September 20, 2017

Europe '17 finale - To Paris, via Chablis

Our week plus long car trip from Paris to Nice, then into Italy, left us with a long drive back to Paris and our flight home in two days. The trip finale was one of the highlights of our time in Europe.

If you ever get the chance, and you like road driving, you should drive through the Italian alps to Switzerland via the Valle d'Aosta and then into France via Lake Geneva and the Jura mountains. It was one of the best road trips of my life.

We left Grinzane Cavour in the Barolo region and headed north into the flatlands and the city of Turin, followed a beltway road around the city and soon headed into the alps. 

The flats north of Turin give way to the Alps

At Valle d'Aosta we turned north toward Switzerland, but not before seeing lots of vineyard terraces in the steep, narrow canyon of a valley.

The endless tunnel a blur from Italy to Switzerland

On the Swiss side we found dramatic vineyard scenes on steep alpine faces, then by Lake Geneva more rolling vineyard land on mostly gentle slopes down to the water. I know very little of Swiss wine and seeing all this made me resolve to research the areas. Truthfully, I have not followed through on that one quite yet.

Past Lausanne, we turned north into the Jura mountains, crossing the French border and passing though tiny Morbier, home of the wonderful cheese. We didn't see much vineyard land here but the soils looked great, super rocky limestone earth. 

We needed to reach Chablis for the night, still a long ways off. That would leave a short trip into Paris the next day, and I wanted to see the Grand Cru slope and ideally get a decent local meal. We pressed on.

The weather had been rainy off and on all though the alps and over the Jura mountains, and it continued as we zigzagged on the autoroutes toward Beaune and the gap in the Cote d'Or, retracing a few steps as we passed Beaune and headed toward Auxerre.

A welcome sight after a long road trip from Italy to Chablis
We saw more heavy rain showers but by the time we got to Chablis, the sun was peeking out through broken clouds, the rain finished. 

At a lunch stop in Switzerland I had found Le Syracuse in Chablis, a classic restaurant in an ancient vaulted stone dining room. Dinner couldn't have been better, escargots, ham, a selection of desserts, and of course local wine. Honestly, this was a night where even a simple local drink was divine with this food in this setting.

The dining room of Le Syracuse 

My escargot and Chablis

Jambon a la chablisienne

Solid AOC Chablis, exceptional in the moment

We emerged from Le Syracuse surprised to find it still light out, the sky brighter than earlier with only broken clouds in the sky. We'd managed to part right in front of the restaurant and we were running late to our Air Bnb outside of town. 

After a lazy meal, the grand cru slope peek out at the east end of town

I drove east across the river and quickly came to the road we'd take north, the Route du Tonnerre that runs at the base of the Grand Cru slope.

Perhaps the most stunning sight of a trip full of them

I couldn't have planned this. Nearly the last light of day, the sky and earth washed clean from afternoon rain, now the low sunlight gleaming off the perfectly situated slope of seven Chablis Grand Cru vineyard. I pulled over, got out, had to catch my breath.

We could only stay for a few minutes but that was enough, the magic of this place that I knew in the glass was clear. This is Chablis, golden but crisp, steely, rocky, mineral. With an electricity that takes control a bit, makes a strong impression and doesn't quit.

Stony Chablis terroir in the golden last light of day, this is Grand Crus

We reached our lodging late but I was floating. The trip was about over, and I was ready to go home, satisfied like the feeling of finishing a terrific meal but now you're done. 

I'd seen so much on the trop, felt the places more strongly than I even expected, and left knowing I'd have to come back and soon. Two weeks was a nice start but what I'd learned, and rediscovered in myself, that will take a much more time to explore. Soon.

1 comment:

Marta Sommer said...

wonderful plating and pairing