The Grape Journal blog
The place to go for frequent
updates on my life in Burgundy with four vacation rentals, three daughters, and
one very French husband.
And What About Paris?
Most of our guests also visit Paris during their time in France. Here are
our recommendations for a wonderful place to stay, a wonderful tour guide, and
lots of other useful tidbits.
Winemaker in Residence Read up on Marc-Olivier Buffet's, from the Domaine Buffet in Volnay, take on the
Hautes-Côtes Goats Check out this amazing spot in nearby Echevronne.
Where else could you possibly combine a goat cheese tasting, a
wine tasting, and a visit to the goat barn? Highly recommended by Camille!
Availability and 2008
Booking The latest update on availability for
all four properties, plus contact information if
you'd like further information or to make a booking.
For a printer friendly version
of The Grape News click here. To tell a friend about The Grape News
Bonjour tout le monde,
Looking back, our track record of getting “The Grape
News” out for publication doesn’t seem too stellar on the surface. We
seem to be averaging about one edition per year, but on the bright side
at least we’re not cluttering up your in-box! When I looked at the date
of the last one – March 2007 - I couldn’t help but think to myself my
god, I wasn’t even pregnant yet…Yes, that’s right, in our
defense we happened to have completed another very nice production over
the past year;
Her name is Clémentine Agathe Germain and she was born
at the Beaune Hospital in one of their lovely new OR’s with huge bay
windows overlooking the vineyards. As she was born on January 23rd, 2008
at 9:13am the sun was rising like an orange ball over Beaune's
Premiers Crus. Now that I think about it, one very
healthy Burgundian-born daughter + one Grape News isn’t too shabby for a
I) THE GRAPE JOURNAL BLOG
One of the reasons I haven’t been too speedy in getting out a new edition of The
Grape News is that I have started posting to my “Grape Journal” blog with rather
impressive frequency if I do say so myself.
Colic, teething, stomach flu, and other acts of God permitting, I try to post at
least four times a week, on topics that loosely have to do with our life in
Burgundy, but which can range as far and wide as giving my husband a disastrous
This September I also launched two new bi-weekly columns. They
Authentic France Travel Tip Tuesdays – Every Tuesday I
pass on a tip for experiencing the authentic side of France. This is a great
resource for anyone who is planning on a trip to France and wants to break away
from the tourist track.
Frenchitude Fridays– Every Friday I come up with
an idea for injecting a bit of French attitude into your life whether you live
in Paris or in Timbuktu.
My blog also contains lots of random but very useful information
about Burgundy, such as recipes like my friend Charlotte’s madeleines (I will be
beefing up my recipe section quite a bit this Fall),
Feel like a real Parisien in your very own Atelier.
Your very own Atelier
Many of our guests combine their time in Burgundy with a foray
in Paris, anything from one night to one week or more. Often I am asked to
recommend a place to stay. Frankly, up until recently I didn’t have much to
suggest. Accommodation in Paris tends to be poky, expensive, and more often then
However, my friend Joëlle has now finished renovating and equipping their
beautiful studio apartment located smack in the heart of the dynamic
Montparnasse district, just steps away from the Jardin du Luxembourg.
Joëlle looked after our big girls while Franck, Clem in utero, and I
stayed there for a few days in late October of this year.
We absolutely adored everything about it, and can warmly
recommend staying there. However, like all top notch vacation rentals here
in France, Joelle’s studio, called “L’Atelier des Beaux-Arts” books up
early and fast, so don’t delay.
Two of our guests at Le Relais du Vieux Beaune recently took a one day Paris
tour with my fellow West-Coaster Karen Henrich who hails from Vancouver and runs
Nuits Blanches Tours in the City of Lights.
My guests raved about their day with Karen, who arrived in Paris for the first
time in 2004 and simply decided she couldn't live anywhere else. They felt
she showed them many hidden
jewels of the city and taught them how to make
their way around Paris like true Parisiennes, including using the metro and
familiarizing themselves with the diversity of the various arrondissements.
Paris is a very easy day trip from Beaune - only 2 hours on the TGV whisks you
from the Beaune train station to the Gare de Lyon in the centre of Paris.
This is a
relaxing and stress-free way to travel (barring strikes, this is France after
all!). You can leave early in the morning, make a full day of it, and come back
in the evening. This eliminates all of the stresses and cost of parking. It
sounds like Karen can certainly help you make the most of your day or more in
III) VILLERS-LA-FAYE’S VERY OWN, VERY
tower from the front
as you see it today
Front area of the
château where there once
was a drawbridge over the moat
After that brief foray to the sparkling wonder that is Paris,
back to the Burgundian countryside! From the deck here at our house, La
Maison des Chaumes, we not only have a nice view over the valley towards
Magny-les-Villers and Beaune, but also of the remaining tower of Villers-la-Faye’s
very own château. Quoi? You didn’t know that the bustling metropolis of
Villers-la-Faye had its very own château? Ce n’est pas vrai!
Villers’ château was built in the early 15th Century, and like
many castles of this period it was anchored by four round towers just like a
castle out of a Grimm’s fairy tale. It came complete with a drawbridge and
crocodile-filled moats (actually, I’m kidding about the crocodiles, but not the
The castle was built and occupied by “Les Seigneurs de
Villers” who occupied a series of eminent positions at court for the French
king, from 1114 when Guy de Villers participated in the Crusades, through to
1601 when François led an army of 100 men for the roi de France.
You can walk by the château by taking the road which goes past Jacky’s store and
the village “Salle des Fêtes”, then turning your first left at the aptly
named “rue du Château”. Walk to the end of this street, where you can see
where the old drawbridge was just ahead of you, and then turn left again on the
gravel path that runs in front of the old “Tour d’huile” and the
continues out towards the myriad of paths that run through the vineyards and
fields between Villers-la-Faye and Magny-les-Villers.
Here is the plan of the original château. The only remaining
tower, which is the one the deck of La Maison des Chaumes looks on to,
was called the “Tour d’huile” (the “Tower of oil”). I’m not sure of the
exact origin of the name, but I wouldn’t put it past those medieval Villerois
(as the inhabitants of Villers-la-Faye are known) to have poured boiling oil on
their enemies from time to time.
château looked like in the 15th and 16th Century.
IV) FRENCH ACTIVITIES AND BURGUNDY ON A
Over the past year Franck has really gotten one of his
pet projects off the ground - activity planning for our guests. If
you would like any assistance planning independent walking or biking
tours, or want to find out about cooking classes, french language
instruction, winetastings, hot air balloon rides, or just about anything
else, all you need to do is contact him. He has compiled an impressive
amount of unbiased information that he shares with our guests absolutely
free of charge. He is also very proud of his Burgundy, and wants
to help everyone who comes here enjoy it the way it should be enjoyed.
On our booking form just check the “Yes, I would like help Activities
Planning” box and Franck will take it from there.
However, for those of you who would also like to integrate an formally
organized tour during your stay at one of our properties, we have met up
with the lovely Sue Boxell from “Burgundy on a Plate” who offers
personalized tailored tours around Burgundy that are really something
very special. She offers in particular some wonderful one day tours that
all have their starting point in or near to Beaune, obviously very
practical for our guests.
Contact Sue and she will do everything she can to recommend or
arrange the perfect tour for you.
"2007 has been a very strange year in many
ways. Despite cool and intemperate weather conditions from May
onwards, the harvest began around September 1st (once the flowers
appear the harvest is always 100 to 110 days after this date no
matter what the weather). So the vintage was what we consider
“précoce” (early) even though the weather and temperatures were
below average – this is indeed a first! The 2007 vintage was also
typified by a very modest yield, particularly with certain
red pinot noir grapes where the production was nothing short of
Nevertheless, in my opinion the 2007 vintage hasn’t finished
surprising us! During pressing the
redolent with the odours
of cocoa and coffee. When the wines were moved to barrels this has
again altered and the wines gave off incredible whiffs of blackberry
and raspberry. Because the vintage is unusually concentrated, the
wines continue to give off a sweetish taste even once the residual
sugars have been completely absorbed. In conclusion, in my mind 2007
is certainly a vintage to follow as it is my belief it still holds
many pleasant surprises in the future."
V) HAUTES-CÔTES GOATS
One of the most tortuous parts of being pregnant here in
France was that JUST before those two lines showed up on the pee stick I
had discovered a source for the most delicious goat cheese (chèvre) I
have ever tasted in my life. Worse yet for my pregnant self who was not
allowed to consume unpasturized cheeses, it was only a short hop away in
the village of Echevronne.
Our friends Andrea and Greg and their two children recently came to
visit us from Canada. Andrea comes a close second to me in her adoration of chèvre, so as I was no longer pregnant, a visit to “La Chèvrerie des Hautes Côtes” was definitely on the cards.
I had been told last year on my last pre-pregnant visit that if I called
ahead it was possible to take the kidlets up and watch the goats being
milked. This is exactly what I did, and I was instructed to arrive at
about 5:30pm which is apparently milking time. We followed the milk
wagon up the hill behind the family Domaine and found what basically
amounted to children’s Nirvana in the goat barn.
Besides the adult goats being milked, there were several baby goats ranging
from 1 to 5 months old. I don’t know about you but every time I
see children and baby goats in the same enclosed space I have to wonder
if they were not in fact best friends up in heaven who were tragically
separated at birth. They are kindred spirits, no doubt about it.
couldn’t stop shrieking with joy at the little 1 month old goats that
kept doing these frisky little twisty jumps and kicks of happiness at
being surrounded by giddy children.
The children fed them hay, patted them (rather vigorously, but the baby
goats didn’t seem to mind), and watched the milking with fascination. We
must have spent a good hour up there, yet had to drag the children away.
When we came back down the hill we had a lovely goat’s cheese tasting,
featuring the 5 different types of goat’s cheese La Chèvrerie makes
- these range from fresh to very dried, and they also produce a lovely ash-covered one as
well. The cheeses sell for 2 Euros a piece – a steal!
Sadly we didn’t get any photos of the platter full of cheese as
Andrea, Camille, and I
(ahem) demolished it in an astonishingly short amount of time.
We made our purchases and then moved on to tasting the family’s wine
production. Just a little anecdote that I found irresistible - one of
their favorite goats, a lovely female named Biscuit – likes nothing
better than accompanying the family into the vineyards and working
alongside them. If you ever are driving around Echevronne and see a goat
in the middle of the vines, you are not hallucinating. Similar to the
chickens pecking around the churchyard in Magny-les-Villers
this is just business as usual here in Burgundy.
Turns out the Domaine makes some pretty darn tasty wine as well as
delectable goat’s cheese. I picked up three bottles of their white Côte
de Beaune and three bottles of their Beaune 1ière Cru and we enjoyed
them immensely that evening over dinner on our veranda.
Here is all the information you need:
La Chèvrerie des Hautes-Côtes
Rue Haute à Changey
(this is the little hamlet you come to before
arrive in the village of Echevronne)
Tel / Fax: 03.80.21.55.81
Monday to Friday after 5:30pm
Sunday all day
A visit to the goat farm
(highly recommended by Camille,
if you call ahead.
VI) WINE AND RUNNING – A VERY BURGUNDIAN
Recently Franck participated in a 10km run in Nuits-Saint-Georges.
The 10k run, along with a half-marathon, was in honour of the annual Nuits-Saint-Georges
charity wine auction. The race ran past some of the world’s most prestigious
vineyards (Romanée-Conti anyone?) and even weaved its way under the Archway of
Château Clos de Vougeot. Glasses of wine were served alongside water at the rest
stations along the route, and included in the registration price Franck received
an emblazoned wine tasting glass that allowed him to participate in a mammoth
tasting afterwards (which he did, of course).
I was on the phone one day telling my sister Suzanne - who happens to be a dedicated runner
- all about it. When I got to the bit about the wine being served at the
rest stations she started laughing.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
“It’s just that it's sort of a bizarre combination."
"What's a bizarre combination?"
You know...running and
That's when it struck me; this had never given me a moment's pause. I must
have become Burgundian without realizing it somewhere along the line; I now
on the presumption that everything has to do with wine, unless I am told
Here is a sample of wine-related runs available in Burgundy in
October 4th, 2008 - Les Grands Crus
Marathon / Half-Marathon / 10km weaving through Burgundy’s Grand
Cru vineyards. Begins and ends in the village of Marsannay-la-Côte
October 18, 2008 – The “Foulée des
Vendanges” in Savigny-les-Beaune with a 10km race celebrating
the Annual Grape Harvest. Free 1 and 2 km races for children or
November 15, 2008 – Half-marathon
celebrating the world-famous annual wine auction in Beaune. Race
course weaves from Beaune through the picturesque villages of
Pommard, Volnay, and Meursault and their vineyards. www.semibeaune.com
15, 2009 – Nuits-Saint-Georges Wine Auction
Half-Marathon and 10km offers 2 superb race routes in the
renowned vineyards in and around the festive town of Nuits-Saint-Georges.
Who ever said
wine and health didn’t mix? Not Burgundians, that’s for sure. As you can
read on the wall of 15th Century Château in Savigny-les-Beaune,
Burgundian wines are above all “nourrissants, théologiques et
VII) RESTAURANT REVIEW
We are all bereft now that Villers-la-Faye’s special jewel, Jacky’s
bistro, has been closed and put up for sale. (News Flash, it has just
been sold and I've heard through completely unsubstantiated village
gossip that the new owner is going to open up a restaurant).
Franck and I, ever
the dedicated vacation rental managers, have been actively seeking substitutes
for the “Jacky’s Bistro” experience while we wait not so patiently for a
new bistro to be opened up stumbling distance down the road from us.
Although no place can ever hope to match the volume of food or
the “uniqueness” of décor that defined Jacky’s, here are three
alternatives that all offer “prix fixe” menus during lunch on weekdays
(and you’d better show up at 12:00, because these ain’t places where you
can waltz in at 2:00pm and demand food) and provide amazing value.
These places are a little rough around the edges, but if you’re really
serious about living like a local, you will not find any better value
for your food dollar. The no-smoking law which was passed this January
also means that now these restaurants can be enjoyed without coming down
with instantaneous emphysema from second hand smoke.
Our advice is to call ahead at all three places, check what the daily
dish is so you won’t be unwittingly sitting down to a steaming dish of
pig’s entrails, and reserve ahead.
Here are our top three:
Café de France
13 Boulevard Bretonnière
Run by a brother / sister pair who must be descendant from a line of
giants (and always make me think of Hagrid in Harry Potter) and who
concoct some of the best coq au vin and lapin à la moutarde
that have ever passed my lips
Café Restaurant de la Place
14, Grande Rue
21700 MEUILLEY (village just 5 minutes drive from Magny-les-Villers and
Run by a pair of women who keep the jokes flying throughout the entire
lunchtime service. Make a mean apple tarte.
This novel, a roaring success in France, is the story of three lost
souls, Camille, Phillibert, and Franck (excellent choice in names,
apart from the « Phillibert ») who are thrown together by fate and end
up unwittingly transforming each other’s lives. It’s a story that unfolds in
Paris, but manages the trick of simultaneously being very French and at
the same time so human that you can imagine it happening to you,
wherever you are.
A must read if you want to keep up with the French
literary scene, and in my humble opinion a whole lot more fun than
I loved the book so much that I was a bit
reluctant to go to the movie, but my French girlfriends dragged me along
and I am very glad they did. The cast is brilliant. It is anchored by
Audrey Tatou (she of the « Amélie » fame) as Camille and Guillaume Canet
as Franck. I now harbor a massive crush on Guillaume Canet, but don’t
tell my Franck.
Totally irrelevant piece of French celebrity gossip – the delicious
Guillaume Canet is the boyfriend of Marion Cotillard who just won the
Oscar from La Môme which I will be featuring in my Amazon.com store and
in our next Grape News. Oui, you heard it here...
In honour of the recent Camille Claudel exposition in Dijon, I
thought I would feature this classic French flick starring the beautiful
but evasive Isabelle Adjani as Camille Claudel, and that ubiquitous
French favorite, Gérard Depardieu, as her lover, mentor, and ultimately
her enemy, Auguste Rodin.
This true story of their passionate obsession with art and with each
other has been hailed as a “cinematic masterpiece”. It is superbly
acted, and was rightly nominated for Academy Awards in 1989 for the Best
Foreign Language Film, and for Adjani as the Best actress.
Get your hankies ready, and refresh your knowledge
of this long-undervalued woman artist.
I listen to this CD at least once a day at the
moment. There is something refreshingly light and cheerful about
this French singer’s voice even when she is singling about sad things
(she is French, after all, and they are never ones to put a gloss on
the ups and downs of life).
The whole CD is fabulous, but if you are buying
songs separately, don’t miss out on my favorites “La Liste” and “Ciao
Bella” (which is also Camille’s favorite, and which she
with on a regular basis).
IX) LA MAISON DES CHAUMES
As those of you who have been following my blog will know, we
put on a big push this winter to renovate our house, La Maison des Chaumes,
in order to ready it for Mademoiselle Clémentine. We now have a brand new
kitchen that it perfect for enthusiastic cooks such as ourselves, a gorgeous
bathroom and the entire inside of the house is freshly painted and looking very
fetching if I do say so myself. We have also been on a few antique buying
outings and have snapped up some new old items such as a wooden bench and a
gorgeous old buffet for the living room.
We’re still working with the idea of renting out La Maison
des Chaumes as a vacation rental when we move back to Canada in the summer
of 2009. It will be an ideal place for longer sabbaticals in France as the house
is larger than any of our other properties, heats well in the winter, has a
small garden area and a huge deck, and is just down the road from the local
village school. Burgundy is also ideally located for exploring the rest of
France and Europe. If you have absolutely any questions about planning a
sabbatical for yourself or your family here in France, don’t hesitate to get in
touch with us.
La Maison des Chaumes will be available for rent from
August 1, 2009 onwards.
Just email me at
firstname.lastname@example.org if this sounds enticing to you. I’d be happy to answer
any questions you may have, as well as email you photos.
IX) GRAPE SEEDS - useful things &
A very good pizza truck has begun
gracing the place right beside the Salle des Fêtes in Villers-la-Faye on
Thursday nights. Pizza men are men of mystery by nature and often disappear
without notice, but the best way of making sure they stick around is by
buying their pizzas.
A recent guest of ours spent quite a bit of time in the
relatively new bar / café / bistro in the stunning and nearby village of
Pernand-Vergelesses called "La Grappe Pernand" and said it was a friendly
and pleasant spot.
The restaurant “La Ciboulette” right near the Porte Saint
Nicolas in Beaune continues to garner rave reviews from our guests.
We will be launching our new website very shortly. I
will be emailing everyone on our mailing list to let them know, and will
also be posting all new information on my blog.
Once again this year all of our properties have filled up
quickly, especially between the beginning of April and the end of October. We will be raising prices
slightly for the 2009 season, but if you book in 2008 you can still benefit from
our 2008 rates, even for a stay next year.
Here is the remaining availability for 2008 as it stands at the time of
MAISON DES DEUX CLOCHERS
(2 bedroom village house in Magny-les-Villers / between 400 and 600
Euros a week)
November 4th to December 31st
LA MAISON DE LA VIEILLE VIGNE
(1 bedroom village house
in Villers-la-Faye / between 450 and 650 Euros a week)
November 20th to 26th
December 16th to 31st
LE RELAIS DU VIEUX BEAUNE
(2 bedroom apartment in heart of medieval Beaune / between 550 and 750
Euros a week)
October 31st to December 19th
I have already started taking quite a few bookings for 2009 at
all three (soon four!) properties, so if you’re planning on a trip to Burgundy
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 email@example.com