Bonjour et Au Revoir, Bordeaux

We arrived in France on Tuesday. It was the first time in our travels where we traveled from one country into another, neither of which was our home country (UK to France). Entering France was remarkably easy compared to our entrance into the UK at Heathrow Airport where we spent at least an hour waiting to get through customs. I’m hoping this was not the norm for Heathrow, otherwise, the throngs of visitors that will be arriving for the Olympics will be in for an initial shock. Especially if they have to wait for hours in the long line for customs only to realize that they have to pay to pee afterwards as they run for the public restrooms. My hope is that they will find the money exchange stations before they get in line for customs or they will literally be up a creek.

But this story is suppose to be about our day in Bordeaux!

As I mentioned, we arrived in France with little fanfare. No customs card on the plane, no long lines at the plane exit. Just a border patrol policeman who stamped my passport with no questions. We headed from the airport to our hotel, the Grand Hotel de Bordeaux. It is part of the grand architecture of Bordeaux located across the street from the Opera House. While our time here did not allow us time to see an opera, it did a allow us a day to explore the history of some of the wineries of the Medoc region of France. We visited three wineries and did wine tastings — Chateau Phelan-Segur, Chateau Pontet-Canet, and Chateau Cantenac-Brown. I will review each of these for you in a moment, but if you look at my Facebook or Instagram, you will see that there are many more chateaus and vineyards that we did not get to visit, but we did stop by the side of the road for a “Instagram moment.” Most of these grand chateaus were built in the 18th and 19th centuries and some were built merely for show on the labels of the wine that were produced. A small portion of them are actually lived in by the owners of the vineyards today, but in most cases, it is only for a small portion of the year.

What I loved most about our visits to the vineyards was learning about the wine making process. Some of these processes have been in place for hundreds of years. When it came to the winemaking process, my favorite vineyard was Chateau Pontet-Canet. They are the only organic vineyard in Medoc and they also use all natural products as pesticides. In this case, their pesticide strategy is based in sage which is distributed over the vineyard by horse drawn carts. Five horses work the vineyard on a regular basis distributing the natural sage and maintaining the levels of the vines. While their process seems very primitive (grapes also continue to be hand picked and hand sorted), on their 2009 vintage, the renowned wine critic Robert Parker gave them a perfect score of 100 on their wine. Today a bottle of their 2009 vintage will sell for about $300USD.

But when it came to my favorite wine tasting, it was Chateau Phelan-Segur. The owner of this vineyard also owns Orange Groves in Florida and grows oranges for Tropicana, so we had a connection. What was great about this vineyard was that the tour was given by the winemaker himself. He taught us about blending the wine for taste and how that happens over the course of the winemaking process. At Phelan-Segur we also saw some of the newer technologies introduced into the winemaking such as an optical grape sorter that could scan the good berries from the bad and discard those that are not to standard. I also loved the wine tasting at Phelan-Segur the best. The wine maker allowed us to taste three or four vintages in a row so that we could see how wine tasted through the aging process. I love the younger wines and Craig loves the more mature wines, so we both agreed that we loved the Phelan-Segure wines, but just different vintage years.

Our day in Bordeaux was both wonderful and exhausting! We came back early and collapsed at the hotel. Tomorrow will be another travel day where we take the train to Paris to meet up with my sister Christy and her husband Erik. This will be the last leg of our trip before we head back to Florida on Monday. But we will be in Paris, so I’m sure there will be many adventures to come!!

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