Our last trip to France I called “Appellation Spring,” because we were visiting so many different wine appellations on the trip. This trip is very different, as the areas we are visiting – the Bugey/Savoie region and the Jura – are not as well known for their wine appellations. On the other hand, there are plenty of wines there, and lots of great cheeses.
We arrived in France on Wednesday, April 23, having flown from Boston to Geneva via Dublin. We picked up a car at the Geneva Airport, and drove towards Burgundy, where we were going to spend the first 2 nights with our friend Ghislaine, whom we had stayed with on our trip 2 years ago. On the way, we made a stop in the town of Mercurey, and visited Domaine Michel Juillot. We had stopped at this winery 2 years ago, and liked their wine so much we decided to return. After tasting a few wines there, we bought 2 whites and 1 red Mercurey. Mercurey is one of the appellations in the Cote Challonaise, where very good wines are made which are overshadowed by the more well-known wines of the nearby Cote d'Or.
|Tasting Room at Domaine Michel Juillot|
After leaving Mercurey, we drove to Gueugnon, the town where Ghislaine lives. The weather was beautiful – sunny and mild – and Ghislaine drove us into the center of Gueugnon where we took a walk to see the town. After returning to Ghislaine's house, we had aperitifs and a Provencal rose, and then dinner with a bottle of a 2004 white Mercurey that Ghislaine had found in her cellar. Having been awake for over 36 hours, we called it an early evening.
The next day, one of Ghislaine's children had arranged a visit to a wine producer in the Cote Challonaise, along with several other family members. Nine of us arrived at Domaine Pigneret Fils in the town of Moroges at 11 a.m., where Eric Pigneret gave us a lengthy tour of the winery. Eric and his brother Joseph are the 4th generation of Pignerets to run the winery, and Eric gave a terrific tour with a very enthusiastic presentation of the entire winemaking process at the domaine. He then brought us to the tasting room, where we had a tasting of the entire range of the domaine's wines over several hours, which included plates of salami and cured hams made with the domaine's distilled liquor. The domaine makes wines from the Bourgogne, Mercurey, Rully, Givry and Montagny appellations, as well as 2 sparkling wines, and we tried them all. The quality of the wines was outstanding, and everyone bought quite a bit to take home.
That evening we had dinner with Ghislaine's children, their children, and her in-laws. One dish was tartiflette, a casserole made with cheese, bacon, cream, wine, and Ghislaine's father's potatoes. She also made a roast leg of lamb, and a roast chicken for the children. With dinner we had a bottle of Mercurey rouge from Michel Juillot that we had picked up the day before, and a bottle of Mercurey rouge from Domaine Pigneret.
|Le Diner en Famille|
The next morning, Saturday, we left Ghislaine's and drove towards the Bugey region, in the Ain department, where we were going to spend a week. This was De Ferme en Ferme weekend in France, which is the equivalent of Maine's Open Farm Day, where farms open their doors to visitors, with tours of the farm and samplings and sales of their products. We stopped at Bergerie la Ramaz, a goat cheese producer, where we were given a tour of the farm and the cheese production facility. They have around 100 milking goats, and make a wide range of goat cheese. We bought some cheese, as well as yogurt and goat milk.
|Goat Milk Bar|
|A Few of the Little Ones|
In the late afternoon we arrived at the house (a “gite”) we were renting, and were greeted by the owners. They gave us a bottle of Seyssel, a local white wine, and a salami made by a friend of theirs. Seyssel is made principally from the Altesse grape (also known as Roussette), a grape which is pretty much only grown in the Savoie area, and the Seyssel appellation is one of the oldest and smallest appellations in France. This Seyssel, from Martine et Bernard Mollex, was absolutely outstanding. We drank it as an aperitif, and with dinner we had a bottle of Bourgogne rouge from Domaine Pigneret.