Hospices de Beaune & Domaine Dugat-Py: Gevrey-Chambertain October 1, 2015
A shot of the famous facade at Hospices de Beaune
After seeing the sights of Alsace, I headed south to the most serious leg of this trip, Burgundy. Why serious? It felt serious. Wines give me a sense of who and what they are about in so many ways. In Champagne, I learned that while the wines are associated with festivities and light-heartedness, they are coming from a place that is incredibly cold and producing these wines takes everything the people have. In Alsace, the energy is jovial and the wines are superb and serious but there is a remaining element of fun in the winery. Burgundy, on the other hand, is serious. The importance of these wines on the world stage can't be denied. The greatest white AND red wines in the world come from France - many of them from Burgundy.
I arrived in the city of Dijon after the three hour drive from Ammerschwhir. I had rented the basement apartment of a local family's home via Airbnb (click here to check it out). Once I parked and settled into the space I followed the homeowner's recommendation and headed out to eat. The restaurant was tucked into an alley way and I had to look hard to find it. Once inside there were all of six seats in the place, so I cozied up to the bar. An incredible meal of coq au vin and red Burgundy got me settled into my new surroundings. The next day I wasted little time exploring Dijon and got back into the car and headed south again to the city of Beaune. I wanted to see one place: the Hospices de Beaune.
Jean-Baptiste Adam: Ammerschwihr September 30, 2015
A shot of the entrance to the reception area at Jean-Baptiste Adam winery
The drive from Epernay to Ammerschwihr took almost four hours. It was dark for most of the drive, as we didn't leave the home of Michell Mailliard until after 6 o'clock. After the third hour the road began to wind and I could see the silhouette of pine trees against the night sky. My sense of the mountains being close by was confirmed when I went through the first of three tunnels. The air was colder and I was reminded of the essence of my home in Colorado.
Alsace sits on the eastern edge of France bordering Germany and Switzerland. In fact, it belonged to Germany from 1871 to 1919. The wines produced here are frequently confused with the wines of Germany, as there are many similarities in the bottle shapes, labeling style and varieties. The important distinction between the wines produced in Alsace and those that come from Germany is that 90% of Alsatian wines are totally dry, while German wines, particularly Rieslings, are much more frequently made in a sweet style. My brief visit to Alsace was worth the extra hours behind the wheel. I found it to be totally unique compared to the France I had experienced in Paris, Reims, Epernay and the many villages of Champagne in between. The architecture of Alsace is much closer in style to what you would expect to see in Germany and Switzerland. The sloping roofs and colorful painted shutters and trip reminded me of beer drinking more than wine.
Since I arrived late, I headed straight to the apartments I had rented via Airbnb (check it out!) in the town of Wintzenheim, about 12 minutes from the winery of Jean-Baptiste Adam. Early the next morning I headed to the winery to meet Jean-Baptiste for a tour. I could see my breath in the crisp September air and I remember pulling an extra layer out of my suitcase. As I walked up to the entrance I noticed stacks of heavy duty green plastic bins. The harvest was in full swing and the winery was buzzing as the staff worked busily cleaning out the bins that had been used to carry grapes from the vineyards to the winery. The commotion seemed a bit like a teaser for the experience to come.
Heavy-duty green plastic bins used to bring the harvested grapes from the vineyard into the winery
I pulled over to snap this photo with the Champagne wine route sign and the giant bottle
Sitting in my apartment in Denver one night in early 2015, I was surfing the web and thinking about wine. By then I was aware that every wine education resource under the sun starts its content in France. In a flash I made up my mind to get myself there and to learn as much as I could in my two week vacation allowance. The next day I picked up the phone and called Jamie Adams. Jamie works for The Sorting Table, a wine import company that brings some of the finest wines of Europe to the US. I told him it was my first wine trip to Europe and I had no idea how to go about scheduling my time. Eventually I decided to start the trip in Portugal (see articles on Porto & the Douro River Valley), then take a European flight over Spain to France for the second leg. My time in France began in Paris. I stayed there for a couple nights exploring the city sights and indulging in cheese and macarons. From Paris, I took the quick train ride to Reims at the heart of Champagne. The historic city presents its world-famous cathedral and chilly streets. The city felt smaller than I had anticipated. I spent the night in an AirBnb (my method of accommodations throughout the trip) and got up early the next morning to hit the wine route. I got into my rental car and stared at the map I picked up at the train station. It's not easy getting around in a foreign country without the luxury of a totally functional iPhone. I managed though and by noon I had found my way to my first stop.