As our bailliage has continued to evolve we decided to take advantage of Chevalier Al Harmann to arrange an extended summertime journey to Burgundy. A financial interest in a bed and breakfast operation at Le Clos Saint-Martin in the small town of Mellecey provided access to the perfect home base in Burgundy. This quaint retreat is run by Kate Murray-Sykes with her husband and Negotiant Stephan Murray-Sykes. He arranged and guided a series of private winery tours through a whirlwind week of activities. Stephan was assisted by Jean-Michel Jacob who runs Domaine Lucien Jacob in which the Harmanns also have a financial investment.
The Harmanns had to stay home but gave 14 others in the Cincinnati “Chaîne” Gang a spectacular opportunity to visit winemakers and sample some of the best the Cote d’Or has to offer in splendid style. Three officers, three Chevaliers, and a Dame de la Chaîne came with spouses or, in the case our Bailli, his daughter in from New York City. First stop was Stephan’s cellar where he opened bottlings from Stéphane Aladame, François Lumpp, Louis Boillot, and others the group would visit in coming days. Then it was off to a delicious initial dinner at nearby Hotel Val d’Or.
The winery tour started next morning appropriately at Domaine Lucien Jacob and, after a vineyard excursion, many of Jean-Michel’s wines were savored in the cellar. The agenda then took our travelers to the central town of Beaune and lunch at Ma Cuisine, a favorite of wine critic Robert Parker. Afternoon brought a tour at Le Moutarderie Fallot where everyone had a hand in creating their own personal mustard blend. Dining for the evening was at Le Montrachet bringing a delightful end to an enjoyable outing.
The third day necessitated comfortable walking shoes, starting with a guided tour of Château de Germolles, the lone surviving country estate of the Dukes of Burgundy. Owner Matthieu Pinette told of history, archaeological discoveries and reconstruction efforts at the palatial residence. After lunch in Mellecey our confreres returned to Beaune for a tour of the Hospices de Beaune and afternoon of relaxed shopping. Evening’s entertainment was courtesy of famous producer Maison Joseph Drouhin with a private cellar tour, wine tasting and catered dinner in the cellar.
While the following day was free, many continued on the wine road to the vineyards of Clos de Vougeot and the famous historic Château, owned by Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin since 1944. Sightseeing in Mersault was a favorite stop as well. For dinner everyone rejoined to visit Moulin de Martorey for a private four course meal featuring Premier Cru wines from Rully and Mercurey.
After a relatively relaxed respite the team came back strong on Thursday. Stephan led the merry band to Volnay for a visit to Domaine Henri Boillot. This winery had been named for Jean Boillot but his son Henri has recently brought both his labels under one name. His winemaking was as meticulous as his attire as he poured some of the finest wines to be found in the Cote d’Or. The lunch stop was at Le Bouchon in Meursault with more gastronomic skills to be relished. A high point of the trip followed at the relatively large producer Domaine Vincent Girardin. Although in the family for 11 generations, the label has recently made great strides to become a very modern operation with immaculate cellars and a stylish contemporary tasting room as a backdrop for a wide range of bottlings. A magnificent conclusion came with dinner at Lameloise in Chagny. People put on their finery for this Michelin 3 star restaurant and were served with artistry and culinary imagination through a series of immaculate presentations.
If there is a hallowed ground for lovers of Pinot Noir it surely is Vosne-Romanée. That setting was the start of the next morning at Domaine Jean Grivot where our fellows made great sacrifice descending into the cellar of the stately maison to sample Grand Crus from Clos de Vougeot, Échézeaux and Richebourg. This warm up continued at Domaine Perrot-Minot with several Premier Crus from Vosne-Romanée and Chambolle-Musigny. The marathon proceeded to Domaine Clos des Lambrays with its beautiful estate and gardens. More Grand Cru and barrel samples made for an inviting afternoon that later returned our crew to Chalon and a dinner cruise on the Saône River. Kate joined Stephan and our mariners as they enjoyed a meal with many wines from producers visited in the past two days.
The final day of the journey began close by in Mercurey at Domaine Michel Juillot. Barrel sampling in the cellar was followed by a welcome into their home for a tasteful buffet banquet and more Premier Cru selections with a bonus of a Grand Cru Corton-Perrières. Then it was off to Chassagne-Montrachet to meet the Duchesse de Magenta at vineyards owned by Château de Sully. After some discussion and sampling of the wines the tour made its way into the countryside to the magnificent moated Château, winery and gardens. This is the largest private residence in Burgundy and has been in the ownership of one family since the 18th century when Catholic expatriate Jean Baptiste de Mac Mahon settled from Ireland and married into the estate. Surviving through the French revolution to this day, the Château is home for the Duchesse and family. The culmination of the tour was a gala dinner for the group including Stephan and Kate Murray-Sykes and Jean-Michel and Christine Jacob with the Duchesse de Magenta as hostess. Along with the marvelous food came older Grand Cru cellar selections from the estate, including a magnum from 1959. All in the party were grateful for the alliance that Chevalier Al Harmann provided. As Vice Chancelier-Argentier George Elliott commented, “the connections in Burgundy are what made the trip a success. Without them we would never have been able to get below the surface and have all those wonderful experiences.”
J.T. Mayer, Vice Chargé de Presse