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On the banks of the Yonne


I’ve always loved owls, besides being fascinating creatures and silent hunters I have a few as neighbors. My little screech owls either like my company or my quiet music, as they will come and perch on my pool cage as I sit outside at night and read. Though I have been told that their incredible eyes takes up pretty much all the space where the brain is –they are actually saying they have pea size brains.


But that was not the reason I went to Auberge La Lucarne aux Chouettes, translated to “lair of the owls,” while I was visiting Burgundy. The auberge is a small charming four room inn and restaurant on the banks of the Yonne River. The owner is famous half American actress, best known as Gigi. Leslie Caron fell in love with an old dilapidated 17 century one time boat house sitting riverside, not far from her home. On a whim she bought it. After a few years of true sweat equity, she breathed new life into it and turned it into a lovely auberge filled with local antiques with lots of appeal. Oak beamed bedrooms, ruffled canopies, exposed bricks, toile and floral fabrics make it cozy and definitely romantic. She found herself to be the chatelaine – instead of being the actor, she became the director.


Sitting riverside you can gaze at the St Nicolas Bridge and enjoy a refreshing drink, like the house cocktail named as it should be, Le Gigi. The secret shared, Crémant de Bourgogne with Mandarine Imperiale, touch of vermouth and Criottine.


As you walk through the door to the restaurant there are roses are climbing skyward on the outside stone walls, inside a large antique fireplace is the focus of the room and two brass chandeliers hang from massive heavy oak beams. Heavy linens fall over the tables and meals are kept in traditional local flavors; items such as duck, escargot and veal with forest mushrooms, as it should be. Eat and drink local.


There is a history here that I must explain, Ms. Caron is the daughter of Margaret Petit and Claude Caron, a trained pharmacists but also an entrepreneur. But my connection is to her father, I worked for him at his very highly regarded emporium of elegant European goods in St Croix. My first exposure to Lalique, Daum, St. Louis crystal, Piaget, Butcherer jewelry, leather goods and perfumes. M. Caron wanted to open a shop devoted to fine French wines and asked me to be in-charge. But I had little to no experience with wine. But like any charming French gentlemen, he answer was without hesitation “you must learn!” Thus started my education in wine… now a lifelong passionate pursuit.


At the end of each working day, I was given a bottle of wine, told to taste; write my notes and read about the region, the village, grape variety traits, so that I could describe it to clients. So from Sancerre to Chassagne Montrachet to Pommard, I discovered a new world and a world that I loved. This was my Sommeliers degree. And ever since opening my mind to wines from every corner of the world and making a commitment to attend wine institutes.


My favorite lesson was about Champagne… he obviously had reasons for his favorites. He said that Dom Perignon was a beach or boat drink but Dom Ruinart was an elegant celebration wine. I will always remember that, and it came to fruition as I drank a Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blanc 2004 at Rue des Crayeres after visiting the cellars. It was again prefect in the mouth and perfectly clear why, a lesson that stays with me to this day.


I wanted to pass along my gratitude to an elegant French gentleman. Merci Beaucoup, Claude Caron.

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