Birthday Burgundy – Wine Hopping in France
Domaine des Tilleuls, Côte de Nuits, Borgogne, 2010
I’m just a tad bit too excited to drink this tonight for my husband’s birthday celebration. It’s from the Borgogne (Burgundy) region of France. If you’re driving from Dijon on A311 to the popular touristy spot, Beaune, it’s like wine hopping in Napa Valley except more Godfather-style; California has nothing on France’s vineyards. Just before Gervey Chambertin, where this wine is from, you’ll hit Marsannay-la-Côte, another tiny village that produces excellent Burgundies that are hard to find in the US.
How do I know this? Am I a sommelier? I wish. A few years ago I was an art school student at The School of the Art Institute Chicago (SAIC), studying in Switzerland with Michelle Grabner, who just curated The Whitney Biennial, and Shane Campbell. By the end of the class, which included museum and gallery openings, Art Basel and Liste fairs, and private talks with artists discussing their latest installations, my head was about to explode (in a good way). My boyfriend at the time (who is now the hubby) convinced me to stay in Europe after the course was finished. I wanted to go to Venice to see the Biennial, an easy-ish train ride from Geneva, but he persuaded me to go to Paris instead. So I did. I took the most beautiful train ride from Geneva to Paris through the Swiss Alps and I don’t have a single picture to show for it. Whenever I would bust out my camera the moment passed. So I decided to stay present, sealing in the hazy, romantic images of the alps and that train ride into my memory forever.
From Bern to Geneva by train you’ll pass by Lausanne, Switzerland, a sleepy wine producing town on Lake Geneva
Before I left for Europe I booked us an apt in Paris. I was a broke-ass student, so I found the cheapest thing, a flat in the 18th arrondisment by the Moulin Rouge for €300/week. The price should have been my tip off. My boyfriend met me at Gare du Nord after having just landed at CDG (Charles du Gaul airport), and we took the metro to our pad. It was in a beautiful, Haussman style building. Carrying our luggage up the six floor walk-up, passing floors of weathered oak, floor to ceiling windows in sunlit hallways crowned in intricate molding, we finally reached ours, the 6th floor. The 6th floor was dark and abysmal. When we opened the door to our pied-au-terre all that was missing were blood stains on the walls. I also learnt that before you rent an apt in Paris, you should find out if you have to share the hasn’t-been-cleaned-in-decades toilet with the entire floor like we had to….. One of our neighbours was quite lovely as well- he yelled French obscenities at us the entire time in a sweaty wife-beater that hugged his giant belly, and boxers that looked like they hadn’t been changed in days. I had a nervous breakdown.
Little did I know, Adam had a diamond ring in his pocket. He decided after watching me lose my mind in our hell-hole that our first night in Paris was not going to be the right time to ask me to marry him. So he got on his laptop and found us a chateau about 4.5hrs away from Paris and booked it for the next several days. All we had to do was find a rental car, which is hard to do in Paris without a prior 48hr reservation. With my dégueulasses (bloody disgusting) français, I managed to find us a rental company who would lend us a car, and we Google mapped our way through the French countryside in a stick shift.
We stayed at Château de Flammerans in Flammerans, just outside of Auxonne. The owner is a former chef who makes breakfast for you each day that includes croissants he bakes each morning. You’ve got to stay there if you can. The breakfast was simple yet amazing, the rooms are majestic, and you’ll discover a piece of France you can’t get in fabulous Paris.
When you’re driving to Beaune don’t forget to stop in Dijon, not only for the requisite mustard, but for the farmer’s market that sells local fruit, veggies, salt cured fish, cheese, and cured meats. You’ll also find a vintage market selling jewelry and french texts.
So bottoms up to us tonight; it will be nice going down memory lane while we get smashed in celebration of another year growing older, and another year spent together.