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.
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.
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!
 #sorrynotsorry  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  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.
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. I’m so jealous.
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.
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. 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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Lawyer Footnotes  Never say never though, I’m working out a way for me to go back too!! #seeyouthere  In a wifi-enabled Mercedes. Because how else do you travel around Bordeaux?  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.  Thank God for Facebook. If I’m friends with you on Facebook, I asked you to vote. Probably on a daily basis. #sorrynotsorry
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, we went on another journey, to drink more wine. Having so much wine to drink in one day is an awesome problem to have, 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, a beautifully quaint family-run operation in the heart of Sauternes, France.
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. Though 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.
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)
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 was loud, busy and crowded. My mouth was overpowered after the first taste, but the whites (Sauternes included) are truly enjoyable. This peaceful, quiet tasting is actually a very nice change of pace.
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.
9: 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. 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. 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.
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. I’m not sure if there’s an art to spitting. I’m gonna need to look into this.
14: 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
22: Really nice
23: Lemon on the nose; almost bubble gum; light bodied
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.
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 where we found Gerard chatting happily away in French.
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.
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.
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.One 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.
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!
 #FancyInFrancey  Or at least could have a few hours break before dinner…  I could totally deal with that being the stressful part of my job…#lawyerlife  Website in English coming soon…  Sauternes, like Champagne, is actually a region. Only wines produced in that area can bear the name Sauternes.  At the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux.  Except for everyone’s gurgling, swishing and spitting.  I later pocketed theirs since I clearly finished mine.
 #thestruggleisreal Mike wasn’t the only one with a case of the Windy Pops!  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!  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.  Beautiful barrel rooms were going to be a trend this week.  Note that there was no spittoon bucket here, and Wine Esquire may have been a touch tipsy after all the booze excitement.
[If you’re just jumping in, take a look at my previous post for some context on #FancyinFrancey and how I won the most epic wine trip to Bordeaux ever.]
We got an early start on Day Two of our Bordeaux wine adventure. With James Bond set to arrive at 8:15, I set my alarm early and woke to a spectacular sunrise over the vines. Was this real or was I still dreaming? Apparently it was real. After tearing myself away from the beautiful scene outside my window, I got myself ready and went down to breakfast. No big deal, right? Well, when you’re living Château Life, breakfast is served in the grand dining room by Chantelle, complete with classical music playing from the heavens. She made our coffee to order and we feasted on a spread of croissants, bread, jam, honey, cheese, meat, smoked salmon, yogurt, granola and the fanciest juices ever. A girl could really get used to this.
We collectively sat there for a few minutes, soaking it all in, pinching ourselves to see if this was real. When we realized it was, we finished up, got ourselves out the door and enjoyed the trek to Bordeaux City where our guide Bruno greeted us with a huge, mischievous Cheshire Cat grin. Bruno had our route planned out so that we would get out at major sites then take a walk to our next destination where Mr. Bond would meet us to take us on the next leg of our journey.
Bordeaux City is a beautiful European metropolis filled with rich history, old world architecture, cobblestone streets, and beautiful people. The modern electric tram system is the first of its kind to not need cable extensions, and a good majority of the city is tram and pedestrian only, making it easy to wander around safely with a group of winos like us. Turns out that fifteen years ago, Bordeaux was a blackened mess, with dirt and grime caking the ancient limestone façades. Thankfully, its newest mayor, Alain Juppé, came in and cleaned things up, literally, and the city is now a sparkling star in the heart of Bordeaux wine country.
We drove up to a beautiful gated chateau with an ancient olive tree in the courtyard. The gorgeous foyer opened to a decadent dining room, with soaring ceilings and outstanding Baccarat chandeliers. I’ve eaten some fancy meals, so I wasn’t really fazed by the two Michelin Stars everyone kept raving about. Having a Michelin Star is like being Zagat rated right? Uhmmm, no. The difference was quickly apparent.
Our tasting menu began with petite quinoa and spicy mayo bites and a bread trolley with a DOME of butter, yes, a dome, which they shaved off into perfect curls topped with a smattering of sea salt. The trolley featured basket after basket of artisan rolls and baguettes, some delicately inlaid with squid ink, some with cheese and bacon, others perfectly plain.
For wine we began with a 2013 Chateau Fombrauge Bordeaux Blanc, and again, to say that these whites from Bordeaux are underrated is an understatement. The wine was bright, beautiful and complex. Stone fruit, citrus with a touch of minerality. Bon.
Our first course was a deviled egg. Now, my mother in law’s holiday specialty is deviled eggs, and I just don’t do them. But when this deviled egg came out, my mouth dropped. To start, it was beautiful, but what was on the inside was even more beautiful. Resting within the egg was a healthy portion of super fresh King Crab, and on top was a healthy dollop of caviar. Did I mention there was GOLD sprinkled on top? Yes. Actual Gold. I was done. Best.Deviled.Egg.Ever. And with the wine? Magnifique!
Each course was exquisite; perfectly prepared, beautifully presented and utterly delicious. Fast forward a few courses and we were all basically losing it. The “La Canette,” which was explained to us as “young lady duck,” had me absolutely melting. I mean seriously MELTING. Especially when I took a sip of the 2006 Château Les Grands Chênes. Deep, rich, flowery and gorgeous, it was like mouth heaven. The young duckling was perfectly cooked, nestled in local foie gras, with two dainty pallets of foie gras to the side. To know me is to know that I love foie gras. I was in liver heaven. My stomach was full. How could I go on?
I almost couldn’t, but then we started getting sweet. And why have one dessert course when you can have two? We began with what I dubbed “Anguilla in a Glass.” Passion fruit and rum served atop a sweet custard. Gorgeously light, and since it was really meant as a palate cleanser, I realized it was calorie free. With this delight came a 2010 Sauternes. Flowery, thick and beautiful, with the slightest hint of mustard.
After the palate cleanser, over came the dessert trolley. Adorned with a chocolate egg the size of my torso and a smattering of petit fours, our waiter prepared several plates of the sweetest sweets for us to taste. I couldn’t pass up a macaroon or two, because just like croissants, it’s really hard to get good ones over here. We wrapped up with a selection of coffee and teas and a wee spot of Armagnac, because, when in France, why not have an Armagnac?
After lunch we hobbled over to the Institut Culturel Bernard Magrez, or the Magrez Art Institute. Mr. Magrez is passionate about the arts, and the Institute is a place where up and coming artists have a chance to shine. Housed in another gorgeous chateau across from the restaurant, elegant chandeliers graced every room.
The exhibit boasted countless pieces in a variety of mediums, and the creativity expressed was truly awe inspiring.
Next up on our schedule was a tasting tour of Millésima’s cellars, a gorgeous, winding cavern that carefully watches over more than two and a half million bottles of wine. The Millésima team pulled out all the stops for this, and you could tell they had a blast, not only in the planning, but at the event itself. Throughout the night we literally wandered through the cellar, stopping at strategically placed tasting tables where wines were poured and gourmet chefs prepared small bites.
Each stop featured a new activity; at one area, darts, another, an art lesson, we competitively sifted for gold, and then, the finale, a photo booth.
In the hall of magnums, we were each presented with an award for our blogging efforts, and a final hoo-rah of Sauternes and perfect desserts capped off the evening. Though exhaustion had begun to set in, we all left beaming, fully sated and extremely happy.
Hard to believe this was only the first full day. The next morning we’d be off to the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UCGB) official En Primeur tasting, followed by lunch and a tasting at Chateau d’Yquem. Yes. You read that right. Chateau d’Yquem.
Until the next glass! Cheers!
Lawyer Footnotes  This means Day Two.  Our chauffeur. There were several over the course of the week, all of them impeccably dressed like their famous namesake. It was pretty epic.  Coffee in France means espresso. I had to specify Café au Lait (coffee with milk), and by day two, Chantelle knew what I wanted before I even asked. S’il vous plaît.  In fact, I did get used to this. Breakfast at home has been rather depressing.  A bit later than the schedule called for, every morning, without fail. #slowpokes  It all worked out well except my infamously poor choice in vacation footwear blew up in my face during the first hour of our trek. #wedgesarentgoodforwalking  At least according to Bruno, who was very, very proud of his city’s achievements.  Although all the people on bikes can be a little dicey. #bicyclebell  Did you know? Bordeaux? 15 years ago? #insidejoke #sorrynotsorry  At only 4,000 Euros a night, I’d say it’s a steal.  The newest Tesla model was also parked out front. #bougie  This was our first glimpse of the Baccarat/Magrez partnership, and we’d be exposed to even more later in the week. #bottlesizedglasses  Read a quick breakdown of the difference. Essentially, Michelin restaurants are TOP NOTCH, Zagat restaurants are awesome. Also, the top Michelin award is three stars, not five like I assumed, so to get a 2 star rating, within ten months of opening, is a true gastronomic feat! Bravo Messers Magrez and Robuchon!  I could have been happy with just the bread and butter.  French for good, but when you say it, it almost sounds like “Boom.”  Hellooooo caviar. I love caviar. Why don’t we eat more caviar?  A sprinkling of gold on your caviar is par for the course when you’re living #ChateauLife  Mother-In-Law, are you taking notes?  Just found out that “foie gras” translates to “fat liver”. I probably have a fat liver now. #worthit  This is real guys.  We’ll get to Sauternes very in depth in a later post. For now, it’s enough to know that Sauternes is divine.  Trolleys are the best. We need more trolleys over here across the pond.  The menu described this course as “escorté de mignardise”. Google translate says this means “escorted cuteness”. #lostintranslation  It was about this time in the meal that we learned about Windy Pops from our British friend Mike. They may also be referred to as Whirly Pops. “Windy Pops” is a cute way of saying passed gas and/or burps. Mike had a lot of windy pops that week, but we still love him.  Literally. We were hobbling. Me not only because of my inappropriate footwear choice for the morning’s tour, but we had all just eaten our body weight in Michelin Stars.  Even the dogs in France go to art museums. #cultured  I almost couldn’t eat anything because of our amazing lunch, but then a truffle pasta came out and that went out the window. #YoureStillEating? #insidejoke  My darts hit the board, maybe not in the area where they were supposed to, but I’d call that a win.  Like I needed any more macaroons, but like I said, when in France…