A Special Degustation! A Picnic Dijonnaise and A Blow Out Cote de Boeuf!

We awoke to the warm Burgundian sun creeping through our shutters inviting us to participate in another great wine adventure. After a relaxing swim in the pool we quickly dressed and made our way to le boulangerie . As we strolled out of the impressive entrance of the hotel we looked back across to this stunning view of Meurasult’s village church with its pews of rows vines neatly laid out before it.

Meursault from Chateau de Citeaux La Cueillette

Meursault from Chateau de Citeaux La Cueillette

Our thoughts quickly turned to what took our fancy for le petit déjuner. One thing we’ve learnt on our travels is that indecisiveness in the boulangerie is not tolerated so we loitered outside deliberating our choices before firmly requesting a light and crispy apple turnover and a devilish rich pain au chocolat. 

Checking the time I realised that I only had 15 minutes to get to Domaine Sebastien Magnien and I didn’t want to appear rude by turning up late. After struggling slightly with the house numbering, I arrived just in time to be greeted warmly and taken down to the cellars for the degustation. Little did I realise that I was in for a real treat.

The Sebastien Magnien White Burgundy Degustation

The Sebastien Magnien White Burgundy Degustation

I felt really privileged to be taking part in this tasting even though my body clock was somewhat perturbed by the fact that the first delicious mouth full of Chardonnay passed my lips at something close to 9am GMT!

These are the wines that I tasted!

Bourgogne, Hautes Cotes de Rhônes 2013 drinking well now.

St.Romain, Sous Le Château really needs cellaring for at least 2 years.

Beaunes Premier Cru Les Aigrots, needs at least 2 years of cellaring before opening

2013 Meursault, Les Grands Charrons, this will benefit from keeping although could be drunk now,which will be reflected in the taste and flavour and length of the wine, this is a classic Meursault with a nutty, buttery flavour.

By Contrast, the 2013  Meursault, Les Meix Chavaux, is drinking well now although would also benefit from cellaring for 3-5 years more where the flavours and complexity are likely to develop further.

2013 Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, Les Folatières, needs to be kept for a minimum for 5 years but has ageing potential of up to 20 years!

I also tried 3 Reds:

2013 Hautes Cotes de Beaunes Clos De La Perrières , A young and fruity wine which is drinking well now.

2013 Beaune Premier Cru Les Aigrots, this wine would suit chicken, veal and lighter meats.

2013 Pommard , Les Perrières, drier, longer finish, will benefit from cellaring, good with Regional Burgundian cheeses, such as Epoisse.

Most of these wines  are available in the UK at the iconic Berry Bros and Rudd in St. James’ London.

With my purchases made I strolled back to the Château de Cîteaux – La Cueillette very satisfied with my morning spent tasting some fabulous wines and very grateful  to the sommelier, Samuel, from Hostellerie Berard who had made the recomendation  to visit Domaine Sébastien Magnien.

Before we packed our bags and loaded up the car we took one last view out across the vines and village of Meursault from our balcony:

View of Meursault from Chateau de Citeaux – La Cueillette

You’ll notice that in the first shot there is a tall free standing structure with a turret which has a fairytale look about it. These are common features of Burgundian village arhitecture and called Pigeonniers or Dovecotes. Sometimes they are incorporated into the structure of a building like a corner turret. They were often seen as a status symbol and a sign of wealth and privilege.

We decided to stop for lunch in Dijon as we were curious to see how the two cities of Beaune and Dijon,  at opposite ends of the Cote D’Or compared and contrasted. We found a lovely spot in the old town, in a little square near the old ducal palace with fountains, to graze on the leftovers from the previous evening’s picnic.

These photos illustrate to some degree the contrast between the two cities.

Dijon

Dijon

Dijon, near the Duke of Burgundy's Palace

Dijon, near the Duke of Burgundy’s Palace

The old part of the city is charming but is really a little enclave of quaint architecture and old Burgundy, which is choked up by a large sprawling city that spreads out over several miles around it, with some fairly unremarkable suburbs.

Beaune, by contrast is a much smaller city, the old town, with most of its city walls in tact is probably no more than a mile in circumference. Its architecture is more splendid and impressive and its size and compactness also make it easy to navigate.

Entrance to the city by the Rue de Faubourg

Entrance to the city by the Rue de Faubourg

Hospices de Beaune or Hotel-Dieu de Beaune. A former charitable which began life as hospital for the poor of Beaune

Hospices de Beaune or Hotel-Dieu de Beaune. A former charitable almshouse which began life as hospital for the poor of Beaune

View across the stream that flow through the city

View across the stream that flows through the city

So you can tell that as far as I’m concerned the score is: Beaune 1 Dijon 0 !

After lunch we weaved our way out of Dijon and joined the A31 heading north towards Langres and picking up the A5 shortly afterwards heading towards Reims. We arrived in Épernay, at La Villa Eugene at about 5:30pm. This was our third stay here, its either a great way to begin or end your French tour and Epérnay is such a great location for Champagne compared to Reims, a bit like the contrast between Dijon and Beaune!

I can recommend splashing out the extra on one of the ground floor executive rooms which have their own garden area with wicker sofas and are tastefully screened apart by bamboos.

Bedroom at La Villa Eugene

Bedroom at La Villa Eugene

Bathroom at La Villa Eugene

Bathroom at La Villa Eugene

Keen to stretch out, after several hours in the car, we quickly changed and headed to the hotel’s outdoor pool.

Swimming Pool at La Villa Eugene

Swimming Pool at La Villa Eugene

After our little pool workout we both indulged ourselves in a long soak in the bath before getting spruced up for our last night out of the Tour in Épernay. Warning: Do book ahead if you are planning to eat out during August in Épernay. Many of the top recommendations on Tripadvsior, Michelin guide and the Gault-Milleau are all closed!

The one restaurant that was recommended was the La Brasserie La Banque . Last time we went there it was really quiet so we didn’t book this time and when we turned up there that evening it was fully booked and packed! Clearly something has changed since last time!

One place that I can recommend although closed this time is Bistrot Le 7. This is the bistro next door to and run by the 1 Michelin starred, Les Berceaux. The set menu at Bistrot le 7, is always great value with a great range of excellent wines by the glass.

We were running out of options and it was 8:30pm. We walked back towards the theatre and spotted Le Sardaigne, at 1, Place Pierre Mendès France, 51200 Épernay, France.

What caught my eye was the fact that the place was busy (usually a good sign) but still had a few tables and as a bonus they had a wood fired oven for cooking pizza and steak!

We asked for a table outside and were lucky as one had just become available. On looking at the menu it was a no brainer! They had a 1.4kg Côte de Boeuf on at a very reasonable price. We ordered this with fries and green beans cooked rare of course and a side order of Béarnaise which was really good with a subtle tarragon flavour.

This was topped off with a really stunning Red. Now I’m going to surprise you, by going against one of my golden rules ,which is I always try to drink wines that originate from the country that I’m staying in but the French Reds were not that inspiring and then I spotted a 2010 Amarone della Valpolicella from Antonio Castagnedi. It was game over when I saw that it was a modest 40 Euros and so we anticipated the arrival of our steak a wine!

I’ve never had steak cooked before in a wood fired oven but the effect was just as stunning as the results of the bread and pastries that we”d had in Provence! It was a truly amazing last supper to finish our fabulous “Tour du Vin”.

We really appreciated the mile walk  back to our hotel, strolling along the Avenue de Champagne past Möet et Chandon and Perrier-Jouet, with their logos brightly lighting the pavement.

We settled into our comfortable bed, slightly sad that it was the last night of the Tour du Vin but looking forward to tomorrow and our drive around the Côte des Blancs, home to some of the greatest 100% Chardonnay champagnes in the world!

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