Yo ho ho and a bottle of Burgundy. It’s wine season. Time to head to France for a stompin’ good time.
Rolling hills, green pastures, and rows of grapevines blend with ancient castles and quaint homes for the ultimate French country experience. Come harvest time, the sweet smell of fermentation permeates the entire Burgundy (Bourgogne en français) region.
Make base camp in historic and elegant Beaune at the charming (not a euphemism for cheap, though rates run a reasonable 100-150 euros per night) four-room B&B Les Jardins de Loïs (8 Boulevard Bretonnière; +33-3-80-22-04-62). Owners Anne-Marie and Philippe Dufouleur are also winemakers, which makes them great resources for the area.
You’re here to eat and drink, so get to it. Have lunch in Chablis at Laroche (18 Rue des Moulins; +33-3-86-42-47-30), which is owned by a large wine producer, as is the connecting Hôtel du Vieux Moulin in an 18th-century water mill. Rooms are decorated in minimal modern style, accented with kooky pieces from the owner’s travels around the world. The beds sure look inviting after those hefty portions of foie gras and Bresse chicken.
The can’t-miss restaurant is Deux Pièces-Cuisine (45 Rue Maufoux; +33-3-80-26-91-10). Cute space, reasonable prix fixe, not at all flashy: just cool young chef Emilie Barat in her kitchen doing creative twists on traditional Burgundian dishes and a guy waiting tables.
Also great for dinner in Beaune: Caves Madeleine (8 Rue Faubourg Madeleine; +33-3-80-22-93-30). Part wine retail store, part casual restaurant jammed with locals, it serves funky country fare, including massive andouilettes that can be faced only with a generous scoop of Dijon mustard.
Have your fancy, decadent old-school French meal (you have to have at least one) at Château de Bellecroix (20 Chemin de Bellecroix; +33-3-85-87-13-86), a grand castle in Chagny. If you can’t bring yourself to leave the grounds, you can book a room and spend the night.
For a picnic spot with spectacular views of the Corton vineyard and Beaune area, go to Frétille in Pernand-Vergelesses. Enter the village, go up past the church, and head straight until you come to the end of the road at the top of the hill. (It’s easy. And how are there no tourists there?) Take a lunch of stinky cheese, bread, and the works from fabulous fromagerie Alain Hess (7 Place Carnot; +33-3-80-24-73-51).
A visit to Burgundy isn’t complete without checking out small producers like Alain and Julien Guillot at Domaine des Vignes du Maynes (71260 Cruzille en Mâconnais, +33-3-85-33-20-15) in Macon and Arnaud and Lydia de Suremain at La Cave Bio’te d’Agneux (4 Impasse d’Agneux; +33-3-85-87-37-31) in Rully. You can’t just drop in, so call ahead for an appointment. Both are funky and down to earth. And they make beautiful wines. You won’t find expensive hotels or fancy tasting rooms. It will be you and a third-, fourth-, or fifth-generation family member in the cellar waxing poetic about their vins.
You’ll drink to that.