Bordeaux Wine Tour
THE GREAT ESTATES OF BORDEAUX
May 18th – 22nd, 2015
Hosted by James Lawther, MW
Join us on a once in a lifetime trip to visit to the greatest wine estates in the world. Dine at two Michelin restaurants, stay at a 5-star Château set amongst the vineyards, and experience private visits with the owners and winemakers at the great estates. James Lawther, a Master of Wine who has published books on the region, will be your host.
Included in the itinerary are:
- Château Margaux: One of the five 1st Growths and famed for her elegance and complexity
- Château Ducru-Beaucaillou: Lunch at a super second growth in St. Julien with the owner
- Château Mouton-Rothschild: A 1st Growth with a stunning art museum and legendary wines
- Domaine de Chevalier: A rare opportunity to visit the master of white Bordeaux;
- Château Climens: Get your sweet-tooth ready for a beautiful lunch at this Barsac estate;
- Château d'Yquem: The best sweet wine in the world. 1st Growth Sauternes.
- Château Pavie: Lunch at this stunning St-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé A – one of only 4.
- Château Angélus: Another Premier Grand Cru Classé A. I'm running out of superlatives now...
- Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte: Our hotel Caudalie is right next to this Château. We visit the vineyards, beautiful cellars, and barrel cooperage with the winemaker.
- Joanne: Lunch at a leading Bordeaux négociant to learn about the Primeur system
- Two Michelin restaurants: Decadent dinners in St Emilion and Caudalie.
- Visit and dinner in Bordeaux city
- St-Émilion town tour
It's a wine and food lover's dream for $3,750 CAD including tax per person based on double occupancy.
Your Guide: James Lawther, Master of Wine
James Lawther, Master of Wine, has lived in Bordeaux for the last 15 years. In the 1980s James worked at Steven Spurrier's famous Cave de la Madeleine wine shop in Paris and then went on to work vintages in Burgundy, Australia and Bordeaux. He passed the Master of Wine exam in 1993, and then moved with his family to Bordeaux. He is the major local writer with a book published on the region. He also contributes to Decanter and rates the wines for buyers. I can confidently say that James Lawther knows more about Bordeaux than anyone I have ever met, including the French. He's also a good guy, who's always game for a glass of wine.
Each day includes visits and tastings at some of the most famous wineries in Bordeaux, whose wines often sell for hundreds if not thousands of dollars per bottle in restaurants. We are well received by the chateaux who provide insight into their appellation, viticulture, winemaking, and their own nuances. Lunches are a lingering affair with the châteaux owners, paired with their superb wines.
Dinners are an experience in gastronomic excellence, and include the 1-star Les Sources de Caudalie at Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte and one of the most amazing restaurants in the world, Hostellerie de Plaisance in St-Émilion for a 6 course extravaganza.
Accommodation is at the 5-star Les Sources de Caudalie set among the vineyards of Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte. It's the best place to stay in the region.
Why Take a Tour of Bordeaux With Fine Vintage?
The Bordeaux chateaux on this tour are not open to visitors so you would not be able to visit otherwise. Fortunately we have long-established connections with these châteaux and are thus able to provide unparalleled access to the greatest names in the world of wine. We meet the key people, taste wines that are extremely good and very expensive, and enjoy a very personal visit. Sometimes people keep track and have told me we tasted over 70 wines in the 5 days. Suffice to say you won't be thirsty!
Price: The cost per person is $3,750 CAD including tax.
This price includes accommodation at the luxurious Les Sources de Caudalie, all meals except on the Wednesday evening, superb wines at all meals, all châteaux visits and tastings, and local transport. Flights are not included.
There is a $900 supplement if you are traveling alone. This is to cover the cost of the single occupancy hotel room.
To Join the Tour: Give your own personal Travel Concierge a call or email with any questions and advice David@finevintageltd.com 1-866-379-4915. Or simply book online.
Monday, May 18th
Our hotel for the entire duration is Smith-Haut-Lafitte's luxury property, Les Sources de Caudalie, located about 20 minutes by taxi from the airport or train station. http://www.sources-caudalie.com
The 5-star Les Source de Caudalie is a favourite place to stay because of the amenities it provides. Surrounded by vineyards, the hotel also offers 2 excellent restaurants, a swimming pool, a 3-hole golf course and, of course, its world-class spa. Offering grape-based treatments, Les Sources de Caudalie also has a spa at the Plaza Hotel in New York.
Officially the check-in is after 3.30 pm. You are welcome to contact the hotel and request your room be ready earlier if that works with your travel plans. There is always the Spa and the hotel pool is you arrive earlier. Book the Spa early. If you arrive a few days earlier to explore the city of Bordeaux you may wish to consider staying at The Grand Hotel de Bordeaux in town.
2.30 pm – In the Tower above the lobby at Les Source de Caudalie, meet James Lawther and the group for a Champagne reception, introductions, and overview of the program.
4.00 pm Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte
We kick off our first visit just 100 metres from the hotel at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte in Pessac-Léognan with a tour and tasting.
Smith Haut Lafitte is one of the leading chateaux in Pessac-Léognan. It's a stunning property run by the Cathiard family, who sold a chain of sporting goods stores and purchased one of the top chateaux in Bordeaux. Smith is a favorite winery in Bordeaux with a gorgeous underground cellar, and they make white wines that rank in Wine Spectator's top 100 wines of the world and the reds score well into the 90's by Parker. The 2009 scored 100 points. They are also one of the few wineries in Bordeaux to make their own barrels on site.
That evening we will have dinner at the 1 star Michelin restaurant where we will be staying – Les Sources de Caudalie – just 100 meters from the winery. The food is fantastic, with 4 courses, and some great vintages of Smith and a Sauternes that will send you off to bed all happy.
Tuesday, May 19th – The Médoc
8:30 am – Depart Hotel
The morning departures get progressively later during the trip, but today we're raring to get to the Medoc to visit Chateaux Margaux, Ducru and Mouton. If he is in the neighbourhood then my good friend Count John Salvi, Master of Wine, will join us for the whole day. John passed the MW exam in 1970 and has lived in Bordeaux and worked at the great estates for many years. He's an encyclopedia, and has a wicked sense of humor.
Stately, aristocratic, a World Heritage site, and the only 1st Growth outside of Pauillac in the Medoc. Chateau Margaux is unquestionably one of the very greatest wines in the world. It's as simple as that. The grounds alone are worth the visit, resplendent with tree-lined avenues and immaculate gardens leading to the quintessentially French mansion. We have a tour, and tasting at 11 am. Welcome to France. www.chateau-margaux.com
20 minutes up the road and we arrive at the super 2nd Growth Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, located in St-Julien. A tour and tasting will be followed by a long lunch with owner Bruno Borie, a great personality. Ducru-Beaucaillou is often considered to be St-Julien's top château. The stunning property sits atop a gravelly rise on the banks of the Gironde that lends its name to the chateau itself: beaux cailloux, or "beautiful stones." www.chateau-ducru-beaucaillou.com
Mouton-Rothschild, famous for the artistic labels that change with each vintage, is the only Medoc chateau to ever see promotion since the Classification of 1855. The Baron's patronage to the arts carries through the Château itself with a collection of sculptures, portraits, tapestries, and antiques that would rival any world-class museum. The beautiful estate yields a background of Zen-like calm as we taste wines from 3 of the Rothschild estates: Château d'Armailhac, Château Clerc-Milon, and of course, a bottle of the Baron's finest. www.chateau-mouton-rothschild.com
Bordeaux City and Brasserie Bordelaise
After a great day in the Médoc we will head back south towards the hotel and stop off in the city centre for a brief visit to the Grand Theatre and then down to the banks of the river where all the merchant houses used to be. From there, we will have a bit of free time before meeting for dinner at the Brasserie Bordelaise at 7:00pm. This is a traditional Brasserie where we have a set 3 course menu including their delicious steak frites. We aim to be home by 10.00 pm. www.brasserie-bordelaise.fr
Wednesday, May 20th – Pessac-Léognan & Sauternes
9:30 am – Depart Hotel
Board our luxury coach for a day visiting the great estates of the Pessac-Léognan and Sauternes region.
Domaine de Chevalier
We start the day with a visit to Domaine de Chevalier in Pessac-Léognan. This is an enlightening tour given by the estate manager who gives one of the best explanations you'll ever hear. Domaine de Chevalier white is, to me, the best in the region and is capable of long-term aging. The Cabernet-dominated reds are superb too. www.domainedechevalier.com
After experiencing some of the finest reds and whites in the region we head to Sauternes to discover the honeyed dessert wines of this classic region. The unique terroir, the role of botrytis, and the special winemaking techniques create such spectacular wines they are considered by most as the best sweet wines in the world. We visit 2 of the very top Sauternes properties, starting with a tour, tasting and lunch with older vintages of the nectar at Climens in Barsac, a sub-appellation of Sauternes. It's an experience. www.chateau-climens.com
What a way to end the day! This is considered to be the finest dessert wine in the world with vintages going back over 150 years. A ½ bottle of the wine in a top vintage can cost over $500. After our tour we'll taste this 1st growth of Sauternes. It's an experience to see how they make this stunning wine and then taste it. www.yquem.fr
6:00 pm – Free evening
It's been a full day so you will be ready for some r & r and a free evening. You can stay and relax at the hotel in either of their restaurants or the bus will take you back downtown leaving at 7 pm and returning from a set pick up location in the city at 10 pm, and home by 10.30 pm.
Thursday, May 21st: St-Émilion
10:00 am – Depart Hotel
Depart for the chateaux of the Right Bank.
St-Emilion Town Tour
We'll head into the historic old town of St-Émilion, a world heritage site and the most beautiful wine village in the world. Steep stone streets wind their way through the village and promise a new discovery around each corner. This is a great spot to buy wine as most chateaux do not sell their wine when you visit. A coffee in the square is memorable.
Pavie has just undergone about a $50 million renovation. It's something to see. I admire the work of Gerard Perse who shakes up the sleepyhead traditionalists in the region. After the tour we have a very luxurious lunch in their sumptuous dining room complete with a tasting of different vintages of Pavie and Monbouquet. The property is now ranked as one of the 4 Premier Grand Cru Classé A. Parker loves them and has often given them perfect scores. In my opinion these are absolutely first class wines. Henrique daCosta, the son-in-law of the owner Gerard Perse will welcome us.
After lunch we go a few minutes' drive to Château Angélus for a tour, and tasting. Angélus was recently promoted with Pavie to Premier Grand Cru Classés A status. That's to say it is amongst the 4 best wines of St. Émilion. Here we have a tour and tasting. It's a beautiful estate. www.chateau-angelus.com
Hostellerie de Plaisance
It's been a hard day's work touring and tasting so we're going to relax and savour a magnificent dinner in St-Emilion at a 2 star Michelin restaurant – Le Grand Chef Relais - which is owned by Gerard Perse of the famed Château Pavie. We will have a 6 course tasting menu paired with a stunning flight of wines. The outdoor terrace will capture your heart and the impeccable service and exquisite food are second to none. Many of our guests say it is the best restaurant they have ever been to in the world.
Friday, May 22nd - The Négociants of Bordeaux
You can either check out of the hotel or you can contact them yourself and arrange to stay additional day(s).
10:00 am – Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte
After a slow start and a delicious breakfast, a return visit to Smith-Haut-Lafitte will introduce you to the winemaker, and visit the barrel making area. It's fascinating to watch the barrels being made. Or you can sleep in, have a swim, and catch us at 11:30am.
11:30 am – Depart for Joanne
If you are checking out then we'll put your bags on the bus.To wrap up the tour we will visit one of the leading Bordeaux négociant, Joanne. A major trader of all the top wines in Bordeaux, we will visit the massive warehouses with thousands of cases of wines and learn about the role of a négociant in the wine business of Bordeaux. We will have a buffet-style lunch with a tasting of several excellent wines.
The Tour Winds Down
The bus will then go first to the train station arriving at approximately 4:00 pm, then back to the hotel by 4:30 pm, and then on to the airport by 5:30 pm. Leave yourself some extra time for unexpected traffic delays when booking trains and planes.
Price: $3,750 CAD including tax per person based on double occupancy.
There is a $900 per person single supplement.
Space is limited to 20.
It will be a great trip with lots of fine wine, great food, amazing chateaux, a luxury hotel, a nice amount of wine education and many, many laughs.
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