Today marks my first day in the Jura, a remote and very historical area of France known for its famed Vin Jaune wines. Like Burgundy, Jura offers the international Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, yet it also offers the white Savagnin and two delicious red grapes, Trousseau and Poulsard.
As the region is just two hours' drive from Geneva, I landed in that city (it's closer than Paris) and drove from the Jura mountains. As you can imagine, it was a gorgeous drive. You see many cows of many varieties along the vast expanses of land, and horses too. At times you pass through small, medieval villages — they are so small and ancient they look like movie sets, with a “front” for a post office, etc.
Our hotel, Parenthese, has a pool, spa, and gourmet restaurant where lunch and dinner can be had. The wine list offers many specialties of the region. For lunch, we had a Cremant (sparkling wine) from the region, made from Chardonnay grapes. In France one is not allowed to call sparkling wine outside of the Champagne region “Champagne” even though the traditional method of production is the same, so it is called Cremant.
The adventure of the day consisted of a visit to Chateau Chalon, an AOC known for making spectacular Vin Jaune from the Savagnin grape. It is located at the top of a tall hill — a breathtaking site — with many vineyards at the base of the hill. Atop it is a spectacular, ancient-looking village full of history, containing a 13th century castle and a Romanesque church dating back to the 11th century. In the Maison de la Seille (a museum of sorts dedicated to Vin Jaune) we tasted many vintages of that wine from Chateau-Chalon, including (my favorites) the 1937, 1989, 1998, and 2002. I especially loved the 1937 — not just for the dusty ancient bottle, holding grapes picked more than 70 years ago, but also for the delicious, savory walnut and mushroom flavors. The wine is produced so that it can be drunk at seven years, yet clearly can extend for nearly a century.
At dinner, again at the hotel's restaurant, Au Verbe Aimer, we had vintage '06 Cremant, as well as Chateau D'Arly 2002, a red wine made from different local red and white grapes, which had a palate of fresh strawberries and kola nut – quite interesting. More adventures tomorrow.