‘Uncork’ Shows Indiana’s Best

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Indiana’s top wine event is unquestionably Vintage Indiana held in Indianapolis in early June each year.

Vintage Indiana brings 30-plus Hoosier wineries to Military Park in Indianapolis and gives thousands an opportunity to sample hundreds of Indiana wines. Unfortunately, the event was nearly drowned out this year with a day of heavy downpours. (Pun intended).

Grape Sense LogoIndiana’s second-best wine celebration might be Uncork the Uplands, Saturday, July 30, French Lick, IN. Uncork celebrates the nine wineries of the Indiana Uplands Agricultural Viticulture Area or AVA.

The AVA thing is significant. The Uplands is the only AVA in Indiana. If you’re a wine drinker and like Pinot think of the Willamette Valley’s Dundee Hills, or Howell Mountain in Napa. An AVA is a federally-recognized agricultural area which produces quality grapes for quality wines.

The 6th annual event runs 4-7 p.m. at the wonderful French Lick Springs Hotel. Last-minute tickets are $60. Wine fans can find a lot more information on the official website uncorktheuplands.com Unfortunately, getting a hotel room in French Lick on this summer weekend might be tough. The two resorts are sold out. But there are other small chain hotels nearby.

The event features wines from all nine wineries. Visitors have the chance to talk to winemakers and winery owners. Past Uncork events featured plenty of small bites of food and even entertainment. The 2016 early evening wine tasting is the first not to be held at Oliver or Huber wineries.

French Lick is a great location, though a bit of an effort to get there in the Hoosier heartland. French Lick Winery will become something of an official/unofficial host. The Doty family has a long history with Indiana wine and the Uplands event. The French Lick Winery is using the Saturday event to introduce its new distillery. The VIP event is sold out but signals another Indiana winery entering the competitive distillery business. Ted Huber has been the real pioneer among Indiana winemakers to jump into the distilled spirits business. French Lick seems like a natural with the two fabulous, Indiana landmark hotels and a bustling casino.

There is another event coming up that seems to get less attention. Indiana wineries pour their wines throughout the Indiana State Fair, 1-9 p.m., each day of the fair, Aug. 5-21.

State Fair attendees, who are also wine fans, should definitely stop by the Grand Hall across from the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The event showcases wine and Indiana beer. Attendees must be 21 to enter.

 

 

Celebrating an Important Milestone

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Everyone has milestones in their life. Think of events like birthdays, anniversaries, new job, retirement, a first date, maybe even getting fired or divorced. As a society we’re pretty good at celebrating life’s events.

Grape Sense LogoToday’s Grape Sense represents the 200th piece I’ve written since starting an every-other- week newspaper column in October of 2007. At one point I had 23 newspaper in three states, it is a few less now but something I view as a great achievement and I’m proud of what I’ve done with this idea.

Milestones deserve, no let’s make that require, celebration. How else would Grape Sense propose a celebration – but with wine, of course!

Writing 200 columns about wine hasn’t always been easy but always enjoyable. I don’t really run out of ideas as often as fall short with the proper motivation. I’m working on that.

My celebration wine will be one of two choices. I’ll either open a bottle of Rochioli Pinot Noir from Sonoma’s Russian River Valley or Joseph Phelps’ Napa Valley Cabernet. Those are two great bottles of wine. The final choice will come down to what’s for dinner!

The point here is to celebrate your life and celebrate whether you feel like it or not. Time goes fast and pausing to really reflect on certain points in your life is rewarding and sometimes even educational. No, you don’t have to go out and find a $65 bottle of Cabernet. Just find something you know is really good.

Find a wine you really like and enjoy it. It doesn’t matter if it’s red, white or pink. It doesn’t matter if you Happy Milestone Grape Sense readers! Column No. 201 is just two weeks away!

Indiana Restaurant Wine Award Winners

If you’re a foodie and like wine, you certainly appreciate a good wine list. There are plenty of good wine lists in Indiana but not a lot of great ones. I’m often shocked by the number of really bad wine choices.

WineSpectator Best of Award LogoThere were only four Hoosier restaurants recently recognized with a Wine Spectator Best of Award Excellence. That’s the second-highest honor. Indiana had no Grand award winners (the top honor). The awards of excellence went to McGraw’s Steak, Chop & Fish House, South Bend; Peterson’s, Indianapolis; St. Elmo’s, Indianapolis, and The Capital Grille, Indianapolis.

The third-tier ranking of Award of Excellence found a few more restaurants – most of them in Indianapolis including, Black Market, Fleming’s Steakhouse, Fogo de Chao, Harry & Izzys, Morton’s

Steakhouse, Ocean Prime, Seasons 52, Shula’s Steakhouse, Sullivan’s Steakhouse, and Tastings (a wine Award of Excellence winners elsewhere around the Hoosier state, Ciao Bella, Schererville; Heston Supper Club, LaPorte; Ford’s Black Angus, Terre Haute; Janko’s Little Zagreb, Bloomington; Joseph Decuis, Roanoke; LaSalle Grille, South Bend; Tapastrie, South Bend; Carriage House Dining Room & Gardens, South Bend; William B’s, Michigan City.

Gaining an Understanding of Burgundy

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The Grape Sense newspaper column has often focused on introducing new wines, new price points, and an education focus about wine.

There is no bigger educational high point in wine understanding than Burgundy, France. Burgundy is home to a confusing geography, hard to find wines, and most of the world’s most expensive single bottles.

Grape Sense LogoNormally the focus is on value wine. But on occasion a look at other prominent wine regions helps with perspective. Additionally, I just returned from leading a wine tour group in Burgundy – my first-ever visit as well.

Burgundy lies southeast of Paris where the whites of Chablis and silky red and whites of Burgundy have a history going back hundreds of years. Many of the vineyards and wine making facilities date back to the time of Romans. Many of the vineyards and ancient winemaking efforts were started by monks in the early 12th or 13th century.

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Nothing like getting in the vineyard

Burgundy is a place for history. Perhaps the first educational point to get out of the way is a reminder that most all of France doesn’t tell you what grapes are in the wine on their bottles. You have to have a very basic understanding. In Burgundy reds are Pinot Noir and whites are Chardonnay.

After that, it gets complicated. There are approximately 100 specifically designated wine growing regions or AOCs. The wines are named for the region and its growing characteristics or terroir.

An example would be Gevrey-Chambertin which is a small village and surrounding vineyards south of Lyon but north of Beaune, the heart of Burgundy. My group tasted four Gevrey Chambertin wines at Domaine Rene Leclerc. The four wines came from four different vineyards – with a difference in soil, slope, and micro-climate – even though all lie in the same region.

And, the wines had slight differences. The area is known for wines of more structure and slightly more pronounced tannins. We tasted different in the earthiness you get in Pinot Noir and a slightly different level in the spiciness on the wine’s’ finish in your mouth.

Okay, it’s pretty geeky for a wine novice.

A fact that surprised some of us was the production breakdown. In the U.S. if someone says the word Burgundy people think of red wine. Actually Burgundy is planted with 60 percent white wine grapes. The whites were consistently silky and elegant. The better white wines were rich with a full mouth feel while maintaining that silky texture.

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… and then you taste!

Good Burgundy seems to start around $50 or asmore in the U.S. So indeed, not the normal focus of Grape Sense. But they represent some of the best wines in the world and certainly worth a try.

Burgundy is also one of the ultimate trips for wine fans. The walled-village of Beaune is a delightful home base with legendary wine caves beneath the city streets, the famed Hospice de Beaune, and wine tasting shops, Michelin-starred restaurants, and charming hotels throughout the city.

European wine travel requires advance planning. A trip to Burgundy is really the ultimate for real wine fans.

Wine Travel Depends on Region

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For wine lovers nothing is more fun than a day visiting tasting rooms or maybe even wine travel.

Depending on where you go, there are some things you need to know. It can be a Saturday on the road, a trip to the coast, or a dream vacation to Europe to enjoy wine. But all wine trips take a planning.

Grape Sense LogoThe easiest way to start is using the internet to find a wine trail close to home. Indiana has several wine trails. Figure out your geography and plan on visiting no more than about three wineries. That is advice not a standard. Needless to say a designated driver is always a must. But tasting at more than three wineries can impair your judgment. I also find that when I hit a fourth winery in a day I’m suffering ‘palate fatigue.’

After you’ve hit some Hoosier wine trails and you get the tasting room fever, try neighboring states. I admit I’ve visited just a couple Ohio wineries, none in Kentucky or Illinois. But I’ve visited Michigan wine trails three times and they are delightful. You can plan an easy trip into southwestern Michigan and choose from many different wineries. A great weekend trip would be up to Traverse City, a great food town, and visit the really good wineries of Leelanau County and Old Mission Peninsula. The wines are surprisingly good.

If you wish to travel east, check out the wineries of upper New York State, the Finger Lakes Region. Virginia wines are also gathering more accolades with every vintage.

If you’re ready to head west there are more options to cover than space allows. Wine mecca for those of us in the U.S. is Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Napa, in particular, is one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world. But Napa is very commercial and very expensive. Lean on advice from friends who’s visited Napa to plan your trip. Look at every winery’s website and see what fits your tastes.

Some Napa wineries, the very best, usually accept guests by appointment only. Many welcome walk-in visitors daily as well. But also be aware that the big winery names you know don’t come cheap. All wineries in Napa charge a tasting fee. Many will have 2 or 3 tasting levels.

Be prepared if you want to taste the very best wines or at the very best wineries to shell out big bucks. The better Napa wineries charge $50-$100 for a tasting. And unlike many Midwestern states, that tasting fee will not be refunded with a purchase. But if you’re going, be sure to do at least one premium tasting to learn more about what the fuss is all about.

Oregon’s Willamette Valley is an awesome wine tourism region. It’s not as busy as Napa or Sonoma but growing fast. Tasting fees are going up but still nothing like Napa.

Finally, some advice about going to Europe – particularly France or Italy since that’s where I can share the best advice.

Wine tourism remains new for both of Europe’s Old World Wine regions. Planning is essential for winery visits in both countries. Only the biggest, most commercially-motivated, wineries have open tasting rooms as we know them. A call or email is necessary to secure an appointment.

It’s wise, and not cheap, to engage a wine tourism professional to plan your trip and accompany you – especially if you don’t speak the native language. Most wineries vigorously engaged in tourism will have English-speaking staff. But if you want to visit a smaller winery, you can’t count on English-speaking staff. Such wine guides can charge up to $500-$1000 a day but they will take care of every detail.

 

A Few Days In Paris Wraps Trip

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PARIS, France – The wine tour/Burgundy portion of the trip I’m leading ended Thursday. The trip is wrapping up this weekend with the group having three free days in Paris.

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I hate selfies, but what the heck – it’s Paris.

This is my fifth time to visit France but just second time in Paris – unless flying through Charles DeGaulle airport counts. Check out two days of walking around Paris.

It’s a cliche of sorts but Paris really is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The architecture is stunning, food and wine superb, and the people – at least the ones in hospitality – are generally very nice.

There is so much to see and do. We’re staying in the 16th Arrondissment (neighborhood) about half way between the Eiffel Tower and the Arc di Triumphe. As part of their registration costs for the trip, each participant was provided a museum, bus, and train pass. If you’re coming to Europe its the most affordable way to get around. A two-day pass was just over 100E per person but well worth it.

I’ve let the group go on their own during the day because that’s the way trip was billed. I’ve explored which I really enjoy.

We wrap up tonight with a group dinner cruise – one of those flat boats on the Seine down the heart of Paris. The river is not as high as some photos you’ve may seen but it remains hight and moving pretty fast. Still, I got a call from the tour company yesterday and they assured me they were sailing.

There are about a dozen photos in the album linked above. I’ll probably have a  few more to add later today. It’s back home for most everyone tomorrow.

Three Great Burgundy Experiences

CHAGNY, France – There are just a few really huge producers in Burgundy. We visited one Wednesday morning. There are hundreds of “farmer wineries,” small operations run by a married couple or family. We visited one Wednesday afternoon. There are even some very old domains and chateau you’ve never heard of making excellent wine. We visited such a chateau to wrap up our wine visits on this tour.

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Tasting the wines of Joseph Drouhin in the underground cellar.

See all of our Wednesday stops in the photo album attached.

The common thread between the three was excellent wines. I think I can speak for the eight people on our trip to say it was the most memorable day of the trip. And oh, we wrapped up with dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant. The dinner was fabulous.

There are bigger wine operations but few better known than Maison Joseph Drouhin. Drouhin wines are widely available in the U.S. Drouhin’s wine caves and tasting room is in the center of Beaune near the famous Notre Dame Cathedral.

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Touring the historic caves.

There are many caves a visitor can tour beneath Beaune but Drouhin’s are often praised as the best preserved and most interesting. Having done the tour, I can’t imagine a better one. From the centurys’ old winemaking equipment, age of the cave, and the detailed information provided by our guide, the tour was worth every 1E of the 38E we paid.

It was particularly fascinating to hear how Maurice Drouhin built a false wall in the cellars to hide fine wine from the Nazi army during WWII. The famous ‘freedom door’ was a great story of how Maurice escaped the caves and made it to the Hospice de Beaune where nuns helped hide him during the conflict.

We had a great tasting of Drouhin wines in a cave just off the entrance area, including the red Clos des Mouches – Drouhin’s signature Pinot Noir.

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Clemence having fun with our group.

We were then off to the country and drove south through the Cote de Beaune. We cruised through the vineyards and past Chateau Pommard and Chateau Mersault. We drove through the nice little village of Chagny and up a nearby hill to Domaine de la Folie. Folie is actually the first property south of Cote de Beaune in the Cote Chalonnaise.

This long-held family operation is small and has a delightful history you should read. Baptiste and Clemence Dubrulle have taken over the winery. In the few years they’ve run the operation, and moved into the old Chateau, they have gotten some notoriety with a great mention in Wine Spectator. They make three whites and three reds along with some distilled spirits. The whites were simply unbelievable for under 20E. The reds were solid.

Clemence, a delightful and engaging host, prepared a bit of a picnic lunch for us in their charming tasting room. She also took us into the vineyards so we could get a first-hand look at the frost damage from this spring.

The Folie wines were as good as or better than any we tasted. So how could they be so inexpensive? That’s a long answer but to over-simplify an answer, most wine enthusiasts have heard of Cote de Beaune and Cote de Nuits. Mention the Chalonnaise and you’re likely to get a shrug.

The visit to Folie was a big highlight of our entire trip.

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Our hosts Nicolas and his wife..

Finally we were off for our last wine stop in Santenay to visit Domaine Fleurot Larose. The Domaine dates back to the turn of the last century. It was built by the founder of Romanee-Conti.

We started by touring the ancient caves beneath the chateau and winery. The Domaine has a somewhat unusual set of caves beneath a set of caves – or two stories of caves. We saw the moss covered bottles of older vintages and enjoyed the explanation of how the mess protects the older wines.

It was back upstairs to the old tasting room where owner and winemaker Nicolas Fleurot joined us for the tasting. The wines were refined, balanced and tasted as good as anything we had all week.

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Amazing what a Michelin chef can do with chicken and potatos.

Our last full day in Beaune ended with an incredible dinner at Bernard Loiseau Des Vignes. Loiseau’s Beaune restaurant has a Michelin star. He also owns two restaurants in Paris. I hope to get up a review with dinner pics later today or tomorrow.

Yesterday ended the Burgundy portion of our trip. So I’m not so sure I’ll have daily posts. I have several things I’d like to write while it’s all fresh. My travel tour group is off to Paris this afternoon where they will enjoy free time for the duration until Saturday night when we take a Seine River cruise. I breathed a sigh of relieve to see the cruises were resumed this past weekend after all the recent Paris flooding.

For now, au revoir!

 

White Wine Diversity in Chablis

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CHABLIS, France – Who makes the world’s greatest white wine? Is it California’s buttery Chards, the complex white Burgundys, or perhaps the mineral-driven Chardonnay from Chablis?

Chablisiens are rather unabashed saying they make the greatest white wine in the world. While that’s debatable, most would argue they deserve to be in the discussion after tasting the delightful Premier and Grand Cru wines.

Our tour group took a two-hour ride from Beaune north to Chablis Tuesday to learn more about the iconic wine. Our trip has had a great mixture of terroir, large and small producers, and a few in between. In Chablis, we saw one of the biggest in Domaine William Fevre and one of the best known, Billaud-Simon.

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Didier Seguier, Fevre winemaker.

Our visit to Fevre included a winery and cellar tour, tasting, and delightful lunch at the winery’s on-site restaurant. One of the nice surprises was during our tasting with intern Adrian, I spotted winemaker Didier Seguier and asked him if he’d speak briefly to the group.

Seguier was more than gracious and talked about the importance of terroir, not the winemaker. He said his primary goal, as often stated in Chablis and other regions, was to reflect the terroir.

After our lunch, where I had a great hamburger, we were off to Billaud-Simon where I had tasted on a 2012 press tour. I thought those wines were the best I tasted during that visit and they were excellent again yesterday.

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Faviely, the new owner of Billaud-Simon, will renovate the old Chateaux to accommodate guests.

Catherine Leseur led us through a tasting of 4 Grand Cru, 3 Premier Cru, and the lesser Chablis wines.  The Billaud-Simon were again my favorite of the day but much of the group made split evaluations of the two winery stops.

The story about these two wineries isn’t complete without noting they’ve been sold by their namesakes to bigger wineries or corporations in recent years. Selling the family business in France is difficult but happening more and more. Often times there is no next generation interested in the difficult work of farminga nd ups and down of the wine business. Additionally, there is the lure of a huge financial windfall in selling these iconic properties.

Here is a photo album from Tuesday’s Chablis visit.

Today is really filled up. We being our day by touring and tasting at the iconic Maison Joseph Drouhin cellars in the heart of Beaune. Then it’s off to the countryside this afternoon to taste at two small, quirky, and interesting wineries.

I’m hoping to have a more detailed post for tomorrow.

Domaine Leclerc the Day’s Highlight

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My travel group, and I hiding in the back, at the vineyards of Romanee Conti.

Côte de Nuits, Burgundy, France – For any real oenophile is there anything better than starting your day in one of the premier wine regions in the world? Or starting your day in a wine cellar built in 1692 sipping Burgundy?

Debate among yourselves but that’s how my eight Burgundy tour participants and I started our week Monday morning at the north end of Burgundy just south of Dijon. Monday’s story is probably best told in my photos from the day.

The group got its first lesson in Burgundy appellations and more Sunday afternoon with Pierre. (see previous post.) But Monday we all got a first-hand education in the Côte de Nuits region.

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Chateaux Clos Vougeot

We started our day at one of the icons of Burgundy Clos Vougeot. The historic Chateau and property showcases the history of Burgundy wine. Whether one cares to think of the Romans or the Cistercian the monument is a living history lesson.

After alter an hour at Clos Vougoet learning the history and seeing the huge old wine presses, it was off to our first morning tasting at Marchand Tawse.

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Guillame led us through the Marchand Twase wines.

The wine caves and tasting room in Nuits Saint George is how we kick-started our wine tasting in the caves of the old property. Current ownership is two Canadian business men but the cellars date back to the 15th and 16th century.

They make a wide range of Pinot and Chard from many different appellations. I think it’s fair to say our group found the wines solid and an interesting start to our day.

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Lunch at Petite Auberge

At mid-day we had another highlight meal, this time at La Toute Petite Auberge in Vosne-Romanee. It might be called a wine-tasting lunch. We were served up a plate of Burgundian specials like snails, Oeufs en meurette (an egg poached in a red wine sauce), pressed ham, and some small sausages in a pastry wrap. One white and three red wines were poured with lunch.

The highlight for many of us the past two days has been discovering another regional product, cassis. The dark, rich berry is delicious on its own. Our lunch concluded with a Cassis Tiramasu. There were gasps at the table!

After lunch we really enjoyed a ride through the countryside seeing the vineyards. We made a brief stop at the vineyard of Romanee Conti. For those who may not recognize the significance of that, Romanee Conti is probably the most expensive wine in the world. Their wines are impossible to acquire and hit the market anywhere from $8,000-$13,000 a bottle. It was fun seeing this bit of Burgundy lore; we took a group shot.

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Francois Leclerc talking about his vineyards.

Our final stop of the day was nearly unanimous among the group the best wines of our trip thus far. Domaine Rene’ Leclerc in Gevrey Chambertin was a lot of fun. Rene Leclerc has retired and turned the winery over to his son Francois who gave us a tour and led the tasting.

The younger Leclerc was a fun guy leading us through the caves, dating to the 1400s, talking about his different vineyards and pouring the great Pinot Noir. The uniqueness of this tasting is that all four bottles poured were Gevrey Chambertin wines but from different parts of the region  (or AOC). The group thought Leclerc’s wines were some of the best of our trip. I agreed!

Today (Tuesday), we are off to visit two of the top Domaines in all of Chablis – William Fevre and Billaud-Simon.

Au Revoir.

Pierre Charmed Our Hearts, Palates

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BEAUNE, France – An innovative dinner, fantastic wine-education lesson, tour of the Hospice de Beaune, and lunch at Burgundy’s most-prominent frommager’s highlighted the first full day of my group tip to Burgundy.

I am leading four couples, two from Indianapolis, one from Boston, another from Illinois through five nights in Beaune and three nights in Paris June 11-19.

See an album of photos from our Sunday activities.

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Pierre sharing his Burgundy insights.

There really were so many highlights but the best might be two-and-a-half hours later Sunday afternoon with Pierre, owner of La Cave de l’Ange Gardien. Tasting with Pierre or Nicole is rated as the No.1 or 2 tourist experience in Beaune by TripAdvisor. After Sunday afternoon, I’m not sure that’s high enough rating.

We were fortunate to have the charming, humorous Pierre as our guide through a Burgundy education that helped everyone better understand the web of regions within one of the world’s most famous wine areas.

Pierre has us taste six whites and then six reds blindly, make notes on each and then rank them. Then he would reveal the producer, region, and cost per bottle. It was a wonderful experience.

We learned so much from Pierre. It started with a few statistics including that 61 percent of the wine from Bourgogne is white wine – not the red most would expect. Village wines represent 36 percent of production, premier cru is 10.5 percent, while Grand Cru is just 1.5 percent of all Burgundy land. The rest are simple Bourgogne wines.

What often confuses newcomers to Burgundy is that Grand Cru is often considered the very best wines and they often are a top choice. But the designation is for the vineyards. As Pierre explained, if a winemaker owns a Grand Cru vineyard he can still make terrible wines but it’s still a Grand Cru.

He made several fun and interesting observations comparing Bordeaux to Burgundy and his perceived Bordeaux sell-out to “Saint Parker.” That, of course, being the world’s best known wine critic Robert Parker. His biggest criticisms of Bordeaux and U.S. wines was that more than half “are not made to be good but made to be profitable”

There are pricer and nicer-looking places to taste than La Cave de l’Ange Gardien – but none better. Locals heartily recommend Pierre and Nicole for the most-authentic experience for learning about Burgundy.

We started our day with a self-guided tour of the famous Hospice de Beaune. The Hospice, or hospital, was started in the 14th century by one of the Dukes of Burgundy Nicolas Rolin. It’s easily one of the most recognizable structures in all of France outside of Paris.

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The ladies in our group tasting the cheeses of Alain Hess.

At noontime we stopped by Alain Hess Frommager – or cheesemaker. Hess is Burgundy’s best-known maker of all things cheese. We had a fantastic light lunch in the Vin Cave below the popular retail store. French cheeses are really remarkable fresh and run from the silk smooth triple cremes to all sort or stinky creations.

We capped our evening with dinner at Le Benaton, one of Beaune’s Michelin-starred restaurants. Le Benaton is known for creative and very innovative presentation in its cuisine. It did not disappoint. The photos in the accompany album illustrate the dishes better than my words can describe.

Today (Monday), our group is off to Clos Vougeot to learn more of this great wine region’s history. There, we’ll see Burgundy’s largest walled vineyard. We’ll visit two wineries and have another innovative lunch in the village of Vosne-Romanee. Tomorrow (Tuesday), we’re off to Chablis.

Au Revoir!

Dinner in a Grand Beaune Cave

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There are two rooms in an old wine cave beneath the city streets. This one is really beautiful.

BEAUNE, France – I’ve found my way around Beaune just in time for my eight guests to arrive this afternoon for “The Charms of Burgundy.” The trip is five nights in Beaune with wine education, domaine visits, great food, and – we’ll probably taste a few.

Of course, the French are known for their cuisine as much as they are for their wine. I had my first real dinner Friday night at Caveau des Arches, very close to my hotel.

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The chilled mackerel

The restaurant was highly recommended on a number of online sites, I read the reviews, checked out the website, and made a reservation before leaving the UW. Like most French restaurants they have a standard menu and a fixed-price menu. At Caveau des Arches, the fixed-price options are a Burgundian (25E), Traditional (34E) and Gourmet (54E).

My primary waiter’s broken English was only a minor challenge. I can read parts of the menu but not all. I chose the Traditional menu with the option to have the appetizer of the night, mackerel.

The mackrel was served cold, almost as though it had been pickled, with salad. It was a bit fishy, as any raw fish can be, but quite delicious.

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I should have taken the pic when the fish was looking at me! My bad!

I decided to stay with the seafood theme and ordered the trout with mixed baby vegetables. The beautiful, and good-sized, fish arrived whole which my waiter promptly offered to de-bone. I took him up on the offer and he masterfully removed the fish head and center bones.

The fish was cooked just right. The firm white fish was delicious in a brown butter sauce with crunchy almond slices. The veggies tasted fresh as well.

When in France, you eat cheese. The ‘cheese course’ was next with a choice of traditional Burgundy or fresh cheese. I went traditional and was rewarded with a soft, mild, and creamy goat cheese that was quite good.

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The best Creme Brulee ever!

Dessert really knocked the meal out of the park. Ordering Creme Brulee is a bit like going to Italy and having the cannoli – but it sounded good. It was the best I’ve ever had. The vanilla was intense and incredibly smooth. The potato chip-thin, warm chocolate chip cookie was out of this world.

Dinner did not include wine but I had two choices by-the-glass. I didn’t see the labels and our struggle with language did not motivate me to push it. I had a 1st Cru Beaune white that was rich and wonderful. My red was a Pommard that was just ok. But at 7E a glass, the wine was a bargain. The wine list was quite extensive running from great buys to crazy prices.

The service was good. I was dining as a single  and in these places you never know what’s going to happen. For the most part, I was pleased. There were times when tables with two or four people got more attention but that was to be expected. The wait staff were all wonderfully trained young men in white shirt and tie. Two of the waiters spoke some English.

So I left after paying a bill of 50 Euro. Honestly, that was a great value for a nice French restaurant. If you’ve never traveled Europe before, 50E with today’s exchange rate is $56.50. Everything was beautifully prepared and presented. The staff struggling a bit with their English. The atmosphere is really beautiful.

For any wine fan making the Burgundy pilgrimage, Caveau des Arches is a good one to add to your restaurant list.

I should note my group will dine Sunday night at Le Benaton and Wednesday at Loiseau des Vignes – both awarded one Michelin star. I’ll try to get similar posts up. Even if you’re not likely to visit Burgundy, who doesn’t like delicious food with nice photos?

Here are my photos from walking around Beaune Friday afternoon and evening.

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