France – Jour 11 – Part 1

Day 4 on our Burgundy cycling tour did not dawn brightly – here was the forecast for the day…

Ooh la la – not so much fun for cyclists!  So, what does Duvine Cycling Adventures do with its people when it’s clearly not a good day to cycle…  as it turns out – lots!!

We all enjoyed a breakfast in the communal dining room – although some of the other guests were probably none too keen to see this onslaught of cycling enthusiasts!!

First stop was at the Château de Clos de Vougeot, to check out this amazing 16th century building – which was used as a farm and working space for the Cistercian monks at the Abbey of Cîteaux.

It includes this amazing cellar where at least one bottle of each vintage since the beginning is kept – naturally it’s well locked!  Can you see the bottle from 1939!!!

Here is the courtyard.  At the time of our visit – they were having an exhibition of some photographic works of monks, which you can see on the walls here.

Here is the well… everyone was fascinated by it…

Even Andrew was fascinated – the water inside actually looks clean and usable!

The kitchen hearth – and a huge spit which could fit a decent size pig!

Look at these amazing wine presses!  You can see the sheer size and scale of them because big and tall Al is walking up to them!  Quite amazing.  Using them was a multi-man effort!  I love the size of the tastevin on the left.

A different angle of a different winepress – they had about four there this size!

Clos de Vougeot is one of the most famous vineyards in Burgundy – because it’s completely classified as grand cru.  It’s large and enclosed by a wall –hence the word “clos”.  This is the plan of the various plots within it. Some wineries simply own a single row of vines within the clos to make their grand cru.

We thought Vincent’s profile looked a little like this monk – but he didn’t stay still enough for us to take a true comparative shot!!

This gorgeous tapestry was in one of the function rooms.  It’s probably important for all sommeliers out there to know that the Chateau became the headquarters of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin in 1944.

Le Porteur de Benaton – Henri Bouchard

I loved this sculpture of a worker bringing in the harvest – he has a benaton (wicker basket) on his back.  You might remember that this was the name of the first restaurant we dined in as part of our Burgundy cycling adventure.

After we had finished our visit at Clos de Vougeot, we all clambered back into the vans for our next excursion.  After a short journey, we pulled into the Gaugry cheese factory in Brochon.  This factory has been making the famous Burgundy epoisses (washed rind cheeses) for 66 years!  They had a special corridor where you could walk along and see through windows into the cheese production areas.

Here is the cheese in its moulds….

At the first stage of drying….

Then being washed in the Burgundy marc – a brandy like drink that is made up from the residue left over from the wine making process.  It is pretty intense stuff!!

And here are the finished products…

We were lucky enough to score a cheese tasting – with a bit of wine to wash it all down.  Well… it was almost 12 o’clock!

So, once we had our fill of cheese – the next stop was lunch!!  Oooh la la – and no cycling to work off all this indulgence.  Today’s lunch was a real surprise – we were having lunch with the harvesters at Maison Joseph Drouhin.  What an absolute privilege – these guys work so hard for the 10 days that vendange (harvesting) takes – and it was great to see how well looked after they are!  Because we had exactly the same lunch as them… OK – well maybe we got a few extras!

First off, entrée – some of the fabulous pressed ham that is so much a part of Burgundy.

Then boeuf bourguignon – another local favourite.  This meat was amazing – I hate to say it – but it was so much better than what we experienced at Piqu’ Boeuf!!  The meat was soft, with gentle yielding layers of gelatinous goodness – and the jus was amazing.

We also had this huge slab of baked potatoes – another favourite of mine (and something I’m pretty well known for myself).  Delish!!

The wine!

But wait – there’s a cheese course.  A lovely man came around to each of us with this huge selection of cheeses.  I only chose two – let’s face it – there’s only so much cheese you can eat in one day.  Apparently the French eat on average 67g per day (or 24kg per year).

And then dessert – chocolate brownie cake in custard with mini tarte tatins!  So delicious!

Tom (the Hungry Cyclist) and Vincent

Tom, another guide from Duvine (also known as the Hungry Cyclist) was actually working le vendange – so he came up for a chat! He was so excited to be a part of this time in the lifecycle of the vineyard – and even though the work was hard and the pay not so great (€9 per hour), he felt that the experience was something amazing, and a real privilege to be a part of – great experience for a guide too!

By this stage – we were well and truly stuffed!!  So, it must be time to get a tour of the winery.  Christine Drouhin – the wife of one of the owners of the winery was lovely enough to give us a tour.

The barrels wrapped in plastic are brand new. Don’t you love the fact that they have mini-chandeliers in the cellar!

But there was also another layer further down!  They’d just topped up the barrels…  loving the effect.

The guides recommended this winery as the one to buy wine from – apparently it’s one of the most reasonably priced wineries for grand cru wines – they didn’t mark up as much as other wineries.  So, I can report we did follow their advice – but before you get too excited – it has to go away for awhile…  bring on 2016!

As if that wasn’t enough action for one day – Vincent was very keen to get us to Dijon.  He was clearly passionate about this town!  Trouble was – it was still raining quite a lot, and there weren’t quite enough umbrellas to go around – so it wasn’t the most ideal conditions for a walking tour.

Undeterred he proudly showed us Musée des Beaux Arts…

The juxtaposition of gothic and Romanesque architecture…

The shops and the streets of Dijon…

And finally… last but certainly not least – the famous Polar Bear sculpture from one of my favourite artists – Pompom.  I saw the original in the Musée D’Orsay – but couldn’t take a picture there – so I was happy to settle for this pic of a copy!!  Vincent proudly told us that in Pompom’s day – Rodin was taking all the glory for human form sculpture – so Pompom, who used to be Rodin’s assistant, turned to animals instead.  I can’t believe how streamlined and gorgeous this bear is – so different to Rodin’s work!  Love it!!

After this we visited a gingerbread and mustard shop – both signature products of Dijon.  And then we finally made our way back to the van to be transferred back to the hotel.  We may not have cycled today – but we were certainly kept busy enough!!  It was good to retire to our rooms for a little rest before contemplating dinner…   tonight we were dining at apparently the best restaurant in Nuits-Saint-Georges (according to the locals)… so stay tuned!