North America, Europe · 16 Days · 23 Moments · August 2018

France and Madeira 2018


9 September 2018

Took the train from Dijon to Charles de Gaulle airport and am ready for the flight home. Many wonderful things learned during this trip! The most significant is about my Grandmother. She passed away on January 22, 2012. I thought there might be something special about the day, but didn’t find anything obvious about the saints of the day, and took it as enough that it was a Sunday, which made perfect sense. Multiple signs pointed to St. Vincent during the trip - relics in Notre Dame Paris, folklore that his bones were hidden for a time on Madeira prior to being taken to Lisbon, and lots of St Vincent related events in Burgundy. St. Vincent of Saragossa has a feast day of January 22, and is the patron saint of wine makers. Cheers Grandma!

8 September 2018

Another wine tip from my teacher at the Cave of the Guardian Angel: we smell different through each nostril. I thought it may have been the power of suggestion, or Jedi mind tricks, but Stanford, UC Irvine and other major researchers have studies that prove him right. The right side will pick up flowers, the left side fruits, and then together, everything else including minerals. Start with the right, then left, then both. In most cases, white burgundy will reveal white or yellow flowers(honeysuckle, citronella) and fruit (peach, pineapple, citrus). Red burgundy will usually result in red or blue flowers (rose, violet) and fruit (plum, raspberry). Some of the scents for both are coffee, nutmeg, almonds, forest floor, mushrooms, leather, and tobacco.
In between two wine bars that were on my list to visit was the Church of Notre Dame of Dijon, which turned out to be a great place to celebrate evening mass for the Nativity of Mary. Also a pic of historic Burgundian roof tiles - a few buildings in town have this. Last pic is of people from America that I met in a champagne bar in Epernay. We decided to have dinner together at The Bank, a restaurant in an old bank. A treat at the end of the meal was getting to visit the vault. I was able to tell some fun stories about working at the vault at Knott’s Berry Farm while in college, and also some stories from the Fed Reserve.
Had a morning vertical tasting at Joseph Drouhin of Clos des Mouches, both white and red. One of the few vineyards that has both white and red. Mouches is literally flies, but it was meant to be bees. Older is definitely better! Drove up to Dijon and visited the Cathedral, complete with a crypt and a small chapel that dates back to the 6th century. Also on the list was the church of St. Michael. A surprise find was the Magic Owl of Dijon. It is carved into a church, so I thought it might be religious, but a quick Google search revealed it was a carving that has been granting wishes, for those that rub it with their left hand, for over 300 years.

7 September 2018

Had the better part of a 2007 Comte Senard bottle of wine last night from a grand cru vineyard Corton Bressandes. Today I had a tasting at the Cave of the Guardian Angel, that was unexpectedly a 3 hour course on how to taste burgundy and determine without looking at the bottle if it is young or old, and if the grapes were picked prior to or after being fully ripe. His tip was to never swirl in the glass - you just smell the alcohol. A good wine should have a good nose without swirling. Spent the remainder of the day walking around town and visiting many of the wine shops.

6 September 2018

The day started cloudy, then reached a downpour for most of the afternoon. Fortunately it is a clear evening to walk around town. Went back to the north of town to taste reds again. Took a break from tasting and visited the Abbey of Our Lady of Citeaux, the home church of the Cistercian Order. This was the Abbey were a group of Benedictine monks in 1098 formed their own group to more closely follow the rules of St. Benedict. I gave thanks for all the work the Cistercian monks did in the past to discover that some areas were better than others for growing grapes and built walls to separate the various vineyards. They were also skilled in building massive wine presses.

5 September 2018

There is a beautiful light show on the 13th century church in Beaune.
I visited the highest priced vineyards this afternoon. Chevalier Montrachet has the highest price white burgundy (Chardonnay), and Romanee Conti the most expensive red (Pinot noir). The white is about $800 per bottle on release, the red a bit more (that’s about $1-$2 per grape). Bottles of Romanee Conti have gone for $15,000+ per bottle for highly rated years.
An amazing lunch/tasting and education on white burgundy at Oliver Leflaive. I may need to rethink good Chardonnay.

4 September 2018

Next stop on the drive was Nevers and a visit to the Shrine of St. Bernadette. The last stop was Autun for the Cathedral of St. Lazarus. Finally made it to Beaune. Grape vines everywhere! South of Beaune is mostly white, and north of the city is mostly red. Harvest is underway and lots of tractors are out on the roads mixed with vans to transport pickers in between vineyards.
Spent today driving from Epernay to Beaune visiting multiple churches along the way. First stop was Troyes and the Cathedral of St Urbain and the Basilica of Sts Peter and Paul. Next stop was Vezelay, known for relics of Mary Magdalene.

3 September 2018

Monday was a full day of champagne tasting. First stop was Moet and Chandon. The picture of the rack of bottles are magnums of Don Perignon (they wouldn’t tell us what year it was). With all the tasting, lunch was limited to a bag of crackers.

2 September 2018

A day full of planes and trains. Have arrived at Epernay for Champagne Part 2. Hope to be able to get to peek inside the Church tomorrow. Arrived at 6pm so only a few places open for tasting, but I plan to get to both of them. Train from Paris had beautiful scenery with corn on the flatland and grapes on hillsides. I could see workers in the hills starting to harvest the grapes.

1 September 2018

I attended Saturday evening mass at the Jesuit Church of St John the Evangelist. The Church was full. Like one of the Jesuit churches in Rome, they painted their curved flat ceiling to appear to have a dome and windows. The multiple alters contain stunning woodwork.
Made time to try some Portuguese food - vinho d’alhos and Lupini Beans - the local equivalent of edamame, and check out local crafts. Made a trek up hill to the convent of Santa Clara, that has one of the first churches built on the island after its discovery. It was a cloistered order until the early 1800s. The nuns had only an obstructed view of the beautiful church. Half way to the convent I stumbled upon St. Peter’s Church with an amazing alter.

31 August 2018

Took the cable car half way up the island to their botanical garden. One of the ways down is by a wooden toboggan guided by two runners. This method has been around since 1900. Had a tasting of multiple ages of Sercial today, along with some older vintages of Bual and Sercial. I came to the realization that future milestone birthdays may need to be celebrated with birth year Madeira or Port, rather than birth year Bordeaux.

30 August 2018

Traveled to Madeira today. Looks a lot like Hawaii with houses on the steep slopes. They are celebrating their 600th year. Christopher Columbus stopped here to re-supply on one of his trips. They had a mini wine tasting at the airport! The churches look a lot like they did in the Azores. Lots of great wine to taste over the next few days! Last pic of wine is same grape, at 1999, 15 years old, 10 years old and 5 years old from left to right. By no surprise, the oldest, and most expensive, tasted the best.

29 August 2018

This evening was vespers and mass at Notre Dame, then down to the park to check out the dancing - salsa and tango going in separate areas. Ended the evening attending a Mozart and Bach concert at Sainte Chapelle.
Caught an early morning train to Paris and spent most of the day visiting churches. Started with Sainte Chapelle, originally built to house the Crown of Thorns relic. Then to Notre Dame and Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. The final stop was St Denis Basilica Cathedral, where most French kings and queens have been buried since the 6th century. The picture of the couple kneeling is Louis 16th and Marie Antoinette.

28 August 2018

A great day in Reims. Tastings at Ruinart, Pommery, Tattinger, Veuve Clicquot, and a wine bar with multiple local small producers. Also spent some time in the beautiful Basilica of Saint Remi.

27 August 2018

Not much sleep, but made it to Reims. First stop was the Cathedral, followed by a lesson on how to open a champagne bottle with a saber. Some additional champagne tasting prior to dinner.
Saturday started with a trip to Ben and Jerry’s ice cream Factory...yum! The wedding was wonderful. Joe is taking Vanessa’s last name so there is a new Mr. and Mrs. Rose. My 10pm flight on Norwegian Air was cancelled at 2:30, so a big last minute rush to book a new flight on WOW airlines to go to Paris via Iceland. It was nice getting to see Megan play soccer in a pre-seasonal n scrimmage. She didn’t let anyone score on her, but the other goalie let two get by. A quick drink in the lounge and hopefully some sleep on the flight.

24 August 2018

Rehearsal picnic for Vanessa and Joe’s wedding. Mt. Philo has a beautiful view of Lake Champlain.