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The Grape News
Volume XI - Fall 2005 - October 14, 2005

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Sept. 15, 2005 - The Grape Harvest
(or "vendanges") is now in full swing
here in Burgundy

In this issue:

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Dear Friends,

We are right in the middle of a very joyful and colourful time of year in Burgundy, with the Grape Harvest going strong.  Grape pickers throng the vineyards and the streets of the little wine-making villages that dot the wine coast.  Tractors piled high with vats of purple grapes chug along the roads and everybody takes the time, even in the midst of all this hard work, to stop and enjoy a glass of wine underneath the glorious Fall sunshine.

And we have reason to celebrate too.  Thanks to the sweat and effort of last year we have had our newest Gîte, La Maison de la Vieille Vigne up, running, and hosting guests since the beginning of July.  So far all of our visitors have been thrilled, and we are too as the gîte has been booked solid until close to the end of November.

We designed La Maison de la Vieille Vigne to be the perfect cozy retreat in the Winter months, so just let us know at if you would be interested in coming to Burgundy for the world-famous Beaune wine auction (called Les Trois Glorieuses) at the end of November, or to spend Christmas, or for the much-anticipated Saint Vincent Festival which honours the patron saint of winemakers during the last week in January, and is being hosted by Villers-la-Faye (home to La Maison de la Vieille Vigne) and Magny-les-Villers (home to La Maison des Deux Clochers) this year.

And for a little taste of Burgundy, read on...

We are very proud of our
latest "production"

I) Enfin! Welcome to La Maison de la Vieille Vigne

After several months of frantic days and short nights, not to mention countless litres of kir poured in an effort to beguile the local tradesmen, La Maison de la Vieille Vigne is now finished. We began welcoming guests on July 2nd with the Goldsmiths from Hilton Head, South Carolina. To peek in the door, just click here.

We've really endeavored to preserve all of the old details of this 300 or so year old house such as the exposed stone wall in the living room, the huge oak beams, and the three hearty rose bushes out the front.  Then add in all the modern amenities that make life in the 21st Century so enjoyable - thick insulation, new bathroom fixtures, a dishwasher (yours truly really pushed for this last one), a washer, a dryer, etc. etc.

La Vieille Vigne has one bedroom with an adjoining bathroom, and a main room with a kitchen on one end and a fireplace on the other (making it perfect and cozy to rent during the Winter). It also has a lovely private courtyard just off the bedroom which is perfect for eating, reading, or just warming your toes on the flagstones when the sun is shining.

We also added a few goodies that we hadn't initially planned on, such as a high-speed ADSL connection, and satellite TV with many English channels.

La Vieille Vigne can be found in Villers-la-Faye, which is less than 1 kilometer from La Maison des Deux Clochers and Magny-les-Villers. The house is tucked away in a little lane in the quietest and oldest part of the village. However, it is only steps away from the Boulangerie on one side, and from miles and miles of walks in the vineyards on the other.

But we admit that we are just a petit peu biased, so here is what our first guests thought of their experience:


“We have had a marvelous time here in Burgundy. The “Gîte” has made our total experience more comfortable and relaxing. We love the cottage and have come to love the village of Villers-la-Faye as well.”
Reed & Leslie Goldsmith  - Hilton Head, South Carolina

“After spending three days in Paris and thinking it doesn’t get any better than this, we made our way down to Burgundy. Our arrival to this wonderful cottage and the wine that greeted us sure proved us wrong! We were so impressed at the work and all the TLC put into this little home.”
Jasmine & Ian Ormsby - Australia

“We have had a wonderful week exploring the Côte D’Or beginning with finding this lovely little house (...) we have enjoyed eating out in the courtyard in the cool of the night.”
Lorne & David Calvert - Tasmania, Australia

“Thanks to Laura & Franck for the use of their lovingly restored and tastefully appointed Maison. We have particularly enjoyed the patio for breakfast and supper listening to the local noises of a honking donkey and a neighbourly bird rehearsing the first few notes of La Marseillaise.”
Norman & Rita Pritchard-Woollett - England

“This is the perfect place to start life as a “Bourguignon”. You leave your other life behind when you drive to Villers-la-Faye, drive up to La Maison de la Vieille Vigne, open the blue shutters and step inside.

You know Franck and Laura by the warmth, charm, and good taste you walk into. It’s a heartfelt embrace after the trials and tribulations of the road.

Glorious bright colours on the walls and furnishings, some history in the massive oak beams, enchanting patio off the bedroom and even with the ancient history of the place, the hottest, strongest shower on the planet.”
Eugene Shapiro & Renée Vollens - Sonoma Valley, California


To find out more about booking a vacation at La Vieille Vigne, just contact me at To find out about the latest availability, send me an email or just continue reading.

The Vide-Grenier  season is also reaching its end.  This year Franck and I hit quite a few and bought, among other treasures, a lovely antique pine desk for La Vieille Vigne and an old coffee grinder in a rare red colour, as you can see to the left. Jolie, n'est-ce pas?


Three days of fun, frolic, and fine wines

II) Saint-Vincent Tournante 2006

This is a very special year for the villages of Magny-les-Villers and Villers-la-Faye. The legendary Burgundian festival honouring Saint Vincent, the patron Saint of winegrowers, is being hosted by the villages of the Hautes-Côtes on the 28th and 29th of January 2006.

This festival is a huge event in Burgundy, and the last time it was hosted by the Hautes-Côtes was in 1977. That celebration and all its attendant tales are still talked about in the villages today, and from the way it is shaping up the 2006 celebration will be equally legendary.

The villages are being split up into four groups, each one representing one of the four seasons. Both Villers-la-Faye and Magny-les-Villers are part of the "summer" group, which explains why villagers have been assembling at La Salle des Fêtes in Villers every Monday night since January to make paper flowers. We're going to need a lot of them!

Some of the highlights of the weekend are: the procession of the winemakers shouldering their village's statue of Saint Vincent, the numerous wine tasting opportunities, and the gala "winemakers" banquet which is also open to the public.

The official website is only in French, but if you'd like to have look just click on the link below:

When renovating La Maison de la Vieille Vigne we have really endeavored to make it as comfortable and cozy in the winter as it is in the summer. So if curling up in front of the fireplace after a day of wine related celebration appeals to you, you may want to take your vacation in January next year.

III) A Flight over Burgundy

Just before leaving to return to Canada for a few weeks this summer we went on a flight over the vineyards of the Côte D'Or.   This experience, much dreaded by Laura (aka the nervous flyer), ended up being one of the highlights of her year. 


Flightseeing  - An amazing way to discover Burgundy

To read about our magnificent morning and how you could benefit from a special price offered to our guests, just click on this link and read on:

Sheri & Gary - our first
Burgundians of the Heart

IV) Les Bourguignons de Coeur

We've decided to inaugurate a new column in the Grape News, and on our website, that tells the stories of people's love affairs with Burgundy.

Franck came up with the very clever name of "Les Bourguignons de Coeur", which translates as "Burgundians of the Heart". The rules go like this:  the elected few can be either Burgundy-born, or have adopted the region as their own at some point during their lives.  However, either way they have to demonstrate an almost obsessive love of Burgundy to qualify.

Our inaugural Bourguignon de Coeur is in fact a couple, Sheri and Gary Sipperley, from Twain Hart, California who spent the entire past year living in Burgundy. When we met them last August they were ensconced in the lovely village of Pernand-Vergelesses and had clearly fallen in love with the place.

They've moved back to California for the moment, but I suspect it won't be long until they're back...

To find out how and why Gary and Sheri fell in love with Burgundy, click here:

And, for all the gourmands out there, here is a special bonus - Gary's legendary mushroom soup recipe!


And for all of you out there who dream of packing up reality and moving to France for 3 months, 6 months, a year, or in fact forever, don't hesitate to contact Franck and I.

With many years of experience moving back and forth between North America and France, and loads of knowledge about the intricacies of getting settled in France, we would be delighted to help you make this dream come true.

V) Restaurant Review


Le Gourmandin

8 Place Carnot
21200 BEAUNE

I always tell my girls that even if they think that they don't like something (in their case, mostly green beans) they should consider trying it again periodically, because they just might change their mind. Thus far no change of heart has occurred on the bean front, but recently I've discovered that my "try again" mantra can lead to some pleasant surprises.

Six years ago when we were in the midst of renovating La Maison des Deux Clochers, we took a Canadian friend out to lunch at Le Gourmandin in Beaune. The location is fabulous, right smack on the Place Carnot in the heart of Beaune, and we'd heard some good things about it. It wasn't a bad lunch - it was just a remarkably unremarkable lunch and, as a result, we've never returned.

However, on a rainy day a few months back Franck and I were running around doing errands in Beaune when we were suddenly felled by hunger pains (this happens to us on a somewhat regular basis). The rain began to come down harder, and, lo and behold, at that very moment we just happened to find ourselves in front of Le Gourmandin.

So we gave it another try, and was I ever glad that I sometimes listen to my own sage advice. The restaurant had changed hands at some point over the past few years and has been transformed from a somewhat stodgy bistro into a chic but welcoming enclave, gorgeously decorated by Isabelle Billard, one of the new owners. Her husband Alain Billard is in charge of the cuisine, and the same mix of elegance and simplicity shows up in the plates as well.

To start with, we each had a plate of three little hors d'oeuvres served in lovely Zen-like white cups; chestnut soup, tiny chopped up vegetables in a vinaigrette, and mussels with saffron - each one more delicious than the next. After that, Franck had a steak cooked with Epoisses, and I had a beautifully done chicken breast with pepper sauce. For dessert, there was a chocolate wafer cake confection that was unbelievably delectable. All of the dishes were beautifully presented and held just the right amount of food - leaving us at the end of the meal feeling completely satiated but not stuffed.

Along with a beer, two coffees, and two glasses of wine, the total for the two of us came to 65.00 Euros. We both felt this was extremely good value, and have vowed to return again when the sun is shining and eat out on the terrace.

VI) French Favorites


Director: Christophe Barratier

Buy the DVD from:  [ ]  [ ]

I don't think this film has been talked about very much outre-atlantique, but it has broken all attendance records here in France during the past year, ultimately supplanting "Amélie" as the most popular French film in history.

The story takes place in 1949, in a France still smarting from the horrors of WWII. A failed musician, Clèment Mathieu, takes a post in a remedial school for boys cursed with the desolate name of "Le Fond de L'Etang" (translation - the bottom of the swamp). The school, ruled by the iron fist of the principal who has given up all hope in his charges, more than lives up to its moniker.

Clément is revolutionary in that he believes that the boys are capable of greater things than petty thievery and bad behaviour. He sets out creating a chorus with his students, changing the trajectory of many of their lives, most notably of a young boy with the face and voice of an angel but the temperament of a little devil, wonderfully played (and sung) by the young Jean-Baptiste Maunier.

Although the story may sound a little cliché's (cue Mr. Holland's Opus, etc.) the film is not. It is wonderfully underplayed from beginning to end, and obviously struck a chord with people from around the world.

Composed and Orchestrated by Bruno Coulais

Buy the CD from:  [ ]  [ ]

The CD, filled with the choral music from the film, has been all the rage over in France this year, even supplanting such stalwarts as Céline Dion and Johnny Halliday.

The lead singer and actor in the movie (the previously mentioned Jean-Baptiste Maunier) has now officially achieved pop-star status over here in the hexagon, complete with mobs of screaming and fainting pre-adolescent girls that swarm every one of his public appearances.

VII) Burgundy in cyberspace

We just set up a high speed ADSL connection at both of our rental houses. If you can supply the laptop, we can supply the world! This means you should be able to send photos, emails, etc. from Burgundy to your loved ones to tell them how much you miss them, and of course to make them terribly jealous.

All you have to do is let us know that you'd be interested in using the service, and bring your laptop. Here are the most frequently asked questions we've had from our guests in regards to laptop use and ADSL connections at the houses.

Q. Do I need a power converter / plug adaptor to use my laptop in France?

A. Generally most laptops made within the last 5 years have a power (i.e. voltage) adaptor built right into them. The computer adapts automatically to the different voltage used over here. We've used our laptops (purchased in Canada) since we arrived here last August with no problems whatsoever. However, if you are at all unsure whether your laptop is equipped with this, it is definitely worth going into your local computer store and getting a definitive answer. Seeing as our girls are into Star Wars at the moment, we'll quote Yoda on this one - "Fried laptop does not a happy vacation make."

However, what you do need is a plug adaptor, as the plug holes are a different diameter and dimension over here. These can be purchased for a few dollars at most airports and travel stores. We always try to leave one in each house for the use of our guests, but these tend to disappear on a regular basis, so to be on the safe side bring your own.

Q. Can I use my home email?

A. You need to check this out with your local email provider. Most providers now offer a service where their users can access their email accounts even from a distance, but you need to look into this before you leave and make sure you have the requisite codes, passwords, etc.. Another option is to subscribe to a free email service such as hotmail or yahoo that can be accessed from anywhere. However, if you're planning on sending lots of photos into cyberspace during your stay, check and make sure these services allow large file sizes.

Q. Can I work from anywhere in the house?

A. Theoretically, oui. We have bought a "Wi-Fi modem/router" system for each house which, if all goes well, means that you should be able to send the photos you took that day of the rolling vineyards while sipping a glass of wine from those very vineyards out in the garden or on the terrace. C'est la belle vie, quoi.

VIII) Grape Seeds – useful stuff & bits

  • There are public tennis courts at both Magny-les-Villers and Villers-la-Faye. If you have room in your luggage and want to train for next years' Rolland-Garros, bring your rackets!

  • The pizza van in Villers-la-Faye has moved nights from Monday to Friday, and now back to Friday again. There is also a very good new pizza van in Ladoix-Serrigny who spins delicious pizzas on Saturday nights.

  • Any guests who want to help make paper flowers to decorate the village for Le Saint Vincent festival are welcome to the Salle des Fêtes in Villers-la-Faye on Monday nights.  It's a great way to meet villagers and contribute to the beautification of our village during this very special weekend. 

IIX) Weblogs

Just click here to read our latest Grape Journals about life in Burgundy:

IX) Availability and 2005 Booking

Starting early - Charlotte tasting
juice from the first press of grapes
 from the Volnay 2005 harvest

Whew! It's been a banner year, with both houses booked straight through until November. Read on for the latest availability information for the Winter of 2005 and then onto 2006.

La Maison de la Vieille Vigne - our brand new (well, new for us, that is, it actually dates back to 1650 or so), and freshly renovated cottage in Villers-la-Faye. It has one bedroom, and in 2005 we're charging an introductory price of 400 Euros a week.

The cottage has been booked up solid from July 2nd to November 27th, and we've already had several enquiries for the winter period and booked a few weeks in the Spring for next year.

Contact me if you have any questions at all or would like to make a booking, and I would recommend booking early to avoid disappointment.

La Maison des Deux Clochers - our two bedroom house in Magny-les-Villers which costs 450 Euros a week

We have been booked solid since March 10th, and we're now booked straight through until November 8th.

As with La Maison de la Vieille Vigne, we're already taking bookings for 2006 and onwards, so don't hesitate to contact me.

If you would like more information about either house, or would like to make a booking, don't hesitate to contact us at

Raise a glass of wine and toast the 2005 harvest!

À Bientôt.

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