The Road to Burgundy by Ray Walker is about the unlikely story of an American making wine and a new life in France. Maison Ilan starts as a dream, well, an obsession really, and after five years of obstacles, becomes a reality.
Walker, formerly from the finance world, had only one harvest under his belt and a minimal savings account, before he moved his entire family to Burgundy to blindly pursue winemaking. In a story of twists and turns, he gets his hands on grapes from some of the most highly acclaimed (and most expensive) vineyard sites in the world.
This is a charming tale where the underdog comes out on top. And if you’ve ever wondered how people could ‘fall in love with wine,’ then read The Road to Burgundy.
Walker, once a man who drank mostly beer--began his wine obsession in Italy. He was 23 years old when he first had a glass of wine he “paid attention to.” His fascination with Burgundy began at a neighborhood wine shop. “After that day, I couldn’t think of anything else,” claims Walker.
Walker’s first impressions of Burgundy were like reading romantic poetry: “The delicate flavors lingered well after I swallowed. They seemed to somehow uncoil and expand, communicating with each and every one of my taste buds, filling them with an indescribably wonderful and unique sensation. Holding the slightly chilled wines in my mouth to warm them only intensified the more subtle flavors. White flowers turned honeyed, bright lemons deepened into ripe pineapples, and fresh almonds became magically toasted.”
After working one harvest in California, Walker developed a laissez-faire approach to winemaking. A theory that was often questioned, yet led to his success in securing fruit from some of the top wine growing sites in Burgundy including the Grand Cru site Le Chambertin. Walker says: “I already felt deep down that the right grapes needed only shepherding, and much less manipulation. I had a hunch that the smartest person in the winery is one who knows how to get out of the way.”
When reflecting on his 5-year journey, Walker’s success story is simply inspirational. “I wouldn’t dare call any of this fate,” says Walker. “I worked too damn hard for that. But what I do believe is that where there’s a dream, there’s a way to make it a reality. And if you’re brave enough to dream it, everything else you need is already inside of you.”
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