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[TravelBlog] Post Twenty-Two: Maconnais, Chalonnaise

10:42PM  |  Beaune  |  Burgundy

Last day in Burgundy. We head south on the highway towards Macon, back to the region where we once spent a year living. The softly rolling hills are covered in wheat, forests, and vines, and our car dips gently as we rise and fall with the rhythm of the countryside.

Our first tasting is in Verzé, for pure Chardonnay whites of exceptional clarity: bright lemon fruit, honey, almonds — all from a young organic winemaker who shows a remarkable passion for his craft. He takes us into his vines to show us the slope and quality of the soil. “Why make wine in Puligny Montrachet, where it’s flat?” he asks, giving us a quick smile. “Much better to make it here…” We taste his 2014s en cuve which are full and rich and bursting with life — a third exciting vintage in a row from our latest producer in the Maconnais.

In the late morning we drive north to Givry, to revisit a producer we knew during our time here in the 90s. The son has taken the reigns and shows a real knack for winemaking — rustic, hearty pinot noir with tons of character and impressive concentration.

After lunch we visit our producer for Crémant de Bourgogne, and taste through an exceptionally fine vintage 2012. Sparkling wines made of pinot noir, chardonnay, aligoté, and gamay — all well-made wines in their own right, with or without the bubbles. In the afternoon we pick up our final Burgundian provisions, and prepare to depart demain.

Dinner is at the Petit Paradis, a local favorite — fresh tuna tartare, local Charolais beef with époisses sauce, and salted caramel cream. Chablis et puis Champagne tomorrow.







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[TravelBlog] Post Twenty-One: Dans les Vignes

10:55PM  |  Beaune  |  Burgundy

With a morning off from tastings, I take the car for a stretch up the Côte d’Or for photo collection. The soft morning sun quickly rises past the haze and clouds to paint a picture perfect blue sky above the shimmering green rows of vines. Many vignerons are in the fields this week — treating with insect deterrents, pruning the top canopies of the vines, and checking on the floraison.

In Chambolle, I walk out into the Musigny vineyard, quiet save for a gentle wind rustling the leaves. Standing among the gnarled vines emerging from rich brown dirt, I am struck by the elements — air, earth, sun, life — that conspire perfectly to form an impossibly complex and treasured drink. At my feet are vines planted before World War II, whose fruit will be consumed thirty years from now — time stretches dizzyingly forward and back from the point on the ground where I stand.

Lunch back in the Place Carnot, then a jet up to Vosne Romanée for a tasting with a new producer — delicate, fine-grained wines with excellent precision. We work our way through the fields to Marsannay for our second tasting, where we’re treated to an impressive range of wines: red, white, rosé and sparkling, all from the town and all well made.

Back at the apartment, we sit outside as the sun bakes the late evening air, calculating we’re nearly at the same latitude as Fort Kent at the northern tip of Maine. Dinner is a few blocks away — chorizo and peas, roasted veal, and strawberries with balsamic-anise ice cream to finish. Tomorrow the Côte Chalonnaise.





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The Greatest Pinot Noir Village on Earth.

Pilgrimage.  For most Burgundy enthusiasts, Vosne-Romanée is Mecca. The wines of Vosne have been celebrated since at least the 13th century, and it is generally considered “the greatest Pinot Noir village on earth.”* Or, as a monk wrote centuries ago, “there are no ordinary wines in Vosne.”

We found ourselves on this hallowed ground yesterday afternoon, for our annual tasting with Michel Gros. After working our way through the excellent 2013s still en cuve (look for them in the November 2015 Futures Issue), Michel invited us down into his cellar, and opened a 2012 Vosne Romanée.

Maybe it was the moment — the centuries-old cellar, the historic town, the rows of oak barrels surrounding us — but this wine stopped us in our tracks. It was concentration and elegance, dark fruit and spice, prestige and accessibility — a perfect example of what makes the town so special.

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Seductive. The domaine is all sold out of the Vosne-Romanée 2012, and we picked our only allocation last fall. We had planned to hold onto it for another few months, but yesterday’s bottle compelled us to release it sooner.

In the nose, the Vosne Romanée 2012 showed dark chocolate spice, cassis, and licorice. It was immediately expressive from the moment the cork was pulled, showing more like a wine of twice its age. The mouth is long, dense, and elegant, showing silky tannins and notes of burnt cherries and toast.

Drinkable as it may have been yesterday, this wine no doubt has a long and exciting life ahead of it. Allen Meadows (Burghound), who found the wine “wonderfully spicy,” and “highly seductive,” counsels waiting another 4 years to begin drinking. We dare you to see if you can wait that long.



GROS Vosne-Romanée 2012
Ansonia Retail: $75
offer price: $68/bot




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*Clive Coates MW


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[TravelBlog] Post Twenty: Côte de Beaune

11:53PM  |  Beaune  |  Burgundy

A quick coffee before heading south today — again a clear blue sky with warm sun and a mild breeze. The floraison (flowering) happened last week, and the weather was perfect; the vignerons are trés content with the the flowering of their vines, and have begun their 100 day countdown to the maturation of the fruit. 

Our first appointment is in Chassagne. Beautiful, opulent, golden Chassagne-Montrachets, with long tense cores and excellent acidity. The 2013 burst of freshness is evident here, but well supported by bodies that are rich and gras.

Our second appointment is further south in Santenay. Here we taste 2014s en cuve and 2013s from the barrel — both white’s and reds are better than we remembered. The whites show very dense, concentrated cores with good acidity over top, and the reds are juicy, young, full, and even silky. An embarrassment of riches so far with the 2013s on this trip.

We grab lunch in Santenay at an ourdoor café — salad aux époisses — and organize our thoughts on the morning’s tastings. We drink our coffee and return to the car, where we use crusty bread and sparkling water in an attempt to neutralize our palates.

Final tasting of the day is in Auxey-Duresses — whites with great energy and tension, and reds with beautiful juicy cores and rustic mouthfeels. Excellent, well made wines at very reasonable prices. We head back to Beaune to catch up on some work and email.

Dinner tonight is at a new restaurant in a 12th century abbaye with carefully-lit vaulted ceilings, white tablecloths and candelabras. The food is outstanding: smoked cod with escargots, roasted duck breast done perfectly, and a host of cheeses from the plate. The wine steals the show: a bottle each of 2002 and 2003 Vosne-Romanée 1er cru Monopole Clos des Réas. Twelve and thirteen years has done these wines nicely.












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[TravelBlog] Post Nineteen: Gevrey, Vosne, Meursault

10:31PM  |  Beaune  |  Burgundy

Coffee in the apartment and a warm baguette from the boulangerie next door. Our first tasting is a new producer in Gevrey, in a beautiful 18th century house with a welcoming courtyard. The domaine is a very exciting new find, with excellent Gevrey-Chambertins at the villages, premier cru, and grand cru levels.

Our second tasting is also in the Gevrey, with an old school negociant making classic and very singular wines. Using whole clusters and open barrel fermentation, the domaine makes cuvées full of traditional structure and character: ten wines covering fifteen vintages.

After a quick charcuterie lunch we head south to Vosne-Romanée. Our tasting here begins with a dozen 2013s from barrel — all beautiful and ripe, with excellent freshness and plenty of matière. We’re joined by friends from the States, and we descend into the cave for a tasting of some already-bottled cuvées. The Vosne Romanées — both village and 1er cru — are from 2012, and are open, silky, dense, and delicious.

Final tasting of the day is in Meursault. The wines here are extraordinary — well balanced, long and complex, and full of freshness to carry them into old age. Even in a difficult vintage, these wines show a golden roundness that is surprising and impressive.

Dinner is at Ma Cuisine: tartare de boeuf, terrine de la maison, and roasted lamb shank, with 97 Corton, 09 Beaune, and 00 Gevrey as wine highlights. Gooey, runny, nearly liquid Époisses for dessert; Santenay in the morning.










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Classic Grand Cru Red Burgundy

Consistency.  Jean-Louis Amiot is on a roll. In the last few years Amiot has hit his stride, producing consistently excellent wines in vintages that have been anything but easy. Yesterday we visited the domaine to taste his 2013s, and were once again impressed at the quality in a difficult year. They’ll be included in next month’s July Futures.

In the meantime, we’re enjoying several of the Amiot back vintages in our cellars. Last month we wrote about two excellent Premier Crus from Morey-St-Denis (Ruchots and Aux Charmes), both drinking beautifully now.  Today we’re releasing the finest wine Amiot has to offer: the Grand Cru Clos de la Roche 2012.


Crème de la Crème.  Grand Cru wines represent the pinnacle of Burgundy — just 1.3% of the wine produced in the region receives the designation. Clos de la Roche is one of five Grand Crus in Morey-St-Denis, a vineyard Clive Coates describes as showing a signature “lushness.”

Amiot’s Clos de la Roche 2012 is fine and dense — very dark berry fruit mixes with gingerbread and toast in the nose; and the mouth is long and concentrated, with good density and structure. Jean-Louis councils 5-10 years for his Clos de la Roche, so there’s no rush to consume this one.

Grand Cru Burgundy is one of the world’s great culinary treasures, served to kings and heads of state for centuries. We like to have a few bottles around for special occasions, and we think everyone should have some treasure in our cellar.

NOTE: We’re relaxing our normal half-case minimum to 3 bottles.



AMIOT Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 2012
Ansonia Retail: $138
offer price: $124/bot




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[TravelBlog] Post Eighteen: Nuits and Ladoix

10:44PM  |  Beaune  |  Burgundy

The Gare de Lyon buzzed quietly at 6:30 this morning, with sleepy travelers standing blankfaced in line for their coffee. The train to Dijon was sunny and sleepy as it rocketed smoothly through the lush French countryside.

Our first appointment, a 9:30 in Nuits-St-Georges, was a promising start to the week — a crisp, fresh white from the Côte de Nuits, and three clean and concentrated reds from Nuits. Though perhaps not the vintage to hold onto for your grandkids, 2013 is is far from the disaster it might have been. Winemakers have told us of their surprise at the quality of the vintage, and are enthusiastic about its future.

Our next tasting, a marathon in Ladoix, begins with 4 whites, followed by 10 reds. Here the wines are bright and full of red fruits — cherries, cranberries, etc. Lots of energy and impressive tension. The last three wines, all Corton Grand cru from 2006, 2002, and 1997, are all impressive, and the 06 is extraordinary. If we’re able to wheedle some from the vingeron’s cellar, it may appear in July Futures next month.

Lunch is in Nuits-St-Georges — French beer, and Croque Monsieur — then up to Morey-St-Denis for an afternoon tasting. Here the 2013s are more than just fine; these are concentrated, energetic, beautiful red Burgundies, and we struggle afterwards to pick our favorites.

A pause back at the apartment in Beaune, then dinner a block away at an outdoor table — it’s still light when we walk home at 10pm.












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[TravelBlog] Post Seventeen: Adieu

11:36PM  |  Paris  |  France

Sunday coffee in Châtelet on the way to Porte de Clingancourt. We meet a local friend for a morning tour of the Les Puces market, which is sprawling and full of amazing antiques: copper pots, Victorian dresses, Louis XIV furniture, and everything in between.

Brunch in an abandoned rail station converted to an eclectic restaurant. Afternoon drinks in an outdoor café near Montmartre, then a stroll back to the Marais. The French Open plays in the background as we pack our bags.

At 7:45 we stroll through the Place des Vosges, which is packed with people sunning themselves on the grass. Dinner is in a winter garden, lit by natural light even when we leave at 10:30. One last digestif in a café, then back to the apartment.

Back to Beaune and Boston tomorrow for work. A magical two weeks, and a trip that will be hard to top.







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Pommard: Cassis and Silk

Yin and Yang. Spend even a few days tasting Burgundy, and the power of terroir is hard to miss. During a brief visit last week, we sampled Volnay, Savigny, Givry, Mercurey, and Pommard — five wines made from the same grape and the same region. But the characters of these wines could not be more disparate.

Volnay and Pommard are a particularly good study in terroir. These neighboring towns feature opposing takes on Pinot Noir: Volnay is known for wines of elegance, Pommard for wines of power. Some Burgundy enthusiasts prefer one over the other, but for those who’d rather not choose, we suggest this Pommard dressed in Volnay robes.


Continuum.  And as you approach the border, the differences between the towns blur a bit, and it’s from there that today’s wine hails. Grown from three plots in the appellation of Pommard, it’s the vines from near Volnay border that dominate this wine. The nose is very pretty, showing raspberry, cassis, and a touch of menthol. The mouth shows dry blackberries, with elegant, delicate mouthfeel.

We’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well this wine drinks today. Though it will certainly benefit from another 3-5 years of cellaring, an hour or more in a carafe dramatically softens the tannins and opens the palate. Paired with a simply prepared steak, this is a delightful glass of classic Burgundy. Try a bottle every six months for the next few years — it might even age better than you do.



MEGARD Pommard 2011
Ansonia Retail: $52
case, half-case: $44/bot




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[TravelBlog] Post Sixteen: Paris

11:49PM  |  Paris  |  France

A quick early breakfast at the Abbey, then heading north to Paris. We drop the car at the Gare de Lyon, take the metro to the Marais, and find a crêperie for lunch. Chèvre and salad, then butter and sugar, with dry sparkling cidre to match. It’s cooler here, with a blue cloudless sky.

We drop our bags at our quaint rented apartment on the Rue Francois Miron, and head west for a stroll through the Tuileries. The park is bustling with people on this perfectly clear day, and the sunlight dances brightly off the fountains. We cross the Seine and make our way to the Musée Rodin, and take a brief tour of the gardens.

We walk slowly back east to St-Germain, ducking into shops and admiring window displays. Crossing back over the river, we pass Notre-Dame, lit brilliantly against the afternoon sky. In the evening we find a cocktail bar and sip for a few hours; when we leave the bar at 9:15 the sun is still visible above buildings on the Rue du Rivoli. Dinner in a tiny restaurant on a Marais side street. The city is charming as ever.



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[TravelBlog] Post Fifteen: Canal de Bourgogne

12:31PM  |  Bussière-sur-Ouche  |  France

Breakfast is in the light-filled winter dining room — soft boiled eggs, croissants, local yogurt, chèvre and locally smoked salmon. We borrow a pair of bikes from the Abbey, and set out on a 25k loop around the surrounding countryside.

The first leg takes us along the Burgundy Canal, a beautiful stretch of water dating from 1775 that connects the Atlantic and Mediterranean. We bike on the tow-path, once used by horses or cows for pulling barges. We pass beautiful wooden barges with smiling pilots, and watch them maneuver into locks and descend levels. The day is hot and the breeze is refreshing; a heron follows us along the water for a time.

We turn off the canal and head north to the town of Châteauneuf (no Pâpes here), a storybook castle and town perched on a steep hill. The climb on bikes is grueling and intense, and the ancient defensibility of the castle’s location seems more obvious with each pump of our legs. Once in the town, we break for water, picon bière, and crêpes salés — with cheese, bacon, potatoes, and spinach.

Our constitution restored, we hop back on the bikes and follow the route south back towards the abbey. We cross rolling hills of wheat and grains, and pass ubiquitous herds of white Charolais cattle. Back at the hotel we sit on the veranda, enjoying kir royales and trying to find room for dinner.

A second extensive and impressive tasting menu, dishes include morel mushrooms, crayfish, rabbit confit, escargots, and mackerel. An expansive selection from the cheese tray: melted époisses, Brillat Savarin, fresh local goat, Cîteaux, and others. Calvados and armagnac on the terrace. Paris tomorrow.







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[TravelBlog] Post Fourteen: l’Abbaye

11:27PM  |  Bussière-sur-Ouche  |  France

Croissants and coffee this morning on the Place Carnot, Beaune’s central square. We head south mid morning through the Côte d’Or and out the St. Aubin valley to the Chateau de la Rochepot. The castle dates from the 13th century, and was carefully and lovingly restored in the 19th century by a local family. Rochepot boasts classic Burgundian tiled roofs, a bright and sunny courtyard, and a 230 foot well through solid rock dug entirely by hand in 1228.

Lunch back in Beaune — escargots, aligoté — then a stroll through the streets and an exquisite raspberry tart. Back in the car, we head west through beautiful rolling hills full of poppies and white Charolais cattle. The road leads us through dark forests, past tiny stone towns, and a stretch along the picturesque Burgundy canal.

The Abbaye de la Bussière, our home for the next two nights, is a magnificent property, with beautiful gothic buildings and impeccably tended grounds. Once a summer retreat for the wealthy bishops of nearby Dijon, the main buildings have been converted from an Abbey dating to 1131, and the inside of the building is extraordinary. Stained glass and stone staircases adorn the reception hall, and the one-star dining room is in an open two-story atrium with stone columns and a blacony.

We check in and take a walk around the grounds, which include an old mill wheel, stables, bee hives, a functioning winery and cave, a 12th century underground chapel, and a lake swimming with beavers and geese. We find a boat and take a quick spin around the lake, before returning to the main property for an afternoon on the lawn.

Dinner is an exceptional eight course tasting menu, with too many details to name. Highlights include a creamy and whipped Abbaye de Citeaux cheese dish, roasted pigeon on a bed of puréed peas,  and a sous-vide unnamed saltwater fish with kale juice as a garnish. Macon from Louis Michel, unusually dense Savigny 1er cru from an unknown vigneron, and a rosé Champagne from Leroy Duval are among the several memorable wines.


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Cotes-du-Rhône for a Summer Afternoon.

Déjeuner sur terasse. Not all meals in France are complicated. On Tuesday we shared a delightful afternoon meal with the Cartier Family, owners of the Domaine les Goubert. On a sun-filled terrace in the charming Provençal town of Séguret, we each enjoyed a fresh salad, a glass of wine, a simple dessert, and a small coffee — no fanfare, just simple elegance.

As with most meals in France, the point was more pleasure than nourishment. The French take this concept so seriously that from 12-2pm each day they hold a collective pause dedicated to dining. It makes doing business frustrating from time to time, but it’s awfully civilized.


Character and class.  In the same way, not all wines in France complicated. The Domaine les Goubert’s Côtes du Rhône is a perfect example — this red blend of six grapes different grapes is straightforward, rustic, and refreshing. It’s a wine that’s full of character — a wine that isn’t trying too hard to be something it’s not.

Florence Cartier told us on Tuesday that she likes to use her Côtes du Rhône for cooking — not to put in the food, mind you, but to drink in the kitchen while preparing a meal. The 2012, which we already have in stock in the States, is full bodied, uncomplicated, and delicious, showing dark berry fruit and woodsy complexion, with notes of licorice, plums, and burnt earth.

This is wine about simple pleasure. If an old red Burgundy is meant for Michelin starred white-tablecloth restaurant, then this wine is for a summertime lunch, somewhere on a backyard patio — maybe even between noon and 2pm.



GOUBERT Côtes du Rhône 2012
Ansonia Case Retail: $168
offer price: $150/case




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[TravelBlog] Post Thirteen: Beaune

11:51PM  |  Beaune  |  France

We started the morning on the road, driving due north out of Provence, past Lyon, and into Burgundy. The terrain flattens out and the hills become greener; the sun today is clear and very warm.

We make it to Beaune by noon, grab some provisions in the market, and head south to Volnay. On a bench in the town square, in the shadow of the Volnay church spire, we spread out picnic between us and enjoy a lunch overlooking the sprawling Côte d’Or. Fresh warm bread, cheeses, sanglier saussicon, strawberries, and chocolate.

After checking into our hotel, we tour the Hospices to Beaune, a hospital for the poor founded in 1443. The Hospice is a remarkably well preserved landmark in the center of Beaune, known today as much for its annual wine auction as anything else. It’s not often the professions of wine and medicine overlap, but the tour brings smiles of recognition to both our faces today.

For dinner, we join three members of the Gros family at a new restaurant a few blocks from our hotel on the Place Carnot. The meal is outstanding — slow poached egg with morel mushrooms and asparagus, crusted duck with turnip and rosemary, and rhubarb compote with concentrated vanilla ice cream. Chassange and castles tomorrow, then the Abbey for dinner.







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[TravelBlog] Post Twelve: Gigondas

11:54PM  |  Violès  |  France

We took our coffee in Vaison-la-Romaine this morning, in view of the extensive, sprawling weekly market. The market is an impressive collection of vendors selling everything from meats to wicker baskets to clothes to soaps and spices. We grab a few souvenirs, then head back to Gigondas.

At 11 we meet some old friends for a tasting at their domaine just outside the village. We taste through white, rosé, and red, all familiar but somehow fresher in the place they’re made. After a quick tour of the cellars, we head to neighboring Séguret for a delightful, leisurely lunch in the same sun-filled terrace restaurant from Sunday. We drink ice cold rosé, and toast the family absent from the table; after dessert (pear aumonières, and crème caramel) and coffee, we bid adieu and head back to Violès to write a few cartes postales.

Birthday dinner a day late is at the Oustalet, a restaurant in Gigondas perfectly placed on the town square overlooking the valley. We arrive at 8pm, over an hour before sunset, as the warm evening begins to settle into night. Lights are strung between the sycamore and olive trees, and the fading sun plays beautifully off the leaves. The food is as magical as the setting: monkfish, mushroom risotto, sea bass, and foie de volaille, all prepared with minimalist elegance. For wine, a white from our Burgundian friends at Domaine de l’Arlot, and a few glasses of a local Muscat de Beaumes de Venises.

A perfect and charming end to a lovely few days in Provence, full of wine, food, markets, friends, and sun. Tomorrow north to Burgundy.









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