Monday, September 22, 2014

Idaho Wine Girl goes to France!

Le vin, c'est moi! A bust of the Duke
of Burgundy in Dijon.
Photo by Meg McKenzie
As the train pulled into Dijon, I was deluged with emotion ... and anticipation. Having been living in Asia for the previous six months -- where, let's face it, the wine culture is self-described as "emerging" -- I was like a thirsty camel biding its time in the desert, dreaming of the oasis. Now, I had arrived.

But as I found out, staying in Dijon was a bit of a mistake. Though I found this adorable sushi place called Bento, the city itself is sort of large and underwhelming. Should have gone directly to Beaune, in the heart of Burgundy wine-growing region, an ancient town that lives, breathes and, of course, sells great wine. But I was under the mistaken impression Beaune was in the hinterlands (plus the rail strike going on when I was there).

First glass of vin rouge in France, at a
cute sushi place in Dijon called Bento.
Photo by Meg McKenzie
Looking back, though, I'm glad I stayed in Dijon because I got to take the Authentica wine tour down the Cote D'Or, stopping in quaint villages and getting the lay of the land. (The next day, I snuck back to Beaune and did a tasting at the fancy Joseph Drouhin cellars, the topic for my next post.)

First off, Burgundy 101. The Cote D'Or region (or "domaine") is like a snake going down the sides of gently rippling hillsides in eastern central France. Dijon is to the north, Macon to the south, with a million little towns in between, many of which are world-famous. Heard of Gevry-Chambertin? It's here. Pommard? Ici. Ditto Puligny-Montrachet. And of course Romanee-Conti, a wine so heady it's legendary.

A camera-wielding tourist outside the Chateau
du Corton-Andre, rocking typical Burgundy
roof tiles. Photo by Meg McKenzie
The tour only got as far south as Beaune. If I had a million dollars and all the time in the world, I'd have spent a month tippling -- er, tasting -- all the way down the Cote. But I was heading off to Switzerland in a few days and then on to Austria. So little time, so much wine. Arrrgghhh!

But back to Authentica. I booked my half-day "Charm" tour because the price (85 euros) was right and it dovetailed with my schedule. I'm glad I did. Our driver/tour guide Ivan was ... awesome. His gently accented English was perfect, and he dealt with the numerous personalities in the van with grace and panache. There were couples from Canada, California, Australia and even Malta. Et moi.

Authentica tour guide Ivan
gives us the dirt on vines.
Photo by Meg McKenzie
Ivan was not only nice, he also knew a lot about wine. We stopped off to look at vines in Fixey, Nuits St. Georges and even Clos de Vougeot, a grand onetime monastery that is now leased to the Chevaliers du Tastevin (world-class movers and shakers who appreciate fine wine). We thought we were going to taste wine there, but alas, it was only our restroom stop. Still, quite beautiful.

Our wine tasting, however, was memorable and delightful. And delicious! The winery that Authentica has hooked up with is called the Chateau du Corton-Andre. It's a little hokey, where you go down to the cellar and stand around a dimly lit wine barrel to sip your way through the six wines. But after a few glasses, it started to become pretty nice. We started with the cheaper stuff and worked our way up to the pricier vintages. Ivan explained how the label tells you where the wine was made and what quality it is.

Lined up for tasting at Corton-Andre. From left: Santenay,
Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru Le Cailleret,
Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Monthelie Premier Cru Les
Riottes, Volnay Premier Cru En Chevret, and finally the
Corton Grand Cru. Photo by Meg McKenzie

Although Burgundy is of course known for its red wine, I actually fell in love with the one white wine we tried called Santenay, and got a bottle for about $15 in the gift shop. I then hauled it all the way to Austria, where I finally enjoyed it in a closet-sized room overlooking an alp. But that's a story for another day.

☻☻☻☻☻.Bottom line: Authentica is the real deal, as plenty of Trip Advisor reviewers will confirm. Go. Enjoy! Worth every euro.

Truly delicious wine and a memorable trip down Burgundy lane. Authentica has a variety of tours and are truly pleasant people to deal with.

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.

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