Day 3: Sinking Teeth Into Burgundy

After what may be our only great night of sleep this whole trip, we got up, had a wonderful breakfast of baguette, eggs and charcuterie, then headed to our first tasting at David Duband.

David Duband is based in Chevannes, which is in the Hauts Côtes de Nuits, which is about a half hour away from the main stretch of vineyard land. This drive was absolutely stunning, and the type of terrain that calls to mind the French countryside I had in my head all this time. Think rolling hills, tiny stone villages tucked into valleys, thick clustered woods where there were once wolves, and perfectly manicured farmland divided by hedges and stone walls. You always imagine life here like it might have been centuries ago. If you were a peasant, that big stone mansion on the hill was owned by your lord, who also owned you. If you were a farmer, those wolves in the forest presented a real danger to your family and your livelihood.

When we arrived at David Duband he burst into the room like an explosion, all smiles and handshakes. Every winemaker has such a different personality, and David’s exuberance absolutely shows through in his wines. We tasted his range of Premier Cru and village wines from the 2016 vintage. The reds were great: aromatic, with plenty of flair and verve. This vintage is awesome. Lifted, pretty wines with good structure that are drinking great right now. After having several 2015s next to their 2016 counterparts, I have to say I prefer the way the 16s are drinking right now. Duband makes an Hauts Côtes de Nuits Blanc that he calls “Chevannes-Montrachet” after his village, but we didn’t taste that one.

Our next appointment was at Roulot. When I talked about Roumier in my last post, I mentioned some religious qualities. Devout interpreter-winemaker, hallowed ground, rare insight and revelation. If Christophe Roumier were the high priest of red Burgundy, Jean-Marc Roulot would be the wise prophet of white Burgundy. Getting a tasting here is nigh impossible, so I’m grateful to our hosts at Grand Cru Selections for making it a reality. Thirty years ago, one could tour around Burgundy and drop into people’s cellars to taste wine, and that is absolutely not the reality today. Appointments and recommendations are necessary. As a member of the trade I’m able to be included in these tastings, and I’m very thankful to have the opportunity.

A very capable and knowledgable gentleman named Paul greeted us at Roulot and took us through the lineup of 2016 Meursaults. The four of us seasoned wine professionals at the tasting were like giggling kids, looking at each other and realizing the gravity of the moment. These are wines that I can’t even get for the restaurant I work for. Maybe I can get a few bottles a year of one or two cuvées, but getting to taste six of them side by side was incredible. The Meursault Charmes lived up to its name with a rich and velvety texture, the Perrières likewise with brisk acidity and powerful structure. These are not white wines for wimps. And anyone who tells you they don’t like Chardonnay would have their heart and mind changed after a tasting like this. I’m still in awe.

After our tasting we went to the grand crus to get a look around. We walked around the entirety of Montrachet, the greatest white wine vineyard in the world. I was again surprised at the humility of this little place. This is a smaller patch of land than a soccer field. In a difficult year this whole vineyard might yield only 5000 bottles across the several producers making it. And each bottle of Montrachet might average 1000 dollars or more upon release. An acre of this land could go for almost 10 million dollars. So you can see the way rarity and access play a huge role here. Just getting to walk around this vineyard and see its soil was a treat. We then went to the red grand crus vineyards, got reprimanded by a horse-drawn ploughman in French, and headed up to northern Burgundy.

We drove north to a little town called L’Isle-sur-Serein, and dined at a pretty epic restaurant there. The epic-ness doesn't apply at all to the food, but in fact to the wine list. An amazing selection of hard-to-find wines, and surly service that did the wines no favor at all. But even if you're treated poorly it's pretty fantastic to have the world's most difficult-to-find wines at a premium. This felt very French somehow, even though most of the service we've gotten here was friendly and heartfelt.

The next morning necessitated exercise, and I got to run along the Serein river before we headed north to Chablis.