September 5, 2014
My stay here in France has been sponsored by a fellowship from the jubilant Confrerie
des Chevaliers du Tastevin, an organization founded in 1934 to promote the wines
and food of Burgundy. One of the ways they accomplish their goals is by holding
sumptuous events at their headquarters: the Chateau du Clos de Vougeot which is
situated in the middle of the grand cru Clos Vougeot vineyard. Today I participated as
a judge in the Autumn Tastevinage: an event where over two hundred wine industry
experts (vignerons, negociants, wine writers, sommeliers, restaurateurs, and in this
case a couple lucky UC Davis students) gather to judge over 400 Burgundy wines.
Wines that are rated highly enough are permitted to include the Tastevine label on their
bottles: a great honor, indeed.
I was surprised when my fellow Tastevin laureate, Laura, and I were introduced to the
entire assembly before the tasting commenced. My table was responsible for judging
fifteen white Burgundies: everything from regional Bourgogne blanc and Aligote, to
St. Romain, Auxey-Duresses, and Meursault village level wine, to some premier crus
from Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault. At first I was a bit daunted by the task as I
was sitting next to the owner of one of the largest negociant houses in Burgundy, and
his family has been making wine here for over 280 years. Nonetheless, after the first
couple wines I settled in and simply went with my palate. My two favorites were a
Bourgogne blanc and a Meursault premier cru.
After the tasting I was taking in the grand ambience of the chateau when I felt a hand
on my shoulder and turned to find my friend from Vosne-Romanee with whom I had
toured vineyards on Monday. And as luck would have it, we were assigned to the
same lunch table. If the wine tasting was exquisite, then the five course luncheon was
truly magnificent. And of course there was no shortage of wine—including an elegant
1999 Volnay premier cru Taille Pieds (a vineyard which I had hiked through during our
Flavescence doree hunt last Friday). And to make it an official Confrerie event, there
was some singing with clapping and hand motions. A most jolly and memorable event.
I returned to work at 4:30 and lifted, prepped and rolled barrels until my second week of
work came to a close at 6:00 p.m.