We had our first appointment at 10am with Chateau Puy-Razac, a Grand Cru. (Real quick for you non wine drinkers - both wines in Bordeaux and St. Emilion are called “Bordeaux wines”, named after the general wine region in France. They are classified in quality, which is what this Grand Cru business is all about.) I had planned on walking but we didn’t get up as early as we had hoped and it was a lot hotter than I planned, so we took a taxi. However, the taxi had NO idea where this place was…. (keep in mind, I purposely booked small scale production wineries for a personalized experience). Eventually we found it and he did discount the taxi fare, although I think we still got ripped off, but whatever.
We got there and Catherine, the winemaker and owner, was very excited to see us. (It appeared that she didn’t often get visitors.) Her English was a bit choppy, but she put forth a great effort and when in a pinch, the Lingo (electronic translator lent to us by Mr. and Mrs. D - thanks guys!) came in handy. She took us through the winemaking process, showed us the concrete vats (she’s pretty old school, most use Stainless Steel for the fermentation process, but concrete vats were previously used) talked about how she ages her wine, how many times she re-uses the oak barrels and - how she tried American Oak and doesn’t like it. (most French prefer French oak - it had a less strong flavor) Then she let us taste wine that was currently aging (2008) out of the vat, out f the barrel and let us also taste the 2007 that was still aging in the American Oak.
It was interesting to compare the tastes and the American Oak had a strong cigar aroma in comparison to the wine aged in French Oak. We had the 2006, the current vintage for sale, while chatting with her in the garden about her family and her life. We purchased two bottles and she drove us to the town of St. Emilion (maybe a mile away, but it was nice to be driven). We had a quick little pizza and a soda at a place close by, since it was 11:30 and we hadn’t had breakfast and were starving.
Vincent Lignac walked us through his family’s history with the Chateau, the Chateau’s history, his winemaking process, etc. He was informative and his English was excellent due to a couple trips to the US and to Australia for winemaking, but the underground cellars stole the show. They were from 1791 and were just awesome- they had tons of older wine, some were theirs (oldest was 1914) and he had a few bottles of Chateau Mouton Rothschild from…1889. Wow. I asked what would qualify as an occasion to drink such a wine- he laughed and said “whenever you feel the time is right”. He said you have to take the bottle back to them every now and then and have them re-cork it and if you drank it you would have 15 minutes tops before it became undrinkable. Good to know, should I ever have a wine that’s 120 years old. ;) We had the 2001 and 2005, ended up purchasing a bottle of the 1998, a half bottle of both the 2001 and 2005. We would have purchased more, but we just couldn’t find a way to ship things back.
For dinner we went to a place he had recommended, L‘Envours du Ecors (which turned out to be a well recommended place by all locals). We had a foie gras appetizer- the server suggested we have a sauternes or semi-sweet wine with it. I ordered the semi sweet and Mr. Lush ordered a richer white wine. I was little surprised with the foie gras came out - last time I had it it was a sautéed pice of duck liver, this was more of a paste. It was good, however, and the semi-sweet wine went very well with it. For dinner I had fish and Mr. Lush had duck confit which was rather overdone. Afterwards we tried to call a taxi as it was a couple miles back to the Chateau, but no one answered and so we broke down and called Phillip, who came and got us. We tried, believe it or not, to not take advantage of Phillip’s generosity, but it just happened to be that we had no other choice many times or the timing worked out. As it worked out for this time, he was dropping off a couple women in Saint Emilion at the same exact time, so we were happy to know we didn’t totally inconvenience him.
Just kidding: While “piddling around” I walked up a gorgeous bell tower where the view was amazing! (see pics) Vincent our guide said on a clear day in the morning you can see Bordeaux (45 mins away). One thing I would say about going in the shops beware of the workers who ask the year you were born. They are just trying to get rid of some old wine. Yes it is cool to have a label from 82 J but 40 E is not worth it.
She said: "82" my arse! Is that what year you graduated high school????
We hung around Chateau Monlot while Phillip took us on a tour with his friend who was visiting, then we went and saw some limestone underground caves, then Phillip dropped us off at Chateau Mauvezin, another Grand Cru. The Chateau owner, Olliver Cassat, greet us and told us the Chateau had been in his family for 400 years. Wow. Anyway, he also took us through his winemaking techniques, but here we received an excellent explanation of terrior (the differences in ground/soil and how that effects the wine). He owns vineyards on 4 different terriors, and in the end we purchased the terrior sampler pack (his 4 wines, same year, made from grapes grown in different soil types).
We did end up shipping it back- he recommended a wine shop that would let us ship his stuff, along with wines purchased from them (which we tasted a few of them first). It was a bit expensive, far more than I wanted to pay, but we certainly can’t come to France and not come back with SOME wine. That evening we just sat around and ate some sandwiches (had to make up for the money spent on wine with a cheap meal, ya know) and enjoyed sitting the garden.
All in all, we had a great time in St. Emilion. I had hoped to try a Bordeaux as old as I, but it wasn’t in the cards. I did my best to plan, but I did overestimate the availability of taxis….I had planned on walking some and when we were tired or far away, the plan was to take taxis back. However, we found there isn’t a lot of taxi availability in the evenings. (which also was a surprise for the 2 London women who didn’t rent a car) We had been fine thus far in our trip using a combination of walking and public transportation, and Burgundy has a very nice bus system (it appears we are about .14 miles from a bus stop) so hopefully we’re ok there, but in St. Emilion there just isn‘t enough taxi availability and no public transportation. Without Phillip we probably would’ve been a bit SOL, so next time I suppose we‘ll rent a car.
HE SAID: The tour of Monlot was cool it was nice to run by what we half heard (our bad for not speaking French very well) at other tours to a person who spoke perfect English. These “oh yeah underground caves” were flippin awesome. They were built for 100 year war. She may post pics of these. The caves reinforced the limestone soil stuff that we heard so much about. After visiting the caves we went to a graveyard. While this may seem weird to say, it was pretty.
A good time was had!