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France + wine + road trip

(Nederlandse versie)

This spring I took a wine course, comparable to level WSET-3, together with my girlfriend. To bring the theory into practice, we spent the past 2 weeks on holiday in France to visit two major wine areas: Burgundy and the south of the Rhone valley. A wine-themed vacation. Here are some of our tips and tricks, do’s and don’ts.


Week 1 was in the town of Beaune, right in the middle in the Cote d’Or. Beaune is an ideal home base to explore the region. Even by foot: If you walk out of the village towards the west, you’ll be between the grapes right away. Burgundy = wine, that’s very clear. And Burgundy is pinot noir and chardonnay, two grape varieties you’ll get to know intimately if you stay here for a week.

Walk just outside of Beaune and you’ll see this.

It’s a great idea to rent a bike. We did that for a day and rode south. Unless you take all day, or are really fit (there are no flat meters, although it rarely gets very steep) you’ll get not much further than Meursault, via Pommard and Volnay. But you’ll see a lot! By car, we took the péage to the most northern town of the Cote d’Or, Fixin, and drove back south towards Beaune through all those famous towns whose names we crammed for so long. Moray-Saint-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot, Vosne-Romanée, Nuits-St-Georges..  It’s great to see these names as town names, just 5 minutes apart by car, rather than as a dry list in a wine theory book.

wijnstokken Bourgogne (Pinot Noir)

  • In Burgundy, there are plenty of options to taste wine, indicated by ‘degustation’ signs everywhere. You wil generally pay for tasting. If you then purchase, tasting will not be charged in most cases. In my mind, that is not unreasonable, since the area is so popular and the wines are expensive.
  • Did I already mention that Burgundy wines are expensive? We needed some time to adjust, before we splurged on our first €30+ bottles. Of course the quality is similarly very high. And in tasting, it always turns out the best wines are the most expensive. Even if you’ll only hear the price after tasting them. “I liked that one best.. oh is that €69.. ok..”. We’re not ready for that yet.
  • Use the spittoon. Many tourists don’t, but believe me that you will be able to taste a lot better if you spit it out. Especially if you have 2-3 tasting sessions per day of 5 wines each. It also makes you come across as more serious, and you may get some extras, or a taste from a special barrel, like we once experienced.
  • Our top tips when it comes to tasting:
    • Chateau Meursault. Beautiful place, very good extensive guided tour, not just about them but informative about the Burgundy area and traditions. It costs €29 each for the ‘9 wines’ tasting option, with really excellent wines. And if tasting is €29, you can imagine what the bottles cost…

      Chateau de Meursault tasting list. Yikes. This was our most expensive outing, having purchased some bottles of the Terroir d’Exception and the Volnay.

    • Olivier Leflaive in Puligny-Montrachet. They have a wonderful shaded courtyard, and you’ll be able to just sit and relax and taste some lovely wines. It is also a hotel, with signs saying ‘We can arrange shipping to USA and Hong Kong’. Use to your advantage.
    • Chateau Chassagne Montrachet. A lot of emphasis on biological wines, good explanation, friendly people.
  • A less satisfying experience was with Drouhin in Beaune. Although the extensive cellar maze with old wine presses is very impressive, it scores a bit low on the price-quality compared to others. Still interesting to see the connection between the Drouhin family and the town of Beaune.
  • Our day trip to the Beaujolais region was a bit disappointing as well. Maybe we just weren’t lucky, but the two tastings we did there were ok, but not great. Wines are made from the gamay grape in that region, which makes them very different from the rest of Burgundy. In fact, you don’t hear any mention of Beaujolais on any tour or talk in Burgundy, while the Chablis area (much further away) is mentioned frequently. Beaujolais seems not to be considered part of Burgundy, by the rest of Burgundy. We still took several nice wines, they are of course tasty and especially good value for money. And the scenery is beautiful!

    The well-known ‘Moulin a Vent’

  • Don’t forget to try and bring some Cremant-De-Bourgogne. Made just like champagne, but at a friendlier price. A nice change to have as aperitif, or even with a meal.
  • Eating out tips for Beaune:
    • La Petite Taverne (Facebook link): what a nice restaurant. It is inside an antiques shop, has only 5 tables, and is run by one man who takes care of the guests and prepares the food in the kitchen. So sometimes you’ll see people arrive in the restaurant and there’s no host, because he’s cooking. Entertaining. We had a very tasty wine-fondue (slowly cook pieces of beef in reduced wine).  When you leave, all other guests greet you and you’ll get a warm goodbye from the owner. Make sure you get there around 7pm, or make reservations. You can do this via Facebook Messenger, even in english, although response may be hours later. Highly recommended experience in Beaune.
    • Also recommended is Les Poppiettes. The owner is italian, there’s a level of chaos in there that is just exactly right, the food is great and the service is very friendly.
    • Our favorite wine bar is La Dilettante, a few minutes outside of the center of town. Good choices in wine, and you can get a nice platter of charcuterie or cheeses with it.

As a break from the wine theme, taking a tour of the local mustard factory is recommended. A family-run factory, employing about 18 people. Don’t go there if you have very sensitive eyes, because the mustard fumes in the factory will eventually bring the toughest man to tears.


After our week in Burgundy, still reeling from the sticker shock of the expensive wines, we got in our electric car and drove south towards Chateauneuf-du-Pape, central in the southern Rhone valley, about a 4-5 hour drive. We stayed in a very nice Bed and Breakfast which as a certified sommelier as its owner/host. She is very active in the wine industry there, and she knows more places and reputations of wines than you will ever discover by yourself. Highly recommended. Danielle gave us many tips, addresses and even made reservations for a few tours and tastings for us. Around Chateauneuf there are the famous towns of  Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Lirac, Tavel, Beaumes-de-Venise.. you name it. We did quite some touring!

Not all grapevines are planted between pebbles, a cliché image that you will see everywhere. There are many types of soil and they have big impact on the produced wine. .

  • As far as eating out in Chateauneuf itself there are not so many options. There is the Le Verger du Pape, near the castle ruins, which is great. The view across the Rhone valley is beautiful and the food and wines are very good. Make sure you make reservations there. We did this for the next day when we walked by one evening, on our way to see the castle ruins (and the interesting wine expo behind it: All 13 permitted varieties of grapes are planted there on one plot). Other nice restaurants are Le Pistou (we went there twice), and La Maisounnette is reputed to also be good but we weren’t able to go there ourselves.
  • Tasting is a joy. It is generally free, and the wines are also much more affordable. Very different in character from Burgundy of course, but very good as well. Make sure you also taste plenty of white wines (up and coming in Chateauneuf du Pape), they can be very good. A couple of our favourite addresses:
    • Domaine de Banneret, in the town of Chateauneuf, was a great experience. The wife of the owner did a very enthousiastic free tour, in English. There was no pressure at all to purchase, she just loved to tell us the story of their vineyards. Of course we did end up buying some of their bottles… very good smooth full bodied spicy red wine. Only on appointment.
    • Domaine Galévan, just outside of Chateauneuf. We had to go here on strong recommendation of our B&B host, who had served us some of their white wine earlier. A very refined fruity taste, with some minerality at the end. The lady winemaker was not there (she was on vacation) but her father helped us out. We bought white, rosé wine and two types of red. Excellent and very affordable, at around €10 per bottle.

      Free shipping to your car at domaine Galévan

    • Domaine du Gour de Chaulé in Gigondas. Run by a female winemaker as well, like Galévan. A very nice lady, very open and friendly, clear explanation of their way of making wine, good tour, extensive tasting.
    • Domaine la Baroche, in Chateauneuf. A hyper modern way of making wine, which makes it interesting to visit. Concrete vats, sensors everywhere, and very tasty wines. As is common in this area, there is no pressure to buy at all.
    • We also visited the town of Laudun. This is one of the towns in the Cote du Rhone that is in the ‘Village’ appellation but is allowed to put the name of their town on the label. This means higher quality. We visited the Domaine Pelaquie, and tasted and bought some very affordable quality wine. Recommended.
    • The town of Beaumes-de-Venise is worth a visit too. We tried some very nice sweet dessert-wines at the cooperative. They make a nice gift too. A trip to the other side of the Rhone to visit Lirac and Tavel (famous for their rosé wines) was mixed. We didn’t find Lirac very inspiring, but we had a very nice tasting at Caveau Saint Vincent (Google maps link). They carry rosé of all local Tavel producers, so it’s very nice and interesting to taste them side by side. Friendly proprietor. Please be aware that they close during lunch time.

In general, one can say that in Burgundy, everything is about wine. In the Rhone area this focus is less strong. Burgundy has quite an ‘agricultural’ feel about it, especially the northern part of the Cote d’Or (the Cote des Nuits), with tractors on the roads. As a wine lover it is fantastic to actually see all the differences between the areas and the plots. A slightly different orientation towards the sun can make a big difference in the class of wine produced.

That is in fact the story of the ‘Terroir d’Exception’ wine we purchased at Meursault. Inside a premier cru area, a part of a plot has a disadvantageous orientation towards the sun because it is in a slight dip of the land. Hence, wine coming from that part of the plot isn’t premier cru, and has very different pricing because of that. And we loved it! But those are the details one needs to know; and knowing that each plot is shared between several wine makes, makes things very complex indeed. You can learn about Burgundy your entire life.

The Rhone area is very different. Villages each have their own character, their own face, their own terroir. They all use a selection of the 13 allowed grape varieties, and each village uses their own traditions to produce wine from them. Making each town unique. Vacueyras even has  ‘Hollywood sign’ lettering of their town name on the hill. This illustrates the character I think; each town is their own brand, while Burgundy really feels like one contiguous area. And both have their unique charm.

On our way back we spent a night at the ancient town of Troyes. So, champagne as a dessert. Troyes is a very nice town, well worth a visit.

We are already thinking about our next wine vacation. Loire and Bordeaux, or maybe take a different route and visit the Alsace and Mosel/Rheingau area first?


Taal leren

Bezig met een experiment rond een taal-algoritme. Eentje die zelf onderwerpen vindt in een verzameling documenten. Door te kijken naar de woorden en waar ze voorkomen maakt het zelfstandig een soort ‘topic map’. Waarbij de gerelateerde woorden ook bij elkaar komen.

Het trainen van dit model doe ik door mijn tweets er in te stoppen. Beetje lastige verzameling documenten, blijkt. Omdat ze kort zijn en over heel veel verschillende onderwerpen gaan werkt het niet goed om zo’n kaart te maken.

Tijdens het werk scrollt er een oude tweet uit 2007 door de terminal. “Zoon (4) wil me lief verzorgen bij het ontbijt. Papa jij een lekker biertje?”. Eerst raakt dit me wegens de tekst zelf. Wat lief was dat. Vervolgens raakt de nostalgie me. Dat was 10 jaar geleden. Die zoon is nu 14. De oudste is net 18 geworden, doet eindexamen en gaat over een paar maanden verhuizen naar Delft. Damn wat gaat het snel. Wat leuk om die oude tweet nog te hebben.

Maar ik herpak me en ik zie dat wat mijn zoontje daar deed ook een mooi voorbeeld is van hoe dat algoritme werkt. Biertje is lekker, dat zegt papa inderdaad vaak. Hoort bij eten en drinken. Maar hoort niet bij topic ‘ontbijt’. Zo leerde mijn zoontje dat op dat moment. En zo werkt het trainen van AI modellen ook.

Dus als een AI model je ooit een suggestie doet om een biertje te nemen bij het ontbijt, denk dan ook even ‘ah wat lief’. Voor je de bug gaat melden ;-).

Een Nest thermostaat aansluiten op een Intergas combiketel

Omdat Nuon stopte met de E-manager had ik een andere thermostaat nodig. Mijn keuze viel op de Nest, eigenlijk vooral omdat er zulke leuke dingen mee mogelijk zijn met IFTTT, en de bediening via mobiel waarschijnlijk wel goed werkte. Aldus geschiedde, thermostaat aangeschaft, en vandaag heb ik hem geïnstalleerd. Ik was van te voren een beetje angstig, snoeren doorknippen bij cv-ketels vereist enige moed. Maar het was eigenlijk een fluitje van een cent, jij kan het ook.

Stap 1 – Oude thermostaat verwijderen

Dat was makkelijk genoeg, en laat een mooi gat achter.. Je ziet er twee draadjes uitkomen, deze schakelen de kachel aan en uit en gaan helemaal naar de cv-ketel.

nest - 1

Stap 2 – Verander aansluiting op de ketel naar aan-uit

Sommige ketels (zoals de mijne) zijn modulerend. Dat betekent dat ze behalve aan en uit ook zachtjes kunnen. Sommige thermostaten (zoals mijn vorige) kunnen daar mee omgaan, en zorgen er daarmee voor dat je niet zulke wisselingen krijgt van de temperatuur in je huis. De Nest is om onduidelijke redenen niet zo slim, dus ik moest de aansluiting van het draadje in de ketel aanpassen. Dat vereist bij de Intergas het open maken van het bedieningspaneel. Dit gaat heel makkelijk met twee schroefjes aan de onderkant. Oh ja, eerst natuurlijk de stekker van de ketel er uit. Vervolgens kan het hele spul naar beneden klappen, en zie je waar de draadjes zitten.

nest - 2

Dat groene blokje waar het rood-blauwe draadje heen gaat zit vastgeklikt op het bordje, dit kan je met enig trekken loskrijgen zodat je er makkelijker bij kan. Op het plaatje er bij staat welke aansluitingen waarvoor zijn. In dit geval zijn 11 en 12 voor modulerende thermostaat, en 6 en 7 voor een aan-uit thermostaat. Hier zie je dat in detail.

nest - 3

Hier heb ik ze dus aangesloten op de klemmetjes 6-7. En dat is alles, het spul kan weer dicht.

Stap 3 – De heatlink aansluiten

Ik heb een los 220v snoer gekocht bij de Gamma, en die aangesloten op de 230v ingang, de linker twee gaatjes. En dan komt het moedige moment: De kabel doorknippen die van thermostaat naar de ketel gaat. Kies een slimme plek want je hebt misschien weinig speling. Doorknippen, en beide kanten open peuteren en strippen. Vervolgens sluit je de draad die van de thermostaat komt aan op de rechter twee klemmetjes, en de draad vanaf de cv ketel op de rechter 2 van de middelste 3. Op deze manier dus:

nest - 5

Nu loopt de draad van de cv-ketel naar de thermostaat dus via deze heatlink.

Stap 4 – De Nest thermostaat aansluiten

Vervolgens sluit je de rode en blauwe draad aan in het wandkastje van de Nest, op deze manier. Het maakt niet uit welke links of rechts zit, het is ten slotte maar een aan-uit schakelaar.

nest - 7

Vervolgens kan je de voorkant er op klikken.

Stap 5 – Aanzetten

En dan komt het moment dat je vreest dat je ergens een fout hebt gemaakt en alles voor niks was. De stekker van de cv-ketel en de heatlink er in. En voilà, bij mij werkte alles meteen. De thermostaat gaat aan, en je kan hem als eerste koppelen aan je wifi.

nest - 10

Als dat gedaan is gaat hij zichzelf updaten, en door een aantal stappen lopen. Als moment supreme doet hij de kachel even aan en vraagt hij of de radiatoren warm worden. En ja, dat werden ze. Vier dat moment even.

Stap 6 – Er is geen stap 6

En dat was het al.. Het werkt gewoon allemaal. Account aanmaken op, de app installeren op je telefoon, koppelen met de thermostaat (de app legt dat heel goed uit, kan niet mis gaan) en dan kan je de thermostaat via de app bedienen.

Het is blijkbaar slim om niet meteen een schema te gaan maken, maar de thermostaat zelf te laten leren over je schema. Dus dat doe ik maar.

Ik kan niet wachten op de frisse herfst.

Good bye

Today is the sad day that Steve Jobs died. I want to share a personal story about how his words, simple as they are, have motivated me recently.

I’ve watched his Stanford speech, which I will embed below, several times in the past year. But like most people who watch this, I merely loved it, and didn’t act on it. Until this summer. When I was on holiday, I made a note in my iPhone, which is paraphrasing Steve, I think from the D8 interview.

Going to work should be motivated by a will to do something amazing, to build great products.

I realized that I wasn’t doing anyone a service in my role at my employer. So after I got back from vacation and gathered enough courage, I handed in my resignation. Coincidentally, it was on the same day that Steve sent his famous letter to the board, informing them that he could no longer act as CEO of Apple.

And tonight my farewell party is planned. Coincidentally, on the very sad day that Steve has passed away. I hate saying good bye, so today is a good exercise in that.

Steve’s words motivated me to take my decision. In that sense, he will live on, because my life is affected by him. And this is just one little story. I hope he will motivate you too. 

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.

You should really watch his Stanford speech. Here it is. 

Why things become popular

I’ve been playing with Google+ for a few days now, and find myself thinking: Is this going to be the platform? Are people going to flock to this social network, replacing Facebook and maybe Twitter?

While I was on my bike, riding in the dutch mountains (aka headwind), I thought of a way to look at this, by comparing this to other succesful sites and why they became succesful. I think the reason for the success of many online services is: they make things easier. Easier to communicate, to express yourself, to find things. Let’s look at a few carefully picked examples ;–)

  • Flickr made it easier to share pictures. Before that time, most services were ‘closed’, in the sense that they assumed you didn’t want to share your pictures with the world. Flickr turned that around.
  • Youtube made it easier to post a video online. Before Youtube, it was very, very hard to embed a video in a web page.
  • Blogging software made it easier to publish.
  • Facebook made it easier to share and communicate with your friends. Despite all the complaints many people have about the usability of their interface, it managed to attract 600 million members.
  • Twitter made it easier to publish, even easier than blogging.
  • eBay made it easier to buy and sell.

And easier can also mean cheaper.

  • Skype makes it cheaper to communicate
  • Whatsapp makes it cheaper to communicate

I could go on, I think, but you get the picture.

My concern with Google+ is: Does it make anything easier, or cheaper, in any way? So far, I’m not sure of that. I think in a sense Google+ makes sharing a bit harder, because it will require some extra brain cycles to determine who you want to share this with, because of the important concept of circles. You will share only with the current stream you’re looking at, by default. It requires a bit of thinking. And that is the opposite of easier.

On the other hand, sharing from an Android phone does become a lot easier. Take a picture, click share, destination Google+, give it a title, optionally change the circle to publish it to, and that’s pretty much it. And they have done a lot of really smart things in the interface to make working with Google+ easier than working with Facebook. Many menus are really well made, with mouseover dropdowns that requires only 1 final click.

So for me the question is: Do all these smart little things add up to more than enough to overcome the extra burden and complication of the circles concept. And especially the effort to switch over to Google+ from Facebook.

KLM and social media

Step 1: Getting acquanted

KLM started with social media to support existing channels. Try things out, like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube. Get started first.

Step 2: seizing the opportunity.

The ash cloud was a good opportunity to get started with Twitter and Facebook. Call centre and web site were both overloaded. Had a 24/7 shift system, 4 people on Twitter, 4 on Facebook, 4 rebookers per shift. Management was very involved, encouraged initiatives. Very empowering. Klm added a ‘rebook’ tab on their Facebook profile, which helped in getting the right information from the travelers.

KLM discourages personal reactions by individual staff members. The company often can not do anything with it, and it can give a negative backlash on Klm. See recent incident with Thomas Acda

Step 3: embed social media structurally.

Create the internal vision, then organize the teams. Vision: Klm has two main goals: Web care & Servicing and Commercial Use. This translates in two teams, with dedicated staff in each. And then integrate those teams in the organization, place it in the structure. They have well-defined targets for each team. Response within an hour, resolve within 24 hours, etc.

Step 4: Focus on the customer

Value their opinion, really listen to them. Make the ‘internal structure’ invisible for the customer, they don’t care about what is related with Air France or not. Klm now even sees that the new media channel changes their organization. A cool example for this is the flight to Miami: “You fill the plane, we will fly”.

Impressed with how Klm acted, they started with social media in October 2009. Good presentation by Anna Ketting.