So the time had finally arrived. Nine months of waiting, saving, planning, and our Bordeaux tour was upon us. Led by Master of Wine, James Cluer, we were about to be be hosted at some of the top Chateaux of Bordeaux, properties that are not normally open to the public. To add to the excitement, our tour of 24 people included 7 friends and tasting pals, who we met through our studies at Fine Vintage. For two wine geeks, it was Christmas morning.
We arrived in Bordeaux late in the afternoon, bid our beloved Peugeot adieu and made the brief trip to Smith Haut Lafitte’s luxury 5 star hotel, Les Sources de Caudalie. This heaven on earth property is steps from the winery, surrounded by vineyards, has a world renowned spa, a Michelin two star restaurant and lucky for us, was home for a week.
Our epic tour began at our doorstep at Château Smith Haut Lafitte, one of the top properties in Pessac Leognan. We visited their on-site cooperage followed by a tasting at the home of the gracious Cathiards, and then got a peek inside their private underground cellar, with its’ hidden James-Bond style entrance. We finished the day at the property’s restaurant with a 4-course wine paired dinner.
Onto the Medoc!
What better introduction to the Medoc than Château Margaux. This is classified as a first growth (Premier Cru Classé), considered by most to produce the greatest wines of Bordeaux. We snapped the famous shot of the Château and headed to the cellars for our tour and tasting. This set the tone for the day.
Onward to Château Pichon Lalande to the commune of Pauillac, where we watched the wines being racked in barrels as they matured in their first year chai (cellar). We then enjoyed an exquisite lunch with the head of the property, Gildas d’Ollone. Over lunch Gildas shared his stories of the Bordeaux wine trade, including his visits from Robert Parker, and his endearing tales of his aunt, Madame May-Eliane de Lencquesaing, who through an iron fist transformed the property to the super second growth that it is today.
Next we headed to the far north of the Medoc to the commune of Saint-Estèphe, home to some of the most powerful and long-lasting wines of the world. We visited Château Cos d’Estournel, a second growth property run by the Prats family, where the oriental inspired architecture, complete with pagoda towers, matches the rich flavours of the wines. This property uses cutting edge innovations, showcased in a futuristic winery that we viewed from an overhead catwalk, to produce wines that are approachable at a much younger age than most from this region.
Heading back south to the commune of Saint-Julien, we had the great fortune of being hosted by the sophisticated Bruno Borie, owner of the Ducru Beaucaillou estate, another leading second growth Chateau of the Medoc. We first took a stroll through the property with Bruno to the banks of the Gironde estuary. This was followed by a tasting in his cellars and a dinner paired with a selection of his wines in the main dining room of the Château. After hours filled with many laughs and spectacular wines, our chariot awaited us (aka the bus). As the charming Bruno bid each of us ‘bonne nuit’, we boarded the bus with our violet smiles and wished this magical night would never end… (co-written)