The Burgundy Diaries: 9/2/04 Initial Impressions and Chablis

Posted on: October 20th, 2004 by

I am transcribing my journal from Burgundy into posts and hope to have a link to some photos soon. Enjoy!

Sitting outside chez Nicholas (Nico) Potel. Decided to write a journal because pictures are not enough. The house is right across from the street in Nuits St. George. Weather is storybook: warm, sunny, clear days and cool nights. Days are spent visiting winemakers and evenings back in NSG with Joseph Pithon, a 19 year old winemaker from the Loire (Domaine Jo Pithon). We sit around a kitchen table on the third floor and drink incredible Chenin Blanc from Domaine Jo Pithon. He does not speak any English but we communicate somehow. We all smoke, drink, and have dinner. Recently we have also been joined by Marco who is also staying at the house. He is a very intellectual man when it comes to talking about food, wine, and life. He does speak English but insists on giving us French lessons to Justin and myself each night. I made coq a vin a few nights ago in the kitchen and we all ate it and drank a bunch of Burgundy. I was thrilled to cook for Frenchmen and they were very pleased.

Highlights so far:

Tasting at Bouchard Pere et Fils in their ancient cellar in Beaune. After tasting all 2003 whites and reds, sat down for a mind-blowing lunch of pate and salad, lamb shank with eggplant, a selection of cheeses, and a wonderful dessert. Before the tasting we went through their labyrinth of a cellar that can hold 4-5 million bottles. Got to hold a bottle from 1865!! Phillip the winemaker was a wonderful man—so full of joy about wine. He was so excited talking about a Grand Cru white that he loves he just got on the phone and had one brought down for us to drink. We were in the cave for 3 heavenly hours.

First night in Burgundy had dinner with Xavier (export manager for Nicholas Potel) with Justin and Joseph. Ate heavenly Beef Burgundy with a 1er cru red, then ate one of the best cheeses ever, light and fluffy like a whipped cream cheese.

Also had dinner with Potel—ate frog legs with garlic, parsley, lemon, olive oil. Nico showed me how to eat them properly: grab them and chomp down and pull all the meat off the bone. It was great. Then we went to a bar and Nico ordered tequila poppers for everyone. I have not had these since college! He then got very excited, yelling and enthusiastically shaking his fists.

Visited vineyards with Joseph, his mom, and two brothers. Ate Pinot Noir grapes. Then had dinner with them at this bar/restaurant, Treint et trois in Beaune. Ate an awesome Croque Monsieur with tomato sauce, ham, bread, cheese all great. None of them spoke English, but I was just quietly thrilled to be in their generous, warm, familial company. We also were at a wine bar and they served the young brother, maybe 10 years old, a tasting of an 03 Chablis and it was normal! His mom even talked to him about how to appreciate it: color, aroma, flavor.

Visited Chablis yesterday. I can cross that off my dream wish list as I have now achieved it. It is a tiny town that is unbelievably picturesque and full of old world European charm and quiet. Tasted 2003 Fevre in the morning. Good, but then use too much oak. Had a lunch of a lifetime at the Grand Cru Bistro next door. Sat outside on a lovely day with a bottle of white Burgundy. Had fresh trout marinated in lemon, olive oil, parsley, and chive. Trout was raw—it was exquisite and simple and would have been the ultimate Chablis dish—as well as the perch—poached and served with a light cream/lemon sauce, again with fresh herbs. Who knew perch could be so lovely? There is a beautiful river that runs through Chablis—I imagine they pulled out both fish that day! Ended with textbook crème brulee…the crème was ethereal—light and fluffy. Billaud Simon in the afternoon. It was incredible! All stainless steel tanks—we tasted all 03s directly from the tank. Almost all of his Chablis sees no oak—he oaks only 3 cuvees (a village, a 1er cru, and a grand cru) I bought a 2000 1er cru for 15 euros and a 2000 grand cru for 32 euros!!! Justin bought a magnum of 1er cru that came in a lovely wood box and an 02 grand cru. He then gave us a free grand cru bottle (2000 Le Clos)!!! Wow. It was great to see new style (Fevre) in the morning and old-school steel in the afternoon. Oaked Chablis robs it of everything that makes it special: the minerality from the soil. Best part about Fevre was I bought a great Sauvignon Blanc for 7 euros and a 1/2 bottle of 98 grand cru for 12 euros. Amazing how inexpensive white Burgundy is here and how widely available. Duh! I’m in Burgundy!

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