Winter in France

gite en paradisSomewhere in the middle of January, I was looking through some cookbooks and recipe cards I had brought back from one of my trips through Bourgogne. Though we love France in the summer, a while ago we discovered there’s quite some magic to be found in French vineyards during winter. Driving past the bare vines and seeing all the hard work involved in the production of wine makes you appreciate the product even more. That’s why we love vacationing in Bourgogne around late February, especially in the Côte Chalonnaise, an area known for producing the ‘other’ Burgundy wines. Not as fancy as those in the Côte d’Or, but wonderful nonetheless. A few years ago I wrote an article about this wine region, and you can read it here. This is the region of Mercurey, Givry, Rully & Montagny. Names I’m sure will sound familiar to any wine lover.
While looking through some of the recipes cards (which I happened to get at the wine cave in Buxy), my daughter Kirstie caught glance of them and asked when we were going back. By Friday, I had booked the best house I could possiblly find in the village, and the countdown to the big day began!

And it all happened last week…
A whole week of family love, great food & wine, drives through rolling hills of promising, naked vineyards and cozy evenings by the fireplace. We went back to the simple restaurants we fell in love with years ago. Like Le Commerce in Autun (which serves the best escargots in garlic cream sauce ever, not to mention their mighty Charolaise steak). And Le Majorelle in Chalon-sur-Saône where they serve well-made Kirs and the lady of the house makes you feel right at home, and where some of the most deliciously decadent dessert plates can be ordered to round off your meal. We also discovered new places (at Côté Saône in Chalon I had a gorgeous salmon pot-au-feu, and the succulent escargots and tender boeuf bourguignon at La Concorde in Beaune more than made up for the snobby service). My husband was especially enthusiastic about Café De La Gare, a little neighborhood restaurant in Buxy that only serves lunch and caters mainly to locals. A proper steak-frites, simple wine by the carafe and the typical French country atmosphere made this place exactly the kind we know we’ll visit again.
Our days started with Hans lighting a fire for us while I fed the dog, got breakfast on the table and made plans for the day, mostly involving where we would go for lunch. Because as any of you Francophiles out there may know, a perfect afternoon in the French countryside means sitting down at a no-frills restaurant for an honest and utterly satisfying three-course meal. Afternoons would be spent taking panoramic drives through the vineyards and would end with a walk to the village for a few drinks at the local café before having dinner back at our gite — which as luck would have it, happened to be owned by a local vigneron who makes some of the best whites I’ve tasted in a long time (more on that later!). There were vineyards almost at our doorstep, and I can’t tell you how much I loved that. I had always wanted to rent a holiday home by vineyards and was so glad that I actually did just that this year — without knowing that beforehand.
It was a restful and beautiful week. We returned to the Netherlands with a car full of French food and wine… and a heart full of memories.
PS: If you want to see more photos of our winter break in France, have a look at my Instagram.
Buxy

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