Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Visit to Dijon Dec 7th - 9th

 In late September of this year, our friends from Portland and Paula and I went to Vandensees, France to spend a weekend on a bed and breakfast barge called the Wine & Water.  We had such a great time that we invited two of our friends from Nestle, Patty and John to spend a weekend on the barge and go on a wine tour. In the winter, the owner of the boat Max and his wife Bea, move the barge to Dijon because the canals in Vandenesse, where the barge is normally moored, freezes over.

We had scheduled a departure time of 6:00pm, on Friday, to drive from Vevey to Dijon, which is in the eastern part of France, in the Burgundy area.   The drive normally takes about 3-hours.   However, on Friday, western Switzerland and eastern France were hit with our first really big snowstorm.  Vevey had about 3 to 4 inches of snow, while France got a lot more.  The road crews in Switzerland do a great job of keeping the roads drive able, the French, not so much.  We tried to buy train tickets to Dijon, but the last train to Dijon, was completely full. So, we decided to make the drive.  The trip ended up taking us about 5 ½ hours, finally arriving in Dijon around 11:30pm Friday night.

The Wine & Water Barge

On Saturday morning, after a great breakfast prepared by Max and Bea, Max took us on a wine tour.  Because it was so late in the year, he was only able to schedule us into two wineries.

On our way to the first chateau, we passed this tree.  It was planted during the reign of Henry IV (1575 - 1610).  It is over 60 ft tall with a circumference of over 30 ft. The tree is in great shape for one that is over 400 years old.

Chateau Clos de Vougeot, built in the 12th Century.

The Cistercian monks, from the nearby Abbey of Cîteaux, planted the vineyards of Clos de Vougeot in 1098.  They set about creating a wine domain which would run for the next 680 years. In that time, it brought to the peak of perfection the Pinot Noir grape and its flamboyant red wine.  More importantly, the Cistercians, extensive vineyard owners as they were, were the first to notice that different vineyard plots gave consistently different wines.
The Cistercian monks brought to the medieval wine industry an era of order, continuity and peace, implanting cultural roots that would penetrate ever deeper over the centuries to come. From 1789, under the French Revolution, church property was confiscated – a fate the Clos de Vougeot did not escape. 
It was auctioned in 1791 and resold. The Ouvrards, a Parisian banking family, purchased it in 1818, maintaining a monopoly of the vineyards until 1889. The Chateau remained virtually untenanted, until 1889, when it was renovated by its new owner, Leonce Bocquet. At his death, it became the property of Etienne Camuzet, deputy-mayor of Vosne-Romanee, who in 1944 placed it under the collective ownership of several families of Burgundy. 
The domain of the Clos de Vougeot is one of the most famous vineyards in Burgundy.  Currently, it has over 75 wine growers on its 124 acres of land.  This is typical of the vineyards, of Burgundy, there can be many owners for each parcel of land.

The Chateau no longer bottles any wine, but they have preserved the equipment which the monks used to produce their wine.  One of the items is this large wine press pictured above.  Paula and Max are demonstrating how to use it.

The Gerard Quivy Tasting Room.

Clockwise around the table, tasting some of the great wines, from this winery, are Max, Paula John and Patty.

Gerard Quivy, a lawyer, found his true calling in 1980, when he decided to take over his wife's family domaine, which had existed since 1704. He added a few more vineyards over the years. So he is the fourth generation winegrower/winemaker. The vines, which are all Pinot Noir, are over 55 years old.  The winery produces a total of 20,000 bottles annually.  The domaine has now been organic for several years,

The Wine Cellar at Gerard Quivy.

Mold growing on bottled wine.  According to Max, it is imperative not to clean the mold from the bottles as it helps to preserve the wine. When the bottles are sold, they are cleaned, labeled and then boxed.  Every 10 to 12 years, unsold bottles must be re-corked.  

In the Gerard Quivy Wine Cellar.  From left to right, Patty, me, Paula and John.

Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.

The domaine is often abbreviated to DRC.   It produces white and red wines.  It is widely considered among the world's greatest wine producers.
The vineyard is only 4 acres and grows mostly Pinot Noir.  It produces around 3,500 bottles annually.  However, wine from the vineyard is among the most sought after, and expensive, in the world. In October 2010, 77 bottles sold for a total of US $750,609 at auction. A single bottle of the 1990 vintage was sold for US $10,953.
In January 2010, the vineyard was the victim of an extortion attempt. A note left in the vineyard demanded the payment of a million Euros, threatening poisoning if the money was not forthcoming. Two vines were killed, with herbicide, as proof of serious intent. A sting operation resulted in the apprehension of the culprit, Jacques Soltys. Soltys later committed suicide in jail. His son Cedric, who acted as an accomplice, is awaiting trial.

The Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Vineyard.

The vineyard is located on well-drained slopes facing east and southeast at an elevation of around 800 ft above sea level. The soil is iron-rich limestone on a base of rock and marl (soil which contains variable amounts of clay and silt). The average age of the vines is very high - around 44 years - and the vineyards are cultivated organically.
Soil supplements are limited to compost made from crushed vine roots, grape skins and residues from fermentation. To avoid compacting the soil. with the use of tractors, horses are now used to cultivate the vineyards.
It takes the yield from three vines to produce one bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. Yields are kept low through severe pruning early in the season and green pruning in July/August.  Immediately before harvest, all substandard grapes are cut out. At harvest time, the grapes are sorted into small baskets and individually examined for health on triage tables, before the wine making begins.

Max made us a reservation at this restaurant named, Le Cellier Volnaysien.  According to Max, one of their specialties is Coq au Vin. 

The Chateau Chassagne-Montrachet Tasting Room.

This was the last winery that we visited.  It is a relatively new vineyard, only in existence since 1986.  

The label is a little hard to see, but this is a bottle of Chambolle Musigny from the Joseph Drouhin Winery.  The vintage - 1967.

Max wanted us to try this bottle, so naturally we had to open it.  For a wine that was 45 years old, it was not too bad.

The Joseph Drohin vineyard is located in the village of Chambolle, about 12 miles southwest of Dijon. The name of the village is probably derived from the Celtic "Cambola" which was already reputed for its vineyards during Roman times.  

Joseph Drouhin owns several parcels of land, near Chambolle, the largest is .63 acres.  The limestone soil is ideally suited for growing Pinot Noir grapes.

The City of Dijon had just completed its new tram system.  As a celebration, they had a fireworks display, near where our barge was moored.

On Sunday morning, after another great breakfast prepared by Max and Bea, we headed out to tour Dijon.  

Dijon Cathedral (Cathedrale Saint-Benigne de Dijon).

Saint Benignus of Dijon was martyred under Aurelian (Roman Emperor from 270 to 275), for spreading the Christian gospel throughout what is know modern day France. He is honored as the patron saint of Dijon and the first to bring Christianity to Dijon.  His feast day is November 1.
This large, Gothic cathedral was built between 1280 and 1325.  During the French Revolution, it was the seat of the Bishop of Dijon.  Since 2002 it was been the seat of the Archbishop of Dijon.
The cathedral sits upon the alleged resting place of St. Benignus of Dijon. His grave was originally adorned with pagan markings, so as to keep his persecutors from further desecrating his memory.
Over the centuries, the original basilica was razed and replaced with a Romanesque cathedral incorporating two-stories of churches (one underground, surrounding the sarcophagus in the crypt) and a tri-level rotunda. In the late 13th century, the structure, already undermined by a fire in 1137, saw irreparable damage when its crossing tower collapsed and ruined the upper church and much of the one underground. In 1325, the current Gothic-influenced building was completed and consecrated.

The Burgundy area is famous for its roofs made of colored tiles which are arranged in geometric patterns. It is thought that the glazed colored tiles came to the area from central Europe in the mid 1800’s.

Even the Cathedral has replaced part of its roof with the colored tiles.

One of the Stained Glass Windows in the Cathedral.

The Main Altar in the Cathedral.

Saint-Philibert Church.

This is the only church, in the city, that is mostly Roman.  It is located next to St. Benign. This is a very interesting building which is unfortunately abandoned, and currently closed, but remains a very important specimen of Burgundian Romanesque art. The church became a parish and was rebuilt in the mid 12th century.  

Abandoned during the French Revolution, the building fell into disrepair.  It was transformed into a stable and was also used for the storage of salt, which severely damaged the walls and pillars. Restored in the 1970s, Saint-Philibert has been closed since 1975, due to the high cost of maintaining the building. 

One can only regret the closure, because the church is very interesting and the late Romanesque style is particularly rare. 

The Palace of the Dukes and Estates of Burgundy (Palais des Ducs et des Etats de Bourgogne )

The palace of The Dukes of Dijon now houses the city hall with the mayor's office and other administrative offices and The Musee des Beaux-Arts de Dijon (The Dijon museum of fine arts). The tower of Philippe le Bon, located in the center of the palace, offers an impressive view of the Dijon city.
From the early 11th century until 1477, it was the throne of the powerful Dukes of Burgundy.  After the death of the last Duke of Burgundy, Charles The Bold in 1477, the kings of France named governors to rule Burgundy .  The palace was the royal residence for these governors.
The first buildings came in 1365, after the Burgundy Dukes left the city of Beaune to install their power in the more prominent city of Dijon. The first buildings were built on the ruins of a once Gallo-Roman fortress.
As time passed, buildings and offices were added in a chaotic manner, with a resulting problem of management and organization. The first steps in regaining control came in the 17th century with the construction of a general assembly hall. Additional renovation and construction occurred in the early 18th century.

A picture of one of the buildings, in the historic part of Dijon, with its multi-colored tiled roof.

Another picture from Dijon.  

After we completed our tour of Dijon, we decided to drive back to Vevey, through the Jura Mountains, which are located in eastern France and western Switzerland. We figured that the French had plowed the roads to make them drive able, they had.  The following pictures are views as we drove back to Vevey.  

As we neared Vevey, we had the most incredible sunset.  This picture does not capture its magnificence. 

On Monday morning I had to take the funicular to the top of Mount Pelerin, elevation 2,657 ft, to do an errand.  Mount Pelerin overlooks Vevey and Lake Geneva. The Funicular has been in operation sine 1900.

As I said at the beginning of the blog, we had our first big snowstorm on Friday. The following are pictures from Mount Pelerin on Monday, still a lot of snow.

In the middle of this picture, as viewed from Mont Pelerin, is the World Headquarters for Nestle.  This is were Paula works.

The Nestle building, with the Alps in the background.

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