Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > France >
Mar 28, 2011 11:30 PM

Need Bordeaux & Burgundy Recs....please...getting down to the wire...

So we are leaving SF April 6 for 2 glorious weeks in France. My bf's 1st time in Europe! and his 41st birthday...and it's been a good 15 plus years for me. We have pretty much got our Paris Itinerary down. We are renting an apartment for a week in Paris then bouncing around via train & rental cars.
Paris dining:
L'ami Louis
Le Gainge
Hidden Kitchen
Aux Lyonnais
Chez L'ami Jean
Guy Savoy

Day trip to Champagne....any lunch rec's? Still working on reservations for champagne tastings...any highly recommended? Is it true we can pretty much walk to several of the champagne houses from the train station in Reims?

Spending a night in Chinon with a friend.

1 night in Bordeaux...we have tastings at CH.Lynch & Pinchon-Longueville Baron. How long a drive is it from Bordeaux train station to Pauliiac? I googled it ...25 miles? is that about right? But how long in drive time is that there? Any hotels/restaurant recs there...or must do/taste/see. I know its short...we might extend it to 2 nights if we can get another tasting or 2 in :)

Burgundy. Taking the train ...but where to? It will only be for 1 or 2 nights...depending on Bordeaux. Dijon? Beaune...any help here is GREATLY appreciated. Would obviously like to do a little wine tasting and any dining recs would be great. Sorry this is pretty vague...but i have been putting so much effort into dining reservations and trying to learn enough French to make a decent effort this portion has been left to fend for itself ;)

Thanks chowhounders! I promise reviews and photos upon my return!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. About Bordeaux: the châteaux you'll have tastings at are in the Médoc. They are not far from Bordeaux but getting out of Bordeaux to reach the Médoc can be tricky. Have your itinerary carefully mapped beforehand or you might get lost in some undecipherable suburban road knots. From central Bordeaux to South Pauillac, I would easily count an hour drive.

    I suppose the first château you're mentioning is Lynch-Bages — there is more than one Lynch (also Lynch-Moussas). And the other one is Pichon-Longueville Baron, not Pinchon. Try to spell them right in order to pronounce them right, for identification purposes. Some châteaux have similarly-sounding names as you may have noticed.

    Once you're on the D2 road which runs all the way to the tip of the Médoc, you're safe, you can't drop out of it, it is called the "Route des Châteaux" and it passes by many of them. First the Haut-Médocs (which are somewhat hidden), then the Margaux, a bit remote from the road until you reach the Plateau de Cantenac and you've got a bunch of them scattered around the plateau: Brane-Cantenac, Cantenac-Brown, Rauzan-Ségla, Rauzan-Gassies and Palmer. In Margaux some of the Grands Crus are actually located inside the village, like Durfort-Vivens, Pouget, Boyd-Cantenac, Malescot-St-Exupéry, Marquis de Terme and Marquis d'Alesme.

    Then still going up North, first you'll find the great though discreet châteaux of Saint-Julien (châteaux Saint-Pierre, Gloria, Ducru-Beaucaillou, and a bit off the road the wonderful Talbot and Gruaud-Larose, and the lovely Haut-Médoc Château Camensac), and then further North the Route des Châteaux begins to put on far more of a show: past a marshy section where the road is a bit bumpy, you reach the truly romantic part of the Médoc with the beautiful Château Beychevelle and its port on the Gironde (a visit of Beychevelle is recommended), then to the left Branaire-Ducru. Then you drive up through the village of Saint-Julien and you've got a whole kebab of them, all with the Léoville name (they used to be one big estate). After the big walled estate of Léoville-Las-Cases (with that lion sculpted on the porch), you get closer to Pauillac territory. There is South Pauillac, and North Pauillac. You know you're in South Pauillac when you see an orgy of monumental wine buildings and châteaux; first the round tower of Château Latour, then the Pichons (Pichon Baron and Pichon Comtesse) either side of the road, Baron displaying a rather incredible set of postmodern and slightly show-offy architecture, Comtesse much more modest. Pichon-Baron, the one you'll have the tasting at, is on the left side.

    After that you see the steeple of Pauillac but there's not much to see there, the banks of the Gironde are lovely but the city is quite dead. Nearby is the small, heavily renovated village of Bages where you'll have your Lynch-Bages tasting.

    It would be a pity not to follow the road through North Pauillac (with Lafite, Mouton, Pontet-Canet) to Saint-Estèphe and the upper limit of Médoc Grands Crus Classés. The Saint-Estèphe vineyard is a quiet, beautiful wide space and seeing it is highly recommended, with the budding vine and the incredible, swift skies that run across it.

    Restaurants: there isn't a lot of them in the Médoc but there's this great one in Arcins (just before Margaux), Au Lion d'Or. Then in Pauillac there is Café Lavinal which belongs to the Lynch-Bages family, a nice lively bistrot.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Ptipois

      This entire reply goes to my archive. Merci !

      1. re: Ptipois

        Thank you!!! Great information.

        1. re: Ptipois

          GREAT INFO! WOW, thanks for putting that much time into a response, REALLY appreciate it!

          1. re: Ptipois

            Thank You for all the info on this thread. We got back a week ago. We spent 3 nights in Paulliac at CHATEAU CORDEILLAN-BAGES. We had plans to spend 1 night there , go spend 1 night in bordeaux and then head back to Paris, because we only had 2 wine tastings set up due to premieres. But it was so charming and relaxing we stayed 2 more. We are already talking about next year and how to better prepare our trip. 1: book wine tastings 2. book dining 3. book airfare 4. book rooms. Cafe Lavinal was lovely! As was the bakery & deli across the street. Thank You!

          2. Not sure I'm allowed to ask this (non-food matter), but why are you taking a train from Bordeaux to Burgundy if you will already have rented a car in Bordeaux? According to the SNCF site, the train is 7-8 hours depending on destination. Why not drive there instead - and on your way back to CDG (where I assume you will take your flight to SFO) visit Champagne? The roads in France are exceedingly well marked, and the autoroutes more so. Just a thought.

            12 Replies
            1. re: boredough

              True, I'd drive from Bordeaux to Burgundy gladly instead of trying to take trains. As you might figure out when looking at a railway map of France, train communications are easy on the North-South axis but quite a different matter on the East-West axis. Good old centralized jacobinism is at work there. Do drive, distances are not very long and the trip is always enjoyable.

              Forgot to add that Café Lavinal is not technically in Pauillac but in Bages. Actually it's likely that you'll be advised to eat there right after your visit of Lynch-Bages, if it ends by lunchtime.

              If you still have time for some tastings, here is a small list of the most interesting châteaux that indulge in oenotourism and have good tasting facilities.
              Criteria of choice are not so much the wine - grands crus classés are always great, then it's all a matter of personal preference - as things like architectural orginality, beauty of the winemaking installations, general feeling of the place, etc. The Médoc is amazingly atmospheric, few people acknowledge that but it really grows on you. Not listing *all* the châteaux with tasting facilities, just my favorite. Look them up on their website for more information.

              Naturally, all tastings should be booked by telephone. Don't drop there unannounced. If you phone, even some smaller but really interesting places like Malescot-Saint-Exupéry could arrange something for you.

              Camensac (lovely wine, small château)
              Cantemerle (incredible place)
              La Tour-Carnet (Medieval buildings)

              Château du Tertre (great wine, beautiful place)
              Lascombes (interesting winemaking techniques)
              Château Margaux (not sure how easy it is to book a tasting, but the neoclassical "city of wine" has to be seen).

              Gruaud-Larose (king of wines, wine of kings, etc.)
              Lagrange (beautiful tasting room. The largest vineyard of 1855 grands crus classés.)
              Beychevelle (the Versailles of the Médoc)

              Aside from Lynch-Bages which has developed oenotourism,
              Pédesclaux (tiny château, but worth visiting and tasting)
              Pontet-Canet (one of my favorite places, and the only Médoc GCC produced through biodynamy)

              Cos-d'Estournel (particularly for the brand new, Sci-Fi wine installations, and the crazy outside buildings - and the location itself on the plateau)
              Lafon-Rochet (not sure about the tastings but the wine cellars are sure worth visiting)
              Calon-Ségur: forget about it but do see the building from the outside.

              1. re: Ptipois

                I am sending off emails today requesting visits....Beychevelle looks absolutely GORGEOUS, I cannot thank you enough for all this information! Merci Beaucoup! Diane

                1. re: Ptipois

                  can you advise me on how long a visit , at least in regards to the wine tasting portion, is? I am thinking really only 2 or 3 tastings a day...but wondering time wise how to schedule them. Thanks again! (Had to throw in the photo of my Yorkie Grace. I figured Im getting annoying with all the questions, so thought i'd throw in a cute distraction ;)

                  1. re: mapleleafgirl

                    A tasting visit, including a quick view of the château and winemaking facilities, is about an hour long. 3 tastings a day seems like a maximum, more than that makes you take in too much information.
                    The best time of the day for tasting (maximum tastebud activity) is in the morning between 9 and 12, with a peak between 10 and 11.

                    1. re: Ptipois

                      I agree, Pti, but an afternoon tasting after a leisurely lunch is often a lovely way to segue into evening. ;)

                    2. re: mapleleafgirl

                      I agree with Pti. A tasting is one hour long. One should do no more than 3 a day or all the tastes bmir together. Sorriest your questions are not as annoying as cute pet pics which are fatally cute only to oneself.

                    3. re: Ptipois

                      I am planning a trip to Bordeaux for this coming May. Thank you so much for taking the time to write these wonderful recommendations!

                    4. re: boredough

                      A couple of weeks ago, I drove from the Coteaux du Layon region of the Loire Valley to Burgundy. All the major highways run north and south, so we stuck to the small, east-west, secondary roads through mostly woodlands. French roads are excellent; I don’t remember any potholes or even rough sections. Eating adventures abound along the way. Once we stopped at a bar/café, but they only served drinks. In their best English, the patrons all directed us to the good restaurant in town for an excellent lunch. I tired after dark before we reached the Dijon area, so we stopped in Avallon. The dining room at the hotel was booked, but the desk recommended and called Le Gourmillon for a reservation. We had an outstanding meal, one of the most memorable of the entire trip. The chef came by our table to check on our meal and the entire staff couldn’t have been nicer. The French are so reticent to make recommendations for food or wine, but I badgered the waiter for help on the cheese cart. All I can say is wow, delicious. The language barrier made things interesting. The waiter described my appetizer as a pâté of some kind, so I took a chance. It was a beef tongue terrine, which I love. The entire meal continued at that wonderful level. Now that we’re home in California, when I hit a pothole or am holding on for dear life in a rough section of road, I turn to my wife and say “we’re not in France anymore”.

                      1. re: BN1

                        You illustrate my thought that I would love to make this drive in two segments rather than one white-knuckle, cruise controlled marathon on the fastest roads. Michelin, which always underestimates driving times, gives the length of this trip (Bordeaux to Beaune) as 6h31min, just under 700km. That's a long, tedious driving day that doesn't allow for enjoyment of the countryside much less local color food or rest stops..

                        1. re: mangeur

                          Many visitors not familiar with France look at the map and think Bordeaux-Burgundy, no biggie. But the long north-south mountain range le Massif Central makes these lateral drives in France tedious and long and no fun. It is always better - in terms of making travel sense - to pair Bordeaux with the Loire or with Charente-Maritime or Dordogne-Lot, and to pair Burgundy with Ardèche or Drome or Provence. Ceci dit I love all those regions.

                          1. re: Parigi

                            WOW. great feedback everyone, i REALLY appreciate it! It had crossed my mind about driving Bordeaux to Burgundy...but it did seem a rather daunting task time wise, though I do love a road trip (i did a 16,000 mile drive SF-Newfoundland-SF last summer with my 2 Yorkies). I was under the impression, as Parigi mentioned, that the mountain range made it not quite as fabulous as some other drives. But there is nothing like stumbling across some great little town or bistro or event that would have not happened had you not been driving....most all my favorite adventures are on the road. I don't think my bf shares that concept mind you ;)~. Lots to think about today....thanks again for the feedback!

                            1. re: mapleleafgirl

                              You don't have to drive through the Massif Central to go to Burgundy. SInce you'll be in the Médoc, do something exciting: drive up to the pointe de Grave and from there take the ferry to Royan. Then the route is as follows: Saintes, Niort, Poitiers, Châteauroux, Nevers, after that you're close to the Morvan and it's your pick: Beaune, Autun, Dijon, wherever you please. The drive will be nice, mostly on flat land, you can stop and have lunch or picnic somewhere around the Berry, and since you'll be on E-W axes most of the time, the roads will be rather quiet.

                    5. As a base for Burgundy, Dijon is nice, but I like Beaune better. Unlike Bordeaux, the wine makers of Burgundy tend to be small operations. Farmer/vintners if you will. There are many great ones to visit, but you will need advanced reservations and should really only plan to do 2-3 a day. I think one of the best ways to see the area is with a guide and of course, I recommend my friend Sarah Bird with Detours In France (

                      On your own is great too. You can make reservations with some of the more progressive vintners via web or email. As mentioned in one of the previous threads, there are some places in Beaune, bigger cooperatives like Patriarche, where you can taste in their caves without a reservation. Michel-Voarick and Corton Andre in Aloxe-Corton are also open for tastings without reservation. M-V is one of my favorites!

                      Food in Burgundy has been discussed quite a lot lately. Here are some recent threads with still valid (in my opinion) options for dining.

                      This last link is one I found when searching for restaurants in Dijon. I've only tried one of them, but based on that, her recommendations seem to be spot on.

                      Have a great time!

                      1. A little logistical house cleaning....

                        Pair Reims and can do both as day trips from Paris, if you like; book your TGV tickets as far ahead as possible (don't use the US RailEurope site; they offer about half of the actual schedule at significant markups. Go to and say you're in Great Britain, or, all in French. Select to print your own tickets.


                        You could also rent a car in Reims and drive to Dijon (with a side trip through Epernay if you want)-- it's only a couple of hours on rolling hills. THEN take a train back to Paris for an overnight, then the next morning take the TGV to Bordeaux, where you pick up another car.

                        (fair warning -- one and two-day car rentals get pricey, fast...that's the downside)

                        I'm with the others -- with only two weeks, you've got a LOT of acreage to cover, especially if you're adding a few days in Paris into it. You'll lose your first and last days to airport logistics (and jet lag the first day)....and most of a day every time you change cities.

                        You might want to consider just concentrating on Champagne and Bourgogne on this trip, and Bordeaux for your next trip (or vice versa)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: sunshine842

                          I agree, especially if you want to take a look at the other parts of the Bordelais: the Right Bank, the Graves and the Sauternais (which shouldn't be missed IMO).

                        2. You really do need a car to taste in Burgundy. There is little if anything available in the cities. There are a few facilities /tasting rooms in Beaune, but they are not open to the public, and one must arrange for a tour/tasting through the importers or distributors who represent them in USA.

                          both Dijon and Reims are easy day trips from Paris. Chablis is also. In Reims you will find some wineries and tasting rooms in the town that you can pay for and tour and taste without advance planning. You can do the same at some wineries/tasting rooms in Chablis. I am not aware of any tasting rooms in Dijon, although I can't imagine there are none.

                          In Dijon, there is the excellent Grey Poupon mustard museum, and in Beaune, the Moutarderie Edmond Fallot (exquisite mustards) offer an interesting tour and tasting.

                          18 Replies
                          1. re: ChefJune

                   I *think* we have come up with a better plan with all this fabulous info you have all given me. So we are spending the 1st week in Paris and doing a daytrip to Reims via train. Then April 14th we are visiting a friend in Chinon (he is picking us up at the train station). Next morning train to Bordeaux, car rental, afternoon tasting. Staying somewhere that night, next morning another tasting, a lunch somewhere...leave whenever...heading towards Burgundy. I think we will leave mid-late afternoon(ish?) and drive a few hours. Any recommendations on what might be a nice stop for a room and dinner? Drive the rest of the way the next morning and hopefully get a taste in somewhere....still overwhelmed. I do like the idea of the mustard tasting in Beaune though :) Then we wil drop off the car (i dont want to drive in paris!) and take the train back in. I know its a fast trip....not casual like i would like. But in 8 years with my bf this is the 2nd time he has taken 2 weeks off...the 1st was business to Hong Kong...well actually that was 10 days... but you see where im going here ;) And it is his Bordeaux is must for him....his first French bottle he collected back in his 20's was a bottle of Lynch he has sentimental attachements to this trip. I don't think we'll be rushing...but we will be barely touching upon things...which is OK...we arn't doing the 10 countries in 10 days or anything....just food and wine grazing :) Again thanks for all your input! It has helped us finalize a few things and Im so happy to be in the car for a couple days :) Any other suggestions just keep them coming! Thanks all! :)

                            1. re: mapleleafgirl

                              I still think your Bordeaux stop is way too hurried. So you are going to the western corner of France for one night then drive a long drive to eastern France.
                              If you leave Bordeaux in late afternoon, there won't be any daylight for you to see anyting on the way. You are mostly wasting your Bordeaux trip.
                              Please reread Ptipois's excellent description of the region - which is not available in any guidebooks that I know of, - and look up those places on Google map. Are you sure you want to turn your back to it?

                              As much as I love Beaune and its vineyards, you know the Loire has very good wine and lovely vineyards too, and will not require your zigzagging around France...

                              1. re: Parigi

                                NO!, i agree with you. Ideally i would have picked one OR the other...Bordeaux OR Burgundy. Bordeaux is a i have been trying to convince bf that we should just spend a day or 2 more there...we will luck so far. SInce this is HIS trip and yet I must plan it...It's been a challenge! I'm usually a make a couple reservations and wing it person...and i LOVE that! Right now I'm just trying to convince him to leave a few meals open! Dammit i have a lot of meat & cheese & bread to eat outside organized meals! ;). I will let you know how it all plays out!

                                1. re: mapleleafgirl

                                  Dammit i have a lot of meat & cheese & bread to eat outside organized meals!
                                  You say that like it's a bad thing. Plan to visit some markets and some charcuteries and traiteurs and fromagers...THAT makes for meat and cheese and bread (and wine!) that isn't punishment.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                           just dont want every meal organized so that i CAN enjoy the markets and shops to eat a little bit of this and that. Trust me, it is NOT a bad thing :)

                                  2. re: mapleleafgirl

                                    then maybe you could just concentrate on Bordeaux...there's all of the first-growth houses, then a little further in is St-Emilion (gorgeous!), Sauternes, and Monbazillac.

                                    Then take the train from Bordeaux to Tours (St Pierre des Corps station) and have your Chinon friend pick you up there...see the Loire for a day or two, and then back to Paris.

                                    Then Bourgogne waits for the next trip. (It's not that we don't want you to see's that it's so stinking hard to see Burgundy and Bordeaux in a short time span!)

                                    1. re: mapleleafgirl

                                      I may be like your BF because I was on a scouting mission this year. I prowled the Loire Valley by which I discovered the Coteaux du Layon region. I learned the Loire is a treasure of incredible white wines. I am going to work on my Anjou reds besides the Chinons with which I was already familiar. You could follow Ptipois’ route and substitute Sancerre for Nevers for more tastes of wonderful Loire wine at unbelievable prices. I hope to return next year.

                                      Last year, I really enjoyed my stay in Beaune, where I discovered Meursault and Montrachet to my wallet’s sorrow. Beaune is a charming, small town surrounded by scenic little villages. This year, I found Dijon to be a large city with traffic and construction that make it difficult to navigate in a car. The outlying villages are the deal. We found an open tasting room on Sunday in Morey-Saint-Denis, where I could not resist 2 bottles of red burgundy to bring home, which was not my intent. I shall return.

                                      1. re: BN1

                                        It is always a good idea to go to Sancerre. An incredibly beautiful region, too.

                                      2. re: mapleleafgirl

                                        If you go to Bordeaux for only 2 days, you'll spend the remainder of your whole trip lamenting that you did not stay any longer and you'll feel like you haven't seen anything. Been there, done that. I go to Bordeaux for tastings a few times a year and it's always for a day, or two, or at most three. I invariably feel frustrated when I leave. At times I have even thrown away return train tickets (when they weren't refundable) and called Paris to say I was sick so that I could spend a few more days. The Bordeaux region has claws and really digs them into you.

                                        Your program sounds like going to too many places in too little time. Couldn't you leave Burgundy for another time? Or leave out Bordeaux if you do Burgundy? I wouldn't cover the two regions in the same trip anyway. The vibes are too different.

                                        It is, besides, a very good thing not to have all meals planned. Picnicking while travelling through France is one of the great pleasures of life.

                                        1. re: Ptipois

                                          Hmm...there seems to be a trend in these responses.....

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            Hm, maybe you should consider suing.

                                            1. re: Ptipois



                                              I meant that the overwhelming advice is to do one or the other, not both.

                                          2. re: Ptipois

                                            <The Bordeaux region has claws and really digs them into you.>

                                            Pti, I feel the same way about Burgundy. ;) I also am in the camp that's suggesting OP do EITHER Bordeaux OR Burgundy on this trip. Both is really too much to digest in a week.

                                            1. re: ChefJune

                                              I know , I know. And trust me, I will be "digesting" long after I have been home! , you should see the restaurant list! I'm almost scared! :) That all being said, i think I have convinced bf to just do Bordeaux because of all the great advice here. I just need to find a couple more wineries to make a reservation at. Are there any wineries you can just stop in for a taste? or do they all require reservations? I am looking forward to just driving around the countryside and stumbling across some places to taste as opposed to running back and forth on a schedule because tastings are at this and this time. But it seems you need a reservation everywhere. Also are wineries open on Sunday? and what about restaurants? 3 days in the Bordeaux area...much better. Thanks all of you! All of your info has been fabulous!

                                              1. re: mapleleafgirl

                                                La tupina in Bordeaux is great, feels like a traditional farm house with rustic food.

                                                1. re: mapleleafgirl

                                                  This whole thread is one of the most informative threads on chowhound.

                                                2. re: ChefJune

                                                  "Both is really too much to digest in a week."
                                                  That's the idea. In two or three weeks, it wouldn't be.