Our third day in Bordeaux was spent exploring the city itself. The Bordeaux wine region is comprised of many little villages and appellations, with the city of Bordeaux somewhat at the center. After a day of exploring the shops, restaurants, and sights, Richie and I agreed we would both happily pick up our lives and relocate to Bordeaux in a heartbeat.
We toured the Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux:
We wandered along the waterfront – apparently this part of town used to be pretty dodgy, but the most recent mayor made it a priority to have it cleaned up for tourism and recreational purposes. Based on the number of people running, walking dogs, and strolling by, it was a success!
We stopped in a few other places of interest, like random churches and gardens:
And we visited the Place des Quinconces, a big open square with a beautiful monument in memory of the Girondists who were executed in the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.
After a full day of walking, eating, and drinking our way through the city, we returned to our B&B to rest up for the next day’s wine tastings.
The next day, our first wine tasting was bright and early in the appellation of Saint-Émilion, in the very tiny blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Gaffeliére. We arrived a bit too early for our tasting, so we spent a few minutes exploring the nearby village of Saint-Émilion before heading back down to the winery.
We arrived at Chateau La Gaffelière, named for its little village, and had a private tour. This winery featured my favorite vat room of the entire trip. The winery had just purchased new, custom-designed stainless steel vats – one specifically sized and created for each of their plots of land. They were incredibly fancy and high-tech, and our guide noted that the renovations were thanks to the extremely generous profits they made with their 2009 and 2010 vintages. The temperature and humidity was regulated through several touchscreen televisions mounted to the walls nearby.
The name of the town, and the winery, comes from the French word for leper – this was actually home to a leper colony in the 17th century! After that, it was purchased by the Malet Roquefort family, who has lived for four centuries in the Saint-Émilion area. This family can also trace their roots directly to William the Conqueror – not a bad heritage. The current owner is a count, who lives with his family in this fabulous home.
Since more than two months have passed after our visit (yikes, I’m bad at this blogging business), I’ve forgotten the details, but I *think* our guide told us that this mosaic was discovered on the property as they were undergoing part of their renovations and dates back to Roman times. Don’t hold me to that, though.
We returned to Bordeaux for lunch, as we had an afternoon group tour departing from the Bordeaux tourist office. We planned to eat at L’entrecôte, the famous you-can-only-order-steak-and-fries restaurant right next door to the tourism center, but the daunting line changed our plans. Instead, we went a few blocks away down a side street, following our noses to Le Grill Bordelais, where we were able to get exactly the same meal, minus the wait. My mouth is watering just remembering it.
Our afternoon tour was, sadly, not really worth mentioning. If we hadn’t scheduled several visits on our own, perhaps we would’ve enjoyed it, but as it was, all of the information we’d heard previously, at a faster pace and one-on-one instead of a group of 16 people. Additionally, of the two châteaux on the tour, one we’d visited already, and the second was completely unprepared (they had planned for a group of French speakers) and we got a hastily thrown together tour by a college student who’d only been working there a few months. I think if we had a do-over, we would skip the group tour and continue with more hand-selected visits.
On our last day in Bordeaux, we had two individual tours again. Our first was at Château La Conseillante in Pomerol, and to be honest I remember very little about this tour other than 1) reallllllllly good wine and 2) really shiny vat room.
Our second tour was at Château Teyssier, which is owned by Jonathan Maltus. This was a really fun tour – our guide told lots of jokes and funny stories about the winery (apparently the owner bought it because as he was driving around the region, he saw the château and thought, “That one’s pretty!”) We tasted about 8 wines, all in pairs. For example, there was a pair of two wines that were the same grape, same appellation, but from distinct plots. The two plots are quite close together (if you look at the photo I took in Saint-Émilion of the ruins of the church wall, above, one plot is the vines visible in front of the wall, and the other plot is just behind the wall). The only difference between the two plots is a slight hill, but you can really taste the difference that makes in the wine – the soil drains a little bit differently on the hill versus on the flat ground, and the sun hits the vines differently. It’s one of those things that I *never* would have thought I’d be able to taste – and, had they not explained, I couldn’t have told you why the two wines tasted differently – but it was really neat to have the ability to go back and forth between the two wines and see exactly what difference soil can make in the ultimate product.
Our guide was really knowledgeable about all stages of the product – he even asked us where we were from, and when we said Dallas, he rattled off a list of several restaurants and shops that carry their wines – including our two favorite steakhouses, Capital Grille and Del Frisco’s! It’s amazing that out of the hundreds of cities they ship to, and probably thousands of restaurants, he knew off the top of his head which restaurants were in our city.
We finished the day with lunch in Saint-Émilion, and drove to Paris for the night before our return flight home the next morning.
Our night in Paris was pretty uneventful – after a lengthy drive we only arrived in the city around 9 pm, starving and tired. We grabbed an unmemorable dinner near our unmemorable hotel and called it a night 🙂
All in all, it was a fabulous anniversary vacation, and we returned home with the spoils to prove it – a LOT of wine.