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For the Burgundy fanatic--and I admit to being one--there is no wrong time to visit the object of our affection, even January, when most normal people are dreaming about running around scantily clad on a warm, sunny beach. But for two days beginning Jan. 29, 2005, the St. Vincent Tournante, a 61-year-old wine festival, will take over the city of Beaune, just two hours or so from Paris by train. Expect chilly temps (in the low 40s) and wet weather, but the event is sure to be a slice of sweet local wine culture in one of the most exalted wine lands in the world.
I've been to weekend wine festivities in Beaune, and the town knows how to throw a party. St. Vincent is the patron saint of the grape harvest, and several thousand people--locals and international guests--are expected to fête him and put in a good word for the 2005 vintage.
The event begins with a 7 a.m. procession, followed by a music-rich Mass and a lunch banquet that should stretch on to dinner. The cost of the multi-course, multiwine meal is $194. (Get your ticket and a rundown of complete weekend events from the Beaune Tourist Board). On Saturday and Sunday the streets will be filled with performers and musicians and several major tastings where you can sample from many of the vineyards in the beautiful Côte de Beaune. This is the time you can finally get to know the taste differences between Burgundy vineyards.
Make sure to save a day for tooling about the town, which is small enough to walk and large enough to surprise. You'll want to visit the Hotel de Dieu with its stunning multicolor-tile peaked roofs. Now a museum, it is filled with nice details of its former incarnation as a medieval hospital. Housed inside is The Last Judgment, an extraordinary painting in polyptych by Flemish painter Roger van der Weyden.
On the Sunny Side
So you want a good old-fashioned hot vacation? Here are a couple of spots that can fill the basic need for midwinter pampering in all ways solar, culinary and vinous
In San Diego, you can indulgently veg out at the Lodge at Torrey Pines (www. lodgetorreypines.com) Book in January, and reserve one of your days to tag along on a day trip offered by Nick Burns, wine director of nearby Arterra restaurant (Bradley Ogden's splashy restaurant ensconced in the San Diego Marriott Del Mar). This "Arterra Wine of the Earth" is a voyage to Baja wineries in the Guadalupe Valley. The day includes winery visits, lunch at a winery, a walk through warm vineyards, then a return to the hotel that evening for a four-course meal paired with the best wines of the area. Should you prefer, you can take advantage of the package deal at the Marriott: two nights, $675 for two, plus of course the Arterra dinner. Call 1-858-369-6032 for more information.