Travelling in Burgundy is stressful. Every watering hole can have its history. I continued north on the A6 to Macon. (Mental note to self: Wine). My curiosity ordered me that I should stop there on the way back to Brida. Leaving the motorway, I continued driving on a departmental road. The tourist signs told me to stop in Cluny. Again, my curiosity took over, and I took a small break at the Abbey to at least pay token homage to it. I walked around and nibbled a little on the pralines rosés, but had to continue. Until I got to Taizé, that famous place for young people to discover religion.
The road was quiet, hedges divided rural countryside into parcels. It reminded me a little of England. There was a variety of vineyards, wheat and corn fields. It wasn’t really flat, with gentle hills flowing through the landscape. I passed through countless little villages, some were less well-off than others. The landscape began to change the closer I got to my destination. It was becoming much hillier and there were more vineyards.
Finally, I arrived at my accommodation. When I had Googled it back in Brida, the castle jumped out at me. It was not cheap, but I was going to enjoy myself. I arrived in the early evening and was greeted by a magnificent view in the warm, glowing sun. It was a restored medieval castle. No, let’s call it a “château”. We are in France, after all. There was a delightful pond with crystal clear water reflecting the beauty of my new temporary home.
Entering a sort of horseshoe-shaped courtyard, I already felt as if I had lost my way because I couldn’t find a grand entrance. I spotted an open door, very welcoming, and next to it, a small table, and some chairs and immediately, the image of a glass of red Burgundy fixated itself in my brain. The ruby red wine. I hadn’t even arrived and already, I felt the delicious taste flow down my throat. But then, I had also learned that the owners were hoteliers AND vignerons!
After being appropriately welcomed by Hélène, I climbed up a narrow spiral staircase, soaking up the medieval atmosphere with each step. Reaching the second floor, I stood in front of my door. I turned the key and pushed it open and immediately saw the king-size contemporary bed in front of a beautifully sculptured wood panelled wall. I realized that the crisp, white bedlinen was the bridge between contemporary and baroque interior.
Then I saw my bathroom! Wow! Oh, la la! My jaw dropped in amazement. It was ultra-modern. Behind the shower was a dark glass wall which looked as if water was cascading down it. The beautiful antique “washing meuble” was a practical work of art. The old full-length mirror would hide no secrets, while the mirror above the wash basin could have come from a museum. Opposite the wash basin was a futuristic dressing table, with another mirror, designed to reveal even more secrets when I apply my makeup. If I got bored staring at myself, I could look out of the window into the garden.
The room was huge but still felt warm and cosy. The parquet floor felt inviting with its warm colours. The magnificent fireplace opposite the bed, was, sadly, no longer in use. The large flat-screen TV above it felt a little out of place. In the corner was a restored sofa. I’m sure it was probably more comfortable than it looked. Definitely, not a piece of furniture to relax on. Sitting upright was required. “Posture, my dear”, I could hear my grandmother say.
Then, the surprise. My own private balcony, a small table, comfy chairs and…..yes!
A bottle of house Burgundy, a corkscrew by its side, daring me to not open it. I couldn’t miss the discrete marketing with the brochure of the vineyard next to the bottle. But the temptation was stronger, and it would have been rude not to open it. I settled down to unwind, both body and soul.
Dinner was very light. The hotel didn’t serve dinner and I didn’t want to go out. But Hélène did have a morsel of cheese and some baguette for me. Anyway, the wine was what I really wanted. Not to mention those delicious tartes aux pralines roses, which were still tempting me. Simple and extremely delicious. What more could a girl want?
The next morning, I felt a little worse for wear. I had eaten too many sweet things perhaps indulged too much in the liquid. The mirrors told the rest of the ugly story. Oh, well. Nothing that a touch of makeup can’t hide.
But, I have to say, I absolutely adored the breakfast room. Do you know why? It seems the owners love my favourite colour too – pink! Like my little pink 2CV. We were in blissful harmony.
That said, the room was quite breathtaking. It looked like an art gallery with modern paintings on the wall. But, somehow they managed to complement the old furniture and the massive dining table in the middle of the room. It stood on some rugs, which, in turn, were on a beautiful hardwood floor with a fish bone design. By the window was a corner to relax in. A canapé, two armchairs and a beautiful chess board on a surprisingly ultra-modern glass-topped table. Breakfast was a delightful experience, sharing with other guests, all couples, also staying at the château. I felt at home!
After breakfast, Arnaud invited all of us for their traditional vineyard tour. We all agreed enthusiastically. It couldn’t have been a better start to the day. The story goes that Arnaud and Hélène bought the château back in 2000 and brought the family winery into the property. He had an engineering background but wanted to escape the rat race and do something different. The property wasn’t a bad size, with 25ha. But it also had 22 appellations, of which 20 appellations are in the Côtes-de-Beaune and two in the Côtes-de Nuits areas. Everything, from growing to bottling is done in the Château. In 2009, they decided to convert to organic winemaking and produced their first organic wine in 2012.
We turned right out of the Château gates and drove past typical stone houses and the low walls around the grounds. After a few meters, we turned right again and drove through a narrow street, crossed a small bridge and soon found ourselves in the hilly countryside. Arnaud parked the vehicle, and we started walking. The landscape had given way from gently rolling hills to very rugged country.
Arriving in the vineyards, the view took my breath away. In the background was the green forest, followed by wonderful cliffs, which invited me to go and discover more. It was also quite steep. “Crikey, what am I in for?”, I mumbled to myself. “Onwards and upwards,” I said.
”Most of our grapes are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir”, explained Arnaud. “We also have a very small parcel of Pinot Blanc for the Haute Côtes de Beaune Blanc. The soil is a clay-limestone mixture. It is good for holding water and helps keep the plants and the fruit fresh. Our soil gives the wine its unique character.”
“Hmm” I thought to myself. “I see a lot of stones lying around carelessly on the ground. Not very tidy.” But, I loved his passion when he showed us his corner of paradise. I could see that he was connected to the terroir. It, unbeknown to me, was the beginning of all the experiences that lay ahead of me.
When we returned to the Château, there was a little surprise waiting for us. Arnaud stopped in front of a big wooden door. Behind was a treasure in the form of an obscene amount of barrels and (full) bottles. Hélène stood there, waiting for us with a big smile, and gestured us inside for an “impromptu” wine tasting. Well, why not!
We were ushered into the “caveau de dégustation” under a delightful, curved brick ceiling. Bottles and glasses were standing on upright barrels. Behind, on the wall, was an old map of all the vineyards in the area. Discrete ambient lighting made us forget what time it was. Next to the bottle was some vegetable and meat aspic (a jambon persillé) and a small mountain of bread and cheese. Any thoughts I had had for lunch were ruined, but who cares. Today would be spent relaxing and tomorrow I would continue on to Beaune.
Really, I didn’t mean to taste so much! Honestly! But you know what it is like. The drops in my throat were a beautiful, if devilish temptation, and I simply couldn’t resist! Back in my room, I told myself not to look too much in those blasted bathroom mirrors.