BEAUNE, France – I traveled to Burgundy Sunday, my first trip back since a 2016 group I led, and day one has set a high bar.

After just one day, the lessons of Burgundy are that the food and people are every bit as enjoyable as the wine.

I’m traveling with three friends who are part of a Crawfordsville-Indianapolis group that gets together periodically to drink and talk about wine. A couple quick travel tips first.

The new Indy-Paris non-stop flight is awesome. It costs about $600 roundtrip and we had a newer plane, good food and good service. In 2016, I paid $1300 for the same trip. Many of us have become fans of vacation rentals. We found a 3-bedroom place in the heart of Beaune for about $150 a night. It’s a lovely old, historical building with just enough modern touches.

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Bernard and Melissa Rion

I have to admit, our two wine stops today were every bit as good or better than the visits three years ago. We stopped at two domaines with pretty small production. Sixth-generation winemaker Melissa Rion poured the wine of Domaine Rion in Vosnee-Romanee.

We did the winery and caves tour and then had a delightful tasting of Vosnee Romanee wines and a grand cru. Truffles are plentiful in Burgundy and we topped off our tasting with a 2003 Grand Cru Clos de Vougeot, truffle butter and a truffle terrine soaked in Cognac. It was pure Burgundy and a delightful taste sensation and pairing.

Domain Rion produces just 40,000 bottles or 3300 cases of wine. Tasting in Burgundy is different. There are very few tasting rooms where you can just walk in taste. BerAppointments are suggested. We paid 25 Euro for the tasting and it was well worth it. The variety of the wonderful Burgundian wines ranged in price from the teens for 100 Euro. The top Grand Cru wines are quite expensive but also scarce.

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Sophie Noellat

Our second stop was Domaine Michel Noellat also in Vosne Romanee. Noellat makes more wine, 70,000 bottles, but very little gets to the U.S. They have access to more grapes in the Vosnee Romanee and Gevry Chambertin region. Sophie Noellat, a sixth generation winemaker works with her father to produce the wines. They do not receive many visitors but will take appointments.

My three travel companions enjoyed the Noellat wines more than me. I found all but two more more acidic than I like – perhaps that’s old age and a penchant for acid reflux, but I just did not enjoy them as much as the Rion wines. We did not pay a tasting fee and all of us bought 1-3 bottles. Some of these small places will waive the fee with purchase and some do not.

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The little chocolate cake was amazing.

We set the dining bar incredibly high at La Petite Auberge. The 2016 travel group had lunch there and it was a memorable experience. We had the 22.5E lunch fix-priced menu which included an amuse bouche of three wonderful bites, a salad or soup, then all four of us had the slow-cooked veal in a mustard sauce. Incredibly tender and flavorful, it was a real culinary treat. Dessert was a decadant chocolate cake.

 

A glass of local Vosne-Romanee wine was included in the price. When you travel to Europe, the fixed price menu is often a culinary choice you can usually make with confidence.

Seldom would any traveler expect lunch to set such a high standard. We have reservations at three of Burgundy’s best restaurants this week.. We’ll see how it plays out.

We’re off to dinner shortly. I intend on giving a few Burgundy and travel  tips throughout the week. But oh what a start.

Wednesday: We’re making the 1.5 hour trip down to Beaujolais for the annual Beaujolais Festive and release of the annual Nouveau vintage..