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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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© 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.

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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.

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© Millésima SA 2016
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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.

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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.

#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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

Off We Go … Nous Voilà

So here I am in Queens, waiting for Lyft[1] to take me to the airport. Clearly it’s time to brush up on my French. I figured I’d get the basics down before I head over to Bordeaux. Here’s what I’ve mastered so far:

  • Wine – le vin[2]
  • I love wine – i aime le vin[3]
  • I am a wine blogger – je suis un blogueur du vin
  • Yes – Oui
  • Please – s’il vous plaît
  • Thank You – Merci
  • Water – eau
  • Happy – joyeux or content
  • Hungry – affamé
  • Tired – fatigue
  • Bathroom – la salle de bain
  • Good evening – Bonsoir[4]

I think I’ll be fine.[5]File Apr 01, 6 00 43 PM

This is going to be a crazy week, full of wine, chateaus, adventures and new wine friends. A total of six bloggers are currently en route to Bordeaux to participate in Primeurs 2015[6] with Millesima and Bernard Magrez. Those in the know are saying the vintage is shaping up to be a good one. Be sure to check out my fellow participants[7]: Vinopedia, Edvin, Please Bring Me My Wine, Rockin Red Blog and Texas Wine Lover.

The schedule for the week is jam packed. We’re doing a million things, like going on a walking tour of Bordeaux, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, tastings at Chateau d’Yquem and Chateau Pape Clément, we’re even blending our own wine! I’m so excited!

THANK YOU to everyone who voted to send me on this awesome journey. You’ll be right there with me as I soak up this experience. I’ll be updating on the regular on Instagram and Twitter and I hope to get a few blog posts in too. Stop by, say hi and let me know what you think!food-wine-pairing-winner

Lyft’s almost here, wish me luck!

À bientôt[8]! #FancyinFrancey

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] If you want $5 off your first ten rides, click here. Note: I thought I was getting a free $50. I mean, technically I am. But just not all at once. #thatshowtheygetcha
[2] Pronounced kinda like va.
[3] Even with the translator I don’t know how to say this.
[4] Pronounced bone swa. This is by far my favorite word. It just rolls off the tongue. Morning, noon and night.
[5] I’m thinking this guide will come in very handy.
[6] That’s the week where wine journalists gather in Bordeaux to taste the 2015 vintage straight out of the barrel.
[7] And new WFFL. Wine Friends For Life. #hashtag
[8] That means “See you soon!”

Wine Esquire is Going to France!

Yea, so, uhm, remember that thing I asked you to vote for? That wine blog award? The one where the prize was the ultimate wine trip to France? The one where I’d be going to visit Bernard Magrez for en primeur week? Well….guess what?! I WON!!

food-wine-pairing-winnerThank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for me! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it! I am humbled and amazed that people actually voted! Wine Esquire wouldn’t be heading across the pond if it weren’t for all of you, so I sincerely thank you for your support!

We’re going to go on the most amazing wine adventure together and you’ll be right there with me because I obviously won’t be able to stop Instagramming[1]. Or Tweeting. Or Blogging.

millesimaMillesima told us the results were being released yesterday, but ever since I found out I was a finalist, I tried not to think about it too much[2]. I didn’t want to get my hopes up or expect anything. But yesterday morning when the iPhone dinged with a text message before 7 a.m., I couldn’t help but assume that someone was texting to tell me I’d won. Nope[3]. So I got ready for work[4], headed to the office[5], conducted a closing[6], then made a quick pit stop to the vet to pick up some cat food[7]. And then I checked my email. Again. And that’s when I saw “Congratulations!” in the subject line. I put my car in park, freaked out a bit and said “I won, I won, I won, I won” about 249 times. I proceeded to call everyone important in my life. Husband. Sissy. Other Sissy. Mom[8]. And NOBODY answered. So I had to start driving back to work. Finally the calls started coming and I got to tell my loved ones about this amazing adventure.

jaillance-cremant-de-bordeaux-brutI confess, I didn’t go straight back to the office. The brilliant idea to get some bubbly from Bordeaux instantly popped into my head. Well, two liquor stores later and it turns out my state doesn’t carry Crémant de Bordeaux, so that plan was foiled, and I really had to get back to work. I didn’t have time to go anywhere else, but luckily when I got home I realized I had a lovely Louis Latour Meursault chilling in the fridge[9].

So, while details still have to be worked out, I’m definitely headed to France, and I’m extremely excited. Thank you again to all who voted. I’m on cloud nine!

 

Lawyer Footnotes
[1] I’m going to need one of those iPhone power boosters. Stat.
[2] Except for that time I emailed everyone I’ve ever met and asked them to vote. And the time I tweeted about it every day. Other than that, I didn’t think about it. At all.
[3] Just sissy complaining that she’d had to hail a cab because her train came to a stop on the way to her first day of her new gig. #commuterproblems
[4] And checked my email.GotMail
[5] And checked my email.
[6] And checked my email.
[7] My cat had health issues and now needs special food. Don’t worry, he’s fine. #longstory
[8] Sorry, Dad. I texted you though!
[9] This is not normal, don’t worry. A friend brought the bottle over when we had them over for dinner last week and we forgot to open it.