Heading Back for Fancy in Francey: Round Deux

Remember last year when I won that dream trip to France? And I got to taste the 2015 Bordeaux En Primeur?

Just tasting some 2015 Lynch Bages. #NBD

And I made some fabulous international wine blogging friends?

wine bloggers bordeaux france
International Wine Bloggers Do Bordeaux

And I ate gold-topped deviled eggs at La Grande Maison, Bernard Magrez’ Michelin starred restaurant?

I only eat my deviled eggs when they’re topped with gold. #FancyinFrancey

Yea, me too. It was great[1].

Well, later this month I’m heading back to Bordeaux for a few days to get my taste and tour on. My best good friends at Millesima have invited me to return to re-taste the 2015 vintage and see what a year has done to those incredible Bordeaux wines. This will be mere weeks before the 2016 vintage is released for the wine world to taste[2].

I can’t wait to return to beautiful Bordeaux city. I’ll certainly be heading over to La Cité du Vin, Bordeaux’s Disney World of Wine Museum.

I’m also planning a day in the surrounding vineyards with my good friend Mike from Please Bring Me My Wine. He and his partner JB have got a bit of a wine thing going on in Bordeaux and have a snazzy 1971 VW “combi” for wine tasting and touring the area[3].

Have any Bordeaux vineyard/restaurant/tourist suggestions I need to try? I’ll have a bit more time to explore on my own this time around. Thanks again to my good friends at Millesima for the opportunity!

Cheers my friends. Until the next glass!

Lawyer Footnotes

[1] #sorrynotsorry
[2] Alas, this year I will not be among them, as a new crop of wine bloggers have risen up to take our places. I wish them well. Remember to pack your wine wipes! #wineteeth
[3] I had to ask what a “combi” was. I thought it was some sort of British slang like Whirly Windy Pops that I hadn’t heard of before. Turns out “combi” is just short for “combination van”. I love the Brits.

bordeaux wine Chateau d'yquem
Angels sing all day at Château d’Yquem

The Millesima Blog Awards Are Back #MillesimaBA2017

The holidays are a perfect time to get nostalgic, and Millesima is making me all sorts of nostalgic this week. Entries are now open for the 2017 Blog Awards, which means seven lucky bloggers will be heading to En Primeur in Bordeaux in April. This time without me[1]. I’m so jealous.

On a boat in Bordeaux
On a boat in Bordeaux

This was literally the trip of a lifetime, especially for a wine blogger. Me and my blogger counterparts, three from the US, three from Europe, were treated like Kings and Queens from the second we stepped off the airplane until the moment we were chauffeured back to the airport[2].

Château d'Yquem in all her glory
Château d’Yquem in all her glory

You may recall last year when I asked you, and every other person I’ve ever met, to vote for my entry in the awards[3]. The contest asks bloggers to submit a wine blog that fits into one of three categories:

  • Wine & Food Pairing Award
  • Wine Travel Award
  • Wine Reporter Award (an open category celebrating the best in wine writing)
Millesima Blog Awards
Millesima Blog Awards

Wine bloggers from the USA, Europe, and Asia are qualified to enter so long as the entries are written in English. A panel of three judges whittle down the contestants to a few finalists and then it goes to popular vote[4].

Winners this year will be flown to Bordeaux, enjoy a private guided tour of the city, a gala welcoming soirée, imbibe at exclusive tastings of the 2016 vintage en primeur with the Chateaux of the Union des Grands Crus, and more[5].

I think I read something about how past winners aren’t eligible. Maybe I’ll start a new blog called Winer Esquirer and submit an entry again. Technically, Winer Esquirer wasn’t a winner, so I think I’m ok. That’s not cheating right?

If you have any questions about how fantabulous the experience was, feel free to reach out. I love reminiscing about French fairytales. For example, we literally drank the 2015 vintage of Château d’Yquem like water. For a few hours. At the Château. While we chatted it up with the winemaker.  For real. That happened[6].

Angels sing all day at Château d'Yquem
Angels sing all day at Château d’Yquem

My friends at Millesima and Bernard Magrez truly know how to make you feel like royalty. Every detail was attended to, and the trip was a jam-packed, wine-filled breathtaking experience. Not only was the wine and food phenomenal, it was an incredible chance to make some lifelong friends from all over the world. My buddies and I still chat today and I’ve even had the opportunity to meet up with people I met there in New York.

You can visit the blogs of my fellow winners, Madelyn, Michelle, Jeremy, Mike and Toma, where they document their fabulous international wine journeys.

Wine Blogger Friends
Wine Blogger Friends, from left to right, Michelle, Jeremy, Toma, Mike, Madelyn, and Wine Esquire.

I really can’t say enough about the experience, and if you’re a wine blogger, you’d be crazy not to give it a go. Can’t wait to read your entries, Cheers!

Link to more information and to enter. Be sure to get your entry in by December 30!

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] Never say never though, I’m working out a way for me to go back too!! #seeyouthere
[2] In a wifi-enabled Mercedes. Because how else do you travel around Bordeaux?
[3] I wrote about a white Bordeaux blend, homemade crepes and a crazy a#s client. I miraculously ended up winning the Wine and Food pairing category.
[4] Thank God for Facebook. If I’m friends with you on Facebook, I asked you to vote. Probably on a daily basis. #sorrynotsorry

Caviar Tasting at Pape Clement. That was all for me. #nobigdeal
Caviar Tasting at Pape Clement. That was all for me. #nobigdeal

[5] Did I mention I’m jealous? #sojealous
[6] See my highlights, here. More in-depth reminiscing about d’Yquem, the Bordeaux Tour and dining a la Michelin Stars, residing at a Château for a week (#normal), and tasting Sauternes like it’s my job (well, it is my job, I’m a wine blogger).

I'm pretty much a farmer. Working the fields at Chateaux Pape Clement. #nobigdeal
I’m pretty much a farmer. Working the fields at Chateaux Pape Clement. #nobigdeal

Sipping on Sauternes


[Note: If you’re just jumping in, click here to read about why I was in Bordeaux for En Primeurs week with Millesima and Bernard Magrez[1].]

So, you may recall that day three started out with a lot of wine, continued with a lot of wine, and just when we thought we were done[2], we went on another journey, to drink more wine. Having so much wine to drink in one day is an awesome problem to have[3], and though there was a bit of grumbling about sore gums, black teeth and palate fatigue, we all powered through and had a freaking blast at Château Sigalas-Rabaud[4], a beautifully quaint family-run operation in the heart of Sauternes, France[5].

Château Sigalas Rabaud is the smallest first classified growth in Bordeaux

We arrived and found the tasting set up in several rooms in the historic château. Each place was set with a tasting mat with room for six glasses at a time, a personal spittoon, a bottle of sparkling water, and a bowl of crusty bread to share with your neighbor. DSC_0392Though it was raining, I loved that they allowed the natural light to sweep in through the floor to ceiling windows; the ancient fireplace mantles in each room were adorned with family photos and (empty) bottles from historic vintages. This was a quiet tasting, meaning we weren’t just going from table to table, dodging people at the common spittoon and chatting about what we tasted; we were sitting and tasting silently. As we would finish each group of six, the servers would magically appear, ready to fill us up with the next round. At first, this quiet concept seemed as though it would be rather a tough challenge for our chatty group, but the peace and quiet was a nice change of pace.

We sat down and I was actually dumbfounded when I realized our tasting consisted of 26 Sauternes. 26 more wines to taste. This was going to be an adventure. I laughed (quietly) out loud, grabbed my handy pad and paper and started stream of conscious blogging.

File May 15, 5 18 09 PM
Good old fashioned pen and paper never lets you down

Here’s what I got:

1st 2:    Delicious; sweet and fruity
3:         More mineral and citrus (I can’t remember if I spit or not on this one)
4:         Lovely
5:         Lovely

Side note: Good thing I learned how to do that gurgling, swishing thing.

Break time: I can’t really fathom how much incredible wine is being thrown away right now, at all the tastings. I know that’s how it goes at wine tastings, but I feel like it’s such a crime. I mean, there’s thirsty people in the world somewhere! It’s also funny how we’ve been drinking wine since 10:30 a.m. and I don’t even have a buzz. All this spitting really does work. I’d like to note that it is much easier to taste the whites than the reds. There’s no harsh tannins to speak of. I actually can’t believe these Sauternes aren’t ready to drink. I’d drink them all day erry day. This morning’s tasting[6] was loud, busy and crowded. My mouth was overpowered after the first taste, but the whites (Sauternes included) are truly enjoyable. This peaceful, quiet[7] tasting is actually a very nice change of pace.

Lots of concentration required © Millésima SA 2016

6:         🙂

There’s a similar color palate on all the Sauternes; varying shades of light golden straw to bright gold.

7:         May have tasted this one twice (can’t remember, but it tastes the same as the last one)
8:         Sweet, but in such a good way

I just came up with the bright idea to pour out the wine after I taste it in order to keep track. I think I’ve doubled up on a few already because they all look the same.

File May 15, 5 17 27 PM9:         Touch of minerality, hint of citrus. Not as thick or syrupy as some of the others
10:       Really nice

Writing Break: I don’t know how fast we’re supposed to be going. I’m next to two real journalists on laptops typing feverishly away. They seem to have a whole lot to say about all these wines. Neither of them have cracked their sparkling water bottles.[8] My personal spittoon is getting a bit heavy. I found that it’s much cleaner to lift it to my mouth to spit after each taste, otherwise I’d be dripping spittle all over the place[9]. I think I’m on track in terms of timing, though Jeremy is next to me and plowing through these babies like nobody’s business.

Side note: Where’s the overpowering mustard I’ve come to associate with Sauternes? It’s completely absent in these wines. Instead, scintillating notes of fresh honey are rampant. Sauternes is seriously my new favorite thing. Ok, back to tasting, I’ve still got a ways to go.

11:       Great
12:       Bright; not too heavy or thick
13:       A bit cloudier but still bright gold. Maybe a hint of grapefruit. A bit more complex. Really lovely.

Had to take another breather and eat some bread. My hands are a bit sticky and the journalist next to me may have just burped a little[10]. I’m not sure if there’s an art to spitting. I’m gonna need to look into this[11].

File May 15, 5 18 28 PM14:       Smells very nice. Tastes very nice. Almost a hint of classy cotton candy.
15:       Also very nice.

Eleven more to go?!

Oh, the beautiful hearty crusty bread. A girl could get used to this. I’m taking another break. A nap would be nice. Somebody’s son is helping to pour the wine and he can’t be more than 16 years old. He’s a bit nervous and he may have just poured Jeremy a second set of the same wines. But it’s France, and it’s wine, so who really cares?

16:       Tastes like Anguilla. Really fruity, almost like a rum. Delicious!
17:       A touch of alcohol on this one, though my mouth may be getting tired.
18:       Really lovely; sweet and rich
19:       Lighter but delicious
20:       Peach, sweet, medium body A+

People are serious about this gurgling thing. Yikes.

21:       Served a bit colder than the rest; I get herbs; ehhh

How long should you hold it in your mouth?[12]

22:       Really nice
23:       Lemon on the nose; almost bubble gum; light bodied
24:       Lovely
25:       Really nice. (Did this one 2x. Oops)
26:       Nice. But I can’t taste anymore.
26:       Tasted this again after another little break. Green grass, bubble gum, green apple. Really beautiful.

I made it to the end! I wasn’t the first or the last one done; the real journalists had come and gone, so we took some time to just sit, maybe close our eyes for a few seconds, and waited for Fred, our guide/photographer from Millesima. Fred was far behind the rest of the group because he would taste a wine, then get up and take some pictures, taste another wine, then take some more pictures. We soon noticed that the next round of tasters were ready to come in, so we waited for Fred in the entrance vestibule.

File May 15, 5 12 11 PM
We were a bit peaked

We got to chatting with Laure de Lambert Compeyrot, the current owner who had taken over management of the chateau from her father. She told us to head to the cellar where he was giving a small tour. We made a mad dash through the rain and landed in another beautiful cellar room[13] where we found Gerard chatting happily away in French.

Gerard is the spitting image of his ancestor, Henri de Sigalas. I was trying to point that out to him like he didn’t already know. #languagebarrier © Millésima SA 2016

He motioned for us to come over, not really caring that we couldn’t understand him. He recruited Madelyn to translate…and I think we pretty much got the gist. His daughter Laure is the sixth generation to manage the chateau and it was so heartwarming to feel the happiness in his voice when he told us about his wines.

© Millésima SA 2016

We took some photos, said our goodbyes, and then it was finally time to go and make our way to the next leg of the day, the welcome dinner at Château de Fieuzal.

File May 15, 5 15 56 PM
A 2009 Château Le Bon Pasteur

The dinner is held at the start of En Primeur each year; the purpose is to get the wine makers, chateau owners and journalists together in one room for an evening of food, merriment, and most importantly, wine. The wine makers are invited to each bring several bottles, and, not wanting to be outdone by their fellow wine makers, they bring the good stuff. We’re talking bottles from ’99, ‘02, ‘03, ‘05, ‘09, and they were flowing like water. We were seated at long tables, 15 people on each side, alternating wine maker, blogger, wine maker, blogger. We were each given four glasses so that we could taste all the wines throughout the evening.[14] File May 15, 5 14 46 PMOne at a time, the wine makers would get up and proudly pour a taste for each person at the table, it was such a beautiful thing.

© Millésima SA 2016
File May 15, 5 13 49 PM
Some of the empties …

The evening was magical, the wine incredible, the people poetically beautiful. Much like everything else up to that point, we were welcomed with open arms and treated like royalty. By time we got back in the car, we were well sated, a bit tipsy and blissfully happy. It was a late night, and in just a few hours we’d be off on our next adventure.

Until the next glass! Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes

[1] #FancyInFrancey
[2] Or at least could have a few hours break before dinner…
[3] I could totally deal with that being the stressful part of my job…#lawyerlife
[4] Website in English coming soon…
[5] Sauternes, like Champagne, is actually a region. Only wines produced in that area can bear the name Sauternes.
[6] At the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux.
[7] Except for everyone’s gurgling, swishing and spitting.
[8] I later pocketed theirs since I clearly finished mine.

File May 15, 5 17 09 PM
Stolen red bottle cap can be seen poking through on the left. The gorgeous vineyards of Château Sigalas Rabaud are behind.

[9] #thestruggleisreal
[10] Mike wasn’t the only one with a case of the Windy Pops!
[11] Obviously, there is an art. I think the best thing you can do in practice, and just like with anything in life, it’s really all about confidence. Thanks to my fairytale trip to France, I’ve now spit enough where, even though it may not look pretty, and I may get the occasional left over spittle, I feel comfortable enough where I’m just gonna go for it. So maybe watch a few videos, read a few tips and pointers, but you gotta just get out there and spit!
[12] After doing some research, the whole tasting process should last only a few seconds. I was recently told to try to keep the length the same for each wine in order to give them the same baseline. Five to six seconds should do the trick.
[13] Beautiful barrel rooms were going to be a trend this week.File May 15, 5 17 52 PM
[14] Note that there was no spittoon bucket here, and Wine Esquire may have been a touch tipsy after all the booze excitement.

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