Bordeaux

Oh man are we behind on our posts!! This one is actually the third time I have written this post because it has not saved twice. When we first thought of doing a blog, I think we underestimated the ease the time it takes to put something interesting together. We’re both a bit hung over today, so it’s time to kick back, relax, and get some writing and planning accomplished!

Before I get to the content of the post, I just want to mention a theme that we’ll be touching upon in our upcoming posts. I’m pretty sure that Julia and I control the weather. Seriously. France is not known for dry weather in January, yet that’s what happened as soon as we got there. Bordeaux was having terrible rain for a couple weeks and it broke once we arrived and only let loose at night once we were inside. This lucky streak continues, mind you we are now three weeks in and have only had two days of rain (knock on wood)! OK, now back to your regularly scheduled program.

When we left off I had just proposed to the love of my life. We sat up late in our room in almost a surreal state, neither of us could remove the smile from our faces. We want to send a sincere thank you to all of you who sent us your positive comments, and to the 350+ people who liked our Facebook post, we were both surprised that so many people gave a damn. Honestly though, everyone’s support felt great and was the icing on the cake for the evening.

The morning after the proposal, we woke rather early to catch our 7:30 train to arguably the best wine region in the world, Bordeaux. Central France flew by as we continued exchanging laughter-filled glances over the previous nights events.
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Above: proof that we do write! This is on the way down to Bordeaux

We finally rolled into the station and made it over to the car rental building. After a rather confusing Franglish conversation about insurance with the rental company we made our way to the car. I had reserved a car that should have between similar in size to a VW Golf. What we got however, was basically a Smart car with a back seat. It literally took us five minutes to engineer a way to get bags and people into the car. The city of Bordeaux has had inhabitance since around 400BC, with most of its buildings having been built in the early 1700’s. As such, the streets were narrow one-ways and rarely in a strait line. After one quick loop, we decided getting the GPS was well worth it. Finally after about an hour in the cramped car we arrived at our mini châteaux in Cussac Fort Medoc on the left bank of Bordeaux. We were all pretty beat and the weather was starting to turn on us, so we decided to call it a day, grabbed some goods at the store and made dinner. This is a picture of a picture of the town we stayed in. Our house was the one with the gray roof on the very far right in the middle.

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Next time you are doing some type of travel, be it a multi-country adventure or a weekend getaway, check out AirBnB. Registered users post up their homes/condos/apartments/tree houses or whatever for people to use. It is typically cheaper than a hotel and you can stay in some really cool places. Ours was the châteaux for a small winery built in the 1800’s for around $50 a night. Our host was great, leaving some food and a bottle of wine for us on the kitchen table. So seriously consider using this program for your travels, we had a great experience and plan on using it again soon.

Working in the wine industry, I had the opportunity to make some great contacts all around the world, and Bordeaux was no exception. In Bordeaux there are five wineries called “first growths” which means that they are there best of the best, and they’re what Cabernet producers aspire to be like. Of those five, I got us private tastings at three, which was awesome. The picture below is not one of those five. They still make good wine though.
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We started at Château Mouton Rothschild which wound up being our favorite. Our wonderful hostess Viviane spent over three hours walking us around the vintage, vat room, cellar, private art collection, and museum of their labels. The label museum was neat in itself because it held original sketches and art by the artists who were all influential, including Picasso. We finished with a tasting of their wine, which was delicious. Thanks again Vivian!
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Above: Entrance to wine making facility
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Above: Fermentation tank room, the tank lids are on the floor and the vats are 10ft tall and are one story down as shown below
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Above: “Racking” a painstaking process of removing sediment. Once the wine coming out starts being cloudy with sediment, they stop and the remainder gets re-filtered elsewhere
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Above: Mouton’s cellar with wines dating back to mid 1800’s
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Time to taste!

Following Mouton, we had our afternoon appointment with Château Lafite Rothschild, which is generally regarded at the top winery in the world. With the minimum bottle going for about $1000, they’d better be doing something well. This place surprised me, we were expecting the pomp and grandeur that we experienced at Mouton, but it was much different. It was old and it looked it, with the underground facility having mold covered walls and musty air. However, I can respect that. None of these wineries accept visits unless you are in the industry, so very few people get to visit, so they aren’t set up for it. What they are set up for is making kick ass wine, which doesn’t require pretty painted walls. Again we finished with a tasting in the coolest barrel room we’ve been to. We had a 2001 vintage, which to them is still to young, but I thought that it was still drinking very nicely.
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Above: Lafite’s private cellar. Again with wines back to mid 1800’s
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Above: still using an old school method of clarifying called fining. They mix egg white to the wine in the barrel, it absorbs the larger particles and they do a final racking to remove the eggs.
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Above: Anyone who’s seen grape vines in the US knows this is now what vines typically look like. All the vines in Bordeaux are very low and many planted on berms for drainage and it’s helps with keeping the rootstock warm they claim
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Above: Lafite’s awesome barrel room designed by some fancy architect guy
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We forgot to mention Julia had her own Château in Bordeaux… Ya, I’m a lucky guy.

Again we dined in. Julia made a tasty dish of pan fried chicken and cous cous with a touch of mint and bell pepper. We washed down with… you guessed it, Bordeaux. However after drinking the wine that we had that day, it just seemed like glorified grape juice. We thought the house was going to blow over as we were getting very strong winds that night, up to 50mph gusts. In a drafty 180 year old house with old single pane windows, this is less than ideal. We did however survive our last night in Bordeaux. In the morning we had a nice quick tour of the wine making facility of our host’s winery. We then had to play life-size Tetris to get all of our stuff in the shoebox with wheels.

On our way back to the city of Bordeaux we had our last appointment at Château Margaux. This place was kind of a middle ground between Mouton and Lafite in regards to its fancy appearance. Unfortunately they were doing a bit of construction so we didn’t get to see the entire facility. And just like the previous two wineries, they had bottles in their cellars that dated back to the early 1800’s. I know that sounds crazy, but if the wine is re-corked every thirty years or so, it can stand that test of time. No, this does not work with your bottle of Menage á Trois. Back to Ch. Margaux, we concluded with a tasting of two of their wines, which surprise surprise, were awesome and silky on the palate.
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Above: This is the châteaux on the property, and yes, the owner does live there, when they’re not at their place in Paris. Hastag Mustbenice.
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Above: Château Margaux barrel room
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Above: About to do some tasting

We bid adieux to Bordeaux, which we shall return to one day, however we’ll wait until it’s closer to harvest so there is more excitement in the towns. All in all it was a great experience, one that very few people get to partake in, and while it was pretty slow going, it was relaxing.

But for now, it’s time to get back to the hustle and bustle and the bright lights of Paris to finish up our last few days in France.

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One comment

  1. Loving your posts! Need pixs of the winery. Almost as if we were there with you! Hope you are learning a lot re wine making! Perhaps next stop they’ll offer you a job? Wink. Love you! Aunt Sheri

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