Recounting the Worst Ten Days in my Life (This Should Be Fun): Part Three—Down to Beaune

Late last fall, what first seemed as a rather innocuous email turned into a press trip to both a region I had never visited (Beaujolais) and an event of near mythic proportions (Hospices de Beaune). I took the opportunity to also spend some time visiting some dear friends in Paris before turning southward.

My trip to France came on the heels of the Wine Bloggers Conference where I got very little sleep, and coupled with a sleepless overnight flight, I was at best on fumes. My greatest fear–being ill during two rather important wine-centric events–was a distinct possibility.

As much as I love Paris, and I enjoyed visiting with dear friends and their children, I knew that there was trouble on the horizon. I am fortunate in that I rarely get sick–most years go by without so much as suffering from the hiccups (discounting, of course, the occasional hangover). When I do succumb, it is invariably due to a lack of sleep, and I was already five solid days into a week with at best minimal “quality” slumber.

Paris presented a complicating factor: my friends and I, when we get together, tend to drink champagne. Lots and lots of champagne. And this trip was no different. And I knew it was not perhaps the most prudent decision I had made in my life, but I am never one to turn down Grand Cru bubbles.

Given that I needed to rise early, we polished off at least four bottles of wine, and there was a slightly active cat in the apartment, I was facing another restless night. As hour after conscious hour passed, I had hope.

I would be staying in an apartment in Beaune for a week, with a couple of days there before any of the events for the Hospices began. If I could just tax my body, just push it to accept one more 24 hour period with minimal to no sleep, I would have 48 uninterrupted hours to be dead to the world.

After one or two hours of “sleep” (and that might be generous), I “woke” the next morning, and, after a quick shower, I was off to the train station. I was so incredibly tired that I could not yet tell if I was sick, but it was clear that my body was amassing the forces for a full-scale rebellion if I did not address the situation immediately.

Unfortunately, that could not happen on the train for even if I could sleep on/in a moving vehicle, I would be deathly afraid that I would miss my stop, thus keeping me close to wide-awake.

After a train change in Dijon, I arrived in Beaune in early afternoon only to learn that my apartment would not be ready for at least another hour. Exhausted, I had no choice but to wander the streets a bit, making the case to be at least considered as an extra in the next Living Dead movie.

Once I finally made it into the apartment, and as I prepared my fully clothed swan dive into my soon to be adopted bed, my phone alerted me that I had an incoming text. It was my good friend from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, who had come up to Beaune, just for the night,

To have dinner.

With me.

I had completely forgotten.

I stared at the text. I debated ignoring it. I considered replying that I just could not make it. But Christophe, the export manager at Château la Nerthe, the oldest producer in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, is a dear friend and he came up all the way from Châteauneuf and he intimated that there would be others there, all of whom were looking forward to meeting me.

And there would be wine. Lots and lots of wine. Lots of Burgundy wine.

The dinner would be at the home of François de Nicolay of Domaine Chandon De Briailles in Savigny-Lès-Beaune and Christophe intimated that there would be other people there that I needed to meet.

And there would be lots of wine. Lots of Grand Cru Burgundy wine.

So I called on my poor ravaged body one more time. Just one more time, I implored my soul, just one more time and that was it. I promised. I pleaded. I begged. I swore.

And I went.

As expected, the wine and company were both fabulous and although I was far from the top of my game, I endured.

And I drank some truly great wines.

One of Christophe’s friends is Xavier Millard, the Commercial Directeur at Mailly Grand Cru, one of my favorite producers, and the Blanc de Noirs is one of my favorites (in magnum).

Our host, François opened his 2010 Corton Les Bressandes as well as the same wine from some point in the previous century (I think it was 1988, but I am not sure).

For dinner, François roasted a rooster. Apparently eating the comb (the thing on the top of the head) brings good luck, or good health, or something. Given my state, I ate the whole thing.

Thierry Amiot of Guy Amiot et Fils brought two vintages of his Chassagne-Montrachet Les Caillerets….

And one of his last magnums of his 2007 Puligny-Montrachet Les Demoiselles. Whoa.

Xavier, me, Christophe. Don’t let my jovial demeanor fool you–I was about to keel over.

Once I got back to my bed, I was both really glad to have gone and wondering how I would feel in the morning. For the moment it didn’t matter–it was a great evening with an old (and new) friends.

Plus I had faith in my body. It would not let me down.

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About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
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2 Responses to Recounting the Worst Ten Days in my Life (This Should Be Fun): Part Three—Down to Beaune

  1. chef mimi says:

    I’m getting out my little violin….. Beaune is where I discovered Epoisses, so obviously I have fond memories of it. And I wish you’d repost the little lecture you gave on how do make accents on French words…

    Like

  2. tomsimard says:

    “Unfortunately, that could not happen on the train for even if I could sleep on/in a moving vehicle, I would be deathly afraid that I would miss my stop, thus keeping me close to wide-awake.”

    This really encapsulates my experiences perfectly. I had been hoping that as I get older things would change. But they haven’t yet…

    Like

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