I have researched the Bordeaux region extensively to develop my first Bordeaux tour in 2018. My subsequent Bordeaux wine selection has since then, been a resounding import success in North Carolina, where most of these producers are in U.S. exclusivity. I have done several tours in Bordeaux since then, constantly refining the selection and the itinerary. The wine selection now includes a Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé, currently in U.S. exclusivity.
I am very proud of this new itinerary. It is not your typical cruise, and you will be visiting Bordeaux from an insider angle, learning along the way the differences among the different appellations of the region, taking in the diversity in company of no less than a master sommelier, my lieutenant in Bordeaux, who will be one of the two drivers, along with yours truly.
This tour will also be graced (I think this is the proper word!) by Andy Hale's company. I am of course talking of the soft spoken frontman at Metro Wines Asheville, who has conquered that town, and me, with his everyday gentleness and wine tasting pertinence. He is I am told, the object of a local cult. It will be fascinating to be able to have these wine experts share their opinion on the wines and food pairings that we will enjoy,
This is a very urban tour, as Bordeaux is a quintessential European city, and one of the trendiest destinations in the world. Bordeaux is utterly pleasant to live in, with its rather mild weather, its 12th to 18th century glorious architecture, which earned it to be on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Bordeaux is a city with a rich past, and a vibrant present. We will stay in the very center of the town, and will take daily trips from that location to vineyards, cultural sites of importance, and villages of legends. Everyday will be a new feast, with gastronomy and wine aligned with the exceptional character of what we will visit. Please take a look at the itinerary below and feel free to contact me with any questions.
* Saturday June 15: Departure from RDU (or wherever you depart from) to Bordeaux, via Paris, Amsterdam etc.
You could also have chosen to arrive early, to enjoy Bordeaux in a rehearsal mode and be fresh for the day the Tour actually starts. And if so I can book you one or several additional nights at our hotel there, a four star hotel in the very best possible location. See options.
An optional dinner will be organized for those already in Bordeaux that evening.
* Sunday June 16: Arrival at Bordeaux Merignac, unless you are already here.
Transfer to hotel in Bordeaux's Golden Triangle from the Airport by tram, because this is the way it is done here, out of respect for the environment.. This day will be dedicated to acclimating after the trans-Atlantic flight, unless you landed on the continent a day earlier or more, and are ready now to explore Bordeaux in all its depth.
Lunch at the covered market. Oysters, charcuterie, cheese, surrounded by the activity of a thriving food market in the Bordeaux's halles, and with wines from my most popular producers. Let's start strong!
After lunch, if you just arrived you might want to take a nap at the hotel, others will want to take a stroll in the city, with me or on their own, and start discovering the amazing architectural treasures of the town.
Aperitif then dinner in a restaurant faithful to the spirit of Bordeaux.
* Monday June 17: Serge Opillard joins us, and we start our exploration of Bordeaux with a visit of Chateau Vignol in the Entre Deux Mers, which produces some of the most popular wines in my portfolio--including a stunning Clairet--and are known for their excellence and value. Jean-Thomas who heads the Estate with his brother, is a very endearing fellow that I know you will enjoy, and after a visit of the property, including the beautiful gardens, we will have some oysters and picnic type of food complemented by the wines of the house.
After lunch we will go the Clos des Abbesses, a family owned Grand Cru in Saint Emilion. Saint Emilion is of course a spectacularly beautiful village entirely dedicated to wine, and where it seems that all the millionaires of the world compete to acquire their plot of wine greatness. Clos des Abbesses is an exception, in that it is owned by a French family, and goes for wine excellence, but without the frou frou often found elsewhere. I am very proud of this producer which deserves all the attention that I am attempting to shine on him.
We will have a thorough visit with Clément, followed of course by a tasting before heading back to Bordeaux.
Dinner in Bordeaux.
* Tuesday June 18: Today we drive to Sauternes, about 45 minutes away from Bordeaux's center. Sauternes is of course the little village that gave its name to the profoundly aromatic liquoreux wine, native of the Sauternais, a region of the Bordelais, offering beautiful rolling hills and skies, ultimate ornaments of tony wineries.
We will visit Chateau Haut Bergeron, a long established producer. This estate is the best kept secret in Sauternes, due to the fact that it is not classified, yet produces some of the best wines in the appellation, and wins a lot of the blind tasting competitions.
The lunch with the winemaker at the estate will be a culinary treat, with pairings that will demonstrate the versatility of Sauternes, and its incomparable richness.
We will go back to Bordeaux early, so that you may enjoy some free time in town, which may provide you with enough time for a short visit to the Cité du Vin.
Dinner in my favorite restaurant in Bordeaux
* Wednesday June 19: Today we drive to Langon the capital of the Graves region, and of Serge's Kingdom. The Graves is where wine production started in Bordeaux, and where some of the best wine values may be found.
And it is where we find Chateau Lehoul, a stupendous producer, whose wines have instantly become popular when I introduced them in North Carolina. I am proud to be their only U.S. importer, as they are overwhelmingly recognized to be a cut above, and maybe two, in the Graves appellation. This visit will be a chance to discuss in their vineyard how they consistently produce such stellar wines, and delve into their science.
We will have a tasting of course.
Lunch will be at one of the best restaurants of the region, where Serge was sommelier for 30 years, and whose original chef, Raymond Oliver, was the French Julia Child on TV, when I was a little boy. Expect a lunch of a level unknown where we come from.
We will go back to Bordeaux early again, as I know that you want enjoy Bordeaux which by now you cannot get enough of. You will have again several hours of free time in town, another chance for a short visit to the Cité du Vin.
Dinner in the Chartrons Quarter, at my other favorite Bordeaux Restaurant.
* Thursday June 20: Today we go to Chateau Coulonge in the Entre Deux Mers region. Nicolas Roux is the descendant of a long lineage of humble wine makers. He produces outstanding whites and reds, including a stunning Malbec. These wines are some of the best sellers in Contrast Wines portfolio. Nicolas is as authentic as it gets, and he will open his farm to us to share his wine making vision. It is worth noting that Chateau Coulonge is an organic producer, which is still uncommon in Bordeaux, Nicolas also uses low sulfites.
This is always one of the most interesting visits, as Nicolas is really a quintessential farmer, who lives in total harmony with nature and his land. This is how he can produce so relatively easily organic wines in an environment, Bordeaux, where this is quite challenging. Nicolas will explain his techniques, which include a herd of sheep, and I have little doubt that you will gain a fervent admiration for this grower's philosophy and talent.
After visiting the vineyard and cellar, we will have oysters under the oak tree, with of course his organic Sauvignon Blanc. Then we will have lunch with him and his wife, experiencing second to none Bordeaux hospitality (a member of Chateau Coulonge's staff is an ex star restaurant chef ... You may expect to be blown away), and allowing ourselves a momentary immersion in this true winemaking life.
Chateau Coulonge is not far from Toulouse's Lautrec's castle, where he lived with his mother and died. We will explore not only the property, but also this artist's often little known decisive impact on art, notably through Picasso, and others who defined art in the 20th Century.
Dinner probably in Bordeaux.
* Friday June 21: Today we go back, but for the whole day in Saint Emilion, the marvelous village whose charm has seduced the world.
We will start with a visit of the historic "troglodyte" church of Saint Emilion, a breathtaking edifice, carved inside the rock during medieval times, and defying imagination.
After that we will have lunch in a creative restaurant, on the left bank of the Dordogne, not far from Saint Emilion. This restaurant is an absolute gem, that always provides a memorable experience in a rather casual yet styled format.
After lunch we head to Chateau Le Chatelet, the Grand Cru Classé that I distribute to NC in exclusivity.
Yesterday we visited my most humble, yet superb producer, and today we visit one of the very best estate that Bordeaux has. This is Contrast Tours ... Le Chatelet is a tiny estate, less than 3 hectares, located in a top location, relatively close to the village, see photograph on the left. The wine is divine, quite concentrated, with ultra polished tannins and beautiful aromas, a real nectar, something that few of us have ever experienced. We will be given a tour of the property and of its cellar carved in the rock, as well as a bit of a vertical tasting.
After this, we will go to the village, and you will be able to stroll on your own the Saint Emilion's streets, taking in their unique charm.
After visiting greatness, we will head for dinner in Montagne, a village near Saint Emilion, in another fantastic restaurant located in a very quaint part of Montagne. Every year Serge asks me if we go to that restaurant, as it has struck him as well as a hidden pearl, and let's not forget that he worked for 30 years in one of France's best restaurants!
* Saturday June 22: Today we are going to the tip of the Graves region, in a town named Bazas. It is market day, and this is a market and a town with a deep middle ages impression. The market is a true and lively market that brings a gentle chaos to the town. It takes place on the main square in front of the Cathedral, one of the very nicest churches in the region, which casts an almost surreal, movie like ambiance.
Bazas is also known for its beef, and we cannot pass on that. We will have lunch in a popular "steakhouse," right on the market place, with some of the very best beef there is. The owner is actually American and has a connection with North Carolina.
After our sinful lunch, we will seek redemption by visiting the beautiful Cathedral which is on the many roads to Compostelle, and explore its hidden gardens for a relax time.
After this relaxing time, the day will affirm its aristocratic character. We will head to a nearby Castle. This one is a castle fort, seemingly the father of all castle forts, which caused it to be featured in several films. This remarkable castle goes back to the 12th Century, and is linked to the history of the entire region. Sébastien, the heir of the family which has owned this castle for 700 years (that's right, 700 years!) will guide us through an exceptional VIP visit detailing the history and art presented to our eyes. He will also explain the importance of the renovation by Violet le Duc, and how this architect from the 19th century, to whom we owe the Notre Dame we used to know, influenced dramatically a lot of New York's architecture, notably the Empire State Building.
Dinner in Bordeaux
* Sunday June 23: Today we drive to the Côtes de Blaye, on the north side of the Gironde. This is where we will find the Domaine du Cassard, the most prominent producer of Crémant de Bordeaux, one commonly served by a famous Mayor of Bordeaux.
We will visit with the owner, then have lunch with the producer in his own country restaurant.
After lunch we will do a boat ride on the Gironde. and enjoy the seemingly perpetually mellow mood of the light there.
Toward the end of the afternoon, we will visit the newest addition in Contrast Wines' Bordeaux producers. Chateau Bel Air La Royère is in the Côtes de Blayes, and is owned by Corinne Chevrier. It is also an organic estate, with also some Malbec production. The wines are really prime, and I can't wait to see what Corinne will prepare for us.
Dinner at the farm.
* Monday June 24: Today we go to the Médoc. We will pass by Margaux and see the lovely castles route which goes by most of the famous estates known all over the world.
We will eventually push until Chateau Castera, one of the oldest wine producer in the Medoc, going back to the middle ages, well before this whole part of the Bordeaux vineyard, was developed into a wine devoted territory in the 19th century. Chateau Castera used to be in the larger Montaigne family, and we will have an historic visit explaining the long past of this Cru Bourgeois producing estate, which now also produces some delicious whites, a novelty in the Médoc. We will of course visit the chais and explore the blending aspects of wine making, something rather specific to Chateau Castera.
We will have an aristocratic picnic at the Castle under a 300 year old cedar tree, enjoying again one of the highest grade of Bordeaux hospitality, with local produce from the Médoc.
After this rare, high brow but relaxing visit, we will head back to bordeaux with a gentle ride across the Medoc and by the Gironde.
Dinner in THE Bordeaux restaurant where Bordelais wine drinkers go. It shows!
* Tuesday 25 Juin: For our last day, we go to Arcachon, in tram first to the train station, then train to Arcachon. After a stroll through town to the dock, we will take a boat across the bay to arrive to Lège Cap Ferret. There we will walk to one of the best oyster cabane for a lunch of oysters. We will probably have between 12 and 24 oysters each, with bread, butter, lemon, pepper, and a thorough sampling of all the white wines from Bordeaux in my portfolio, that may be paired with oysters, including Sauternes.
After lunch, we will go back to the boat ramp where we will meet our own captain and her boat, that will take us for a beautiful ride around the bay and notably to the band d'Arguin and the Dune du Pilat, before dropping us in Arcachon.
Train back to Bordeaux.
Memorable last Dinner in Bordeaux.
* Wednesday June 26: Free time this morning for a last embrace of the town.
We will have lunch not too far from the hotel, and then get to the train station by tram, a straight shot from the hotel, for the ultimate, stress free train catching. High speed 2 hour ride to Paris. Our Paris hotel is a very comfortable one in Saint Germain des Près, a 10 minutes taxi ride from the train station, and in the most perfect location, an artsy and legendary part of Paris, very central, lovely close to the Seine River.
Dinner in Paris and night stroll in the city.
* Thursday June 27: I have included two nights in Paris so that everybody may enjoy the city as the cherry on the cake of this tour. Those not participating in my Paris Itinerary will spend the day as they wish, and may take advantage of the "meet us for dinner" option.
* Friday June 28: For those not extending their stay in Paris, this is the end of the dream life, and the day to fly back to the land of rodeo. The hotel can arrange for a taxi to come and get you to the airport if this is where you are going.
Like yesterday, those who cannot take too much of Paris, may participate in my Paris Itinerary, or spend the day as they wish, and optionally, take advantage of the "meet us for dinner" option to make sure that Paris lives up to their culinary expectations.
* Saturday June 29: For those staying longer in Paris, same drill as the two previous days. In my itinerary today, we have lunch in prime spot at the Eiffel Tower. There is an option to do just this part, and not do the whole itinerary day.
Friends, this is it for me, I need to attend some pressing business. But you are welcome to stay in Paris for as long as you wish, and I can book you as many extra nights as necessary at this charming hotel.
See all the options for the tour, which feature the room options, my Paris Itinerary, and the "meet us for dinner."