Marsannay and One Last Day in Beaune

At breakfast, we chatted with the gîte owners and the French family whose Weimaraner had, depending on whose side you were on, either attacked / or was attacked by the house cat. Apparently, there was no physical damage to the cat, but the emotional trauma was serious. The Weimaraner, who caught the worst of it, was recovering.

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We were headed up to the very northern tip of the Côte d’Or to Marsannay-la-Côte, where we had just one tasting appointment at Domaine Sylvain Pataille. First, we stopped to pick up Danielle Hammon of Le Serbet (Becky Wasserman Selections), the legendary import company who was our connection to most of the wineries we were able to visit. Danielle had been there at each of our tastings in Burgundy except for Bernard Moreau, acting as a liaison and occasional translator, although all of the winemakers spoke excellent English. For me, Danielle was also an excellent role model for how to taste professionally — swishing, savoring, and spitting with gusto, asking intelligent questions, and yet never letting anything go to her head. Also a Bay Area native but living in Beaune for the past three years, we enjoyed her company and her insider perspective on life and wine in Bourgogne.

Sylvain’s brother Laurent met us in the simple underground cave and began drawing off barrel samples of Chardonnay and Pinot from vineyards with names as intriguing as the flavors they produced: La Charme aux Prêtres (The Priest’s Charm), Clos du Roy (The King’s Enclosure), Les Grasses Têtes (The Fat Heads). We also sampled four Bourgogne Aligotés from four separate parcels, fermented and bottled separately, an unusual project that showcased the versatility of this little-known varietal.

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The cave at Sylvain Pataille, featuring barrel art by the winemaker’s little daughter.

Pataille is doing quite a few things that could be considered unusual; for one, he is experimenting with not sulfuring his wines to allow for the most natural expression of terroir possible. He also produces a rosé that is aged in oak barrels for two years, which is very rare for rosé wine. The “Fleur de Pinot” offered the fruit and floral qualities one expects from a rosé, but with beguiling vanilla and spice flavors that would make it excellent to pair with food.

Our next appointment was back in Beaune for lunch at Ma Cuisine with Paul Wasserman of Le Serbet. Ma Cuisine is probably the worst-kept secret in Burgundy; practically every person we spoke to did not just recommend but rather insisted that we go to this restaurant. Visiting Ma Cuisine with Paul made the experience even more fabulous, not only because he himself is fabulous company, but also because he knows the owners, knows the menu by heart, and speaks French as if he’s lived there his whole life (which he basically has).

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A “nerdy” bottle.

We ordered everything.

Foie gras with crispy sea salt; roast chicken with flash-fried white truffle; roast pigeon with plums (it was my first time trying pigeon, and it was incredible — somewhere between quail and duck). Naturally, we needed a bottle of red as well as a white, and with two wine geeks at the table, we ordered two “nerdy” bottles: a 2003 Meursault Les Tessons from Domaine Roulot, and Moreau’s Chassagne La Cardeuse 2011. I didn’t think I really “got” the red in particular until I had it with the food and then…I did.

And then, two hours later, there was dessert. Paul insisted that we go over to the dessert area, where the proprietress introduced us to an array of tartes and cakes that were just crying out, “pick me!” A tart-sweet apricot tarte and an almond-cream-pastry confection were the show-stoppers in an epic meal.

We more or less waddled out into the daylight and wandered around Beaune in a lovely daze. We got some culture at the Hospices de Beaune, which is even more beautiful inside than out:

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Inside the Hospices.

Then we strolled through the shops and took in the local color:

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The sign said Don’t Touch.

But deep down, we both knew we were just biding the time until we could drink again with relatively clear consciences. Honestly, there isn’t that much to do in Beaune besides wine: it’s why everyone is there.

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Drew getting serious about wine, finally.

We found what we were looking for at La Maison du Colombier, a “gastro bar” recommended by Paul Wasserman for its wine list as well as its tapas.

We focused on the wine.

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Bottle #1.

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Bottle #2

Once we drank up an appetite, we went with “simple” dishes: a marinated octopus that melted in your mouth; a Spanish ham as sweet and creamy as marzipan.

Sitting on the terrace on a warm summer evening, as the sun went down, I could have gone home right that moment, and gone home happy.

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Beaune by night.

But there was so much more to come…

And that means more for you, to come (probably) tomorrow!

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