FRANCE part 8, August 2019
Woke up to a gorgeous morning in Beaune. Walked the sleepy town and watched it come alive during breakfast at a street side cafe, we really enjoyed the slow pace and fresh food in all of France. We had done very little Beaune research, so off to the visitor's center. They recommended a tour of the Hospices de Beaune, a very prominent 15th century gothic hospital that is well connected to the local vineyards, actually has a world renowned auction every year to sell rare and prestigious regional wines. We told the friendly visitor's staff that we were more interested in a bike ride in the countryside, so they directed us to a convenient bike rental company at the edge of town. As we walked back through town passing the beautiful Hospice we noticed a long line had formed early, happy with our decision to venture out.
It was probably 11am when we arrived at De Velo's Bike Rentals and all of the E-bikes (power assisted) were already taken, so a standard 20 speed would be our mode of transportation. They required no deposit, drivers license or credit card to rent, just a promise to return sometime before closing, refreshing! The La Voie des Vignes "The Way of the Vines" or more simply the vineyard trail is where we pedaled off to. I believe the trail from Beaune to Santenay is about 30km?, but we only traveled through Pommard, Volnay, Meursault and part way to Puligny-Montrachet. Within 2 minutes of pedaling we immediately entered the fertile fields of grape vines lined by centuries of stone walls.
We didn't immediately rush into the Domaine's that we saw along the rolling landscape, instead just enjoyed casually rolling into and around each town we came to. The small towns had very few locals about. The bike trail, which is also used by farm equipment to access the vineyards, had very few tourists as well, we liked that. We pedaled until we felt hungry and a small cafe at a split in the road in Volnay caught our eye, so we parked, ordered a light lunch and would you believe a beer in the heart of Burgundy Country!!
Passing the occasional backpacker, tractor or groups of bikers kept us from falling into a deep trance in this beautiful landscape. It was so quiet and peaceful. We would pass many structures from the 15th century and my only regret might be that we started out too late to explore the inside of some amazing churches. We were really expecting to see many signs directing us to different vineyards, but this trail really requires a bit of research, which we failed to do. We rode into a few Domaine's courtyards that had small overhead signs that read so and so Domaine Overt (Open), but they were so sleepy with maybe one car and we just kept cycling along.
I'll assume all of the medieval towns of Cote-d'Or are about the same age? but Meursault seemed a tad brighter even though it sits on a prehistoric settlement site. Many beautiful buildings and estates around this once again "sleepy town"! We pedaled beyond Meursault maybe a mile or so downhill and decided if we were going to drink some wine we best turn around or regret the ride back, so we made a u-turn!
We kept passing Domaine Overt signs but nothing caught our eye really and we were covering some ground back to Beaune, would we actually drink some wine??? Then, while zig zadding around Pommard, we saw Domaine Coste-Caumartin with a cool entrance way. We pedaled through the shadows of the inviting arched entrance and parked our bikes in the sun filled courtyard and wondered where is everybody? The owner appeared, we asked in our best Virginia accent....ya'll open?! He smiled and said yes, of course! He opened the door to the "cave" and down we went. I was not overly intimidated because we were having fun, but my knowledge of wine is relatively poor, so I simply told him that this was our first visit to the region and any information is appreciated! He was great, the Domaine has been around for centuries and instead of talking about the varieties of grape in length, which I believe is only pinot and chardonnay here?...he loved describing how each region and actually each Domaine within had its own distinct characteristics. The levels of clay, granite or limestone etc. differs from acre to acre basically and he described how each wine takes on different characteristics based on the soil. He did mention that many of their grape vines were in a perfect age range around 30-45 years old if I remember correctly. I don't know the square acreage, but they produce 65,000 bottles each year!! The tasting was wonderful and the cool, moldy, dimly lit vaulted wine cellar was exactly what you would expect from a 17th century structure! We bought 2 bottles of the Pommard "Vielle Vigne" (Old Vines) and the owner opened one for us to enjoy in the peace and quiet of his 17th century courtyard, doesn't get any better than this!!
It was after 5pm and the bikes needed to be back by 6pm, so off we went. Along the way I could tell that fulfilling Donnas 2nd trip "must do" was accomplished in the absolute perfect place on earth, she was happy.
Now I should end the story there really...but there was still dinner to be had outside under a full moon in the center of Beaune. Restaurant De Beaune Agure served up great escargot and the best Coq au Vin. We continued enjoying the local wines, this time on the recommendation of the owner/waiter a bottle of Cave Bissey's Mercurey. Mercurey is just south of where we biked this day....not quite the Pommard, but very good in its own right!!!
To be continued..........