Travel Blog: Day Seven

DAY SEVEN  |  Chablis, Beaune

This morning, after buttery croissants and homemade Stumptown coffee brewed through an Aeropress and enjoyed on the sunny veranda of our apartment, we drove to Chablis. It’s about an hour and a half to the north — an hour on the highway, and a half on the small, straight country roads of northern Burgundy.

At our first appointment we sampled mostly 2014s — a classic, chablisienne vintage, with great minerality, good acidity, plenty of gras, and an honest, terroir-transparent character. These will find many friends among Burgundy lovers. Our second tasting was a bit outside town; more 2014s and a few 2015s, both excellent and both clean, fresh, and delicious.

But it was talk of the weather dominated the morning meetings. Chablis has had a near-apocalyptic spring, with two violent hailstorms, and a late April frost. The result has been a catastrophic loss of crop — many parcels hit by both frost and hail have lost 100% of their grapes for the year. Others have lost certain cuvées, with certain others remaining untouched. Left to the cruel whim of mother nature, our first producer estimated about 35% of the crop was totally lost and another 15% severely damaged; our second put his losses at 70% — an unimaginable figure this early in the year. Vignerons are used to shrugging off difficult years with a casual “c’est la vie,” but this year is worse than many imagined possible.

We grabbed lunch in Chablis and then made our way back to Beaune, weaving in and out of thunderstorms and sunny blue skies. For dinner tonight we visited what has become a favorite spot in Beaune — the Comptoir des Tontons. Fantastic wines — 2013 Auxey Duresses, 2010 Volnay, and an extraordinary 2009 off-dry Vouvray with dessert. And the food was exceptional: tuna tartare with house-smoked salmon; escargot consommé with mushrooms and sausage; Poulet de Bresse on a bed of peas and spring vegetables.

Tomorrow our day off — samples and email.