AWG in Bordeaux Day 3
June 22, 2010
Bordeaux +3 Tuesday.
Yr Mst Hmbl & Obdt Svt here off to a quick morning class at the Ecole du Vin, the Wine School at the CIVB in BDX. Good general overview and refresher course plus answers to some more technical questions. A lovely lunch at a Michelin Star restaurant in town, which shall remain nameless for reasons soon to be disclosed, but was mentioned in the NY Times.... April, one of my fellow Wine Buffs ordered a plain green salad. She was next to me on my right, and I hear her gasp, I turn to notice a smallish tan SPIDER covered in oil crawl his way out of the greens to the top of the bowl. Poor April just freaked out, the waitress whisked away the salad with barely a word. As April hyperventilated (she clearly hates spiders), they brought her another salad. One of the other Buffs actually transferred the new salad from one bowl to another to ensure no more wildlife presence. What did this "Michelin Star" joint do? Rien. Nada. Not even an apology. When April's wine glass was empty, our intrepid chaperone cum guide cum new friend Charlie "suggested" to the wait staff that the least they could do was give her a second glass on the house. They obliged, but, well so much for Michelin Star "service". I was, in a word, underwhelmed.
Off to Entre Deux Mers. Cloudy day, Sunny spirits all around. First up, Lugaingnac for Chateau Haut Guillebots. At the top of a hill, sits a lovely old Chateau, late 18th century, right up against the road.
A lovely lady comes out to greet us all, a charming little girl with blonde curls clinging to maman's knee. Marie-Christine Labouille is the Seventh, yes, seventh generation of women to run the property and make the wine. Unheard of in Bordeaux, yet the line descends unbroken from mother to daughter, for seven generations and two hundred years; and someday perhaps her little blonde charmer will become Proprietere someday, though today her five year old mind is set on being a vet. We go to the vineyard, to see the vines. Trellised high to leave exposure between ouvriers, we wandered amongst the Sauvignon vines. Mostly Blanc, a few Gris, and Marie Christine Labouille explained her thoughts on winemaking.
An already familiar story; much work done in the vineyard all year long so that little work is required inside the winery after harvest.
A quick tour of tanks and barrels in the chais, and tasting. No doubt the feminine character of the Vigneron is clear in the wines as well. Much like Marie Christine, the wines were feminine and pretty, solid and sturdy, elegant and supple. I rather liked them. I rather like her also.
After a while, she relaxed and we began to talk about the Chateau and her family. She herself did not want to run the winery, setting off to find a career elsewhere and in her words "returned by a stroke of fate/fortune" to Haut Guillebots where, as she put it "the vines are alive, the terroir is alive, the vineyard is alive and it all becomes your life as well. All things are intertwined." She can no longer conceive of doing anything else and remains devoted to the wine. Family is clearly part of the Bordeaux tradition, and with many generations living in the same place, working the same vineyards and living in the same Chateau, it is obvious how deep this runs.
We depart with a sense of reluctance. How warm and moving it was to listen to Marie Christine's stories of her family on the property; the German occupation, with Germans billeted in the house. Grandmere cursing them to their faces and putting them in their place on a regular basis. The rest of the family living in fear of reprisal, yet, fortune smiled and they were left in peace. Grandpere crossing the Nazi checkpoints on bicycle with thousands of francs of currency hidden in the handlebars of his bike, right under the German noses. One is left speechless by the stories. Your heart is touched by watching the little blonde girl dash in and out, with wildflowers from the fields, plopping down onto Maman's lap leaving chalky dust on Marie's black skirt. Papa pops in and Marie leaves us for a moment or two to talk with him. The aura of "en famille" is strong here. You can see this in the wines as well.
The whites were particularly good, sturdy, solid, pretty and with depth. Which is only proper.
We leave for Pujols and Chateau Marac. Arriving early evening, to a charming, more modern place, old stock which has been renovated more recently. A charming younger woman and equally charming older man come to greet us in the courtyard.
Bonville Pere et Fille, father and daughter who run the place. M. Alain Bonville came from Champagne to buy and run his own place, both daughters becoming vignerons in their own right, one, Melanie, staying on at Marac. Again, Agathe, a charming little blonde moppet of a kid at first being shy and clinging to maman or grandpere Alain.
I showed her pictures of my dogs on my iPhone and she warmed up instantly and was soon running around the place, climbing and clamoring all over the boxes of wine and bringing out favored toys to show the guests. We have an Entre Deux Mers Blanc that is, well, amazing. Alan, the Mutineer, who said fews things on Monday, and even fewer in complete sentences, simply transformed on tasting, becoming expressive, eager, ecstatic and exuberant; dancing around the chais, glass in hand that "this s--- ROCKS!" Honestly, it does. I have never tasted a Sauvignon-Semillon quite like it. Jasmine tea, sweet white flowers, crisp minerally acidity, yet a nice beeswax taste and texture. The other wines were also quite good, but honestly the white was a home run all bases loaded. Oh, yeah, maybe $15 on the shelf in the US, if you could find it, which our great dismay, you can't. DAMMIT! I fought back a tear as kind M. Bonville offered me a bottle to take home, my having to refuse as there was no way to pack it for the flight. SIGH........I suddenly realize that a formal tasting has transformed into a raucous cocktail party. Everbody chatting, laughing, loving the wines and making new friends with the Bonville family.
Dinner just a few hundred meters down the road in Pujols proper at the Bonville's favorite local, Chez Sylvie.
We stop at dusk to admire the view across Entre Deux Mers across to Cotes du Castillon. The sky a violet blue in a surreal intensity, the fading sunlight bouncing off the ancient stone walls of the village below and dancing across the water of a small lake in the distance.
Chez Sylvie for dinner. Mutineer Alan shows his enthusiasm for the Ch. Marac Blanc!
The restaurant was a homey, charming place, which was opened just for us (! Holy crap ! ) The three Bonvilles welcoming us to dinner like long lost family, all at a long table in one room, magnums of two vintages of the red and more of the White (woo hoo) and the lovely rose. The meal was again a family affair of traditional Bordeaux fare. Salad Gibiers, Salad of greens topped with braised chicken giblets, not nearly a weird as it sounds, the meat being a tender, moist texture and the flavors pure clean farm chicken, with a fat slice of foie gras on the side. Dr. Roger, my internist, mea maxima culpa, I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself, but I ate yet more fois. Will it help if I double the dosage of simvastatin for a couple of weeks?? The white disappeared quickly and we made short work of the rose. Magnums of red opened, lovely comparison of vintages, the wine as honest, homey and welcoming as the Bonville family. The main course was off the hook kiddies, serious. Local pasture raised beef entrecote, grilled on a fire made from grape wood from the Marac vineyard. How SICK is that?!? It was beyond great. I finished every bite of the huge slab on my plate. How can you not? Right?
The wines went quite well with the food, the dark, cherry earthy flavors picking up nicely the smoky grapewood char on the beef. I could eat that stuff regularly. All through dinner, I also realize we are being treated as family friends, allowed to glimpse a side of French culture we foreigners never get to see on our vacations. Family indeed runs deep in Bordeaux, I was so shocked, surprised, but above all honored and touched deeply by this charming family, who for a few hours opened up their family to include us, so that we could experience that warm, laughing joy of sitting around the dinner table, eating great food, drinking great wine and enjoying the simple, honest pleasure of each others' company. Wow. All I could think about on the way home was that point. The one driven home by this day. Family. It is as much the terroir of Bordaux, at least this corner of Bordeaux anyway, as the dirt and the rain.
Amazing. Cool. Off the hook. I'm blown away, honored and touched profoundly. Back to Bordeaux town in the late hours of the evening; The inner man is most happy. And so to bed.
Austin Wine Guy.