Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Our road to Burgundy: Stateside steps

Ron and Bev Siegel are easily the most accomplished, endowed, and knowledgeable wine collectors in the Orlando area. They also happen to be exceptionally good friends with whom we spend a lot of time locally as well as at out-of-town food and wine events. So when I received an email from Ron at 12:46 pm on 9/24/13 regarding a trip to Burgundy, with Raj Par as the Shepherd, my terse reply (at 1:17 pm) was "let's do it."

Ron and Bev with Serge Hochar of Chateau Musar

The trip was being offered by an organization called IfOnly (ifOnly.com) which seeks to connect individuals with "luminaries" in the fields of food, wine, golf, etc., in order to realize experiences that "amaze and inspire." The purchasers are exposed to amazing experiences while the "luminary" benefits in that a donation is made to his or her named. The ifOnly descriptor for the Burgundy tour is presented below.

This trip was tailor made for us:
  • Did I mention that Ron is a very serious Burgundy collector with multiple instances of the leading vintages of the leading producers resident in his cellars?
  • Did I mention that while he was in kindergarten and the other kids were learning their ABCs he was learning his DRCs?
  • We drink a lot of "passable" Burgundy. For example,

Missing Link Tasting
Mini-DRC vertical at Bern's Steakhouse
Dinner at the residence of the owner of The Wine Barn
Dinner at Victoria and Albert Chef's Table
Burgundy Tasting at Capital Grille

  • Neither of us had previously visited the Burgundy region
  • We wanted to do so badly but wanted to do it "the right way"
  • The proposed trip -- with its promise of unparalleled access to the leading winemakers in the region and the opportunity to tap into the mind and habits of one of the leading wine experts of our time -- seemed the optimal manner in which to see Burgundy and its potential exceeded even our wildest musings. 

On September 30, Ron informed me that we had secured the booking. On October 1, Katie from ifOnly contacted Ron to let us know that she was going to be meeting with Raj on the following day to get some potential dates for the trip. She did end up speaking with Raj by phone on that same day and the best fit for him was April 30th to May 2nd. I did not even have to look at my calendar to know that I was going to be in Burgundy over those days. This was concrete; everything else was jelly.

The next step was for us to connect with Raj to get a sense of what an agenda would look like.Ron spearheaded this activity and when I checked in with him a few days later to find out what progress had been made, I found out that he had bought a whole heap of Sandhi wines (Raj is the winemaker for the Sandhi label). Hey, I thought you were going to engage him on our trip and instead you come away owning some California wine. You don't even like California wines. This guy needs an intervention. Well at least he had given Raj a listing of the producers that we would like to visit during the course of the trip.

After our year-end round of parties, we began serious planning for the trip. My idea of a plan is something you do two days before you need to be there; Ron's idea is to actually construct an itinerary, make reservations, and get it out of the way. I succumbed. We traded ideas about eating places in Paris and Beaune and settled on two touch points: Le Taillevent in Paris and bistro de l'hotel Beaune in Burgundy.

Ron wanted very much to ensure that we would visit DRC while in Burgundy so was leaving nothing to chance. He tapped every source and contact that he had in an attempt to get an entree and ran up a lot of dead-ends but kept on trying until he finally hit paydirt. We were going to visit DRC as our first appointment in Burgundy on April 30.

On April 10th, Raj emailed to say that Dujac and Rousseau were confirmed. He also indicated that May 1 and 2 were national holidays in France and it was proving difficult to get anyone to commit to meeting with us on this days. On April 19th he emailed us with the final itinerary:

April 30: DRC, Rousseau, and Roulot
May 1st: Carillon
May 2nd: Dujac, Mugneret-GIbourg, Faiveley

In that email he also proposed that we meet for dinner in Beaune on the evening of April 29th. We already had booked dinner for four at bistro de l'Hotel so we added two seats to our reservation in order to make that happen.

One of the issues that we had to work out was how we would travel from Paris to Beaune. I love driving in France so I had gone ahead and booked a van with Europcar. I alerted the team to this and, while Ron was open, the wives were dead set against it. They wanted to take the train. I have traveled with Ron and Bev before and I have seen their luggage. Good luck wrestling with that on a train. The women suggested that we could take smaller suitcases for the Burgundy portion of the trip and leave the larger suitcases with the Paris hotel as we would be returning to spend Saturday in Paris. We punted and said we would make the decision later. In the meantime I held on to my reservation with Euopcar. And my reservation at the little lunch hideaway between Paris and Beaune.

On the morning of April 26th, I headed to Paris by way of Newark while Ron, launching a little later in the day, headed for the same destination via Atlanta.

Burgundy we are on our way.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

1 comment:

  1. WOW! I love the way you provide every detail. I was so surprised to see the Raj Parr connection. You should have seen me the night I just happened upon RN74. I didn't get a chance to experience the restaurant because it was late and I was trying to hurry back to my car. But next time I will.