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Exploring the Cote d Or in Burgundy France

Living and working in the most sought-after wine region in California’s wine country is truly amazing.  The stunning natural beauty and tradition of world class wine making make it an area that is hard to beat.  But sometimes, a change of scenery is just what the doctor ordered.

Burgundy France

“There are many ways to recognition of truth, and Burgundy is one of them.” Isak Dinesen

Recently Maggie I had a chance to visit the legendary Côted’Or (golden slope) in Burgundy, the wine region in France known for producing some of, if not the most, desired Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the world.   We encountered impressive history, incredible food, gorgeous scenery, friendly people and of course amazing wines.  We visited the historic city of Dijon (capital of Burgundy), travelled south to the village of Santenay and all points in betweenBelow are few quick highlights and a video / slideshow of the various villages and vineyards throughout the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits wine regions that I hope you will enjoy. 

 

sonoma musigny

(We stumbled across this sign in Chambolle-Musigny, Sonoma’s sister city since 1959.)

Winemaking has a long-storied history in Burgundy, dating back 2,000 years when the Romans invaded the area.  By the time of the French Revolution a majority of the best quality Burgundy wines were vinified by monks.

The Dukes of Burgundy

The Duchy of Burgundy started in the 9th century as a successor to the ancient Kingdom of the Burgundians circa 532.  At one point the Burgundian State was one of the biggest ducal territories in early modern Europe, spreading as far as the North Sea, including Luxembourg, the Netherlands etc..    Over time Burgundy gained and relinquished power.   Burgundy was largely self-governed by famous Dukes such as Philip the Bold and his son John the Fearless circa 1400, Philip the Good and Charles the Daring increased the power of Burgundy to the point of being seen as a potential threat to French leadership.  Ultimately, as time went on, their power faded, and the Burgundy region was brought under the crown.  Even so, an independent streak remains to this day.

“It is true that the king has made a truce with the duke of Burgundy for fifteen days and that the duke is to turn over the city of Paris at the end of fifteen days.  Yet you should not marvel if I do not enter that city so quickly.”   Joan of Arc

 Dijon

Our journey started off in the regional capital, Dijon.  Dijon is known for its gorgeous old town with numerous historic buildings, amazing food and of course wine.  One of the most famous buildings is the Palace of the Dukes and Estates of Burgundy, now an excellent museum open to the public.  Originally built in 1366 as the fortress of Dijon the Palace of the Dukes is a must see when visiting Dijon.

Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy

The Palace of the Dukes has an excellent art collection

As you might expect Dijon mustard emerged from the town of Dijon.  It was first noted when served at the table of King Philip VI in 1336 (30 years before fortress of Dijon was built.)  Dijon mustard gets its distinctive flavor from white wine but did not become well known until the 19th century.

Grape Clones

Various Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards throughout California and Oregon rely on grape clones originating from Burgundy including the infamous Dijon and Pommard clones among others.

Dijon Clones… “nicknamed the imported cuttings, “Dijon clones,” after the return address on the shipping container. The name has now become part of viticulture lexicon. These registered Burgundy clones included Pinot Noir 113, 114, 115, 667, 777 and Chardonnay 76, 95 and 96.”  Prince of Pinot.   For more info on the fascinating background on the sourcing,  Romancing the Dijon Clones.

“Pommard clones (UCD 4, 5, 6) originated from cuttings imported by Dr Harold Olmo directly from Burgundy in the 1940s. Olmo travelled to Burgundy, Switzerland, Germany and Austria on a search for quality French wine grape varieties for the collection at UC Davis.”  Prince of Pinot More info on Pommard and Heritage Clones of Pinot Noir 

Yes, we tasted wine. We ate, drank and we were merry.  It was a pleasure to visit long-time friend Edouard Labruyere at his family winery in Meursault.  He is the proprietor of Domaine Jacques Prieur  & Labruyere-Prieur.  We learned more about the Village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru terroirs within the Côte-d’Or.  It was quite a special treat to taste the wines with Edouard as only Domaine de la Romanée-Conti has as many Premier and Grand Cru vineyards under one roof.

Burgundy Glazed Roof Tiles

Speaking of roofs.  One of the more noticeable and beautiful characteristics of architecture unique to Burgundy are the glazed roof tiles.  Spectacular colors that by  design get your attention… and appreciation.  Dazzling examples can be seen throughout the region but the most famous example is the Hospices de Beaune.  The Burgundy style roof tiles not only look impressive, but they can last up to 300 years.

Hospices de Beaune

Hôtel-Dieu à Beaun – Musée des Hospices de Beaune

Beaune

We stayed in Beaune, a medieval town, for a couple days while exploring other villages and vineyards.  Beaune is one of the main wine towns in France.  It is known for having numerous great restaurants, cafes, wine tasting venues, and cobble stone streets filled with scenic architecture.  Beaune is also known for the Hôtel-Dieu à Beaun – Musée des Hospices de Beaune.  The Hospices de Beaune was created in 1443 as a hospital for the poor.  It continued to operate for five centuries and has one of the most popular examples of the Burgundian glazed tile roofs.

Monks, Castles and Grand Cru Vineyards

Further north sits Clos de Vougeot.  It is not often you get to see a medieval wine press in person.  Let alone a medieval wine press located across the street from some of the most famous vineyards in the world.  The Chateau Clos du Close de Vougeot is a Renaissance style chateau that is open to the public for tours. It is currently the headquarters of the Climats de Bourgogne.  Originally in the 12th century, monks from the nearby Abbey of Cîteaux started a wine farm.  Then during the 16th century, a Renaissance style chateaux was added to the other buildings.  The Clos de Vougeot vineyard is the largest and one of the most famous Grand Cru vineyards in all of Burgundy.  Clos de Vougeot makes for interesting and educational time well spent.  More info about the Chateau Clos du Close de Vougeot.

Chateau Clos du Close de Vougeot

Chateau Clos du Close de Vougeot

Long story short, we had an amazing visit to Burgundy.  If you are a fan of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, great food, and beautiful scenery I can’t recommend it enough.  Be sure to check out the photos / video for more info.

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