Sunday, September 24, 2017

Me, Burgundy and a Glass of Chardonnay

I stared at the glass, surprised. I brought it back to my nose and inhaled, then set the glass back down on the table and swished the wine about before bringing the glass back to my nose for another whiff, then to my mouth for another taste. I set the glass back down on the table and stared at it again. What I was experiencing, I knew even then, was life-changing. I would never again think about Chardonnay, or any kind of wine, quite the same way again.

As a traveler, it was one of those experiences that one seeks - something that changes one's wiring, one's way of looking at the world, one's way of experiencing the world. You can't go into a souvenir shop and purchase an experience like this; they often come (in my experience) when one least expects them. And such was the case today.

I was in the cellars of the Chateau du Clos de Vougeot (pictured above). I had taken the high-speed train from Paris to Dijon in order to join a small-group tour of the heart of Burgundy (Bourgogne) wine country - the Côte-d'Or, stretching from south of Dijon to past the town of Beaune. As we emerged from the suburbs of Dijon, I started to see vineyards and the names that I had read about and studied in my French Wine Scholar course. 

As we drove south and then pulled up in front of the Chateau du Clos de Vougeot - the inner sanctum of the world of the wines of Bourgogne - I was reminded of an experience I had in September 2012 at the summit of Mont Ventoux, one of the iconic rides of the Tour de France that ascends the "Giant of Provence." It was near the beginning of the first cycling trip that Mark and I took together. As we congratulated ourselves for making it to the top, he turned to me and said, "I've been cycling for almost 40 years, and it took me that long to make it here. You've been cycling four months." 

Atop Mont Ventoux in 2012

Mark left unsaid what was obvious: that I was fortunate enough to experience something that amazing after having been cycling only a short time. Subtext: I hadn't paid my dues, so I should damn well appreciate it. I did.

I was reminded of this experience this morning because here I was, only a year after beginning my study of wine, experiencing one of the most iconic wine areas in the world. I hadn't/haven't "paid my dues," but there I was, and I appreciate it. I'm grateful I was able to see what I saw and experience what I did.

Detail of the roof inside part of the Chateau du Clos de Vougeot

Our tour gave us a couple of hours of free time in Beaune, where I had lunch with two couples on the tour before taking a quick tour of the Hospice de Beaune. We then headed to another iconic "grand cru" for more wine tasting at the Chateau de Corton. 

The Hospice de Beaune

I haven't had time and/or the WiFi access to blog over the last ten days. It's late, here in Paris, and I have another big day tomorrow, but I've been prodded to write, so I'm writing. There is SO much I could write about my days in Rome and on the cruise I was on last week - but that likely won't happen. So I'll try to move forward from this point. I will say, however, that I had some "Chardonnay experiences" on the cruise as well - experiences that changed me, that changed the way I look at the world, that caused me to grow.

BTW - that glass of Chardonnay? From a bottle from, of all places, Nuits-Saint-Georges, which is known for red (Pinot Noir) and not white. I suspect there's a moral in there somewhere ...

Tomorrow: another small-group day trip to Chablis and northern Burgundy ...

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