Back on October 5, 2020 I shared the first part of my story highlighting of our ‘off the beaten path’ adventures on the Route Des Grands Crus in Burgundy and there is still more to talk about. If you would like to catch up or reread The Road Less Traveled-Going Off the Beaten Path on The Route Des Grands Crus in Burgundy-Part One you can find it here.
I ended the first part of this journey with the advice to follow those signs posted in brown as the Routes des Grand Crus follows the tertiary roads west of the N74, but even if you have to turn around to peruse down the road that you just past, do it. You never know what will be around the next corner, like a 12th-century feudal castle of neo-Gothic-Burgundian style, rebuilt in the 15th century! Château de La Rochepot.
Rounding the bend in the road my husband and I were surprised and extremely thrilled to see Château de La Rochepot sitting off in the distance. We were letting the road take us where it wanted us to go and on a beautiful sunny September day in Burgundy, it lead us to a castle. Unfortunately during the time that we were there, the castle was not open to visitors but that did not stop me from exploring the grounds and taking in all of the architectural elements of this majestic structure.
Château de La Rochepot is located in the commune of La Rochepot in the Côte-d’Or department, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, France. It is a part of the canton of Arnay-le-Duc. The commune arrondissement is Beaune. The commune of La Rochepot is famous for its winemaking traditions. The primary cultivated grape varieties are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
This feudal castle of neo-Gothic-Burgundian style was built in 1180 on the ruins of a castle burnt down in the 11th century and belonged to seigneur de Montagu Alexander of Burgundy (1170-1205) who was the son of Hugh III, Duke of Burgundy.
Seigneur Régnier Pot (Chamberlain to the Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Bold and Knight of the Golden Fleece)having returned from the crusade in 1403, bought the castle, named Château de La Roche Nolay at the time of purchase. The castle was then renamed after himself and he transferred it to his son, seigneur Jacques Pot, who, in turn, transferred it to his son, seigneur Philippe Pot.
Marshal of France Anne de Montmorency became the owner of the castle in the 16th century, followed by Jean François Paul de Gondi, the Cardinal de Retz who inherited the castle in the 17th century. In 1644 Paul de Gondi sold it to the first President of the Parliament of Burgundy Pierre Legoux de la Berchère. It is documented that the last lord of the castle was Joseph Blancheton.
During the French Revolution in 1789, the castle was renamed Château de La Roche Fidèle, and declared a national asset. Soon afterwards it was partially destroyed by vandals and left unkept, the domain passed for 100+ years from hand to hand. In 1893, Cécile Carnot , the wife of Sadi Carnot, President of the Republic at the time purchased the ruins. Carnot offered the location as a gift to her eldest son, infantry colonel Sadi Carnot, who then for 26 years carried out a meticulous historical restoration in the spirit of the 15th century. Based on data from archives, the reconstruction was based on a complication of information obtained from archaeological excavations to ensure that the restoration was completed in full historical authenticity. Hundreds of local residents were involved in the construction work, many of whom were unemployed after the devastation that the epidemic of phylloxera caused in the area’s vineyards.
Some parts of the Château de La Rochepot castle were acknowledged as regional historical monuments in 2013 and in 2014, the annex buildings, vineyards and the park were given the status of national monument.
The last owner of Château de La Rochepot who opened the castle up to tourists, Dmytro Malinovskiy, was arrested in October 2018 and the castle was seized by the French government. Europol had discovered that Malinovskiy had faked his own death in a car accident and fled Ukraine to escape charges in a complex case of international fraud and money laundering. French officials realized that something was amiss when suspicious transactions surrounding the purchase of the castle (for $3.5 million) began to surface.
The investigation lead to the arrest of the “the King of the Castle”, as Malinovskiy was referred to. The French government seized an estimated $4.6 million worth of jewels and property, including the château itself. The possessions confiscated included three unnamed pieces of art by Salvador Dali and a vintage Rolls Royce from Malinovskiy.
I didn’t know the recent history of the castle until after we returned home from France. The castle was deserted when we visited and although a website still stated its hours of operation, it looked like it had not been open for a while. However, we still enjoyed walking around the outer edges of the castle and taking photos of the amazing architecture. It is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area of Rochepot in the Côte d’Or, a nice excursion that can be combined with a visit to some vineyards in the region.
If you are curious what Château de la Rochepot looked like before it closed in October 2018 watch this video from Rick Steves’ Europe Travel Guide – Travel Bite.
Phillip II, Phillip the Bold
After seigneur Régnier Pot bought the castle in 1403, Pinot Noir grapes started being planted in its vicinity as decreed in application of the Decree of Philip the Bold of 1395.
On July 31,1395, Philip the Bold’s famous proclamation banning that most “disloyal variety”, Gamay, from the Côte d’Or. An early example of agricultural regulation related to wine quality this act had far-reaching consequences for Gamay in the region.
Gamay, is noted to have originated in the village of Gamay in the south of the Côte de Beaune (near St Aubin) before the 14th century.
All along the Route des Grands Crus you come across astonishing buildings that truly encompass the history of the region. Luckily on this trip I was the passenger and was free to look around while exploring each stretch of the Route. Driving through Fixin, I saw in the distance the vibrant tiles on a church’s bell tower steeple and I was instantly drawn to it.
A marvel of Romanesque architecture, the Church of St. Anthony of Fixey can be found on the Route des Grands Crus in the middle of a Burgundy vineyard in the commune of Fixin. Originally belonging to the Saint-Bénigne abbey in Dijon, since 1860 the commune is a fusion of two villages, Fixin and Fixey.
The location in 902, was marked with a Romanesque oratory and dedicated to Saint Antoine (Antoine the Great). This site over time grew into a church and today it is one of the oldest (if not the oldest) Romanesque building in the Dijon region.
Listed as a historic monument since May 2, 1912, the architecture with its lava roof and its bell tower in glazed Burgundy tile is hard to miss when driving through the village of Fixey.
Here is a photo of the church before it’s currant restoration. Visit this Website to see more images.
Photography Tip: Buildings like Église Saint-Antoine de Fixey are a great opportunity to take a mixture of vertical and horizontal photos as well as an array of wide and close up detailed shots. Not a typical tourist spot, locations such as this allow you the time and solitude to work on Architectural photography.
Photography Tip: If you are able to walk around the property of a historical building do so and with each circle move a little farther away, search for different perspectives and angles that will add to your photo collection. In the photo below the wall was at first just in the way, but by finding the right spot and selecting the right viewpoint level I was able to capture a original and historic part of this property along with that the restoration, the old and the new together in one photo.
Photography Tip: Take in the entire location with 360 degree shots. With the church to my left I faced the vineyard in front of me and was greeted with a beautiful view of the Bourgogne region.
Turn again to my right and I was able to capture another vineyard (below) that was getting ready to be harvested.
Moving one more turn what there is a view a vineyards and village homes as seen below. All three of these photos were taken without moving locations, each photo was captured by just standing in one position while turning in a complete circle.
If you really want to experience Burgundian wine culture and history to the fullest, you’ll have to get out into the countryside. Before leaving on this trip I had talked with a number of people about their travels to Burgundy and was amazed by how many of them said that they missed out on the countryside vineyards and cellars because they did not have access to a car.
For three days we traveled the roads of Burgundy, paved roads, dirt roads, roads that were obviously only made for tractors, and roads that lead to vineyards and vistas that I never imagined we would see. During this road trip, not once did someone ask us what “I we were doing there”, or asked if we were lost.
The Burgundian countryside ranks among the most beautiful and varied landscapes in France. It is a place full of charming villages, elegant churches, castles, and vineyards at every turn.
Planning a trip to Burgundy then remember this, You’ve Made it to France and it is a time to embark on the journey you’ve always dreamed about. This should include getting away from the throngs of tourist crowds, trying something different, like a voyage of discovery through the Burgundy countryside and getting lost off the beaten path.
If you take a drive in the French countryside, in many areas, you will come across small dry stone wall huts. I had no idea what these huts were used for so I set out to do some research.
Built entirely without mortar, a dry stone hut, is a rustic building, built constructed with local stones and used as a temporary shelter or as seasonal shelter for farmers in the 18th and 19th centuries. These stone huts were also used as a place to store tools, animals , and even the harvest, in a plot far from a farmer’s permanent home.
Dry stone huts exist in many different places in France, they are known as cadoles, cabanes, loges, bories, capitelles, masures or cahutes.
Dry stone huts come in many shapes, sizes and are found in varies locations. Relics of former times, dry stone huts found in the vineyards share a glimpse of when the winegrower’s lot was not an easy one. These rough and medieval-looking these shelters were also where vineyard laborers would escape the sun and have a bite to eat. They were also refuge from late drenching rainstorms and harsh weather in winter.
Back roads and off the beaten path side trips lead to the discovery of these historical structures.
Still need another reason to travel the Routes des Grand Crus by car? Think about all of the amazing photographs you will get of vines loaded with violet or golden grape clusters, especially during harvest.
In the short time we had to visit Burgundy, we barely scratched the surface in exploring the area and learning all the nuances of this region. Yet, I felt by the end of my three days there that we had experienced more than most people because we took the focus away from wine tasting and gave the countryside and landscape our full attention.
I tend to believe that everything happens for a reason, this includes those unexpected and memorable chance encounters. While driving the Route des Grands Crus in September during harvest, we did find that most of the wine houses were closed for wine tastings. So, when we happened upon one that was open we quickly stopped to see if they were offering wine tasting. We almost drove past Chateau de Savigny but when we saw the castle set back from the road we couldn’t help but pull into the small parking lot and then we were amazed to see an ouvrir (open) sign.
Although we didn’t visit the museum at the château, what can I say we were there for the wine, it contains a treasure trove of aircraft, racing cars and motorcycles along with the impressive collection found on the grounds.
What made this stop and wine tasting memorable was the number of other Americans in the tasting room who like use where there because this winery was one of the few that was open on this particular day. Hearing us speak English one group quickly invited us to join there table and taste with them.
We then spent the next hour sipping wine, laughing and sharing our France travel stories. It was a fantastic experience and later that evening we ran into the same group of people on a sidewalk in Beaune as we walked to a restaurant for dinner. It was Serendipitous!
My best memory Chateau de Savigny was the delightful hospitality we received during our tasting that along with the fantastic company that we shared this fabulous wine tasting with.
I had my notebook and pen ready to take some notes during this wine tasting but the conversation was too good to miss by writing down tasting notes.
Now of course the wine was wonderful and we ended up purchasing some bottles to drink during the remainder of our trip and a bottle to bring home to remember this fantastic afternoon.
I hope that in some way I have inspired you to spend some time traveling off the beaten path and explore the countryside of Burgundy. This slow travel philosophy encourages you to slow down, absorb, appreciate, savor, and really hold on to some once in a life time travel experiences.
Images and content © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.