The day our big red bus drove south along the Côte de Nuits, I thought I was going to die and go to heaven right there. We passed sign after sign naming so many of the famous vineyards I had only ever read about in books and seen on wine labels – Chambertin, Charmes-Chambertin, Chambertin Clos de Beze, Clos de la Roche, Clos St-Denis, and Clos de Tart, just to name a few. I practically had tears in my eyes, not believing that I was actually there, seeing this hallowed land with my own eyes.
We stopped at Clos de Vougeot where we visited the Château du Clos de Vougeot. The first buildings on the site were built by the Citeaux monks in the 12th century when they realized the need for a place to make the wine from grapes grown on this vast vineyard. In 1551, Dom Loisier, the 48th Abbot of Citeaux decided to add to the buildings and the large castle in the vineyards was erected.
During the Revolution in 1790, the Château and the vineyard were confiscated and became “property of the nation.” During the next several decades, the domain changed owners many times and was near ruin when in 1889 a Burgundian by the name of Léonce Bocquet, saved the estate from certain destruction and spent vast sums of money restoring it.
In 1944, the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, who had used the chateau since 1934, became the caretakers of the Clos de Vougeot, and took on the huge task of making the Château du Clos de Vougeot one of the shrines of Burgundy.
Tours of the domain’s buildings are available and there is a large gift shop where one can buy all kinds of wine related gifts, books, maps, and post cards. No wine is made at the Château any more and none is for sale in the gift shop.
After our visit of Clos de Vougeot we again drove south to the village of Vosne-Romanée and walked around the widely celebrated Grands Crus vineyards of this commune. Vosne-Romanée is mentioned in documents as early as the 6th century, and although Gevry-Chambertin has 8 Grands crus vineyards and Vosne-Romanée only has 6, it is still considered to be the greatest Pinot Noir village in the world. I think I had a religious experience…
A rather manic search through the tiny village led us to the red gates of the illustrious Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. We did not go in as they are not open to visitors without an appointment. The wines of Romanée-Conti are the scarcest, most expensive, and perhaps the best in the world (or so I’m told as I’ve never had the good fortune to try one). The DRC, as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is affectionately known, owns the entire La Romanée-Conti vineyard, as well as owning La Tâche in its entirety, about 1/2 of Richebourg, over 1/3 of Grands-Echézeaux, and 1/7 of Echézeaux, and large holdings in Romanee-St-Vivant.
Other than the letters RC at the top of the gate, the only other indication that this is where the most sought after wines on the planet are made is a tiny plaque just to the right of the red door.
What a fantastic day this was!