Restaurants & Bars

A weekend in the Jura (Arbois)

francaise | Oct 3, 201801:59 PM     3

After a long delay, here is the Jura installment which was a side trip taken from Burgundy & Beaujolais April 2018 Trip Report:

Although we only had a weekend in the Jura, a small department in eastern France, it was long enough to know we would surely return to enjoy again the distinctive wines and excellent cheese made in this region.

We left Beaune late Saturday morning after purchasing our picnic provisions at the market and then drove to the Jura region, an easy one and a half hours on the back roads to our first destination of Arlay, a small village where we had an appointment with Jean Bourdy at his Domaine. This gave us plenty of time to picnic along the grassy banks of the Seille River in Arlay; the weather was still hot and sunny. Everything looked so green and tranquil, the mountain air was fresh, the hillsides vine-covered and beautiful Montbéliarde cows grazed the meadows.

Cave Jean Bourdy was just a few minutes drive from our picnic site. I had emailed him from Canada several weeks previous and he replied within a day and we made an appointment. I figured since we were interested in Jura wines, who better to learn from than Jean Bourdy. He and his brother represent the 15th generation of family ownership in this Jura winery, dating back to the time between 1475 and 1500. This makes them them the oldest and continuously owned and operated winery and they also have the oldest (in the world) library of wines, thanks to their ancestors holding back a quantity of wine from each vintage. They have for sale old vintages dating back to 1781, apparently still in fine condition due to the aging potential of Jura wines.

They cultivate 10 hectares in the Côtes du Jura and Château-Chalon appellations. Their viticulture and winemaking have been biodynamic since 2006 and certified by Demeter since 2010. This certification was easy for them, as they have always worked organically in the field and vinified their wines naturally. They give their wines a very light filtration and bottle their wines with a minimum of sulphites, 2-3mg. They produce all Jura wines: Côtes du Jura Blanc, Côtes du Jura Rouge, Cremant du Jura, Vin Jaune, Vin Jaune de Château-Chalon, Vin de Pailles and Gallant Abbesses.

Meeting Jean Bourdy was a highlight of our visit to this region. He was generous with his time and tastings, explaining with infectious passion the long history of winemaking in his family and how Jura wines are made. We were joined in the cave by a French sommelier who was there, as we were, to meet Jean Bourdy and taste his wines. M. Bourdy had just returned from Winnipeg, Manitoba, and told us that his biggest export market is Quebec, Canada. (Great news for us, although we don't live there, we can drive there to buy his wines.) The Domaine exports approximately 85% of their wines. He travels five months per year, promoting and developing markets for their Jura wines, so I suspect we were lucky that he was back home when we requested this visit.

We tasted a succession of wines and M. Bourdy advised us to keep the wine in our mouths for two or three minutes when tasting to appreciate their complexities. He also stressed that Jura wines need a long slow period of time in old, cold and wet cellars. Wet, because the yeasts thrive in this climate and the long period in cold cellars allow the wine to acquire balance and the ability to improve for many years.

We began with the Côte du Jura Blanc 2014, a 100% Chardonnay that ages for 3 1/2 years in old oak foudres, the first year sous voile, then topped up for further aging. These large casks don't impart tannins or oak flavours. Amber in colour, it had layers of delicious flavours and a long finish. We loved the 2015 Côtes du Jura Rouge, a blend of Poulsard, Trosseau and Pinot Noir that is cold-fermented and then aged in old barrels for 2-4 years before bottling. It was light red in colour and fruity with an appealing earthiness. His 2008 Côte du Jura, sous voile, which is always 100% Savignin, was the first taste of his yellow wines and we rolled our eyes back with pleasure when we tasted it. The 2009 Château-Chalon Vin Jaune, the traditional and original grand cru, grown in the Château-Chalon appellation, followed, and it was a masterpiece, so many complex flavours. This appellation, whose soil is of blue marl and limestone, gives the wines an elegant finesse. It stays alive and improves for centuries. Two sweet wines followed - the Vin de Paille and then a very special spiced Macvin called Galant de Abbesses, which I believe is unique to this Domaine and dates back 500 years to the local nuns from Château-Chalon whose recipe this is. Fresh grape juice is cooked slowly in large copper pots with 25 Chinese and Indian spices for a day and marc is added. It was sweet and full of exotic spices, quite a mouthful; 16% alcohol. A rare treat it was, and is recommended as an aperitif or with blue cheese or desserts.

M. Bourdy stated with conviction that Vin Jaune is the greatest, rarest and most complex top white wine produced anywhere in the world and I had to nod in agreement; it is like no other, and my husband and I became fast fans of the yellow wine. We were hooked. Near the end of our tasting, a Norwegian man stopped in looking to buy some of his 1928 Vin Jaune. We were very impressed with Jean Bourdy's wines and the long history this family has of cultivating and making wines in the most natural way, respecting tradition and the soil, and eschewing trendiness. I suspect they will remain for us a benchmark for all other Jura wines.

After leaving Arlay, we were about 15 minutes from Château-Chalon, a picturesque small village perched high on a cliff, one of the first folds of the Jura mountains. We drove up the hill to visit Domaine Berthet-Bondet, an estate that cultivates 15 hectares, more than five of which are in the Château-Chalon appellation. This makes them the largest producer of Château-Chalon Vin Jaune, as there are only 50 hectares in total in this appellation, and there are some 60 owners, many that have a very small parcel. Domaine Berthet-Bondet converted to organic viticulture in 2010. They have public opening hours and a tasting room which was almost full when we arrived. The group was just finishing when we entered and we were guided through a tasting by a very competent young woman. We tasted their sparking Cremant Côte du Jura, 100% Chardonnay; the 2016 Côtes du Jura Blanc, a Savignin, ouille, that was fresh and grapey; the 2016 Côtes du Jura Rouge, a blend of Pinot Noir, Trosseau, and Poulsard; the 2014 Côtes du Jura Tradition, a Chardonnay-Savignin blend, sous voile for 2 years; and their Château-Chalon 2010 Vin Jaune. All excellent, but of course, we had been bitten with the Bourdy bug.

From Château-Chalon we headed north to the wine town of Arbois, where we stayed for two nights. The drive was 30 minutes and took us through the town of Poligny. We reserved at Les Closerie Les Capucines, a chambre d'hôte in the center of town. We did not know that the owner, Patricia, was in the process of selling the property and business. We were there during the last few weeks before new owners would be taking over. Upon returning home we learned of this, and I can only assume based on our experience there (the details which are now irrelevant) that her heart was no longer in the business. C'est la vie.

Arbois is a small town and one can walk to most restaurants. There is a main square that is surrounded by many wine shops and the terrace of Hirsinger chocolate and pastry shop on the square is a popular spot all day long for café and pastries. With our eating schedule, all we could manage was one single honey ganache-filled chocolate each and it was lovely. Aux Docks Brasserie has a large patio on the square that was hopping busy with customers having cold beers- there was a heat wave in the Jura in April ! And for those interested in medicine, food and wine, a visit to the Louis Pasteur house is worthwhile.

The following restaurants have been previously reviewed on Chowhound, so consider these as a different day, a different season, a different diner....

We chose to dine here Saturday evening as we wanted to have traditional Jurassienne cuisine and wine for our first meal. There is a casual inner courtyard that was pretty full with families with kids; we chose to dine inside in their small quiet dining room. We took their 3 course Menu Terroir at 28e with a 7e supplement for the Poulet Bresse. My husband began with a beautiful rabbit terrine made with Macvin, hazelnuts and girolle mushrooms. My starter was even better - thick white asparagus spears crusted with ground, crispy hazelnuts; jambon cru and hazelnut mayonnaise. Of all the various green and white asparagus dishes eaten daily on this trip, this was the most memorable - topping even the green asparagus with foie gras and black truffle at Café Trama the previous week, and also the white asparagus with passion fruit vinaigrette and andouille de Guéméné at Le Cornichon, also in Paris.

The main event, and a definite highlight dish of the Jura for us - a large cauldron was presented with our Poulet Bresse, cooked on the bone with cream, Vin Jaune and morels, so decadent, so good ! With this we drank a bottle of Arbois Blanc-Typé Tradition (Chardonnay-Savagnin) sous-voile, 2013 from bio producer Jacques Tissot (26.90e) With notes of curry and nuts, it was a great compliment to the poulet.
We received exceptional service from a young woman who had just graduated from hotel school and was working her way to becoming a sommeliére. To finish, one of the best desserts of this trip was my Nougat Glacé made with local pine honey, caramelized hazelnuts and Morello cherries.
Overall, a most satisfying taste of the Jura, and several best dishes of the trip.

LE GRAPIOT, Pupillin
For Sunday lunch we drove 3 km south of Arbois to the tiny village of Pupillin, which is comprised of wine producers' caves and this one restaurant. It was another hot and sunny day, so hot that we chose to dine inside rather than sit on their elevated terrace. It was very busy, a nice buzzy atmosphere with families and couples out for a lazy Sunday lunch. We found the gastronomical cooking here quite fine, rooted in local ingredients with modern plating and thoughtful compositions.The Menu Carte offered several choices for each course. Starters were mackerel with beetroot, radish and cucumber, and a bio salmon sushi with asparagus and chèvre. We both love pigeon and when we saw it as a main, neither of us would give in to choose another main, so be both ordered it. It was wonderful and perfectly cooked - legs confitted apart, with Charlotte potatoes, new peas and favas. The menu stated "jus brun volailles", so when the waitress set it down and I saw the pigeon sitting in a deep well of cream, I looked up at her and said "Crème!?" She laughed and replied "La crème est la vie !" Oh well, I thought, c'est la vie ! The cheese trolley looked fabulous, but only café was had, accompanied by very good mignardises.

The wine carte is on a computer pad on each table, and is full of local producers. This was helpful, as there was no one working that day that had any knowledge of wine, sadly. We drank a deliciously earthy Arbois Pupillin Trousseau, Le Garde-Corps 2014, from Phillip Bornard, whose cave was just down the road. (42e) I was tempted by the cultish Overnoy and Houillon wines, or maybe just curious, but they were frightfully expensive.

We dined here Sunday evening. It was not originally on our list, but as some restaurants were still closed Sundays until full season happens, the options were limited. We dined inside, somewhat lonely as only two other tables were occupied. The outside patio was very busy and boisterous. The menu was 2 courses for 25e, 3 for 30e. The carte reads well with local and seasonal ingredients. The stand-out dishes were those my husband had - a very good Pressé de queque de boeuf followed by a rosy lamb saddle with garlic purée and flat beans. My main of pavé de merlu with spinach and fennel was good enough, but the fish was not the quality, freshness or cooking of the same unforgettable hake I had the week before in Paris at Sauvage.

I noted with interest that their wine carte has Wink Lorch recommendations, We drank a bio 2015 Henri Mairie Arbois Pinoir Noir, Domaine Brégand (28e) that tasted of sweet black fruit but it had a definite perlé to it (a not uncommon fault in some natural wines). My husband liked it and thought the sparkling quality was refreshing to drink on a hot evening !

Monday morning we left Arbois, enroute to Beaujolais, to begin another wine adventure.

Want to stay up to date with this post? Sign Up Now ›

More from Chowhound

9 Pizza Styles to Know & How to Make Them at Home

9 Pizza Styles to Know & How to Make Them at Home

by Miki Kawasaki | Pizza generally means one thing—in that everyone understands what you're talking about when you say...

11 Ingenious Hacks for Tackling Summer Produce

11 Ingenious Hacks for Tackling Summer Produce

by Posie Harwood | When summer produce is abundant, you want to each as much as possible, and these kitchen hacks for...

Homemade Dole Whip Is Only Two Ingredients Away
How To

Homemade Dole Whip Is Only Two Ingredients Away

by Jessica Gentile | With coronavirus making travel a tricky and even potentially dangerous prospect this year, we're embracing...

Boba 101: How To Make Bubble Tea at Home
How To

Boba 101: How To Make Bubble Tea at Home

by Jody Eddy | With coronavirus making travel a tricky and even potentially dangerous prospect this year, we're embracing...

Get fresh food news delivered to your inbox

Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest tips, tricks, recipes and more, sent twice a week.