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The Grape News
Volume XII - Spring 2006 - May 9, 2006

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Detail of the Hospices of Beaune
and statue of Nicolas Rollin,
its founder

In this issue:

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Burning the "sarments"
in the vineyards

Bonjour tout le monde,

Life has been keeping us busy, in the best possible way. First there was that special weekend in January when both the villages of Magny-les-Villers and Villers-la-Faye , along with fourteen other villages of the Hautes-Côtes, hosted the 2006 Saint Vincent Festival. This weekend-long party travels from winemaking village to winemaking village in Burgundy every year, and celebrates winemakers, their wine, and of course, their patron Saint - Saint Vincent. The villages were beautifully decorated with thousands of crepe flowers and wooden butterflies and shafts of wheat to create a surreal summer-like atmosphere in the dead of winter.  Next year the nearby town of Nuits-Saint-Georges will be playing host!

Then in February we house-swapped with another Victoria couple and spent a wonderful week in Tuscany - an experience which reinforced in both Franck and I that renting vacation homes is really a superb way to travel. When we got back home it was Carnevale, and I was kept busy rigging up a Princess costume for my eldest and watching with amazement as my youngest pulled together her own ensemble which consisted of her neon orange carnevale wig she was given in Italy, her flashing red rudolph nose from Christmas, a pair of red silk chinese pyjamas from San Francisco, and her red glitter shoes (also from San Francisco). Franck and I named her costume "chinese clown from San Francisco in drag"

We hardly had time to put away the costumes when we began our "face lift" of La Maison des Deux Clochers, which got a fresh coat of paint, a new couch, reupholstered chairs, and a few fun bells and whistles for our first guests in 2006. We'll be sure to put some pics in the next Grape News.

But first, let's get on with this one!

I) Winemaker in residence

Another new column! We’ve asked our friend, Marc-Olivier BUFFET who runs his family Domaine in Volnay, to be our first winemaker in residence.  Read on below in my last few "Grape Journals" for Franck's experience doing the Grape Harvest with them, and our great day at their "Paulée" that celebrated the end of the harvest. 

With Marc-Oliver we have created a special VIP winetasting and tour of the vineyards at the Buffet Domaine in Volnay exclusively for our guests.  Contact us to find out more or make reservations. 

In the meantime, here is what Marc-Olivier has to say about what has been happening in Burgundy's vineyards over the winter. 

 
Marc-Olivier BUFFET

WINTER

by Marc-Olivier BUFFET
http://www.bourgogne-buffet.com

"The chill of the winter has arrived, and the 2005 harvest has been safely transferred into oak kegs and is now patiently biding its time for the next eighteen months.
 
The vines have lost their leaves, and their roots have stored starch from the soil in order to be off with a flying start when Winter gives way to Spring once again. Right now nothing is growing - everything is resting. But careful! If it is too cold during the winter for too long the buds could be damaged. Thankfully the pinot noir is a hardy and resistant breed of vine.
 
Right now is also the time for pruning the vines, an activity that has primordial importance for the harvest to come. The surplus branches are burned in metal canisters mounted on wheels much in the style of a wheelbarrow, and every day plumes of smoke dot the rolling vineyards.
 
When the ground thaws slightly, the soil will be plowed to provide optimum growing conditions for next year’s harvest.
 
And thus, while winter is a period of rest for the vines, it is still a busy time for the winemakers."

II) Wine Courses in Beaune

L'Ecole des Vins de Bourgogne

Ever felt the desire to go back to school and learn more about the subjects you truly feel passionate about (i.e. no algebra or chemistry in my case)? If so, you’ll be interested to hear that The Interprofessional Wine Association in Beaune (known as the BIVB) runs “L’Ecole des Vins”, whose objective is to help you discover the wines of Burgundy.

The course selection of “L’Ecole des Vins” has been greatly broadened this year, and anyone from an absolute beginner to a consummate professional will find a course tailored to their level of expertise. Combining a wine course with your holiday in Burgundy is a fantastic way to get more out of this fascinating and wine-rich area of France.

Indeed, at L‘Ecole des Vins, courses are open to everyone – there is no entrance exam, nor any need for previous knowledge of the world of wine. Courses range from half a day to several days long, and at the end of courses lasting a day or more you receive a diploma of Ambassadeur des Vins de Bourgogne (Ambassador of the Wines of Burgundy) testifying your passage through the classes of the school and your interest in the wines of Burgundy.

To find out more about course details, times, costs, etc. please contact me directly or have a look at the website of “L’Ecole des Vins” at:

http://www.ecoledesvins-bourgogne.com

The Saint Vincent Procession
coming from Magny-les-Villers

III) Saint-Vincent and a new blog

We had a great time during the last weekend in January with the Saint Vincent party hosted in our villages. To read more about it, just click here to go to my most recent blogs:

http://grapejournal.blogspot.com/

We’ve switched to a more flexible format that lets me write a blog and post it immediately, so you’ll find that my blogs will (hope springs eternal!) be much more frequent.

However, we also have posted some blogs about the grape harvest at the Buffet Domaine in Volnay and the Vente des Vins in Beaune that you may not have read before on our website, to read them just click here;

http://www.myburgundy.com/burgundy/
weblog/The_Grape_Years/2005_09_29.htm

 

IV) Restaurant Reviews

This month you get two for the price of one! Here are two great restaurant suggestions for Beaune that are practically across the street from each other.
"Le Petit Bonheur" Beaune

Le Petit Bonheur

24 Faubourg Bretonière
21200 Beaune

Tel: 03.80.24.00.00

Closed Saturday at lunch,
Sunday at lunch,
and Monday all day.

LE PETIT BONHEUR

We didn’t make reservations, and I doubt they are generally necessary unless you need to be absolutely certain to get a table or have a large group.

With renovations to La Vieille Vigne now completed (cue bells & whistles here) Franck and I are finally finding some time to conduct our all-important reviews of local restaurants. La Petit Bonheur on the Faubourg Bretonière in Beaune has long been on our “to try” list, and on a Tuesday a few weeks back we finally got around to doing just that.

The restaurant is true to its name, which translates directly into “The Little Happiness.” It is friendly, casual, good, and relatively inexpensive – exactly what many our guests are looking for – and the type of restaurant that is strangely in rather short supply in Beaune.

The restaurant itself is a cute little blue and yellow affair, situated conveniently off the ring road in Beaune. It’s got a nice casual feel inside and the day we ate there we were surrounded by a mix of businessmen on an extended (not to mention well-hydrated) lunch break, and a few locals in jeans like us. The service is very friendly and nicely-paced.

The menu is perfect for a light lunch. Pizzas feature prominently, as do large salads with lots of yummy things in them such as grilled chêvre and chicken that would definitely constitute a good lunch by North American standards. Franck and I both went for our version of comfort food – he ordered muscles with French Fries (moules-frites), and I had a wood-fired pizza with tomatoes, jambon blanc, and mushrooms. We also each had a glass of beer, and I couldn’t resist the promise of a gooey chocolate confection for dessert, which Franck certainly “helped” me finish. We finished off with an espresso each, and the bill came to a quite reasonable €34.80.

Afterwards we wandered out into the rainy day with the warmth of a friendly atmosphere, good food, and a new restaurant recommendation to make to our guests kindling a little fire in our chests.

Café – Restaurant de France

13, Faubourg Bretonnière
21200 BEAUNE

Reservations:
03.80.22.25.44
(though by no means necessary)

CAFE - RESTAURANT DE FRANCE

For those of you who like Jacky’s restaurant in Villers-la-Faye (and you know who you are) we have excellent news. We have found its long-lost twin in Beaune! Indeed, for anyone seeking good, rustic food (and lots of it) served with a minimum of fuss in a dining room filled with colourful characters and hearty side serving of nicotine, this is the place for you.

Beaune abounds with good food, but truly inexpensive food is somewhat of a rarity. We found this treasure of a place by complete accident (or serendipity, perhaps). A few weeks ago we were making a return trip to Le Petit Bonheur (see above) only to discover with dismay that it had been entirely filled up with a German tour group. Disheartened and hungry, we began to schlump back to our car (again in the rain). However, the closer we got to our car, the more distracted we became by the enticing scent of Coq au Vin. We looked at each other, and then, without a word, peered into the restaurant that seemed to be its source.

It looked just like Jacky’s place, ready for lunch. A bottle of water on each table, a bottle of red wine, and a baguette.

The chalkboard outside said “Menu du Jour 10.20 Euros Coq au Vin”.

That was good enough for us. We hussled inside and took a seat at one of the rear tables. The place filled up in no time. Like Jacky’s, this is the sort of place frequented mostly by locals and tradesmen, all of whom take their food very seriously. Also like Jacky’s, you eat what is being cooked that day. There is no other menu to choose from. Generally the food in these places, no matter what it is, is always good, but it certainly doesn’t cater to vegans.

The majestic mountain of a woman who served us did so with grace and charm. She put plates down as fast as we could finish them, and we worked our way through an endive salad with vinaigrette, a plate of charcuterie with a hard-boiled egg, then a huge plate of Coq au Vin (which tasted as delicious as it had smelled, by the way) accompanied by scalloped potatoes. Next was a slice of homemade lemon tart, and lastly a nice espresso to top off a fine meal.

This is a family run place, and it shows. The food is fresh, homemade, and delicious, the prices are insanely reasonable, and the customers (including us now) are grateful and loyal. We’ll be back.

V) Les Bourguignons de Coeur

One day Franck and I were treating ourselves to a patisserie at our favorite bakery in Beaune when our eye was caught by the beautiful paintings in the Gallery just across the street.

We pushed the door and went inside to have a closer look, and ended having a long chat with the charming wife of the artist, Michel Pernès.   Within a few minutes, we knew we had found our next "Bourguignon de Coeur".  To find out why, click on the link below:

http://www.myburgundy.com/burgundy/Portraits/Burgundy_portrait_pernes.htm

View Michel's paintings in Beaune:

 

Gallerie Michel PERNÈS

19 Rue Monge
Place de la Halle
21200 Beaune

Tel: 03 80 24 92 67
Fax: 03 80 21 84 25

Visit his web site:

http://www.pernes.com

Gallerie Michel PERNÈS

 

Every page has wonderful
illustrations like this one

VI) Book Review – “Bourgogne: La Route des Vins”

This book was actually given to us as a gift, but now that I have read it I think I will be buying it to give to all the people I want to familiarize with Burgundy.  It is written and illustrated by Michel Pernes' daughter and son-in-law. 

The book details all of the main winemaking villages in the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune. Each village has a page (and many have two), where the principal attractions of the village are detailed, as well as the technical information about the wine made there. The text is translated into English, which is obviously a real bonus for many of our guests.

What really sets this book apart, however, are the three or four wonderful watercolour illustrations done of each village, highlighting it from various angles. The paintings do an excellent job of evoking the clustered villages and rolling vineyards of this area of France. The quality of the book is very high, but it is soft-covered and not too large.  It is a great keepsake to take home with you.

The book costs 32 Euros and is available at a few different spots in Beaune (namely the Gallery Pernès and the bookstore l'Atheneum) . If you’re interested let us know and if you don’t see it around town we will provide you with the addresses where you can purchase a copy.

VII) Wine Bottle Sizes – A New Party Trick - Amaze your friends and acquaintances!

North American kids tend to enjoy testing their memory by citing the provinces, or states, or how to spell Mississippi. When I first came to France, I was amused and impressed to find that most French children can rattle off the names of the ten sizes of wine bottles (in order, no less) .

I can understand their love for this activity. For one thing, the names for the different bottle formats, as you will discover below, are just plain fun to say out loud. Also, the range of bottle sizes are fascinating to look at, in the same way as a Russian doll. It is also intriguing to contemplate the occasion which would warrant pulling a Melchior (which holds the equivalent to 24 bottles of wine) from one’s cave.

Real life samples of the bottle sizes can be found in many restaurants and wine domains throughout Burgundy and other wine-producing areas of France. Locally you can find them in the front window of Reine Pedauque right across from the Porte Saint Nicolas (looks like a miniature Arc de Triomphe) in Beaune.

So that you can keep up with any French children that cross your path, here is the definitive list, going from smallest to biggest:
 

Mom and Dad and
a Mathusalem

Bottle Names: Liter content: Equivalent in bottle(s):
Piccolo 0.20 one quarter of a bottle
Chopine 0.25 one third of a bottle
Demi-Bouteille  0.375 one half of a bottle
Bouteille 0.75 a standard bottle
Magnum 1.5 equivalent to 2 bottles
Jéroboam 3 equivalent to 4 bottles
Réhoboam 4.5 equivalent to 6 bottles
Mathusalem 6 equivalent to 8 bottles
Salmanazar 9 equivalent to 12 bottles
Balthazar 12 equivalent to 16 bottles
Nabuchodonozor 15 equivalent to 20 bottles
Melchior 18 equivalent to 24 bottles

An great evening with
Rhonddalyn & Joe at
La Ferme de Rolles

As a general rule, the bigger the bottle, the longer the wine inside stays well-preserved. If you want to sound like an expert, you can just observe offhand how a Piccolo will reach maturity far sooner than the Balthazar.

VIII) Artists in the house

At La Maison des Deux Clochers, we were lucky enough to have an artist in residence this summer who did a phenomenal chalk drawing of La Maison and the centre of the village.

Joe, the partner of my friend Rhonddalyn, is the artiste in question. Every morning when I was driving the girls to Beaune for school I would see Joe sitting out on the steps of the church in Magny-les-Villers. Apparently I wasn’t the only one.

Over the next several day villagers would stop and ask me, “does that man in front of the church belong to your house?” They were all intrigued to learn that he was working on a drawing. Magny has the reputation of being a somewhat artistic, bohemian village, and creative endeavours are viewed with high regard.

When I saw my friend Rhonddalyn at the Surrey Writer’s Conference in October, she gave me some snaps of Joe’s painting, and, as you can see if you click on the link below, he is a hugely talented artist.

The day after Rhonddalyn and Joe left, we were inundated with concerned inquiries along the lines of “where has that man in front of the church gone?” “Is he okay?” “We missed seeing him this morning.”  I still get asked about him on occasion, and he and Rhonddalyn would be welcomed back to Magny-les-Villers any time.

Two Clocks
by Joe  -
Washington, DC USA

And, in La Maison de la Vieille Vigne, we were lucky enough to have as one of our first guests a Victoria Poet, Sheila Borrowman (and we are even more delighted that she is returning for a longer stay this year). She was kind enough to send me several of her beautiful poems, one of which was about our little cottage. I don’t need to add anything else, as her writing speaks for itself.

La Maison de la Vieille Vigne
by Sheila Borrowman - Victoria, BC, Canada

Fall roses spill their perfume, lemon spice,
against the sky-blue shutters.
I touch the warmth of weathered stone
and watch a lizard, marcasite in miniature,
dart into a crevice, like an arrow.
Reposeful by the hour and silently Socratic,
a leafy cricket settles in the courtyard.
I taste croissant and café crème in sunlight
and hear a mockingbird sing La Marseillaise.

October fades along the golden hillsides
of helvenacia grapes the Romans grew:
deep violet with velvet, powdery bloom.
Ivy tinges scarlet near my window
as drifting smoke predicts the season’s close.
Through winter days, the mellow Pinot Noir,
a jewel in cellared darkness, compounds
the sun and earth of summer vineyards
and consummates the harvest in Bourgogne

La Maison de la Vieille Vigne

Call out to artists:

On this topic, if anyone out there has a poem, drawing, painting, or sketch of either La Maison des Deux Clochers or La Maison de la Vieille Vigne, we would love to see a copy of it. Just email me at laura@myburgundy.com

Royalty for an afternoon

IX) A Royal Mid-Winter Treat

I always find January and February tough months. As far as I’m concerned, winter is fine and dandy up until the festivities of Christmas are over. After that, I’m ready to see some crocuses and feel the warmth of the sun on my head. Mother Nature, unfortunately, does not appear to be of the same opinion and therefore I find it a tough, long, slog until Spring.

This year I had a new strategy to alleviate the winter blahs. Treats. Small daily treats, such as a nice cup of coffee and a bit of really good chocolate, and larger treats, such as the trip we took to Tuscany at the end of February.

So one morning when I was reading the local paper, Le Bien Public, and saw an ad for an afternoon snack at a local castle, Le Château de Gilly, I felt that this fitted quite nicely with my plans.

As I was trying to wrangle the girls into some finery I would only tell them that we were going for a surprise. Charlotte was convinced that we going to go to an amusement park and Camille figured that it had to have something to do with wild animals.

They were suitably surprised (but not disappointed) when we pulled up in front of Le Château de Gilly, an imposing Cistercian castle that is only a short ten minute drive from our house in Villers-la-Faye.

We were ushered into the dining lounge where, in front of a lovely stone fireplace, we were treated to an afternoon snack (known as the “quatre-heures” here in France) of cider, apple juice, hot chocolate, tea, and ample slices of “Gallette de roi”, which is a special dessert made for the Epiphany and stuffed with marzipan

Even though none of us got the fève (the little porcelain keepsake found in one of the slices), we all left the castle feeling like royalty. The Chateau offers nice little events like this all-year round that give us common folk the chance to live like royalty for a few hours without breaking the budget. Last month it was crèpe and hot chocolate afternoons. To find out the latest offerings, just go to their website;

http://www.grandes-etapes-francaises.fr/chateau_accueil/uk/indexhome.php

And click on “What’s New.”

X) Dijon to Beaune – A Future UNESCO World Heritage Site?

One of the recent issues of “Bourgogne Magazine” related some very thrilling news for us in the Cote D’Or. The powers that be of the region have just begun the process of applying for UNESCO World Heritage status for the Cote D’Or wine coast, with Dijon anchoring one end and Beaune the other.

There is certainly much to recommend our application. Both Dijon and Beaune are richly steeped in history with well-preserved sites such as the medieval walls and Les Hospices of Beaune and Les Palais des Ducs and Cathedrale Saint Bénigne in Dijon, to name a few. The prestigious winemaking villages and towns between them; Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-Saint-Denis, Nuits-Saint-Georges, and so on and so on each house their own treasures, not to mention centuries upon centuries of winemaking history.

In my mind the mere application proves what a special and culturally rich little corner of the world this is.

There is no doubt that becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a long and arduous process, but it is also undoubtedly a worthwhile one. UNESCO works together with its member countries to protect and preserve these sites, whose number one criteria is that they are of outstanding value to humanity.

However, while we wait for our own UNESCO classification, the Cote D’Or is itself located in an area of France very rich with UNESCO World Heritage sites as it stands today; the Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay and the church and town of Vezelay are an hour North, the Royal Saltworks of Arc-en-Senans is found in the nearby Jura, and the historic centre of Lyon is only a two-hour drive South.

In any case, we’ll be sure to keep you posted on any developments.

XI) Grape Seeds – useful things & tidbits

  • Did you know that Beaune has the highest density per inhabitant of antiquaires / brocantes in France? While you are here be sure to visit the “Camp Americain” in Beaune which houses an antique store in almost every house.
     

  • The nearby restaurant "Le Charlemagne" in Pernand-Vergelesses was recently (and as we had predicted) awarded its first Michelin star.  Apparently they are already working towards star #2.
     

  • There is apparently a very good pizza wagon in Ladoix-Serrigny on Saturday nights

XII) Availabilities and 2006 Bookings

As you will see below, dates for 2006 (and even into 2007) are already filling up very fast, so if there happen to be certain dates that you really want for either this year or next , be sure to move as fast as possible.

Remember that we don’t require that rentals begin on any day of the week (i.e. a Saturday) to ensure maximum flexibility for your traveling plans. Both village houses rent for 450 Euros a week (about $620.00 CAD or $540.00 USD)

La Maison de la Vieille Vigne

This lovely 1 bedroom cottage with a cozy fireplace in Villers-la-Faye is still available for;

  • July 2nd to July 9th

  • From October 30th onwards

La Maison des Deux Clochers

Our freshly renovated 2 bedroom house in Magny-les-Villers is still available for

  • October 3rd onwards

Le Relais du Vieux Beaune

As mentioned in the introduction letter to this Grape News we have recently purchased a lovely two bedroom apartment in the heart of Beaune and have just begun to take bookings (starting the end of July 2006).  For 2006 only we will be charging a special introductory price (as we did last year for La Vieille Vigne) of 550 Euros a week.  Availability is wide open at the moment, but I have no doubt it will book up as fast, so don't delay!

To find out any further information about any of the properties,  traveling to Burgundy, or making a booking, don’t hesitate to contact me at any time by email at laura@myburgundy.com

Or by phone in France at (33) 3.80.62.72.17

A Bietntôt!

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For more information, please email us at laura@myburgundy.com


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