Burgundy. Borgogne. Borgogna.
No matter which language, for me it’s a heavy word. In all my time involved with wine I have flirted with Burgundy. Like a teenager with a secret crush, I hugged the walls of the high school dance and witnessed her float by, completely uninterested in me. I watched intently as she enchanted everyone in the room, and danced with anyone but me. She was absolutely bewitching, but spared me only the briefest of sideways doe-eyed glances.
Even then, I was lost. Maybe so deeply in love I didn’t even know where to begin. Burgundy was just a beautiful, recurring dream.
Fast-forward a decade or so, and in a characteristically enthusiastic moment, Camillo Favaro gave me the opportunity I forgot I had been waiting for. After a particularly beautiful meal and a couple of bottles of wine, he looked at his beautiful wife, Antonella and said, “Dai- portiamo la Bonfiglio in Borgogna.” Come on- let’s take Bonfiglio to Burgundy. I love that he still uses my maiden name- another indication of just how long we’ve known each other. This was an invitation of the heart- he wanted to bring me to a place that is very important to him. I think he also wanted to see me see it for the first time. That’s true friendship.
A few weeks later I found myself hurtling toward Burgundy in Camillo’s car, flying past the dizzying vineyards of Val D’Aosta. We had departed early from Piemonte- there was an ominous glow through the dark morning fog when we left- a stark contrast to the clear black skies of Halloween Eve the night before, flooded with the light of an almost- full moon. Craggy, barren trees were scratching holes through the greyness in the sky as we waited for Camillo to arrive, watching idly as last-night’s party-goers exited from a neighboring house and relieved themselves sleepily onto a convenient wall.
Even though I hadn’t slept the night before- too excited to sleep, too happy to want to close my eyes and miss even a second of the anticipation, I could not relax in the car. Antonella fell asleep next to me as we climbed up the highway towards France, towards the looming shadow of Mount Blanc. Fabio Motta, our stalwart companion, also snored lightly next to Camillo in the front seat. And yet, perched on the edge of my seat, I could barely contain myself. Had I ever been this happy before? That morning in the dismal, cold grey of Fall, speeding towards France with three of the people I admire the most in the world next to me, my heart was full to the point of bursting. If we can select the moments in our life that will define us, I will wholeheartedly choose the split second Camillo glanced back at me in the rear-view mirror and caught my eye. This is what Life is all about.
I realized that morning there was a good reason I had never made the pilgrimage to Burgundy before. I had been waiting for this particular moment in my life. For this specific opportunity. With these people. In a flash of complete clarity I saw it: all roads do lead to Burgundy.
The soggy grey weather bled over the border and into France, and yet it did nothing to dampen my spirits. All the beautiful white-stoned cities of the Côte d’Or, flanking this mysterious winding valley alongside the most cherished vineyards in the world. I felt a kind of peace settle over me- a response perhaps to the reverence, the quiet sense of completion, in simply being here. It was a spiritual moment for me. I could feel this place touching my soul- seeping in like sunshine and warming me from the inside, out.
This is the terroir that defines terroir.
Nous étions arrivés. We had arrived.
(To be continued…)