Bordeaux Wine Tour
VISIT THE GREAT ESTATES OF BORDEAUX
September 2nd – September 6th, 2013
Hosted by James Lawther, Master of Wine
and Count John Salvi, Master of Wine
Join us on a once in a lifetime trip to visit some of the greatest estates in the world. Stay at a 5-star Château set amongst the vineyards, experience private visits and tastings at the top chateaux, and eat at two Michelin restaurants.
James Lawther, a Master of Wine who has published books on the region and writes for Decanter, will be your host. And there will be a guest appearance from Count John Salvi MW, The Godfather. All visits are confirmed:
Château Haut-Brion: 1st Growth
Château Ducru-Beaucaillou: Lunch with Bruno Borie at St-Julien’s star Super-Second
Château Cos d’Estournel: St Estephe, 100 points Parker and a marvel of technology
Château d’Yquem: Say no more.
Château Guiraud: One of the best lunches you’ll ever have at 1st growth Sauternes.
Domaine de Chevalier: The benchmark for white wine in Pessac.
Château Angélus: Lunch, tour and tasting at this “A” ranked St.Emilion.
Château Pavie: The other new “A” ranked St.Emilion, with newly renovated cellars.
Château Le Bon Pasteur: Tasting at Michel Rolland’s Pomerol estate.
Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte: Where we stay–Smith is 1st class. Visit to the cooperage.
Negociant Millésima: Amazing lunch at a leading Bordeaux négociant.
Two Michelin restaurants: Decadent dinners at a 1- and a 2-star Michelin
Visit and dinner in Bordeaux city
Visit of the medieval village of St. Emilion
It’s a wine and food lover’s dream for $3,500 including tax per person based on double occupancy. We take 20 people maximum. It’s fun, educational and the food and wine are out of this world.
Your Guides: James Lawther and John Salvi
James Lawther 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 writes for Decanter, has a book published on Bordeaux, and rates the wines for buyers. I can confidently say that James Lawther knows more about Bordeaux than most of the French. He’s also a good guy, who’s always game for a glass of wine and a laugh. During the day in the Medoc Count John Salvi MW will join the group. Quite simply, you couldn’t hope to meet a nicer guy. He has lived and worked in Bordeaux for over 30 years and has a staggering depth of knowledge about Bordeaux and the world of wine.
Why Take a Tour of Bordeaux With Fine Vintage?
The chateaux we visit on this tour are not typically open to visitors. We are able to open the doors. We have long-established relationships through our buying and journalism activities, and the owners and winemakers are kind enough to give us a warm welcome, open their best wines, host lunches and dinners, and show our group things that people don’t normally see, taste or hear. As such, we are able to provide unparalleled access to the greatest names in the world of wine, and everything is done for you.
Price: The cost per person is CAD$3,500 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 in the region. Flights are not included.
There is a CAD$900 supplement if you are traveling alone. This is to cover the cost of the single occupancy hotel room. If you wish, we will try to arrange for you to share with someone else and put both interested parties in touch with each other.
Only 2 spots left on this tour! Can’t make it? Look for our 2014 Tour to Bordeaux, May 12 – 16. All other 2013 Fine Vintage tours are sold out, but more tours to Australia, Tuscany, Spain, and Champagne-Burgundy-Rhone are scheduled for early 2014.
To Join the Tour: Simply email David@finevintageltd.com and we will send you the booking form and answer any questions you may have.
Monday September 2nd:
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. 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, if that’s any indication of the level of luxury you will experience. It is 25 minutes from the city centre and an oasis of tranquility.
If you arrive a few days earlier to explore the city of Bordeaux we recommend The Grand Hotel de Bordeaux in the city centre.
2:00 p.m: Meet James Lawther and the group for a Champagne reception, introductions, and overview of the program. James will also explain about the region, the wines, and so when we set off for the week’s visits you will already have an understanding of Bordeaux and her wines.
The first chateau visit is just 100 meters from the hotel at Smith-Haut-Lafitte. Run by the Cathiard family, Smith is one of the leading château in Pessac-Léognan. Their wines rank in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines of the world and the reds score well into the 90’s by Parker, including a 100-point score for the 2009. They are also one of the few wineries in Bordeaux to make their own barrels on site and we will visit the cooperage. It’s a gorgeous estate that is fast becoming recognized as one of the very top wines of Bordeaux.
After the visit we will have more Champagne on the terrace, overlooking the hotel’s lake. Dinner is at the hotel’s 1-star Michelin restaurant, replete with great vintages of Smith red and white, and a delicious Sauternes.
Tuesday September 3rd: 1st Growth and the Medoc
9:00 a.m. There’s nothing like the smell of a 1st growth in the morning. Our first stop is Château Haut-Brion in Pessac, the only 1st growth outside of the Médoc. It is a fascinating property because the city of Bordeaux has now surrounded the vineyards.
The property has been closed to visitors for some time now and we will be among the first to see the new cellars and barrel room. Laetitia is the most charming guide. And after the visit you’ll have a tasting of both Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion. At that stage, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven, and the trip was worthwhile if it ended right now. www.haut-brion.com
But it doesn’t. Next, we drive up through the Medoc, past the famous crus of Margaux, to visit the majestic castle and Super-Second growth Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, in St.Julien. This is home to Bruno Borie, one of the most dynamic winemakers in the region.
The 1995 vintage won Best Wine in the World from Wine Spectator. The 2009 was awarded 100 points by Bob, and in my opinion, this is 1st growth level. The castle, where we’ll have lunch with Bruno, is quite spectacular, overlooking the Gironde estuary. It’s like a fairy tale, and we’ll have several vintages of Ducru. www.chateau-ducru-beaucaillou.com
After lunch, we wind our way up through Pauillac, past Pichon Baron, Pichon Lalande, Mouton, Lafite and others, before arriving at Cos d’Estournel in St-Estèphe. The architecture of Cos is something to see. And the winemaking inside brings a whole new meaning to hi-tech. This is a leading super 2nd , in St Estephe, and one of the great estates of Bordeaux, with the usual 100 point accolades. www.estournel.com
At each visit we look at a different aspect of the vineyard or the winemaking. So without even knowing it, as you sip these fabulous wines, you are developing a serious knowledge about dozens of aspects of wine. This is the beauty of having Lawther and Salvi guide you in their soft humble style.
The day may be over, but the evening is just beginning. Following our visit to Cos d’Estournel, we drive back towards the hotel and stop for dinner in the city centre of Bordeaux. After some free time to explore we will have a fun casual dinner at a traditional Bordeaux Brasserie surrounded by noisy Frenchmen. It’s a good atmosphere. The wine will continue to flow during a fun, relaxed evening, and we’ll be back at the hotel by 10 pm ish.
Wednesday, September 4th: Pessac-Léognan & Sauternes
10:00 a.m. We like to stick with the theme of 1st Growths in the morning. Château d’Yquem is, quite simply, the gold standard in sweet wines. It’s in another galaxy. In 1855 it was given the very highest ranking of all the wines of the region, including the reds.
They spare no expense in production, sometimes passing through the vineyards 13 times to harvest only the perfect grapes. In some vintages they don’t make any wine at all. What better way than to start the day with a tour and tasting of this outstanding property after breakfast. www.yquem.fr/
It’s a few minutes from Yquem to Château Guiraud for lunch – and of course, more amazing Sauternes. Guiraud is fantastic in its own right. Like all these great sweet wines they can age for decades and decades, and we will try some older wines. Lunch is great fun here. There are 5 different vintages of Sauternes all poured in front of you all the time, to match with the 5 courses. If you are a diabetic, watch out… www.chateauguiraud.com
A snooze on the bus, and we end the day with a visit to Domaine de Chevalier in Pessac. Every time I leave this estate I think that they give the best tour of anywhere I’ve ever visited. The chateau is beautiful, but it’s the explanation and insights that are so fascinating. Domaine de Chevalier white is, to me, the best in the region. And the red is superb too. We will taste both in younger vintages, and then have older vintages of both wines on the Friday at lunch. www.domainedechevalier.com
5.30 pm: We arrive back at Les Sources de Caudalie. After two days of big lunches and dinners this evening is left free for you to either relax at Les Sources, go to the Spa, or to head into the city of Bordeaux to explore and have a night on the town. The bus will take you to and from the city should you wish, leaving at about 7 pm and returning around 10 ish, or as the group wishes.
Thursday, September 5th: St-Émilion & Pomerol
10:00am: Today is all about the Right Bank, and the appellations of St-Émilion and Pomerol, about 1 hour drive away.
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 cobblestone streets wind their way through the village. Have a coffee in the square, buy some wine, and fall in love with France. This is a great spot to buy wine as most chateaux do not sell their wine when you visit.
After this brief cultural stop, we’re back into the wine. We drive a few minutes to Château Angélus for a tour, tasting, and lunch. Angélus was just promoted to Premier Grand Cru Classes A status, joining Ausone, Cheval Blanc and Pavie. That’s to say it is amongst the 4 best wines of St.Emilion. We have lunch here, several vintages, and a tour and tasting. It’s a beautiful characterful estate. www.angelus.com
Another luxurious lunch complete, we move on to Château Pavie, owned by Gerard Perse and run by a friend Henrique daCosta. Pavie has been closed for 2 years while they renovated the cellars. The doors finally open, we will again be among the first to see what I’m told is a marvel. Now, the cellars were already beautiful, replete with fine art, classical music piped into the barrel room, and gorgeous archways. So I can’t imagine what the new improvements look like. We always have a great tasting here, and can celebrate their elevation to A status with Henrique and a glass of Pavie, and their other crus like Monbousquet etc...
A tour of the Right Bank would not be complete without a visit to Michel Rolland’s family estate Chateau Le Bon Pasteur in Pomerol. I love to buy this wine, and I am a huge admirer of Michel – unlike the uninformed jealous detractors who have no concept of his contribution to the advancement of winemaking in the world. Le Bon Pasteur was originally started by Michel’s grandparents in the 1920’s, and remains just seven hectares in size. Le Bon Pasteur unmistakably showcases the beauty of Pomerol wines and is one of the most technologically advanced wineries in the world, and yet uses some of the very oldest techniques too. It’s magical!
To finish the day you’ll have dinner in a shrine to gastronomy in St Emilion overlooking the square from up high. The hostellerie de Plaisance is a 2 star Michelin, well on its way to 3 star ranking, owned by our friends the Perse family from Pavie. We will have a 7 course tasting menu paired with a stunning flight of wines from Alsace, Loire, and also mature Pavie and Monbouquet. Every single person has told me it was the best restaurant they’ve ever been to in the world.
Friday, September 6th: The Merchants of Bordeaux
You can either check out of the hotel or you can contact them yourself and arrange to stay additional day(s).
10:00am: After a slow start and a delicious breakfast, optionally, you can wonder over to Smith to have a chat with the winemaker about the vineyards and the barrel making. Fabien is an amazing source of knowledge about viti and winemaking. It’s great to watch the barrels being made. Or you can sleep in, have a swim, and catch us at 11:45am for check out and departure. http://www.smith-haut-lafitte.com/en/
12:30pm: Our last stop on the tour will be a visit and lunch at Millésima, a major merchant that trades all of the top wines of Bordeaux. We will visit the massive warehouses where thousands of cases of crus classes are stored, and learn about the role of a négociant in the wine business of Bordeaux, and the primeur system. Millesima is one of the largest players. We will have a fantastic last lunch with mature wines from Domaine de Chevalier, a 2000 vintage Gazin from Pomerol, a delicious Sauternes, and then a very old vintage Port, just to ensure you leave the trip in a total mess, but happy. Just know where your passport, wallet and phone are. The rest can be fixed. www.millesima.com
The bus will then go first to the train station arriving at approximately 3:30 pm, then back to the hotel by 4 pm, and then on to the airport by 5 pm. Leave yourself some extra time for unexpected traffic delays when booking trains and planes.
Price: $3,500 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. It’s the perfect length. By Friday you’re done. And every minute is special.
To join the tour simply email David@finevintageltd.com and request the booking form. This tour sells out every year, so sign up soon to avoid disappointment.
Featured wine tasting holiday to Bordeaux, France:
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