Day 135 of 400: Bourg and Medoc – France

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Today was a big day for Chateau de la Grave…they were bottling their 2009 harvest.  Philippe (the wine maker) asked us to join him for a tour of his wine cellar this morning.  There was one other couple who joined us on this private tour which was great because we soon found out that Philippe didn’t speak English and the other couple was able to translate.

The tour started in the front area of the château overlooking their vineyards and it was explained to us how much they produce, what percentage of which grapes are used to blend and where each was planted.  After some questions, he walked us into where the huge silver tanks were holding wine.  This is where the 2009 was actually being pumped out of the tank via a long hose and then through a machine into the bottle.

Philippe pointed out a map drawn in chalk on a small blackboard where each vineyard was numbered and corresponded with which tank those grapes were in…he tastes each different wine from each different area of the vineyard every night, it is how he keeps in touch with the different parts of his vineyard.

We continued following him to the next room which was where all the barrels were being stored…this is where the wine ages.  He talked about how this vineyard has been in his family for 100 years…his grandfather handed it down to his father who handed it down to him and now he has two young boys.  He pointed to the old dusty bottles made prior to him and said they sometimes open them and they are still good.

After showing us the large wooden vats where he holds his superior wine, we walked outside where the ’09 was being bottled.  We took a short video of the small machine with a conveyor belt running through the center and the two men putting the bottles on one side….wine was then put into it by the machine, corked, sealed and the other man would remove it and place it in the cradle.  It was so classic when we saw the guy using one hand to load the bottles and the other hand to eat a croissant.  Philippe continued to show us the bottling process and explained that the cork was actually too big for the bottle and would need time to settle before it could be opened.  Even though this one machine seemed fairly small…they were bottling 20,000 bottles.

We closed out the tour by tasting his various types…white wine, table red, superior red as well as the 2009 that we were watching being bottled and he snuck us a small taste of the 2010 which is still in the wooden vats…he thinks 2010 will be even better than 2009 and as we tasted it…we agreed.  Unfortunately, we could not buy any of the 2010, it was too young and needed more time to mature.

After our tasting we drove up to the town of Blaye where we were taking a ferry to the Medoc region of Bordeaux…this area is where the largest château’s are, and some of the most well-known wine like Rothschild.  When we arrived to the ferry, we saw it didn’t leave for another hour so parked our car and walked around a bit looking for food.  A bakery was open and a little girl about nine years old was handling the cash register while her mom worked in the back.  We ordered some bread and paid her thinking how cute she was already learning her family trade.

Finally the ferry arrived.  We drove onto it and crossed the river which took about 25 minutes.  Once on the other side, we input some vineyard addresses and started our tour.  The first château we went to was a huge one  and it was recommended to us by Hugo in Saint Emilion but unfortunately we didn’t have a reservation and they were too busy…disappointed we continued driving looking for our next stop.  We went to a couple other vineyards and tasted their wines, we bought three bottles…one of which was a 2005 (a great vintage for France but hard to come by).

On our way back, we saw a huge wine tasting sign in front of a warehouse type building.  We pulled in and found out it had wines from around the world with a counter to taste wines at a fee.  We tasted two and left, we had tasted enough for today and since we were driving all the way around the river vs taking the ferry back, we needed to get on the road.

We arrived back in Bourg around 8pm and found the one restaurant in the entire town that was open and serving dinner.  We ordered a salad and breast of margret for dinner.  It was a diner type restaurant and had pretty good food at pretty good prices.  We had a leisurely dinner before calling it a night.

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