Today is wine tasting day in both Bourg and Blaye. We had gotten a taste for Saint Emilion wines and now wanted to see the differences between these areas of Bordeaux. Unlike the town of Saint Emilion, the towns of Bourg and Blaye were fairly quiet…not many people were out and most of the stores were closed. We first stopped in at the large citadel of Blaye which was an old fortress built in the 17th century. There were some parts that were just ruins but it was nice to walk through and take pictures of it right on the river.
After our walk we stopped for lunch at a restaurant for a basic pre-fix menu before going to our first wine tasting of the day. This wine was made from a cooperative and the women working spoke no English but poured us several wines and pointed to various things on the bottle to try and communicate with us. None of the wines were so great…or are we spoiled by Saint Emilion wines? Or does this specific wine cooperative just suck?
We plugged our next wine chateau – Roland La Garde – into Bridgette (our gps navigator). We pulled up into a tiny village…I mean does it even count as a village if there are only five buildings? We pulled into the driveway of the chateau, there was only one other car parked. The door to the tasting room was locked and we were starting to think they were closed when we saw a guy walking around the corner. He spoke minimal English but walked us back to the front where there was a button to push. He pushed it and said the “wife of the owner will be down”. We waited about a minute and sure enough a women was walking down the driveway from another house greeting us. She too spoke no English but we don’t speak French and we are in their country…so we can’t exactly complain! She let us in the wine tasting room and opened various bottles for us as we flipped through a book that listed details about their wines. After tasting, we chose a bottle of their 2005 vintage to purchase. We are noticing the wines in this region are cheaper than Saint Emilion.
Before we arrived at our favorite vineyard of the day…we made one more quick wine tasting stop at Chateau Haut-Bourcier where the wine was cheap and pretty tasty. We bought a magnum which will be fun to open with a group of people somewhere in our travels. Our favorite stop of the day ended up being the last winery of the day…Chateau Cantinot (www.chateau-cantinot.com). Yann Bouscasse (the owner) was sitting in a room at a large table chatting with two other people. It wasn’t really set up like an official wine tasting room…there were no bottles out or pricing list or bin to spit the wine into. We thought we were walking in on a meeting or interrupting their visit but Yann told us to come in and have a seat. He said he would open and let us taste his 2009 vintage which was just bottled but not being sold yet.
He was drinking wine along with us and was very informative but also laid back. After tasting the 2009, he pulled out a couple other vintages and the five of us sat around the table chatting. The other couple left and Yann asked us if we wanted to see his wine equipment…we of course said yes. He walked us to the warehouse area and showed us the old tanks, the new tanks, the oak barrels and the huge wooden vats (which are the extremely large barrels that not all chateaus use because of how expensive they are). At one point we discussed the “rules and regulations” set by the AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) on the various wine producing regions. Although the majority of his wine is the traditional-AOC labeled-bordeaux blend…he also makes some wine the way he wants to make it which may not always be approved by the AOC…this is not so common to find in France.
Because the AOC regulates all the wine appellations in France…the acknowledgement on the label from the appellation helps the winemaker sell their wine for higher prices. So as a consumer…you could buy wine from France without any kind of AOC stamp on it which means the winemaker didn’t follow the very strict rules on their vineyard which means you are gambling on whether or not the wine is any good. Or…you could stick to the AOC labels, which means you will drink what you expect based on the tradition and consistency of the French appellation labeled wines. For example…AOC regulates that only certain grapes are allowed to be growing in certain appellations, only certain grapes are allowed to be blended together, the vines need to be planted a certain distance apart, the vines have to face a certain direction, etc., etc. So if for example a wine maker like Yann has a year where his malbec grape had a great year and he therefore wants to use mostly that grape combined with a little merlot…he is not permitted to do that because in Bordeaux, merlot must be the majority grape in the bottle. Some winemakers such as Yann…go right ahead and blend what they want regardless of the AOC. Let me be clear…we are very happy Yann went ahead and made his Malbec. This wine was delicious and one of our favorites of the trip.
We spent quite a while with Yann, learned alot and left with a couple bottles we purchased and a half bottle of his malbec he gave us at no charge to have with dinner. We found our way home, went out on our balcony overlooking the vineyards and relaxed as the sun set.
Published by Brandey Kabat
What I like: Dark chocolate, yoga, fresh squeezed juice, laughing, hiking, wine, travel, food, lush products, being warm, having long hair, the ritual of drinking something hot first thing in the morning…
What I don’t like: When people smell their fingers, pushing elevator buttons, confrontational situations, not being able to fall asleep quickly at bedtime…
Most random job ever: Plastic surgery consultant
As for my love life: I met my husband mid way through my junior year in college, as soon as I laid my eyes on him I was attracted to him. In fact, I made the first move which was a bit out of character but there was something about him…probably the fact that he was smokin’ hot!!
Where from and where to: I grew up in NY, went to college at The Ohio State University and then headed to CA after graduation. My boyfriend (Giff) and I had a map, a borrowed van and used stuff from his mom’s basement aka a vacuum, silverware, old Christmas ornaments etc., and about $1000 each. We thought it would be a good idea to head straight to CA since neither of us had been. Being we didn’t know anyone there nor did we have a job or job interviews set up or a place to live…I would say we did it the hard way! However with a bit of help from Giff’s mom who flew out to put us up in a hotel, bought me a suit for interviewing and co-signed a lease to get us a place to live we eventually found jobs and an apartment and have been in CA for 10 years.
Our story: After moving out to CA and living together for about 3 years we got engaged. He popped the question while down on one knee on the beach at sunset after we finished our picnic he had packed of bread, cheese, shrimp cocktail and wine. He even had the ring in a box that had a light shining down on it when opened so as it was getting dark, this amazing man was asking me to be his wife as he handed me a huge rock…Yes! Yes! Yes!
In 2005 we were married (I am biased but our wedding was absolutely amazing). By the end of 2005 we were new home owners. 2006-2009- we were both happily married, attached to our 3 cats and were focused on building our careers.
Giff and I got pregnant mid year 2009 with our first baby but what should have been one of the highlights of our life was soon distracted by the news I received at the doctor’s office.
The lump in my breast that had been dismissed the year before as nothing was now being diagnosed by a different doctor as breast cancer. Thankfully Giff is a persistent person and when we went in for our ultrasound (to hear our baby’s heartbeat) he brought up the request for testing to be done on the lump rather than dismissing it based on feeling it.
The going gets rough: Things began to move so quickly at that point, it was hard to breathe. I was 30, pregnant with my first child and going into surgery to remove breast cancer. I was about to go through what would be the worst year of my life. The plan had been discussed, we were going with the most aggressive regimen possible- double mastectomy, port surgically placed in my chest, chemotherapy, drug therapy and radiation. We also had to terminate the pregnancy. This cancer was estrogen positive and the hormones were actually feeding the cancer. That little angel whom was the cause of our going into the doctor saved my life.
Giff was my rock through every step…interviewing a team of the best doctors, memorizing which medicines I needed to take and when, driving me to chemotherapy and sitting next to me while I was so scared, telling me I was beautiful when I was bald, and so many other things…words cannot express. When you say your vows, in sickness and in health…you would never guess sickness of this magnitude at this age would be in the near future. In addition to this hardship, Giff’s dad died of a complicated prostate cancer the day we came home from my surgery. I could not hold my husband as he mourned for his dad because of the pain I was in from the mastectomy. How did Giff handle all of this pain at one time? How was he so strong for me? He is amazing. Giff’s dad was one of those people whom you naturally wanted to be around…his smile was contagious, his love for life was invigorating and he listened so intently when you talked in a conversation with him. He made you feel special. We think about him often and will miss him so much.
My family and friends were also by my side…my mom flying out from NY several times to help us with cooking and cleaning and holding my hand. It must be one of the most awful things in the world to watch your baby girl be diagnosed with breast cancer. My girlfriends also flew out to take care of me and help with anything they could. Other friends living closer would come by just to sit and talk or watch movies. There were so many cards, letters, flowers, cookies, and other gifts that came from all over the country. It’s amazing to have such great people in my life. In addition to my amazing circle of friends and family, there were the strangers with whom crossed our path. Whether it was a letter in the mail from a breast cancer survivor, the anesthesiologist who called Giff during my surgery crying happy tears that the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes, or our fertility doctor who promised to watch over our frozen embryos as if they were her own. There were so many small gestures that made such a big impact on our lives.
Looking at the bright side: Thankfully this was caught in stage 1, had it been caught a year prior by the first doctor I had gone into about the lump, it may have been caught at stage 0. Please learn from my lesson…insist the lump be tested – a lump cannot be diagnosed by touch. They were able to cut all the cancer out and after I finish the entire regimen including a pill I take over the next 5 years, they said there is a 95% chance the cancer will never come back.
Our exciting future: We’ve decided to re-prioritize, we are taking 400 days starting February 7th of 2011 to travel the world! We will travel to new places, eat new foods, taste new wines and meet new people. We will focus on healing ourselves both physically and mentally. This will be one of the best years of our lives.
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