Detail of the Hospices of Beaune
and statue of
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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
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.
by Marc-Olivier BUFFET
"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
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
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:
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
our villages. To read more about it, just click here to go to my most recent blogs:
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;
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
Le Petit Bonheur
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
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
(though by no means necessary)
CAFE - RESTAURANT DE
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.
looked just like Jacky’s place, ready for lunch. A bottle of water on each
table, a bottle of red wine, and a baguette.
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.
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
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
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:
View Michel's paintings in Beaune:
Gallerie Michel PERNÈS
19 Rue Monge
Place de la Halle
Tel: 03 80 24 92 67
Fax: 03 80 21 84 25
Visit his web site:
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
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.
Wine Bottle Sizes – A New Party Trick - Amaze your friends
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
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
||Equivalent in bottle(s):
||one quarter of a bottle
||one third of a bottle
||one half of a bottle
||a standard bottle
||equivalent to 2 bottles
||equivalent to 4 bottles
||equivalent to 6 bottles
||equivalent to 8 bottles
||equivalent to 12 bottles
||equivalent to 16 bottles
||equivalent to 20 bottles
||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
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
by Joe - Washington, DC
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.
Maison de la Vieille Vigne
by Sheila Borrowman -
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
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 email@example.com
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
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
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
And click on “What’s New.”
X) Dijon to Beaune – A Future UNESCO World
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
In any case, we’ll be sure to keep you posted on any
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;
La Maison des Deux Clochers
Our freshly renovated 2 bedroom house in Magny-les-Villers is
still available for
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Or by phone in France at (33) 22.214.171.124.17