I’d been waiting for an opportunity to visit Beaune and especially the Hostellerie de Levernois, so when a room became available on July 4th I grabbed it. I knew we were getting close when the beautiful white Charolais cows could be seen sitting under shady trees.
After years of marketing Relais & Chateaux member hotels in Paris, Jean-Louis Bottigliero and his wife Susanne purchased this sylvan property. Many of the rooms have parquet floors, exposed beams, local tile floors and soft, harmonious color palettes that soothe the tired traveler. There’s a nearby golf course and a tennis court on the property.
We arrived at midday and soon took off for the heart of Beaune and a visit to the 15th-century Hospices de Beaune, a Hotel-Dieu for the poor that is the site of an internationally famous annual charity auction of Burgundy wines.
In collaboration with Chef Philippe Augé they created both a Michelin-starred restaurant gastronomique and a charming bistro that sits along a streamlet of the River Bouzaize. They are magnets for travelers en route to the south of France, guests and locals, including prominent winemakers.
It was lovely early summer evening and there was an extremely good jazz duo of keyboard and upright bass playing on the terrace so we grabbed a table and relaxed. Our hostess, Susanne, came by to welcome us and offer us a Levernois, the house apéritif, a mixture of 1 sugar cube, a dash of Angostura, a splash of Grand Marnier, and a shot of crème de peche de vigne topped off with crémant de Bourgogne, the most champagne-like of sparklers.
Once the set was over we strolled over to the Bistro au Bord de L’Eau where our table had been set on an extension positioned on stilts over the gently flowing stream. It resembled the prow of a ship with protective roping and one of the other guests and his grandson addressed me as capitaine when requesting permission to come aboard.
The formule of entrée, plat, cheese and dessert exclusive of wine at 38 euros is a remarkable value. For a starter I had escargots de Bourgogne in a bouillon of sweet garlic and M had jambon persillé served with crostini de pain d’épices. The 2008 Puligny-Montrachet from Paul Pernot was superb.
Neither of us could resist the Selle d’Agneau Rotie on a bed of couscous. Our wine selection was an exceptional 2007 Savigny les Baune les Vergelesses from Jean-Claude Boisset. I remembered buying a Jean-Claude Boisset Cotes du Rhone at Petrini’s in Marin County, California in 1980 at $2.50 the bottle- it was damn good for the price and accompanied many a hamburger, lamb chop and grilled chicken but was no match for the Savigny. I related the story to Sébastien, our waiter, who offered to share it with M. Boisset who, par hasard, was dining at a nearby table.
Dessert was rice pudding with tropical fruits and a yummy apple-banana crumble with Sorbet Corossol-paradise.
Being in Burgundy I asked Sébastien if I he could suggest a marc de Bourgogne, the region’s eau-de vie. He came back with a Hors d’Age (minimum 10 years old) Roulot for M and a Twenty-year old Très Vieux from Joseph Cartron for me, that could be best described as nectar of the gods.
It was a perfect moment to savor one of the six cigars I smoke, or use as a prop, annually, a Dominican Cohiba while M. puffed on a dainty Dunhill.
To cap the evening M Boisset stopped by on his way out to introduce himself and invite us for a tour of the L’Imaginarium, the interactive wine museum that he built adjacent to his headquarters in nearby Nuits-Saint-Georges.
After what I have now come to expect from Relais & Chateaux members, a bountiful breakfast awaited us the next morning–eggs to order, fresh from the oven breads and pastries, fresh squeezed citrus juices and of course lots of coffee.
The L’Imaginarium is a sound, light, video and artifact show that explores the history of wine making in France and would be a terrific way to introduce children to the grape. After the ensuing dégustation we carted off a six-pack of crémant de Bourgogne for our own Livernois apéritifs.
After a simple lunch at a roadside hotel/bistro M pointed the car north stopping at Clos Vougeot, the vineyard created by Cistercian monks of Citeaux
Abbey. Since 1945 it has served as headquarters of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin.
No tasting here so after a left turn at Dijon we continued to our destination, Le Puits d’Athie, (luxury B & B) just outside of Auxerre.
It was the perfect place to rest prior to our return to Paris. We arrived late but there was plenty of light when Bruno greeted us. After being shown to our room, the Florence, each room is decorated in a different style and the family living quarters look like they would have been suited to Louis XIV.
As an ex-film critic and passionate fan of historical French films I was impressed that Jean-Paul Rappeneau , director of Cyrano, Bon Voyage and Horseman on the Roof with Juliette Binoche had spent his adolescence in this home.
A special treat awaited us in the garden when we had un verre of a local Macon in the garden-Mami Paule, Bruno’s adoptive mother who at eighty-six, sparkles with wit, vivacity and style. She had taught English in Paris, loved Americans and our vernacular so I couldn’t resist gifting her an autographed copy of Paris par Hasard: from Bagels to Brioches.
For a taste of the region read Joan Z. Shore’s RED BURGUNDY.
Hostellerie de Levernois
Rue Du Golf 21200 Levernois / Beaune