The Cook's Atelier
A wonderful new option for Grape Rental guests who are interested in
cooking classes, market tours, or culinary excursions into their Burgundian
Winemaker in Residence
Read up on Marc-Olivier Buffet's (from the Domaine Buffet in Volnay) take on
the 2008 vintage. Marc-Olivier's report can also be read in its original
French version for those of you who want to brush up on your French wine
Restaurant Review It would be a travesty to come
to the Beaune area and to not eat at least one meal
in a proper wine cellar. Here are two very different, but equally
Alex Gambal Winery
We've spotlighted this fascinating and successful Beaune wine Domaine, which
is owned by a (surprise!) American.
VI Nations Tournament
If you are planning a trip to France next winter, join in the fun of this
legendary rugby tournament.
Check out the newest additions to our Amazon "French Favorites" store; new
French CDs, two highly recommended French phrasebooks, and the introduction of
Laura's (and Clémentine's) pet project - French Baby Essentials. It's time
to give those babies in your life an early start in Frenchitude.
Availability and 2009
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,
Franck and I are very proud of ourselves. Despite having a baby / toddler
hybrid roaring around the house we have managed to pull together a Winter
edition of the Grape News! Our goal is to get out four issues each year,
one per season (because life in Burgundy is all about the distinct seasons,
after all). We are delighted to be on track for once.
However, as you can read below the Grape News is far from the only project we've
been working on...
I) GRAPE TRIPS - Bike Burgundy Like a
Discovering Burgundy's back roads and working up
a thirst for the next fabulous winetasting!
In our New Year’s email we introduced Franck’s newest venture - “Grape Trips”.
During a "Grape Trip" guests will stay at one of our four properties for a week
and be treated to the following:
Custom bike rentals for the duration of their stay,
delivered to the properties;
Guided biking from the house to explore the vineyards and
villages of Burgundy;
Biking will be punctuated with exclusive winetastings,
guided by Franck and his local winemaking friends. At least one of
these will take place in the vineyard where the grapes for the wine are
The discovery of rustic restaurants that are definitely off
the tourist track, as well as picnics in beautiful, hidden spots.
As groups will always be kept small, Franck is always able to
fully customize Grape Trips according to the interests, fitness levels, and
desires of his guests. The first few guests will benefit from a special
reduced price just to get the ball rolling. To ask any questions, get a
quote, or enquire about availability, just contact us at
Franck is also planning future trips for runners, or for anyone
who wants to participate in one of Burgundy’s many wonderful wine-related 10K,
half-marathons, or marathons - see Wine & Running in our previous release:
There is also the possibility to build a Grape Trip around
hiking and walking. Again, just contact us for further information.
II) LA MAISON DES CHAUMES
La Maison des Chaumes, the house we have selfishly
created for ourselves here in Burgundy, is now available for bookings.
We are leaving France at the end of July, so availability begins
August 1st, 2009. We are finishing the final bits and bobs
and fun projects like installing out turquoise portail
(front gate) so that when we direct people to the house we can just say "turn at
the wine press, and it's the house with the turquoise portail."
This house has a myriad of fabulous features (we did design it
for ourselves, after all) such as a grassy garden area, a huge wraparound deck
to enjoy outdoor living and eating during Burgundy's many warm days, a newly
renovated gourmet kitchen designed and equipped for passionate cooks such as
Franck and I, and much, much more. We've now created a page on our website
www.graperentals.com for La Maison des
Chaumes, and I will keep adding updated photos as we complete all those special,
final touches that we are known for. To have a look,
just click here:
We rented La Maison
des Chaumes last summer while we were in Canada and here is what our first guest had to say:
"Much to our dismay three weeks of a wonderful vacation have come to an end:
what a welcoming, well-equipped house amidst the vineyards of Burgundy!
Literally everything was extremely well taken care of and the position of
the house was truly ideal for walking, visiting, and bike trips… Merci pour
Marlene Kayen and
granddaughters - Freiburg, Germany
III) FROM THE 2008 GUESTBOOK
Our Grape Rental properties continue to garner rave reviews,
as you can read for yourselves in a few quotes from our 2008
LA MAISON DES DEUX CLOCHERS
“We had an unforgettable time here.
Since the beginning, with your welcome note and bottle of
wine, we felt at a special home - cozy and warm.
The silence in the village and the
comfort in the house has allowed us to reconnect to
ourselves and our family. We enjoyed the village colours,
the flowers, the church view, the hens and chickens across
the street, the sound of the bell…all those little things
that became our distractions and amusements during our stay.
We leave with great memories and thank you for that. Warm
regards and “Obrigada!”
Gisleine, Pedro, Luiza e Bruno
Silveira - Sāo Paulo, Brazil
“This is a
beautiful little spot amidst the wonderful grape vines. I
really must say “merci” for such a well-appointed house.
Great kitchen and beautiful furniture and fantastic shower.
We were wonderfully spoiled! ”
Dawna & Yves Berube - Lethbridge,
LA MAISON DE LA VIEILLE VIGNE
“We hope to return to La Maison
de la Vieille Vigne for much longer than a week. A month in
France is not enough! We have loved going to the local
markets (Nuits-Saint-Georges on Friday and Beaune on
Saturday), bringing home all the lovely food, having a cozy
fire, a glass of wine, TV (just a little), a heavenly sleep,
awakening late, then coffee and fresh croissants (from just
across the street!).
The kitchen has everything to cook and serve a great meal –
I have so enjoyed cooking in it. We have made this house our
home for 7 days - thank you for all the hard work to
preserve the old and yet have all the modern comforts for
Carl and Faye Foster - Warrenton,
“Thanks for providing such a wonderful
little fairy tale cottage for our visit to Burgundy. The
location of Villers-la-Faye could not be more perfect and
having fresh croissants only 50 feet from the front door was
a welcome treat every morning. This is such a beautiful and
peaceful place…we can't wait to come back for an extended
stay some day soon!”
Steve and Rhonda Dunham - Long
Beach, California, USA
LE RELAIS DU VIEUX BEAUNE
“Our stay here has
been spectacular, and we are already talking about staying a
month next time. Thank you for such a lovely place to rest
our heads (and cook our blue-footed chickens).”
Meredith Durhin & Collin Wolfe - Chicago, Illinois, USA
“Wonderful stay! Undoubtedly the
best place we rented during our stay in France (Alsace, the
Luberon, then Burgundy). Beautiful apartment. We are ready
to move to Burgundy!”
Erin & Jeremy Ansell - Johannesburg, South Africa
IV) THE BEAUNE CELLAR -
Become A Member
The restoration of our 13th Century vaulted stone wine cellar located
under Le Relais du Vieux Beaune has been going flat out. The
tasting table is mounted, the shelves have been poured and assembled, the ancient stone sink is ready to be
mounted, and now the metal gates enclosing each private store of wine
have arrived and are just waiting to be installed.
There are 18 separate, locked
storage spaces in total. We have already had several groups
of guests leave us wine to store in the Beaune cellar as soon as it is
finished, so if you are interested in renting a spot let us know sooner
rather than later as space is limited.
We are officially
baptizing the cellar this May and will bestow it a name during the ceremony.
We will be announcing the cellar's official name in our Spring issue of The Grape News.
Members of the cellar will have their own key to let themselves in the cellar
and access their wine whenever they want. They also will enjoy free and unlimited use of the cellar for tastings and
updates will be posted on my blog, and of course you can always contact Franck
and I for more information.
V) THE GRAPE JOURNAL RIPENS
I continue to have, as Camille would say in her heavily
accented English, “too much fun!” with my blog, which can be found at
I'll be making lots of improvements over the next few months which will
make it not only prettier, but easier to find
specific posts. I am thrilled to see via my much beloved "dot" map
that I am developing a
dedicated following for my regular weekly posts; Authentic France
Travel Tips Tuesdays:
Which is a rowdy collection of miscellaneous posts that reflect
our family’s life in France in all its chaotic glory.
And oui, oui, oui, I definitely will be continuing my
Grape Journal blog when we return to Canada this summer. Franck and I always
consider ourselves as having one foot in Canada and one foot in France, no
matter which country considers us residents for tax purposes! Besides, I have
pages and pages of ideas for both the Frenchitude posts and Authentic France Travel
Tips that I still have to use. Anyway, the culture shock posts alone could fuel
their own blog!
VI) THE COOK'S ATELIER
We have recently made the acquaintance of Marjorie
Taylor, an experienced cook and restaurant owner who has relocated to
Burgundy in search of culinary and slow food nirvana.
created a company aptly named "The Cook's Atelier" which encompasses the
range of services she can offer independent travelers, such as our Grape
Rental guests, staying in Burgundy. She is
the perfect person to take you on a market tour in Beaune or one of the
neighboring villages, or to conduct an intimate and fun cooking class at
any of the Grape Rental properties which includes a fabulous meal
afterwards. Marjorie can also help you live out your dream of an à la carte culinary excursion
(exploring the many facets of Burgundian cheese, par exemple).
spending time with Marjorie I can whole-heartedly recommend her to any of our
guests. I am convinced that for food-lovers taking her up on one
of her fabulous offerings really adds a tasty dimension to a stay in
Have a look at Marjorie's beautiful website for the offerings of
"The Cook's Atelier" and to find out rates. You can either contact
Marjorie directly or contact us and we will pass on your email or
message to her.
We meet up again with
our winemaker in residence, Marc-Oliver Buffet, who shares his opinion on the
2008 vintage. To brush up on your "wine" French and read Marc-Olivier's
original report, just click on the link at the bottom.
"2008 was certainly the “Year of Living
Dangerously” but it was also a year of great rewards. Growing grapes
and making wine in Burgundy was an extremely complicated affair in
2008 due to constant humidity, but fortuitously the windy, cold, and
dry weather just before the harvest saved the vintage. This
exceptional harvest weather could be, according to the older
“specialists” in Burgundy, explained by the fact that 2008 is a year
with 13 moons.
The winter was generally wet and mild, however
there were a few nights when the thermometer dipped below zero which
meant that the growing season did not take off fast or early.
After that, the Spring was very humid which
multiplied problems with mildew, especially near the end of the
growing season. While walking through the vineyards one could see
that many of the vine’s leaves had a burnt look and colour to them.
The 2008 harvest began on September 25th.
Thankfully the dry pre-harvest weather allowed for a normal period of
maturation. The 2008 vintage was not only saved, but is also looking
to be of very high quality. Some say it might be as notable as 2005,
although it is still a bit too early to tell. In any case, its colours are very rich and the tannins very mature.
This month I will review two Beaune restaurants that are located in
traditional vaulted stone cellars. Though these two restaurants are very
different, I personally think it would be a bit of a travesty to visit
Burgundy and to not experience eating in a wine cellar at least once.
Reservations recommended / Closed Sundays and Mondays.
We’ve been to this restaurant several times with guests, and
it is a fine address for a taste of traditional Burgundian fare in a
refined, though not at all snobby, atmosphere.
The double vaulted stone cellar has been beautifully
renovated, and the food is prepared and served with the same elegant
simplicity. Budget around 15-20 Euros for a prix fixe menu, and definitely
try their escargots, which although delicious at the best of times seem to
taste even better underground.
Le Caveau Saint-Jacques 3 Place Saint-Jacques
This is, to put it simply, a French pizza joint. However,
two things set it apart from most other pizza joints. First, you can
nosh on your pizzas inside a vaulted stone cellar which is lovely and cozy
in the winter and refreshingly cool in the summer. Secondly, the
pizzas are freaking amazing; thin crusted, generously topped, and served
piping hot. If you’re a goat’s cheese maniac like I am, I can highly
recommend that one.
We took Charlotte here for her last Birthday dinner and we
all had a delicious pizza meal. Despite the fact that Charlotte, being
my daughter, ordered one of their
towering ice cream creations for desert the bill was eminently
reasonable. You should budget the pizzas as being around 10.00 Euros or so,
depending on the toppings you choose. They also have good prix fixe menus
for lunch and dinner with pizza / salad combos, etc.
A bonus for any guests staying in our ever–popular Relais du
Vieux Beaune , you can call and order a pizza to be delivered to your door
IX) ALEX GAMBAL
have discovered this local Beaune winery during the past year and we
really feel that it is worth highlighting. Alex Gambal’s story is
fascinating. First of all, he’s an American. Anyone who knows Beaune can
tell you that any American who succeeds in penetrating into the closely
defended local wine industry deserves a doff of the hat.
He fell in love with Burgundy and with Burgundy’s wine
in the early 1990s, came to learn everything he could about it at the
prestigious wine school in Beaune, and then with an admirable tenacity
went about setting up his own Domaine.
We have been to two tastings at Alex Gambal, and both
times we were thoroughly impressed with the wines which, right from the
most basic “Bourgogne” to the Premiers Crus, expressed their unique
terroir in a pure, unadorned way. Despite being such a roaring
success that you have to pre-order Alex’s wine several years ahead of time,
he insists on keeping his output small. This way he never risks losing
the high quality that has become emblematic of his wine or aversely
affecting the Burgundian vineyards and countryside that he fell in love
with almost twenty years ago.
Sophie, the wife of Alex’s winemaker Fabrice, heads up
most of the tastings. She is French but speaks superb English. Much of
the tasting done at Alex Gambal are from the barrel (where the wine is
drawn directly out of the barrel with a glass pipe, called a pipette)
which are a lot of fun. Check out his website for more information and
the phone number to call to make an appointment for a tasting.
I have family or friends visiting us here in Burgundy, I always try to
take them to visit the nearby Chateau de la Rochepot.
as far as chateaux visits go we are spoilt for choice in this area of
Burgundy. So many of the nearby chateaux are wonderful; the
Chateau de Savigny with its huge airplane, motorcycle, and plane
collection, the majestic Chateauneuf which overlooks the Burgundy
Canal, or the neighbouring Chateau de Gilly for a nightcap in the
most refined atmosphere imaginable.
Still, I always end up taking people to Chateau de La
Rochepot. Pourquoi? First of all, the drive there
isn’t very long – only about 15 minutes from Beaune. Secondly, the
winds through our beautiful local winemaking villages, vineyards, and
past rolling verdant pastures where white Charolais cattle munching the
green, green grass. Thirdly, it is such a typically Burgundian
chateau with its polished coloured tiles and imposing medieval
battlements. Lastly, the scale of the chateau and the length of
the excellent tour which lasts about an hour is just perfect; long enough so
that you feel like you have learned something fascinating, but not so long that you are
completely saturated by information.
To find out more just visit the website
http://www.larochepot.com , or
you can always contact Franck or I for more information.
XI) VI NATIONS TOURNAMENT
Laura in Paris at the VI Nations Scotland-France match,
reconnecting with her Scottish brethren.
Franck and I are still on a high from attending our first (but certainly not
our last) VI Nations Rugby game at the Stade de France. The trophy of this
classic rugby Tournament is fought over on the pitch by the national teams of
France, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and Italy.
The beauty of the VI Nations is that these games are not only about rugby,
but about the cultural clashes and centuries old rivalry between these European
Although the France vs. Scotland game we watched was not the most spectacular
of matches, the atmosphere is worth the ticket price alone, no matter what the
Imagine beret-wearing Frenchmen and kilt wearing Scots sitting side by side,
each roaring at their team in their respective languages, and competing in
rousing renditions of "The Flower of Scotland" and "La Marseillaise".
Let me tell you, it is an experience not to be missed.
Now that we have done it ourselves, Franck and I can tell you all of our tips
for finding the best priced tickets, where to sit, and the easiest way to get
back and forth to the Stade de France. Besides the lower winter rates, the
VI Nations Tournament is another great reason to visit France in January,
February, and March!
XII) FRENCH FAVORITES
We continue to add our favorite French items; movies, books,
CDs, and even French baby essentials to the “French Favorites” Amazon shop on
our website - see:
http://www.graperentals.com/store.html . This month here are some of
originally entitled “Fauteils d’Orchestre"
I just watched this film for about the fourth time recently,
and it has to be one of my favorite French films of the moment
(and that’s saying something).
Cécile de France, who you may have met in the fabulous “L'Auberge
Espagnol” plays a down-on-her luck girl from near-by Mâcon who tries to
find a new life for herself in the rarified surroundings of Avenue
Montaigne in Paris. On her way she meets a frustrated TV actress (the
French comic goddess Valerie Lemercier), a disenchanted concert pianist (the
riveting Albert Dupontel) and the intellectual son of a millionaire…
French: Lonely Planet Phrasebook
One of the most efficient and compact phrase books around,
written in that typical no-nonsense, down-and-dirty style that
we all love from Lonely Planet.
French Phrase Book (Eyewitness Guides)
Definitely one of the most beautiful phrasebooks around, and
pretty effective too. A pleasure for the eyes and the mind -
just as the French like it!
French Baby Essentials
And last but not least, my favorite category –
French Baby Essentials. Since putting out our last Grape News I
have been slowly adding what I feel are essential French baby
items; divinely soft Petit Bateau onsies, a plastic Sophie
la giraffe, and of course lovely soft doudous. Perfect if you have
a new baby in your life and want to introduce them to
Frenchitudeas early as possible.
Renan Luce is one of France's hottest new music stars. His
songs, like "Les Voisines" and "La Lettre" are as light and
fanciful as lace underthings drying in a soft spring breeze.
You cannot stay in a winter funk for long listening to this
fabulous breakthrough album.
Reprise des Négociations
Benabar is one of my very favorite French singer-songwriters. His social
commentary is always mordant but never cynical.
Just TRY listening to one of
his perfectly etched songs such as "Le Dîner" without having a smile plastered
all over you face.
Benabar’s previous CD is a masterpiece
of wry humour set to catchy melodies. This follow-up; "Infréquentable"
is no different.
I bought this CD for the hilarious tongue-in-cheek title and cover
shot alone. Who hasn't, under the influence of one too many
drinks, put on what we believed at the time was a rockin’ show
on the dance floor, thinking we look like Beyoncé when in fact
we look like a complete arse? Benabar has been there.
Sophie la Giraffe Teether
My very French friend Charlotte buys only one thing for her new
babies-to-be when she is pregnant - this classic squeezy giraffe named
Sophie, which no French child would be without.
XIII) GRAPE SEEDS - useful
things & tidbits
The ground has now been broken and
building has commenced for the new inter-village school just a five minute
walk behind La Maison des Chaumes in Villers-la-Faye. This complex will house playschool
through to Grade 5, a lunchtime cafeteria, before and after school care, and
holiday activity programs. As always, I encourage people to consider taking
a sabbatical year to France, especially if they have young school-aged
children. Just email me directly if you have any questions at all about one
of life’s greatest adventures.
Jacky’s has been purchased by a young family in the
restaurant business! They are beginning work and are planning on opening a
new restaurant in the old Jacky space…stay tuned.
If you enjoy tennis or basketball, Magny-les-Villers had
refurbished their basketball / tennis court and it is a great place to go
and while away a few sweaty hours before retiring with a chilled glass of
I’m hearing lots of dirges lately about how the trans-galactic
economy is going to hell in a handbasket, but from where I sit it seems to me
that independent travelers the world over still need their France fix and
understand the wonderful value that self-catering vacation rentals provide. Even
though we are barely into 2009, the year is filling up very quickly.
You can now consult our online availability calendar for all
four houses, including La Maison des Chaumes which is available for rent as of August 1, 2009, here:
I’m trying my best to update this at least once a week, however
during busy periods like I have been experiencing since Christmas it is
challenging to keep up with all the new bookings. Cancellations and changes are
part of the game, so if you have any doubts or questions, or would like a
definitively up-to-date answer on availability, just email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
. We are also beginning to take bookings for 2010 now. As always, if you want
specific dates or are planning on a longer stay, the earlier you can book, the better!
Here is the remaining availability for 2009 as it stands at the time of
MAISON DES DEUX CLOCHERS (2 bedroom village house in Magny-les-Villers / between 450 and 650
Euros a week)
February, March, and up until April 22nd
May 4th – 10th
June 30th – July 7th
July 20th – August 26th
From October 29th into the Fall
LA MAISON DE LA VIEILLE VIGNE
(1 bedroom village house in Villers-la-Faye / between 500 and 600 Euros a week)
February 15th – April 5th
April 25th – May 2nd
June 9th – September 2nd
September 29th into the Fall
RELAIS DU VIEUX BEAUNE
(2 bedroom apartment in heart of medieval Beaune / between 600 and 800
Euros a week)
February 15th to March 5th
March 17th to March 26th
April 21st – 28th
August 7th – 23rd
September 22nd – October 7th
October 27th into the Fall
LE MAISON DES CHAUMES
(2-3 bedroom village house with
attached deck and garden in Villers-la-Faye / between 600 and 900
Euros a week)
August 1st – September 4th
October 2nd into the Fall
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