A Down on Your Knees Winetasting

Two weeks ago I was hired by the BIVB to translate for two days during a Pinot Noir symposium they were holding. I was frankly delighted to be asked, as the symposium itself sounded really interesting.

My job was to be, for the day before the symposium, the translator for an American wine educator, Julian Maines from Southern Wines, and for a British woman Lulie Halstead who founded Wine Intelligence in London and was making a presentation the next day. The day of the actual symposium I translated at lunch and then translated the various presentations and questions and answers at the symposium itself, which was particularly intense as there was quite a good amount of conflict. Everyone was getting quite aerated over the need (or not) to label all red wines from Burgundy with the “Pinot Noir” grape variety, and basically jump on what was frequently alluded to as the “Sideways” bandwagon.

Anyway, for me the symposium was quite intense and intriguing on the translation front, but all in all I would have to say the highlight of the entire two days was a winetasting at Comte Georges de Vogue’s Domaine in Chambolle Musigny.

This is one coveted winetasting experience, let me tell you. Mere mortals like myself usually don’t get such an opportunity, but the BIVB arranged it for Julian, and I was brought along (trying to hide my ear to ear grin) to translate.

We did uniquely barrel tastings of the 2006 vintage, as of course everything older than that is already sold. We met the winemaker, Francois Millet, in the courtyard and he quickly got us started on a barrel of “Les Amoureux“. Once the wine was in our glasses we were instructed to shake it vigorously top eliminate the bubbles of oxidation still present. I shook my glass, busy translating Julian’s questions and M. Millet’s responses when M.Millet said in his soft yet commanding voice.

“Would it be easier if I just spoke English?” (in perfect English, no less).

Turns out he spoke beautiful English that he learned while going to school in Calgary, so I just relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the winetasting!

Here is M.Millet extracting “Les Amoureuses” out of the barrel for us to taste. The wine was still a bit bubbly, to be sure, but the complexity of aromas and enticing spiciness was already evident. M.Millet told us about his philosophy of keeping his winemaking techniques as simple and unadulterated as possible – such as using horses to plow the vineyards, hand pumping, etc. in order to let the true spirit of the “terroir” shine through.

Next we were ushered into the vaulted cellar downstairs, where we tasted both “Les Amoureuses” and “Les Bonnes Mares” that has finished the maceration process. I absolutely fell in love with Les Bonnes Mares, which reminded me why I love wine and made me want to drop down on my knees in either or prayer or thanks, or perhaps both.

Julian emailed me his photos (posted here) as I didn’t think it would seem very professional to tote my camera along with me.

I also was invited out to restaurants twice during my two days – very rough job, I know. Both of them were good and ones I hadn’t tried before.

First, just outside of Nuits-Saint-Georges (and only minutes from Villers-la-Faye) we lunched at the restaurant “Le Chef Coq of the well-known hotel La Gentilhommiere (LONG roofs tiled in the Burgundy style – can’t miss it). The food was very elegantly presented and I had a Moroccan lamb kebab thing that was out of this world and served in an adorable mini-tagine dish. The peach tart we had for dessert was lovely too. They have a great pool and it looked like an ample eating area outside which would be fabulous on a sunny day (it was raining with thunder and lightning when we were there though, so we stayed firmly indoors).

Secondly dinner that night was in the town of Chagny which is also home to the celebrated 3 Michelin starred restaurant the Lamelloise (which even though I have never been there I would certainly trust the folks at Michelin and recommend it if you have the budget). We went to the restaurant “Le Grenier a Sel 4, rue Marc Boillet, Chagny, which is actually owned or co-owned (wasn’t quite straight on this point) by the Lamelloise. It is a rustic fondue / grilled meats type place where you can get a great Burgundian fondue, or a lovely grilled steak – and the meat and cheeses and other ingredients are apparently the same used by the chefs at Lamelloise – for a very reasonable price. The room is also quite neat, with gorgeous vaulted ceiling and a big interior fireplace for grilling meats along one wall.

And to put the flourish on my two day stint, when I sent in my bill I got a delightful email from the man who hired me who said that in his opinion I had charged too little, and that to compensate he was leaving me a few choice bottles to pick up at the reception area after July 5th, on behalf of the BIVB.