Burgundy’s Wine Country

Hôtel Dieu in Lyon France, to be the new InterContinental hotel
Hôtel Dieu in Lyon, France // Photo by ventdusud/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

 

Cueillette Château de Cîteaux
Cueillette Château de Cîteaux, nestled on the first vineyard given to the Cistercian monks by the Duke of Burgundy in 1098, balances historic opulence with contemporary comfort.

 

Looking for a chic country getaway? Arguably the world’s most famous wine region, Burgundy is one of those words that rolls off the tongues of oenophiles in euphoric whispers. But Burgundy isn’t limited to its legendary libations. Sensory pleasures abound—from the rich culinary heritage to stunning landscapes dotted with centuries-old villages. On an autumn trip to the region, Luxury Travel Advisor scoped out exquisite lodgings—some housed in ancient chateaux, some celebrated for their Michelin-starred restaurants…all destinations worth discovering. 

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Cueillette Château de Cîteaux’s restaurant
Cueillette Château de Cîteaux’s restaurant has original Aubusson tapestries and a fine ceiling fresco.

Just outside Beaune, where Christie’s conducts the world-famous wine auction every year, a buzz-worthy spa concept debuted in Autumn 2012. Developed by a well-known doctor and health expert, Fruititherapy harnesses the natural antioxidant power of locally-harvested fruits like red currant, grapes, and wild berries. The spa itself—a cocooning contemporary haven with bamboo floors—is one of the finest we’ve seen in Burgundy. An indoor pool overlooks the tile-roofed village of Meursault through a wall of glass, and six treatment rooms are complemented by a hammam, sauna, and tea lounge.

This destination spa isn’t the only thing we love about the Cueillette Château de Cîteaux, nestled on the first vineyard given to the Cistercian monks by the Duke of Burgundy in 1098. After a meticulous renovation, the chateau—slated to earn a five-star hotel rating—has struck a balance between historic opulence and contemporary comfort. The 11th-century vaulted cellar creates a noble setting for private wine tastings; the gastronomic restaurant, helmed by a Michelin-starred chef, is decorated with original Aubusson tapestries and a magnificent ceiling fresco; and the 19 guest rooms are sleek and stylish, outfitted with Nespresso machines and free Wi-Fi. Booking Tips: Four rooms have private terraces. Though smaller in size than the Junior Suite category, Deluxe rooms No. 14 and No. 15 have views of the village church and vineyard. For bookings, contact Julie Steele ([email protected]; 011-33-(0)6-7750-2493).

RELAIS BERNARD LOISEAU
RELAIS BERNARD LOISEAU, named after the chef whose life and death are featured in the Pixar film “Ratatouille,” is a mecca for foodies.

Don’t miss a tour and tasting at the nearby Chateau de Pommard, the largest privately-held vineyard in Burgundy which also boasts an art gallery filled with 20th-century masterpieces. Sculptures by Salvador Dali stand tall in the cobblestoned courtyard, beneath which 300,000 bottles age in the labyrinthine cellars. Top Tables: Star Chef Christophe Quéant was recruited from the Michelin-starred Loiseau des Vignes in Summer 2012, and a meal at Pommard is guaranteed to thrill bon vivants. Looking to tie the knot in Burgundy? Pommard is a popular site for wedding receptions, business banquets, and cocktail parties (occupancy is 250 people).

The fabled wine village of Puligny-Montrachet is also an excellent home base for exploring the region’s celebrated cellars. For years, Olivier Leflaive, a respected wine-maker, has entertained visitors with “Wine and Vineyard” workshops and tasting lessons. His table d’hôte proved so popular—a set menu paired with 12 Burgundy appellations—that Leflaive opened up a hotel to offer the full hospitality experience. Housed in a 17th-century priory in the heart of the village, the Maison d’Olivier Leflaive (www.maison-olivierleflaive.fr) has 11 charming guest rooms and two suites. Each room is individually decorated and full of character; we loved the Napoleon bath in Room No. 1. Note that the Maison has an annual closure for the month of January.

Once you’ve discovered Burgundy’s vinification secrets avec Monsieur Leflaive, you can hone your culinary skills at the Passion Cooking School, located seven miles south in Rully. After all, Burgundy is as famous for its rich cuisine as it is for its wine; specialties like boeuf bourguignon and garlic-smothered escargot are reflections of the rich terroir. You can forage for this local bounty yourself with a truffle-hunting session with L’Or des Valois. Situated at the Chateau d’Entre-Deux-Monts in Nuits-Saint-Georges, the family-run enterprise has a pair of specially-bred truffle-hunting hounds from Italy.

CHATEAU DE VAULT DE LUGNY
CHATEAU DE VAULT DE LUGNY exudes regal grandeur—the Chambre du Roy is straight out of a fairytale with a fourposter bed and working fireplace.

For serious foodies, a meal at the three-Michelin-starred Relais Bernard Loiseau could be the holy grail of a trip to Burgundy. Hollywood A-listers like Robert Deniro and Hugh Jackman have made pilgrimages to this culinary mecca. The chef’s life and death are featured in the storyline of the Pixar film “Ratatouille,” and his legend lives on at the Bernard Loiseau’s restaurant and inn, located one hour west of Dijon in Saulieu. Long-time staff continue to sing the chef’s praises, and showcase his classic recipes, like frog legs with garlic puree and essence of parsley. Today, the kitchen is orchestrated by Patrick Bertron, one of the top chefs working in France today.

Cueillette Château de Cîteaux
Cueillette Château de Cîteaux is slated to earn a five-star hotel rating after a meticulous renovation.

Kick off your soirée with a glass of wine from the impressive electronic wine library, which even offers a selection of Grand Crus by the glass (quite the rarity). Our indulgent, multi-course feast hit all the right notes: foie gras with fig confit; Saint Pierre fish with cardamom; Époisses cheese served with pain d’épices. 

The five-star hotel—complete with an English-style garden and jewel box spa—makes for a divine spot to sleep off your food coma. A member of Relais & Chateaux, the hotel offers 32 luxurious rooms, including 13 Junior Suites with a balcony or terrace. If you’re booking in the winter season, request a Junior Suite with a fireplace. Reach out to Stephanie Gaiety ([email protected]; 011-33-(0)3-8090-2992) for VIP bookings.  

ADVISOR INSIGHT:

Certified France specialists Kathy Morton and Debra Fioritto of New York-based Tour de Forks design personalized epicurean adventures in France. Here are some of their recommendations for must-visits in Burgundy: “Head to Abbaye de Citeaux for the special cheese made by monks, only available for purchase on site. In Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, the famous aniseed-flavored candy has been made in the Benedictine abbey since the 16th century according to a fiercely guarded recipe. Remember the Oscar nominated film ‘Chocolat?’ This is where many scenes in the quiet village were shot.

“Located in Beaune, La Moutarderi Fallot is the last independent mustard-maker in Burgundy. Visit the factory to discover how mustard is traditionally made and even try making it yourself.”

“Cassis, the blackcurrant fruit, is cultivated in the slopes above the Côte de Nuits vineyards. The fruit is used to make jam and drinks, both with and without alcohol. Crème de cassis, a sweet and very fragrant elixir much like a liqueur, can be sipped straight, over ice, or in a “kir”, the famous aperitif. Cassis can even be found in Chanel No. 5 perfume. Two of the more popular distilleries in the region are Ferme Fruirouge and Joseph Cartron.”  

“For fine dining, we like Caves Madeleine, a locals’ favorite in Beaune; Chateau de Pommard for an unforgettable lunch in the restaurant’s orangerie overlooking the vineyards; and Auberge du Pot d’Etain, a small, family-run inn located in the village of Chablis.”

 

Another unforgettable hideaway is the Chateau de Vault de Lugny, located 15 minutes from Vézelay. Officially designated as one of the most beautiful villages in France, Vézelay is a UNESCO World Heritage site, where for centuries pilgrims flocked to ogle the Abbey’s saintly relics, including one of Mary Magdalene’s rib bones. Surrounded by a moat, the Chateau de Vault de Lugny exudes regal grandeur—from the enormous stone fireplaces to the pool sparkling turquoise in the vaulted cellar. The dining room is located in the original 17th-century kitchen, and copper pans hang above the hearth.

The 16 rooms are straight out of a fairytale; some have four-poster beds (like the Chambre du Roy) and working fireplaces. Even after a sumptuous dinner (the cheese plate features the region’s star attractions like Époisses and Abbaye de Citeaux), breakfast is a sight for sore eyes: a copious spread of warm croissants, yogurt, panacotta, and freshly-squeezed juice. Contact Director Elisabeth Bourzeix ([email protected]; 011-33-(0)3-8634-0786) for VIP requests. Note that the hotel has an annual winter closure.

At the region’s northern frontier, between the Chablis and Champagne vineyards, the Chateau de Courban makes for a welcome respite for travelers continuing into Champagne country. The family-owned hotel radiates warmth and hospitality. “The fireplace is always ready in the library,” says Manager Jérôme Vandendriessche ([email protected]; 011-33-(0)3-8093-7869).

Of the 25 uniquely decorated rooms, we loved the No. 55, one of the biggest in the chateau, adorned with art, sculptures, and coffee table books. Hunting is popular in the area, so some rooms contain rustic-chic adornments (antlers above the bed in No. 71, and an animal skin carpet). Room No. 43 has a four-poster bed and a decorative fireplace.

Though small, the spa has a lovely Jacuzzi where you can soak while facing a large mural depicting the surrounding pastoral landscapes. This is truffle country, and the spa has innovated by creating a unique truffle therapy treatment. Truffles are also the specialty at the terrific restaurant.  

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