Last September I led a Wine On The Road tour to Champagne and Burgundy, France (I will relate my experiences on my prior travels through Croatia in another column), with a group of intrepid oenophiles joining me on a vinous exploration of the origins and expressions of the noble chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grapes. What follows is my travel log of that tour. Along the way we had a lot of fun and learned tons about the meaning and importance of terroir, especially in terms of what ends up in the bottle.
I include my tasting notes at the end of the column in shorthand that goes like this: appearance (if relevant)/aroma/taste/acidity & finish. If I can find a domestic retail price then I list it (if there is more than one I err on the higher side), with “N/A” meaning that the wine is not generally available in the U.S.
PRE-CHAMPAGNE AND BURGUNDY TOUR 2015 GET-TOGETHER: MARCH 18, 2015 AT PHILADELPHIA’S R2L RESTAURANT WITH CHEF/OWNER DANIEL STERN AND PHILLY WINE WRITER BRIAN FREEDMAN. WINE TOUR: OCTOBER 4 – 11, 2015.
We’re doing it again! Ben will be in Philadelphia in mid-March for a Champagne and Burgundy pre-tour get-together for potential clients with his old friends Daniel Stern (of legendary R2L Restaurant) and Brian Freedman (@wineupdate). We start at 6:30 P.M., Click Here for reservations (or call (215) 564-5337).
If you’re interested in coming along with Dan, Brian, and Ben on a behind-the-scenes, wine-focused tour of Champagne and Burgundy (October 4-11, 2015), or if you just want more information about the tour, Click Here.
CHAMPAGNE AND BURGUNDY TOUR 2014
Saturday, September 6, 2014: Chouilly, Verzy, Reims
Part of the group met up with me at Charles De Gaulle Airport (Paris), where we took the TGV high-speed train (300+ kph, 200+ mph) from CDG to the Champagne (Ardennes) station. We were picked up by our luxury van, which was operated by Bourgogne avec Chauffeur (owners Jérôme Allexant & David Verez, +33 (0)6 17 28 00 64, +33 (0)6 28 66 81 09, email@example.com, www.bourgogne-avec-chauffeur.com) and then transported to our lodgings at the Château de Rilly (38 Rue de Reims, 51500 Rilly-la-Montagne, +33 (0)3 26 07 53 21, www.lechateauderilly.com) near Reims.
A second van picked up our other group members who were already in Champagne and then brought them to our hotel. Lunch followed in the Château de Rilly’s well-appointed dining room and I gave a short description of the trip’s planned itinerary.
Our first tour and tasting of the entire trip was at Nicolas Feuillatte in Chouilly (www.nicolas-feuillatte.com), just south of Epernay, with Ann De Keyser, who has since retired but opened the winery on a Sunday because of our close relationship. Feuillatte’s organized tour gives such a tremendous entrée into the world of French fizz and I wanted to lead off with something fun and educational.
We then drove from Nicolas Feuillatte to a tour and tasting at Champagne Penet-Chardonnet (4 Rue Arthur Lallement, 51380 Verzy, www.penet-chardonnet.com, +33 (0)3 26 97 94 73, southeast of Reims and northeast of Epernay) with owner and winemaker Alexandre Penet. This is one of the most successful “Grower” Champagne producers, with many wines available all over the world. Some free time followed after we returned to the hotel, and then a gala dinner finished an excellent first day.
Sunday, September 7: Reims, Vinay, Epernay, Dizy
An hour of free time in Reims, the ancient coronation place of all but two French kings, led off. Then we caravanned to a visit and lunch alongside Caroline Milan of Champagne Jean Milan (and her friend and helper Caroline Brun) and Laetitia Billiot of H. Billiot Fils at Caroline’s favorite restaurant, Le Briqueterie (A Relais & Chateau property, www.labriqueterie.fr) where we sought insight on the challenges and advantages faced by female winery owners.
Next came an hour of free time in Epernay, the most elegant of Champagne cities and home to many of the top brands. Then a pleasant drive preceded a tour, tasting, and dinner at Champagne Jacquesson in Dizy (www.champagnejacquesson.com) with owner Jean-Hervé Chiquet. Jean-Hervé’s family owns several small Champagne houses, of which Jacquesson is a crown jewel.
CHAMPAGNE TO BURGUNDY
Monday, September 8: Epernay, Puligny
Up first was a visit at Perrier-Jouet’s Maison Belle Epoque (www.perrier-jouet.com) in Epernay with Frederique Baveret and Jean de Castelnau. The Maison is a lovingly restored chateau that dates from the Belle Epoque period, perfect for a grand tour and leisurely meal, which we enjoyed with head winemaker Hervé Deschamps and Brand Development Manager Agnes Jones.
Onward south and a bit east across the French countryside to Burgundy! We dropped off our bags at Maison Olivier Leflaive (www.olivier-leflaive.com) in the hallowed Burgundian sub-region of Puligny and our lodgings for the rest of the week. We took an hour to collect ourselves and then explored the hill of Puligny, which is immediately behind the hotel, alongside Maison Olivier Leflaive’s namesake. Olivier was gracious enough to then personally give us a terroir lecture and lead our tour of his winery. We drank his magical cuvées alongside a traditional Burgundian dinner at his renowned restaurant, La Maison, where famed Bresse chicken is always on the menu.
Tuesday, September 9: Meursault, Beaune
We spent time well at Chateau de Meursault (www.chateau-meursault.com), a producer of ultra-premium white Burgundy housed in a lovingly restored chateau, hosted by Veronique Marnata, Director of Oenotourism. We then had lunch at Le Loiseau des Vignes in Beaune (www.loiseaudesvignes.com) hosted by Christophe Gines, Directeur du Restaurant. The main course was some of the best duck I’ve ever had! Some free time that afternoon in Beaune allowed my campers their own tour of the old city, including a visit to the market for curios and Beaune’s own mustard, Fallot.
We then met in the Passage Saint-Hélène in front of Ma Cuisine (firstname.lastname@example.org), a traditional bistro in the heart of Beaune that is one of the must-visit restaurants in the city center, for a quick walk to a nearby bar and a pre-dinner aperitif, followed by dinner at Ma Cuisine hosted by Pierre, the Manager.
Wednesday, September 10: Beaune
One of my most anticipated events was this tour and tasting at Joseph Drouhin (www.drouhin.com), which has restored an ancient press to full working condition and owns most of the caves and passageways used to store wine underneath the city. From Drouhin we walked to lunch at Le Bacchus (hosted by Anna, email@example.com), and then continued on to a tour and tasting at Bouchard Pere (www.bouchard-pereetfils.com), where bottles are stored in cathedral-like underground cellars.
We then drove from Bouchard Pere to Maison Louis Jadot’s facility in the suburbs of Beaune (www.louisjadot.com) where we were hosted by Mr. Thibault Gagey, one of this legendary winery’s rising stars. Jadot’s cellars are among the most treasured in all of Burgundy, and a special treat was a barrel tasting of 2013 wines both white and red, held in the barrel room. That evening we transferred to dinner with Mr. Gagey within Couvent des Jacobins (Place Morimont), a restored mansion in the heart of Beaune that has been in his family for many years.
Thursday, September 11: Corton, Gevrey, Dijon
A tour on the Hill of Corton at Bonneau du Martray in Pernand-Vergelesses (www.bonneaudumartray.com), owned by Jean-Charles le Bault de la Morinière, who has been awarded a rare four stars by renowned wine writer Hugh Johnson, led to a tour and tasting in Jean-Charles’s cellars. This in turn was followed by lunch at Drouhin-Laroze in Gevrey-Chambertin (www.drouhin-laroze.com), hosted by Christine Drouhin.
A drive to and tour of the old city of Dijon allowed a visit to the mid-town cathedral and market for genuine Dijon mustard and other artisanal products. Dinner that evening was at La Toute Petite Auberge restaurant in Vosne-Romanée hosted by the manager, Florence (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Friday, September 12: Nuits-St.-Georges, Gevrey, Clos Vougeot, Vosne
A bit of free time in Nuits-St.-Georges, where various wineries have open tasting rooms, let to a tour and tasting followed by lunch at Domaine Trapet back in Gevrey-Chambertin (www.domaine-trapet.com). Our next appointment was at the famous Clos de Vougeot chateau (www.closdevougeot.fr), and it included a tour of the chateau and surrounding Grand Cru vineyard. Next stop was in the Vosne vineyards, where we walked around Richebourg and La Tache, took pictures of this hallowed ground, and then headed back to the hotel to pack and prepare for departure the next day. A quick walk took us
from the hotel to our gala dinner at Michelin-starred Le Montrachet (www.chateauxhotels.com), within walking distance of our hotel, hosted by Corinne Miny.
Saturday, September 13
As is the norm on Wine On The Road’s tours, the final day was for travel. Whether heading to the local rental car company to continue their journeys or joining me in the van for the ride back to Paris and home, the earliest anyone had to set off was at 0900. We do try to be civilized!
I’d like to give a hearty thanks to all of our hosts in wine country as well as to my fellow travelers: Bob, Mary Ann, Kyle, Lisa, Tom, Diane, Bill, Carol, and Scott. I hope to journey with you many times in the future and look forward to introducing new folks to our experiences, as well. A bientot!
BEN’S WINE COUNTRY PICTURES ARE FOR SALE
Have you ever read one of Ben’s columns and wondered how it would look to have one of his incredibly vivid, high resolution pictures of wine country framed on your wall? We’re now offering various size prints of his quirky photography at Pixels.com, where you can also add his images to smartphone cases, greeting cards, and many other items. Pictures can be ordered loose or matted and framed in various sizes. Click Here to take a peek.
PRE-MADRID AND RIOJA, SPAIN TOUR DINNER AT PHILADELPHIA’S BAR FERDINAND WITH 1WINEDUDE’S JOE ROBERTS – THURSDAY, APRIL 9, 2015, STARTING AT 6:30 P.M. SPAIN TOUR – NOVEMBER 1 – 8, 2015
Another fun consumer tour we’re planning involves legendary wine blogger, writer, and lecturer Joe Roberts (the 1WineDude) and Ben leading a group to Madrid and Rioja, Spain (November 1-8, 2015). If you’d like more information about this tour please Click Here. Ben will be with Joe in Philadelphia on April 8th for a Rioja wine dinner at Bar Ferdinand to talk more about the tour. Click Here for dinner reservations (or call (215) 923-1313).
Also check out Wines of Rioja’s bi-monthly newsletter (we’ve been working with WoR on our itinerary and they are an enthusiastic supporter of our tour).
WINE ON THE ROAD’S LUXURIOUS, BEHIND-THE-SCENES WINE TOURS
With Wine On The Road (www.wineontheroad.com), my wine-focused touring company, you can enjoy the ultimate wine country excursion with special access to top winemakers and their incomparable wines. Wine On The Road offers intimate wine country tours that combine award-winning wines and exquisite dining and lodging with uniquely local flair and flavor. We lodge at excellent and luxurious wine country estates (in the past we’ve occupied ancient yet completely restored castles as well as five-star resorts, all with modern amenities). We eat at amazing local restaurants and visit wineries that embody the best, most authentic expressions of local wine grapes.
You can learn more about these trips, book private groups in wine country world-wide and request more information on any of these extraordinary travel experiences by visiting www.wineontheroad.com, emailing me at email@example.com, or calling me at 303-522-6738.
NV Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve (Champagne, France) $30
Ltyel/lime ash/lemonade ginger/medmod
2005 Nicolas Feuillatte 225 Brut (Champagne, France) $110
Modyel/vanil lemon/banana caramel/medlong
2005 Nicolas Feuillatte 225 Brut Rose (Champagne, France) $130
Auburn rose/sherry redch/mandarin orange cola/hilong
2005 Nicolas Feuillatte Palme D’Or Rose (Champagne, France) $200
Orangered/blkpepper blkplum/orangepeel redfl/hilong
NV Alexandre Penet Extra Brut Grand Cru Rose (Champagne, France) $
Strawb/whpepp tang/pine ginger cantal/hilong
NV Penet-Chardonnet Reserve Extra Brut Grand Cru (Champagne, France) $82
Yel/saline peach/lime zest ash bitter almond/hilong
2009 Penet-Chardonnet Les Fervins Extra Brut Grand Cru (Champagne, France) $135
Pale yel/pine ash/marzipan apricot/hilong
NV Jean Milan Cuvée 150 Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru (Champagne, France) $220
Banana/saline ash/pear ginger/himod
2009 Jean Milan Terre de Noel Selection Vielle Vignes Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru (Champagne, France) $90
Lightyel/flint yelpear/creamy papaya/hilong
NV Jean Milan Grande Reserve Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru (Champagne, France) $70
Paleyel/gunpowder yelpear/cr brûlée ash redch/medlong
NV Jean Milan Cuvée 150 Rose Grand Cru (Champagne, France) $220
Pink salmon/lavender blkpepper/pinkgrfrt cranb/hilong
2008 H. Billiot Brut Grand Cru (Champagne, France) $54
Medyel/peach yelapple/winey apricot/hilong
NV H. Billiot Cuvée Julie Grand Cru (Champagne, France) $100
Bright yel/orange marm ce brûlée/lemonade honey brioche/hilong
NV H. Billiot Brut Rose Grand Cru (Champagne, France) $54
Salmon/red peach redplum/blktea grfrt/hilong
NV Jacquesson 737 Extra Brut (Champagne, France) $65
Yel corn/gunpowder sunfl/pinea flint/hilong
NV Jacquesson 736 Extra Brut (Champagne, France) $85
Bright yel/yel plum ash whflowers/hilong
NV Jacquesson 733 Dégorgement Tardive Extra Brut (Champagne, France) $150
Gold/ash ginger/pinkch pinea/hilong
2004 Jacquesson Dizy Corne Bautray Brut (Champagne, France) $260
Pale yel/pine smoke/yelpear cr caramel/medlong
2004 Jacquesson Avize Champ Cain Brut (Champagne, France) $260
Medyel/vanil yelpear/cardamom apple pie/hilong
2008 Jacquesson Dizy Terres Rouge Rose Brut (Champagne, France) $200
Pomegr/gunpowder swredch/redcurr blktea/hilong
2002 Perrier-Jouet Belle Époque Blanc de Blancs Brut (Champagne, France) $318
Tan/pomegr ginger/redfl ash blkrasp/medlong
NV Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut (Champagne, France) $35
Paleyel/whpeach ginger/starfr flint/medmod
2006 Perrier-Jouet Belle Époque Brut (Champagne, France) $140
Medyel/grfrt apricot/mace whpepper/hilong
NV Perrier-Jouet Blason Rose Brut (Champagne, France) $70
Salmon/redrasp blktea/blkch sarsap/medmod
2004 Perrier-Jouet Belle Époque Rose Brut (Champagne, France) $300
Orangesalmon/nutmeg blkrasp/teaw/milk cantal/medlong
2012 Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Les Setilles (Burgundy, France) $20
Yel green/grapple grpear/green apple lime pinea/himod
2011 Olivier Leflaive Saint-Romain Sous le Chateau (Burgundy, France) $38
Peayel/yelsquash ash/ginger cardamom/medmod
2011 Olivier Leflaive Montagny Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) $55
Yelgr/citron lime/orange cantal/medlong
2010 Olivier Leflaive Meursault Vireuils (Burgundy, France) $70
Yelgr/whpepp flint/honey pinea/hilong
2010 Olivier Leflaive Chassagne-Montrachet (Burgundy, France) $60
Modyel/cardamom citron/ginger papaya/hilong
2009 Olivier Leflaive Chassagne-Montrachet Clos Saint Marc Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) $97
Paleyel/vanil ginger/limeade mace/medlong
2010 Olivier Leflaive Volnay (Burgundy, France) $56
Ruby/cinn redch/redapple mace/himod
2010 Chateau de Meursault Meursault Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) $N/A
Ltyel/beeswax lanoline/butter papaya/himod
2008 Chateau de Meursault Meursault Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) $N/A
Ltyel/lemonade cream/pinea lanoline/hilong
2007 Chateau de Meursault Meursault Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) $N/A
Ltyel/ash pumpkin/nougat orange butter/medmod
2008 Chateau de Meursault Beaune Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) $N/A
Ruby red/cinn dkch/dk olive blkrasp/hilong
2008 Chateau de Meursault Savigny Peuillets Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) $N/A
Ltred/redfl leather pomegr/dkchoc blkrasp/hilong
2008 Chateau de Meursault Beaune Cents Vignes Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) $N/A
Salmon red/dusty sous bois/fresh blkb mocha/himod
2008 Chateau de Meursault Volnay Clos des Chenes Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) $N/A
Brruby/redch sauvage/blkb earth milkchoc/hilong
2011 Chateau de Meursault Corton Grand Cru (Burgundy, France) $N/A
Pink red/pinkch orangepeel/basil pomegr/hilong
2011 Joseph Drouhin Pouilly Vinzelles (Burgundy, France) $N/A
Paleyel/lime peel pinea/orange peel ginger/himod
2010 Drouhin-Vaudon Chablis Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) $37
Paleyel/flint ash pear/pinea papaya/hilong
2010 Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet les Folatieres Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) $110
Yel/creamy lemon ash/banana cardamom/hilong
2011 Joseph Drouhin Cote de Beaune (Burgundy, France) $37
Pink red/pinkch flint/redrasp milkchoc dust/medmod
2011 Joseph Drouhin Vosne Romanee (Burgundy, France) $90
Blred/blkpepper cinn blkch/cough syrup blkcoffee/hilong
2009 Joseph Drouhin Beaune Champimonts Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) $70
Dkred/redplum dkchoc/blktea redrasp/hilong
2012 Bouchard Pere Monthelie (Burgundy, France) $50
Strawb/redrasp cola/mocha redstrawb/himod
2012 Bouchard Pere Beaune du Chateau Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) $40
Dkred/sous bois redch/pink strawb blktea/hilong
2011 Bouchard Pere Volnay Caillerets Ancienne Cuvée Carnot Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) $90
Bluered/sunfl redrose/swstrawb sarsap/hilong
2012 Bouchard Pere Nuits-Saint-Georges les Cailles Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) $115
Chred/dusty strawb ash/mocha redrasp/hilong
2012 Bouchard Pere Beaune du Chateau Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) $40
Pale/whflowers lemon peel/orange apricot cardamom/hilong
2012 Bouchard Pere Meursault les Clous (Burgundy, France) $67
Modyel/mint starfr/tangerine flint/medlong
2011 Bouchard Pere Meursault Genevrieres Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) $105
Paleyel/creamy orange lemongrass/lemonade Fr butter/hilong
2011 Bouchard Pere Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru (Burgundy, France) $180
Paleyel/creamy apricot whpepp/butter peach ash/hilong
Louis Jadot barrel tasting (no notes)
1991 Louis Jadot Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru (Burgundy, France) $N/A
Honey yellow/beeswax lanoline/dried apricot butter/medmod
1996 Louis Jadot Morey Saint-Denis (Burgundy, France) $N/A
Ruby brred/dkchoc dried cherry/redrasp blktea/medmod
1976 Louis Jadot Clos Vougeot Grand Cru (Burgundy, France) $N/A
Brred/dkchoc malt redch/tartch apricot/himod
2013 Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru (Burgundy, France) $N/A
Paleyel/pinea flint/ginger ash starfr/medlong
2010 Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru (Burgundy, France) $200
Paleyel/creamy pinea flint/papaya orange/hilong
2009 Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru (Burgundy, France) $200
Paleyel/starfr ash/grpear lemon peel/hilong
2008 Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru (Burgundy, France) $200
Paleyel/apricot ginger/orange cream yelpear marzipan/hilong
2005 Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru (Burgundy, France) $200
Paleyel/gunpowder whpepp/honey peach flint/hilong
2005 Drouhin-Laroze Gevrey-Chambertin (Burgundy, France) $65
Blkred/blkch milkchoc/pomegr cola/medlong
2008 Drouhin-Laroze Gevrey-Chambertin Lavaux St-Jacques Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) $100
Redpurple/redrasp mocha/blktea pomegr/hilong
2008 Drouhin-Laroze Chambertin-Clos de Beze Grand Cru (Burgundy, France) $200
Redblk/raspliq redch blktea/mocha pomegr dkchoc/hilong
2012 Trapet Bourgogne Blanc (Burgundy, France) $N/A
Paleyel/lanolin ash/yelpear lemon peel/medmod
2011 Trapet Gevrey-Chambertin (Burgundy, France) $70
Pink red/pink pepp cranb/pomegr flint blkch/hilong
2011 Trapet Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) $N/A
Redbr/dkchoc redch/ripestrawb granite/modlong
2011 Trapet Chambertin Grand Cru (Burgundy, France) $275
Deepred/mocha blkrasp/mocha pomegr/hilong
1996 Trapet Chambertin Grand Cru (Burgundy, France) $250
Brred/blktea redrasp/mocha sous bois/hilong
2010 Trapet Marsannay Blanc (Burgundy, France) $40
Paleyel/pinea ginger/limeade flint/himod