You may recall that I won a blog contest. The one where I asked you all to vote for me. 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.
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.
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, reliving the moments, one bite, one tour, one sip at a time. I invite you to come on this journey and experience the magic.
And So It Began…
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 and I promptly fell asleep. I missed dinner but woke up to a lovely 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. A brief layover at the Charles de Gaulle Airport allowed me to begin my croissant consumption before I hopped on the hour long flight to Bordeaux. It’s always nerve-wracking waiting for your bags to come through, but mine arrived in one piece and I headed out to look for my driver chauffeur. 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!
Geoffrey and I quickly found Jeremy, 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.
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
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.
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.
We 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.” This 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.
Next up in our meal was the perfectly prepared duck filet, on the rarer side, topped with a parmesan crisp. This was paired with the 2006 Château Fombrauge, 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.
And 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. 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. 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. And what a beautiful part of life it is.
Throughout 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. The 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. 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.
 This is your chance to grab a glass of wine, you’re gonna need it.
 I find that making the switch before you get there helps trick your brain into believing in the new time zone.
 Something about moving vehicles puts me right to sleep. I can barely keep my eyes open through takeoff.
 Because who wants airplane dinner at 1 a.m.?
 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
 Wow. Talk about doing something amazing with your life.
 They just don’t make them right in ‘Merica. Why can’t we figure it out when the French are so good at it?
 Giant wine bottles can be found all over Bordeaux, including at the baggage claim. These people love their wine.
 Because how else do you get around Bordeaux during En Primeur? #ChâteauLife
 Thanks to his Twitter profile pic.
 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.
 Hello Google, what am I eating? I quickly realized it didn’t matter because everything was so amazingly delicious.
 Red, not white.
 Looking back on that night, I clearly didn’t take enough cheese.
 Hello Cholesterol.
 At least it’s part of #ChâteauLife.
 #TomaInAComa #insidejoke #sorrynotsorry
 See you soon!