I visited Beaune, in Burgundy (or Bourgogne) in mid-April and enjoyed the most outstanding weather, all blue skies and flower blossoms. It was under these circumstances that I met Jacquie Morrison, Manager of Private Tours, Tastings and Events at Maison Joseph Drouhin. I had an appointment with her to take a look inside the cellars and learn about the historyand future of wine made by Maison Joseph Drouhin.
In order to tour and taste with Jacquie or her staff, one must reserve a tour. Before heading to Beaune, check the Drouhin website to see what’s available. There are special opportunities to explore unique aspects of the estate and vineyards as well as regularly-scheduled tour times which are purposefully limited to a few guests. Jacquie personally constructs these groups based on her years of experience. This careful cultivation is in direct alignment with the way that Drouhin manages every aspect of their House, nothing seems thrown-together or left to chance; visitors feel very much tended-to.
This visit to Beaune came near the start of a road-trip through France that I enjoyed with my husband and a couple of friends. We had the afternoon and evening ahead of us in Beaune so we asked Jacquie where we could be dazzled by dinner. She recommended Le P’tit Paradis, but she looked at her watch. Unless they are washing lunch dishes still, she said, there probably isn’t anyone there until dinner. We decided to wander, glance at menus and see what might suit us.
We basked and sauntered and walked arm-in-arm and fell right onto the terrace of Le P’tit Paradis just as the proprietor Jean-Marie was leaving after wrapping up lunch. We asked about a dinner reservation and she took us right inside and put our names in the book for 8:30, when we would return hungry.
During our afternoon walkabout in Beaune we enjoyed the audio tour of the medieval hospital, known as L’Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune (Des Hospice Civils de Beaune), which tells the story of a place for the poor of the region to heal. This is a monument of heritage and history. Wine lovers know of the historic wine auction, which finances the facility even still, through the sale of remarkable wine from the Hospice vineyards.
That evening dining at Le P’tit Paradis, we enjoyed a bottle of Côte de Beaune from Drouhin with our delicious and expertly-served dinner. We were so full we worried we’d find it necessary to refuse dessert, but we certainly did not. We left completely satisfied and happy to be alive.
Our night was spent in an adorable inn, one of my favorites for reconnecting with calm in Bourgogne. Hôtel le Clos is located a scoot outside the center of Beaune in a stone and green-spaced hamlet called Montagny-les-Beaune. The French term clos (as in Clos des Mouches) means enclosed vineyard or farm, and the inn is just that, a restored farm surrounded by a low stone wall and lots of relaxing luxury and simply outstanding flora. We wound down our evening there in the intimate bar with a glass of local table wine.
When I woke the next day, I opened the windows on another fabulous morning. I heard the sound of a little dog in the distance and smelled just-bloomed flowers and fresh-trimmed grass. We enjoyed breakfast at our leisure in the inn before heading down to Provence, where we’d spend several days enjoying the sun.
Here are my tips for visiting Beaune:
- Beaune is located in the Bourgogne region, known as Burgundy. The area is so beautiful and tasty; it will wake anyone up from a work-a-day trance. If you can manage, take a car so you can stop off and enjoy what might present itself (I’m putting together a piece on my road trip through France, and an unexpected stop in Bourgogne shines as a highlight of the whole trip.)
- When in town, you’ll be able to park the car and stroll. There is plenty to see, taste and write home about. If you have time for at least a couple meals, you will not be disappointed. We experienced the glitter of luck when Jean-Marie put us in Le P’tit Paradis for the evening. To reserve a table visit the website and pop in your information.
- We had an afternoon coffee (ok, and a ham sandwich) at a darling little place where we enjoyed people-watching and dog-admiring. We got a touch chilly and asked if the outside heater could be turned on. When the answer was no, the waiter told us to hold on, he had something in mind. He came out with four cozy plaid blankets to snuggle under. What incredible service. To sit and enjoy the experience grab a seat outside at Brasserie Le Carnot which can be reached by phone at +33 3 80 22 32 93, or by stroll which is how we found this gem.
- While the area might seem graduate-level when it comes to wine, there is so much to learn that everyone comes in as a beginner at some point. Don’t hesitate to schedule time at Drouhin to learn and live the history. Jacquie will customize the tour for the group gathered before her. To book your time with Jacquie or another of the guides visit the website to connect and learn what’s being offered while you are in town.
- Hôtel le Clos has several types of rooms to make your home for the night. Their website has a lot of helpful information, including general bits about Beaune as well as specific details regarding the hotel. There is a darling video (in French) that is so beautiful. If you don’t speak French, enjoy with your eyes. English-speaking travelers will feel perfectly welcome here. Don’t hesitate to ask for information or details. Click around on the website to get a feeling for and book this sweet little hotel.
- On this particular trip, I was only in town long enough for one dinner, but in the past I’ve enjoyed a meal at Le Berger du Temps, which is only a few footsteps down the road from Hôtel le Clos. This authentic and cozy little nook has a large, decorative terrace and lots of little French knick-knacks about the place to spark stories in your head. So handy, these websites…this one too offers online reservations.
Beaune is truly outstanding when it comes to food, wine and beauty. Have you visited this region? Which winemakers, hotels and restaurants do you recommend?