Natural Beaujolais vigneron Karim Vionnet had actually planned to take us to the restaurant next door to Café de la Bascule in Fleurie. It was closed for vacations. Anyway, as Karim explained to us, the places shared ownership; what separated the two terrace bistro concepts was just a slight gap in price and sophistication, la Bascule having cheaper meats and a wine list that was not unanimously natural.
We made do. An unexpected highlight of the experience was our server, who seemed all of 11 years old, but who nevertheless provided the most sparkling efficient professional service I have yet experienced in France. He seemed to be running the whole place, bantering with guests in the polished server patter of someone four times his age. As we ate our hangar steaks we watched in bemusement as the boy placed the kitchen orders for the restaurant from a mobile phone in the parking lot.* And when after a forgettable but refreshing round of Mâcon-Lugny Karim picked out a splendid unsulfured bottle of Jean-Claude Chanudet's 2008 Fleurie "La Madone," it was this little fella who served it, flawlessly.
"La Madone" is the highest elevation cru in Fleurie, at 430m. It's named for the Chapelle de la Madone, a small church dating to around 1870 on same hill. (Apparently there are two competing stories surrounding the addition of the Madonna statue. Either it was built as prayer for the village to be spared a powdery mildew blight in 1864, or it was built as prayer that the village not be invaded by the Prussians around same era.)
Chanudet, meanwhile, is the husband of Geneviève Chamonard, daughter of pioneering natural Beaujolais vigneron Joseph Chamonard; it was their 2009 Morgon we'd enjoyed the most of the wines we drank the previous night at L'Atelier du Cuisinier in Villié-Morgon. The 2008 "La Madone" didn't disappoint, either: a long, slender palate of quietly spiced red fruit, with that panoramic vista quality I seem to get from well-made 2008 cru Beaujolais. Perfect for a slow afternoon lunch before traipsing off into Karim's nearby vineyards.
* When someone on the other end evidently told him to call back later, he quoted the provider's telephone hours back at them to get them to take the order now. One tough little customer, this guy.
Café de la Bascule
Tel: 04 74 04 13 48
Beaujolais Bike Trip: Karim Vionnet, Morgon
Beaujolais Bike Trip: Chez Agnès et Jean Foillard, Villié-Morgon
Beaujolais Bike Trip: L'Atelier du Cuisinier, Villié-Morgon
Beaujolais Bike Trip: Le Relais des Caveaux, Villié-Morgon
Beaujolais Bike Trip: Isabelle et Bruno Perraud, Vauxrenard
Beaujolais Bike Trip: Le Coq à Juliénas, Juliénas
Beaujolais Bike Trip: Beaujolais Communiqué
The Jura Bike Trip: May 2011
A 2008 article on Karim Vionnet @ SwissPassions (Not, in fact, a message board for swingers in Zurich.)
Vionnet quoted in a 2009 article on Beaujolais @ TIMEMagazine
Many mentions of Vionnet's wines @ DuMorgonDansLesVeines
A brief tasting with Jean-Claude Chanudet @ WilliamsCornerWine