And on the Third Day, We Tasted Wine

Day Three of #FancyInFrancey started like the rest; impeccable sunrise, coffee, croissants and cheese in the heavenly château, followed by the James Bond pickup in the Wi-Fi-enabled Mercedes[1]. That morning we were headed to the official En Primeur tasting organized by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux at Bordeaux’s newest attraction, the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux[2].File May 02, 7 58 12 PM

The concept of the En Primeur tasting originated in Bordeaux. Though there’s a difference of opinion as to when it actually began[3], the premise is that châteaux owners invite négociants and critics to preview the most recent vintage before it’s ready, only six months after harvest, in order to get a sense of what’s to come. Deals are struck, prices are set, and most of the wine is sold during En Primeur directly from the châteaux to négociants[4].

File May 02, 7 58 48 PMSo here I was, little old Wine Esquire, standing in front of the looming Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux, about to enter the world of En Primeur. Seeing as how I had been to approximately one (1) official wine tasting before, I felt pretty scared $hitless unprepared. I knew when I went on this trip that I’d be the most uneducated in terms of wine, and I was right[5]. But no matter, I was excited and ready to taste. On the drive in, my new friend Mike, who had been to En Primeur twice before, gave me a heads up about the real deal. This was going to be raw, intense wine. Spitting was a requirement, and you had be careful about brushing your teeth too hard after because the acid would be eating away at the enamel. He’d brought mouthwash with him to swish with after and I could have some if I wanted. Uhmmm, ok?

File May 02, 7 49 19 PMWe walked in, got our official press badges, our Riedel tasting glass and made our way inside. Typically when you taste wine in America, you go from light to dark, white to red, so that’s how I started and thought it odd when nobody else did the same. After our guide Fred from Millesima picked up on the white juice in my glass[6], I nonchalantly made the switch to the rouge[7]. I can assure you that Mike was not kidding when he said this was intense. This was like having tannins rip your mouth apart. My teeth were sore. My gums were sore. It was like Olympic training that I was wholly unprepared for. People around me were sniffing, swirling, sipping, spitting and furiously writing notes. Forget about detecting subtleties in each pour, I was just trying not to wince every time I sipped[8].

I can’t lie, this was way over my head. Looking back at my notes, it was clear I was overwhelmed. “Holy tannins,” “Powerful,” “Smells like toast,” and “Friends said this was really good,” was about all I got. I felt like a wine failure, but I quickly realized that it didn’t really matter; this was a once in a lifetime opportunity[9] and I was having a blast. I made the switch back to whites, which were far more approachable, and I continued on my merry way. I picked up a good tip from my friend Jeremy who told me about the four S’s of wine tasting: sight, smell, sip and savor. A good reminder on how to focus, or at least try to focus, on each pour.

File May 02, 7 30 50 PMIt’s important to note that my experience is certainly not a testament to the quality of the wines we were tasting, or even the vintage as a whole. The wines being poured were some of the most renowned and well-respected in the world. Those who know far more than I are saying this vintage is one for the ages, so my inability to get much from the tasting is not reflective of what was really going on.

File May 02, 8 40 20 PMAfter two hours of spitting tasting, Fred gathered our gang, took some photos and then we made our way back to the van. Off we went to Château d’Yquem[10] for lunch and a conference on the 2015 vintage put on by the University of Bordeaux. Little did I know, I was about to taste the most angelic wine I’ve ever experienced.

File May 02, 7 49 50 PMWe walked up to the gorgeous château and were ushered into a private tasting area with a small group of other guests. The setting was incandescent. The tulips, the lighting, the color of the Sauterne, it was literally like angels were singing, and I hadn’t even tasted the wine yet. File May 02, 7 51 07 PMI’d heard of Château d’Yquem, but I really had no idea what I was about to be drinking. When I say that angels were singing, I’m not exaggerating. The honey, the floral, the beauty of the wine is indescribable. And to think it’s not even ready for drinking yet is mind blowing[11]. Fred introduced us to the CEO and the winemaker, and we hob-knobbed with the Sauterne Royalty like the group of elite wine bloggers we were[12]. File May 02, 8 39 58 PMThe lunch was equally as amazing as the wine; the French take on Shepard’s pie: softly whipped potatoes over a bed of shredded duck; trays upon trays of crudités, charcuterie and cheese, delectable chicken salad sandwiches, a poached egg on a bed of butternut squash[13]. And all the while, bottle after bottle of the 2015 d’Yquem was poured. It was a beautiful, beautiful thing.File May 02, 7 52 03 PM

Once we had gorged ourselves on Sauternes and snacks, we made our way to the conference being held on the grounds of the château. Though I admit I was a bit tired after our lunch, it was fascinating to hear how truly amazing this vintage was. It had the five key characteristics necessary to make an amazing wine: early and quick flowering and fruit set during warm and dry weather; the gradual onset of water stress stemming from a dry July; full ripening of grapes in August and September; and perfect weather for harvesting at optimum ripeness. These conditions hadn’t been seen together since 2005, a stellar Bordeaux vintage, so the world is anticipating another beautiful batch of juice.

File May 02, 7 33 23 PMWe were surprised to find that the conference included a blind tasting of eleven more wines. Our schedule for the day said we had another tasting following the conference, so when the blind tasting started, we assumed they had rolled it into one. We were wrong. Next up was a separate Sauternes tasting at a château down the road. I’ve never drank so much wine in one day[14]. But we’ll leave that to the next blog.

Until the next glass, Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] #normal
[2] This translates to “New Stadium Bordeaux.” It’s apparently also known as Matmut Atlantique.
[3] Some say 200 years ago, some say 1982, others 1961. Regardless, it happened this year for the 2015 vintage.
[4] Check out this awesome graphic for a visual breakdown of how it works. edvin graphicHere’s also a great breakdown of the history and how it works.
[5] That also means that I got the award for Most Improvement at the end of the week. Not that there was an actual award. But if there was, I would have won it.
[6] “Oh, you’re starting with white?” #insidejoke
[7] #fakeittillyoumakeit
[8] #amateur
[9] Although I’m hoping to go back next year with a bit more knowledge and give it another go!
[10] Pronounced Dee-Kem.
[11] This did not stop me from drinking a whole lot of it though. It was just so good, I couldn’t help myself.File May 02, 7 52 35 PM
[12] Hahaha, that was funny.
[13] Or maybe it was pumpkin, we couldn’t really tell.
[14] Actually, that’s probably a lie.File May 02, 7 50 26 PM

Three Glasses of Wine in a Box

When a fellow lawyer reaches out and says, “Hey, do you want to try my VineBox?” you say, “Yea I do!” VineBox is a monthly wine by the glass subscription. It comes in a sweet box with three glass vials, each holding one perfectly measured glass of wine. The box I tried had three French offerings,[1] one white and two reds.

File Apr 24, 5 29 58 PMI started with the white. The elegant La Dame Blanche[2] is a 2014 Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc made by Château du Taillan. Green grass, peach and minerals on the nose. Just a touch on the sweet side. Nice mouth feel, not too light, not too heavy. The color of pale straw. I had it refrigerated but it sat out for about 20 minutes, and that was the perfect temperature. The flavors were really allowed to come through. This would be excellent with some ripe cantaloupe,[3] maybe even wrapped in prosciutto.

File Apr 24, 5 30 48 PMNext up was the 2009 Château Suau Rouge, a Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. There’s that typical Bordeaux nose, heavy flowers and wood. Lighter than I expected, almost soft but there’s definitely tannins on the finish. Oak and black currant, this would definitely pair well with some meat, maybe a duck confit, or maybe just some pâté. Very drinkable, I’d love a bottle.

File Apr 24, 5 30 27 PMThe third selection was the 2013 Castelmaure Cuvee N°3. This blend of Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvèdre hailed from Corbières, France, an Appellation d’origine contrôlée in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France. Pepper on the nose, and spicy all around. Nice mouth feel, slight tannins on the finish. This is a big wine that would do well with some strong, salty French cheese[4].

File Apr 24, 5 31 12 PMNow that I’m hungry, I’m going to leave you. If you haven’t already, check out VineBox and give it a whirl. Use coupon code SPRING10 for $10 off your first box! There’s nothing better than coming home to a fun wine night in a box.

Until the next glass, Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] How appropriate. #FancyinFrancey
[2] La Dames Blanches are mythical women in French folklore. Thomas Keightley was a 19th century author whose book Fairy Mythology (published in 1828), described them as follows: “They lurk in narrow places such as ravines, fords, and on bridges, and try to attract passerby attention. They may require one to join in her dance or assist her in order to pass. If assisted she makes him many courtesies, and then vanishes.” Sounds like some fun broads.
[3] That somebody else is going to have to cut.
[4] #takemeback

#FancyInFrancey: Partie Un[1]

You may recall that I won a blog contest. The one where I asked you all to vote for me[2]. The prize was the world’s greatest trip to Bordeaux, and let me tell you, it was stunning. Epic. Amazing. Beautiful. Perfect. Incredible. All of it. Every second.

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Entrance to Château Fombrauge. No big deal.

I lived in a Château for a week, I was chauffeured around Bordeaux by James Bond in a Wi-Fi-enabled Mercedes. We ate duck, foie gras and caviar, we drank epic vintages with wine makers and château owners, we tasted the cream of the crop, the crème de la crème. This was the stuff that dreams are made of.

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Rollin’ out the red carpet for Wine Esquire

And now that I’ve been back in the real world for a week, it’s time to reminisce, to wonder why we live on this side of the pond and why every day isn’t all about wine tasting. This is part one in a series,[3] reliving the moments, one bite, one tour, one sip at a time. I invite you to come on this journey and experience the magic[4].

And So It Began…[5]

The flight across the pond started with a delay at JFK, but by midnight we were on our way. Watch was set to our time at destination[6] and I promptly fell asleep[7]. I missed dinner[8] but woke up to a lovely[9] breakfast and chatted with my seatmate Rosie who was on her way back to Jordan where she’s been working at an NGO for the past few years[10]. A brief layover at the Charles de Gaulle Airport allowed me to begin my croissant consumption[11] File Apr 16, 9 33 44 PMbefore I hopped on the hour long flight to Bordeaux. It’s always nerve-wracking waiting for your bags to come through[12], but mine arrived in one piece and I headed out to look for my driver chauffeur[13]. Geoffrey was waiting with a sign that read “Bernard Magrez” and I almost didn’t believe it was for me. A lovely woman immediately approached wanting to know what I was doing with Mr. Magrez. I told her about Millesima and the blog contest, and as it turns out, she was also there for En Primeur week so we exchanged information. My first international wine friend and I hadn’t even gotten to my destination!

File Apr 16, 9 52 13 PM
View from the car

Geoffrey and I quickly found Jeremy[14], a fellow blogger and one of my new Texas wine friends, and so our journey to Château Fombrauge began. The drive was 45 minutes of field after field of vineyard, every square inch efficiently utilized. We arrived to a perfectly picturesque château at the golden hour, the sun just preparing to begin its descent.

File Apr 16, 10 27 35 PM
Château Fombrauge (C) Millesima

Deep in the countryside of Saint-Émilion, the picture-perfect wrought iron gates opened and we approached our new home, down the long gravel driveway, vineyards as far as the eyes could see. Our bags were whisked inside and Chantelle showed us to our rooms, each named after a different Magrez château, mine was La Tour Carnet. French-chic at its best with toile walls, gorgeous orchids and a breathtaking view overlooking the vines[15]File Apr 16, 9 52 35 PM

After a quick shower, I got a knock on my door that they wanted to take a group photo and that I should grab a glass of wine on the way out. Mmm, ok. I went outside to meet my fellow bloggers and we immediately loved each other. Being an extroverted introvert, I was nervous about how this week was going to go. Six strangers stay at a château…it could have been a bad reality TV show. But it wasn’t. It was great. The connection was instant, everyone was genuinely awesome, and we’re already planning our reunion tour.

File Apr 16, 10 27 53 PM
Our crew, left to right, Toma, Madelyn, Wine Esquire, Michelle, Jeremy & Mike (c) Millesima

After our photo shoot, we continued tasting the 2010 Château Fombrauge Bordeaux Blanc as we got a rundown of our schedule from Viviana, in charge of events and promotions for Millesima. It was going to be a jam packed week, full of wine tastings, dining, and wine making, and even though we were tired from our various journeys, we were all literally giggling with excitement.

File Apr 16, 9 53 28 PMWe moved to the dining room for dinner and this is really where the trip started. Dinner was like a dream. They told us this was our “chill” dinner, super casual with no excursion around it. In reality, this was one of the best meals of my life, in the grand dining room of the château, which was built in 1629, with each of the four exquisite courses served by our private chef. He prepared a flawless meal starting with a “meager terrine, aromates, red wine jelly, and emulsion of coriander[16].” File Apr 16, 10 06 33 PMThis was paired with the 2011 Château Fombrauge Bordeaux Blanc. Light, fresh with an earthy finish that was silky smooth.

Interestingly, this whole adventure started with a bottle of Bordeaux Blanc and a blog post about how I paired it with some crepes after a particularly frustrating day at the Firm. Over the next seven days I would come to truly appreciate this delicate, delicious nectar and come to the realization how underappreciated it is worldwide.

File Apr 16, 10 08 51 PMNext up in our meal was the perfectly prepared duck filet, on the rarer side, topped with a parmesan crisp.[17] This was paired with the 2006 Château Fombrauge[18], a beautiful, big Bordeaux, full of flowers and tannins that stood up to the succulent, flavorful main course.

As we sat there, smiling and talking about how this couldn’t be real, I noticed the classical music playing softly in the background. Of COURSE there was classical music playing from the heavens, this was Château Life. Not overpowering but perfectly there, in the background, crescendo-ing with each sip of the exquisite wines.

File Apr 16, 10 10 14 PMAnd then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I learned about the Cheese Course. During this past year’s fairy tale New Year’s Eve dinner, I got a taste of what a cheese course should be[19]. When the plate arrived in front of me, I felt like Kevin McCallister when he ordered his first solo cheese pizza. This was a whole plate of cheese, just for me. Served with a 2005 Château Fombrauge, we had a selection of goat cheese from the Pyrenees, Saint Nectaire and Meaux Brie. Yes. Please. Brie in France is not like Brie in America. When you have Brie here, it’s great, lovely wonderful. But the Brie in France is epic. More intense, more flavorful, slightly stinky, with a crusty, salty rind[20]. And when you pair it with the wine. Oh. Em. Gee. But the Saint Nectaire was where it’s at. Creamy, elegant, delicious. I thought this Cheese Course was an anomaly, but as the days went on, I would quickly find that the Cheese Course is a part of life[21]. And what a beautiful part of life it is.

File Apr 16, 10 15 52 PMThroughout dinner I had been pacing myself because we had the menu from the start and I knew that we’d be finishing with a vanilla panacotta. My sweet tooth is my favorite tooth, and this did not disappoint. A salsa of freshly chopped fruit, served in a martini glass on a bed of thick, rich, delicious panna cotta completed our meal. It was like suntan lotion in a glass, in the best possible way.

By this point, we were all in shock and disbelief. Could this be real? How could tomorrow even come close to this experience? We finished the evening with coffee and cookies in the parlor. It was a fairy tale. File Apr 16, 9 53 52 PMThe cat literally curled itself at my feet. None of us lasted too long though; the travel, the wine, the food had basically put us in a coma[22]. We floated to bed, dreaming sweet dreams of wine and food. I was missing Husband and my cats, but I figured they’d survive for a few days without me. After all, it was my duty as Wine Esquire to experience this to the fullest. And it was only Arrival Day.

The official first day of our wine adventure would start with a walking tour of Bordeaux City followed by lunch at the Joël Robuchon Restaurant at La Grande Maison de Bernard Magrez, a restaurant awarded two Michelin stars. No. Big. Deal. So stay tuned for European architecture, crazy Bruno, lots and lots of wine, a butter dome and the dessert cart. Yes, a dessert cart.

À bientôt[23]!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] This means Part One.
[2] All day, every day.
[3] Of I don’t know how many yet, let’s just go with the flow.
[4] Disney World ain’t got nothin’ on Bordeaux. #MagicKingdom

File Apr 16, 9 53 04 PM
Château Fombrauge at the Golden Hour

[5] This is your chance to grab a glass of wine, you’re gonna need it.
[6] I find that making the switch before you get there helps trick your brain into believing in the new time zone.
[7] Something about moving vehicles puts me right to sleep. I can barely keep my eyes open through takeoff.
[8] Because who wants airplane dinner at 1 a.m.?
[9] My initial memory was of the lovely breakfasts I had every day at the Château. Then I remembered that the American-style breakfast served en route to Paris was not all that lovely. #wheredthatmuffincomefrom #norealmilk
[10] Wow. Talk about doing something amazing with your life.
[11] They just don’t make them right in ‘Merica. Why can’t we figure it out when the French are so good at it?
[12] Giant wine bottles can be found all over Bordeaux, including at the baggage claim. These people love their wine.File Apr 16, 9 51 47 PM
[13] Because how else do you get around Bordeaux during En Primeur? #ChâteauLife
[14] Thanks to his Twitter profile pic.
[15] Good water pressure and hair dryers are important elements of traveling and this place had both. I immediately knew it was going to be a good week.
[16] Hello Google, what am I eating? I quickly realized it didn’t matter because everything was so amazingly delicious.
[17] Yum.
[18] Red, not white.
[19] Looking back on that night, I clearly didn’t take enough cheese.
[20] Hello Cholesterol.
[21] At least it’s part of #ChâteauLife.
[22] #TomaInAComa #insidejoke #sorrynotsorry
[23] See you soon!

Wine Flies When You’re Having Fun

Exactly one week ago, I was sitting in Queens[1], waiting for my Lyft to bring me to Bordeaux[2]. It’s almost inconceivable what I’ve experienced in the past seven days. Each day was jam packed with wine, châteaux, drones, caviar, foie gras and more wine, but no time for blogging, so hopefully you’ve been following along on Instagram and Twitter. Not to worry though, you can be sure I’ll be reminiscing about this for a long time to come.

For now, a few highlights:

Wine, wine, lots of wineFile Apr 08, 6 35 25 PM File Apr 08, 6 38 20 PM File Apr 08, 6 38 40 PM

Walking tour of Bordeaux with our hilariously epic and extremely knolwedgeable tour guide, Bruno Beurrier

DSC_0309
Bruno in all his glory

Official Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB) 2015 En Primeur tastings at Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux[3]File Apr 08, 7 04 35 PM

Château d’Yquem[4]DSC_0376

Learning hands-on farming techniques[5] at Château Pape Clément[6]

DSC_0127 (2)

Caviar and Wine Tasting[7]

File Apr 08, 6 59 11 PM

Tour of the Garonne River with Bordeaux River Cruise

DSC_0377

Crash course in wine blending at Château La Tour Carnet

File Apr 08, 7 11 40 PM
Winos hard at work

And more importantly, making five new AMAZING wine friends[8].

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I truly can’t say enough about how amazing it all was[9]. I’m already planning a trip back. Bordeaux is something Husband has to experience, and you really do too! I have so much to tell you about, but for now, I’m going to have to catch a few zzzz’s while I try to ease myself back into reality[10].

But before I go, a HUGE, MASSIVE, EPIC thank you to everyone at Millesima and Bernard Magrez for making this week an epic success. Thank you, Merci Beaucoup, Cheers, Santé, Tchin Tchin!

#FancyInFrancey

Lawyer Footnote
[1] And blogging.
[2] Clearly I live tweeted my Lyft adventure. It was my first Lyft and Rafael’s first day as a driver. We picked up a girl and her dog on their way to the nail salon. It was great.
[3] Note: when you’re blogging in a hotel room in Bordeaux, internet search results default to French. #languagebarrier
[4] Period. Full stop. End of story.
[5] #appropriatefootwearforthewin
[6] Also #peacocksFile Apr 08, 6 39 21 PM
[7] Yes. You read that right. I’ve never seen so much caviar in my life, and it was all on my plate.File Apr 08, 7 04 58 PM
[8] Newest members of the international division of #winesquad: Madelyn, Michelle, Jeremy, Mike and Toma!
[9] But since I’m a blogger, I’m going to give it the old college try.
[10] Having to do this twice in a span of thirty days is actually quite exhausting, but it’s a problem I’m willing to deal with!