One of the most striking characteristics of the wine villages in Burgundy is that practically every other building in town is a domaine or a vigneron -- a winery in U.S. terms. In Meursault, where I stayed, there are over 50 wine producers in the tiny village alone. When you add to that all of the wineries from the neighboring villages, the choice of where to visit can be overwhelming.
My family and I visited in early March, which is considered the “off season” in Burgundy. Some wineries were not open when we visited. However, the silver lining to traveling then was that most of our winery visits ended up being private tours. Having the winemaker give you a tour and tasting of his or her domaine is an incredible experience.
The wineries that I am highlighting below are all smaller, mostly family domaines in the Côte de Beaune, one of the five wine growing areas in Burgundy. While we did drop by a few of the larger wineries, I highly recommend the small wineries as they give a more personal and rewarding tour and tasting experience.
Below are my personal favorite winery visits from my time in Burgundy.
Domaine JanotsBos (Meursault)
JanotsBos was undoubtedly both my and my family’s favorite winery visit. Located only a couple blocks from our house rental in Meursault, Janot Bos was founded in 2005 by Thierry Janots, a Frenchman, and Richard Bos, a Dutch man, making it one of the newer wineries in Burgundy. Richard Bos was our guide for the tour and tasting and we loved him! Not only was he a great guide for the winery, but he also gave us many recommendations for restaurants in the area. Our tour started in the vines and then moved down into the wine cave. Richard told us all about his history, the winery’s history, and the wines -- some of which we tasted straight from the barrels! We also tried four bottles of wine after the barrel tastings. We were able to compare the "greener" and "fresher" barreled wine to the more refined and finished bottled product. It was quite the treat! Both my parents and I ended up buying wine – a bourgogne rouge for me and a premier cru for my parents. Richard even hand-labeled our wines right after we purchased them. I highly recommend visiting JanotBos in Burgundy. Plan about 1.5–2 hours for the tour and tasting.
Domaine LeJeune (Pommard)
Domaine LeJeune is a family winery in the village of Pommard. We arrived at the domaine to be greeted by the winemaker, Aubert Lefas, who was our guide for the tour and tasting. He explained how his wife’s side of the family had owned the winery for 200 years. The winery is a bit unique in that the winery has been passed down through the women in the LeJeune family for five generations. Aubert learned all about winemaking from his wife’s father and stressed the importance of winemaking as a blend of art and science. His daughter and her friend also toured the winery with us. It was fun to talk to her about the wines and her potential role in the winery’s future. Here we learned that at this winery they are petitioning that one of their plots of land be named a grand cru plot, an appellation one step above its current premier cru classification. The appellations have not changed since they were originally named in the 1930s. We tasted a variety of chardonnays and pinot noirs. We also tasted a dessert wine that reminded me of a tawny port. Both my parents and I bought a bottle of the Haute-Cotes de Beaune Pinot Noir from 2015. Our visit at Domaine LeJeune was highly personal and I strongly recommend visiting. Plan about an hour to visit.
Domaine François Buffet (Volnay)
Domaine François Buffet is a seven-generation family winery in the village of Volnay. The Buffet family has been making wine there for hundreds of years and have some of the biggest wine caves in Volnay. We visited the winery on our bike ride through Burgundy. Our guide, Mrs. Buffet, was incredibly welcoming. We started the visit with a tasting of two premier crus, one from 2012 and one from 2008, as well as two other wines. All of the wines were red since Volnay is a pinot noir town. After the tasting, we went into the wine caves where we saw bottles that were over 100 years old. Mrs. Buffet said they still drink the old wines on special occasions, though they sometimes must open two bottles if the first one is corked! I loved the Volnay Premier Cru Clos des Chenes 2008 at Domaine François Buffet so much that I returned the next day to buy a bottle. I would highly recommend visiting for exceptional wine and a very cool tour. Plan about an hour to visit.
Domaine Rocault (Orches)
My last recommendation is Domaine Rocault, a seventeen-generation (!) family winery in the tiny village of Orches near the more famous village of Saint-Romain. The Rocault family has lived and grown vines in Orches since 1470. One reason I recommend this winery is due to its location. The town of Orches is a beautiful village set on a rocky cliff overlooking the vineyards. The views are amazing and the town is quaint and charming. For our tasting one of the owners, Blandine, led us into a cozy tasting cave that has been there for at least 600 years! We learned there how long the family had lived in the tiny village of Orches. We tasted a few wines from Domaine Rocault, a couple of wines that Blandine’s sister produces, and also a few dessert wines. I particularly enjoyed the aligoté wine which is a little reminiscent of a sauvignon blanc. I also really enjoyed one the premier cru pinot noirs. One interesting fact we learned is that Orches is the only town that grows Gamay grapes and produces rosé wines in the region. We ended up purchasing both an aligoté and rosé. If you are planning a visit, you’ll only need to allow about 30-45 minutes for the tasting. Don't forget to add extra time to explore the village and soak in the views!
Other wineries worth visiting
If you are in the larger city of Beaune, be sure to check out Patriarche. I was a little skeptical about this visit due to the high price (17 Euros per person), but it ended up being a really fun experience. It’s a self-guided tour through part of the massive 3-mile long wine cave built below the streets of Beaune. You watch a couple of videos and then step down into the cave where you enter room upon room of tables with open bottles of wine to try in your little silver tasting cup. I didn’t count how many wines we tried, but I would guess it was about 20. You could go at your own pace and return to any that you wanted to retry.
In the town of Aloxe-Corton, we visited three wineries that are within walking distance from one another and you can visit without an appointment. They all had exceptional wine. At Domaine Michel Voarick we tasted only Chardonnays – a premier cru and two grand crus that were very reasonably priced for Burgundy (and the tasting there was free!). Across the road at Domaine Comte Senard, we had an informative tasting of seven wines – one Bourgogne Chardonnay called Ana (which I purchased), one village, one premier cru, and two red and two white grand crus. We also enjoyed our tasting at Château de Corton-André, where the tasting room and wine caves are located in a beautiful chateau. We were encouraged to wander the wine caves by ourselves before tasting a village, a premier cru, and a grand cru of both chardonnay and pinot noir (this tasting was also free).
Lastly, if you make the 1.5-hour drive from Côte d’Or and visit Chablis, make sure to stop at La Chablisienne on the outskirts of town. It was a great place to learn about Chablis and sample a bunch of Chablis wines in their huge tasting room (free of charge). We watched a quick video and then started a tasting with our hostess, who was very informative. We tasted a regular Chablis, three premier crus (including one bottle from 1999!), and three grand crus, including two from the famous Grenouille appellation and one, which we preferred, from the Les Preuses appellation.
Tip: If you are visiting Burgundy (or any European wine region), please note that the wineries almost always require advance reservations and are not open all hours of the day.
One of the best parts about visiting Burgundy is that every winery is unique and it’s not hard to pick up on the different tastes of the wines from different towns, despite almost every wine being made from the same two grapes, chardonnay and pinot noir. While these were my favorite wineries from my recent trip, I have only visited a sliver of what Burgundy has to offer. I can’t wait to go back to revisit old favorites and discover new ones!