Left or Right?

Location: Bordeaux Wine Region of France

Introduction:

The wine regions and vineyards of Bordeaux seemed to go on forever. Given that some of the wines of Bordeaux are the most expensive in the world, we were concerned that we might encounter an elitist attitude. We found just the opposite. The people we engaged with were warm, friendly and extremely helpful. The spring weather was ever-changing with moody skies but the air was always refreshingly clean and clear. Bordeaux’s wine regions are divided by the massive Gironde River with the western side referred to as the “Left Bank” dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon blends and the “Right Bank” dominated by Merlot blends. We spent time touring both sides and found plenty of wines to enjoy throughout. We’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite side but there was no doubt about the best bottle of wine that we shared. Upon tasting it and expressing our delight, the wine merchant referred to it as “La Bombe” due to its 15 degrees of alcohol, which is atypical of the region. It was decadent for sure and we enjoyed every drop of it. We envision ourselves enjoying wines from both banks with some age on them for years to come.

Sights Visited:

We wasted no time immersing ourselves into the fine wine of Bordeaux. As soon as we landed, we headed off to Chateau Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac for a tour and tasting. This is one of Bordeaux’s most famous wineries dating back to the mid-1800’s. Wine aficionados will know it as a “First-Growth”. It’s located on the “Left Bank” of the Gironde River in the Medoc sub-region of Bordeaux. The new winery that we visited was just completed last June. We also toured the museum of fine art related to wine and their artistic wine-labels. We finished up with a tasting of their 2012 vintage from the barrel and we really enjoyed it. We’ve previously shared a bottle of their 1997 vintage back home. However, their wines are now among the most expensive in the world and well beyond the price that we’d be willing to pay for a bottle of wine as the cost has quadrupled from what we previously paid.
We paid a visit to Chateau Lynch-Bages, another famous winery in Bordeaux’s “Left Bank” Medoc region.  Wine aficionados will know it as a “Fifth-Growth”. This is the producer that is partnered with Quinta Do Crasto under the label of “Roquette & Cazes” that we visited and profiled in our post on Portugal’s Duoro River Vallley. They have retained their original winery dating back to the 1800’s as a wine museum and it was fascinating to see how efficiently it was designed. We concluded our visit with a tasting of their 2007 vintage and it was delicious. As good as it was, the price is also more than what we’re currently willing to pay for a bottle of wine.
Saint-Emilion is a charming Unesco World Heritage site located on Bordeaux’s right bank. Above ground, it’s a charming hilltop town with more wine shops than anywhere we’ve ever been. Below ground, it’s a fascinating labyrinth of limestone quarry tunnels. The local wines are blends dominated by Merlot with their own controversial classification system. We toured Chateau Villemaurine winery and sampled wines there and in the shops. We took advantage of these samples to determine what wines we liked best before making any purchases.
While in the region, we made an excursion to the town of Cognac that is famous for its Brandy. We toured the facilities of Hennessy, which is the world’s largest producer. We learned about the exclusive region where the white grapes are grown and then fermented and distilled. We were amazed that they still have barrels of the spirits dating back into the 1800’s. We finished up with a tasting. Smooth is the best word to describe it. We also had an opportunity to try it mixed with ginger ale and they paired well together.

Accommodations:

We stayed 2 nights at Le Moulin B&B in Saint-Yzans de Medoc. It was quite a special place. Our hosts were Jean Claude and Michele. Jean Claude is an accomplished chef and we made arrangements to dine in one evening and savored one of the best meals of our trip. We were served 5 courses and 3 wines while dining with a lovely family of 3 from near Paris. We had some fun sharing our blog after dinner. The meal was so good that we arranged for an encore and had an equally delicious meal the next night. We were also served a fine breakfast each morning. The wifi was good but access was limited to the dining area. The B&B is located amidst the vineyards out in the country with a lovely garden, heated pool and very comfortable accommodations. The area had a pleasing rural farming feel to it that we thoroughly enjoyed.
We spent 1 night at the Bordeaux – Sud Pessac Holiday Inn for the sole purpose of reaching an IHG Rewards goal that would reward us with a mega dose of IHG Reward points that we can out to good use for free nights. The room was fine but the wifi was poor. They provided free passes to a very nice fitness center nearby.
We moved over to the “Right Bank” and stayed 4 nights in an apartment called Logis Andrud. The location was convenient in the heart of St. Emilion above the wine shop where we discovered “La Bombe” from the “Right Bank” (Domaine des Sabines Lalande De Pomerol 2010). The apartment allowed us to self-cater our meals and included a washing machine and good wifi.

Food and Drink:

We’ve decided that the food in France is “Evil Good” meaning that it’s so good that it’s evil. We’re enjoying just about everything that we’ve tried. We’ve found great value in restaurants offering a “menu du jour” for lunch. For a very reasonable price, we’re given 2-3 courses sometimes including the house wine. We’ve taken advantage of several such self-proclaimed “Happy Meals”. One of them served up the best Crème Brûlée that we’ve ever had. Bordeaux is known for it’s Caneles and Saint-Emilion for it’s Macarons and we indulged in some of each.

Transportation System:

We flew Ryainair again for a ridiculously cheap fare from Marseilles to Bordeaux where we picked up another Avis rental car. This time, they upgraded us to a Peugeot 308 Diesel with manual transmission. Compared to the economy cars we’d been driving, this car was comfortable and luxurious.

Shout Out:

The Tourist Office and Wine Center of Pauillac (Maison Du Tourisme Et Du Vin) was terrific. The staff took the time to brief us on the region and provide recommendations on wineries to visit and wines to purchase. We left with a detailed brochure, map and a back vintage bottle of reasonably priced wine that turned out to be delicious.

For Your Amusement:

Here’s a translation of a quote from Louis Pasteur that is prominently displayed in Bages’ town Square: “Wine is the healthiest and most hygienic of beverages”
The annual Medoc Marathon is referred to as the “World’s Longest Marathon” because the participants are offered wine samples from the various vineyards along the way.
We want to live near a wine coop like the ones they have in Bordeaux where one can buy good wine inexpensively, including back vintages.

Highlights: The food, the wine, the countryside and our stay at Le Moulin where we enjoyed great company, fine food and wine in a rural wine-country setting.

Next Up: We’re off to the Loire Valley to see some Castles and explore yet another French wine region.

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  1. By Dave A

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