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In 1989 I was lucky enough to have traveled to Marc Meneau’s Esperance in Vezelay – then one of France’s top dining destinations with 3 Michelin stars. I suppose everyone visiting this part of Burgundy will have remembered the restaurant, and quickly forget the name of the town. Not because it’s insignificant, but the restaurant was located several kilometers below the beautiful mountain top and likely wasn’t visited as often.

Fast forward 25 years. I was wondering around Millesime Bio, the largest organic wine fair in Montpellier, searching for Thomas Pico’s (Domaine Pattes Loup) father and sat down next to the charming and energetic Valentin Montanet. We did not really discuss his wines,  and focused on all sorts of things including his favorite honeymoon destination – Thailand. I parted, saying I would call him up when visiting Chablis few months later.


In April I arrived chez Domaine Montanet Thoden before flowering started in the vineyards. Only then did I realize I was in the same village as Marc Meneau’s restaurant. Now closed for business and as Valentin said “the days when Americans flew in by helicopter to lunch in one and go for dinner in another 3-star Michelin are over. This is now a sleepy village.”

No Michelin, who cares – they offer the best beef tartar and a gorgeous plum in a small bistro! And thank god the wines also improved! So good, they are now listed in many natural wine bars from Paris to Tokyo and Hong Kong. Made from beautiful old vine Chardonnay, organically grown on limestone soil, these are the prime ingredients for a mineralic Chardonnay comme un Chablis. You find here subtle citrus and nutty essence with white flowers.

One of France’s affordable trophies, and perfect lucky find!