It’s not what you’re thinking.
On a recent Viking River Cruise from Avignon to Lyon, I was delighted when my husband informed me that he’d booked us on one of their optional excursions. But when he said it was a ‘hunting trip’ I was suddenly less enthused. I don’t hunt (unless you count shopping) and neither does he. This sounded like a terrible idea. But….once I realized what we’d be hunting for, I couldn’t wait! We were going in search of 3 of my favorite things…..wine, goat cheese and truffles. As a foodie, THAT’s a hunting expedition I could get on board with! The only weapon I’d be needing was a corkscrew!
First stop: Chateau Chasselas – a fantastic winery in the Beaujolais region of France. Proprietor Jean-Marc, a transplant from the bustling fashion industry in Paris, now relishes in the quieter lifestyle. Refurbishing the Chateau has taken years, but it’s been a labor of love. And it’s taken deep pockets. The chateau hadn’t been lived in for over 40 years when Jean-Marc began the restoration. Today it’s a destination, complete with accommodations should you wish to stay amongst the grapes.
Our wine tasting, complete with lovely fresh baguettes and local sausage and cheese was the perfect way to start the day. At this point, I was pretty sure I liked the idea of this hunting trip after all!
This region screams relaxed, simple pleasures. The sleepy towns and villages that dot the rolling hillsides are plucked right from the pages of an idyllic novel and I imagine myself starring in the film version….
But it was time to make our way to Burgundy, and what was waiting for us was truly unique. We met ‘Chinook’ – a seasoned veteran of her trade. She was mysterious but friendly, determined yet relaxed and she wasn’t afraid to show us her office. Chinook’s workplace is a picturesque stand of trees near a vineyard on an estate in the Burgundy region. She’s one of the hardest working staff members on the farm – and her sole purpose is to find the most coveted of all fungi….the elusive black Perignon truffle.
It was amazing to walk through the woods with Chinook, a truffle hunting dog nearing retirement. I can’t show pictures of the farm (top secret due to the incredibly high price of truffles), but safe to say she knows her stuff and her owner makes a good living thanks to her incredible snout!
Of course she struck gold over and over. Lucky us. Our reward was finely diced truffle, mixed into creamy and flavorful local butter, smeared on the freshest baguette – and washed down with some local wine of course. Sublime. I’m still drooling….
Oh – and Chinook does this at 13 years old and with almost no hearing! As mentioned, she’s about to retire and here’s the ‘truffle trainee’ who’s already, at less than 6 months old, showing she’s a natural!
Our final stop was a goat farm where we met some very cute goats, and sampled the incredible chevre (and more wine of course).
What an adventure – Does this mean I can proudly add ‘hunter’ to my resume now?? (food and wine that is!)