Thursday, September 25, 2014

A visit to Maison Joseph Drouhin

Bonjours from Beaune!
Photo by Meg McKenzie
I found out about Drouhin wines when I was wending my way through Oregon's Willamette Valley last year. So it was with eagerness that I descended upon the stately Maison Drouhin smack-dab in the middle of the lovely medieval town of Beaune.

According to those in the know, the greatest Pinot Noir in the world comes from Burgundy, the part of France of which Beaune is a part. But the Chardonnay grapes do equally well here, too. I hoped to taste excellent samples of both, as well as get a memorable experience for the 35 euros I shelled out for my 10:30 a.m. tasting.

The original press room at Joseph Drouhin
Photo by Meg McKenzie
Now, morning is not my favorite time to start sipping vintages, so I was pleased when our charming and attentive tasting guide, Raphael Febvret, proposed that we first do a walkthrough of the ancient caves that go not only under the maison but the nearby Notre-Dame church, as well. We were a small group -- I was joined only by a young, affluent couple from New York City who could not have been nicer. So our tour took on the cachet of an exclusive experience.

First, we walked across the plaza to a hidden door that led down to the ancient wine press room. It was modernized with photographs and displays showing how a few years ago, Drouhin and some high-rolling wine connoisseurs actually used the press to make a few precious bottles.

Then, we started going through the tunnels. Normally, I am not thrilled with a) being underground b) being in dark, enclosed spaces. But it was such an interesting tour with such a lot of history -- ancient centurion ramparts, Catholic bishops, Dukes of Burgundy, up to the present day -- that I didn't really have time to get nervous. Raphael paced our walk just right, stopping to show us dusty bottles of rare vintages and original Roman walls.

Raphael Febvret lines up bottles for our tasting.
Photo by Meg McKenzie
All that walking was a wonderful prelude to the tasting event itself, and voila -- suddenly we turned a corner and we had miraculously come back to the Maison. While we took a short break, Raphael got the bottles ready for our tasting, and I got to chat with the young couple, who had just come from Art Basel in Switzerland, where the train strike that nearly derailed me in Metzville, France (I had to rebook my ticket through Paris to get to Dijon), saw them renting a car and driving to Burgundy instead. So the poor (rich) guy, as the designated driver, had to spit out all his delicious wine into the bucket. I clued them in on Dijon -- take a pass -- and Nuits St. Georges -- by all means go -- and to thank me, they slipped me their Art Basel VIP ticket once they found out I was heading through there the next day. How sweet was that?

A tuille and some fromage and wine at Le Jardin Des
Remparts, where I lunched al fresco. Divine!
Photo by Meg McKenzie
But, to the wine: We went from the Clos de Mouches label through the Drouhin-Vaudon Chablis Premier Cru and Pouilly Vinzelles to the Vosne-Romanee and Puligny-Montrachet Folatieres Premier Cru, I got a real sense of progression, and Raphael was not shy with the pour. But the true hallmark of my time at Drouhin turned out to be the camaraderie of my new amies and the sense of Burgundian history brought to life by the Maison's gracious hospitality and amazing cellars.

Postscript: Afterward, I sprung for an extravagant lunch at the nearby Le Jardin Des Remparts restaurant, which I enjoyed with an exceptional glass of Pinot Noir Entrecoeur Bohrmann 2009.

The old walls, or ramparts, that
give Beaune its magic.
Photo by Meg McKenzie
☻☻☻. Some people say the French are snooty; I say they are elegant and discerning. So put on your best behavior, and approach the Drouhin experience accordingly. The bottles uncorked here are of varying quality and price levels. The icing on the cake is the tour of the caves. Formidable!

P.P.S. They have many different tours available, including wine dinners and vineyard visits. Email or go to their website to book a tour.

My ratings go from one grape (poor) to five grapes (excellent) and are based on accessibility, price, ambiance, overall experience and, of course, the wines.

No comments:

Post a Comment