|Château De Gilly used to be a residence of Cistercian monks.|
“There’s more philosophy in a bottle of wine than in all the books in a library,” Jean-Pierre Renard, an expert with the Burgundy Wine School, said to a riveted group one brisk fall evening in a private room at Dijon’s Michelin-starred Le Pré aux Clercs restaurant.
What makes Burgundy wines so exceptional? Terroir, we were told, defined by four factors: soil, climate, grape variety and local savoir-faire.
Education in hand, the following morning we set off to explore the vine-cloaked countryside with Laurent Delelee of Wine and Voyages. Our insiders’ wine tour traversed the Côte de Nuits, where we visited some of the greatest red wine-producing villages in the world. Passionate and insightful, Delelee explained how adjacent plots can produce very different wines. And some plots are tiny. For example, the field for Romanée-Conti, one of the world’s best wines, is only 4.4 acres, producing just 450 cases a year.
Later we toured the famous Château du Clos de Vougeot, where Cistercian monks from the Cîteaux Abbey first planted the vineyards in the 12th century. Today the castle serves as the headquarters for the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, an exclusive club of Burgundy wine enthusiasts whose annual fête would make Bacchus proud. Our tour concluded with a guided cellar visit and wine tasting. For reservations with Wine and Voyages, contact Carolyn and Laurent Delelee ([email protected]; 011-33-380-611-515).
The wealth of the region’s terroir can also be experienced through its cuisine. The art of living à la bourguignonne means feasting on specialties—escargot, gingerbread topped with foie gras, Charolais beef, époisses cheese—washed down with locally grown wines. Good restaurants abound and most are in the tiny villages where winemakers come for lunch.
For a terrific gourmet stop along the Côte de Nuits, lunch at Chez Guy, about 12 miles outside of Dijon in Gevrey-Chambertin. Decidedly hip, the restaurant attracts a convivial crowd of politicians, gastronomes and winemakers for the market-fresh cuisine served in a welcoming traditional residence.
Other lunchtime spots: Le Chef Coq at the Hotel La Gentilhommière in Nuits-Saint-Georges, housed in a former hunting lodge with a colorful glazed-tile roof that’s so distinctive to Burgundy. In the hamlet of Morey-Saint Denis, the Castel de Très Girard has a luminous, windowed restaurant within a 17th-century mansion. In addition to the creative Burgundian cuisine, guests can indulge in an exceptional wine list with over 1,000 references. The wall of the reception area is, in fact, a wine rack made from glass and wood, each tier stamped with the name of a different local wine-grower. When the winemakers come to dine, they can treat their party to their own vintages, without paying a corkage fee. Note: The Castel also has charming guest rooms.
Can’t get enough of the local fare? Foodies with a proclivity for cooking may want to take a culinary class with L’atelier des Chefs in Dijon. Contact Valerie Grandet ([email protected]; 011-33-616-570-688) for more information.
For elegant accommodations and a dose of history, stay at the Château-Hotel André Ziltener, just a stone’s throw from the Château du Clos de Vougeot. Housed in an 18th-century hunting lodge built on the foundations of a Cistercian monastery, the hotel has just 10 suites named after the surrounding vineyards. Individually decorated in Louis XVI style, with period furniture and canopied beds, the rooms also boast expansive marble bathrooms and the latest technology. The largest and most sumptuous is appropriately named the Romanée-Conti Apartment. We also loved the ancient wood beams and private terrace in the Bonnes Mares Suite.
In the wine cellar, a small museum depicts the lives of the wine-growing monks who cultivated Burgundy’s vineyards. Needless to say, wine tastings of the property’s own André Ziltener label are greatly appreciated. Luxury travel advisors can contact Château Director Doris Shwarz ([email protected]; 011-33-380-624-162).
Guests feel like the dukes of Burgundy when checking into the Château de Gilly, a royal castle complete with a moat and formal French gardens abutting the Vouge River. The estate, dating to the 14th century, is the former residence of the Abbots of Citeaux and is classified a historical monument. The château may seem like it’s straight out of the Old World, but did we mention the on-site helipad? The 37 guest rooms and 11 apartments are elegantly decorated and come with historical details like dramatic timber beams.
The restaurant in the gothic vaulted cellar is acclaimed for both its food and 15,000-bottle wine collection. For VIP clients seeking privacy, reserve the Pavillon du Pere Abbé, a separate house in the gardens that has access to all the hotel facilities. Luxury travel advisors can contact Anne-Lise Ferreira ([email protected]).
For more contemporary digs, book Le Richebourg Hotel and Spa built in 2005 in Vosne-Romanée. Accented with orchids and bamboo plants, the 26 rooms have clean, contemporary lines. There’s also a small spa called L’Institut with a hammam and sauna. A large selection of massages and body treatments includes the Délice du Vignoble, which uses antioxidant-rich grape seed extracts. The hotel is managed by Lucie Harbulot-Mongeard ([email protected]; 011-33-380-615-959).
Ten miles south of Beaune, the Château de Chassagne-Montrachet is famous for its prestigious wines. But wine connoisseurs may not know they can actually bunk down for the night in the middle of these Grand Cru vineyards. The château has five Prestige rooms with designer furniture from leading 20th-century designers (think Jacobsen, Maurer, Grey, Bellini and Citterio).
Breakfast, a guided visit of the winery and a private tasting are included in the room rates. What’s more, the Château can arrange private chef’s dinners, cooking and wine classes and jeep or bike tours in the area. To arrange, contact Marie-Florence Grim ([email protected]).
|Château De Chassagne-Montrachet has five rooms, including the Jeanne room.|