St.Georges.
The weather was warm so most people ate in the open in the pedestrianized street. Old habits die hard!
The next stop was just up the road at the Domaine A and B Rion in Vosne-Romanée . Bernard Rion had helped his father since 1973 and now manages the Domaine with his wife Armelle and his daughter Alice. They also breed dogs for truffle hunting. Alice who presented our tasting had to quieten them before she guided us through straight Nuits St Georges, 1' er cru Chambolle-Musigny, 1'er cru Vosnr-Romanée and a young Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru. This was a great introduction to many of the top end of Côtes-de- Nuits wines, more was to follow.
Visit number three was a few kilometres south of Nuits in Premaux-Prissay and the Domaine Dubois, another old established (since 1600 in fact) family property with a son and daughter at the helm. This time Béatrice Dubois was our hostess. An oenologist and winemaker who has worked in the Southern Hemisphere, she presented her wine with enthusiasm, while stepping over a large dog. As well as some well-made regional wines, Nuits St Georges, Côtes de Beaune - both Village and premier cru, they have a Clos de Vougeot Grand cru. The tasting was conducted standing up and some people looked enviously at the tasting room on the floor above, which had tables and chairs.
In the evening the party dispersed around Beaune to pick among its many restaurants.
Thursday had a slightly unpromising start. The coach stopped outside the hotel but before everyone was on board the police moved us on. The bus went around to a side street. The stragglers were phoned, they met us there. We were about to drive off when it was noticed that one person was missing, so again around to the hotel where we found a disconsolate man by the door.
Complete, we took the fifteen minute journey to Meursault and the Domaine of Guy Bocard, an extrovert and engaging vignerons. He has no English but is such a good communicator that he almost did not need his friend nor one of the group to translate. Some would say that his excellent wines -from Bourgogne Chardonnay to Meursault Premier Cru - speak for themselves. A good many of them were tasted and bought. With an offer to present a tasting in Dulwich the group left saying "follow that."
We did -"in spades."
Onward to Santenay and the Château de Crée, a picturesque nineteenth century rebuild of a fifteenth century castle. The present owner is Nicolas Ryhiner, a Swiss film director, actor and writer who bought the estate 10 years ago and developed it as a wine estate and luxury guest house. He greeted the group, and taking advantage of the warm spring sunshine, seated us at a long table on the edge of the elegant gardens and presented a range of his wines, not only from Santenay but his vineyards in Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligy-Montrachet and Volnay. The wines are from plots he has acquired since buying the house and are farmed more or less bio dynamically. They were, without exception of the highest quality. The enjoyment was enhanced by the weather and the ambiance. Then down to the cellar dining room for an exceptional four course lunch and more of his wine. M.Ryhiner then directed our group photograph in the amphitheatre in the garden.
The organisers had difficulty in prising people away to go to the final visit if the day, Next to Domaine Coste-Caumartin in Pommard, a family estate that has made wine since 1793. Since 1988, the Estate has enjoyed a renewed success under the management of Jérôme Sordet. Under his stewardship the domaine has expanded from 22 to 30 acres, with the building of a cellar and a modern winery of 400m².The company currently employs 7 people and produces 60 000 bottles. Entering through a very old, but large courtyard, with a mediaeval well, we went down into the ancient barrel store to taste a range of very good Pommard including two markedly different Premier crus and also some St. Romaine.
The evening was free and people spread around Beaune to find restaurants. The Spring weather was such that some enjoyed a simple meal - and a drink or two- "en pleine air" in the main square.
Friday morning was fine but dull. The group walked in crocodile the few hundred metres to Domaine Debray. Having sold Burgundy wines on the French market for some 20 years, Yvonnick Debray decided to purchase vineyards in the Côte de Beaune. The vat room and the cellars of his estate are hosed in an old building in the Place St Jacques. The grapes are brought from a number of locations by refrigerated transport and are vinified there. A wide range were tasted and most were of excellent quality.
It has become a tradition that the final meal of the trip is in a top class restaurant. Fortunately there was one a hundred metres from the hotel - the Michelin starred Le Benaton We took over the whole of the dining area to enjoy the imaginative and elegant food of chef Bruno Monnoir.